Michael Flynn's troubles mount – The Hill

Michael Flynn has his back against the wall.

The leaders of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday said the former national security adviser might have broken the law by accepting payments from Russia and Turkey, and later by misleading the government about them.

The White House later in the day sought to distance itself from Flynn, who was forced to resign in February over phone conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

Meanwhile, Flynn’s offers to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence committees in exchange for immunity remained unanswered.

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It all appears ominous for Flynn, who less than a year ago was close to President Trump and leading chants of “lock her up” against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem: Pruitt violating anti-campaigning law with GOP fundraiserMichael Flynn’s troubles mountWriter who pushed ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory says he’ll attend WH briefingMORE during the Republican National Convention. Now, he is the subject of multiple investigations.

Flynn’s troubles deepened Tuesday, when House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzMichael Flynn’s troubles mountOvernight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing Schumer: Flynn news may be ‘tip of the iceberg’MORE (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) gave a damning review of Pentagon documents they viewed that morning. 

“Personally, I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” said Chaffetz, who earlier this month announced he will retire from Congress at the end of his term. 

According to Chaffetz and Cummings, the documents showed that Flynn did not disclose a paid speaking engagement in Russia when he applied to renew his security clearance, nor did he seek permission to accept the funds. 

As a retired military officer, Flynn is prohibited under the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution from accepting payment from a foreign government without advance permission from both the secretary of State and the secretary of the Army. 

Further, according to Cummings, Flynn applied to renew his security clearance in January 2016 — using a form called an SF-86 — just months after he traveled to Moscow. 

But there is “no evidence in the documents that he reported funds he received for his trip” and “no evidence he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source,” Cummings said Tuesday, noting that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact in an SF-86 is a felony. 

While he was working for the Trump campaign, Flynn’s firm was also paid as a lobbyist for a Turkish consultancy. 

Flynn declined to disclose the payments from Russia in his original financial disclosure forms submitted to the White House in February.

He filed an amended disclosure last month reporting payments for speeches from three Russian-linked companies, including the government-backed network RT, but remains under intense scrutiny amid the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. 

Congressional investigators had previously exposed that Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at an event hosted by RT, during which he was seated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also received payments for additional speeches to Russian firms Kaspersky and Volga Dnepr. 

In a brief statement Tuesday, Flynn’s lawyer said that the former intelligence official briefed the Defense Department “extensively” before and after the 2015 trip to Russia. 

The Oversight Committee in March requested documents from the Defense Department and several other agencies about the payments to Flynn. 

The panel is also seeking a wide swath of documents from the White House related to what Flynn reported when he was vetted to become national security adviser.

 But the White House is refusing to provide that information, calling the request “extraordinary.” 

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the committee is requesting documents that are not in the possession of the White House because they involved Flynn’s activity prior to Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Other documents sought by the committee, from after Jan. 20, involve sensitive information, he said.

 “It is unclear how such documents would be relevant to the stated purpose of the committee’s review, which according to your letter is to examine Lt. Gen. Flynn’s disclosure of payments related to activities that occurred in 2015 and 2016, prior to his service in the White House,” Short wrote in a letter dated April 19 that was sent to committee leaders. 

The refusal to cooperate has left unanswered questions about the extent to which the White House was aware of Flynn’s activities.

Both Chaffetz and Cummings were careful to say that they don’t think the White House is obstructing their investigation, and press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday attempted to distance the White House from the controversy. 

“That would be a question for [Flynn] and a law enforcement agency. I don’t know what he filled out or what he did and did not do — he filled that form out prior to coming here,” Spicer said when asked whether Flynn broke any laws.

But former ethics officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations criticized the White House’s rationale for denying the committee’s request, characterizing it as flimsy. 

“The question is, who else knew about it? Did anyone in the White House know about those payments? And that’s why the White House needs to turn over those documents right away,” said Richard Painter, chief ethics officer under George W. Bush. 

“How in the world he could have gotten away with doing this and lying about it and no one caught it — or if they did, they covered it up — we need to get to the bottom of how this happened.” 

Chaffetz said Tuesday that Flynn could potentially be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in remittance to the U.S. government. 

But the authority to levy that penalty would rest with the administration — not with the committee. 

It remains unclear what direction the Oversight probe will take. Chaffetz said the  “lead” in any Russia-related investigations is the Intelligence Committee. Oversight, he said, is playing “more of a support role.” 

Although Cummings said that he would like to see Flynn appear before the committee, Chaffetz said it is highly doubtful.

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Michael Flynn's troubles mount – The Hill

Michael Flynn has his back against the wall.

The leaders of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday said the former national security adviser might have broken the law by accepting payments from Russia and Turkey, and later by misleading the government about them.

The White House later in the day sought to distance itself from Flynn, who was forced to resign in February over phone conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

Meanwhile, Flynn’s offers to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence committees in exchange for immunity remained unanswered.

ADVERTISEMENT

It all appears ominous for Flynn, who less than a year ago was close to President Trump and leading chants of “lock her up” against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem: Pruitt violating anti-campaigning law with GOP fundraiserMichael Flynn’s troubles mountWriter who pushed ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory says he’ll attend WH briefingMORE during the Republican National Convention. Now, he is the subject of multiple investigations.

Flynn’s troubles deepened Tuesday, when House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzMichael Flynn’s troubles mountOvernight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing Schumer: Flynn news may be ‘tip of the iceberg’MORE (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) gave a damning review of Pentagon documents they viewed that morning. 

“Personally, I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” said Chaffetz, who earlier this month announced he will retire from Congress at the end of his term. 

According to Chaffetz and Cummings, the documents showed that Flynn did not disclose a paid speaking engagement in Russia when he applied to renew his security clearance, nor did he seek permission to accept the funds. 

As a retired military officer, Flynn is prohibited under the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution from accepting payment from a foreign government without advance permission from both the secretary of State and the secretary of the Army. 

Further, according to Cummings, Flynn applied to renew his security clearance in January 2016 — using a form called an SF-86 — just months after he traveled to Moscow. 

But there is “no evidence in the documents that he reported funds he received for his trip” and “no evidence he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source,” Cummings said Tuesday, noting that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact in an SF-86 is a felony. 

While he was working for the Trump campaign, Flynn’s firm was also paid as a lobbyist for a Turkish consultancy. 

Flynn declined to disclose the payments from Russia in his original financial disclosure forms submitted to the White House in February.

He filed an amended disclosure last month reporting payments for speeches from three Russian-linked companies, including the government-backed network RT, but remains under intense scrutiny amid the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. 

Congressional investigators had previously exposed that Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at an event hosted by RT, during which he was seated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also received payments for additional speeches to Russian firms Kaspersky and Volga Dnepr. 

In a brief statement Tuesday, Flynn’s lawyer said that the former intelligence official briefed the Defense Department “extensively” before and after the 2015 trip to Russia. 

The Oversight Committee in March requested documents from the Defense Department and several other agencies about the payments to Flynn. 

The panel is also seeking a wide swath of documents from the White House related to what Flynn reported when he was vetted to become national security adviser.

 But the White House is refusing to provide that information, calling the request “extraordinary.” 

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the committee is requesting documents that are not in the possession of the White House because they involved Flynn’s activity prior to Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Other documents sought by the committee, from after Jan. 20, involve sensitive information, he said.

 “It is unclear how such documents would be relevant to the stated purpose of the committee’s review, which according to your letter is to examine Lt. Gen. Flynn’s disclosure of payments related to activities that occurred in 2015 and 2016, prior to his service in the White House,” Short wrote in a letter dated April 19 that was sent to committee leaders. 

The refusal to cooperate has left unanswered questions about the extent to which the White House was aware of Flynn’s activities.

Both Chaffetz and Cummings were careful to say that they don’t think the White House is obstructing their investigation, and press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday attempted to distance the White House from the controversy. 

“That would be a question for [Flynn] and a law enforcement agency. I don’t know what he filled out or what he did and did not do — he filled that form out prior to coming here,” Spicer said when asked whether Flynn broke any laws.

But former ethics officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations criticized the White House’s rationale for denying the committee’s request, characterizing it as flimsy. 

“The question is, who else knew about it? Did anyone in the White House know about those payments? And that’s why the White House needs to turn over those documents right away,” said Richard Painter, chief ethics officer under George W. Bush. 

“How in the world he could have gotten away with doing this and lying about it and no one caught it — or if they did, they covered it up — we need to get to the bottom of how this happened.” 

Chaffetz said Tuesday that Flynn could potentially be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in remittance to the U.S. government. 

But the authority to levy that penalty would rest with the administration — not with the committee. 

It remains unclear what direction the Oversight probe will take. Chaffetz said the  “lead” in any Russia-related investigations is the Intelligence Committee. Oversight, he said, is playing “more of a support role.” 

Although Cummings said that he would like to see Flynn appear before the committee, Chaffetz said it is highly doubtful.

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Michael Flynn's troubles mount – The Hill

Michael Flynn has his back against the wall.

The leaders of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday said the former national security adviser might have broken the law by accepting payments from Russia and Turkey, and later by misleading the government about them.

The White House later in the day sought to distance itself from Flynn, who was forced to resign in February over phone conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

Meanwhile, Flynn’s offers to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence committees in exchange for immunity remained unanswered.

ADVERTISEMENT

It all appears ominous for Flynn, who less than a year ago was close to President Trump and leading chants of “lock her up” against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDem: Pruitt violating anti-campaigning law with GOP fundraiserMichael Flynn’s troubles mountWriter who pushed ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory says he’ll attend WH briefingMORE during the Republican National Convention. Now, he is the subject of multiple investigations.

Flynn’s troubles deepened Tuesday, when House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzMichael Flynn’s troubles mountOvernight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing Schumer: Flynn news may be ‘tip of the iceberg’MORE (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) gave a damning review of Pentagon documents they viewed that morning. 

“Personally, I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” said Chaffetz, who earlier this month announced he will retire from Congress at the end of his term. 

According to Chaffetz and Cummings, the documents showed that Flynn did not disclose a paid speaking engagement in Russia when he applied to renew his security clearance, nor did he seek permission to accept the funds. 

As a retired military officer, Flynn is prohibited under the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution from accepting payment from a foreign government without advance permission from both the secretary of State and the secretary of the Army. 

Further, according to Cummings, Flynn applied to renew his security clearance in January 2016 — using a form called an SF-86 — just months after he traveled to Moscow. 

But there is “no evidence in the documents that he reported funds he received for his trip” and “no evidence he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source,” Cummings said Tuesday, noting that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact in an SF-86 is a felony. 

While he was working for the Trump campaign, Flynn’s firm was also paid as a lobbyist for a Turkish consultancy. 

Flynn declined to disclose the payments from Russia in his original financial disclosure forms submitted to the White House in February.

He filed an amended disclosure last month reporting payments for speeches from three Russian-linked companies, including the government-backed network RT, but remains under intense scrutiny amid the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. 

Congressional investigators had previously exposed that Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at an event hosted by RT, during which he was seated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also received payments for additional speeches to Russian firms Kaspersky and Volga Dnepr. 

In a brief statement Tuesday, Flynn’s lawyer said that the former intelligence official briefed the Defense Department “extensively” before and after the 2015 trip to Russia. 

The Oversight Committee in March requested documents from the Defense Department and several other agencies about the payments to Flynn. 

The panel is also seeking a wide swath of documents from the White House related to what Flynn reported when he was vetted to become national security adviser.

 But the White House is refusing to provide that information, calling the request “extraordinary.” 

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the committee is requesting documents that are not in the possession of the White House because they involved Flynn’s activity prior to Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Other documents sought by the committee, from after Jan. 20, involve sensitive information, he said.

 “It is unclear how such documents would be relevant to the stated purpose of the committee’s review, which according to your letter is to examine Lt. Gen. Flynn’s disclosure of payments related to activities that occurred in 2015 and 2016, prior to his service in the White House,” Short wrote in a letter dated April 19 that was sent to committee leaders. 

The refusal to cooperate has left unanswered questions about the extent to which the White House was aware of Flynn’s activities.

Both Chaffetz and Cummings were careful to say that they don’t think the White House is obstructing their investigation, and press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday attempted to distance the White House from the controversy. 

“That would be a question for [Flynn] and a law enforcement agency. I don’t know what he filled out or what he did and did not do — he filled that form out prior to coming here,” Spicer said when asked whether Flynn broke any laws.

But former ethics officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations criticized the White House’s rationale for denying the committee’s request, characterizing it as flimsy. 

“The question is, who else knew about it? Did anyone in the White House know about those payments? And that’s why the White House needs to turn over those documents right away,” said Richard Painter, chief ethics officer under George W. Bush. 

“How in the world he could have gotten away with doing this and lying about it and no one caught it — or if they did, they covered it up — we need to get to the bottom of how this happened.” 

Chaffetz said Tuesday that Flynn could potentially be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in remittance to the U.S. government. 

But the authority to levy that penalty would rest with the administration — not with the committee. 

It remains unclear what direction the Oversight probe will take. Chaffetz said the  “lead” in any Russia-related investigations is the Intelligence Committee. Oversight, he said, is playing “more of a support role.” 

Although Cummings said that he would like to see Flynn appear before the committee, Chaffetz said it is highly doubtful.

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Trump's 'sanctuary city' order blocked by federal judge in San Francisco – Washington Post

By Maria Sacchetti,

A federal judge in San Francisco dealt the Trump administration another legal blow Tuesday, temporarily halting President Trump’s threat to withhold federal funding from cities and towns that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick imposed a nationwide injunction against a Jan. 25 executive order authorizing the attorney general to withhold federal grant money from what are called sanctuary jurisdictions that do not cooperate with U.S. immigration officials.

Orrick called the order “broad” and “vague” and said the plaintiffs, the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, were likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuits challenging it.

In the 49-page ruling, Orrick pointed to discrepancies in the Trump administration’s interpretation of the executive order. In court, the government’s lawyers suggested that cities and towns were overreacting to the order because federal officials have not yet defined sanctuary cities or moved to withhold funding from them.

But on television and in news conferences, the judge pointed out, the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have threatened to sanction cities and towns that do not cooperate with immigration officials, leaving local officials nationwide fearful that they will lose funding for vital services.

“The result of this schizophrenic approach to the Order is that the Counties’ worst fears are not allayed and the Counties reasonably fear enforcement under the Order,” the judge wrote.

“The threat of the Order and the uncertainty it is causing impermissibly interferes with the Counties’ ability to operate, to provide key services, to plan for the future, and to budget.”

Trump says that sanctuary cities put Americans at risk by refusing to hold immigrants who have been arrested or convicted of serious crimes so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take them into custody and deport them.

Sanctuary cities’ officials counter that they do not have the legal authority to hold a person after a judge in a criminal case has ordered that person released.

Holding people on immigration offenses is generally a civil process, rather than a criminal one.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups said the judge’s ruling offered a clear warning that Trump’s order — the third to be blocked, at least partially, in federal court — is illegal.

“Once again, the courts have spoken to defend tolerance, diversity and inclusion from the illegal threats of the Trump administration,” said ACLU National Political Director Faiz Shakir in a statement. “Once again, Trump has overreached and lost.”

Orrick signaled that the government would be within its rights to pull back federal grant money that came with immigration-related strings attached. His ruling largely blocked the administration from doing things its lawyers had said in court it would not do, such as strip health-care funding from cities and towns.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it would essentially continue business as usual, as the court had blessed its ability to withhold grant money that came with immigration-related conditions.

“The Department of Justice previously stated to the Court, and reiterates now, that it will follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions,” the department said. “Accordingly, the Department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions . . . Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions.”

In court, the Justice Department had essentially argued that Trump’s order was a restating of existing law.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee (D) applauded Orrick’s ruling, saying his jurisdiction “is and will remain a Sanctuary City. We know that Sanctuary Cities are safer, healthier, more productive places to live.”

“If the federal government believes there is a need to detain a serious criminal, they can obtain a criminal warrant, which we will honor, as we always have,” Lee said in a statement.

Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Read more:

California just won its first major battle in its war with the Trump administration

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Republicans offer spending plan without border wall as Trump continues to vow that it will be built – Washington Post

By Kelsey Snell and ,

A new Republican bid to keep the government open past Friday includes no fresh money for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, diminishing the chances of a last-minute spending fight.

The decision to withdraw a roughly $1.5 billion request to begin building a physical barrier between the two countries may eliminate the White House’s best chance to secure the funding and begin construction this year. Nonetheless, President Trump and his aides vowed Tuesday that a wall will be built by the end of his current term.

GOP leaders submitted the new offer Tuesday in an effort to appease Democrats, whose votes are needed to avert a shutdown of federal agencies.

“The wall was never going to be in there. There aren’t enough Republican votes,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and a lead negotiator.

In exchange for backing off the border funding request, Republicans insisted on increases in border security and defense spending, including an unspecified amount to repair fencing and new surveillance technology to patrol the nearly 2,000-mile border, according to multiple House and Senate aides familiar with the ongoing talks. Democrats have indicated that they would support such a plan as long as no money goes toward an actual wall.

Some in the White House have calculated that the Trump administration will have a better chance of funding the wall later this year. Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters Tuesday that the administration knows that the budget plan for fiscal 2018, which begins in October, “is probably going to be a better place for us to better make the case for specific bricks and mortar for the wall. I think that we will have funding for physical barriers.”

The two sides remain at odds over whether the spending bill would include money for subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act, how long to extend a health-care program for coal miners and unrelated policy measures known as riders.

Tuesday’s offer came as Republicans also pushed negotiations on tax reform and health care, eager to demonstrate forward motion on Trump’s other top domestic priorities. Republican congressional leaders and the chairmen of tax-writing committees huddled with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn to review details of Trump’s tax plan. And conservatives in the House were mulling support for a new proposal to revamp the nation’s health-care system.

A breakthrough came Monday, when Trump seemed to soften his demand for immediate funding for a border wall, telling a small group of conservative reporters he would be open to delaying a confrontation with Democrats over the border until September.

But by Tuesday, a defiant Trump insisted that no matter what happens with the spending fight, “the wall’s going to get built.”

Meeting with farmers at the White House, he defended his administration’s work on border security so far, noting that illegal border crossings have dropped more than 70 percent in the past year.

Asked by reporters when the wall would be built, Trump said, “Soon.”

When one reporter asked whether the wall would be built in his first term, Trump said, “Yeah, we have plenty of time. We’ve got a lot of time.”

[‘No, no, no, no’: Spicer won’t say funding for border wall is ‘delayed’]

Even if funding for a border wall is revisited in the coming months, Trump’s signature campaign pledge will run into fierce resistance in Congress. Border-state Republicans, fiscal conservatives in his own party and Democrats consider the project a non-starter.

“A lot of us have been pushing for additional border security funding for a while, but a solitary, 2,000-mile wall has never been a must-have for anybody in a border state,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), whose state has more than 300 miles of border with Mexico.

Speaking for many Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has repeatedly called a border wall “immoral.”

Despite the president’s fluctuations, congressional leaders remained encouraged that at least for now, the White House won’t be pushing for border wall money.

“The fact that the wall is now off the table — Americans should breathe a huge sigh of relief,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate leadership, acknowledged that when it comes to the spending talks, the wall “is becoming more of a nonissue.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a top appropriator, agreed, saying that Trump’s comments were “helpful” to resolving weeks of talks over spending.

“This is that moment where the president has to determine that you need some Democrat votes in the Senate to get the bill done. And the Democrats have to determine that there are a lot of things in that bill that they want, as well,” Blunt said. “They need a bill that the president will sign, and nobody can get too far out of the zone and hope to get both of those things done.”

[Trump is caving on border wall funding after showing his base that he tried]

Less clear was whether Trump would feel blowback from his base. The White House’s decision to back off its request earned a rebuke from prominent conservatives, including radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who told his millions of listeners Tuesday that Trump is “caving on his demand.”

Faulting Democrats for threatening a shutdown, Limbaugh added that if Trump is “willing to withdraw a demand” for border wall money, “then the Democrats will have just learned that this threat works on Trump, too, not just all the other Republicans.”

House and Senate negotiators worked throughout a two-week Easter break on details of the spending plan, but the talks broke down last week after White House officials began demanding greater concessions from Democrats, including explicit funding for the wall.

[President Trump just had his bluff called — again]

The issue of health subsidy payments, which affect approximately 7 million Americans, has become the primary sticking point in the talks, the aides said. Democratic leaders demanded that the subsidies, which already are prescribed in the Affordable Care Act but which Trump has said he might not continue, be fully funded in the short-term spending bill to give Congress the power to make the payments.

But some Democrats have signaled a willingness to back down from that demand if the administration commits to continuing the payments on its own. Democrats also may be calculating that if Trump decides to stop the payments, the near-certain political damage would fall to him.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the second-
ranking member of his caucus, said Tuesday that the subsidies should be handled by the White House, not Congress.

“The president has the authority to go ahead and do it. He ought to do it,” Hoyer told reporters.

The payments are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by House Republicans, arguing that Congress should have to sign off on the subsidies. A federal district court ruled last year that the payments were illegal but allowed the program to continue during the appeals process.

It is unlikely that both the House and Senate will have enough time to pass an agreement before Friday, increasing chances that Congress will temporarily extend current spending levels. Negotiators would not confirm plans for a stopgap spending measure, but members of the appropriations committees are prepared to approve emergency spending to keep the government open for several days, according to several congressional aides.

Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, David Weigel, Sean Sullivan, Tory Newmyer, Paige Winfield Cunningham and Karen Tumulty contributed to this report.

Read more at PowerPost

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California is in a war with Trump on 'sanctuary cities.' It just won its first major battle. – Washington Post


Supporters of SB54, which would create a statewide sanctuary for immigrants in the country illegally, prepare to testify in Sacramento on March 13. (Don Thompson/Associated Press)

California has launched a war on President Trump’s attempt to clamp down on “sanctuary cities.” And it just got a major weapon to fight with: On Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco agreed with two California municipalities that Trump’s attempt to cut them off from federal funding for not complying with deportation requests is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick agreed with the counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara, both of which sued the Trump administration for trying to prevent them from getting more than $1 billion in federal grants, that those grants can’t legally be withheld.

The court action is likely to continue. But this is an unqualified early victory for California — and sanctuary cities across the nation that have said they’ll refuse to comply with some of the Trump administration’s deportation requests. This includes some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The president doesn’t have much leverage to force these cities and states to hand over its illegal immigrants. Attempting to withhold money and hoping the cities caved was pretty much it. And a federal court just ruled that method unconstitutional.

President Trump has threatened to go after sanctuary cities, which provide protections for illegal immigrants. This how state and local governments with sanctuary policies are responding to possible action. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Constitutional scholars like Ilya Somin at George Mason University have long argued that the Trump administration would lose a legal battle like this. You can’t cut off funding for sanctuary cities willy-nilly, he says, because the Supreme Court has ruled you can’t slap conditions on federal grants without explicitly telling states about the conditions.

In his ruling, Orrick of the Northern California District Court court agreed: “The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”

It would take an act of Congress to go back and insert a clause declaring these unrelated law enforcement, health-care and poverty grants deliverable only if jurisdictions hand over their illegal immigrants for deportation when the government asks for them. (Congress getting involved in all this is impossible to imagine, but it’s much, much, much slower than Trump just issuing an executive order to strip these cities of funding.)

The court ruling couldn’t come at a better time for California, which is in the middle of flipping a giant middle finger to Trump.

California state lawmakers are steaming through a bill that would make the state the first sanctuary state for illegal immigrants. It’s quite possibly the highest-profile act of defiance to Trump’s nascent presidency, and Trump may not be able to stop them.

The legislation would prevent local and state law enforcement agencies from helping the federal government deport undocumented immigrants. The state Senate passed it earlier this month, and the state Assembly is expected to pass it next month, though Gov. Jerry Brown (D) hasn’t said whether he’ll sign it.

And the California legislature has a private law firm headed by former U.S. attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. on hold should the legal battle stretch to the state.

“In its repeated attacks on States, the Administration appears to forget that our system is one of ‘dual sovereignty between the States and the Federal Government,’ ” read a letter from the Covington & Burling law firm sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on April 6. “Under that framework, the California Legislature, like all State legislatures, is not subject to federal direction or commandeering.”

The legal fight is probably far from over, because the Trump administration could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. This could even go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which tilts slightly in Trump’s ideological favor.

(It’s worth noting that the Trump administration is also fighting a legal battle on another high-profile executive order limiting travel from six predominately Muslim countries.)

We are in the early throes of a war between Trump and liberal cities and states. And California can declare a victory in the first big battle.

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Judge blocks part of Trump's sanctuary cities executive order – CNN

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Ivanka Trump arrives in Berlin to work on special relationship – CNN

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House oversight committee: Flynn might have broken the law – CNN

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Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign payments, House Oversight leaders say – Washington Post

By Karoun Demirjian,

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.

[Michael Flynn did not initially reveal income from Russia-related entities on his personal financial disclosure]

Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said they believe Flynn neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey when he applied to reinstate his security clearance. They reached this conclusion after viewing two classified memos and a financial disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.

“Personally I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz told reporters following the briefing.

“He was supposed to get permission, he was supposed to report it, and he didn’t,” Cummings said. “This is a major problem.”

Both Chaffetz and Cummings stressed that as a former military officer, Flynn would have needed special permission for his appearance at a gala sponsored by RT, the Russian-government funded television station, for which he was paid $45,000. For his work lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government, he was paid more than $500,000.

“It does not appear that was ever sought nor did he get that permission,” Chaffetz said.

The Utah Republican later added that while Flynn was clearly not in compliance with the law, “it would be a little strong to say that he flat-out lied.”

Flynn’s omission could cost him: violations of this nature can be punished by up to five years of jail time, though Trump’s Justice Department ultimately would make the decision about whether to investigate or charge him.

Chaffetz stressed that the government ought to “recover the money” that was paid to Flynn by foreign entities — a figure that would at least be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

While it will not be up to the committee to impose punishment, committee leaders pledged to pursue the matter, indicating a preference for making the documents the lawmakers reviewed public.

The future of any action may rely on a new Oversight chairman as Chaffetz announced last week that he would resign from Congress in 2018, and perhaps leave much sooner — setting off a scramble to replace him at the end of the House’s chief investigative panel.

[Oversight Committee jockeying heats up in wake of Chaffetz announcement]

The documents that committee members reviewed Tuesday came from the Defense Intelligence Agency and showed that Flynn had not declared any income from Russian or Turkish sources — despite the fact that the forms were filed about a month after Flynn’s reported trip to Moscow to speak at the RT gala, Cummings said.

Flynn, a Trump campaign adviser and the first national security adviser of the Trump administration, was ousted in February after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Pence about his talks at the end of 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Both the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence committees are investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, supposedly to help Trump. They are also exploring possible links between Trump aides and Russian officials.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are scheduled to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on May 8. The House Intelligence Committee has also invited Yates and Clapper to testify in a public hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

The House probe in particular has been beset with controversy after its Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) publicly signaled that he had seen informsay

The Oversight Committee asked the White House in March for documents pertaining to Flynn’s security-clearance applications, the vetting that occurred before he was named national security adviser, and all of his contacts with foreign agents, including any payments received. In particular, the committee heads requested to see a disclosure form known as the SF-86, on which Flynn was obligated to declare any foreign income.

On April 19, the White House sent the committee a reply, stating that any documents related to Flynn from before Jan. 20 — the day President Trump took office — were not in its possession, and that any documents from after that date did not seem relevant to the committee’s investigation.

“The White House has refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request,” Cummings said.

He noted that lawmakers would be interested in seeing documents that could shed light on what Flynn told the White House and his foreign contacts before he was named national security adviser, and what led to his termination less than a month later.

During the transition period, Flynn told the incoming White House that he might need to register as a foreign agent. Cummings would not go so far as to accuse the White House of intentionally obstructing the committee’s investigation of Flynn.

The committee is not likely to pull Flynn before the committee for testimony — despite Cummings’s insistence that it “should be holding a hearing with General Flynn.”

Chaffetz said he would “highly doubt” that the committee would call Flynn to testify, deferring any such testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to command such an audience.

Read more at PowerPost

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