Highlights of Trump’s written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The answers President Donald Trump gave to special counsel Robert Mueller have finally been released as part of the redacted version of the special counsel’s report.

Trump’s willingness to participate in an interview with the special counsel, the topics of the questions and whether that interview would take place in person or in writing was the subject of a months-long negotiation between Trump’s legal team and the special counsel.

In June of 2017, the president told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that he would “one hundred percent” be willing to speak under oath to his version of events if Mueller asked him to. Eventually, the president and his legal team backed off of Trump’s initial willingness to sit for an interview, instead advocating that the president respond to select questions in writing. Trump submitted his written responses to the special counsel on November 21, 2018.

Here are some of the highlights of the president’s written responses as presented in the Mueller report. The president’s responses are in bold:

1. Trump’s answer to Mueller about WikiLeaks, DNC and Clinton hacks

QUESTION: Are you aware of any communications during the campaign, directly or indirectly, between Roger Stone, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Rick Gates and (a) WikiLeaks, (b) Julian Assange, (c) other representatives of WikiLeaks, (d) Gucci fer 2.0, (e) representatives of Guccifer 2.0, or (f) representatives of WikiLeaks? If yes, describe who provided you with this information, when you learned of the communications, and what you know about those communications.

TRUMP: “I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between the individuals named in Question ll (c) and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or any of the other individuals or entities referred to in the question.”

QUESTION: On July 27, 2016, you stated at a press conference: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity, or individual? In advance of making that statement, what discussions, if any, did you have with anyone else about the substance of the statement? Were you told at any time before or after you made that statement that Russia was attempting to infiltrate or hack computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign? If yes, describe who provided this information, when, and what you were told.

TRUMP: “I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer. The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016 press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference. I do not recall having any discussion about the substance of the statement in advance of the press conference. l do not recall being told during the campaign of any efforts by Russia to infiltrate or hack the computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign prior to them becoming the subject of media reporting and I have no recollection of any particular conversation in that regard.”

QUESTION: On October 7, 2016, emails hacked from the account of John Podesta were released by WikiLeaks. Where were you on October 7, 20I6? Were you told at any time in advance of, or on the day of, the October 7 release that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta? If yes, describe who told you this, when, and what you were told. Are you aware of anyone associated with you or your campaign, including Roger Stone, reaching out to WikiLeaks, either directly or through an intermediary, on or about October 7, 2016? If yes, identify the person and describe the substance of the conversations or contacts.

TRUMP: “I was in Trump Tower in New York City on October 7, 2016. I have no recollection of being told that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta before the release of Mr. Podesta’s emails was reported by the media. Likewise, I have no recollection of being told that Roger Stone, anyone acting as an intermediary for Roger Stone, or anyone associated with my campaign had communicated with WikiLeaks on October 7, 2016.”

2. Trump’s answers related to Trump Organization’s Moscow project

QUESTION: In October 2015, a “Letter of Intent,” a copy of which is attached as Exhibit B, was signed for a proposed Trump Organization project in Moscow (the “Trump Moscow project”). When were you first informed of discussions about the Trump Moscow project? By whom? What were you told about the project? Did you sign the letter of intent?

In a statement provided to Congress, attached as Exhibit C, Michael Cohen stated: “To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Trump was never in contact with anyone about this proposal other than me on three occasions, including signing a non-binding letter of intent in 2015.” Describe all discussions you had with Mr. Cohen, or anyone else associated with the Trump Organization, about the Trump Moscow project, including who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Did you learn of any communications between Michael Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government officials, including officials in the office of Dmitry Peskov, regarding the Trump Moscow project? If so, identify who provided this information to you, when, and the substance of what you learned.

Did you have any discussions between June 2015 and June 2016 regarding a potential trip to Russia by you and/or Michael Cohen for reasons related to the Trump Moscow project? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Did you at any time direct or suggest that discussions about the Trump Moscow project

Did you have any discussions regarding what information would be provided publicly or in response to investigative inquiries about potential or actual investments or business deals the Trump Organization had in Russia, including the Trump Moscow project? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Aside from the Trump Moscow project, did you or the Trump Organization have any other prospective or actual business interests, investments, or arrangements with Russia or any Russian interest or Russian individual during the campaign? If yes, describe the business interests, investments, or arrangements.

TRUMP: “Sometime in 2015, Michael Cohen suggested to me the possibility of a Trump Organization project in Moscow. As I recall, Mr. Cohen described this as a proposed project of a general type we have done in the past in a variety of locations. l signed the non-binding Letter of Intent attached to your questions as Exhibit B which required no equity or expenditure on our end and was consistent with our ongoing efforts to expand into significant markets around the world.”

“I had few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject. As I recall, they were brief, and they were not memorable. I was not enthused about the proposal, and I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia in connection with it. I do not remember discussing it with anyone else at the Trump Organization, although it is possible. I do not recall being aware at the time of any communications between Mr. Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government official regarding the Letter of Intent. In the course of preparing to respond to your questions, I have become aware that Mr. Cohen sent an email regarding the Letter of Intent to “Mr. Peskov” at a general, public email account, which should show there was no meaningful relationship with people in power in Russia. I understand those documents already have been provided to you.”

“I vaguely remember press inquiries and media reporting during the campaign about whether the Trump Organization had business dealings in Russia. I may have spoken with campaign staff or Trump Organization employees regarding responses to requests for information, but I have no current recollection of any particular conversation, with whom l may have spoken, when, or the substance of any conversation. As I recall, neither I nor the Trump Organization had any projects or proposed projects in Russia during the campaign other than the Letter of Intent.”

3. Contacts with Russia and Russia-related issues during the campaign

QUESTION: Prior to mid-August 2016, did you become aware that Paul Manafort had ties to the Ukrainian government? If yes, describe who you learned this information from, when, and the substance of what you were told. Did Mr. Manafort’s connections to the Ukrainian or Russian governments play any role in your decision to have him join your campaign? If yes, describe that role.

Were you aware that Paul Manafort offered briefings on the progress of your campaign to Oleg Deripaska? lf yes, describe who you learned this information from, when, the substance of what you were told, what you understood the purpose was of sharing such information with Mr. Deripaska, and how you responded to learning this information.

Were you aware of whether Paul Manafort or anyone else associated with your campaign sent or directed others to send internal Trump campaign information to any person located in Ukraine or Russia or associated with the Ukrainian or Russian governments? If yes, identify who provided you with this information, when, the substance of the discussion(s), what you understood the purpose was of sharing the internal campaign information, and how you responded to learning this information.

Did Paul Manafort communicate to you, directly or indirectly. any positions Ukraine or Russia would want the U.S. to support? If yes, describe when he communicated those positions to you and the substance of those communications.

TRUMP: “Mr. Manafort was hired primarily because of his delegate work for prior presidential candidates, including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. I knew that Mr. Manafort had done international consulting work and, at some time before Mr. Manafort left the campaign, I learned that he was somehow involved with individuals concerning Ukraine, but I do not remember the specifics of what I knew at the time.”

“l had no knowledge of Mr. Manafort offering briefings on the progress of my campaign to an individual named Oleg Deripaska, nor do I remember being aware of Mr. Manafort or anyone else associated with my campaign sending or directing others to send internal Trump Campaign information to anyone l knew to be in Ukraine or Russia at the time or to anyone I understood to be a Ukrainian or Russian government employee or official. I do not remember Mr. Manafort communicating to me any particular positions Ukraine or Russia would want the United States to support.”

QUESTION: During the campaign, were you told about efforts by Russian officials to meet with you or senior members of your campaign? If yes, describe who you had conversations with on this topic, when, and what you were told.

TRUMP: “I do not recall being told during the campaign of efforts by Russian officials to meet with me or with senior members of my campaign. In the process of preparing to respond to these questions, I became aware that on March 17, 2016, my assistant at the Trump Organization, Rhona Graff, received an email from a Sergei Prikhodko, who identified himself as Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Foundation Roscongress, inviting me to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to be held in June 2016. The documents show that Ms. Graff prepared for my signature a brief response declining the invitation. I understand these documents already have been produced to you.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Highlights of Trump’s written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The answers President Donald Trump gave to special counsel Robert Mueller have finally been released as part of the redacted version of the special counsel’s report.

Trump’s willingness to participate in an interview with the special counsel, the topics of the questions and whether that interview would take place in person or in writing was the subject of a months-long negotiation between Trump’s legal team and the special counsel.

In June of 2017, the president told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that he would “one hundred percent” be willing to speak under oath to his version of events if Mueller asked him to. Eventually, the president and his legal team backed off of Trump’s initial willingness to sit for an interview, instead advocating that the president respond to select questions in writing. Trump submitted his written responses to the special counsel on November 21, 2018.

Here are some of the highlights of the president’s written responses as presented in the Mueller report. The president’s responses are in bold:

1. Trump’s answer to Mueller about WikiLeaks, DNC and Clinton hacks

QUESTION: Are you aware of any communications during the campaign, directly or indirectly, between Roger Stone, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Rick Gates and (a) WikiLeaks, (b) Julian Assange, (c) other representatives of WikiLeaks, (d) Gucci fer 2.0, (e) representatives of Guccifer 2.0, or (f) representatives of WikiLeaks? If yes, describe who provided you with this information, when you learned of the communications, and what you know about those communications.

TRUMP: “I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between the individuals named in Question ll (c) and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or any of the other individuals or entities referred to in the question.”

QUESTION: On July 27, 2016, you stated at a press conference: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity, or individual? In advance of making that statement, what discussions, if any, did you have with anyone else about the substance of the statement? Were you told at any time before or after you made that statement that Russia was attempting to infiltrate or hack computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign? If yes, describe who provided this information, when, and what you were told.

TRUMP: “I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer. The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016 press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference. I do not recall having any discussion about the substance of the statement in advance of the press conference. l do not recall being told during the campaign of any efforts by Russia to infiltrate or hack the computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign prior to them becoming the subject of media reporting and I have no recollection of any particular conversation in that regard.”

QUESTION: On October 7, 2016, emails hacked from the account of John Podesta were released by WikiLeaks. Where were you on October 7, 20I6? Were you told at any time in advance of, or on the day of, the October 7 release that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta? If yes, describe who told you this, when, and what you were told. Are you aware of anyone associated with you or your campaign, including Roger Stone, reaching out to WikiLeaks, either directly or through an intermediary, on or about October 7, 2016? If yes, identify the person and describe the substance of the conversations or contacts.

TRUMP: “I was in Trump Tower in New York City on October 7, 2016. I have no recollection of being told that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta before the release of Mr. Podesta’s emails was reported by the media. Likewise, I have no recollection of being told that Roger Stone, anyone acting as an intermediary for Roger Stone, or anyone associated with my campaign had communicated with WikiLeaks on October 7, 2016.”

2. Trump’s answers related to Trump Organization’s Moscow project

QUESTION: In October 2015, a “Letter of Intent,” a copy of which is attached as Exhibit B, was signed for a proposed Trump Organization project in Moscow (the “Trump Moscow project”). When were you first informed of discussions about the Trump Moscow project? By whom? What were you told about the project? Did you sign the letter of intent?

In a statement provided to Congress, attached as Exhibit C, Michael Cohen stated: “To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Trump was never in contact with anyone about this proposal other than me on three occasions, including signing a non-binding letter of intent in 2015.” Describe all discussions you had with Mr. Cohen, or anyone else associated with the Trump Organization, about the Trump Moscow project, including who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Did you learn of any communications between Michael Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government officials, including officials in the office of Dmitry Peskov, regarding the Trump Moscow project? If so, identify who provided this information to you, when, and the substance of what you learned.

Did you have any discussions between June 2015 and June 2016 regarding a potential trip to Russia by you and/or Michael Cohen for reasons related to the Trump Moscow project? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Did you at any time direct or suggest that discussions about the Trump Moscow project

Did you have any discussions regarding what information would be provided publicly or in response to investigative inquiries about potential or actual investments or business deals the Trump Organization had in Russia, including the Trump Moscow project? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Aside from the Trump Moscow project, did you or the Trump Organization have any other prospective or actual business interests, investments, or arrangements with Russia or any Russian interest or Russian individual during the campaign? If yes, describe the business interests, investments, or arrangements.

TRUMP: “Sometime in 2015, Michael Cohen suggested to me the possibility of a Trump Organization project in Moscow. As I recall, Mr. Cohen described this as a proposed project of a general type we have done in the past in a variety of locations. l signed the non-binding Letter of Intent attached to your questions as Exhibit B which required no equity or expenditure on our end and was consistent with our ongoing efforts to expand into significant markets around the world.”

“I had few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject. As I recall, they were brief, and they were not memorable. I was not enthused about the proposal, and I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia in connection with it. I do not remember discussing it with anyone else at the Trump Organization, although it is possible. I do not recall being aware at the time of any communications between Mr. Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government official regarding the Letter of Intent. In the course of preparing to respond to your questions, I have become aware that Mr. Cohen sent an email regarding the Letter of Intent to “Mr. Peskov” at a general, public email account, which should show there was no meaningful relationship with people in power in Russia. I understand those documents already have been provided to you.”

“I vaguely remember press inquiries and media reporting during the campaign about whether the Trump Organization had business dealings in Russia. I may have spoken with campaign staff or Trump Organization employees regarding responses to requests for information, but I have no current recollection of any particular conversation, with whom l may have spoken, when, or the substance of any conversation. As I recall, neither I nor the Trump Organization had any projects or proposed projects in Russia during the campaign other than the Letter of Intent.”

3. Contacts with Russia and Russia-related issues during the campaign

QUESTION: Prior to mid-August 2016, did you become aware that Paul Manafort had ties to the Ukrainian government? If yes, describe who you learned this information from, when, and the substance of what you were told. Did Mr. Manafort’s connections to the Ukrainian or Russian governments play any role in your decision to have him join your campaign? If yes, describe that role.

Were you aware that Paul Manafort offered briefings on the progress of your campaign to Oleg Deripaska? lf yes, describe who you learned this information from, when, the substance of what you were told, what you understood the purpose was of sharing such information with Mr. Deripaska, and how you responded to learning this information.

Were you aware of whether Paul Manafort or anyone else associated with your campaign sent or directed others to send internal Trump campaign information to any person located in Ukraine or Russia or associated with the Ukrainian or Russian governments? If yes, identify who provided you with this information, when, the substance of the discussion(s), what you understood the purpose was of sharing the internal campaign information, and how you responded to learning this information.

Did Paul Manafort communicate to you, directly or indirectly. any positions Ukraine or Russia would want the U.S. to support? If yes, describe when he communicated those positions to you and the substance of those communications.

TRUMP: “Mr. Manafort was hired primarily because of his delegate work for prior presidential candidates, including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. I knew that Mr. Manafort had done international consulting work and, at some time before Mr. Manafort left the campaign, I learned that he was somehow involved with individuals concerning Ukraine, but I do not remember the specifics of what I knew at the time.”

“l had no knowledge of Mr. Manafort offering briefings on the progress of my campaign to an individual named Oleg Deripaska, nor do I remember being aware of Mr. Manafort or anyone else associated with my campaign sending or directing others to send internal Trump Campaign information to anyone l knew to be in Ukraine or Russia at the time or to anyone I understood to be a Ukrainian or Russian government employee or official. I do not remember Mr. Manafort communicating to me any particular positions Ukraine or Russia would want the United States to support.”

QUESTION: During the campaign, were you told about efforts by Russian officials to meet with you or senior members of your campaign? If yes, describe who you had conversations with on this topic, when, and what you were told.

TRUMP: “I do not recall being told during the campaign of efforts by Russian officials to meet with me or with senior members of my campaign. In the process of preparing to respond to these questions, I became aware that on March 17, 2016, my assistant at the Trump Organization, Rhona Graff, received an email from a Sergei Prikhodko, who identified himself as Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Foundation Roscongress, inviting me to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to be held in June 2016. The documents show that Ms. Graff prepared for my signature a brief response declining the invitation. I understand these documents already have been produced to you.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘If they had an obstruction case, they would have made it’: Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Providing a snapshot of how the White House is characterizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s just-released report, the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Thursday that the focus should be on the ways he said President Donald Trump was cleared — not on the evidence that the special counsel found but did not or could not determine to be illegal.

“The basis upon which this investigation began, which was the concern over Russian collusion with the Trump campaign or people in the Trump campaign, was answered very clearly — couldn’t have been any clearer — and that is that there is, in fact, no collusion,” Sekulow said. “And they were emphatic about that,” he said, referring to Mueller’s team of prosecutors.

Because of that, Sekulow said, there was no underlying crime that would lead to obstruction of justice. “[Trump] defended himself and defended himself exercising his First Amendment rights,” Sekulow said.

“Jay, I have to stop you there. You’re right. That’s the conclusion of William Barr,” Stephanopoulos said, referring to the attorney general who held a news conference on the report hours earlier. That’s not the conclusion of Robert Mueller,” Stephanopoulos cotninued, pushing Sekulow about the findings of the report that said, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

Sekulow, in his response, said the focus should be on the fact that no charges were brought.

“Hold it. If you don’t conclude the individual that’s the subject of the investigation has committed a crime, you don’t bring a charge. Look, if they had an obstruction case they would have made it. They did not,” Sekulow said in the terse back-and-forth with Stephanopoulos.

The full section of Mueller’s report states:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Sekulow also reacted to sections of Mueller’s report that found that former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his then-deputy Rick Gates said they expected the president’s personal counsel were going to “take care” of them, seemingly referring to pardons.

“The thing is, there were no pardons given,” Sekulow said. “But, by the way, just to be clear, this whole discussion about pardons — it’s not as if the president doesn’t have a pardon power. That’s plenary in the Constitution of the United States. He didn’t exercise it. It wasn’t on the table, he didn’t exercise it. But you can never take that authority away.”

A large part of Trump’s defense, Sekulow agreed, was that the president was continuously acting within his powers under the Constitution.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘If they had an obstruction case, they would have made it’: Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Providing a snapshot of how the White House is characterizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s just-released report, the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Thursday that the focus should be on the ways he said President Donald Trump was cleared — not on the evidence that the special counsel found but did not or could not determine to be illegal.

“The basis upon which this investigation began, which was the concern over Russian collusion with the Trump campaign or people in the Trump campaign, was answered very clearly — couldn’t have been any clearer — and that is that there is, in fact, no collusion,” Sekulow said. “And they were emphatic about that,” he said, referring to Mueller’s team of prosecutors.

Because of that, Sekulow said, there was no underlying crime that would lead to obstruction of justice. “[Trump] defended himself and defended himself exercising his First Amendment rights,” Sekulow said.

“Jay, I have to stop you there. You’re right. That’s the conclusion of William Barr,” Stephanopoulos said, referring to the attorney general who held a news conference on the report hours earlier. That’s not the conclusion of Robert Mueller,” Stephanopoulos cotninued, pushing Sekulow about the findings of the report that said, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

Sekulow, in his response, said the focus should be on the fact that no charges were brought.

“Hold it. If you don’t conclude the individual that’s the subject of the investigation has committed a crime, you don’t bring a charge. Look, if they had an obstruction case they would have made it. They did not,” Sekulow said in the terse back-and-forth with Stephanopoulos.

The full section of Mueller’s report states:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Sekulow also reacted to sections of Mueller’s report that found that former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his then-deputy Rick Gates said they expected the president’s personal counsel were going to “take care” of them, seemingly referring to pardons.

“The thing is, there were no pardons given,” Sekulow said. “But, by the way, just to be clear, this whole discussion about pardons — it’s not as if the president doesn’t have a pardon power. That’s plenary in the Constitution of the United States. He didn’t exercise it. It wasn’t on the table, he didn’t exercise it. But you can never take that authority away.”

A large part of Trump’s defense, Sekulow agreed, was that the president was continuously acting within his powers under the Constitution.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Special counsel considered Trump’s written answers ‘inadequate’

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General William Barr on Thursday morning transmitted a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign to members of Congress, making public for the first time substantial portions of the nearly 400-page document.

The Justice Department’s release of the redacted report comes just weeks after Barr penned a four-page letter conveying the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.”

In that letter, Barr described “two main” Kremlin-backed efforts to influence the election, but states definitively that the special counsel’s office did not find evidence to suggest that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russians.

The special counsel’s office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, Barr noted, but Barr himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

ABC NEWS WILL BE PROVIDING LIVE UPDATES THROUGHOUT THE DAY ON ALL THE MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS.

2:10 p.m.: 2020 candidates slam AG Barr as Mueller report sends ripples through Democratic field

Democratic presidential candidates were quick to vent their frustration on Thursday at the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, swiftly called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress and demanded that the full unredacted report be released to the public.

The ire directed at Barr comes after he held a press conference defending President Donald Trump’s actions and to speak publicly and take questions from journalists before the report from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.

None of the sitting U.S. senators who have declared a presidential bid voted for Barr’s confirmation.

1:31 p.m.: Insight into Trump’s written responses to the special counsel team’s questions

The answers President Donald Trump gave to special counsel Robert Mueller have finally been released as part of the redacted version of the special counsel’s report.

Trump’s willingness to participate in an interview with the special counsel, the topics of the questions and whether that interview would take place in person or in writing was the subject of a months-long negotiation between Trump’s legal team and the special counsel.

In June of 2017, the president told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that he would “one hundred percent” be willing to speak under oath to his version of events if Mueller asked him to. Eventually, the president and his legal team backed off of Trump’s initial willingness to sit for an interview, instead advocating that the president respond to select questions in writing. Trump submitted his written responses to the special counsel on November 21, 2018.

Read his responses here.

12:12 p.m.: Trump orders White House counsel Don McGahn to deny the president tried to fire the special counsel

After news broke that Trump ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel, Trump pressured McGahn to deny that he had been directed to do so, even suggesting to aides that he would fire him unless he complied. Mueller concludes that there is evidence to suggest Trump acted this way to impede his investigation.

According to the report: “The President then directed [staff secretary Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file “for our records” and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a ‘lying bastard’ and said that he wanted a record from him. Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, ‘If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him’.”

Mueller concluded that “Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation.”

12:08p.m.: Trump tried to block release of emails related to June 9 Trump Tower meeting: Report

In a section of the report divided into four subsections, Mueller’s team cites at least three occasions “between June 29, 2017 and July 9, 2017- when the president directed Hope Hicks and others not to publicly disclose information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian attorney. The office of the special counsel concluded that” these efforts by the president were directed at the press, adding that these acts would amount to obstructive acts only if the president sought to withhold information or mislead congressional investigations or the special counsel. On May 17, 2017, the president’s campaign received a document request from SSCI that clearly covered the June 9 meeting.”

In the analysis section, the special counsel specifically addresses the phrase attributed to Hope Hicks, “it will never get out”—in reference to the emails setting up the June 9 meeting. Hicks said she “had no memory of making” that comment and always believed the emails would eventually be leaked. The Special Counsel writes that the Hicks statement “can be explained as reflecting a belief that the emails would not be made public if the President’s press strategy were followed, even if the emails were provided to Congress and the Special Counsel.”

11:46 a.m.: Cohen had “extensive” discussions with the president’s personal counsel

The Mueller report states that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s then-personal attorney, had “extensive” discussions with the president’s personal counsel while working on his statements to Congress.

The report further lays out myriad instances of the president’s conduct with Cohen including:

–Cohen had numerous brief conversations with Trump about the Trump Tower Moscow project from Sept. 2015 onward, as well as conversations with Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. In Dec. 2015, Felix Sater asked Cohen for a copy of his and Trump’s passports to facilitate travel to Russia. By Jan 2016, growing frustrated with Sater, Cohen reached out directly to Dmitry Peskov and later had a conversation with Peskov’s assistant that he recounted to Trump.

–The day after Cohen’s conversation with Peskov’s assistant, Sater texted Cohen saying that the Russian government liked the project and invited Cohen to come visit Moscow. Cohen continued to brief Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on the project through the spring. Cohen and Sater worked to determine a time for a potential visit from then candidate Trump to Russia. The visit never happened. Cohen also decided not to visit. Cohen recounts telling trump that the project was “going nowhere” sometime during the summer of 2016.

–In January 2017, Cohen received press inquiries about Trump Tower Moscow, and told President-Elect Trump about the inquiries. He was concerned being honest about the project would not be consistent with the president’s previous comments about his relationship with Russia.

–To stay on message Cohen told a NYT reporter that the Trump Tower Moscow deal ended in January 2016. Cohen said he discussed this talking point with Trump.

–Cohen entered into a joint defense agreement with the president and others after Congress requested he testify. Cohen assumed he would be asked about allegations in the Steele Dossier. Cohen spoke with the president’s personal counsel “frequently” leading up to his congressional testimony.

–Cohen was told by the president’s personal counsel that the joint defense agreement was working well. His bills were being paid by the Trump Org. Cohen said the president’s personal counsel told him he was protected by the JDA, and he wouldn’t be if he “went rogue”

–Cohen prepared a draft letter to congress which included several false statements. That letter was circulated around and edited by members of the JDA. The president’s personal counsel also told Cohen not to make reference to an attempt to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin during the 2015 United Nations general Assembly.

–Cohen submitted his statement. He recalled speaking to the president “more generally” about his plans to stay on message during his testimony

Earlier in the day, Cohen vowed “Soon I will be ready to address the American people again…tell it all…and tell it myself!”

11:45 a.m.: The president’s further efforts to have AG Jeff Sessions take over the investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to conclude that President Trump’s actions with regard to Jeff Sessions could constitute as obstruction.

“On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton…There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President’s conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope…A reasonable inference from those statements and the President’s action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation.”

11:31 a.m.: Mueller considered Trump’s answers ‘inadequate’

Mueller lays out his negotiations with Trump’s attorneys regarding an interview with the president. Mueller writes in the introductory note that they advised counsel that “a[n] interview with the President is vital to our investigation.” Mueller says that Trump “stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an “independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.” Mueller received the president’s responses in November 2018. Beginning in December 2017 they sought to interview the president on “topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice.”

Mueller writes that “Other answers were incomplete or imprecise.”

“We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that [t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all the evidence we have gathered. The President declined.”

Mueller says “we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony” given that Trump would not volunteer an interview. “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed to costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits from our investigation and report.”

11:26 a.m.: On looking into potential obstruction of justice

The report says while they believe they had legal authority “and legal justification” to subpoena Trump” for an interview, they chose not to due to the delay in investigation that it would cause. “We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements … we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”

As for retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador, the report notes: “some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.”

On the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting, the report says Trump had “substantial involvement” in the communications strategy over the Russia probe. But “the evidence does not establish that the president intended to prevent” Mueller or Congress from getting those emails to Donald Trump Jr. or other information related to the meeting.

11:16 a.m.: On looking into potential collusion

The probe “Uncovered numerous links — I.e. contacts — between Trump campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government.”

Among the people: Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Jared Kushner, JD Gordon, Paul Manafort, Erik Prince and Jeff Sessions. The report notes, as ABC News first reported, that Sessions, when he was attorney general, was investigated for perjury over his testimony to Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

The “collusion” report talks extensively about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the promise of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

The Russians reached out again after the meeting to the transition team, but the transition team did not respond.

Mueller’s team determined it would be hard to prove “campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law.”

“On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”

“Schemes involving the solicitation or receipt of assistance from foreign sources raise difficult statutorily and constitutional questions.”

11:15 a.m.: The report has posted

The full report has posted:

www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf

10:29 a.m.: 10 episodes of potential obstruction to be disclosed in Mueller report

There are ten episodes depicting potential obstruction of justice outlined in the impending Mueller report, according to Barr’s remarks at the Department of Justice.

The special counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgement on obstruction of justice, as was outlined in Barr’s letter last month.

“Instead the report recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses legal theories for connecting those activities,” Barr said. “After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report and in consultation with the office of legal counsel and other department lawyers. The deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not subject to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”

In Barr’s March 24 letter, he wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

10:01 a.m.: Trump tweets “Game Over”

Minutes after Barr’s press conference ended, Trump tweeted “No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and radical left Democrats–Game Over,” an apparent reference to the Game of Thrones television show.

9:34 a.m.: Barr’s press conference begins

At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said he was committed to providing “the greatest degree of transparency” that is “consistent with the law.”

“As the special counsel report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election process, but thanks to the special counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign, or the knowing assistance of any other American for that matter. That is something all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed,” Barr said.

“In other words, there was no evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion of the Russian government’s hacking,” he said.

Barr held the news conference hours before he was set to send Mueller’s redacted report to Congress and make it public, drawing sharp criticism from congressional Democrats. Barr, after thanking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his efforts, also confirmed that he intends to transmit redacted versions of the report to the chairman and ranking members of the House Judiciary committees.

Rosenstein joined Barr for the news conference Thursday morning.

8 a.m.: Trump tweets ahead of release

Ahead of the Mueller release, Trump tweets that the investigation is “the Greatest Political Hoax of all time!”

Trump will have the chance to watch the DOJ press conference at 9:30 this morning — the first thing on his schedule Thursday is the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier ride at 10:30 a.m. in the East Room where he is expected to deliver remarks.

8 a.m.: Topics Barr is expected to address during his presser

Barr is expected to address three topics during his press conference scheduled for 9:30 this morning, according to Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec.

Those three topics are:

  • Executive privilege and whether it was involved.
  • White House interactions with the Department of Justice over the past several weeks since the last letter issued by Barr on March 29.
  • The redaction process.

The press conference is expected to last 20-30 minutes.

8 a.m.: Mueller arrives at office, not attending Barr newser

Mueller arrived at his office as he usually does, driving himself in his Subaru. He will not attend Barr’s news conference at the Justice Department, a spokesman said.

7:42 a.m.: Barr arrives at Justice Department

Barr arrived at the Justice Department in a two-car detail ahead of his news conference later this morning.

6:15 a.m.: Top Democrats call for Mueller to testify before Congress ‘as soon as possible’

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr’s handing of the report release has created a “crisis of confidence” and said having Mueller testify was the “only way to begin restoring public trust.”

“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” they said.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth,” Schumer and Pelosi said in the statement.

Mueller submitted his findings to the Justice Department on March 22, and Barr spent the next two days reviewing the document before releasing his initial letter to Congress.

Since then, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the full release of Mueller’s report.

House Democrats set a deadline for Barr to release the full report by April 2, but the attorney general declined that request, citing the need to redact sensitive grand jury material, information legally blocked from public release, information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods, and any “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Though Thursday’s anticipated release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report may answer lawmakers’ demands for more information, it will likely be met with calls for even more.

In a letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent just hours after Barr’s initial letter, the Democratic leaders wrote that “Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise.”

The amount of underlying documents supporting the report is expected to be substantial. In his letter, Barr wrote that “the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants” and “interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.”

Mueller’s full report covers the scope of an investigation lead by a team of federal prosecutors that lasted 22 months and lead to 37 indictments and seven guilty pleas. Some of the cases related to the special counsel’s probe are ongoing and have since been turned over to prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s offices.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Special counsel considered Trump’s written answers ‘inadequate’

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General William Barr on Thursday morning transmitted a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign to members of Congress, making public for the first time substantial portions of the nearly 400-page document.

The Justice Department’s release of the redacted report comes just weeks after Barr penned a four-page letter conveying the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.”

In that letter, Barr described “two main” Kremlin-backed efforts to influence the election, but states definitively that the special counsel’s office did not find evidence to suggest that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russians.

The special counsel’s office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, Barr noted, but Barr himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

ABC NEWS WILL BE PROVIDING LIVE UPDATES THROUGHOUT THE DAY ON ALL THE MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS.

2:10 p.m.: 2020 candidates slam AG Barr as Mueller report sends ripples through Democratic field

Democratic presidential candidates were quick to vent their frustration on Thursday at the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, swiftly called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress and demanded that the full unredacted report be released to the public.

The ire directed at Barr comes after he held a press conference defending President Donald Trump’s actions and to speak publicly and take questions from journalists before the report from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.

None of the sitting U.S. senators who have declared a presidential bid voted for Barr’s confirmation.

1:31 p.m.: Insight into Trump’s written responses to the special counsel team’s questions

The answers President Donald Trump gave to special counsel Robert Mueller have finally been released as part of the redacted version of the special counsel’s report.

Trump’s willingness to participate in an interview with the special counsel, the topics of the questions and whether that interview would take place in person or in writing was the subject of a months-long negotiation between Trump’s legal team and the special counsel.

In June of 2017, the president told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that he would “one hundred percent” be willing to speak under oath to his version of events if Mueller asked him to. Eventually, the president and his legal team backed off of Trump’s initial willingness to sit for an interview, instead advocating that the president respond to select questions in writing. Trump submitted his written responses to the special counsel on November 21, 2018.

Read his responses here.

12:12 p.m.: Trump orders White House counsel Don McGahn to deny the president tried to fire the special counsel

After news broke that Trump ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel, Trump pressured McGahn to deny that he had been directed to do so, even suggesting to aides that he would fire him unless he complied. Mueller concludes that there is evidence to suggest Trump acted this way to impede his investigation.

According to the report: “The President then directed [staff secretary Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file “for our records” and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a ‘lying bastard’ and said that he wanted a record from him. Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, ‘If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him’.”

Mueller concluded that “Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation.”

12:08p.m.: Trump tried to block release of emails related to June 9 Trump Tower meeting: Report

In a section of the report divided into four subsections, Mueller’s team cites at least three occasions “between June 29, 2017 and July 9, 2017- when the president directed Hope Hicks and others not to publicly disclose information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian attorney. The office of the special counsel concluded that” these efforts by the president were directed at the press, adding that these acts would amount to obstructive acts only if the president sought to withhold information or mislead congressional investigations or the special counsel. On May 17, 2017, the president’s campaign received a document request from SSCI that clearly covered the June 9 meeting.”

In the analysis section, the special counsel specifically addresses the phrase attributed to Hope Hicks, “it will never get out”—in reference to the emails setting up the June 9 meeting. Hicks said she “had no memory of making” that comment and always believed the emails would eventually be leaked. The Special Counsel writes that the Hicks statement “can be explained as reflecting a belief that the emails would not be made public if the President’s press strategy were followed, even if the emails were provided to Congress and the Special Counsel.”

11:46 a.m.: Cohen had “extensive” discussions with the president’s personal counsel

The Mueller report states that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s then-personal attorney, had “extensive” discussions with the president’s personal counsel while working on his statements to Congress.

The report further lays out myriad instances of the president’s conduct with Cohen including:

–Cohen had numerous brief conversations with Trump about the Trump Tower Moscow project from Sept. 2015 onward, as well as conversations with Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. In Dec. 2015, Felix Sater asked Cohen for a copy of his and Trump’s passports to facilitate travel to Russia. By Jan 2016, growing frustrated with Sater, Cohen reached out directly to Dmitry Peskov and later had a conversation with Peskov’s assistant that he recounted to Trump.

–The day after Cohen’s conversation with Peskov’s assistant, Sater texted Cohen saying that the Russian government liked the project and invited Cohen to come visit Moscow. Cohen continued to brief Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on the project through the spring. Cohen and Sater worked to determine a time for a potential visit from then candidate Trump to Russia. The visit never happened. Cohen also decided not to visit. Cohen recounts telling trump that the project was “going nowhere” sometime during the summer of 2016.

–In January 2017, Cohen received press inquiries about Trump Tower Moscow, and told President-Elect Trump about the inquiries. He was concerned being honest about the project would not be consistent with the president’s previous comments about his relationship with Russia.

–To stay on message Cohen told a NYT reporter that the Trump Tower Moscow deal ended in January 2016. Cohen said he discussed this talking point with Trump.

–Cohen entered into a joint defense agreement with the president and others after Congress requested he testify. Cohen assumed he would be asked about allegations in the Steele Dossier. Cohen spoke with the president’s personal counsel “frequently” leading up to his congressional testimony.

–Cohen was told by the president’s personal counsel that the joint defense agreement was working well. His bills were being paid by the Trump Org. Cohen said the president’s personal counsel told him he was protected by the JDA, and he wouldn’t be if he “went rogue”

–Cohen prepared a draft letter to congress which included several false statements. That letter was circulated around and edited by members of the JDA. The president’s personal counsel also told Cohen not to make reference to an attempt to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin during the 2015 United Nations general Assembly.

–Cohen submitted his statement. He recalled speaking to the president “more generally” about his plans to stay on message during his testimony

Earlier in the day, Cohen vowed “Soon I will be ready to address the American people again…tell it all…and tell it myself!”

11:45 a.m.: The president’s further efforts to have AG Jeff Sessions take over the investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to conclude that President Trump’s actions with regard to Jeff Sessions could constitute as obstruction.

“On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton…There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President’s conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope…A reasonable inference from those statements and the President’s action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation.”

11:31 a.m.: Mueller considered Trump’s answers ‘inadequate’

Mueller lays out his negotiations with Trump’s attorneys regarding an interview with the president. Mueller writes in the introductory note that they advised counsel that “a[n] interview with the President is vital to our investigation.” Mueller says that Trump “stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an “independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.” Mueller received the president’s responses in November 2018. Beginning in December 2017 they sought to interview the president on “topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice.”

Mueller writes that “Other answers were incomplete or imprecise.”

“We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that [t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all the evidence we have gathered. The President declined.”

Mueller says “we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony” given that Trump would not volunteer an interview. “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed to costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits from our investigation and report.”

11:26 a.m.: On looking into potential obstruction of justice

The report says while they believe they had legal authority “and legal justification” to subpoena Trump” for an interview, they chose not to due to the delay in investigation that it would cause. “We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements … we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”

As for retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador, the report notes: “some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.”

On the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting, the report says Trump had “substantial involvement” in the communications strategy over the Russia probe. But “the evidence does not establish that the president intended to prevent” Mueller or Congress from getting those emails to Donald Trump Jr. or other information related to the meeting.

11:16 a.m.: On looking into potential collusion

The probe “Uncovered numerous links — I.e. contacts — between Trump campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government.”

Among the people: Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Jared Kushner, JD Gordon, Paul Manafort, Erik Prince and Jeff Sessions. The report notes, as ABC News first reported, that Sessions, when he was attorney general, was investigated for perjury over his testimony to Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

The “collusion” report talks extensively about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the promise of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

The Russians reached out again after the meeting to the transition team, but the transition team did not respond.

Mueller’s team determined it would be hard to prove “campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law.”

“On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”

“Schemes involving the solicitation or receipt of assistance from foreign sources raise difficult statutorily and constitutional questions.”

11:15 a.m.: The report has posted

The full report has posted:

www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf

10:29 a.m.: 10 episodes of potential obstruction to be disclosed in Mueller report

There are ten episodes depicting potential obstruction of justice outlined in the impending Mueller report, according to Barr’s remarks at the Department of Justice.

The special counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgement on obstruction of justice, as was outlined in Barr’s letter last month.

“Instead the report recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses legal theories for connecting those activities,” Barr said. “After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report and in consultation with the office of legal counsel and other department lawyers. The deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not subject to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”

In Barr’s March 24 letter, he wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

10:01 a.m.: Trump tweets “Game Over”

Minutes after Barr’s press conference ended, Trump tweeted “No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and radical left Democrats–Game Over,” an apparent reference to the Game of Thrones television show.

9:34 a.m.: Barr’s press conference begins

At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said he was committed to providing “the greatest degree of transparency” that is “consistent with the law.”

“As the special counsel report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election process, but thanks to the special counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign, or the knowing assistance of any other American for that matter. That is something all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed,” Barr said.

“In other words, there was no evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion of the Russian government’s hacking,” he said.

Barr held the news conference hours before he was set to send Mueller’s redacted report to Congress and make it public, drawing sharp criticism from congressional Democrats. Barr, after thanking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his efforts, also confirmed that he intends to transmit redacted versions of the report to the chairman and ranking members of the House Judiciary committees.

Rosenstein joined Barr for the news conference Thursday morning.

8 a.m.: Trump tweets ahead of release

Ahead of the Mueller release, Trump tweets that the investigation is “the Greatest Political Hoax of all time!”

Trump will have the chance to watch the DOJ press conference at 9:30 this morning — the first thing on his schedule Thursday is the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier ride at 10:30 a.m. in the East Room where he is expected to deliver remarks.

8 a.m.: Topics Barr is expected to address during his presser

Barr is expected to address three topics during his press conference scheduled for 9:30 this morning, according to Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec.

Those three topics are:

  • Executive privilege and whether it was involved.
  • White House interactions with the Department of Justice over the past several weeks since the last letter issued by Barr on March 29.
  • The redaction process.

The press conference is expected to last 20-30 minutes.

8 a.m.: Mueller arrives at office, not attending Barr newser

Mueller arrived at his office as he usually does, driving himself in his Subaru. He will not attend Barr’s news conference at the Justice Department, a spokesman said.

7:42 a.m.: Barr arrives at Justice Department

Barr arrived at the Justice Department in a two-car detail ahead of his news conference later this morning.

6:15 a.m.: Top Democrats call for Mueller to testify before Congress ‘as soon as possible’

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr’s handing of the report release has created a “crisis of confidence” and said having Mueller testify was the “only way to begin restoring public trust.”

“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” they said.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth,” Schumer and Pelosi said in the statement.

Mueller submitted his findings to the Justice Department on March 22, and Barr spent the next two days reviewing the document before releasing his initial letter to Congress.

Since then, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the full release of Mueller’s report.

House Democrats set a deadline for Barr to release the full report by April 2, but the attorney general declined that request, citing the need to redact sensitive grand jury material, information legally blocked from public release, information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods, and any “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Though Thursday’s anticipated release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report may answer lawmakers’ demands for more information, it will likely be met with calls for even more.

In a letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent just hours after Barr’s initial letter, the Democratic leaders wrote that “Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise.”

The amount of underlying documents supporting the report is expected to be substantial. In his letter, Barr wrote that “the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants” and “interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.”

Mueller’s full report covers the scope of an investigation lead by a team of federal prosecutors that lasted 22 months and lead to 37 indictments and seven guilty pleas. Some of the cases related to the special counsel’s probe are ongoing and have since been turned over to prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s offices.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

2020 candidates slam Attorney General Barr, call on Mueller to testify as report sends ripples through Democratic field

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Democratic presidential candidates were quick to vent their frustration on Thursday at the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, swiftly called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress and demanded that the full unredacted report be released to the public.

The ire directed at Barr comes after he held a press conference defending President Donald Trump’s actions and to speak publicly and take questions from journalists before the report from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.

None of the sitting U.S. senators who have declared a presidential bid voted for Barr’s confirmation.

On Twitter, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called Barr’s presser a “complete farce,” while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said it’s “a disgrace to see an Attorney General acting as if he’s the personal attorney and publicist for the President of the United States.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Barr’s presser was “full of spin and propaganda,” and called on Mueller to testify before Congress, as did fellow committee member and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeg, who has seen his presidential fortunes rise in recent weeks and officially launched his campaign last week, said Mueller’s report “shows a president putting his own interests ahead of the country’s,” and “demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who recently announced that he will run against Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2020, also called on Mueller to testify publicly, writing in a statement, “It is essential that Special Counsel Bob Mueller come before Congress and address the validity of his report that has been redacted and released.”

“Release Mueller’s full report now,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., tweeted.

He also posted a searchable version of the special counsel’s 448-page redacted report.

California Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopolous that Mueller’s report makes clear that “the Russians attacked us,” and that there is “a multiplicity of contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Swalwell also called on Barr to resign.

“I think you can be the attorney general of the United States, or the present’s lawyer, but you can’t be both,” he told Stephanopolous.

Rep. Tim Ryan
, D-Ohio, also called on Mueller to testify publicly, while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expressed similar displeasure with Barr’s actions.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel’s campaign tweeted that they “won’t be doing tweets about the mueller report because it’s pointless.”

Democrats put spotlight on election security

Whatever the fallout from the Mueller report, the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House has sought to put the spotlight on election security, pushing a number of bills aimed at shoring up the country’s electoral infrastructure.

The party’s first sweeping piece of legislation addressing election security, H.R. 1 or the “For the People Act,” was introduced in January with broad support within the Democratic caucus.

The ambitious bill, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., largely focuses on anti-corruption and campaign finance-related issues and would also give $1.5 billion in new voting technology funding.

It also includes provisions to enable automatic voter registration, mandates that states use paper ballots in elections, better protect against cybersecurity threats and make Election Day a national holiday for federal workers.

In February, the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., convened a series of panels on various security-related measures including H.R. 1, urging more support for local governments that bear the brunt of conducting and securing the country’s elections.

 “Local election officials are on the front lines of securing our elections, and their success depends on the support they received from federal and state governments,” Thompson said in his opening statement during the hearing.

Republicans on the committee said the provisions in H.R. 1 are too broad and that more funding is not the only solution to the problem.

“I hope that when H.R. 1 stalls in the Senate, which it will, we revisit the issue of election security in a bipartisan manner,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. said during the hearing.

In March, following the bill’s passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “H.R. 1 ensures clean, fair elections and fights voter suppression. It cleans up corruption, returning integrity to Washington D.C. … It honors the vision of our founders, gives hope to the American people that their interests are served.”

Despite its passage in the House, the bill stands little chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decried the legislation as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

“I hope the two bodies can find common ground and build on the bipartisan successes of last Congress — but this outlandish Democrat proposal is not a promising start. My colleagues and I will proudly defend your privacy and your elections,” McConnell wrote in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this year.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump tweets ‘Game Over’ moments after Barr’s news conference on Mueller report

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Moments after Attorney General William Barr concluded a news conference Thursday morning laying out his interpretation of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report ahead of its expected release to Congress and the public, President Donald Trump took to Twitter with a Game of Thrones reference to declare: “Game Over.”

pic.twitter.com/222atp7wuB

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019

A White House official said the president watched the attorney general’s news conference from the White House residence.

Not long after, at a event honoring Wounded Warriors at the White House, Trump said “I’m having a good day, too. It was called no collusion no obstruction.

“There never was by the way and there never will be,” he continued.

The president went on to reiterate his call for an investigation into the origins of the probe, which he maintains was started unethically.

“We do have to get to the bottom of these things,” he told the audience gathered in the East Room. “This should never happen to another president again, this hoax.”

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president and one of his fiercest defenders, claimed that Thursday “really is the best day” since Trump was elected.

“I call this a political proctology exam,” Conway said. “And we emerged with a clean bill of health.”

“The Department of Justice made very clear that every request that was issued was responded to and fulfilled,” Conway said. “That should make people feel good about democracy and it should make them feel really great that a campaign that I managed to a successful end did not collude with any Russians. We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them.”

Conway said that she spent much of the day with the president and said he is “in a great mood.” Conway said Trump spoke with his lawyers, watched the press conference, and met with wounded vets at the White House this morning.

Conway did not directly answer whether she thinks special counsel Mueller should testify before Congress but she noted that the attorney general said: “Sure. You want to call Mr. Mueller to testify, call him to testify.”

The president is not expected to hold a formal press conference Thursday but is expected to make remarks to reporters as he departs the White House on his way to his Florida estate for the Easter weekend later Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Justice Department to release redacted version of Mueller report

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General William Barr is expected to transmit a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign to members of Congress, making public for the first time substantial portions of the nearly 400-page document.

The Justice Department’s release of the redacted report comes just weeks after Barr penned a four-page letter conveying the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.”

In that letter, Barr described “two main” Kremlin-backed efforts to influence the election, but states definitively that the special counsel’s office did not find evidence to suggest that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russians.

The special counsel’s office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, Barr noted, but Barr himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

Mueller submitted his findings to the Justice Department on March 22, and Barr spent the next two days reviewing the document before releasing his initial letter to Congress.

Since then, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the full release of Mueller’s report.

House Democrats set a deadline for Barr to release the full report by April 2, but the attorney general declined that request, citing the need to redact sensitive grand jury material, information legally blocked from public release, information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods, and any “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Though Thursday’s anticipated release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report may answer lawmakers’ demands for more information, it will likely be met with calls for even more.

In a letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent just hours after Barr’s initial letter, the Democratic leaders wrote that “Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise.”

The amount of underlying documents supporting the report is expected to be substantial. In his letter, Barr wrote that “the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants” and “interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.”

Mueller’s full report covers the scope of an investigation lead by a team of federal prosecutors that lasted 22 months and lead to 37 indictments and seven guilty pleas. Some of the cases related to the special counsel’s probe are ongoing and have since been turned over to prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s offices.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Justice Department to release redacted version of Mueller report

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General William Barr is expected to transmit a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign to members of Congress, making public for the first time substantial portions of the nearly 400-page document.

The Justice Department’s release of the redacted report comes just weeks after Barr penned a four-page letter conveying the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.”

In that letter, Barr described “two main” Kremlin-backed efforts to influence the election, but states definitively that the special counsel’s office did not find evidence to suggest that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russians.

The special counsel’s office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, Barr noted, but Barr himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

Mueller submitted his findings to the Justice Department on March 22, and Barr spent the next two days reviewing the document before releasing his initial letter to Congress.

Since then, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the full release of Mueller’s report.

House Democrats set a deadline for Barr to release the full report by April 2, but the attorney general declined that request, citing the need to redact sensitive grand jury material, information legally blocked from public release, information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods, and any “information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Though Thursday’s anticipated release of a redacted version of Mueller’s report may answer lawmakers’ demands for more information, it will likely be met with calls for even more.

In a letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent just hours after Barr’s initial letter, the Democratic leaders wrote that “Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise.”

The amount of underlying documents supporting the report is expected to be substantial. In his letter, Barr wrote that “the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants” and “interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.”

Mueller’s full report covers the scope of an investigation lead by a team of federal prosecutors that lasted 22 months and lead to 37 indictments and seven guilty pleas. Some of the cases related to the special counsel’s probe are ongoing and have since been turned over to prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s offices.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Legislation to address uptick of veteran suicides at VA facilities

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A House Democrat is introducing legislation on Thursday aimed at addressing an uptick in veteran suicides at Department of Veteran’s Affairs facilities.

In five days this month alone, three veterans took their lives at VA facilities, including one who died by suicide in a crowded Austin, Texas, waiting room last week.

The legislation will be introduced by Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., an Army combat veteran and member of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. It calls for “substantive data” from the VA regarding the trend in veteran suicides at VA facilities.

“Getting this data more quickly and thoroughly would guide Congress’ efforts in understanding this crisis, and preventing these tragedies,” Rose said. “We must ensure all veterans have the services they need when they need them, plain and simple.”

The legislation would require the VA to notify Congress of any suicide or suicide attempt and the name of the VA facility and location where the event occurred, no later than seven days after it happens. Sixty days after the event, the VA would be required to provide even more information to Congress, including the enrollment status of the veteran, with respect to the patient enrollment system at the VA, and the most recent encounter between the veteran and any employee or facility of the Veterans Health Administration before the suicide or attempted suicide occurred.

VA press secretary Curt Cashour said the VA has not yet taken a position on the bill, but that the department has been transparent about suicide and suicide attempts. He also cited a study that showed veteran suicides occur less frequently on VA campuses than on non-VA campuses.

It’s estimated that 20 veterans die of suicide each day, 14 of whom are outside the VA system. According to VA officials, the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at VA facilities since beginning to track them in 2017, with 240 of those having been interrupted.

Cashour would not discuss the specific cases of suicides at VA facilities this month, but said, “Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones affected by these deaths.”

“Any time an unexpected death occurs at a VA facility, the department conducts a comprehensive review of the case to see if changes in policies and procedures are warranted. All VA facilities provide same-day urgent primary and mental health care serves to veterans who need them,” Cashour said.

“Veteran suicide is a national public health crisis that we need to address — that’s why the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has made it a top priority,” said Committee Chairman Mark Takano. “Congress can help develop a response to these tragedies, but we have to know what’s happening. I’m proud to support this bill to ensure Congress gets the data it needs as quickly as possible so we can work together to prevent these incidents and give veterans in crisis the support they desperately need.”

In addition to Rose’s legislation, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., put forth a bill last month that would boost funding and mental health staff at the VA, as well as seek alternative therapies and research to address veteran suicide. Also last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which tasked agency officials with developing a strategy to aggressively tackle the issue of veteran suicide.

But one leading veterans group has called for a multi-agency investigation into what they’re calling a “suicide epidemic among veterans and service members,” concerned that the White House initiative would take “at least a year to establish and launch into action.”

American Veterans asked the inspectors general of the VA, Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to immediately launch the joint investigation following the latest deaths at VA facilities.

Between October 2017 and November 2018, there were 19 suicides on VA campuses — seven in parking lots — according to AMVETS.

AMVETS Executive Director Joseph Chenelly said that suicides at VA facilities “appear to be protests of last resort where health care systems, treatment programs, and the underlying cultures of the responsible federal agencies have failed them.”

The VA’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request calls for $222 million for suicide prevention programs.

Any veteran, family member, or friend concerned about a veteran’s mental health can contact the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Legislation to address uptick of veteran suicides at VA facilities

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A House Democrat is introducing legislation on Thursday aimed at addressing an uptick in veteran suicides at Department of Veteran’s Affairs facilities.

In five days this month alone, three veterans took their lives at VA facilities, including one who died by suicide in a crowded Austin, Texas, waiting room last week.

The legislation will be introduced by Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., an Army combat veteran and member of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee. It calls for “substantive data” from the VA regarding the trend in veteran suicides at VA facilities.

“Getting this data more quickly and thoroughly would guide Congress’ efforts in understanding this crisis, and preventing these tragedies,” Rose said. “We must ensure all veterans have the services they need when they need them, plain and simple.”

The legislation would require the VA to notify Congress of any suicide or suicide attempt and the name of the VA facility and location where the event occurred, no later than seven days after it happens. Sixty days after the event, the VA would be required to provide even more information to Congress, including the enrollment status of the veteran, with respect to the patient enrollment system at the VA, and the most recent encounter between the veteran and any employee or facility of the Veterans Health Administration before the suicide or attempted suicide occurred.

VA press secretary Curt Cashour said the VA has not yet taken a position on the bill, but that the department has been transparent about suicide and suicide attempts. He also cited a study that showed veteran suicides occur less frequently on VA campuses than on non-VA campuses.

It’s estimated that 20 veterans die of suicide each day, 14 of whom are outside the VA system. According to VA officials, the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at VA facilities since beginning to track them in 2017, with 240 of those having been interrupted.

Cashour would not discuss the specific cases of suicides at VA facilities this month, but said, “Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones affected by these deaths.”

“Any time an unexpected death occurs at a VA facility, the department conducts a comprehensive review of the case to see if changes in policies and procedures are warranted. All VA facilities provide same-day urgent primary and mental health care serves to veterans who need them,” Cashour said.

“Veteran suicide is a national public health crisis that we need to address — that’s why the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has made it a top priority,” said Committee Chairman Mark Takano. “Congress can help develop a response to these tragedies, but we have to know what’s happening. I’m proud to support this bill to ensure Congress gets the data it needs as quickly as possible so we can work together to prevent these incidents and give veterans in crisis the support they desperately need.”

In addition to Rose’s legislation, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., put forth a bill last month that would boost funding and mental health staff at the VA, as well as seek alternative therapies and research to address veteran suicide. Also last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which tasked agency officials with developing a strategy to aggressively tackle the issue of veteran suicide.

But one leading veterans group has called for a multi-agency investigation into what they’re calling a “suicide epidemic among veterans and service members,” concerned that the White House initiative would take “at least a year to establish and launch into action.”

American Veterans asked the inspectors general of the VA, Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to immediately launch the joint investigation following the latest deaths at VA facilities.

Between October 2017 and November 2018, there were 19 suicides on VA campuses — seven in parking lots — according to AMVETS.

AMVETS Executive Director Joseph Chenelly said that suicides at VA facilities “appear to be protests of last resort where health care systems, treatment programs, and the underlying cultures of the responsible federal agencies have failed them.”

The VA’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request calls for $222 million for suicide prevention programs.

Any veteran, family member, or friend concerned about a veteran’s mental health can contact the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Democrats slam Justice Department over Mueller report release

Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Democrats criticized the Justice Department’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 400-page report on the eve of its release, slamming plans to deliver it to Capitol Hill Thursday morning following a news conference from Attorney General William Barr.

“This is wrong,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a news conference Wednesday evening.

A Justice Department official told ABC News that the redacted copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill between 11 a.m. and noon on CDs, after Barr’s scheduled news conference at 9:30 a.m.

Democrats fumed at the timing of the Mueller report release, and the planned rollout as an effort to spin the special counsel’s findings.

Washington has waited for the highly-anticipated report for weeks, with everyone from members of Congress to press assistants on Capitol Hill planning to dissect the report into Russia’s efforts to interference in the 2016 election and whether or not President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

“It’s going to be like ‘Anna Karenana,’ gripping,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor and member of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC News.

Mueller did not find evidence that the Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in 2016 but made no conclusions on whether or not he obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to lawmakers in late March, which also contained Barr’s own conclusion that the president did not obstruct the probe.

That characterization of the special counsel’s work infuriated Democrats and prompted celebration from the White House. Both Democrats and many Republicans have clamored for the release of the unredacted report to move beyond Barr’s bottom line summary, though one Trump ally — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — has said he is fine with whatever DOJ releases to the public.

Nadler fumed Wednesday that Barr’s planned news conference was another attempt to present the report “through his own words” instead of Mueller’s.

Barr has said he plans to release a redacted version of the report, limiting information pertaining to grand jury material, classified information, details that could impact ongoing law enforcement activities and damage the reputation and privacy of “peripheral third parties.”

Democrats, led by the House Judiciary Committee and Nadler, are prepared to subpoena the Justice Department for the full document and underlying materials and fight for them in court, depending on what Barr releases on Thursday. That subpoena could be served as early as Friday, even as Nadler’s staff continues negotiations with the Justice Department about Mueller’s findings and turning the materials over.

Some lawmakers will get an earlier look than others: the Justice Department intends to give some members of Congress a version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report “without certain redactions” that will be in the publicly released version of the report, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Government lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., and an attorney for the special counsel’s office, filed Wednesday’s court document in response to a request by former Trump adviser Roger Stone’s defense team for a complete, unredacted version of Mueller’s report.

“Once the redacted version of the report has been released to the public,” prosecutors wrote, “the Justice Department plans to make available for review by a limited number of Members of Congress and their staff a copy of the Special Counsel’s report without certain redactions, including removing the redaction of information related to the charges set forth in the indictment in this case.”

In the House and Senate, lawmakers and committee staff plan to do speed reading of their own, to understand more about the investigation that has overshadowed Washington and the Trump administration for two years. House Democrats will defer to their subject matter experts on the staff of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on the substance of Mueller’s report, while looking to the House speaker’s office to help shape messaging and guide the caucus’ response to Mueller’s findings, according to a senior Democratic aide.

In addition to the congressional efforts, the Democratic and Republican National Committees are deploying scores of researchers to comb through Mueller’s work and flag highlights to reporters and on social media, as well as preparing talking points for lawmakers and surrogates. The RNC has set up a war room to monitor media coverage and statements from Democrats and push back.

The House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department as well as impeachment, is particularly focused on any elaboration on Mueller’s decision not to reach a legal conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, Raskin told ABC News.

That section of Mueller’s investigation could also inform Democrats’ wide-ranging inquiry into allegations of corruption, abuses of power and obstruction of justice.

“The language of the report may give us the answer, but it may not, in which case we may want to hear from special counsel Mueller himself,” Raskin said.

Barr is expected to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in early May, which is expected to be a key moment in the looming battle between lawmakers and the Justice Department over the report and its contents. Democrats also hope to question Mueller at a later date: Nadler said Wednesday that lawmakers would “probably find it useful” for the special counsel and members of his team to testify.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have requested a full briefing from the special counsel, and all materials “regardless of form and classification,” according to their recent letter to the Justice Department.

While Democrats in control of the House plan to use Mueller’s findings to aid their ongoing investigations into the Trump administration across six congressional committees, they have no plans to change course or stop their larger oversight activities — from investigating the fallout of the family separation policy and disaster recovery efforts, to prescription drug prices and the president’s potential violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

“Congress has a Constitutional obligation to exercise oversight of the Executive Branch and to ensure that the government works for the American people,” Ashley Etienne, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement to ABC News. “Democrats will continue to probe President Trump and his Administration’s misconduct, corruption and incompetence as well as issues that matter most in the lives of the American people from the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs to the Trump’s sabotage of families’ affordable health care, and the Administration’s inhumane family separation policy. The American people deserve answers and we’re not going to back down from getting them.”

Democrats have pointed to recent polling to support their continued oversight work.

Sixty-four percent of Americans believe Trump committed crimes before becoming president, according to a March Quinnipiac poll conducted after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress. Voters split 45 percent to 43 percent on whether Trump has committed any crimes as president.

Republicans, for their part, are focused on learning more about the genesis of the Mueller probe. The attorney general confirmed to a Senate panel recently that he is looking into the matter, that’s in addition to a DOJ Inspector General investigation with the same focus that is nearing its conclusion.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What the attorney general’s words tell us about what’s in the Mueller report

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday did a final review of his redactions to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before he releases it to the public on Thursday, his past words may provide clues about what he’ll disclose.

Much attention when the report is released will focus on the issue of whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice and, as Barr wrote in his four-page March 24 letter to Congress, why Mueller “did not draw a conclusion – on way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.”

But will that information be redacted? Barr addressed this during an April 9 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. When chairman José Serrano, D-N.Y., asked if actions that the “special counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction of justice concerns” will be identified in the report, Barr replied, “As things stand right now, I don’t think that they will be redacted, so they will be identifiable.”

Barr’s letter indicated that Mueller “leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”

But that letter never says what Mueller’s reasoning was for not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, only that “the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question.”

Will the public get to see that explanation?

As Barr testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on April 10 that Mueller provides “a fuller explanation of that in the report that I’ll be making available.”

Pressed further by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., about whether “the key factual evidence in the Mueller report related to charges of obstruction of justice will be available in the public report,” Barr replied, “I believe it will. And that’s one of the reasons why I want to review it after the — you know, when the redaction team is done making the redactions to make sure that there’s nothing in there that would prevent that.”

If Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion about obstruction, did he take a position on who should?

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Barr if Mueller expressed “any expectation or interest in leaving the obstruction decision to Congress.” Barr replied, “Not that – he—he didn’t say that to me, no.”

“So, he said the obstruction decision should be up to you?” Leahy followed up.

“He didn’t say that either,” Barr responded.

So, what will be redacted? In his letter and again in congressional testimony Barr lays out four categories of information that will be kept from public view.

The first is grand jury or so-called 6(e) material, which refers to Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requiring information from a grand jury proceeding to remain secret.

As Barr’s March 24 letter notes, “This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.”

That view was reinforced in an April 5 federal appeals court decision that outlined that “secrecy safeguards vital interests in (1) preserving the willingness and candor of witnesses called before the grand jury; (2) not alerting the target of an investigation who might otherwise flee or interfere with the grand jury; and (3) preserving the rights of a suspect who might later be exonerated.” Outside of some limited exceptions found in Rule 6, the appeals court found a lower court has no authority to disclose grand jury material.

Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, asked Barr about whether he would ask the court to release grand jury material under one of those exceptions. Barr turned the tables, saying, “The chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.”

While the shroud of grand jury secrecy has been lifted in some notable cases including Watergate and the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, it appears that the disclosure of grand jury material from the Mueller probe is unlikely to occur anytime soon, if ever, unless Congress persuades a court to do so.

The second category described by Barr is “information that the IC, the intelligence community, believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods.” A large part of the special counsel investigation involves Russian interference in the 2016 election. Such counter-intelligence investigations often rely on intercepts or information from foreign intelligence services. Barr’s letter states that Mueller’s team sought evidence from 13 foreign governments. These are the kinds of potentially sensitive matters Barr may seek to protect.

The third category involves ongoing prosecutions. Former Trump adviser Roger Stone, for example, was investigated by the special counsel and indicted in January, but his trial isn’t sent to begin until Nov. 5. As Barr puts it in his letter, “the Special Counsel did spin off a number of cases that are still being pursued and we want to make sure that none of the information in the report would impinge upon either the ability of the prosecutors to prosecute the cases, or the fairness to the defendants.”

The fourth category, Barr testified, involves “information that implicates the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral players where there’s a decision not to charge them.”

What does that mean for people like President Trump? Barr addressed this during his Senate testimony in a response a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who asked, “Does that mean that you will redact information to protect the reputational interests of the president?

Barr responded, “No. I’m talking about people in private life, not public officeholders.”

That could keep hidden the identities of uncharged people associated with the Trump family or businesses.

As Barr testified in his April 9 appearance before a House subcommittee, “the department’s longstanding policy and practice is that if we are not going to charge someone, we don’t go out and discuss the bad or derogatory information about them. That’s what got everyone outraged at what FBI Director Comey did in the case of Hillary Clinton.”

In the end, will the public version of the Mueller report provide enough information to understand what investigators found? As Sen. Brian Schatz. D-Hawaii, put it, “the basic question I think for the public is are we going to get the gist of this or is it going to be, you know, on January 2015 and then–and then you have to flip 15 pages to find the next text?”

“You will get more than the gist,” Barr answered.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What the attorney general’s words tell us about what’s in the Mueller report

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday did a final review of his redactions to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before he releases it to the public on Thursday, his past words may provide clues about what he’ll disclose.

Much attention when the report is released will focus on the issue of whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice and, as Barr wrote in his four-page March 24 letter to Congress, why Mueller “did not draw a conclusion – on way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.”

But will that information be redacted? Barr addressed this during an April 9 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. When chairman José Serrano, D-N.Y., asked if actions that the “special counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction of justice concerns” will be identified in the report, Barr replied, “As things stand right now, I don’t think that they will be redacted, so they will be identifiable.”

Barr’s letter indicated that Mueller “leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”

But that letter never says what Mueller’s reasoning was for not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, only that “the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question.”

Will the public get to see that explanation?

As Barr testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on April 10 that Mueller provides “a fuller explanation of that in the report that I’ll be making available.”

Pressed further by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., about whether “the key factual evidence in the Mueller report related to charges of obstruction of justice will be available in the public report,” Barr replied, “I believe it will. And that’s one of the reasons why I want to review it after the — you know, when the redaction team is done making the redactions to make sure that there’s nothing in there that would prevent that.”

If Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion about obstruction, did he take a position on who should?

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Barr if Mueller expressed “any expectation or interest in leaving the obstruction decision to Congress.” Barr replied, “Not that – he—he didn’t say that to me, no.”

“So, he said the obstruction decision should be up to you?” Leahy followed up.

“He didn’t say that either,” Barr responded.

So, what will be redacted? In his letter and again in congressional testimony Barr lays out four categories of information that will be kept from public view.

The first is grand jury or so-called 6(e) material, which refers to Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requiring information from a grand jury proceeding to remain secret.

As Barr’s March 24 letter notes, “This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.”

That view was reinforced in an April 5 federal appeals court decision that outlined that “secrecy safeguards vital interests in (1) preserving the willingness and candor of witnesses called before the grand jury; (2) not alerting the target of an investigation who might otherwise flee or interfere with the grand jury; and (3) preserving the rights of a suspect who might later be exonerated.” Outside of some limited exceptions found in Rule 6, the appeals court found a lower court has no authority to disclose grand jury material.

Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, asked Barr about whether he would ask the court to release grand jury material under one of those exceptions. Barr turned the tables, saying, “The chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.”

While the shroud of grand jury secrecy has been lifted in some notable cases including Watergate and the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, it appears that the disclosure of grand jury material from the Mueller probe is unlikely to occur anytime soon, if ever, unless Congress persuades a court to do so.

The second category described by Barr is “information that the IC, the intelligence community, believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods.” A large part of the special counsel investigation involves Russian interference in the 2016 election. Such counter-intelligence investigations often rely on intercepts or information from foreign intelligence services. Barr’s letter states that Mueller’s team sought evidence from 13 foreign governments. These are the kinds of potentially sensitive matters Barr may seek to protect.

The third category involves ongoing prosecutions. Former Trump adviser Roger Stone, for example, was investigated by the special counsel and indicted in January, but his trial isn’t sent to begin until Nov. 5. As Barr puts it in his letter, “the Special Counsel did spin off a number of cases that are still being pursued and we want to make sure that none of the information in the report would impinge upon either the ability of the prosecutors to prosecute the cases, or the fairness to the defendants.”

The fourth category, Barr testified, involves “information that implicates the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral players where there’s a decision not to charge them.”

What does that mean for people like President Trump? Barr addressed this during his Senate testimony in a response a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who asked, “Does that mean that you will redact information to protect the reputational interests of the president?

Barr responded, “No. I’m talking about people in private life, not public officeholders.”

That could keep hidden the identities of uncharged people associated with the Trump family or businesses.

As Barr testified in his April 9 appearance before a House subcommittee, “the department’s longstanding policy and practice is that if we are not going to charge someone, we don’t go out and discuss the bad or derogatory information about them. That’s what got everyone outraged at what FBI Director Comey did in the case of Hillary Clinton.”

In the end, will the public version of the Mueller report provide enough information to understand what investigators found? As Sen. Brian Schatz. D-Hawaii, put it, “the basic question I think for the public is are we going to get the gist of this or is it going to be, you know, on January 2015 and then–and then you have to flip 15 pages to find the next text?”

“You will get more than the gist,” Barr answered.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mueller report set for Thursday release: 5 things to watch

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Robert Mueller has conducted his nearly two-year investigation shrouded in secrecy, choosing to speak through indictments and court records with few if any leaks despite intense national scrutiny.

But on Thursday, the American people will finally have a chance to read Mueller’s findings for themselves. Here are five things to watch for when the redacted version of the special counsel’s report is made public:

Redactions: Who is a “peripheral third party”?

One of the biggest questions ahead of Thursday’s reveal could have major implications on how it’s read: how heavily will Attorney General William Barr redact information?

After repeatedly pledging to handle the report as transparently as possible, Barr has described four realms in which information must remain secret: grand jury materials, evidence related to ongoing investigations, classified information, and potentially disparaging information about “peripheral third parties.”

The premise of a “peripheral third party” leaves Barr with ample room to interpret who falls into that category. During his testimony before senators last week Barr shed some light on the matter, suggesting that he only intends to redact information about “people in private life…not public officeholders.”

Obstruction of justice and ‘evidence on both sides of the question’

In his first letter to Congress, Barr wrote that the special counsel’s “report sets out evidence on both sides of the question” of whether President Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

Mueller declined “to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the matter, according to that letter. But is there any evidence to suggest Trump had, indeed, obstructed justice?

Barr said in the letter to Congress that when a redacted version of the Mueller report is released on Thursday “most” of the evidence supporting obstruction claims within “have been the subject of public reporting,” but that presumably leaves at least some new instances worth examining.

Assuming that evidence clears the aforementioned requirements for redaction, it could make for compelling new information.

What did Don McGahn tell the special counsel?

“There is significant concern on the president’s team about what will be in this report,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reported last Sunday, and “what worries them most is what Don McGahn told the special counsel.”

 News of the former White House counsel’s extensive cooperation with the special counsel’s office sent shockwaves through Washington when it was revealed last summer.

Outwardly, at least, White House officials have presented an air of calmness in the West Wing leading up to the report’s release, but what about McGahn’s testimony has them so worried?

According to the New York Times, which first reported on his cooperation in August 2018, McGahn provided “detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice.”

 Another White House attorney, William Burck, who was present for McGahn’s 30 hours with investigators, later penned a memo insisting that McGahn “did not incriminate” the president, but ABC News has reported that McGahn’s testimony remains a point of issue for the president’s current legal team.

Manafort, Kilimnik, and a meeting at “the heart” of Mueller’s probe

Despite its characterization as striking at “the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating” by one of Mueller’s top prosecutors, relatively little is known about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s tete-a-tete with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man described as a former Russian intelligence officer, in August of 2016.

What might be learned Thursday about this meeting, which took place at the Grand Havana Club in New York – a high-end cigar bar located near Trump Tower – just weeks before Manafort’s dismissal from the campaign?

Aside from knowing where, when, and the apparent significance of this meeting, the content of Manafort and Kilimnik’s discussion remains a secret.

The relationship between Manafort and Kilimnik, who was also indicted in the Manafort case but has been beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, has remained a low-profile but persistent element of the special counsel’s probe.

In fact, the most illuminating revelation came to light as a result of a mistake. In January, defense attorneys for Manafort inadvertently revealed that their client stands accused of sharing polling data with Kilimnik.

What about WikiLeaks’ role in Russia’s meddling?

The special counsel’s office has already revealed much about Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 campaign by way of its indictments of 34 people and three entities. But one notable omission from Mueller’s patchwork narrative is the role of WikiLeaks and its mercurial founder, Julian Assange, who disseminated hacked documents from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Will anything more be learned about WikiLeaks’ hand in tipping the balance of the 2016 presidential election?

The whistleblower organization was referred to in the indictment of Russians accused of hacking those documents as “Organization 1,” but has not itself been the subject of charges. Assange and his lawyers have denied having any involvement with Russian state actors.

Federal prosecutors in the United States unsealed a computer hacking indictment against Assange last week just hours after authorities in the United Kingdom arrested him, but those charges related to an alleged conspiracy dating back to 2010 – completely unrelated to Mueller’s probe.

WikiLeaks advocates and Assange’s legal team leapt to his defense, decrying his arrest and prospective extradition to the U.S.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mueller report set for Thursday release: 5 things to watch

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Robert Mueller has conducted his nearly two-year investigation shrouded in secrecy, choosing to speak through indictments and court records with few if any leaks despite intense national scrutiny.

But on Thursday, the American people will finally have a chance to read Mueller’s findings for themselves. Here are five things to watch for when the redacted version of the special counsel’s report is made public:

Redactions: Who is a “peripheral third party”?

One of the biggest questions ahead of Thursday’s reveal could have major implications on how it’s read: how heavily will Attorney General William Barr redact information?

After repeatedly pledging to handle the report as transparently as possible, Barr has described four realms in which information must remain secret: grand jury materials, evidence related to ongoing investigations, classified information, and potentially disparaging information about “peripheral third parties.”

The premise of a “peripheral third party” leaves Barr with ample room to interpret who falls into that category. During his testimony before senators last week Barr shed some light on the matter, suggesting that he only intends to redact information about “people in private life…not public officeholders.”

Obstruction of justice and ‘evidence on both sides of the question’

In his first letter to Congress, Barr wrote that the special counsel’s “report sets out evidence on both sides of the question” of whether President Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

Mueller declined “to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the matter, according to that letter. But is there any evidence to suggest Trump had, indeed, obstructed justice?

Barr said in the letter to Congress that when a redacted version of the Mueller report is released on Thursday “most” of the evidence supporting obstruction claims within “have been the subject of public reporting,” but that presumably leaves at least some new instances worth examining.

Assuming that evidence clears the aforementioned requirements for redaction, it could make for compelling new information.

What did Don McGahn tell the special counsel?

“There is significant concern on the president’s team about what will be in this report,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reported last Sunday, and “what worries them most is what Don McGahn told the special counsel.”

 News of the former White House counsel’s extensive cooperation with the special counsel’s office sent shockwaves through Washington when it was revealed last summer.

Outwardly, at least, White House officials have presented an air of calmness in the West Wing leading up to the report’s release, but what about McGahn’s testimony has them so worried?

According to the New York Times, which first reported on his cooperation in August 2018, McGahn provided “detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice.”

 Another White House attorney, William Burck, who was present for McGahn’s 30 hours with investigators, later penned a memo insisting that McGahn “did not incriminate” the president, but ABC News has reported that McGahn’s testimony remains a point of issue for the president’s current legal team.

Manafort, Kilimnik, and a meeting at “the heart” of Mueller’s probe

Despite its characterization as striking at “the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating” by one of Mueller’s top prosecutors, relatively little is known about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s tete-a-tete with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man described as a former Russian intelligence officer, in August of 2016.

What might be learned Thursday about this meeting, which took place at the Grand Havana Club in New York – a high-end cigar bar located near Trump Tower – just weeks before Manafort’s dismissal from the campaign?

Aside from knowing where, when, and the apparent significance of this meeting, the content of Manafort and Kilimnik’s discussion remains a secret.

The relationship between Manafort and Kilimnik, who was also indicted in the Manafort case but has been beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, has remained a low-profile but persistent element of the special counsel’s probe.

In fact, the most illuminating revelation came to light as a result of a mistake. In January, defense attorneys for Manafort inadvertently revealed that their client stands accused of sharing polling data with Kilimnik.

What about WikiLeaks’ role in Russia’s meddling?

The special counsel’s office has already revealed much about Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 campaign by way of its indictments of 34 people and three entities. But one notable omission from Mueller’s patchwork narrative is the role of WikiLeaks and its mercurial founder, Julian Assange, who disseminated hacked documents from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Will anything more be learned about WikiLeaks’ hand in tipping the balance of the 2016 presidential election?

The whistleblower organization was referred to in the indictment of Russians accused of hacking those documents as “Organization 1,” but has not itself been the subject of charges. Assange and his lawyers have denied having any involvement with Russian state actors.

Federal prosecutors in the United States unsealed a computer hacking indictment against Assange last week just hours after authorities in the United Kingdom arrested him, but those charges related to an alleged conspiracy dating back to 2010 – completely unrelated to Mueller’s probe.

WikiLeaks advocates and Assange’s legal team leapt to his defense, decrying his arrest and prospective extradition to the U.S.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘Unprecedented surge’ of families coming to the border is ‘overwhelming’ immigration system, nonpartisan group says

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

razyph/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A newly released report by the nonpartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council found that there is an “unprecedented family unit (FMU) migration from Central America is overwhelming our border agencies and our immigration system.”

The report, released overnight, details the challenges facing families crossing the southern border. The Council “comprises leaders from state and local government, first responder communities, the private sector, and academia,” according to the DHS website.

“The surge in FMU migration will continue to soar, endangering more and more children making the treacherous 2,000 mile trek to our border and crossing illegally into the U.S. at dangerous and remote areas between ports of entry (POE), until the dynamics causing this trend are changed,” the report said.

The report says that the influx of families crossing the border rose by 600% in the last year.

“Over 53,000 FMU were apprehended last month alone by the Border Patrol, and at the current trajectory, that number of FMU apprehensions is likely to exceed 500,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019,” the report continued.

They say that “tender age children” are at the heart of the crisis saying that “73%, of the children in FMUs illegally crossing our border are tender aged, being 12 or younger.” It should come as no surprise that criminal organizations are preying on “desperate populations,” the report said.

“The unprecedented surge in unaccompanied children and family unit migration is overwhelming our ability to provide humanitarian aid within our immigration system. The reasonable changes proposed by this nonpartisan panel, could dramatically reduce migration of family units from Central America, help eliminate dangerous and illegal border crossings, as well as improve the care of children who are brought on this harrowing journey,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement responding to the report. “These recommendations are essential to secure our border and for the safety and welfare of children living in Central America and elsewhere who will continue to make this dangerous trek north.”

The report says that families should not be separated but “current laws do not give CBP discretion to keep children together with a grandparent or other close relative acting in a guardian-type role other than their parent.”

The Homeland Security Council proposed changes such as a regional processing center along the border.

The advisers suggest that the centers have a staff of 3 to 4 to “shelter all FMUs apprehended at the border and, among other things, provide safe and sanitary shelter, to include medical screening and care, credible fear examinations, vetting for identity and familial relationship, and evaluations for public health and safety, national security and flight risk.”

They also recommend that Congress enact legislation to faster the asylum processing and enact a “Flores Fix.”

The name stems from the Flores Decision, which set limits on how much time a child can be incarcerated; right now it is at 20 days.

“Roll back the Flores Decision by exempting children accompanied by a parent or relative, who is acting as the guardian of the child. DHS also should be given discretion to detain a close relative with a non-parent family member when this is in the best interest of the child,” the council recommended.

They also suggest an amendment to the Immigration Nationality Acts that require border crosser’s to make asylum claims at ports of entry. This would be a departure from current law which allows border crossers to make claims when they are arrested.

“Simultaneously, CBP will be resourced to begin processing all asylum claims initially presented at a POE and put an end to metering. This can and should occur promptly after this recommendation and Recommendations 1 and 2, above, are implemented.”

John Cohen, a former Acting DHS Undersecretary pointed out the juxtaposition between the attorney general’s opinion on asylum seekers and this report.

He said it was the “bipolar nature of the administration’s policy at the border.”

Cohen says that as of now it is “stunning” that the government has no operation plan to deal with “conditions that have been deteriorating at the border quite sometime.”

Other recommendations include working together with Mexican and Central American countries to “establish a secure shelter to process asylum claimants.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Attorney general orders some asylum seekers to be held without bail

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As part of the Trump administration’s effort to slow migrants from crossing the southern border, Attorney General William Barr has ordered that some of those claiming asylum should be denied bail, meaning they could be stuck behind bars for years, rather than days.

Under previous policy, those who seek asylum were granted a bail hearing if they claimed “credible fear” threats or threats of persecution in their home country while waiting for their cases to be heard.

Immigration advocates expressed shock at Barr’s action and promised to challenge it immediately in court. The decision, which doesn’t go into effect for 90 days, orders immigration judges to deny some asylum seekers from posting bail.

Barr’s instruction to immigration judges, whom the attorney general oversees and are not part of the judicial branch, comes out of a case involving an Indian man who was picked up “50 miles” away from the southern border in Mexico and claimed asylum. Barr says in similar cases bail can be withheld.

“The question here is whether, under [immigration law], aliens transferred after establishing a credible fear are eligible for release on bond,” he continued.

“I reverse the order granting bond to the respondent,” Barr wrote in his decision, stating that unless the Department of Homeland Security grants parole under a special exception, under the applicable legal provisions “he must be detained until his removal proceedings conclude.”

According to Barr’s opinion, the person seeking asylum could ask for bond, but it is entirely up to DHS. The order doesn’t affect unaccompanied minors along the southern border, ether.

“There is no way to apply those provisions except as they were written—unless paroled, an alien must be detained until his asylum claim is adjudicated,” Barr wrote.

In Washington state earlier month, a federal judge agreed with the policy that those with “bona fide” asylum claims to have a bail hearing within seven days to determine if they can be released on bond while they wait for their court proceedings.

The adjudication of asylum claims could take months or years – given the backlog of cases and lack of immigration judges. In its latest budget request, the Justice Department has requested funds to hire more judges.

The ACLU said it will sue.

“This is the Trump administration’s latest assault on people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States. Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has pushed to end the policy of “catch and release.”

“Catch and Release is an obsolete term. It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away,” the president tweeted in November 2018.

This is just the latest step that the Trump administration has taken to combat what Trump calls a crisis on the southern border.

In May 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted a zero-tolerance policy which lead to the separation of families along the border.

Sessions at the time, said that the policy was a “deterrent” for those who attempt to cross the southern border.

The president ended the policy months later in the face of widespread criticism.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Attorney general orders some asylum seekers to be held without bail

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As part of the Trump administration’s effort to slow migrants from crossing the southern border, Attorney General William Barr has ordered that some of those claiming asylum should be denied bail, meaning they could be stuck behind bars for years, rather than days.

Under previous policy, those who seek asylum were granted a bail hearing if they claimed “credible fear” threats or threats of persecution in their home country while waiting for their cases to be heard.

Immigration advocates expressed shock at Barr’s action and promised to challenge it immediately in court. The decision, which doesn’t go into effect for 90 days, orders immigration judges to deny some asylum seekers from posting bail.

Barr’s instruction to immigration judges, whom the attorney general oversees and are not part of the judicial branch, comes out of a case involving an Indian man who was picked up “50 miles” away from the southern border in Mexico and claimed asylum. Barr says in similar cases bail can be withheld.

“The question here is whether, under [immigration law], aliens transferred after establishing a credible fear are eligible for release on bond,” he continued.

“I reverse the order granting bond to the respondent,” Barr wrote in his decision, stating that unless the Department of Homeland Security grants parole under a special exception, under the applicable legal provisions “he must be detained until his removal proceedings conclude.”

According to Barr’s opinion, the person seeking asylum could ask for bond, but it is entirely up to DHS. The order doesn’t affect unaccompanied minors along the southern border, ether.

“There is no way to apply those provisions except as they were written—unless paroled, an alien must be detained until his asylum claim is adjudicated,” Barr wrote.

In Washington state earlier month, a federal judge agreed with the policy that those with “bona fide” asylum claims to have a bail hearing within seven days to determine if they can be released on bond while they wait for their court proceedings.

The adjudication of asylum claims could take months or years – given the backlog of cases and lack of immigration judges. In its latest budget request, the Justice Department has requested funds to hire more judges.

The ACLU said it will sue.

“This is the Trump administration’s latest assault on people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States. Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has pushed to end the policy of “catch and release.”

“Catch and Release is an obsolete term. It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away,” the president tweeted in November 2018.

This is just the latest step that the Trump administration has taken to combat what Trump calls a crisis on the southern border.

In May 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted a zero-tolerance policy which lead to the separation of families along the border.

Sessions at the time, said that the policy was a “deterrent” for those who attempt to cross the southern border.

The president ended the policy months later in the face of widespread criticism.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump goes after Sanders’ taxes, Fox News appearance

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Makela/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump, in a trio of tweets Tuesday evening, targeted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential prospects, tax returns and his Fox News appearance the day before.

The Vermont senator released 10 years of his tax returns Monday and called on Trump to do the same during a Fox News town hall in Bethlehem, Pa.

“Hey, President Trump, my wife and I just released 10 years. Please do the same. Let the American people know,” Sanders said.

Seemingly in response, Trump tweeted that Sanders “made a fortune off of Trump” and that he and his wife “should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income.”

Bernie Sanders and wife should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income. He is always complaining about these big TAX CUTS, except when it benefits him. They made a fortune off of Trump, but so did everyone else – and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

The documents Sanders released on Monday show he earned an adjusted gross income of nearly $561,293 and paid $145,840 in taxes, an effective rate of 26 percent.

Trump also appeared to criticize Fox News, claiming the network did not allow his supporters to attend the town hall with Sanders.

Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the @FoxNews Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with @FoxNews?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

But the regional paper that covers Bethlehem, The Morning Call, interviewed two Trump supporters who were in the audience at the event. And Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum, who hosted the town hall with fellow anchor Bret Baier, told the paper that “Fox reached out to various political and local groups in the area and mined requests to attend after it publicly announced the event.”

Trump also offered his predictions on who might be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, saying he looks forward to facing either Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden in the general election. Biden has yet to announce whether he is running for President.

I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)! I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

Sanders’ camp, responding to Trump, tweeted, “Looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign. He should be.”

Looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign. He should be.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 17, 2019

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump goes after Sanders’ taxes, Fox News appearance

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Makela/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump, in a trio of tweets Tuesday evening, targeted Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential prospects, tax returns and his Fox News appearance the day before.

The Vermont senator released 10 years of his tax returns Monday and called on Trump to do the same during a Fox News town hall in Bethlehem, Pa.

“Hey, President Trump, my wife and I just released 10 years. Please do the same. Let the American people know,” Sanders said.

Seemingly in response, Trump tweeted that Sanders “made a fortune off of Trump” and that he and his wife “should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income.”

Bernie Sanders and wife should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income. He is always complaining about these big TAX CUTS, except when it benefits him. They made a fortune off of Trump, but so did everyone else – and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

The documents Sanders released on Monday show he earned an adjusted gross income of nearly $561,293 and paid $145,840 in taxes, an effective rate of 26 percent.

Trump also appeared to criticize Fox News, claiming the network did not allow his supporters to attend the town hall with Sanders.

Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the @FoxNews Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with @FoxNews?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

But the regional paper that covers Bethlehem, The Morning Call, interviewed two Trump supporters who were in the audience at the event. And Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum, who hosted the town hall with fellow anchor Bret Baier, told the paper that “Fox reached out to various political and local groups in the area and mined requests to attend after it publicly announced the event.”

Trump also offered his predictions on who might be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, saying he looks forward to facing either Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden in the general election. Biden has yet to announce whether he is running for President.

I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)! I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019

Sanders’ camp, responding to Trump, tweeted, “Looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign. He should be.”

Looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign. He should be.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 17, 2019

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Overflow crowd forces Pete Buttigieg’s rally in Iowa outside

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Scott Olson/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — The momentum of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign forced a Tuesday night rally outdoors in Des Moines, Iowa, to accommodate a much larger than expected crowd.

The campaign expected about 50 people for its town hall at the gymnasium at Benjamin Franklin Junior High school in Des Moines. The school estimated 1,650 people showed up.

Buttigeig spoke briefly and for the second time Tuesday answered questions from the crowd. During his brief remarks, he mentioned that the Electoral College should be abolished, saying that whoever gets the most votes should be elected to office. Should that have been the case in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton outpaced Donald Trump in the popular vote.

Buttigieg, who is gay, spent a portion of the question and answer session addressing the issue, which has come into further focus after an interview on Ellen and trading jabs with former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

In Des Moines, someone in the crowd asked, “What do I tell my friends who say America isn’t ready for a gay president?”

“Good question. First, tell your friends, I say, ‘Hi.’ Tell them about Indiana in 2015,” he said.

The mayor went on to describe life as a closeted man in Indiana in 2015, which “wasn’t an ideal place to be gay.”

Buttigieg said he came out mainly because he realized he wanted to start dating and, “I realized when deployed [as a soldier in Afghanistan] my life could end and as a grown ass man I wouldn’t know love.”

The candidate also returned to an ongoing back-and-forth with now-Vice President Mike Pence, who was booed when mentioned.

“You know my differences with the vice president,” he deadpanned.

Buttigieg noted he came out during an election year and, “I got re elected with 80 percent of the vote.”

For the second time in one day, Buttigieg was interrupted by a protester — both in Des Moines and earlier in the day in Fort Dodge.

Buttigieg stayed at the microphone and at one point said, “We get it.” The protester was escorted away, but he returned a few minutes later — yelling again. Both times he was drowned out by cheers of “Pete Pete Pete!” by the crowd.

Earlier, in Fort Dodge, he was interrupted by a protester who was screaming at the mayor that he’d betrayed his Baptist faith and, “We will not stop! This man is misleading our children.”

After the man in Fort Dodge was escorted out, a person in the crowd yelled out, “Now we know what you go through Mayor Pete!”

Lis Smith, a communications adviser to the mayor who was asked by members of the press whether they have security at events, said that they have had to hire security.

Buttigieg was asked about a smattering of other topics as well.

Strategy for beating Trump

“He’s kind of like a Chinese finger trap: The harder you pull the more you get stuck. It’s important to think about strategy,” he said.

Buttigieg said Democrats are at risk because, “Every well-spoken Democrat … pictures being on the debate stage with that guy. We all have our things we’d like to say.”

Buttigieg said that everyone thinks they have an idea that they’re “going to knock [Trump] flat with some zinger, it’s like we’re trying to impress him. We’re playing his game. That’s the finger trap. You can’t completely ignore it.”

Gun violence

Buttigieg told the crowd that the National Rifle Association has struck fear in politicians because they mobilize people and that the anti-gun movement should, too.

However, the question was about gun violence research, so he said, “We should end the CDC research ban to look into this as a public health issue.”

Funny moment about his book

A man named Scott submitted a question asking whether Buttigieg had changed his opinion from anything he wrote in his book.

“I guess I changed my mind about running for president,” he said. “I had thought about it.

“Where’s Scott? Hey Scott! Thanks for reading the book! The book is how we’re paying off the wedding!” he said to laughs.

When finishing up his answer to the final question, Buttigieg told the crowd, “sounds like my time is up.” The crowd groaned and someone yelled “Four more years!” The mayor laughed and said, “But I’ll be back,” and asked for the crowd’s support.

Buttigieg and his husband spent about 45 minutes shaking hands and talking to members of the crowd after the Q and A.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Overflow crowd forces Pete Buttigieg’s rally in Iowa outside

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Scott Olson/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — The momentum of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign forced a Tuesday night rally outdoors in Des Moines, Iowa, to accommodate a much larger than expected crowd.

The campaign expected about 50 people for its town hall at the gymnasium at Benjamin Franklin Junior High school in Des Moines. The school estimated 1,650 people showed up.

Buttigeig spoke briefly and for the second time Tuesday answered questions from the crowd. During his brief remarks, he mentioned that the Electoral College should be abolished, saying that whoever gets the most votes should be elected to office. Should that have been the case in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton outpaced Donald Trump in the popular vote.

Buttigieg, who is gay, spent a portion of the question and answer session addressing the issue, which has come into further focus after an interview on Ellen and trading jabs with former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

In Des Moines, someone in the crowd asked, “What do I tell my friends who say America isn’t ready for a gay president?”

“Good question. First, tell your friends, I say, ‘Hi.’ Tell them about Indiana in 2015,” he said.

The mayor went on to describe life as a closeted man in Indiana in 2015, which “wasn’t an ideal place to be gay.”

Buttigieg said he came out mainly because he realized he wanted to start dating and, “I realized when deployed [as a soldier in Afghanistan] my life could end and as a grown ass man I wouldn’t know love.”

The candidate also returned to an ongoing back-and-forth with now-Vice President Mike Pence, who was booed when mentioned.

“You know my differences with the vice president,” he deadpanned.

Buttigieg noted he came out during an election year and, “I got re elected with 80 percent of the vote.”

For the second time in one day, Buttigieg was interrupted by a protester — both in Des Moines and earlier in the day in Fort Dodge.

Buttigieg stayed at the microphone and at one point said, “We get it.” The protester was escorted away, but he returned a few minutes later — yelling again. Both times he was drowned out by cheers of “Pete Pete Pete!” by the crowd.

Earlier, in Fort Dodge, he was interrupted by a protester who was screaming at the mayor that he’d betrayed his Baptist faith and, “We will not stop! This man is misleading our children.”

After the man in Fort Dodge was escorted out, a person in the crowd yelled out, “Now we know what you go through Mayor Pete!”

Lis Smith, a communications adviser to the mayor who was asked by members of the press whether they have security at events, said that they have had to hire security.

Buttigieg was asked about a smattering of other topics as well.

Strategy for beating Trump

“He’s kind of like a Chinese finger trap: The harder you pull the more you get stuck. It’s important to think about strategy,” he said.

Buttigieg said Democrats are at risk because, “Every well-spoken Democrat … pictures being on the debate stage with that guy. We all have our things we’d like to say.”

Buttigieg said that everyone thinks they have an idea that they’re “going to knock [Trump] flat with some zinger, it’s like we’re trying to impress him. We’re playing his game. That’s the finger trap. You can’t completely ignore it.”

Gun violence

Buttigieg told the crowd that the National Rifle Association has struck fear in politicians because they mobilize people and that the anti-gun movement should, too.

However, the question was about gun violence research, so he said, “We should end the CDC research ban to look into this as a public health issue.”

Funny moment about his book

A man named Scott submitted a question asking whether Buttigieg had changed his opinion from anything he wrote in his book.

“I guess I changed my mind about running for president,” he said. “I had thought about it.

“Where’s Scott? Hey Scott! Thanks for reading the book! The book is how we’re paying off the wedding!” he said to laughs.

When finishing up his answer to the final question, Buttigieg told the crowd, “sounds like my time is up.” The crowd groaned and someone yelled “Four more years!” The mayor laughed and said, “But I’ll be back,” and asked for the crowd’s support.

Buttigieg and his husband spent about 45 minutes shaking hands and talking to members of the crowd after the Q and A.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What we’ve learned from 2020 candidates’ tax returns

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

LPETTET/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A handful of Democratic candidates for president have released at least 10 years of federal tax returns in an effort to promote transparency and create a contrast with President Donald Trump, who’s refused to release his returns both as a candidate and as president.

Here are some of the notable takeaways from the new financial data of Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke:

What they’re earning

One of the most apparent takeaways from a candidates’ tax documents is how much they’re making each year.

All the candidates reported making more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income in 2018, putting them substantially above an average American’s earnings, ranging from Harris, whose husband is a partner at a law firm, ($1.9 million) and Warren ($846,394), to Inslee ($202,912).

Of the seven 2020 candidates to release returns, at least three are millionaires: Sanders, Warren and Harris.

Sanders, famous for his campaign against the unjust power of the richest 1 percent, reported adjusted gross income of $1.06 million in 2016 and $1.13 million in 2017. The bump in income those years was more than four times his income from a year earlier because of his bestselling 2016 book, Our Revolution.

The senator, who joked before the release of his returns that if someone else wrote a bestselling book they, too, could be a millionaire, later said he was “grateful” for the financial success and that it marked a sharp contrast to his upbringing in a paycheck-to-paycheck household.

Warren, a senator who’s made anti-corruption a key focus of her campaign, also is part of the 1 percent. Her adjusted gross income in 2018, after filing jointly with her husband, exceeded $846,000. Between 2013 and 2015, her adjusted gross income was over $1 million and neared $1.55 million in 2014 after her first book was released.

Harris reported the highest 2018 gross income at $1.89 million. Her husband, an attorney whom she married in 2014, earned most of that. For 2018, Harris reported just over $157,000 in Senate salary and $320,125 in profits from the book she authored ahead of her campaign announcement.

Kirsten Gillibrand reported $214,083 in adjusted gross income for 2018 and Amy Klobuchar reported $338,121. O’Rourke has yet to submit his 2018 returns, but reported $366,455 for 2017.

How much are they giving to charity?

The most generous candidate in 2018, according to candidates’ tax returns, was Warren. She and her husband gave $50,128 to charity, almost 6 percent of her household adjusted gross income for the year.

Next up is Inslee, who donated about 4 percent of his and his wife’s income, about $8,300.

Sanders and his wife gave about 3.3 percent of their income to charity over the past two years. They gave $18,950 in 2018 and $36,300 in 2017. The couple also donated the proceeds of one of the senator’s books, The Speech, though the donations did not appear on their tax returns, according to the campaign. The donations have gone primarily to “senior centers, low-income organizations, educational entities and environmental and housing advocacy groups,” the campaign said.

Klobuchar and Gillibrand donated about 2 percent of their adjusted gross income in 2018, coming to nearly $6,600 for Klobuchar and $3,750 for Gillibrand. The candidates’ donations match up with the average percentage people at those income levels donate, IRS figures show.

O’Rourke appeared to give the smallest percentage of his family’s income to charity in 2017 — a total of $1,166, or 0.3 percent, while Harris and her husband donated $27,000, about 1.4 percent.

Roughly half of all charitable donations come from households with annual incomes of at least $100,000, IRS figures show, but while the average donation for an income bracket between $500,000 and $1 million is 2 percent, the average donation for those who have more than $10 million is around 10.4 percent.

“The thing that’s really shocking is, as incomes go up, people’s propensity to give doesn’t grow proportionally,” said Len Burman, a co-founder of the Tax Policy Project. Burman tracked the donations by candidates in the 2012 election and found some, like former President Barack Obama and candidate Mitt Romney, gave around 14 percent of their income to charity, while candidates like Newt Gingrich gave around 2.6 percent.

“If you’re well off, you probably have an obligation to share with people who are needy,” Burman said.

Charitable donations can be tracked after candidates release their returns, a tradition since former President Richard Nixon was in office, but not something required by law.

“If the biggest complaint [voters] can have from all these returns is whether … the candidate is charitable enough, then this is a victory for all these candidates,” Tony Nitti, a CPA and partner at Rubin Brown LLP, told ABC News.

“The fact that you have the transparency allows us to go through this exercise, so we know that there’s nothing to worry about,” Nitti said.

How much of their income is paid in taxes?

The Democrats who released their returns all appear to be paying their fair share of taxes, given their income, said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the right-leaning Cato Institute.

“None of these folks are seemingly cheating or getting away with anything,” he told ABC News after reviewing the returns made public by the campaigns.

Harris and her husband, earning about $1.9 million, paid at an effective tax rate of 37 percent, the highest among candidates who’ve disclosed returns. Gillibrand, who reported earning $214,083, had an effective tax rate of 14 percent, according to her returns.

Sanders, who released 10 years of returns Monday, had an effective federal tax rate of 26 percent in 2018, paying $145,840 in federal taxes on adjusted gross income of $561,293.

Warren, with an adjusted gross income of $846,394 in 2018, paid 27 percent.

With an adjusted gross income of $366,455 in 2017, O’Rourke had an effective tax rate of 22 percent.

Klobuchar, who had a 2018 adjusted gross income of $338,121, and Inslee, who had a 2018 adjusted gross income of $202,912, round out the list with some of the lowest tax rates of 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

“There are often complaints that rich people are able to take lots of loopholes,” Edwards said, referencing billionaire Warren Buffett’s often-cited comments that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. “None of these candidates seem to be as lucky as Warren Buffett. They are paying tax rates as high as people with similar incomes.”

While little is known about the president’s returns, The New York Times reported last year that the president and his siblings allegedly used fake corporations to hide money received from their parents to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes.

The White House called The Times report a “misleading attack against the Trump family” and claimed the IRS signed off on the transactions detailed in the report.

Keep in mind: Most Democrats (as well as the president) have yet to release their returns

While five candidates have released years of tax returns, most among the nearly 20 Democrats seeking the White House in 2020 have yet to do so.

The president has refused to release his, and the White House vows he likely won’t.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush set the record for tax information released by a presidential candidate in 2016 by disclosing 33 years of returns.

The early disclosures, more than a year away from the election, are significant and represent a “shift” in the Democratic Party, Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project, told ABC News.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What we’ve learned from 2020 candidates’ tax returns

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

LPETTET/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A handful of Democratic candidates for president have released at least 10 years of federal tax returns in an effort to promote transparency and create a contrast with President Donald Trump, who’s refused to release his returns both as a candidate and as president.

Here are some of the notable takeaways from the new financial data of Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke:

What they’re earning

One of the most apparent takeaways from a candidates’ tax documents is how much they’re making each year.

All the candidates reported making more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income in 2018, putting them substantially above an average American’s earnings, ranging from Harris, whose husband is a partner at a law firm, ($1.9 million) and Warren ($846,394), to Inslee ($202,912).

Of the seven 2020 candidates to release returns, at least three are millionaires: Sanders, Warren and Harris.

Sanders, famous for his campaign against the unjust power of the richest 1 percent, reported adjusted gross income of $1.06 million in 2016 and $1.13 million in 2017. The bump in income those years was more than four times his income from a year earlier because of his bestselling 2016 book, Our Revolution.

The senator, who joked before the release of his returns that if someone else wrote a bestselling book they, too, could be a millionaire, later said he was “grateful” for the financial success and that it marked a sharp contrast to his upbringing in a paycheck-to-paycheck household.

Warren, a senator who’s made anti-corruption a key focus of her campaign, also is part of the 1 percent. Her adjusted gross income in 2018, after filing jointly with her husband, exceeded $846,000. Between 2013 and 2015, her adjusted gross income was over $1 million and neared $1.55 million in 2014 after her first book was released.

Harris reported the highest 2018 gross income at $1.89 million. Her husband, an attorney whom she married in 2014, earned most of that. For 2018, Harris reported just over $157,000 in Senate salary and $320,125 in profits from the book she authored ahead of her campaign announcement.

Kirsten Gillibrand reported $214,083 in adjusted gross income for 2018 and Amy Klobuchar reported $338,121. O’Rourke has yet to submit his 2018 returns, but reported $366,455 for 2017.

How much are they giving to charity?

The most generous candidate in 2018, according to candidates’ tax returns, was Warren. She and her husband gave $50,128 to charity, almost 6 percent of her household adjusted gross income for the year.

Next up is Inslee, who donated about 4 percent of his and his wife’s income, about $8,300.

Sanders and his wife gave about 3.3 percent of their income to charity over the past two years. They gave $18,950 in 2018 and $36,300 in 2017. The couple also donated the proceeds of one of the senator’s books, The Speech, though the donations did not appear on their tax returns, according to the campaign. The donations have gone primarily to “senior centers, low-income organizations, educational entities and environmental and housing advocacy groups,” the campaign said.

Klobuchar and Gillibrand donated about 2 percent of their adjusted gross income in 2018, coming to nearly $6,600 for Klobuchar and $3,750 for Gillibrand. The candidates’ donations match up with the average percentage people at those income levels donate, IRS figures show.

O’Rourke appeared to give the smallest percentage of his family’s income to charity in 2017 — a total of $1,166, or 0.3 percent, while Harris and her husband donated $27,000, about 1.4 percent.

Roughly half of all charitable donations come from households with annual incomes of at least $100,000, IRS figures show, but while the average donation for an income bracket between $500,000 and $1 million is 2 percent, the average donation for those who have more than $10 million is around 10.4 percent.

“The thing that’s really shocking is, as incomes go up, people’s propensity to give doesn’t grow proportionally,” said Len Burman, a co-founder of the Tax Policy Project. Burman tracked the donations by candidates in the 2012 election and found some, like former President Barack Obama and candidate Mitt Romney, gave around 14 percent of their income to charity, while candidates like Newt Gingrich gave around 2.6 percent.

“If you’re well off, you probably have an obligation to share with people who are needy,” Burman said.

Charitable donations can be tracked after candidates release their returns, a tradition since former President Richard Nixon was in office, but not something required by law.

“If the biggest complaint [voters] can have from all these returns is whether … the candidate is charitable enough, then this is a victory for all these candidates,” Tony Nitti, a CPA and partner at Rubin Brown LLP, told ABC News.

“The fact that you have the transparency allows us to go through this exercise, so we know that there’s nothing to worry about,” Nitti said.

How much of their income is paid in taxes?

The Democrats who released their returns all appear to be paying their fair share of taxes, given their income, said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the right-leaning Cato Institute.

“None of these folks are seemingly cheating or getting away with anything,” he told ABC News after reviewing the returns made public by the campaigns.

Harris and her husband, earning about $1.9 million, paid at an effective tax rate of 37 percent, the highest among candidates who’ve disclosed returns. Gillibrand, who reported earning $214,083, had an effective tax rate of 14 percent, according to her returns.

Sanders, who released 10 years of returns Monday, had an effective federal tax rate of 26 percent in 2018, paying $145,840 in federal taxes on adjusted gross income of $561,293.

Warren, with an adjusted gross income of $846,394 in 2018, paid 27 percent.

With an adjusted gross income of $366,455 in 2017, O’Rourke had an effective tax rate of 22 percent.

Klobuchar, who had a 2018 adjusted gross income of $338,121, and Inslee, who had a 2018 adjusted gross income of $202,912, round out the list with some of the lowest tax rates of 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

“There are often complaints that rich people are able to take lots of loopholes,” Edwards said, referencing billionaire Warren Buffett’s often-cited comments that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. “None of these candidates seem to be as lucky as Warren Buffett. They are paying tax rates as high as people with similar incomes.”

While little is known about the president’s returns, The New York Times reported last year that the president and his siblings allegedly used fake corporations to hide money received from their parents to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes.

The White House called The Times report a “misleading attack against the Trump family” and claimed the IRS signed off on the transactions detailed in the report.

Keep in mind: Most Democrats (as well as the president) have yet to release their returns

While five candidates have released years of tax returns, most among the nearly 20 Democrats seeking the White House in 2020 have yet to do so.

The president has refused to release his, and the White House vows he likely won’t.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush set the record for tax information released by a presidential candidate in 2016 by disclosing 33 years of returns.

The early disclosures, more than a year away from the election, are significant and represent a “shift” in the Democratic Party, Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project, told ABC News.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Veterans group calls for multi-agency investigation amidst ‘suicide epidemic’

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A veterans group is calling for a multi-agency investigation into what they’re calling a “suicide epidemic among veterans and service members,” after three veterans killed themselves at Veterans Affairs facilities in the span of five days this month.

American Veterans (AMVETS), asked the inspectors general of the VA, Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to immediately launch “a joint, coordinated investigation into the veteran and service member suicide epidemic, to include a macro evaluation of mental health treatment programs and personnel assigned to operate them.”

In five days this month alone, three veterans took their lives at VA facilities, including a veteran who died by suicide in a crowded Austin, Texas VA clinic waiting room last week. Between October 2017 and November 2018, there were 19 suicides that occurred on VA campuses — seven of which were in parking lots — according to AMVETS.

AMVETS Executive Director Joseph Chenelly wrote in a letter last week that, “the fact that veteran suicides in VA parking lots, on VA campuses, and on military bases are becoming increasingly commonplace offers cold comfort to any claims of progress.”

Chenelly said that suicides at VA facilities “appear to be protests of last resort where health care systems, treatment programs, and the underlying cultures of the responsible federal agencies have failed them.”

A spokesperson for the VA said that, due to privacy concerns, they would not discuss the specifics of the recent cases.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones affected by these deaths,” VA spokesperson Curtis Cashour said. “Any time an unexpected death occurs at a VA facility, the department conducts a comprehensive review of the case to see if changes in policies and procedures are warranted. All VA facilities provide same-day urgent primary and mental health care serves to Veterans who need them.”

It’s estimated that 20 veterans die of suicide each day, 14 of whom are outside the VA system.

The VA’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request calls for $222 million for suicide prevention programs. But lawmakers and the White House have recently introduced new ways to combat the epidemic.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., put forth a bill last month that would boost funding and mental health staff at the VA, as well as seek alternative therapies and research to address veteran suicide. Also last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which tasked agency officials with developing a strategy to aggressively tackle the issue of veteran suicide.

In his letter, Chenelly said AMVETS supports the executive order, but he expressed concerns that the initiative would take “at least a year to establish and launch into action.”

“A joint investigation through your respective offices will serve as a stopgap that will shed light on why military and veterans suicides have reached crisis proportions as these lives continue to be lost on a daily basis,” he told the inspectors general.

According to VA officials, the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at VA facilities since beginning to track them in 2017, 240 of which have been interrupted.

The VA encourages any veteran, family member, or friend concerned about a veteran’s mental health to contact the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Veterans group calls for multi-agency investigation amidst ‘suicide epidemic’

Posted on: April 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A veterans group is calling for a multi-agency investigation into what they’re calling a “suicide epidemic among veterans and service members,” after three veterans killed themselves at Veterans Affairs facilities in the span of five days this month.

American Veterans (AMVETS), asked the inspectors general of the VA, Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to immediately launch “a joint, coordinated investigation into the veteran and service member suicide epidemic, to include a macro evaluation of mental health treatment programs and personnel assigned to operate them.”

In five days this month alone, three veterans took their lives at VA facilities, including a veteran who died by suicide in a crowded Austin, Texas VA clinic waiting room last week. Between October 2017 and November 2018, there were 19 suicides that occurred on VA campuses — seven of which were in parking lots — according to AMVETS.

AMVETS Executive Director Joseph Chenelly wrote in a letter last week that, “the fact that veteran suicides in VA parking lots, on VA campuses, and on military bases are becoming increasingly commonplace offers cold comfort to any claims of progress.”

Chenelly said that suicides at VA facilities “appear to be protests of last resort where health care systems, treatment programs, and the underlying cultures of the responsible federal agencies have failed them.”

A spokesperson for the VA said that, due to privacy concerns, they would not discuss the specifics of the recent cases.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones affected by these deaths,” VA spokesperson Curtis Cashour said. “Any time an unexpected death occurs at a VA facility, the department conducts a comprehensive review of the case to see if changes in policies and procedures are warranted. All VA facilities provide same-day urgent primary and mental health care serves to Veterans who need them.”

It’s estimated that 20 veterans die of suicide each day, 14 of whom are outside the VA system.

The VA’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request calls for $222 million for suicide prevention programs. But lawmakers and the White House have recently introduced new ways to combat the epidemic.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., put forth a bill last month that would boost funding and mental health staff at the VA, as well as seek alternative therapies and research to address veteran suicide. Also last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which tasked agency officials with developing a strategy to aggressively tackle the issue of veteran suicide.

In his letter, Chenelly said AMVETS supports the executive order, but he expressed concerns that the initiative would take “at least a year to establish and launch into action.”

“A joint investigation through your respective offices will serve as a stopgap that will shed light on why military and veterans suicides have reached crisis proportions as these lives continue to be lost on a daily basis,” he told the inspectors general.

According to VA officials, the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at VA facilities since beginning to track them in 2017, 240 of which have been interrupted.

The VA encourages any veteran, family member, or friend concerned about a veteran’s mental health to contact the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump vetoes resolution to end US involvement in Yemen

Posted on: April 16th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Edelman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has vetoed a resolution to stop U.S. involvement in a Saudi- and Emirati-led campaign in Yemen.

In issuing the veto, Trump said, “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

Earlier this month, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution to stop U.S. involvement in the foreign conflict. The House voted 247-175 on April 4 and the Senate passed the measure on March 13.

This is the second veto of Trump’s presidency.

Under the constitution, Congress has the authority to declare war, but it has never used the War Powers Act of 1973 to pull back American forces from a conflict.

The resolution was a pointed message to Trump regarding his close relationship with Saudi Arabia, even in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist who was residing in the United States.

Congress was not expected to override Trump’s veto, lacking the necessary two-thirds majority in the House and Senate.

The conflict in Yemen has been ongoing for five years, killing thousands and triggering a massive famine. The United Nations described the situation in Yemen as the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump vetoes resolution to end US involvement in Yemen

Posted on: April 16th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Edelman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has vetoed a resolution to stop U.S. involvement in a Saudi- and Emirati-led campaign in Yemen.

In issuing the veto, Trump said, “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

Earlier this month, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution to stop U.S. involvement in the foreign conflict. The House voted 247-175 on April 4 and the Senate passed the measure on March 13.

This is the second veto of Trump’s presidency.

Under the constitution, Congress has the authority to declare war, but it has never used the War Powers Act of 1973 to pull back American forces from a conflict.

The resolution was a pointed message to Trump regarding his close relationship with Saudi Arabia, even in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist who was residing in the United States.

Congress was not expected to override Trump’s veto, lacking the necessary two-thirds majority in the House and Senate.

The conflict in Yemen has been ongoing for five years, killing thousands and triggering a massive famine. The United Nations described the situation in Yemen as the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.