April 19, 2019

Today in wild misinterpretations: Russia is somehow claiming that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report — specifically intended to outline the evidence regarding Russia's interference in the 2016 election — didn't uncover "a single piece of evidence" pointing to illegal meddling.

Mueller, of course, bolstered U.S. intelligence conclusions by stating Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a "sweeping and systematic fashion." Mueller determined that President Trump's campaign did not criminally coordinate to aid in the interference, but the report plainly lays out that interference occurred. Reuters reports that Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed the findings on Friday, breezing past the evidence that showed the Kremlin working to find Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails, the Russian troll farm that waged a social media disinformation campaign, and the contact between Russian operatives and Trump campaign officials that sought to push Russian influence in 2016.

"The report confirms the absence of any arguments to the effect Russia allegedly intervened in the U.S. election," claimed Georgy Borisenko, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North America Department in Russia's news outlet TASS. "Not a single piece of evidence is there. The authors of the report have in fact confessed they have nothing to report." Mueller may have something (like a couple hundred pages) to say about that. Summer Meza

March 11, 2019

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) built her political career on fighting sexual misconduct. But that push apparently didn't extend to her own office, one former aide claims.

As the 2020 candidate continued to push for Congress to adopt her bill to curb internal harassment last summer, an aide resigned after saying the senator ignored her claims of sexual harassment by a more senior staffer. Gillibrand's office investigated and "found evidence" of the senior aide's "inappropriate comments," but didn't fire him, Politico reports.

The anonymous aide, a woman in her mid-20s, tells Politico the harassment from longtime Gillibrand aide Abbas Malik started when he was told he'd be supervising her. "A decade her senior and married," Abbas "repeatedly made unwelcome advances" toward the younger staffer, she tells Politico. The anonymous woman also said Malik "regularly made crude, misogynistic remarks in the office," which several former Gillibrand staffers backed up.

Yet despite the aide detailing all of this in a lengthy resignation letter obtained by Politico, Malik kept his job. Gillibrand's office says it did investigate the claims, but Politico says it "left out key former staffers." In a statement to Politico, Gillibrand's office said its first probe didn't uncover evidence that met "the standard for sexual harassment."

After seeing Politico's findings, Gillibrand's office started a new probe into Malik's behavior and found what it called "never-before reported and deeply troubling comments allegedly made by" him. The office dismissed him last week. Malik did not respond to a request for comment. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 15, 2019

President Trump's attorney general pick may have just served Democrats cause for concern.

William Barr faced the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, hearing from a line of Democrats concerned about the protection of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) explicitly asked whether Barr has received any "nonpublic information about Mueller's investigation" from the White House. But Barr changed up Feinstein's language in his response, saying "I don't recall getting an confidential information."

Earlier in the hearing, Barr acknowledged discussing Mueller's probe into the Trump campaign's potential involvement with Russian election interference with the president. But he said those discussions were "not in any particular substance."

Democrats are worried that an attorney general might interfere with the special counsel's probe, especially considering Barr once issued a memo criticizing an aspect of Mueller's investigation. Barr did ensure in his opening statement that he'd allow Mueller to "to complete his work" and make any results of the probe public, providing they are "consistent with the law." Kathryn Krawczyk

October 29, 2018

Fox News' Brian Kilmeade has a new simile for the migrant caravan headed toward the United States: They're just like unvaccinated children.

On Monday's Fox & Friends, Kilmeade said one of his biggest concerns about the group, still hundreds of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, is the "diseases" the migrants could bring. "I mean, there's a reason why you can't bring a kid to school unless he's inoculated," Kilmeade said. He then wondered why those who want to block the caravan from entering are seen as "hardhearted," even though "we already give 40 to 50 percent of our taxable income to the government for social programs."

But "we can't have countries' entire populations come in" to America, Kilmeade continued, because keeping some people out is "part of the reason why America's America." There are an estimated 3,000-4,000 migrants in the group of mostly Honduran migrants, of the country's population of over 9 million. Watch the whole segment below. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 28, 2018

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have become bonafide frenemies, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says there's no going back.

Last week, Graham revealed he no longer thinks Sessions should be leading the Justice Department, telling reporters it's time for a "fresh voice" that the president "has faith in." And in a Tuesday Today show appearance, the senator hinted at why he's changed his mind.

Host Savannah Guthrie began by asking why Graham would encourage Trump to fire Sessions, because it appears Trump's "only beef" is that the attorney general recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. "It's much deeper than that," Graham cryptically replied.

As for what caused the fracture, well, Graham said he "just won't say on this show, but it's a pretty deep breach." The senator isn't necessarily "asking for [Sessions] to be fired," he assured. But Trump has to "replace [Sessions] with somebody who is highly qualified" and, notably, will "allow Mueller to do his job," Graham said.

Graham's statement marks a big change from a year ago, when he said "there will be holy hell to pay" if Sessions was fired. The senator acknowledged his previous defense of Sessions on Tuesday, saying the attorney general "had to recuse himself ... because he was part of the campaign that's now being investigated." But recusal isn't what caused Sessions and Trump's relationship to fall "beyond repair," Graham said.

Watch all of Graham's mysterious statement on Today. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 17, 2018

Update 9:25 a.m. ET: After this article was published, several journalists confirmed that Butina is indeed not pictured in a widely circulated photo of President Trump meeting with Russians in the Oval Office. The woman in question is an NSC staffer. Our headline has been updated, and our original article appears below.

Just one day after U.S. prosecutors unsealed criminal charges against Mariia Butina, an alleged Russian agent, eagle-eyed readers noticed a 2017 Oval Office visitor who looks mysteriously like the Russian national.

In a photo published last year by The New York Times, Russian officials and Russian media are gathered in the Oval Office with President Trump. Skulking in the background of the photo is a woman who some people say is Butina, who was accused Monday of conspiracy against the United States. Back when Trump was a presidential nominee, the Justice Department said, Butina tried to broker secret meetings between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin, allegedly at the behest of Russian officials.

Not everyone is convinced that the photo constitutes smoking-gun evidence that Butina managed to infiltrate high-level meetings with Trump; some skeptics, like Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, say the image isn't definitive. Others, like pollster Matt McDermott, noted that the only reason this photo is available to the public in the first place is because it was released by Russian state media.

Until the photo is confirmed one way or the other, take a look for yourself below. Summer Meza

May 17, 2018

The House's science committee was supposed to spend Wednesday learning how technology can address climate change.

But climate change expert Philip Duffy's testimony to the committee was more of a two-hour battle between Republicans and the facts of global warming. Here are three questionable moments from the hearing, per Science magazine, and you can mine the full hearing for more gems here. Kathryn Krawczyk

1. NASA says that melting ice is a main cause of sea level rise. But Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said Wednesday that the real culprit is erosion, namely from the White Cliffs of Dover as they collapse into the ocean.

2. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the committee chairman, shared slides showing that increased fossil fuel consumption doesn't correlate to rising sea levels — a view that Science noted "rejects thousands of scientific studies." Smith's data came from a single measurement station in San Francisco.

3. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said that the committee should "be open to different points of view" — including whether humans are actually the main cause of global warming, as the committee has accused federal scientists of manipulating climate data before.

April 23, 2018

Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education has dramatically scaled back its efforts to probe potential civil rights violations in schools, a ProPublica investigation has found. Whereas the Obama administration made investigating racial disparities a central priority, under President Trump the Department of Education has moved away from that goal, shuttering at least 65 Obama-era probes without mandating any reforms.

The investigation, published by ProPublica and Mother Jones on Monday, explains how under former President Barack Obama, the Department of Education sought to identify "disparate impact," defined by ProPublica as a theory that "holds that differential treatment by race amounts to discrimination whether or not there is overt or intentional bias." With that guiding tenet, the department investigated school districts across the country in search of institutionalized discrimination.

But under DeVos, those efforts have been severely curbed, ProPublica found:

... [T]he pullback is already happening. In a June 2017 internal memo leaked to ProPublica, one of DeVos' top officials ordered investigators to limit proactive civil rights probes rather than expanding them to identify systemic patterns, as the Obama administration had often done in school discipline cases.

Since then, the Education Department has closed at least 65 school discipline investigations opened under Obama [...] In at least 50 cases, the department attributed the shutdowns to "moot" allegations or insufficient evidence or details. [ProPublica]

In one of the investigations, of a small school district in Bryan, Texas, federal investigators found at least 10 instances where black students had been punished more severely for the same infraction as their white peers, and district data showed black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, ProPublica reported. But in 2017, the probe was effectively shuttered due to "insufficient evidence," with the school escaping any mandated reforms.

Read more at ProPublica. Kimberly Alters

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