RNC chair: Trump a ‘great asset’ for GOP candidates

The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee said Sunday that GOP candidates would benefit from President Donald Trump’s presence on the campaign trail ahead of hotly contested midterm elections.

“The president is a great asset for us,” Ronna Romney McDaniel said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Citing the performance of the economy, McDaniel argued that “people are feeling good about where they are” because of Trump’s policies. She also cited his high approval rating among Republicans.

“Remember, in the midterms, it’s the party that’s turning out their base,” McDaniel said. “We have to turn out our base first.”

While Republicans stand to possibly gain seats in the Senate with a bevy of Democratic incumbents facing reelection in states Trump won in 2016, the House is on far shakier ground and is seen as increasingly likely to flip to Democrats. McDaniel gave her party 50/50 odds Continue reading “RNC chair: Trump a ‘great asset’ for GOP candidates”

Sasse: ‘Every morning’ I consider leaving the GOP

Sen. Ben Sasse lambasted nasty rhetoric and partisanship between Republicans and Democrats on Sunday and said he’s considered leaving the Republican Party.

“I probably think about it every morning when I wake up, and I figure out why am I flying away from Nebraska to go to D.C. this week,” said Sasse, who tweeted Saturday that he had considered leaving the GOP. “Are we gonna get real stuff done?”

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said he considers himself “an independent conservative who caucuses with the Republicans.” Though critical of President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and beyond, he has also supported much of Trump’s agenda.

On Sunday, Sasse complained that neither major party was focused on long-term problems facing the nation such as the future of the economy and warfare, among other issues.

“There’s massive stuff happening Continue reading “Sasse: ‘Every morning’ I consider leaving the GOP”

Obama’s criticism of Trump ‘very disappointing,’ Pence says

Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday accused former President Barack Obama of breaking with presidential tradition, slamming the former commander in chief after he delivered scathing criticism of the Trump administration in a speech last week.

“It was very disappointing to see President Obama break with the tradition of former presidents and become so political and roll out the same tired arguments that he and liberals have made over the last eight years,” Pence said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

In a speech Friday at the University of Illinois, Obama went on the attack for the first time against Trump directly. The speech kicked off Obama’s campaigning on behalf of fellow Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.

But Pence said Obama’s criticism would draw a favorable contrast between Democrats and Republicans in the campaign.

“The truth is the American people in 2016 rejected the policy and direction Continue reading “Obama’s criticism of Trump ‘very disappointing,’ Pence says”

Pence: ‘I would’ speak to special counsel

Vice President Mike Pence said he would sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller if asked.

"I would. I would be more than willing to continue to provide any and all support in that," Pence said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ "Face the Nation." "And we have outside counsel that will advise me accordingly."

Mueller and his team are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and are probing ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. On Sunday, Pence told interviewer Margaret Brennan, that Mueller’s team hasn’t broached the topic of an interview.

"He has not" asked for an interview, Pence said. "Although we’ve provided any and all information and we’ll continue to do that."

Mueller has been wrangling with President Donald Trump’s legal team over an interview. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, said last week the president’s legal team and Mueller’s Continue reading “Pence: ‘I would’ speak to special counsel”

John McCain: Champion — and critic — of the military

John McCain was the military’s biggest booster — and one of its fiercest critics.

During his three-decade run in the Senate, McCain would often urge his colleagues to approve eye-popping increases in defense spending one minute, then admonish the military brass and their civilian bosses for wasting taxpayers’ dollars the next.

The Arizona Republican, who died Saturday after a battle with brain cancer, served four years in the House and 31 in the Senate, where he always had a seat on the Armed Services Committee. The former Navy aviator and ex-prisoner of war in Vietnam chaired the committee during his final three years as a senator, the pinnacle of his congressional career following two unsuccessful bids for the presidency.

The self-styled "maverick," known for his hawkish foreign policy views and blunt talk, wielded an outsize influence in national security debates — advocating a muscular military, urging more defense spending and Continue reading “John McCain: Champion — and critic — of the military”

Trump touts military buildup at Fort Drum bill signing

The United States is building up its military might “like we never have before,” President Donald Trump touted on Monday as he put the finishing touches on a massive $717 billion defense policy bill.

Flanked by troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., Trump signed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act — the first such measure in over two decades to become law before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

The final bill passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly earlier this summer after leaders of the Armed Services committees plowed through a series of contentious issues in joint talks in just a few weeks.

Calling the military “depleted” prior to a recent budget deal that boosted defense spending, Trump told troops the massive bill would “give you the finest planes and ships and tanks and missiles.”

“After years of Continue reading “Trump touts military buildup at Fort Drum bill signing”

Senate sends $717B defense bill to Trump

The Senate on Wednesday easily cleared and sent to President Donald Trump a compromise $717 billion defense policy bill aimed at building up the military and blunting Chinese foreign investment and telecommunications technology.

The final vote on the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act was 87-10. The president is expected to sign it.

Next, the Senate turns to legislation to fund the Defense Department, which will likely be packaged with an annual Labor-HHS-Education spending bill to attract bipartisan support.

The final defense policy bill is the product of brisk talks between leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, who are finishing their work in historic fashion. If the NDAA is signed soon, as expected, it would be the first time in more than two decades a defense policy bill has become law before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

The bill continues Republican defense hawks’ Continue reading “Senate sends $717B defense bill to Trump”

House passes final defense bill with limits on F-35s to Turkey, China crackdown

The House overwhelmingly passed on Thursday a compromise $717 billion defense policy legislation that would limit the transfer of new F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and crack down on Chinese telecommunications technology and foreign investment.

The vote was 359-54 to pass the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act as lawmakers aim to enact the must-pass bill at the earliest point in more than four decades. The Senate is likely to take up the measure as early as next week and send it to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

In all, 139 Democrats joined all but five Republicans to pass the bill.

The compromise legislation, rolled out Monday, is the product of historically quick negotiations between House and Senate Armed Services leaders to reconcile their competing versions of the annual policy bill. If signed into law, it would be the first defense policy bill since 1996 to Continue reading “House passes final defense bill with limits on F-35s to Turkey, China crackdown”

House passes final defense bill with limits on F-35s to Turkey, China crackdown

The House overwhelmingly passed on Thursday a compromise $717 billion defense policy legislation that would limit the transfer of new F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and crack down on Chinese telecommunications technology and foreign investment.

The vote was 359-54 to pass the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act as lawmakers aim to enact the must-pass bill at the earliest point in more than four decades. The Senate is likely to take up the measure as early as next week and send it to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

In all, 139 Democrats joined all but five Republicans to pass the bill.

The compromise legislation, rolled out Monday, is the product of historically quick negotiations between House and Senate Armed Services leaders to reconcile their competing versions of the annual policy bill. If signed into law, it would be the first defense policy bill since 1996 to Continue reading “House passes final defense bill with limits on F-35s to Turkey, China crackdown”

‘I was just doing my job,’ Coats says, defending Russian election meddling findings

ASPEN, Colo.—Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats explained on Thursday he felt obligated to “correct the record” when he issued a statement backing up U.S. intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

“I was just doing my job,” Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum.

Coats issued the statement following President Donald Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where Trump appeared to take Putin’s word that Russia wasn’t involved in election meddling.

“I just felt that at this point in time that what we had assessed and reassessed and reassessed and carefully gone over still stands and that it was important to take that stand on behalf of the Intelligence Community and on behalf of the American people,” Coats said.

Coats said he had a “good relationship” with Trump, but Coats’ comments Monday were nonetheless part of a series of Continue reading “‘I was just doing my job,’ Coats says, defending Russian election meddling findings”

DHS secretary hedges on July 26 deadline to reunite migrant families

ASPEN, Colo. — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen hedged Thursday on whether the federal government would meet the court-ordered deadline in a week to reunify migrant families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexican border.

"We will do our best, but we will not cut corners," Nielsen said at the Aspen Security Forum.

The government faces the July 26 deadline to reunify approximately 2,500 children ages 5 to 17 with their parents.

But Nielsen, who has defended family separation and instead blamed Congress for not acting to prevent it, argued efforts to reunify families are "about the protection of the child."

"A good portion of these adults showing up are not their family,” she said.

The Trump administration has faced intense criticism for its so-called zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration, which led to the separation of thousands of migrant families who crossed the border illegally.

In response, Continue reading “DHS secretary hedges on July 26 deadline to reunite migrant families”

DHS secretary agrees Russia meddled in election, but dodges whether it helped Trump

ASPEN, Colo. — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Thursday that Russia undoubtedly interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but declined to say directly that those efforts were aimed at helping elect Donald Trump.

“Russia was absolutely attempting to interfere in our election systems,” Nielsen said during an interview at the Aspen Security Forum. She endorsed the U.S. Intelligence Community assessment of Russian meddling "full stop," she said later.

But pressed by moderator Peter Alexander of NBC News, Nielsen down played that the effort was aimed to benefit Trump, calling it “an effort to attack certain political parties … more than others” and saying Russia’s primary purpose is to “sow discord” in the U.S.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party,” Nielsen said. “I think what we’ve seen on the foreign influence Continue reading “DHS secretary agrees Russia meddled in election, but dodges whether it helped Trump”

Russia ‘continues to engage in malign influence operations’ against the U.S., FBI director says

ASPEN, Colo. — Russia is still working to “sow divisiveness” in the U.S. after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded it meddled in the 2016 presidential election, FBI Director Chris Wray said Wednesday.

In an interview at the Aspen Security Forum, Wray said his opinion that Russia interfered in the election hasn’t changed and called it “the most aggressive actor” trying to exert influence on the U.S.

“He’s got his view. He’s expressed his view,” Wray said of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I can tell you what my view is: The Intelligence Community’s assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

Wray said Russia hasn’t yet targeted election infrastructure, but is “aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness.”

“We haven’t yet seen an Continue reading “Russia ‘continues to engage in malign influence operations’ against the U.S., FBI director says”

Trump ‘plays Russia’s game’ with NATO attacks, former officials say

President Donald Trump’s threats to break with NATO are doing real damage to the United States’ most crucial military alliance, former defense and diplomatic officials who worked in Democratic and Republican administrations warned Thursday — saying they may only embolden Russia.

Trump upended this week’s NATO summit in Brussels by threatening that the United States might “go our own way” if NATO allies don’t dramatically boost their military spending.

While European leaders will probably dismiss those words as mere bluster — especially as the U.S. beefs up its military presence — the former officials said Trump is fraying the common bond that undergirds the alliance President Harry Truman established at the dawn of the Cold War.

“Words still count,” said Doug Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO and worked on the National Security Council for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Continue reading “Trump ‘plays Russia’s game’ with NATO attacks, former officials say”

Senate passes defense policy bill, setting up talks with House

The Senate on Monday easily passed a $716 billion defense policy bill that aims to continue Republican-led efforts to build up the U.S. military but could set up a clash with defense hawks in the House over how best to do it.

The massive legislation would authorize more warships and fighter jets, more troops and the largest pay raise for them in nearly a decade, but in some cases it would still lag behind a House version passed in May and the Pentagon’s own designs.

The vote was 85-10 to pass the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 5515 (115). Next, the House and Senate will work out the differences in their competing versions of the bill in a joint conference committee.

The House handily passed its bill last month, and lawmakers are aiming to finalize the legislation by the end of July. But lawmakers are likely Continue reading “Senate passes defense policy bill, setting up talks with House”

Schiff: Trump’s spy theory ’a piece of propaganda’

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Sunday dismissed claims by President Donald Trump that an FBI informant was used to undermine his presidential campaign.

"There is no evidence to support that spy theory," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on ABC’s "This Week." "This is just … a piece of propaganda the president wants to put out and repeat. And certainly we’ve seen this pattern before."

Trump has decried what he calls "Spygate," after revelations that an informant made contact with his campaign as part of an FBI probe into Russian influence in the election. The president has slammed the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller, calling the ongoing investigation an attempt to undermine the validity of his election.

Schiff slammed the administration’s rhetoric and dinged congressional Republicans for being "complicit" in undermining the Justice Department. He noted the appearance of White House lawyer Emmet Flood Continue reading “Schiff: Trump’s spy theory ’a piece of propaganda’”

Flake won’t rule out White House run against Trump

Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday he hasn’t ruled out a challenge to President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential primaries.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Arizona Republican and frequent Trump critic added that, if he did run for president, it would likely only be as a Republican.

Moreover, Flake, who is retiring from the Senate this year, said he hoped Trump drew a primary challenge.

“It’s not in my plans. But I have not ruled anything out," Flake said. "I do hope that somebody runs on the Republican side other than the president, if nothing else, simply to remind Republicans what conservatism is. And what Republicans have traditionally stood for."

Flake added that Republicans in Congress need “to push back harder than we have” to rebuke Trump, citing concerns he could fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Continue reading “Flake won’t rule out White House run against Trump”

Clapper: North Korean leader ‘may have met his match’ in Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "may have met his match" in President Donald Trump’s unorthodox diplomacy, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday.

In an interview on CNN’s "State of the Union," Clapper argued a June summit between the two leaders — which Trump abruptly canceled last week but which he has since said was "moving along very nicely" — should still take place.

"This is typical … Two steps forward, one step back. That’s what they always do," Clapper said. "And in some ways Kim Jong Un may have met his match here with our very unconventional president."

"Having gone this far, there’s value in meeting and greeting, gripping and grinning and just establishing a rapport," Clapper said. "Yes, I think it would be important to have the summit."

The nation’s former top spy also advocated both nations establishing an initial diplomatic presence below the Continue reading “Clapper: North Korean leader ‘may have met his match’ in Trump”

Giuliani slams Mueller probe as ‘illegitimate’

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump‘s personal attorney, on Sunday dinged an investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election as illegitimate.

Asked in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” if he believed special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe was legitimate, Giuliani responded, “Not anymore.”

“I did when I came in, but now I see Spygate,” Giuliani told host Dana Bush, referencing a term used by Trump to described revelations that an informant made contact with his campaign as part of an FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Trump has lambasted the Mueller and Justice Department, calling the ongoing investigation as an effort to undermine the validity of his election.

Saying there’s no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, Giuliani argued of Mueller that “the basis on which he was appointed is illegitimate.”

“I know 50 years of investigatory experience tells me they don’t Continue reading “Giuliani slams Mueller probe as ‘illegitimate’”

House easily approves defense bill with new nukes, cuts to Pentagon bureaucracy

The House overwhelmingly passed a $717 billion defense policy bill on Thursday, despite concerns from some lawmakers over provisions that would endorse a new class of tactical nuclear weapons and seek cuts to a slew of Pentagon support agencies.

The vote was 351 to 66.

Advocates of the National Defense Authorization Act said the legislation would build on promises by President Donald Trump and defense hawks on Capitol Hill to build up U.S. military might.

"The best way to summarize this bill is that it takes the next steps," Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said on the House floor. "The next steps to rebuilding our military and reforming the Pentagon, the next steps towards strengthening our country’s national security."

The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, approved it version of the annual policy bill in closed session Wednesday. But Senate leaders have not yet said when they plan Continue reading “House easily approves defense bill with new nukes, cuts to Pentagon bureaucracy”