Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry
MARK LANDLER and ERIC LICHTBLAUM
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a storm of criticism over newly disclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, recused himself on Thursday from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
His announcement, delivered at a terse news conference, came after a day of rapid-fire developments in a murky affair that has shadowed President Trump, jeopardized his closest aides and intensified pressure for a full inquiry into Moscow’s attempts to influence the election as well as the policies of the new administration.
Many top Democrats demanded Mr. Sessions’s resignation, and a growing number of Republicans declared that he should not take part in any investigation into the case, given his own still largely unexplained role in it.
But Mr. Trump stoutly defended Mr. Sessions, one of his few early champions on Capitol Hill. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional,” he said in a statement, which accused Democrats of engaging in “a total witch hunt.”
Donald Trump insists he has great respect for the press despite calling New York Times the ‘enemy of the people’
Jon Sharman (The Independent)
Donald Trump has said he has “great respect” for journalists just days after saying “fake news” sources like the New York Times were the enemy of the American people.
The US President doubled down on his statement at the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, after his chief strategist Steve Bannon called the media “the opposition”.
“I have great respect for the press. I have great respect for reporters, and the whole profession,” he told Fox & Friends ahead of his speech to senators and members of Congress.
Spicer: Town hall demonstrations include ‘professional’ protesters
Ben Kamisar (The Hille)
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday played down anger brewing against lawmakers at town halls across the country as a mixture of real concern and demonstrations from “professional” protesters.
“There’s a hybrid there: I think some people are clearly upset, but there is a bit of professional protestor, manufactured base in there,” Spicer said at the daily briefing.
“Obviously there are people who are upset, but I also think that when you look at some of these districts and some of these things, it is not a representation of a member’s district or an incident. It is a loud, small group of people disrupting something in many cases for media attention,” he said.
“Just because they’re loud doesn’t necessarily mean that they are many.”
Spicer’s comments echo the sentiments of Trump, who argued Tuesday evening on Twitter that the “so-called angry crowds” facing GOP lawmakers at town hall events are partly “planned out by liberal activists.
Republicans Accuse Protesters of Organizing for Political Change
Eric Lovitz (NY Mag)
Last night, congressional Republicans came home to rooms full of angry people. At town halls across the country, conservative lawmakers were protested, heckled, and shouted at. A few unfortunate souls were even asked to explain — in detail — the GOP plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act.
But Republicans aren’t worried. They’re onto liberals’ cute little game. They’ve realized that these so-called “protests” are, in truth, tactical demonstrations — planned, in advance — by people who want to bring about political change.
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2017
At first blush, this tweet may seem like another eccentric outburst from our tweeter-in-chief. Why would anyone think that protests are illegitimate simply because they’re planned?
The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry
CORAL DAVENPORT and ERIC LIPTON (NY Times)
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday.
The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health. Senate Democrats tried last week to postpone a final vote until the emails could be made public, but Republicans beat back the delay and approved his confirmation on Friday largely along party lines.
The impolitic tone of many of the emails cast light on why Republicans were so eager to beat the release. And although the contents of the emails were broadly revealed in The New York Times in 2014, the totality of the correspondences captures just how much at war Mr. Pruitt was with the E.P.A. and how cozy he was with the industries that he is now charged with policing.
GOP senator wants Mike Flynn to testify before Congress about his Russia connections
Aaron Rupar (Think Progress)
Despite many unanswered questions about connections between President Donald Trump, his inner circle, and Russian officials, Republican members of Congress have so far been reluctant to pursue a robust investigation.
But during an interview with Maine Public Radio on Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) expressed confidence that Congress will conduct a thorough, bipartisan investigation.
“I am confident that since this is a completely bipartisan investigation with full-time staff, that we’ll get to the bottom of this,” she said, adding that she anticipates the investigation will culminate in a public report.
The complete list of all 80 false things Donald Trump has said in his first 4 weeks as president
Daniel Dale (The Star Washington Bureau)
U.S. President Donald Trump makes frequent false claims about matters big and small. The Star is planning to track them all. Contact Daniel Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org if you hear Trump say anything you know is false or should be checked.
80. Feb. 16, 2017 — White House press conference
The claim: “I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”
In fact: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all earned bigger margins in the electoral college than Trump did.
79. Feb. 16, 2017 — White House press conference
The claim about former campaign manager Paul Manafort: “He said that he has absolutely nothing to do and never has with Russia. He said that very forcefully. I saw his statement. He said it forcefully. Most of the papers do not print it because it’s not good for their stories.”
The 5 other front page stories the Star could run after Trump’s wild presser
In fact: The New York Times story Trump was criticizing included Manafort’s denial, in which he said he never “knowingly” had contact with Russian intelligence officers. Other major outlets that followed up on the story also printed a denial from Manafort.
Veteran public defender: Trump is exhibiting all of the ’12 most common signs of a guilty person’
Brad Reed (Raw Story)
President Donald Trump has been going on tirades against the American media, the U.S. intelligence community, and a host of other institutions for allegedly undermining his presidency.
Seth Abramson, an English professor at the University of New Hampshire who also worked for years as a public defender in the state of New Hampshire, has written a tweet storm noting that Trump’s lashing out at perceived conspiracies against him are some of the classic behaviors that a guilty person engages in when caught.
“Ask any criminal attorney: the president is engaging in all the behaviors a guilty person would,” Abramson writes, before listing off all of the 12 most common tactics used by guilty people to cover up their actions.
Exclusive audio shows how Trump lets loose at his clubs — inviting guests to join him on staff interviews.
Leaked Trump tape: ‘You are the special people’ – POLITICO
But the White House insists nobody is getting enhanced access to the president.
Trump’s Presidency ‘Enhances’ Mar-a-Lago Membership