Sen. Al Franken (D) and businessman Mike McFadden (R) debated for the first time Wednesday in a largely cordial back-and-forth. McFadden used the “97%” statistic (for Franken’s voting percentage with his party) so many times that Franken joked, “I’m sorry, what was that number? Let me write it down or I’ll forget it.”
“Al Franken,” McFadden countered, “is the Ted Cruz of the Democratic party.” (MSNBC)
McFadden said he believed “the biggest single issue in this country is we’ve created a professional class of politician and it’s killing us,” citing a study that showed Franken voting 159 out of 161 times with his party. Franken responded by “ticking off the names of” Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), “with whom he’s co-sponsored bills.”
“McFadden accused Franken of holding up energy projects like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, overburdening rail lines tasked with hauling oil instead of other goods. Franken acknowledged that he voted ‘to not circumvent the regulatory process,’ but said he also voted for a proposal that would ensure that the Keystone pipeline, if it’s built, would be done with American steel, seizing on a comment by McFadden over the summer that he would opt for Chinese steel if that saved taxpayer money.”
“Both men agreed on combating the increasingly powerful Syrian group known as Islamic State through targeted airstrikes and arming and training of moderate Syrian rebels. Though McFadden lauded Franken’s decision to vote with Obama on airstrikes, he chastised him for a lack of foreign policy strategy, and faulted him for not doing enough about terrorist recruitment at home in Minnesota.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
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The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump has ties to the Italian and Russian Mafia. "We also had sort of more broadly learned that Mr. Trump had long time associations with Italian organized crime figures," he told the Committee, "And we pieced together...[that he] gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.