<![CDATA[NECN - Politics]]>Copyright 2018 https://www.necn.com/news/politics http://media.necn.com/designimages/clear.gif NECN https://www.necn.com en-usWed, 26 Sep 2018 05:42:34 -0400Wed, 26 Sep 2018 05:42:34 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lawyer for 2nd Kavanaugh Accuser: Republicans Refuse to Talk]]> Wed, 26 Sep 2018 00:03:04 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/1027782112-Brett-Kavanaugh-Hearing.jpg

An attorney representing a second woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says Republicans on the decisive Senate Judiciary Committee have thwarted her efforts to testify ahead of its vote on the jurist's appointment, now scheduled for Friday, NBC News reported.  

The committee's Republican majority "refused" to have a phone conversation about the possible testimony of Deborah Ramirez, and it has demanded she show all her cards before even negotiating an appearance, lawyer John Clune said Tuesday on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

"Here’s the problem, Rachel: They won’t talk to us," Clune said. "The demand that they keep making to us is, ‘Give us every piece of information that you have now and then we can talk about scheduling a phone call.' And that’s just not the kind of partisan game playing that our client deserves."

Ramirez emerged as a second Kavanaugh accuser Sunday after The New Yorker published a story in which she claimed Kavanaugh caused sexual contact without consent during a gathering when both attended Yale University in the 1983-84 school year.

Kavanaugh's first accuser, Christine Blasy Ford, told The New Yorker in a story published Sept. 14 that the federal judge got on top of her and put his hand over her mouth when both were in high school. The two are set to testify before the Judiciary Committee Thursday. 

Kavanaugh has denied both accusations. 

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Democrats Have Narrow Lead in Top Florida Contests: Poll]]> Tue, 25 Sep 2018 20:33:27 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/florida-midterms.jpg

Democrats are ahead in the competitive Senate and gubernatorial races in Florida, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll of this key battleground state, although their leads are within the margin of error.

In Florida's Senate contest – which could help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate after November – incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., gets support from 48 percent of likely voters, while Republican Rick Scott, the state's current governor, gets 45 percent. Six percent say they're undecided.

Among the larger pool of registered voters, Nelson leads by five points, 48 percent to 43 percent, which is essentially unchanged from the Democrat’s four-point edge in June's NBC/Marist poll.

And in the Sunshine State's gubernatorial race – arguably the nation’s top contest for governor – Democrat Andrew Gillum is ahead of Republican Ron DeSantis by 5 points, 48 percent to 43 percent.

Among registered voters, Gillum’s advantage expands to 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent.

“The political environment in Florida, overall, is tipping in the Democrats favor,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted this survey for NBC News.

In the Senate contest among likely voters, Nelson leads with African Americans (78 percent to 15 percent), young voters ages 18-29 (65 percent to 30 percent), Latinos (57 percent to 37 percent), independents (53 percent to 37 percent) and women (53 percent to 40 percent).

Scott, meanwhile, is ahead with whites (52 percent to 40 percent), men (50 percent to 42 percent) and likely voters 45 and older (48 percent to 45 percent).

In the gubernatorial race, Gillum is up with African Americans (86 percent to 9 percent), those ages 18-29 (61 percent to 30 percent), women (54 percent to 37 percent), Latinos (52 percent to 38 percent) and independents (51 percent to 38 percent).

And DeSantis holds the advantage with whites (51 percent to 41 percent), men (50 percent to 42 percent) and those 45 and older (47 percent to 45 percent).

Nelson and Gillum also enjoy higher favorable ratings than their GOP opponents do.

Forty-four percent of likely voters hold a favorable view of Nelson, versus 36 percent who have a negative view (+8). That’s compared with Scott’s 46 percent-to-45 percent rating (+1).

And for Gillum, 46 percent of likely voters give him a thumbs-up, versus 27 percent who give him a thumbs-down (+19). By contrast, DeSantis’ fav/unfav rating is 42 percent-to-37 percent (+5).

Trump’s approval rating in Florida is in the mid-40s
The NBC/Marist poll also finds 46 percent of likely voters in Florida approving of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while 48 percent disapprove.

Among registered voters, it’s 44 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove – essentially unchanged from June, when it was 45 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove.

In addition, the poll shows Democrats leading Republicans by 3 points in congressional preference: 48 percent of likely voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 45 percent want Republicans in charge.

Among registered voters, the Democrats’ edge grows to 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent – up from their 3-point advantage in June.

And by 52 percent-to-40 percent margin, likely voters in Florida say their vote in November will be a message for more Democrats to check and balance Trump, rather than more Republicans who will help Trump pass his agenda.

The top issues in the state: health care and the economy
Finally, the top issues in Florida are health care and the economy, according to the poll.

Twenty-four percent of likely voters list health care as the No. 1 issue that might decide their vote for Congress in November – followed by the economy and jobs at 23 percent, immigration at 17 percent and guns at 10 percent.

Among Democrats, the top issues are health care (35 percent of Democrats say this) and guns (17 percent), while the top issues among likely Republican voters are the economy (29 percent) and immigration (22 percent).

The NBC/Marist poll of Florida was conducted September 16-20 of 829 registered voters, which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.0 percentage points. And the margin of error for the 600 likely voters is plus-minus 4.7 percentage points.

Photo Credit: AP/Getty]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Hires Attorney to Question Kavanaugh's Accuser]]> Wed, 26 Sep 2018 01:05:28 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/grassAP_18256587733931.jpg

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans said Tuesday that they had hired an outside attorney to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her, at the committee's hearing on Thursday.

For several hours after the announcement, they would not reveal the lawyer's identity — only her gender — drawing criticism from Democrats and women's advocates. Late Tuesday night, they revealed that Rachel Mitchell, an experienced sex crimes prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona, would be serving as nomination investigative counsel, NBC News reported

"The goal is to de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns," Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. "I’m very appreciative that Rachel Mitchell has stepped forward to serve in this important and serious role."

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office released a statement lauding Mitchell's tenure as chief of the Special Victims Division, saying she is "professional, fair, objective, and has a caring heart for victims."

Meanwhile, Democrats slammed the decision. "This is not a criminal prosecution. It’s a Senate hearing," said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. "I’m amazed they would not ask questions themselves."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Trump to UN: ‘The United States Will Not Tell You How to Live’]]> Tue, 25 Sep 2018 12:20:26 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/SAMPLE+TIMELINE.00_00_50_00.Still003.jpg

President Donald Trump on Tuesday emphasized nations’ sovereignty over global governance in his second address to the United Nations.

<![CDATA[Ted Cruz Confronted by Kavanaugh Protesters in DC Restaurant]]> Tue, 25 Sep 2018 11:25:54 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/texas-senate-debate-092118-cruz-beto-+%2817%29.jpg

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was forced out of a Washington, D.C., restaurant Monday night by a group protesting embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Cruz and his wife, Heidi, were eating at Fiola, an upscale Italian restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, when a group of protesters approached them. 

In a video posted on Twitter by Smash Racism DC, the group can be heard chanting, "We believe survivors," as Cruz and his wife sit down at a table.

One protester told Cruz that she is a survivor of sexual assault and asked him how he will vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

"God bless you, ma'am," Cruz replied. 

The group continued to chant until Cruz and his wife got up and left the restaurant. 

"Ted Cruz and Brett Kavanaugh are best friends," one protester yelled, as the couple exited. 

Beto O'Rourke, who is challenging Cruz for his Senate seat, called for Cruz to be treated with respect. 

"Not right that Senator Cruz and his wife Heidi were surrounded and forced to leave a restaurant last night because of protesters. The Cruz family should be treated with respect," O'Rourke tweeted Tuesday morning.

Two women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. 

Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers. But Kavanaugh denies he was "at any such party." In an interview with Fox News, he said he's "never sexually assaulted anyone."

The second woman, Deborah Ramirez, accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a Yale University dormitory party, putting his penis in her face and causing her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Kavanaugh also has denied that allegation. 

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are determined to get Kavanaugh on the court, calling the allegations against him false and politically motivated. Kavanaugh has been defiant as well.

Ford and Kavanaugh are set to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

"I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process," Kavanaugh said.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA['My Heart Aches': Florida Candidate for U.S. House Dies]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 18:37:17 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/24174503_1495357243916089_5169500230256501492_n.jpg

April Freeman, a U.S. House of Representatives candidate for Florida's 17th district, died unexpectedly at the age of 54 on Sunday, according to her family.

Freeman's husband, David, shared the news on her personal Facebook page on Monday.

"Its with great sadness that I feel I must inform all of you that my beloved wife April passed away suddenly last night. To all of her family and friends here on Facebook, my heart aches with you," the Facebook post reads.

Freeman, the Democratic candidate who won the nomination on Aug. 28, was running against GOP candidate Greg Steube for outgoing Republican Tom Rooney's district seat.

Florida's 17th congressional district is located in south-central Florida and covers parts of eastern Tampa Bay, the oceanside city of Venice and western portions of Lake Okeechobee.

"Wow... I just found out that my friend and Democratic candidate for Congress April Freeman has passed away. My heart goes out to her family," Roy David Walker, candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, wrote on Facebook.

A Florida statute determines that in the event of a death, resignation, withdrawal or removal of a nominated candidate for a statewide office, the party chair of the state must call a meeting of the executive board to designate a nominee to fill the vacancy.

Photo Credit: April Freeman for Congress via Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Women's Groups Speak Out Against Brett Kavanaugh]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 19:40:30 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/kavAP_18264603903897.jpg

President Donald Trump continues to back Brett Kavanaugh while the Supreme Court nominee faces sexual misconduct allegations, prompting more women's organizations to speak out.

On Sunday, a second woman came forward accusing Kavanaugh of allegedly exposing himself at a drunken dormitory party at Yale University, according to a report from The New Yorker.

The accusation came hours after negotiators had reached an agreement to hold a public hearing Thursday for Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses him of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denies the accusation.

Wellesley College professor Linda Williams, who has been studying sexual violence for almost 40 years, says victims don't always come forward right away.

She says only one in 10 victims go to the police so it's frustrating for women's groups who feel that people should have learned this already.

"And we really haven’t. That we still see some of the old ideas and misconceptions," Williams said.

A co-director of Wellesley’s Justice and Gender-Based Violence research initiative, Williams said she is starting to see fellow researchers not known for voicing their views - do so.

"(They're) now coming forward and saying that we have all this evidence, we’re not surprised to see this story evolving and people have to pay attention to this," Williams said.

Boston University professor Tom Whalen says many Republicans are privately hoping Kavanaugh voluntarily steps down - but keep it to themselves for fear of alienating Trump or his base.

"The political optics are disastrous for the Republican Party here. This is the family values party," Whalen said. "I think most normal presidencies would say, sorry - move onto the next candidate. They’re not doing that, they’re doubling down right now and I think politically it’s foolish."

Kavanaugh and his wife sat down together for an interview expected to air on Fox News Monday night in an effort to defend his candidacy.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sexual Assault Survivors Protest Collins Over Kavanaugh]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 17:06:18 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Assault_Survivors_Protest_Outside_Collins__Office.jpg

Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins is still undecided on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court as a new allegation of sexual misconduct emerged.

A new accuser stepped forward Monday morning — days before the first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, is set to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Collins, a potential swing vote, has been the subject of dozens of protests throughout Kavanaugh's nomination process. On Monday, sexual assault survivors staged a protest outside of her Portland office.

"If my rapist were up for a job on the Supreme Court, I too would come out and speak against him," said organizer Dini Merz.

The protesters wore black in solidarity with Blasey Ford and carried signs saying they believed her. Dozens went inside Collins' office building to deliver letters from other survivors, urging her to vote no on Kavanaugh's nomination.

Some people watching the downtown rally said they felt it represented a rush to judgement against Kavanaugh, and they want to see the allegations properly investigated.

"They're making him guilty, and they haven't proved he is guilty," said Donna Cunningham.

But some of the survivors, and their supporters, said multiple credible allegations of assault should be disqualifying for someone on the nation's highest court.

"It would feel so demoralizing to know that our senator wouldn't take this kinds of claims seriously," said April Humphrey.

Sen. Collins did not comment on the new allegations against Kavanaugh Monday.

Hundreds of anti-Kavanaugh protesters gathered in the hallway outside Sen. Collins' Washington office Monday morning. Some members from the group Mainers For Accountable Leadership travelled to the capital to join the protests.

<![CDATA[Solicitor General Who Could Take Over Russia Probe Has Questioned Role of Special Counsels]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 14:51:54 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/AP_17130590128623.jpg

With Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s job security in question, the spotlight is on the person next in line to oversee the Russia probe should Rosenstein be ousted: the solicitor general.

Noel Francisco, who represents the Trump administration and the United States before the Supreme Court, could take over supervision of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election -- a probe that President Donald Trump calls a witch hunt. Francisco has questioned the role of special counsels and has said that executive privilege shields presidents from most investigations, NRP and Mother Jones have reported.

He told a House panel in 2007 that “my own personal belief is that when you hand these issues off to career prosecutors in the public integrity sections in the U.S. attorneys' offices in the Department of Justice, those attorneys are generally better able to assess whether a case should be pursued.”

Politico noted too that he has accused fired FBI Director James Comey of political bias and the FBI of overreach. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he co-authored, Francisco suggested that Comey had used “kid gloves” in his investigation into possible criminal violations by Hillary Clinton, Politico reported. While a lawyer at the law firm Jones Day, he accused the FBI of overreach in its investigation of former Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, arguing successfully that the Supreme Court should throw out the conviction because McDonnell had not acted on behalf of the businessman who gave him expensive gifts. 

His past positions raise the question of whether he would view Robert Mueller's Russia probe as another example of partisan overreach, Politico wrote.

Monday morning was filled with speculation that Rosenstein would be fired or would quit, but in the end, he remained in the job. Now Rosenstein is to meet with Trump on Thursday to discuss his future in the Justice Department.

Rosenstein is overseeing the Russia probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself in light of his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States.

Under Justice Department rules, the department's third-ranking official, the associate attorney general, should be Rosenstein’s successor, but the last associate attorney general, Rachel Brand, left early in the year and has not been replaced.

Francisco, a member of the Federalist Society, was a clerk for the U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia and a law partner at Jones Day with White House counsel Don McGahn, NPR has reported. The solicitor general position, to which he was confirmed by a divided Senate, 50 to 47, is his “dream job,” NPR wrote.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has cast doubt on Francisco’s ability to oversee the Russia probe.

Christie told ABC News in April: "I can tell you, Noel Francisco, very talented lawyer, but to be Solicitor General, you have a specific skill set and running a Russia collusion investigation is probably not one of them.”

Francisco was part of the team who helped former President George W. Bush in the recount in Florida during the 2000 election and went on to work in the Bush White House.

He argued Trump’s travel bans before the Supreme Court, telling the court that the last iteration was not a so-called Muslim ban because it excluded most of the Muslim world. The court ultimately upheld the ban by a 5-4 vote.

Photo Credit: Cliff Owen/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Senate GOP's No-Win Situation Imperils Kavanaugh: Analysis]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 14:00:28 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/kavanaughAP_18247751396644.jpg

Brett Kavanaugh's prospects of winning confirmation to the Supreme Court are dimming as Republicans grapple with the increasingly complicated politics of supporting him, NBC News reported.

Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano said on Fox Business Monday that the nomination is "a case of lasting impressions" that doesn't rest on whether Kavanaugh can disprove the claims against him, which he denies.

Republican organizer Matt Schlapp told NBC News there will be a "meltdown" in the party if Kavanaugh isn't confirmed, and that could doom its prospects in November's midterm elections.

Many Republican senators are cautious or quiet altogether as the nomination twists in the wind.

Photo Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Rosenstein, Future in Doubt, to Meet With Trump Thursday]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 15:06:26 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/1039389112-Rosenstein-John-Kelly-White-House.jpg

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will meet on Thursday with President Donald Trump, the White House said Monday, amid conflicting reports about Rosenstein's fate in the administration.

Trump has been weighing whether to fire him, and a report that Rosenstein, who has been overseeing the special counsel's Russia investigation, was resigning set off hours of speculation in media reports. But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' statement on the Thursday meeting appeared to demonstrate that Rosenstein would remain secure in his role for at least a few days.

Sanders indicated that Rosenstein, who was at the White House for hours Monday, talked to Trump Monday. The president is in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly.

"At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories," Sanders said. "Because the President is at the United Nations General Assembly and has a full schedule with leaders from around the world, they will meet on Thursday when the President returns to Washington, D.C."

NBC News worked to confirm multiple reports that Rosenstein was being fired or resigning. Sources close to Rosenstein and the president offered contradictory claims about the deputy attorney general's position in the administration.

After being at the White House for several hours, Rosenstein joined a previously scheduled meeting with high-level White House officials, a Justice Department official told NBC News. As Rosenstein departed the White House, chief of staff John Kelly was seen shaking his hand.

Later, Trump addressed the Thursday meeting, saying: “We’ll be determining what’s going on. We want to have transparency, we want to have openness.”

It remains unclear if Rosenstein ever intended to resign, or if the White House contemplated firing him. He discussed his future in the administration with the top White House lawyer over the weekend, sources said. Several people familiar with the discussion told NBC News that Rosenstein contemplated resigning but others were determined to stay in the job unless Trump fired him directly.

The reports of Rosenstein's departure brought uproar from some Democrats in Washington.

"This looks to me like a slow-moving Saturday night massacre," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on MSNBC, referring to the Saturday in 1973 when President Richard Nixon's deputy attorney general quit rather than fire the Watergate special prosecutor.

Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Rosenstein "should under no circumstances resign."

In a radio interview that aired Monday morning, Trump was asked about Rosenstein's future in light of a recent report that Rosenstein had talked about a way to remove Trump from office. Trump said that he didn't want to comment on it until he got more facts.

"But certainly it's being looked at in terms of what took place, if anything took place," Trump told Geraldo Rivera in an interview taped over the weekend.

But multiple sources told NBC News that Trump decided over the weekend not to fire Rosenstein after consulting with staff and outside allies, including Fox News host Sean Hannity and influential Republican Rep. Mark Meadows.

Meadows wants Rosenstein to testify under oath about whether or not he ever thought about wearing a wire durign meetings with Trump or invoking the 25th Amendment, which provides a process for replacing the president if he or she is unable to fulfill their duties, as The New York Times reported last week. A Justice Department official and a source in the room countered the Times report to NBC News, saying that Rosenstein's discussion about wearing a wire was sarcastic.

The situation among Trump's allies is "chaos," according to an NBC News source who is close to the White House.

Rosenstein's ouster would throw the future of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election into doubt. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reported to Rosenstein because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.

The Times reported that Rosenstein made the suggestions to record Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment in the spring of 2017, after the president had fired James Comey, the FBI director. The suggestions also reportedly came after it was revealed the president had asked Comey to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor, the Times reported.

Rosenstein had written a memo that was used to justify the president's firing of Comey by criticizing his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Rosenstein was afraid he had been used, according to the Times. That report cited people briefed on meetings and conversations or on memos documenting Rosenstein's actions written by FBI officials, including Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI chief who also was fired, nearly a year after Comey.

McCabe said in a statement Monday that he "had no role" in providing information to media organizations about the aftermath of Comey's firing. He also said he personally made sacrifices to protect Mueller's investigation.

"If the rumors of Deputy AG's Rosenstein's departure are true, I am deeply concerned that it puts that investigation at risk," McCabe said.

Trump has long mulled firing Rosenstein, angry that the deputy attorney general appointed Mueller, whose probe Trump frequently calls a "witch hunt." Rosenstein took over the probe after Sessions recused himself in March 2017 over his earlier interactions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

It's not clear who would take over the Russia probe if Rosenstein resigned or were fired. The next Justice Department official in line to perform the duties of the attorney general is Noel Francisco, the solicitor general.

Rosenstein told at least one confidant in April that he was prepared to be fired then and confident that he had done his job with integrity, NBC News reported at the time. Trump had been criticizing him publicly and was considering terminating him.

In private conversations, Rosenstein repeated the phrase, "Here I stand," referring to Christian reformer Martin Luther's quote, "Here I stand, I can do no other," sources who spoke to Rosenstein told NBC News.

In May, Rosenstein fired back against news reports that articles of impeachment against him were reportedly being drafted by Republican members of the House in a dispute over documents in the Russia probe.

"I can tell you there have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted," he said in response to a question.

Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Second Kavanaugh Accuser Comes Forward]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 09:17:31 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Kavanaugh+Accuser+Thumb.jpg

A second woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct has come forward, in an interview with The New Yorker. Deborah Ramirez claimed that Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and exposed himself to her at a drinking party when they were both freshmen at Yale, an allegation Kavanaugh denies.

<![CDATA[Man Who Brokered Trump Tower Meeting Conveyed 'Dirty Offer']]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 07:57:19 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/180921-goldstone-trump-tower_-ew-413p_e827e22a14e2cdeb4589e029c6825f3c.fit-2000w.jpg

British-born music publicist Rob Goldstone now believes the infamous meeting he helped arrange between senior Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Democrats may have been a Russian intelligence set-up, he told NBC News exclusively.

He also agreed that he conveyed a "dirty offer" to the Trump team, and while the dirt "didn't materialize," he believes that's what drew the scrutiny of congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Goldstone had promised Donald Trump Jr. that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had information that "would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father." He also emailed that it was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Goldstone hopes his new book, "Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life," will provide context for his role in the episode.

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Democrats Hold the Advantage in November's Elections: Poll]]> Sun, 23 Sep 2018 09:43:23 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/AP_18263656009063.jpg

Six weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats hold a 12-point lead in congressional preference among registered voters, with nearly six-in-ten saying they’d like to see significant change in the direction President Donald Trump has been leading the country, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The results suggest a political environment where Democrats have the clear advantage in their pursuit to win back control of Congress in November.

One pollster said that Americans are "trying to send the signal that they’re not satisfied." Another said they are trying to show "they want to shake up the status quo."

Still, the same poll shows that Republican enthusiasm about the upcoming election has increased, drawing nearly even with Democrats; that GOP attacks on immigration and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi are potent in individual races; and that nearly 70 percent of voters are satisfied with the economy.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steve Karnowski]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Aide on Kavanaugh Case Resigns; Accused of Harassment]]> Sat, 22 Sep 2018 10:49:29 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/juez-brett-kavanaugh-mujer-acusa-abuso.jpg

A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him. 

Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party's messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past "allegations of misconduct." 

After NBC News raised questions about Ventry's employment history and the sexual assault allegation against him, Judiciary Committee Spokesman Taylor Foy replied in a statement: "While (Ventry) strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee." 

Republicans familiar with the situation had been concerned that Ventry, because of his history, could not lead an effective communications response.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Top Moments From Ted Cruz, Beto O'Rourke's 1st Debate]]> Tue, 25 Sep 2018 17:29:53 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/Cruz-ORourke.jpg

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz had a chance to show off his often praised debating skills Friday in his first match-up against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso congressman running a competitive campaign against him.

Cruz is trying to win a second term in the U.S. Senate in a race that the Cook Political Report on Friday rated a toss-up. New polls show the competition tightening with a Reuters-Ipsos poll on Wednesday giving O’Rourke a two-point lead in a typically reliable red state. Countering those indications is a Quinnipiac poll that had Cruz ahead by nine points.

O’Rourke is a three-term congressman. He has raised more money than Cruz, a presidential hopeful in 2016 against now President Donald J. Trump, drawing national attention to the race.

O’Rourke, who became an El Paso city councilman in 2005, is hoping to become the first Texan elected to the Senate since 1988.

Friday's hourlong debate was the first of three the men are scheduled to participate in. Here were some of the evening’s highlights:

“This is why people do not like Washington, D.C.”
A particularly sharp exchange between the two contenders came as they addressed police shootings of unarmed black men, one of which occurred about two weeks ago when a white off-duty Dallas police officer shot her black neighbor, Botham Jean, to death in his own apartment. Police Officer Amber Guyger, who has been charged with manslaughter, has told investigators that she mistook his apartment for hers.

Cruz accused O’Rourke of calling police officers modern-day Jim Crow, a reference to local laws that enforced racial segregation in the South, and deemed the description offensive.

“That is not Texas,” he concluded.

“What Senator Cruz said is simply untrue,” O’Rourke responded. “I did not call police officers modern-day Jim Crow.”

Video of O’Rourke’s town hall on Wednesday at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college in Prairie View, Texas, shows him talking about a system that he said suspects a person based solely on the color of their skin, that searches, stops or shoots someone based on the color of their skin.

“It is why some have called this, and I think it is an apt description, the new Jim Crow,” he said.

Cruz, when asked whether he thought the police shootings a problem, said that everyone’s rights should be protected, but blamed irresponsible and hateful rhetoric for shootings of police officers — among them the killing of five Dallas police officers in 2016. He accused O’Rourke of repeating things he knew were not true, including accusing white police officers of shooting unarmed African American children, and said that The Washington Post had fact checked the claim and found it to be untrue.

“This is why people do not like Washington, D.C.,” O’Rourke said. “You just said something that I did not say and attributed it to me.”

“What did you not say?” Cruz asked.

“I’m not going to repeat the slander and mischaracterization,” O’Rourke said.

“You’re not going to say what you did say?” Cruz asked.

“This is your trick in the trade, to confuse and to incite based on fear and not to speak the truth,” O’Rourke said. "This is a very serious issue."

The Washington Post did examine a quote from O’Rourke but did not rate it given varying interpretations that were possible. The quote: “Black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement without accountability and without justice.”

Cruz's dignity and President Trump
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump attacked Cruz viciously, suggesting that Cruz’s father had been involved in the assassination of President John Kennedy and tweeting an unflattering photograph of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and threatening to “spill the beans” on her.

How did Cruz, who later endorsed Trump and praised him, respond to critics who said he had lost his dignity?

Cruz called his father his hero and his wife his best friend and the most beautiful woman on the planet.

After the election, he faced a choice and decided to work with the president on cutting taxes and regulations and creating new jobs, he said. 

“So yes, I could have chosen to make it about myself, to be selfish and say, ‘You know what, my feelings are hurt so I’m going to take my marbles and go home.’ But I think that would have been not doing the job I was elected to do.”

O’Rourke said that how Cruz responded when the president attacked him personally was his business. But the congressman also raised allegations that Trump had colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election and said he had attacked the country’s institutions.

“We need a U.S. senator who will stand up to this president, “ O’Rourke said.

“True to Form”
When the men were asked in the final moments of the debate what they admired about their opponent, O’Rourke said he knew how hard Cruz worked, the time he had spent away from his children and the sacrifices he had made. He said he had no question that despite their differences, Cruz wanted to do the best for America.

“So I thank you Sen. Cruz for your public service,” O’Rourke said.

Cruz agreed that the time away from their children was a sacrifice for both men and that O’Rourke was passionate, energetic and believed in what he was fighting for. Then Cruz compared O’Rourke to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who he said advocated socialism, higher taxes and expanding government.

“You’re fighting for the principles you believe in and I respect that,” Cruz said.

“True to form,” O’Rourke responded.

“Thoughts and prayers”
The men clashed over how to protect students from shootings in school, both referring to the killings at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, in May.

Cruz called for more armed police officers in school, and rejected any new gun control measures.

“There is something deeply wrong that we have these shootings. There are a lot of things behind it that have nothing to do with government. They have things to do with things like removing God from the public square, like losing the moral foundation of much of our society, like losing the binds of community and family.”

O’Rourke argued that bringing a firearm into a classroom would not make students safer.

“Thoughts and prayers, Sen. Cruz, are just not going to cut it anymore,” he said. “The people of Texas, the children of Texas, deserve action.”

“More armed police officers in our schools is not thoughts and prayers,” Cruz answered. “I”m sorry you don’t like thoughts and prayers. I will pray for anyone in harm’s way but I also will do something about it.”

Differing Views on Drugs
On drugs, Cruz said that O’Rourke, while on the El Paso City Council, had called for a national debate on legalizing all narcotics, including heroin and cocaine.

“There is consistent pattern when it comes to drug use that in almost every single instance Congressman O’Rourke supports more of it,” Cruz said.

Cruz said that the issue was personal; his older sister died of a drug overdoes.

O’Rourke, who was arrested for drunken driving in 1998, said that he wanted to end the war on drugs and to end the prohibition on marijuana.

“To be clear, I don’t want to legalize heroin and cocaine and fentanyl,” he said.

Photo Credit: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz Square Off in First Debate]]> Fri, 21 Sep 2018 21:04:37 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/DIT_NAT_BETO_CRUZ_DEBATE_092118-153757785852600002.jpg

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Ted Cruz faced each other in the first of three planned debates Friday in what has become a neck and neck race for the Texas senate seat.

<![CDATA[Rosenstein Joked About Secretly Recording Trump: Officials]]> Fri, 21 Sep 2018 16:46:15 -0400 https://media.necn.com/images/213*120/rosenAP_18143696932747.jpg

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was joking when he discussed wearing a wire to secretly record President Donald Trump and does not believe Trump should be removed from office through the use of procedures outlined in the Constitution's 25th Amendment, according to sources familiar with his conversations.

The sources were responding to a New York Times report that Rosenstein, in the tumultuous spring of 2017, had discussed with other Justice and FBI officials the possibility of recruiting members of Trump's Cabinet to declare him unfit for the job and that he offered to wear a recording device during conversations with the president, NBC News reported.

In a May, 16, 2017 meeting at a secure facility at the Justice Department — one week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — Rosenstein argued with Andrew McCabe, then the acting director of the FBI, about the president, according to a senior Justice Department official.

Photo Credit: AP]]>