National

National: White House stopped Yates testimony about Russian meddling in presidential election, lawyer says | Los Angeles Times

A lawyer for former deputy Atty. Gen. Sally Yates wrote in letters last week that the Trump administration was trying to limit her testimony at congressional hearings focused on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The hearing was later canceled by the House intelligence committee chairman. In the letters, attorney David O’Neil said he understood the Justice Department was invoking “further constraints” on testimony Yates could provide at a committee hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday. He said the department’s position was that all actions she took as deputy attorney general were “client confidences” that could not be disclosed without written approval. “We believe that the Department’s position in this regard is overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the Department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former senior officials,” O’Neil wrote in a March 23 letter to Justice Department official Samuel Ramer. Read More

National: House Democrats Ask Devin Nunes to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry | The New York Times

Top House Democrats on Monday called on the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, thrusting the entire inquiry into jeopardy amid what they described as mounting evidence he was too close to President Trump to be impartial. The demands followed revelations that the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, had met on White House grounds with a source who showed him secret American intelligence reports. The reports, Mr. Nunes said last week, showed that Mr. Trump or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The new revelation that the information actually came from a meeting held on the grounds of the White House intensified questions about what prompted Mr. Nunes to make the claim about the intelligence gathering, and who gave him the information. Representatives Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, and Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, suggested that Mr. Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, was simply too close to the White House to run an independent, thorough inquiry. Read More

National: House spat leaves Senate in driver’s seat on Russia probe | Politico

After a week of partisan rancor that threatened to bring down the House’s probe into Russian interference during the 2016 election, the Senate is quickly realizing it may be the only chamber left that can produce findings free of the cloud of White House meddling. “You don’t have the kind of blow-ups [in the Senate] you had at the House,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico. The Senate Intelligence Committee has been able to avoid the partisan fissures that have weakened its House counterpart, and began conducting private interviews with intelligence officials last week. Sources say it also plans to interview Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, who had met in December with the Russian ambassador. Read More

National: The Legislators Working to Thwart the Will of Voters | The Atlantic

… “This isn’t how democracy works,” said Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a nonprofit that works with progressive ballot campaigns. “You don’t get to pick and choose when you like a process and when you don’t.” Sarver sees a trend of legislatures trying to restrict voters’ ability to make laws and amend state constitutions around the country. The popularity of initiatives has ebbed and flowed across the years, and the roles of defender and critic have been fluid. But there are a few factors that make the present moment especially ripe for such conflicts. First, Republicans dominate state legislatures around the country, thanks to favorable redistricting maps drawn after the 2010 Census, even in states with sizable Democratic-leaning voter bases that want more progressive policies. Second, while ballots sometimes function to deal with purely state-level concerns, policy fights are increasingly nationalized. Groups like BISC and the Fairness Project are working to coordinate state-level pushes around the country on liberal reforms like paid sick leave, minimum-wage hikes, or recreational marijuana. Their opponents are working at the national level too. In November, ProPublica and The New York Times reported on how major corporate lobbies, some convened under the auspices of the Koch brothers’ political network, have sought to push back on ballot measures. Read More

National: Trump Should Address Russia’s Election Interference, McCain Says | Bloomberg

President Donald Trump should discuss Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the U.S. election in November in an effort to fill intelligence gaps, Senator John McCain said. “I would very much like to see the president address this issue including the issue we continue to wrestle with that is the Russian interference in the last election,” McCain said Saturday at a German Marshall Fund forum in Brussels. “There are a lot of answers that are required.” FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee this week that the bureau is probing Russian efforts to “interfere” in the Nov. 8 election, as well as potential ties between Trump’s associates and Moscow during the campaign. The president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired for making misleading statements about contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak a few weeks before the inauguration. Read More

National: Schiff: Nunes needs to decide if he wants to lead a credible investigation on Russia | The Hill

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) needs to decide if he wants to conduct a credible investigation into the Russian meddling in the presidential election. “We can’t have a credible investigation if one of the members, indeed the chairman, takes all the information he has seen to the White House and doesn’t share it with his own committee,” Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” Schiff was further pressed on whether he believes the chairman of the committee is a “tool of the White House he’s investigating.” Read More

National: Chairman and partisan: The dual roles of Devin Nunes raise questions about House investigation | The Washington Post

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was on his way to an event in Washington late Tuesday when the evening’s plans abruptly changed. After taking a brief phone call, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) swapped cars and slipped away from his staff, congressional officials said. He appears to have used that unaccounted-for stretch of time to review classified intelligence files brought to his attention by sources he has said he will not name. The next morning, Nunes stepped up to a set of microphones in the Capitol complex to declare that he had learned that U.S. spy agencies had “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” Within hours President Trump was declaring that he had been vindicated for his tweets alleging that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Public attention on the revelation that the FBI was investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow had shifted to questions about whether Trump officials were victims of spying abuse. And by week’s end, a congressional probe capable of threatening Trump was consumed in partisan fighting and scheduling turmoil. Read More

National: Cancellation of Hearing on Russia Adds to Friction on House Intelligence Panel | VoA News

Key U.S. lawmakers appear locked into a war of words over halting progress in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign. The latest skirmish was sparked by the abrupt cancellation Friday of an open hearing set to feature top former intelligence officials. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, argued that it was instead necessary to hear closed-door testimony from the directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency. “The committee seeks additional information … that can only be addressed in closed session,” Nunes told reporters during a hastily arranged news conference. Word of the change ignited criticism from congressional Democrats, who pointed out FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers had already testified on Monday. Read More

National: One Rationale for Voter ID Debunked, G.O.P. Has Another | The New York Times

Of the 860,000 Nebraskans who cast ballots in last fall’s election, only two are suspected of casting fraudulent votes. But while the actual number of illegal voters may be minuscule, State Senator John Murante says, there is an even better reason for Nebraska’s Legislature to crack down on fraud at the ballot box. “First and foremost, we know the confidence that Americans and Nebraskans have in the election system is at an all-time low,” said Mr. Murante, a Republican who is backing a constitutional amendment that would require all voters to display photo IDs. “The perception exists that voter fraud is a serious issue, and that perception itself has to be addressed.” Nationwide, Republican state legislators are again sponsoring a sheaf of bills tightening requirements to register and to vote. And while they have traditionally argued that such laws are needed to police rampant voter fraud — a claim most experts call unfounded — some are now saying the perception of fraud, real or otherwise, is an equally serious problem, if not worse. Read More

National: Trump-Russia inquiry in ‘grave doubt’ after GOP chair briefs White House | The Guardian

The top Democrat on one of the congressional committees investigating ties between Donald Trump and Russia has raised “grave doubt” over the viability of the inquiry after its Republican chairman shared information with the White House and not their committee colleagues. In the latest wild development surrounding the Russia inquiry that has created an air of scandal around Trump, Democrat Adam Schiff effectively called his GOP counterpart, Devin Nunes, a proxy for the White House, questioning his conduct. “These actions raise enormous doubt about whether the committee can do its work,” Schiff said late Wednesday afternoon after speaking with Nunes, his fellow Californian, before telling MSNBC that evidence tying Trump to Russia now appeared “more than circumstantial”. Two days after testimony from the directors of the FBI and NSA that dismissed any factual basis to Trump’s 4 March claim that Barack Obama had him placed under surveillance, Nunes publicly stated he was “alarmed” to learn that the intelligence agencies may have “incidentally” collected communications from Trump and his associates. Read More