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Trump lawyer calls for end to Russia investigation after McCabe firing

  • Attorney John Dowd responds to firing of Andrew McCabe
  • Ex-CIA chief Brennan calls Trump a ‘disgraced demagogue’

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump lawyer calls for end to Russia investigation after McCabe firing” was written by Lauren Gambino in Washington, for theguardian.com on Saturday 17th March 2018 20.12 UTC

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer said on Saturday he hoped the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe would prompt Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation, to shut down the inquiry.

John Dowd spoke hours after Trump gloated that the firing of McCabe marked a “great day for democracy”. His glee provoked a savage response from former CIA director John Brennan, who called him a “disgraced demagogue” headed for “the dustbin of history”.

McCabe is a 21-year veteran of the FBI who became a lightning rod in a partisan battle over investigations into Russian election interference, potential links between Trump aides and Russia, and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

He stepped down in January but was fired on Friday night, after the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rejected an appeal to allow him to retire on Sunday, his 50th birthday, when he would become eligible for a government pension.

On Saturday, Dowd said in a statement first provided to the Daily Beast that he “pray[ed]” Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller, “will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility [OPR] and attorney general Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier”.

Dowd said he was speaking as the president’s attorney but later, reached by the Guardian, he said he was “speaking for myself not the president”.

He added that the investigation should be ended “on the merits in light of recent revelations”. A justice department spokeswoman declined to comment. The White House did not answer a request for comment.

Senator Mark Warner, vice-chair of the Senate intelligence committee, responded: “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the special counsel. Now.”

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, warned of “severe consequences” should Trump curtail or end Mueller’s work. Republicans have advised Trump not to fire Mueller, though they have not advanced legislation to protect him.

John Brennan has said Trump is headed for ‘the dustbin of history’.
John Brennan has said Trump is headed for ‘the dustbin of history’.
Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Brennan addressed the president earlier on Saturday, writing: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.

“You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you.”

He was responding to a tweet sent by Trump in the early hours which celebrated McCabe’s dismissal, an act one historian likened to the “Saturday night massacre” of 1973, when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor leading the Watergate investigation.

“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” Trump wrote. “Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

Trump fired Comey as FBI director last May, an act which led to the appointment of Mueller, a former FBI director, as special counsel. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as a “witch-hunt” though his legal team has been cautious not to criticize Mueller publicly.

The 2020 election

The most likely price Trump would pay, if he were perceived guilty of wrongdoing, would be a 2020 re-election loss. He can’t afford to lose many supporters and expect to remain in office. Any disillusionment stemming from the Russian affair could make the difference. His average approval rating has hung in the mid-to-upper 30s. Every president to win re-election since the second world war did so with an approval rating in the 49%-50% range or better.

Congress

As long as Republicans are in charge, Trump is not likely to face impeachment proceedings or to be removed from office. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required to remove a president from office through impeachment.

Public opinion

If public opinion swings precipitously against the president, however, his grip on power could slip. At some point, Republicans in Congress may, if their constituents will it, turn on Trump.

Criminal charges

Apart from impeachment, Trump could, perhaps, face criminal charges, which would (theoretically) play out in the court system as opposed to Congress. But it’s a matter of debate among scholars and prosecutors whether Trump, as a sitting president, may be prosecuted in this way.

Other

Robert Mueller is believed to have Trump’s tax returns, and to be looking at the Trump Organization as well as Jared Kushner’s real estate company. It’s possible that wrongdoing unrelated to the election could be uncovered and make trouble for Trump. The president, and Kushner, deny wrongdoing.

Mueller is said to be looking into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he fired Comey. The president reportedly ordered Mueller fired last June, but backed down when the White House counsel threatened to resign.

Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation after failing to reveal contacts with Russians, announced McCabe’s firing late on Friday.

The attorney general – an early supporter of Trump who became a target of the president’s ire after his recusal – said an OPR review found McCabe allegedly “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor” during a review of the FBI and justice department’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

In a statement, McCabe lamented an “ongoing war on the FBI” and Mueller. He said he had answered questions truthfully and had attempted to correct the record where he believed he had been misunderstood. He had been fired, he said, because of the “role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey”.

Speaking to Politico, McCabe said those actions included pushing for a special counsel and briefing a congressional “gang of eight” on his efforts.

“I literally walked into the building every day expecting that I would be removed from my position before the end of the day,” he said. “And if that happened, I didn’t want anyone to be able to just walk away from the work that we had done on the Russia investigation.”

Multiple outlets reported on Saturday that McCabe had kept memos detailing his conversations with Trump.

It was revealed this week that Mueller has subpoenaed corporate records from the Trump Organization, including those related to Russia. Trump has said investigating his family finances would be a “red line” if it extended beyond any relationship with Russia.

On Saturday, Trump issued a pair of tweets, attacking the “fake news” media.

“As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded,” the president wrote, referring to a Republican-authored report, “there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp.”

Comey, who will publish a book next month, also tweeted.

“Mr President,” he wrote, “the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania’s capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics.

The justices declined to hear two appeals by anti-abortion groups and individual activists of lower court rulings upholding the cities’ ordinances.

The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility’s entrance or exit.

Both cases pitted the free speech rights of anti-abortion protesters against public safety concerns raised by women’s healthcare providers regarding demonstrations outside clinics. There is a history of violent acts committed against abortion providers.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the ordinances violate free speech rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the Chicago ordinance, which was introduced in 2009. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harrisburg in 2019. That measure was enacted in response to disruptions by protesters outside two abortion clinics in the city.

The cases did not directly implicate abortion rights. In a major ruling on Monday, the struck down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors that perform abortions.

Also on Thursday, the court directed a lower court to reconsider the legality of two Indiana abortion restrictions – one that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy and another that would expand parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. The lower court had struck down both measures.

Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States. The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide, finding that women have a constitutional right to the procedure. In recent years, numerous Republican-governed states have sought to impose a series of restrictions on abortion.

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Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act

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(Law & Crime) — A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening overturned the Trump Administration’s second and most restrictive asylum policy, all because the government failed to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge reasoned.

In a 52-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of Washington, D.C. held that in enacting the rule, which required immigrants to seek asylum in any country they passed through before they could claim asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration “unlawfully dispensed” with mandatory procedural requirements allowing the public to weigh in on proposed rule changes.

Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017, rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that the asylum rule fell within exceptions to the APA permitting the government to disregard the notice-and-comment requirement if there’s “good cause” such commentary is unnecessary or if the rule involves a military or foreign affairs function.

“[The court] also holds that Defendants unlawfully promulgated the rule without complying with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, because neither the ‘good cause’ nor the ‘foreign affairs function’ exceptions are satisfied on the record here,” Kelly wrote. “Despite their potentially broad sweep, the D.C. Circuit has instructed that these exceptions must be ‘narrowly construed’ and ‘reluctantly countenanced.’ The Circuit has also emphasized that the broader a rule’s reach, ‘the greater the necessity for public comment.’ With these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here. Neither does.”

According to Kelly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally allows any person physically in the U.S. seeking refuge to apply for asylum — with some exceptions for immigrants who have committed certain crimes or who had previously been “firmly resettled” prior to arriving in the U.S.

“The Court reiterates that there are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive. But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them,” Kelly wrote. “As noted above, if engaging in notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the rule would have harmed ongoing international negotiations, Defendants could have argued that these effects gave them good cause to forgo these procedures. And they could have provided an adequate factual record to support those predictive judgments to which the Court could defer. But they did not do so.”

Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised the decision as removing an “unjust barrier to protection” for those in need.

“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims,” Cubas said.

Read the full opinion below:

Asylum Ban Decision by Law&Crime on Scribd

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US Supreme Court Rules Public Funds Allowed For Religious Schools In State Tax Credit Program

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USA Today writes:

The Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children’s religious school education. The court’s conservative majority ruled that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs.

The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month. It was a decision long sought by proponents of school choice and vehemently opposed by teachers’ unions, who fear it could drain needed tax dollars from struggling public schools.

Read the US Supreme Court ruling here or below.

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