The Senate could take up the Ukraine aid bill this week that the House already passed, allowing lawmakers to avoid controversy and ensure action before they leave for a weeklong recess.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve a comprehensive Ukraine aid package Wednesday. The package, led by committee Chairman Robert Menendez and ranking member Bob Corker would include $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia that condemn it for corruption, and reforms to the International Monetary Fund sought by the Obama administration.
The IMF reforms would boost the organization’s capacity to assist countries in crises like what is unfolding in Ukraine. But the reforms are expected to remain a source of controversy with some Republicans, who are wary of the IMF, have concerns about the potential costs, or who want to use the reforms for leverage with the administration on unrelated priorities.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to file cloture immediately following the committee’s passage of the bill Wednesday, in order to bring the bill to the floor. But the consternation over the IMF provision is expected to bog things down and could prevent the chamber from bringing up the bill this week.
With the Senate expected to adjourn Thursday and several members scheduled to visit Ukraine over the recess, many lawmakers feel an increased sense of urgency to act, so the chamber might take up the House-passed bill, which provides $1 billion in loan guarantees before it adjourns, according to a senator involved in the negotiations.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
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