Trump and McConnell Locked in a Cold War, Threatening the G.O.P. Agenda

Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin
August 22, 2017

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.

The rupture between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent deadlines when they return to Washington next month. Congress must approve new spending measures and raise the statutory limit on government borrowing within weeks of reconvening, and Republicans are hoping to push through an elaborate rewrite of the federal tax code. There is scant room for legislative error on any front.

A protracted government shutdown or a default on sovereign debt could be disastrous — for the economy and for the party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Yet Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell are locked in a political cold war. Neither man would comment for this story. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, noted that the senator and the president had “shared goals,” and pointed to “tax reform, infrastructure, funding the government, not defaulting on the debt, passing the defense authorization bill.”

Still, the back-and-forth has been dramatic.

In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.

During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

In off hand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.

While maintaining a pose of public reserve, Mr. McConnell expressed horror to advisers last week after Mr. Trump’s comments equating white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., with protesters who rallied against them. Mr. Trump’s most explosive remarks came at a news conference in Manhattan, where he stood beside Ms. Chao. (Ms. Chao, deflecting a question about the tensions between her husband and the president she serves, told reporters, “I stand by my man — both of them.)

Mr. McConnell signaled to business leaders that he was deeply uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s comments: Several who resigned advisory roles in the Trump administration contacted Mr. McConnell’s office after the fact, and were told that Mr. McConnell fully understood their choices, three people briefed on the conversations said.

Mr. Trump has also continued to badger and threaten Mr. McConnell’s Senate colleagues, including Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose Republican primary challenger was praised by Mr. Trump last week.

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FBI report reveals she forwarded classified data to her private email

By Bill Gertz

Documents made public from the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server provide clues about the current review of more than half a million emails linked to Clinton presidential campaign vice chair Huma Abedin.

Abedin was questioned by FBI agents and Justice Department officials, including those involved with counterintelligence matters, on April 5.

During those discussions, Abedin revealed that she used four different email accounts while she was deputy chief of staff for operations in Clinton’s seventh floor office at the State Department.

The email accounts included her official State Department account,, the private server account,, and her private email, Abedin’s fourth email account was associated with the campaign activities of her estranged husband, former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner.

The FBI reopened its Clinton email investigation after agents recovered a laptop computer from Wiener that reportedly contains some 650,000 emails now being reviewed by FBI agents.  Weiner’s laptop was obtained during an investigation into allegations the former congressman exchanged illicit messages with a 15-year-old girl.

The FBI began reviewing the emails after receiving a search warrant on Monday.

FBI Director James Comey revealed to Congress last week that he ordered the email investigation to be reopened after “pertinent” information was uncovered in the separate investigation of Weiner.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting people close to the FBI and Justice Department, reported last weekend that FBI and Justice Department officials disagreed with the decision to renew the email probe.

Word of the FBI’s renewed email investigation was a political bombshell for Clinton, coming 11 days before Election Day and again raising questions about her character.

Clinton and her campaign spokespeople have called for the FBI to release further details about the new email cache.

On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik wrote to congressional Democrats who sought additional details of the new probe. “We assure you that the Department will continue to work closely with the FBI and together, dedicate all necessary resources and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible,” Kadzik stated in a three-paragraph letter.

Abedin’s lawyer, Karen Dunn, said in a statement on Monday that Abedin was unaware that her emails were on Weiner’s laptop. “Ms. Abedin will continue to be, as she always has been, forthcoming and cooperative,” she said.

The original FBI investigation was prompted by the discovery of secret intelligence information in Clinton’s emails. The probe, thought to have been finished in July, seeks to find out how classified information was placed on the unsecure server and whether foreign intelligence services or other hackers were able to steal it through cyber intrusions.

The classified information included some of the most sensitive secrets kept in what are called Special Access Programs, including information on how drone strikes are conducted.

Abedin told agents she was not aware of any attempts to hack her email accounts, according to the FBI report of her interview.

“Abedin recalled that some people at DoS had issues with their Gmail accounts but she never had a Gmail account,” the report said.

While working for Clinton, Abedin held a top-secret security clearance. She had a classified computer system, along with a separate unclassified computer, at her desk in Clinton’s office.

“Abedin could access her account and her Yahoo account via the internet on the unclassified [Department of State] computer system,” the FBI report states.

Abedin told the FBI that printing difficulties on the State Department network led her to routinely forward emails to her non-State Department accounts for printing.

During questioning by the FBI, Abedin was shown several emails that revealed lines of inquiry being pursued by investigators.

For example, one email with the subject line “Fwd: U.S. interest in Pak Paper 10-04” appeared to contain a classified document that was forwarded by Abedin to her personal Yahoo account in October 2009. The document had come from an aide to Richard Holbrooke, who was special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the time.

“Abedin was unaware of the classification of the document and stated that she did not make judgments on the classification of material that she received,” the report states, adding that she relied on senders to properly mark and transmit sensitive material.

Another email chain dated August 16, 2010 shown to Abedin contained the subject line, “Re: your yahoo acct.” It appeared to warn Abedin that her Yahoo account had been hacked.

“Abedin did not recall the email and provided that despite the content of the email she was not sure that her email account had ever been compromised,” the report said.

Another email from October 2009 shown to Abedin involved communications security procedures for use during travel in Moscow. Abedin told investigators the email contained instructions to be followed by Clinton and “all the traveling team.”

“Abedin stated that they used computers that were set up and controlled by the Mobile Communications Team to access their DoS and personal email accounts when they were in Russia,” the report said.

The questioning indicates investigators were trying to determine if Russian intelligence may have compromised the emails and cell phones of Clinton and her team of aides during a visit to Russia.

Another email involved Clinton requesting that Abedin schedule a conference call with Jacob Sullivan, a senior State Department official. The message discussed whether the call should be conducted on secure lines or unclassified telephone.

The email contained classified information that was redacted from public release involving Sullivan’s meeting with Hamid bin Jassim, the former prime minister of Qatar.

Abedin said she could not recall the email exchange or the context but noted that generally she would be told by Clinton whether conference calls should be held on secure lines or not. Abedin said it would be unusual for her to read the content and decide whether the call should be secure or unclassified.

Another email shown to Abedin appeared to indicate that the private email server had been hacked.

According to the FBI report, Abedin told investigators she “lost most of her old emails” when the server was transitioned to a post-State Department server with the address

“Abdein did not know if the system administrator had archived the mailboxes before the system was taken down,” the report said.

Abedin’s claim that she lost most of her emails during the server transition will likely be checked in the FBI review of the new emails found on the Weiner laptop.

The renewed FBI investigation also may be able to resolve questions about missing boxes of emails that disappeared between the time Clinton turned them over to lawyers for review and the time they were ultimately delivered to the State Department.

An identified State Department witness told the FBI that 14 boxes of emails were supplied to Clinton’s lawyers at Williams & Connelly for review prior to being turned over to the State Department. Only 12 boxes were retrieved in December 2015.

Continue reading at the Washington Free Beacon.

Hillary & Huma Email perjury

By Evan Perez, Justice Department Correspondent

(CNN) The Justice Department and the FBI are in discussions with lawyers for Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to secure approval that would allow the FBI to conduct a full search of her newly discovered emails, sources familiar with the discussions told CNN.

Authorities have not yet sought a search warrant for the emails, law enforcement sources told CNN. Government lawyers hope to secure a search warrant to permit investigators to review thousands of emails on a computer Abedin shared with her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, officials said.

The new search warrant is needed because the existing authorization, covered by a subpoena, related only to the ongoing investigation of Weiner, who is accused of having sexually explicit communications with an underage girl.

Investigators from the FBI’s New York field office who are conducting the Weiner investigation stumbled on the Abedin emails while they were reviewing emails and other communications on the computer, which was considered to belong to Weiner, the officials said. They stopped their work and called in the team of investigators from FBI headquarters who conducted the probe of Clinton’s private email server.

Abedin’s lawyers didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The investigators saw enough of the emails to determine that they appeared pertinent to the previously completed investigation and that they may be emails not previously reviewed.

Because they don’t have a warrant specific to Abedin’s emails, officials have not been able to further examine them. Justice Department and FBI officials view Abedin as cooperative with the investigation.

Continue reading at CNN.

By Katie Bo Williams

The House Oversight Committee recommended Thursday morning on party lines that the House hold former State Department IT technician Bryan Pagliano in contempt of Congress.

Pagliano was responsible for setting up Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of State.

The former State Department employee declined to appear at an Oversight hearing on Clinton’s server last week, in spite of a subpoena demanding his presence. The committee held a follow-up hearing on the same subject on Thursday morning, which Pagliano also declined to attend.

When Pagliano didn’t show, Republicans immediately adjourned the hearing and held a business meeting to vote on the contempt of Congress resolution.

“Subpoenas are not optional,” Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Thursday. “Mr. Pagliano is a crucial fact witness in this committee’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to conduct government business.”

The resolution still needs to go to the House floor to be adopted.

Outraged Democrats argued repeatedly that the move was an abuse of power that violates rules against harassing witnesses.

“Never, no how, no way, no,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said when asked to vote on the resolution.

The committee asked Pagliano be served by U.S. marshals, according to both Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Chaffetz argued that the move was intended to prevent ambiguity, while Cummings characterized the move as harassment.

“The committee could have sent a staffer in a coat and tie, but they sent federal marshals with guns,” Cummings said. “This served no purpose but to harass and intimidate Mr. Pagliano.”

“These actions are the definition of abuse. They are harassment. And I believe they are unethical.”

Republicans say the subpoena was issued correctly and transparently, and that Pagliano has no reason not to testify.

Oversight members on Thursday morning reviewed an immunity agreement struck between Pagliano and the Department of Justice during the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s server, according to a Democratic committee aide.

“Under those circumstances, Mr. Pagliano has no fear of criminal liability preventing him from testifying before the committee,” Chaffetz said Thursday.

Democrats say that the agreement is “limited” and therefore does not protect Pagliano before the Oversight Committee. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) pointed to an outstanding criminal referral from Chaffetz that asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server.

Continue reading, The Hill.


By Erica Werner

WASHINGTON (AP) — A last-minute deal between conservatives and GOP leaders in the House has averted votes expected Thursday on a measure to impeach the commissioner of the IRS.

Instead, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will testify before Congress next week.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus celebrated the development as a win late Wednesday, as conservatives had long pushed GOP leaders for impeachment hearings against Koskinen. They accuse him of obstructing a congressional investigation into the treatment of tea party groups seeking tax exemptions.

But the agreement canceling the votes came only after conservatives themselves predicted that their impeachment resolution was going to get sidelined by Democratic and Republican opposition Thursday. So instead they settled for a hearing next Wednesday, which would result in an impeachment vote only after the November presidential election, if ever.

“This hearing will give every American the opportunity to hear John Koskinen answer under oath why he misled Congress, allowed evidence pertinent to an investigation to be destroyed, and defied Congressional subpoenas and preservation orders,” the Freedom Caucus said in a statement. “It will also remove any lingering excuses for those who have been hesitant to proceed with this course of action.”

Koskinen has disputed such claims in private meetings with House Republicans in recent days, while in public the agency insisted Wednesday that he “remains focused on the critical work needed for the nation’s tax system.”

Some Republicans, while critical of Koskinen’s conduct, questioned whether it amounted to the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” They worried about setting a bad precedent in pursuing the impeachment claim, especially just ahead of the election. The original conduct the House was investigating, related to how tea party groups were dealt with by the IRS, happened before Koskinen’s tenure.

Already this week President Barack Obama had seized on the issue to ridicule the GOP-led Congress, calling the impeachment push “crazy.”

Because House Republican leadership had balked on moving forward on impeachment proceedings, the Freedom Caucus had used a procedural maneuver that would have forced a floor vote Thursday. But Freedom Caucus members themselves were predicting earlier Wednesday that their resolution would end up getting tabled, which would effectively have killed it.

“The table motion will prevail, at least that’s my expectation,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

Continue reading, AP.

Hillary & Huma Email perjury

By Stephen Dinan

Two top House Republicans accused Hillary Clinton of appearing to have lied to Congress, laying out a case Monday they said could sustain perjury charges against the former State Department secretary for her use of a secret email server.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz said the evidence collected by the FBI during its investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email use contradicts what she herself told Congress in testimony last year.

Mrs. Clinton testified that she never sent or received information marked classified, but FBI Director James Comeysaid there were three such documents that were marked at the time.

Mrs. Clinton also said her lawyers “went through every single email” in deciding which ones to return to the government to comply with open-records laws, but Mr. Comey said that wasn’t true, and in fact the lawyers only used search terms and subject lines.

The two chairman also said the FBI showed Mrs. Clinton didn’t provide all of her work-related emails to the government, and also had more than one server that stored her messages.

Continue reading, Washington Times