Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

Russian radio hosts once pranked Adam Schiff with promise of ‘naked Trump’ photos

February 7, 2018

By David K. Li
The New York Post

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Russian radio hosts pranked the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, saying they had compromising images of President Trump, according to a report Tuesday.

The Daily Mail posted audio of the prank pulled last year by Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexey “Lexus” Stolyarov against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

The Atlantic reported the prank last month, but The Mail story went a step further with purported audio of the joke.

The caller identified himself as Andriy Parubiy, speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, when “Parubiy” was actually both Kuznetsov and Stolyarov.

The pranksters claimed Trump had an affair with Russian model and singer Olga Buzova in 2013.

“She got compromising materials on Trump after their short relations,” the pranksters told Schiff.

“OK, and what’s the nature (of the material)?” Schiff asked.

“Well, there were pictures of naked Trump,” said the pranksters, adding that Russian president Vladimir Putin was aware of the compromising material.

Schiff responded that “obviously we would welcome the chance to get copies.”

A rep for Schiff had earlier told The Atlantic that the call was reported to “appropriate law enforcement and security personnel” because “of our belief that it was probably bogus.”

The Russian pair has pulled similar stunts on Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).


I’m the Wife of a Former N.F.L. Player. Football Destroyed His Mind.

February 3, 2018

My husband, Rob Kelly, is a retired N.F.L. player. After five seasons as a safety beginning in the late 1990s, four with the New Orleans Saints and one with the New England Patriots, he sustained an injury to a nerve between his neck and shoulder during training camp that ended his career. By the time he retired in 2002 at 28, he had been playing tackle football for about two decades.

Rob had no idea, however, that all those years of playing would have such serious consequences. Safeties are the last line of defense and among the hardest hitters in the game. One tackle he attempted while playing for the Saints was so damaging, he doesn’t remember the rest of the game. He got up, ran off the field and tried to go back in — as an offensive player. He knows this only because people told him the next day.

Professional football is a brutal sport, he knew that. But he loved it anyway. And he accepted the risks of bruises and broken bones. What he didn’t know was that along with a battered body can come a battered mind.

For decades, it was not well understood that football can permanently harm the brain. Otherwise, many parents would most likely not have signed their boys up to play. But this reality was obscured by the N.F.L.’s top medical experts, who for years had denied any link between the sport and long-term degenerative brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

That started to change in late 2009 when, for the first time, the N.F.L. publicly acknowledged that concussions can have long-term effects. In 2016, a top league official admitted that there is a connection between football and C.T.E., which has now been found in the brains of more than 100 deceased players. But for Rob, and countless other players, those admissions came too late.

When I first met him in 2007, Rob had this gentle, endearing way about him that caught me off guard. I had never watched a full game of football in my life, but still believed the stereotypes: Players were tough and abrasive. He was neither. I had never met a man who was so sensitive and tenderhearted. I loved that he wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable and to show tears.

When we married in 2009, I already knew he was an amazing father. He could play dollhouse with my stepdaughter for hours without a hint of boredom. This continued when we had two children of our own. When our son was born and I was focused on taking care of a baby, he would bathe the girls, brush and blow-dry their (tangled!) hair, then put them to bed. Afterward he would wash the dishes. He brought me coffee in bed each morning. I was spoiled rotten.

But since I had known him, he had trouble sleeping, and he has been prone to mood swings and depression. In 2010, things got worrisome, so I arranged for him to be evaluated by neurologists so that he could apply for disability benefits. We traveled from Ohio, where we were living at the time, to North Carolina for full cognitive evaluations and testing. There were seemingly endless amounts of paperwork and record keeping.

I was right to be concerned.

Over time, I had started to notice changes. But this was different and, around 2013, things had become much more frightening.

He lost weight. It seemed like one day, out of the blue, he stopped being hungry. And often he would forget to eat. I’d find full bowls of cereal left around the house, on bookshelves or the fireplace mantel. The more friends and family commented on his gaunt frame, the more panicked I became. By 2016, he had shrunk to 157 pounds. That’s right, my 6-foot-2 football-player husband weighed 157 pounds (down from around 200 when he was in the N.F.L.). People were visibly shocked when we told them he had played the game professionally.

Besides damage resulting from football-related concussions, my husband has never had a diagnosed brain injury. He’s never been in a car accident or fallen off a roof. He never took steroids. After struggling in retirement with alcohol abuse for about six years, off and on, he hasn’t had a drink in eight years. And he’s only 43.

When you live with someone with brain damage, you become highly attuned to your environment and develop an intimate relationship with your senses and intuition. Your hearing becomes excellent, almost unbearably keen, like a movie character who develops supernatural abilities overnight. Rob’s mood swings scare me sometimes, and I always have to be in tune with early signs of his agitation. I try to protect him from stress so he won’t be overwhelmed. It’s exhausting.

Our fights went in bizarre circles and were never resolved. He would be irrationally upset about one thing but would quickly lose track and begin rambling about something that had no connection to the topic at hand. Every argument we had ended with me thinking: “This isn’t normal. This is not what couples fight about. Something’s wrong.”

And the arguments were always the same. It was as if our lives were on a loop, like some song that’s been left on repeat for years. That sort of repetition has a tremendous ability to make you feel like you’re going insane. And maybe, you wonder, you are.

Rob Kelly in 1998, playing with the New Orleans Saints. CreditVincent Laforet/Getty Images

He was losing touch with reality and was getting more and more paranoid. The first time he accused me of stealing loose change from his nightstand I was speechless. And when I told him how illogical it would be for me to do such a thing, he looked at me with even more suspicion. But his paranoia didn’t end there. It would leave me with a heaviness in my chest that made me sob without warning.

He went from being a devoted and loving father and husband to someone who felt like a ghost in our home. For a couple of months one winter he was so depressed and detached, he couldn’t muster up the energy to speak. My questions went unanswered until I simply stopped asking them. The silence was unnerving.

So we were relieved when, in January 2013, we were told that the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle N.F.L. player retirement plan and supplemental disability plan had awarded him total and permanent disability benefits. His benefits were listed as “degenerative,” which establishes that his “disability arises out of league football activities” and had manifested within 15 years of his last season. He is entitled to monthly payments for the rest of his life. (These payments are separate from the estimated $1 billion settlement of concussion-related lawsuits with thousands of retired players, for which we have registered.)

After years of little to no sleep, he alternated between sleeping either three hours a night or 20. I’d wake up to find every blind and curtain in the house closed and Rob sitting on the sofa with a blank expression on his face. He no longer felt comfortable driving, refused to leave the house and cut off contact with everyone.

Specific details about how he wanted his funeral to be, and his demand that he be cremated, were brought up with excruciating frequency. One particularly dark time, he went five days without eating anything; he drank only water and a few swigs of chocolate milk. He was suffering deeply and barely surviving. My love and affection seemed to offer no comfort or solace. I felt helpless.

It wasn’t until I joined a private Facebook group of more than 2,400 women, all connected in some way to current or former N.F.L. players, that I realized I wasn’t alone.

Our stories are eerily similar, our loved ones’ symptoms almost identical: the bizarre behavior I had tried to ignore, the obsessive laundering of old clothes — our washing machine ran from morning till night.

It was comforting and terrifying all at the same time. Why did so many of us see the same strange behaviors? “Our neurologist said they do it to calm their brains,” one friend told me.

Symptoms consistent with C.T.E. are a recurring topic in the Facebook group. They include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression and anxiety. These problems become apparent sometimes years or even decades after a player hangs up his helmet.

One woman may write a post, desperate and afraid of the man her husband is becoming — the rage, mood swings, depression, memory loss. A man so drastically different from the one she once knew. Hundreds of comments will follow, woman after woman confirming that she is going through the exact same thing.

While the symptoms and behaviors are telling, C.T.E. can be conclusively diagnosed only posthumously, because it requires the close examination of brain tissue. But many of us, including me, are convinced our husbands suffer from the disease. We try to comfort one another with the same words: “Just know you’re not alone.”

I don’t think the public has any idea how widespread this problem truly is. Rob and I hope that, in telling our story, we might help other families. There are likely to be hundreds of wives and partners of football players, maybe more, who live a life like mine. Sadly, there is a feeling of shame among those affected, in both the men and their families.

But who these men have become is not who they are, and I write that with conviction. The symptoms they display are beyond their control and occur through no fault of their own. These men chose football, but they didn’t choose brain damage.

I used to read all the articles about C.T.E., all the stories about football players committing suicide. I’d skim the comments to see remarks like: “They know what they signed up for” and “Of course football is bad for the brain, everyone knows that.”

But when all those big hits happened and the fans cheered, did they cheer despite knowing a man just greatly increased his risk for dementia? Was anyone worried about an A.L.S. diagnosis or a C.T.E.-related suicide at 40 after their favorite player suffered repeated blows to the head on the field? No, they cheered and they celebrated because they didn’t know. And neither did we.

Controversial memo deepens divisions, drags FBI deeper into partisan politics

February 3, 2018

By Nirmal Ghosh

Egypt’s Wafd Party planning to contest presidential elections against El-Sisi

January 27, 2018

According to sources within Egypt’s Wafd party, chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi’s name has been suggested as a candidate to compete in the Egyptian presidential race.(Reuters)

CAIRO: The Wafd Party announced on Friday that it was considering naming a candidate to compete in the Egyptian presidential race after the exit of all potential candidates who had previously announced their intention to run except for President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Sources within the party confirmed that the supreme body of the party would hold a meeting to discuss the idea of running in the presidential elections and that the name of party chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi was suggested as a candidate.
After a seven-hour meeting on Thursday at the headquarters of a pharmaceutical company belonging to El-Badawi, many leaders of the party and its deputies in Parliament decided to invite the supreme body of the party soon to take a final decision on nominating one of the party leaders to participate in the presidential elections scheduled for next March. The deadline for candidacy is Monday.
Yasser Hassan, head of the information committee of the Wafd Party, said that the decision to nominate a presidential candidate stemmed from considerations of “national responsibility.” Sources who participated in Thursday’s meeting said that “the party aimed to support political life in Egypt” in the absence of any rival to the Egyptian president who is seeking a second term.
“There are international and regional conspiracies against Egypt, which prompted the party to study the nomination of a presidential candidate,” said Yasser Al-Hudaibi, a member of the supreme committee of the Wafd party.
The Egyptian political system has faced increasing criticism at home and abroad, especially from some political and media circles in the US, following the exit of potential candidates from the presidential race last week.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned in a statement on Wednesday the “repression” by President El-Sisi against political opponents, casting doubts on the possibility of holding “free and fair” elections in Egypt.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry described McCain’s accusations as “arbitrary.” The ministry said in a statement that McCain’s statement contained “inaccuracies and incorrect information about the situation in Egypt and its political course.”
The Wafd Party also condemned McCain’s statement as blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Egyptian state.
Sources within the Wafd Party said there was deep division within the party’s supreme body over the idea of nominating a candidate for the presidential election on behalf of the party.
Ahmad Al-Sijani, a member of the Wafd Party’s supreme body, said that the party had already announced its support of President El-Sisi for a second term, explaining that there was no problem if El-Sisi runs the election alone.
Bahaauddin Abu-Zhaqqa, head of the parliamentary committee of the Wafd Party, said that the party would hold a meeting soon to resolve the decision on nominating a presidential candidate, denying any pressure on the party to influence its decision to nominate one of its leadership in the presidential race.
MP Mustafa Bakri called on the Wafd Party to participate in the presidential elections. Bakri said that the call for competition did not conflict with there being popular support for President El-Sisi.
El-Badawi applied on Friday for a medical certificate, which is one of the requirements for running in the presidential elections, as confirmed by the Ministry of Health and Population.
However El-Badawi faces a legal problem because he was convicted in several financial criminal cases.
Meanwhile, the National Elections Authority (NEA) rejected the allegations of time constraints to meet the requirements of the candidacy by lawyer Khalid Ali when he announced his withdrawal from the candidacy before submitting his papers officially.
The NEA said in a statement that the timetable for the presidential elections announced on Jan. 8 was in line with the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution requiring the start of the procedures for the election of the President of the Republic before the end of the presidential term by 120 days at least, and the results must be announced 30 days before the end of this period at least.
As for his allegation regarding the refusal of the NEA to hand him certain documents, the NEA explained that the Presidential Elections Regulation Act stated that candidates for the nomination should provide the required documents to qualify for candidacy.
Dr. Said Sadiq, a professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo, said that the withdrawal of Khalid Ali was expected because he knew that he had no significance in the electoral landscape.
Sadiq said that “holding elections with only one candidate would be disappointing, but this is a result of the situation of emerging democracy that Egypt has lived with since the revolution of Jan. 25, 2011.”


How to Save Football Players’ Brains

January 20, 2018

One simple rule change would solve much of the problem: Require the linemen to stand up.

How to Save Football Players’ Brains

Football is entertaining to watch, but it’s a violent collision sport that causes the majority of traumatic brain injuries in athletes. During a high-school season, one study finds, nearly 1 in 5 players on any given team will suffer a concussion. Many will suffer more than one. The football establishment needs to address this issue emphatically—and it can do so without changing the essence of the game that millions of Americans love.

Concussions occur when the brain moves suddenly and forcefully within the skull, back and forth or rotationally, like a lump of Jell-O in a box. The brain may require weeks to recover; what effects ultimately linger, doctors cannot fully predict. They diminish brain function, including cognition, memory, attention span, learning ability, emotional and behavioral stability and other features of “executive function.” A repeat concussion that occurs before the first one has healed can cause second-impact syndrome, which is far more severe.

Beyond the acute suffering, football concussions lead to permanent neurological impairments, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, whose symptoms can include depression, aggression and dementia. The cascade begins with the first injury, which might occur in a youth football league. Each year on the field, the risks are compounded—with concussions, prevention is everything, because there is no treatment except to hope that there is no permanent impairment.

I’ve served on the sidelines as a team physician at high-school, college and professional football games, so I know the sport well and its potential to cause harm. As an emergency physician, I have diagnosed and treated too many concussions, and worse traumatic brain injuries, suffered while playing football. After all this experience, I’m convinced that adding one new rule would go a long way toward ending the scourge of football head injuries. That change would be to eliminate opposing “down linemen” from the game.

Down lineman are the large, heavy and strong players positioned at the line of scrimmage, usually in a crouching stance with one or both hands touching the turf. On the offense, they block opposing players, protecting or clearing a path for the quarterback and running backs. On the defense, they try to tackle the ball carrier. When the ball is snapped, these opposing linemen collide head to head like rams in a territorial dispute. Their brains decelerate quickly—play after play after play.

The players wear helmets, but there is virtually no evidence that they prevent concussions. A helmet cushions the head but does not sufficiently prevent the brain from dangerously sliding and rotating within the skull. Down linemen are believed to incur frequent “subconcussive” hits—concussions that are asymptomatic or nearly so. Thousands of these over the course of a career may cumulatively cause permanent and devastating brain damage. While the NFL and other football leagues have taken steps to address the most dramatic collisions, which produce the visible, severe acute injuries, they have largely neglected the nonobvious repetitive injuries that pose the greatest danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

I am not aware of any doctor, coach, parent or player who argues against players’ safety. But if everyone knows what is happening to the brains of these players, why is it taking so long to make the rules changes necessary to protect them?

The answer is that football is a massive ecosystem of socioeconomic forces. Colleges, coaches, owners, municipalities, advertisers and television networks pay and are paid large sums to maintain a culture of football. Players are influenced by personal goals, peer pressure, family preferences and the media. They imagine scholarships and professional contracts and glory, which are elusive for all but a very small percentage. Coaches want to win, and some get paid to do it. Companies selling equipment that is ineffective at preventing concussions—helmets, mouth guards, face masks—tout their products’ effectiveness.

We’ve seen advances in educational programs, protective devices, neck-muscle training and diagnostic tools. Yet rule changes are the only interventions that have been proven to prevent concussions. The most common argument against them is that rule changes would make the sport less appealing to spectators: “It just wouldn’t be the same.”

It wouldn’t—but making football safer might make it better. Eliminating opposing down linemen would only push the game in the direction it already is evolving, toward more passing and less running. If opposing linemen simply started each play upright, in a knees-bent “ready” position, with their hands in front of them, it would nearly guarantee that their hands and arms, rather than their heads, would be the first body parts in contact.

Even then, football would still have concussion risks: strikes to the helmet with hands or forearms, tackling maneuvers, falls to the turf, and errant blows. All of these occur most often during contact practice, because players spend more time in practice than in games.

To further lessen the number of concussions while preserving the spectator value, the rules could be rewritten to discourage as many unnecessary brain decelerations as possible. There have been some attempts to accomplish this—penalties for targeting, limiting the amount of contact during practice, and removing kickoffs and abusive tackling drills in youth football.

If the governing bodies that control the sport need evidence to make rule changes, my suggestion is that they could be easily tested at different levels—youth, high school, college and professional—and then outcomes compared.

A few ideas:

• There should be no tackling in youth (pre-junior high school) football.

• In high school and beyond, there should be no live tackling during scrimmage in practice. Instead tackling instruction and drills could be used to teach proper techniques.

• Targeting—intentionally and forcefully striking the helmet of an opposing player during a game—should be cause for ejection from the current and the following game.

These would help, but eliminating opposing down linemen is the most important reform. It would diminish the head-to-head collisions that cause brain degeneration without acute symptoms. To completely evaluate the effect would likely require advanced diagnostic techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, and long-term follow-up studies on chronic brain disorders. We have the technology to do this, and we should use it.

It would be impossible to eliminate all injuries in a sport that involves tackling players to the ground. But much more could be done to prevent concussions, beginning with the elimination of opposing down linemen—or at the very least studying the idea. To do neither is to ignore a proposal for safety, to reject the pursuit of knowledge, and to continue subjecting players to needless harm. The football establishment should do something before the game ruins the brains and futures of another generation of players.

Dr. Auerbach is a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford.

Appeared in the January 20, 2018, print edition.



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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell


Jim McMahon


Senators Ask Justice Department to Open Criminal Probe Into Trump Dossier Author

January 6, 2018

Republicans Grassley and Graham say Christopher Steele may have made false statements to federal investigators

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 Christopher Steele. Photographer Victoria Jones– PA Wire via AP

WASHINGTON—Two Republican senators have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether the author of a controversial research document on President Donald Trump lied to investigators.

Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they have seen evidence that former British spy Christopher Steele made false statements to federal investigators about how he disseminated his research, which has taken center stage in the investigation into Russian activity during the 2016 election.

The two senators stressed on Friday that they were requesting “further investigation only, and is not intended to be an allegation of a crime.” They are senior members of the congressional panel that oversees the Justice Department and have access to classified, nonpublic information as part of their oversight responsibilities. They didn’t provide details on what evidence they had seen in deciding to make the referral.

“I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement.

The referral marks the latest twist in a political and legal drama over the origins and accuracy of a 35-page dossier, which contains salacious and unverified allegations about the president.

Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence official, wrote a series of memorandums during the 2016 election regarding Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. The memos contained a number of unverified allegations concerning Mr. Trump’s business deals and his personal life. He also provided those documents to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in late 2016, and provided a copy of the report to Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.).

Mr. Steele has been sought out by the three congressional committees probing Russian interference during the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Moscow, but people familiar with the matter say he hasn’t spoken to Capitol Hill investigators as part of their probes.

Those memos were compiled into a dossier that circulated widely in intelligence, law enforcement and media circles during the election. Mr. Trump has called it “fake” and “discredited,” and has denied any collusion by him or his campaign. Moscow has denied interfering with the election.

Mr. Steele was working for the nonpartisan research firm Fusion GPS when he wrote the memos. During that time period, Fusion was being paid by an attorney for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to conduct opposition research on Mr. Trump—a common election-year tactic of gathering incriminating or embarrassing information on a political rival.

Mr. Steele, who has made just one public statement since being identified as the dossier’s author, couldn’t be reached for comment. “I’m now going to be focusing my efforts on supporting the broader interests of our company here,” he told reporters in a brief statement last year, referring to his own firm.

U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or state-owned entities. WSJ’s Niki Blasina provides a who’s who of the Russians at the center of the investigations.

An attorney for Fusion GPS called for reporters to be “skeptical in the extreme” about Mr. Grassley and Mr. Graham’s referral.

“After a year of investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the only person Republicans seek to accuse of wrongdoing is one who reported on these matters to law enforcement in the first place,” said Joshua Levy, an attorney for Fusion. “Publicizing a criminal referral based on classified information raises serious questions about whether this letter is nothing more than another attempt to discredit government sources in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The two co-founders of the firm wrote in a New York Times op-ed this week that they were “extremely proud” of their work on the Trump dossier.

“Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?” wrote Fusion co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, who are also former Wall Street Journal reporters. “What came back shocked us.”

Mr. Grassley serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel with oversight of federal law enforcement and the Justice Department. Mr. Graham serves as chairman of that panel’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism.

Write to Byron Tau at

Gallup Poll: Obama Takes Title of ‘Most Admired Man’ for 10th Year in a Row

December 28, 2017


Former President Barack Obama took the title of “most admired man” for the tenth consecutive year, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

The Gallup poll, which has been conducted every year since 1946, asked respondents to name their top two picks for most admired man and woman.

Obama took the top spot with 17 percent of the vote, while 14 percent of respondents voted for President Donald Trump to take the runner-up slot.

Pope Francis followed with three percent of the vote, and Rev. Billy Graham came in fourth with two percent of the vote.

Both Trump and Pope Francis have made the list before, although they have yet to take the top slot in the poll.

The poll also mentioned other political, business, and religious leaders, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

For the ladies, Hillary Clinton topped the list for “most admired woman” — a title she has held onto for the past 15 years.

However, Gallup notes that she may not hold onto this title in future years because her polling numbers were at their lowest in 15 years and are unlikely to improve as her political career is “likely over.”

“She managed to win this year because she remains arguably more prominent than other contenders,” Gallup said. “However, retaining that stature may be more challenging in coming years with her political career likely over.”

Former first lady Michelle Obama took the runner-up slot, with seven percent of the vote, while Oprah Winfrey took third place with four percent.

Gallup surveyed 1,049 adults from December 4–11 with a four percent margin of error.

Can a president obstruct justice?

December 11, 2017

Yes, but not by doing any of the things we know Trump to have done.

Speculation about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has turned toward obstruction of justice—specifically, whether President Trump can be criminally prosecuted for firing James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or for earlier asking Mr. Comey to go easy on onetime national security adviser Mike Flynn. The answer is no. The Constitution forbids Congress to criminalize such conduct by a president, and applying existing statutes in such a manner would violate the separation of powers.

The Constitution…


Editorial: Yes, the president can obstruct justice, said Senate GOP

  • Quad-City Times editorial board

Yes, the president can obstruct justice. Just ask the nine Republicans still in the U.S. Senate, including Chuck Grassley, who voted “guilty” when then-President Bill Clinton was accused of obstruction in 1999.

And that’s true no matter how badly those very same Republicans now don’t want to talk about it.

The long-debated issue came to a head this past week when an attorney for President Donald Trump, John Dowd, summoned the ghost of Richard Nixon during an interview with Axiom.

 “… the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told the news site.

Dowd’s provocative statement follows a slew of charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against members of Trump’s inner circle, who just couldn’t seem to stop meeting with Russian operatives during the campaign. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a close Trump aide and political confident, recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In response, Trump basically admitted on Twitter that he knew Flynn wasn’t honest with investigators when he canned former FBI Director James Comey, who refused to acquiesce to the president’s request to back off on the Flynn investigation, according to Comey’s congressional testimony. 

The legality of Dowd’s position has been debated for decades. The U.S. Constitution does not clarify if a sitting president can face prosecution. During the Watergate scandal, Nixon was listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” during the court proceedings. But obstruction of justice was the first and key charge in the list of impeachable offenses drafted in the House. Nixon left office before the House could actually impeach him.

In 1999, Clinton’s administration was ablaze with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The GOP-run House sent two indictments against the Democratic president to the Senate, including an obstruction of justice charge. The Senate failed to convict Clinton on either charge, splitting 50-50 when a two-thirds majority was required. But that also means 50 senators — universally Republicans — determined that a U.S. president can obstruct justice.

Of those 50, nine still sit in the Senate. They are Mike Crapo, Mike Enzi, Thad Cochran, Jim Inhofe, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts. Two more — Jeff Sessions and John Ashcroft — are, or have been, attorneys general in GOP administrations. 

In both instances, presidents were tried in Congress, not the courts. Still, each case represents a moment when a sitting president was charged, in a legal proceeding, with obstructing justice. But, unlike the court system, impeachment is a wholly political event. 

What’s clear is that congressional Republicans don’t want to talk about Dowd’s under-construction defense amid Mueller’s probe. Grassley’s vote in 1999 is a testament in black-and-white that, at least when the other side is under investigation, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee believes a president can obstruct justice. Yet, this past week, a straight answer was not to be had when Grassley’s staff were asked about Dowd’s assertion that, like a king, a president is immune from the rule of law. That silence was made even more notable in the wake of Sen. Diane Feinstein’s allegations that Grassley — with his desire to remake the federal courts for a generation in Trump’s image — has no interest in probing Trump too deeply. Instead, he’s more concerned with yet another probe of Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday blasting Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for resisting his push for yet another diversion from Trump’s legal perils. 

But a direct rebuke of Dowd’s assertion from the likes of Grassley and his peers is necessary, regardless of how badly Republicans want to protect the White House. Silence sets precedents that are sure to outlive us all. It would further erode basic democratic norms that separate republic from monarchy. It would, in very real terms, be another example of a Congress willing only to stand for the rule of law when it suits partisan ends.

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Quad-City Times editorial board, which consists of Publisher Deb Anselm, Executive Editor Autumn Phillips, Editorial Page Editor Jon Alexander, Associate Editor Bill Wundram and community representative John Wetzel.


On whether the president can obstruct justice

  • New York Times

You know you have a problem when you’ve been president for less than 11 months and you’re already relying on Richard Nixon’s definition of what’s legal.

On Monday morning, Axios reported that Mr. Trump’s top personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in an interview that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and “has every right to express his view of any case.”

This will come as news to Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing the obstruction of justice and decided twice in the last four decades that when a president violates those laws he has committed an impeachable offense.

In 1974, the first article of impeachment drafted by the House of Representatives charged President Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force.”

A quarter-century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for, among other things, having “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” and for having “engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony.”

Now let’s see if those descriptions apply to President Trump.

On Saturday morning, in the wake of the bombshell guilty plea by Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, for lying to F.B.I. agents about his communications with Russian officials late last year, Mr. Trump tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

Recall that the original justification for Mr. Flynn’s firing was simply that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence; otherwise he had done nothing wrong. That’s the case Mr. Trump made the day after Mr. Flynn’s firing, when he allegedly tried to shut down the F.B.I.’s inquiry into his campaign’s connections with Russian officials by telling James Comey, who was then the F.B.I. director, in a private Oval Office meeting, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

In May, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, telling Russian officials in the Oval Office the next day that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, and referring to Mr. Comey as a “nut job.” In an interview with NBC, Mr. Trump said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”

It was bad enough for the president to attempt to interfere in any way with a law enforcement investigation of one of his top aides. But with Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump admitted that he knew Mr. Flynn had committed a federal crime at the time he fired Mr. Comey for refusing to stop investigating him. To most people with a functioning prefrontal cortex, it sure sounds like Mr. Trump is admitting to “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations” and to “impeding the administration of justice.”

Mr. Dowd confused the country further by saying he had drafted Mr. Trump’s tweet himself — a bizarre claim for a lawyer to make about a statement that incriminates his client. Then he outdid himself with his assertion to Axios that it is not possible for the president to obstruct justice. The argument, as far as it goes, is that the president is the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer and has the constitutional authority to supervise and control the executive branch, which includes making decisions about investigations and personnel.

But Mr. Trump didn’t just try to shut down some random no-name case; he tried to shut down an investigation into his own campaign’s ties to the Russian government’s efforts to swing the 2016 election in his favor. As that investigation keeps revealing, Mr. Trump’s top associates have repeatedly been untruthful about their contacts and communications with Russian officials.

In Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump also wrote, “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” If there were truly nothing to hide, if these talks with Russians were all just part of a normal presidential transition process, then why all the lying?

Any child could tell you the answer: People lie when they know they’ve done something wrong. Mr. Flynn and others in Mr. Trump’s campaign and transition team were secretly trying to undermine United States foreign policy as private citizens — which is not just wrong, but a criminal violation of the Logan Act. Worse, the policy being undermined was President Barack Obama’s punishment of a foreign adversary for interfering in an American election, and the underminers — Mr. Trump’s team — were the very people who benefited most directly from that interference.

For some historical perspective, Richard Nixon once again proves useful. In the closing days of the 1968 presidential campaign, Mr. Nixon ordered H. R. Haldeman, later his chief of staff, to throw a “monkey wrench” into the Vietnamese peace talks, knowing that a serious move to end the war would hurt his electoral prospects. Mr. Nixon denied that he did this to the grave; Mr. Haldeman’s notes, discovered after his death, revealed the truth.

Meanwhile, as the evidence of both subterfuge and obstruction continues to grow, Mr. Trump’s tireless spinners and sophists are working to convince the American public that it’s all no big deal. This is an embarrassing and unpersuasive argument, but it’s not surprising. At this point, they have nothing else to work with.

Republicans Feel Triumph, Fear Tragedy

December 4, 2017

Tax plan, Mueller’s Russia probe help produce two potential divergent paths

President Trump speaking to reporters at the White House Monday morning.
President Trump speaking to reporters at the White House Monday morning. PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In the era of President Donald Trump, when up can be down and down can be up, it’s no surprise that the Republicans’ hour of great accomplishment also is their hour of great peril.

That is precisely where things stand as a new week dawns upon a thoroughly changed political landscape. Washington’s tectonic plates shifted twice last week, first when special counsel Robert Mueller announced a guilty plea from a now-cooperative former Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and then when the Republican Senate passed the party’s top legislative priority, a giant tax cut.

(And by the way, passage of a tax bill by the full Congress, which now seems assured in coming days, was always the highest priority for most Republican leaders, outstripping even repeal of the Affordable Care Act.)

The Republican establishment’s bargain with Mr. Trump always has been essentially this: It is worth putting up with his excesses and an undercurrent of mutual mistrust because ultimately he would promote and then sign the Republicans’ long-sought tax cut. The benefits of the latter would outweigh the dangers of the former.

Now the test of that proposition begins. Will it go well or badly for the GOP? Let’s look at the two potential scenarios for the party:

The Positive Scenario:

The tax cut and its benefits for American businesses extend and solidify already-robust economic and job growth. The prospect, and ultimately the reality, of greater business investment send positive ripple effects into wage growth. All that builds a firmer footing beneath a booming stock market.

Politically, the tax bill erases 11 months of doubts about Republicans’ ability to govern effectively and washes away the party faithful’s memories of failed efforts to undo the health law, known as Obamacare, and the concurrent exposure of deep intraparty divisions.

Moreover, it’s clear that Mr. Trump’s barbs directed at senior members of his own party—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sens. John McCainJeff Flake and Bob Corker, and House Speaker Paul Ryan —don’t get in the way of the GOP uniting for something really important. The idea that Republicans can repeat that feat in 2018 on health and infrastructure doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

In short, the first year of the Trump presidency suddenly looks a lot better, which sets the table nicely for the 2018 midterm elections. Republican plans to make Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi rather than Mr. Trump the unpopular face of the election year succeed. Republicans suffer some losses in House races but retain control of Congress.

Meanwhile, the Mueller investigation picks off a few more figures around Mr. Trump but never quite proves either collusion with Russians or a presidential effort to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump manages to avoid stirring the pot with Twitter rants that actually make his case worse, and the inquiry wraps up early next year having struck blows but no fatal damage.

The Negative Scenario:

Middle-class Americans revolt against the tax bill, concluding that they agree with Democrats that the rich and corporations are the real beneficiaries, not them. Middle America also is frightened and then appalled by the tax bill’s coming boost to the national debt, and Trump voters decide the party and the president they supported in 2016 don’t share their common-sense aversion to running up big bills and leaving them for the kids.

Meantime, a failure to agree on a new spending bill forces a government shutdown just before Christmas, and the GOP fails to put the blame off on Democrats. That instantly sullies Republicans’ newfound reputation for governing effectively.

Corporate leaders don’t make the kinds of job-creating investments Republicans predict. Meanwhile, the tax cut’s stimulative effect overheats an economy already near full employment, pumps up an overextended stock market and compels the Fed to keep raising interest rates. The bubble bursts.

The Obamacare infrastructure also collapses in 2018, and Republicans now are the party bearing the blame for health-market chaos.

Something bad for Republicans happens in Alabama’s special Senate race next week. Either a victory by party nominee Roy Moore, who takes on those party leaders who disowned him over allegations of sexual misconduct involving teens, which he has denied, or a shocking Deep South victory by his opponent cascades into momentum for Democrats in 2018.

Mr. Mueller uses information from Mr. Flynn and others to carry his inquiry deep into the Trump circle. Two potential nightmare scenarios for the White House emerge: Trump world financial entanglements with Russians gave the Kremlin leverage over the eventual president, and it’s shown Mr. Trump obstructed justice to stop investigators from finding out. Mr. Trump, feeling the pressure from Mr. Mueller, becomes ever more defensive and wedded to conspiracy theories that he vents on Twitter, as he did over the weekend. Impeachment by a Democratic House becomes a possibility.

Either scenario is entirely plausible, which says plenty about today’s volatile climate.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

Senate GOP hustles to meet tax bill holdouts’ demands

December 1, 2017

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are stepping quickly to meet competing demands of holdout GOP senators for a tax overhaul package expected to add $1 trillion to the nation’s deficit over 10 years.

The Republicans eye a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill carrying the hopes of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to preserve their majorities in next year’s elections.

Amid a whirl of meetings and dramatic votes Thursday evening, the Senate GOP leaders rewrote the bill behind closed doors. They weighed scaling back the tax cuts in the legislation to secure crucial support.

The leaders were making major changes up to the last minute, including one that would roll back some of the tax cuts after six years to appease deficit hawks — notably Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Another faction to be reckoned with: senators supporting millions of businesses whose owners report the firm’s profits on their individual tax returns. The vast majority of U.S. businesses, big and small, are taxed this way. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., backed the tax legislation Wednesday after securing an increase in the deduction for business income from 17.4 percent to 20 percent.

But Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Thursday that he is still withholding support for the bill because he’d like the deduction boosted to 25 percent.

The scramble to alter the bill came after the Senate’s parliamentarian ruled that automatic “triggers” designed to guard against big deficits would violate Senate rules. GOP leaders’ main concern was winning over the hawks worried about adding more red ink to the mounting $20 trillion deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had expressed confidence early in the day, but he has little margin for error with a 52-48 Republican majority. He can afford to lose only two votes while counting on Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said the bill will have “alternative, frankly, tax increases we don’t want to do” to address deficit concerns.

Flake said the “trigger” tax increases would raise about $350 billion over 10 years, though he didn’t specify which taxes would go up.

In a dramatic turn, Democrats forced a vote on whether to return the measure to the Senate Finance Committee so it could be rewritten to ensure smaller deficits. After holding out for nearly an hour during the vote, Corker, Flake and Johnson eventually joined fellow Republicans to scuttle the Democratic proposal.

Corker has pushed to add automatic tax increases in future years if the package doesn’t raise as much revenue as projected.

With the provision seemingly dead, Corker said senators would change the bill to roll back some of the tax cuts in future years, regardless of whether tax revenues meet expectations. Flake said the tax increases would take affect after six years.

The overall legislation would bring the first overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 31 years. It would slash the corporate tax rate, offer more modest cuts for families and individuals and eliminate several popular deductions.

Unlike the tax bill passed by the House two weeks ago, the Senate measure would end the requirement in President Barack Obama’s health care law that people pay a tax penalty if they don’t buy health insurance.

The tax cuts for individuals in the Senate plan would expire in 2026 while the corporate tax cuts would be permanent.

Both the House and Senate bills would nearly double the standard deduction to around $12,000 for individuals and about $24,000 for married couples.

After Senate passage, lawmakers will try to reconcile the Senate bill with the House version in hopes of delivering a first major legislative accomplishment to Trump by Christmas.

A new analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit over a decade.

The bill would increase economic growth, generating an additional $458 billion in tax revenue, according to the analysis. That’s far short of the $2 trillion promised by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their support for the tax package Thursday, giving it a major boost. The two had voted against the GOP bill to dismantle the Obama health care law this past summer.

Senators were still grappling with several issues, including a provision to add a deduction for local property taxes. The current Senate bill completely eliminates the federal deduction for state and local taxes, a popular benefit in the Democratic-leaning states of New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois as well as many wealthy suburbs nationwide.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed an amendment to let homeowners deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes on their federal returns. It’s similar to a provision in the House-passed bill. Without the deduction, Collins said, it would be “very problematic for me” to vote for the bill.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.


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