“Congressional Democrats are ratcheting up their criticism of the classified GOP memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance authority,” ahead of President Trump’s “looming deadline to decide whether to release the document to the public.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, (D-MD) said “Republicans are trying to compromise the independence of the Justice Department with their push to release the memo, which was spearheaded by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. … Cardin said, ‘To me this is sad and dangerous. … It looks like the Republicans are prepared to compromise our system in order to protect the President.’
“On Monday night, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release the memo, leaving the President five days to decide whether to withhold it instead.
“The memo charges that the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele was improperly used to secure a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. The memo is based on classified information from the Department of Justice that Democrats argue Republicans ‘cherry-picked’ in an effort to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and as a result is ‘profoundly misleading.’” (CNN)
POST PLANNED PARENTHOOD. “Several Democratic operatives, members of Congress, and powerful figures in the ‘resistance’ movement, say Cecile Richards’ next move after departing Planned Parenthood should be to run for office.
“Richards is planning to step down as president of Planned Parenthood after more than a decade in the role. … So far, Richards has been vague about her plans for the future, but immediately after the news of her departure broke, Twitter exploded with speculation and excitement over whether her exit—and the upcoming release of her memoir, titled Make Trouble, which is due out in April—was a sign of a future candidacy.
“At a women-centered State of the Union event Tuesday night, dubbed the ‘State of OUR Union,’ Richards gave her first public speech since confirming her plans to leave Planned Parenthood. Throughout the event, Richards’ future was whispered—and sometimes shouted—about by attendees and fellow speakers alike.
“‘I wondered if she was running for office, I was going to ask her tonight,’” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. ‘She would be an amazing candidate if she wanted to run.’” (BuzzFeed)
BIDEN. Former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday night that “he thinks the U.S. will ‘see a significant change’ in the next election, taking a few shots at … Trump without naming him while demurring on his 2020 plans. The Democrat’s visit to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium was part of a tour in support of his recent memoir.”
“His clearest jab at the president came when he admonished Trump for blaming ‘many sides’ for violence at an August white supremacist rally in Virginia. … ‘I have faith in the American people as they sort this through. They’re not going to have any of it,’ Biden said. ‘They’re not going to have any of it. I believe you’re going to see a significant change in this next election.’” (Bangor Daily News)
HARRIS. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) penned an “open letter to women making black history” in women’s outlet Popsugar on Thursday, writing, “I have the profound honor of serving as only the second black woman in the history of the United States Senate,” she wrote. “If you want to run for office—run. Get involved in student government, like I did as a freshman at Howard University.” (Popsugar)
KENNEDY. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) on his critics’ responses to his State of the Union address: “‘They can point out too much Chapstick all they want—it doesn’t mean that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice isn’t rolling back civil rights protections. It doesn’t mean that an economic plan put forth by this administration is largely zero sum—that it is benefiting somebody at the expense of somebody else,’ he said. ‘It does not get away from the fact that the tone and the rhetoric our president has used has continued to divide America. And it’s not going to stop the fact that I think that’s wrong.’” (Politico)
FLORIDA. “As many as 300,000 people have fled to Florida from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. And a ballot initiative this November could return the vote to the state’s estimated 1.5 million discharged felons. At first glance, either tally of these two Democratic-leaning groups would seem to dwarf Donald J. Trump’s 113,000-vote margin of victory in the state in 2016.
“But the reality for Democrats is that neither development is likely to fundamentally alter Florida’s political character heading into the 2020 election.
“The main reason? The electoral effect dwindles after accounting for the relatively low turnout rates among these groups. More generally, even big demographic shifts that seem to favor Democrats could easily be swamped by other demographic shifts that do the opposite.
“Of the two major shifts—assuming the ballot measure clears the 60 percent approval required, and that’s hardly a sure thing—the influx of Puerto Ricans is probably less likely to have a major effect. That’s even if you accept the high-end estimate of 300,000 new residents.”(New York Times)
DAGA. The Democratic Attorneys General Association “announced record-breaking fundraising in 2017: 7.6 million across all platforms—more than $2.4 million above 2016 numbers and $3 million more than 2015.” (release)
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"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."
"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."
"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections ... Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice." Mueller has faced pressure to wrap up the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said an official, who would receive the results of the investigation and have "some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released," if he remains at his post.
"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."