DOJ scrutiny opens door to new Uranium One investigation

The Justice Department’s scrutiny of an Obama-era deal that gave Russia partial control of the U.S. uranium supply has opened the door to the possibility of a new investigation – egged on by the White House.

“If the attorney general feels there’s a need for that investigation, he should absolutely look into that – and obviously he sees cause for it,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Thursday.

She was reacting to a report that DOJ prosecutors are now pressing FBI agents about a prior probe related to the Uranium One deal which Republican critics have criticized over alleged links to the Clintons. NBC News reported that agents are being asked to explain the evidence they found and whether there was any “improper effort” to stop a prosecution.

It’s all part of a broader effort by the Justice Department, first reported by Fox News, to evaluate GOP calls for the appointment of a second special counsel examining Obama administration-tied controversies. As Fox News reported in November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed “senior federal prosecutors” to make recommendations on whether such an appointment is warranted, and whether “any matters not currently under investigation should be opened.”

Sessions told reporters last week that the DOJ is cooperating with congressional investigators on Uranium One and other issues, including by making available a confidential informant. He said a “senior attorney” has been supplied with “the resources he may need” to review cases and make a recommendation.

As for Uranium One, “I think the end game would be if they found something, they certainly would be potentially capable of reopening the investigation and handling it as though it were an active, ongoing criminal matter,” said Thomas Dupree, former Justice Department official under the George W. Bush administration.

It’s unclear at the moment whether Sessions would eventually take the step to either appoint a second special counsel or reopen the probe, amid Republican criticism of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Trump associates.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, file photo, Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate is working overtime toward confirming President Donald Trump's close ally, Sessions, to become the nation's top law enforcement officer as attorney general. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is looking into the Uranium One deal.  (AP)

The pressure from Capitol Hill regarding Uranium One isn’t letting up.

Earlier this month, a top Republican senator expanded his own investigation into the sale of the Canadian mining company to a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom nuclear company. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, fired off a letter to the heads of the U.S. Energy Department and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking more information – specifically, on how uranium under the Russian firm’s control made its way out of the U.S.

Back in 2011, then-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko assured the senator that the companies did not hold a specific “NRC export license” and would not be able to export uranium from the U.S. without one.

Yet The Hill reported last month that while the NRC never issued the license, memos show it did approve “the shipment of yellowcake uranium” from the U.S. mines to Canada in 2012 through a “third party.” The same report said the Obama administration later approved some of that material to go to Europe, “and the approval involved a process with multiple agencies.”

At a recent Senate hearing, NRC Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki committed to responding to the senator, while acknowledging the prior responses he got “have not fully depicted the complexity of this issue.” She said the commission would “depict it in context and more accurately” in the forthcoming response.

The Uranium One deal, which was covered extensively in 2015, burst back into the headlines in October, after The Hill reported the FBI had evidence as early as 2009 that Russian operatives used bribes, kickbacks and other dirty tactics to expand Moscow’s atomic energy footprint in the U.S., related to a Rosatom subsidiary. Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill quickly started asking questions about how the deal was approved the following year by an inter-agency committee.

While scrutinizing the 2010 approval, Republican lawmakers have also revived questions that first surfaced in 2015 about payments to both Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation from “interested parties.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has renewed scrutiny, for instance, of a $500,000 fee Bill Clinton collected from a Russian investment bank for a June 2010 speech. Grassley wrote in an October letter that the bank’s senior officers include former Russian intelligence personnel, and sources had described the company as an “extension” of the Russian government.

“Notably, in the same month as the Clinton speech, Uranium One and Rosatom notified CFIUS of the Russian government’s intent to acquire twenty percent of the United States’ uranium assets. The next month, in July 2010, Renaissance Bank reportedly assigned Uranium One a ‘buy’ rating, a move that would principally benefit its Russian investors,” Grassley wrote. “The donations raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest for Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration.”

Figures related to the company also donated a reported $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, though it’s unclear whether any of that was connected to the deal – and a key figure claims he sold his stake in the company years earlier.

Addressing the matter on C-SPAN in October, Hillary Clinton said “it’s the same baloney they’ve been peddling for years, and there’s been no credible evidence by anyone. In fact, it’s been debunked repeatedly and will continue to be debunked.”

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee said these issues are just part of the “distraction and diversion” from the investigation into Russian meddling and possible coordination with Trump associates in last year’s election.

Fox News’ Ed Henry, Jake Gibson and Brooke Singman contributed to this report. 

Courtesy: Fox News

5 key moments from Jeff Sessions’ testimony before House Judiciary Committee

ADAM KELSEY
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied suggestions Tuesday that he misled Congress in previous appearances before Senate committees in which he was asked about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Questions about Sessions’ prior answers to Congress came during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers asked about the latest developments in the investigations into Russian interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election — including a guilty plea by Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to a charge of misleading investigators.

The questions focused on Papadopoulos’ attempts to coordinate a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Papadopoulos’ presence at a March 2016 gathering also attended by Sessions. The attorney general’s responses to questions about communication with Russia drew scrutiny from Democrats who believed that he may have known more than he previously disclosed.

Sessions authorizes Justice Department to consider investigating Clinton Foundation

Sessions says he has not been interviewed by special counsel in Russia probe

Sessions said that he now recalled the 2016 meeting, after recent news reports on the matter, and that he “always told the truth” in his appearances on Capitol Hill. He added that he “wanted to make clear to [Papadopoulos] that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government.”

“But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago,” he said.

Here’s a look at five key moments from Sessions’ testimony Tuesday:

Sessions claims he has ‘always told the truth’ and now recalls Papadopoulos meeting

In his opening statement, the attorney general told the committee he has “always told the truth,” referring to his criticized appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

On the subject of meetings attended by Papadopoulos and campaign aide Carter Page, Sessions said he “had no recollection” of the meetings until he saw recent news reports. He previously told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was “not aware” of attempts by the campaign to communicate with Russia.

“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at the Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting,” Sessions said. “After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government, for that matter.”

He continued that he “gladly would have reported it,” had he remembered it. Sessions said he “pushed back” against what he thought was an improper suggestion by Papadopoulos — that Trump meet with Putin.

NEW: AG Jeff Sessions says he now recalls meeting with George Papadopoulos, “but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said.” http://abcn.ws/2htbyes 

Sessions says he has ‘no reason to doubt’ accusers of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore

AG Jeff Sessions on Roy Moore’s accusers: “I have no reason to doubt these young women.” http://abcn.ws/2yZZA77 

Though he said he believes he should not be involved in the race for his former U.S. Senate seat representing Alabama, Sessions said he has “no reason to doubt” the women accusing Republican candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct.

Moore is accused of pursuing relationships with teenage girls in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including attempting to engage in sexual activity with one girl as young as 14.

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington, on oversight of the U.S. Justice Department. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington, on oversight of the U.S. Justice Department. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, asked Sessions whether he would push for a Justice Department investigation into the alleged actions should Moore win the election.

Sessions would not comment on the hypothetical situation but pledged of his department, “We will do our duty.”

Sessions says DOJ shouldn’t ‘retaliate politically against opponents’

After the committee’s ranking member, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., showed Sessions several of Trump’s tweets suggesting the Justice Department investigate former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, the attorney general was asked whether it was “common” for a country’s leader to “retaliate against his political opponents.”

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives on Capitol Hill for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives on Capitol Hill for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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“The Department of Justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents, and that would be wrong,” Sessions said. He added, after additional questioning, that the president should “take great care” not to influence a pending investigation.

Sessions admitted, however, he could not entirely control Trump’s seemingly off-the-cuff remarks.

“The president speaks his mind,” Sessions said.

Rep. Jordan asks about additional special counsel

Rep. Jordan: “What’s it going to take to actually get a special counsel” on FBI/DOJ handling of Clinton probe?

Jeff Sessions: “It would take a factual basis.” http://abcn.ws/2z0fej4 

After Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ran through a timeline of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server and the related actions of then–FBI Director James Comey and then–Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sessions explained that the matter did not automatically warrant a special counsel, as Jordan suggested was necessary.

“It would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel,” Sessions said, an answer that did not appear to quell Jordan’s concerns.

In a letter to the committee Monday, Sessions said he authorized Justice Department prosecutors to look into whether the sale of a uranium company during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state warranted investigation by a special counsel. Republicans have raised alarm over donations to the Clinton Foundation made by people related to the deal.

Sessions cautioned Tuesday that the step outlined in his letter did not guarantee an independent investigator would be appointed.

“You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it … meets the standard required for a special counsel,” he said.

Sessions admits he hasn’t ‘followed through’ on election interference mitigation efforts

Asked what steps he’s taken to protect elections, Attorney General Sessions says, “I have not followed through to see where we are on that.”

After telling the Senate Judiciary Committee in October that the U.S. was not prepared to prevent interference in its elections, Sessions admitted he has “not followed through to see where we are on that.”

“I will personally take action to do so,” he said. “A lot of things have been happening. We are working on a lot of great agenda items. But this one is important, and I acknowledge that.”

“I should be able to give you better information today than I am,” Sessions conceded.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. asked Sessions last month about preparations for upcoming elections. Sessions said it would require a “specific review” but that no such efforts were underway at the time.

ABC News’ Mike Levine, Benjamin Siegel and Trish Truner contributed to this report.

Courtesy: GMA

In the headlights: Key targets of the Russia interference probe

AFP
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Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse after a bail hearing on November 6, 2017

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse after a bail hearing on November 6, 2017 (AFP Photo/MARK WILSON)

Washington (AFP) – One year after Donald Trump stunned the United States by winning the presidential election, the probe into whether his campaign colluded with Russian meddling continues to cloud that victory.

Investigations by special prosecutor Robert Mueller and three congressional committees have unveiled many more links between the campaign and Russia than were originally known, and charges against three figures at the end of October raised expectations of more revelations.

Where the investigation’s key targets stand:

– Donald Trump –

Nothing yet has linked the president directly to the Russians. But his firing of FBI director James Comey smells like obstruction of justice to investigators. Analysts expect Mueller won’t go after Trump until he has finished with most everyone else on his radar.

– Paul Manafort –

Trump’s one-time campaign chairman was arrested on October 30 on money laundering and tax-related charges in relation to his work for Moscow-backed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort could be looking at a heavy jail sentence, unless he cooperates with Mueller on the Russia side of the investigation.

– Rick Gates –

Manafort’s partner in Ukraine and a Trump campaign deputy chair, Gates was also arrested on October 30. Analysts say he could be expected to offer evidence against others related to Russia collusion in exchange for lighter treatment.

– George Papadopoulos –

The first person convicted in Mueller’s investigation, Papadopoulos was one of the campaign’s foreign policy advisors. He developed his official Russian contacts and tried to arrange a Trump trip to Russia or a meeting with Putin. He also told his supervisors that he was offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Emails indicate his work drew the attention and support of top campaign officials. In a deal that made clear Papadopoulos is actively assisting Mueller, he pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI.

– Michael Flynn –

According to NBC, the former White House national security advisor and his son, Mike Flynn, Jr, could be Mueller’s next targets. Flynn drew suspicion for his repeated discussions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, his paid appearances for Russian firms and his unreported lobbying for Turkey. NBC said initial charges could be linked to the lobbying and money laundering.

– Carter Page –

Another member of the campaign’s foreign policy team, Page has a long association with Russia that raises suspicions. He says trips he made to Moscow before and after the election were for personal and academic reasons. But in a July 2016 email to top campaign officials, he indicated he had contacts with Russian legislators and senior members of President Vladimir Putin’s administration. He also proposed a Trump trip to Moscow.

– Jared Kushner –

Trump’s son-in-law is believed to be a major target of the Mueller probe for his contacts with Kislyak, with a powerful Russian banker and with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton. His possible role in firing Comey and other White House moves also likely interest investigators chasing obstruction suspicions.

– Donald Trump, Jr –

Trump’s son helped arrange and then attended the Veselnitskaya meeting and has been involved in the Trump organization’s Russia-related real estate projects.

– Jeff Sessions –

The former senator and now attorney general has aroused suspicion with his lack of candor about meetings with Kislyak. He was also responsible for the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisors, whose Russian contacts and meeting proposals likely came to his attention.

Courtesy: AFP/Yahoo

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces perjury claims

Top Democrats have said that Sessions lied under oath when he said he knew nothing about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Sources close to Sessions say the attorney general forgot a relevant meeting.

USA | Pressekonferenz Justizminister Jeff Sessions über DACA-Programm (picture-alliance/newscom/M. Theiler)

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions must testify again before Congress on the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russian contacts, Senate Democrats demanded on Thursday. The call for more testimony came amidst revelations that Sessions may have committed perjury during his confirmation hearing.

Facing questioning from lawmakers after his appointment in January, Sessions was asked by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota what he would do as head of the Justice Department if any members of President Donald Trump’s election campaign or White House staff were found to have ties with Russian agents.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” said Sessions in an indirect response to Franken’s question. He has since made several similar statements to Congress.

Sessions says he forgot Papadopoulos meeting

However, according to court documents unsealed this week by special counsel Robert Mueller – the chief investigator in the Russia probe – the attorney general was at a meeting in which members of the Trump campaign discussed meeting with Russian officials who claimed to have “dirt” on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

George Papadopoulos, a junior aide to the Trump campaign, pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI earlier in October. In the plea deal documents released by Mueller on Monday, Papadopoulos recounted a meeting in which he suggested setting up a meeting with then-candidate Trump and some Russians he knew with potentially damaging information about Clinton.

Washington national security meeting George Papadopoulos mit Trump (Donald Trump's Twitter account via AP)A photo from Trump’s Twitter account post on March 31, 2016, shows those present at the meeting in question. Sessions is at the far left, Papadopoulos is third from left.

Papadopoulos told Mueller that not only was Sessions at the meeting on March 31, 2016, he opposed the idea that Trump sit down with Papadopoulos’ contacts.

According to sources close to Sessions, the attorney general suddenly remembered this meeting on Thursday. An anonymous Sessions affiliate told NBC News that the “March 31 comments by this Papadopoulos person did not leave a lasting impression,” and that the attorney general had forgotten the matter by the time of his confirmation hearing.

“Papadopoulos was some 29-year-old that nobody had ever heard of and who struck people in the room as someone who didn’t have a lot of credibility,” the source said.

Franken demands answers

The revelations that Sessions may have made false statements under oath riled many top Democrats, especially Franken. The Senator wrote up an eight-page letter to the attorney general, demanding answers to some 30 questions

.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

In letter to AG Session, @SenFranken wants to know more about his interactions with George Papadopoulos —>

“This is another example in an alarming pattern in which you, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, apparently failed to tell the truth under oath,” the senator said.

Papadopoulos’ statements to Mueller may have good and bad consequences for Sessions. They suggest that the attorney general did not approve of any dealings with Russian agents. But they also suggest that the head of the Justice Department may have broken the law.

Courtesy: DW

Trump administration rolls back ObamaCare contraceptive mandate

The Trump administration on Friday announced a major rollback of the ObamaCare contraceptive mandate, granting what officials called “full protection” to a wide range of companies and organizations that claim a “religious or moral objection” to providing the coverage.

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The decision swiftly ignited a new battle over the Affordable Care Act. Republican lawmakers and faith-based groups hailed the decision as a win for religious liberty, while Democratic officials and groups like Planned Parenthood accused the administration of attacking women’s rights.

By early afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it was filing a lawsuit challenging the change.

The original mandate, which already has been the subject of multiple legal challenges, required employers that provide health insurance to cover contraceptives. Under the existing policy, churches and houses of worship were exempt, while religious-affiliated groups that object had to allow a third-party administrator or insurer to handle birth control coverage. The 2014 Hobby Lobby decision expanded exemptions to for-profit “closely held” corporations.

But under the new policy unveiled Friday, the Trump administration is expanding the protections to any nonprofit group, non-publicly traded company, or higher education institution with religious or moral objections — and making the third-party provision optional for groups with “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Publicly traded companies also could claim an exemption if they state religious objections, though a senior Health and Human Services official said they would still have to let a third party cover contraception.

“No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system,” said HHS press secretary Caitlin Oakley. “Today’s actions affirm the Trump administration’s commitment to upholding the freedoms afforded all Americans under our Constitution.”

Sister Loraine McGuire with Little Sisters of the Poor speaks to the media after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - D1AESUEWJUAA

Little Sisters of the Poor outside the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016 after Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the contraceptive mandate, was heard.  (Reuters)

The decision was cheered by representatives for the Little Sisters of the Poor, the religious group that took their mandate challenge to the Supreme Court — which in turn punted the case to the lower courts last year.

“HHS has issued a balanced rule that respects all sides –it keeps the contraceptive mandate in place for most employers and now provides a religious exemption,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at Becket Law and lead attorney for Little Sisters of the Poor, said Friday. “The Little Sisters still need to get final relief in court, which should be easy now that the government admits it broke the law.”

“This is a landmark day for religious liberty,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement.

Officials stressed that the impact may be limited, even though the rule changes are significant, as some large corporations were grandfathered into the policy and spared from the mandate anyway.

“Of the 165 million women in the U.S., HHS estimates these rules affect at most 120,000, leaving more than 99.9 percent of women without any impact,” an HHS official told Fox News.

An official noted the administration anticipates the groups taking advantage of the change would be those involved in legal battles pertaining to the mandate.

“There are about 200 entities that have participated in lawsuits because of the contraceptive rule, and those entities will benefit from this rule,” a senior HHS official said.

A senior HHS official said there have been more than 50 lawsuits filed against the mandate, and the new rule would provide “relief.”

But the ACLU contended the policy would allow “nearly all employers” to deny contraception coverage if they state an objection.

“This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Friday. “With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control.”

And Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., accused the administration of “stooping to a new low.”

“There is no ‘exemption from having reproductive organs,” Wyden said Friday. “This administration needs to end its obsession with attacking women’s rights to receive the health care they deserve.”

The types of contraceptives covered by the mandate are FDA-approved methods: diaphragms, hormonal methods like birth control pills and vaginal rings, implanted devices like intrauterine devices or IUDs, emergency contraception like Plan B, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling. The mandate is not required to cover drugs that serve to induce abortions.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, since the Obama-era rule, the share of women paying for their own birth control pills out of pocket plunged to under 4 percent, compared with 21 percent before the rule.

HHS also rolled out a guidance bulletin on Friday, underscoring the requirements of a section of ObamaCare that “segregates funds” for abortion services. The bulletin reminds employers that abortion coverage has to be kept separate from other premium payments.

In addition to HHS’ announcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced “20 high-level principles” on religious liberty to “guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law.”

“The constitutional protection of religious beliefs and the right to exercise those beliefs have served this country well, have made us one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and have also helped make us the free-ist and most generous,” Sessions said in a statement Friday. “President Trump promised that this administration would ‘lead by example on religious liberty,’ and he is delivering on that promise.”

Fox News’ Kristin Brown contributed to this report. 

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Courtesy: Fox News

Maxine Waters to ‘humiliated’ Jeff Sessions: Now you know how African-Americans feel

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., tweeted Friday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions now knows how African-Americans feel after he was reportedly “humiliated” by President Trump over his recusal in the Russia investigation.

“To Jeff Sessions, how does it feel to be dragged & humiliated? Now you know how the African Americans you disrespected feel,” she tweeted.

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It was reported Thursday by the The New York Times that Sessions felt “humiliated” after Trump accused him of “disloyalty” because he recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Trump “unleashed a string of insults” at Sessions, who would later go on to say Trump’s reprimanding was the most humiliating event he experienced as a public servant, according to the Times.

On a podcast in May, Waters referred to Sessions as “very dangerous,” before adding, “I think he’s a racist, and I think that he absolutely believes that it’s his job to keep minorities in their place.”

Sessions reportedly gave his resignation letter to Trump later that day, which the president rejected.

Courtesy, Fox News

Republicans eye legislative fix as Trump ends DACA; Dems blast decision

Joseph Weber

Congressional Republicans indicated Tuesday they will take up the Trump administration’s call to consider legislation to replace the Obama-era DACA program, though condemnation from Democrats over the decision to end it points to a heated battle ahead.

In a show of unity, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., spoke to reporters about their push for a bipartisan “Dream Act”-style bill Tuesday afternoon.

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“The Congress is going to have to up its game,” Graham said, urging congressional colleagues to work with them – and the president to “get involved personally” by working the phones.

Durbin said the “countdown to deportation” sets a clear timetable for lawmakers to act.

Other Democrats, though, hammered the president for ending the program at all, leaving unclear how much bipartisan cooperation will be seen.

“I’m heartbroken – and I’m outraged,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “The Trump administration should preserve DACA until a long-term solution is passed into law. … We need sensible immigration reform, not senseless intolerance.”

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, whose corruption trial starts Wednesday, tweeted: “Mr. President, You went after children. You better brace yourself for the civil rights fight of our generation. #DefendDACA.”

Though Democrats wanted Trump to keep the program in place, the administration announced Tuesday it will “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program over the next six months.

The program enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012 protected illegal immigrants brought to the United States when they were young. An estimated 800,000 young people have been protected from deportation under the program.

In announcing the decision, Trump put the onus on Congress to come up with a replacement.

“As president, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America. At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” he said in a statement. “Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first.”

The six-month delay gives Congress time to craft a legislative solution. And while Democrats condemned the decision, they also voiced hope that the legislative branch can come up with an alternative.

Whether the two parties can find common ground on an immigration deal that has eluded Congress for years, however, remains to be seen.

Republican leaders made clear Tuesday they would try.

“However well-intentioned, President Obama’s DACA program was a clear abuse of executive authority,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Just as the courts have already struck down similar Obama policy, this was never a viable long-term solution … . It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution.”

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., already has been working on a conservative version of the so-called Dream Act.

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, argued Tuesday that Congress, not the president, must find a reasonable, compassionate alternative.

“DACA was an illegal abuse of executive power, and it’s important to reaffirm that the president cannot unilaterally rewrite the law,” he said. “Today’s decision puts the ball in Congress’ court. … A balance between compassion and deterring future illegal immigration can be found.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also made clear Tuesday that “no new initial (DACA) requests or associated applications after today will be acted on.”

The administration framed the decision as the result of legal pressure.

Sessions argued that attorneys general from several states are challenging the constitutionality of DACA, so the administration chose to act instead of risking the courts abruptly shutting down the program.

“Today is a dark day in America,” said California Democratic Rep. Lou Correa, whose Orange County district in majority Latino. “The only crime DACA students are guilty of is aspiring for the American Dream. … I hope the president will not go after children, and will reconsider his decision.”

Courtesy, Fox News

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