Trump Marks Mueller’s Report as a Win, Others Push to Make it Public
On Friday, Mueller handed in his report on whether or not Trump’s team colluded with Russia during the election to Attorney General William Barr, recommending no further indictments. In a summary on the report, Barr says that Mueller concluded that there was no collusion, but did not say one way or the other about obstruction […]
- On Friday, Mueller handed in his report on whether or not Trump’s team colluded with Russia during the election to Attorney General William Barr, recommending no further indictments.
- In a summary on the report, Barr says that Mueller concluded that there was no collusion, but did not say one way or the other about obstruction of justice.
- Trump is counting this as a big win for himself, but Democrats want the full report released to the public.
Robert Mueller’s report concluded that President Donald Trump’s campaign did not conspire with Russia during the 2016 election. However the report did not exonerate Trump from obstruction of justice, according to Attorney General William Barr.
On Friday, Special Counsel Mueller turned in his report on his two-year-long investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election to the attorney general. At the time, he recommended no additional indictments.
On Sunday, Barr released a letter to Congress that contained a four-page summary of Mueller’s report. Barr’s summary said the report was broken down into two parts, the first being Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
According to Mueller’s findings, there were two main efforts by Russia, one from the Internet Research Agency, and one from the Russuian government. The investigation has already resulted in arrests regarding both of these efforts.
The investigation did not find, however, that Trump or his colleagues aided these efforts. Barr quoted Mueller’s report, saying, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The second part of the report centered around obstruction of justice, but the findings were not conclusive.
“The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” Barr said in his letter.
He also went on to quote the Special Counsel, which said in their report, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
So what does this mean? In their report, the Special Counsel outlined the various activities investigated, and the arguments on each side. They drew no conclusions, and instead left it up to Attorney General Barr to decide if the actions constituted as criminal behavior.
In his letter to congress, Barr said he discussed the report with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and that they “concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
What Does This Mean for Trump?
Many view this as a big win for Trump and his administration. The Special Counsel found there was no conspiracy or collusion in the campaign, and while they did not say either way if he obstructed justice, the Attorney General said there was not enough evidence, which was enough for Trump to take to Twitter to make a statement.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on the TODAY Show on Monday morning, backing up Trump’s comments. Anchor Savannah Guthrie asked Sanders, “Would you acknowledge that it is incorrect for the president to call this a total exoneration?”
“Not at all. It is a total and complete exoneration,” Sanders said. “And here’s why. The special counsel, they said they couldn’t make a decision one way or the other. The way that process works is that they then leave that up to the AG. The AG and the Deputy AG went through and based their decision on Mueller’s investigation.”
Push to Release the Report
On the other side, democrats are arguing that Mueller’s full report should be released.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement calling for the report to be made public, given biases the Attorney General may have.
“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” the statement read. “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay. Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
Others like Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris took to Twitter to demand the full report.
The democratic leaders are not alone in wanting the report to be made public. Earlier in the month, the House voted 420-0 to demand the Department of Justice release Mueller’s full investigation to lawmakers, and as much as possible to the public. This vote was non-binding and does not mandate anything, but it does put pressure on Barr.
So will we ever get to see the report? That still remains unclear. In his letter to congress, he said the report remains confidential, but also added that he was aware of the “public interest in this matter.”
“For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” Barr stated.
What those laws, regulations, and policies could limit is also unclear, but material in the report is likely relevant to other investigations, or could be a security risk. So if the public were to see it, there is a good chance that there would be heavy redactions.
Many are also debating whether or not Trump would be able to use Executive Privilege to prevent the public from seeing certain parts of the report. This could include internal communications and private conversations involving the president. But right now, whether or not he could use it is up in the air. It is also unclear if he would want to, as in the past he tweeted in support of the Republicans voting for transparency regarding the report.
If the Department of Justice were to not make the report public, Representative Jerry Nadler said he would be willing to take legal action. On CNN, he said he would go so far as to take it to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Well we will try to negotiate and we will try everything else first,” said Nadler. “But if we have to, yes, we will certainly issue subpoenas to get that information.”
“And you’re going to be willing to take that up to the supreme court if you have to,” anchor Dana Bash asked.
“Absolutely,” Nadler responded.
See What Others Are Saying: (Wall Street Journal) (Washington Post) (CBS)
White House Endorses Bipartisan Senate Bill That Could Ban TikTok
The measure does not target TikTok specifically but instead would set up a framework to crack down on foreign products and services that present a national security threat.
The RESTRICT Act
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the federal government to restrict or even outright ban TikTok and other technologies produced by foreign companies.
Under the legislation, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, the Commerce Department would have sweeping authority to identify and regulate technologies that pose a risk to national security and are produced by companies in six “foreign adversary” countries: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.
In other words, the proposal would not explicitly ban TikTok, but instead creates a path for future prohibitions on the Chinese-owned platform.
While the bill’s text does not specifically mention TikTok, the group of senators made it clear that the app is their number one target, directing most of their criticism to the platform in statements announcing the measure.
The legislation, however, would go way beyond TikTik: it is also designed to prepare for future situations where apps or technologies from an “adversary” country become popular in the U.S.
The bill’s Democratic sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Ma.), echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.
“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S.,” he said. “Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”
“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”
Proponents of the bill also hope that, given the broad scope of the legislation, it will gain more traction than past proposals that zeroed in on TikTok. Support for the measure was further bolstered when the White House announced it would back the move shortly after it was rolled out.
“This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”
A Bumpy Road Ahead
Despite the bipartisan push, there are still some hurdles for the RESTRICT Act to overcome.
Although the legislation does not directly ban TikTok, because that is clearly its intent, the same issues with an outright prohibition still stand. One of the most serious concerns is that banning TikTok would violate the First Amendment.
There is past precedent on this front: in 2020, a federal magistrate judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to take the Chinese-owned app WeChat off their app stores.
In that decision, the judge argued that the government only had “modest” evidence about the app’s risks and that removing it from app stores would “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security.”
TikTok has emulated that argument. In a statement responding to the RESTRICT Act Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said the legislation could “have the effect of censoring millions of Americans.”
Meanwhile, even if the act does pass, there is also the question of whether the Biden administration would decide on a full-scale ban.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would be the one responsible for overseeing the process under the bill, and while she said she said in a statement that she “welcomed” the proposal and promised to work with Congress to pass it, she has also previously expressed hesitation for a full prohibition.
On the other end of the equation, there are concerns that this measure will not ultimately get enough bipartisan support from Republicans who do want an outright ban and will refuse to accept anything that falls short of that.
While speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said the new plan did not go far enough and argued that Congress “should pass a bill that bans TikTok.”
Even if the legislation does get enough support in the Senate, its path is unclear in the GOP-held House, where it also does not yet have a companion bill. Republicans in the House recently introduced a measure that would give the president the power to unilaterally ban TikTok in the U.S.
That proposal, however, is not bipartisan like the RESTRICT Act, which will be a key test to see if legislators can find a middle ground on the matter.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (NBC News)
What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race — The Most Important Election in 2023
Gerrymandering, abortion, the 2024 presidential election, and much more are on the line.
An election to fill an empty seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that has been described as the most consequential race of 2023 has now been narrowed to two candidates after the primary Tuesday.
Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz easily took first place, winning 46.4% of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. In second place with 24.2% was conservative Daniel Kelly, a former Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the state’s then-Republican governor in 2016 but lost his re-election in 2020.
Notably, the wide discrepancy in votes can be explained by the fact that Kelly split Republican ballots with another conservative candidate who came in a close third with 21.9%. As such, the general election is expected to be tight.
Also of note, this race is technically supposed to be non-partisan, but Protasiewicz has closely aligned herself with Democrats and Kelly has done the same with Republicans. Both parties, as well as dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into the high-stakes election that will determine whether liberals or conservatives will have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court at an incredibly consequential time.
There are a number of paramount issues at play here that have widespread implications not just for Wisconsin but America at-large.
Gerrymandering and Elections
Wisconsin is one of the most important swing states in the country: it helped decide the outcomes of both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and it is the center of debates on gerrymandering and free and fair elections that have played a role in those races.
The state Supreme Court, which has had a conservative majority for the last 14 years, has been instrumental in shaping those policies, having weighed in on many of the most crucial topics and almost always siding with Republicans.
For example, in what VICE described as “arguably the most important decision the court made in recent years,” the court ruled 4-3 last year to uphold one of America’s most gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a massive advantage.
“The maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans hold six of Wisconsin’s eight House seats and nearly two-thirds of legislative seats in the state—even though Democrats won most statewide races last year,” the outlet reported.
That ruling created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the conservative majority court has decided so many critical topics because the state government is deadlocked with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.
So, by approving a map that massively favored Republicans, the conservative court kept that system in place, ensuring that they would continue to have the final say on so many of these essential areas.
However, if Protasiewicz wins the general election, the court is all but certain to revisit the gerrymandered map. Protasiewicz, for her part, explicitly stated in a recent interview that a liberal majority could establish new election maps. Kelly, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revisiting the maps.
A decision unfavorable to the GOP-drawn maps would have significant implications for the internal politics of Wisconsin and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold a very slim five-seat majority.
To that point, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also plays a big role in how the state’s elections are administered and how its ten Electoral College votes will be doled out in the 2024 presidential election.
Last year, the conservative court banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and in 2014, it upheld a GOP voter ID law that studies have shown suppressed Black voters. While the court did vote against considering former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to try and overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin, it only did so by a thin margin of 4-3.
The court will very likely be tasked with wading into elections-related cases in the coming years. Already, it is anticipated that the justice will hear a lawsuit by a conservative group aiming to further limit voting access by banning mobile and alternate voting facilities.
Abortion and Other Important Statewide Subjects
In addition to the ramifications for America broadly, there are also plenty of paramount issues concerning the state Supreme Court that will materially impact the people of Wisconsin.
Much of the race has been centered heavily on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights because the composition of the court will almost positively determine whether or not abortion will be legal for the state’s six million residents.
Following the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortion went back into effect. Currently, a lawsuit against the ban is winding its way through the court system, and it is all but assured that battle will eventually go before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
Experts and analysts say that if Kelly wins, it is essentially guaranteed that abortion will remain illegal in almost all cases. Protasiewicz, by contrast, has campaigned extensively on abortion rights and vocally supported the right to choose.
Beyond that, there are also several other major issues the court will likely rule on in the coming years. For example, Protasiewicz has also said she believes a liberal majority could reverse a 12-year-old law that basically eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Everything is at stake, and I mean everything: Women’s reproductive rights, the maps, drop boxes, safe communities, clean water,” Protasiewicz told VICE. “Everything is on the line.”
See what others are saying: (VICE) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps — Even As Pandemic-Era Programs Wind Down
Experts say cuts to food stamps could have a devastating impact on the 41 million Americans who rely on the program.
GOP Weighs SNAP Cuts in Budget
In recent weeks, top Republican lawmakers have floated several different ideas for cutting food stamp benefits.
Earlier this month, Republicans now leading the House Budget Committee flagged food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP — as one of the ten areas they would support cuts to in their new budget proposal.
In a memo, the panel argued that stricter work requirements would “save tens of billions,” while a more rigid verification process for applicants would limit waste, fraud, and abuse. The idea comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal deficit.
Experts, however, say the proposed changes could result in debilitating cuts for the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps and exacerbate an ongoing hunger crisis at a time when inflation has sent food prices rising.
SNAP provides low-income households with an average of around $230 a month for groceries. For many of those families who are also the most impacted by inflationary price increases across the board, that money is absolutely essential.
Experts have also noted that any additional cuts to SNAP would be especially harmful because Republicans are still proposing new cuts despite the fact that Congress already agreed just two months ago to end a pandemic-era program that had increased benefits in some states.
Under the pandemic policies, SNAP was expanded so households could receive maximum benefits instead of benefits based on income testing while also giving bigger payouts to the lowest-income Americans.
That expansion is now set to expire in March, and according to the anti-hunger advocacy group the Food Research and Action Center, an estimated 16 million households will see their per-person benefits drop by around $82 a month.
The Farm Bill Debate
Even if Republicans do not end up cutting SNAP in the budget, the program may still be in hot water.
While raising the debt limit is at the forefront of ongoing partisan battles at the moment, there is already a fight shaping up over another essential piece of legislation: the farm bill.
The farm bill is a package that has to be updated and reauthorized every couple of years. One of the most important legislative tasks Congress is responsible for, the farm bill includes many important subsidies and programs that are imperative to America’s food systems, farms, and much more.
SNAP is among the nutrition-based programs that fall under the purview of the farm bill, and Republicans have already tossed around the idea of cutting food stamp benefits in their ongoing negotiations.
Those debates are quite forward-looking, though it is normal for such discussions to occur early during a year in which Congress is charged with passing the farm bill. Lawmakers have until Oct. 1 to either enact a new version or agree on some kind of extension.