White House officials suggest former FBI Director James Comey should be prosecuted

Comey’s firing prompted a chain of events that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion with Trump campaign aides. (Source: Reuters/File Photo) Related News

The White House is ramping up its attacks on former FBI Director James Comey, suggesting — in an extraordinary departure from standard protocol — that the Justice Department should consider prosecuting his conduct. For the second day in a row, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested during a White House briefing that Comey broke the law when he asked a friend to provide the press with the contents of unclassified memos he’d written about his conversations with President Donald Trump.

Trump fired Comey in May. The suggestions mark a highly unusual departure, even in a White House that prides itself in bucking conventions. It is extraordinary for a White House official to suggest the FBI or Justice Department – which is meant to function outside of political sway or influence – investigate anyone, let alone a fired FBI director.

Though White House and Justice Department officials coordinate on policy matters, actual investigations are supposed to be conducted without White House input or guidance. Sanders, reading from prepared remarks Wednesday, said Comey’s memos had been created on an FBI computer while he was the director, and were thus official FBI documents.

“Leaking FBI memos on a sensitive case regardless of classification violates federal laws including the privacy act, standard FBI employment agreement and nondisclosure agreement that all personnel must sign,” she said, adding, “I think that’s pretty clean and clear that that would be a violation.” As for what should happen to Comey, she said, “I’m certainly not an attorney but I think that the facts of the case are very clear.”

On Tuesday, Sanders said Comey’s actions “were improper, and likely could have been illegal.” Asked whether the president would encourage the Justice Department to prosecute Comey, she said, “That’s the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at.”

The Justice Department declined to comment. The ramped-up attacks appeared aimed at justifying Comey’s firing and came after Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon called Trump’s decision to fire Comey the worst in “modern political history.”

Comey’s firing prompted a chain of events that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion with Trump campaign aides. The president’s private attorney, Jay Sekulow?, also struck on the theme during his radio show Wednesday. “James Comey: Get a Lawyer,” a promotion for the episode reads.

Matt Miller, the spokesman for former attorney general Eric Holder, tweeted that Holder “would’ve been on phone immediately telling the WH to cut this crap out” and that other attorneys general would have as well.

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US Democratic leaders say Donald Trump agrees to quick work on immigration bill

Martha Waggonner, Walker Waggonner, Katie Powell and Gail McGlothin stand in silence holding candles and signs during a silent vigil in honor of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) at TB Butler Fountain Plaza in Tyler, Texas. (Source: Tyler Morning Telegraph) Related News

President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders in the US Congress have agreed to work together on legislation to protect “Dreamers,” the illegal immigrants who were children when they entered the United States, the lawmakers said on Wednesday, although a dispute erupted over exactly what had been agreed. Following a dinner with Trump at the White House, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the “productive meeting” focused on “DACA,” a program established by former President .

“We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement. All year, Democrats have insisted that they will block any legislation that contains funding for the border wall, which many Republicans in Congress also do not support.

While White House official have suggested legislation on DACA could move forward without wall funding, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sander disputed the characterization that a deal had been reached to leave it out of any legislation focused on the Dreamers. “While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to,” she said on Twitter.

Throughout his 2016 campaign for president and since taking office in January, Trump has demanded the construction of a wall all along the US border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs. He initially said Mexico would pay for the wall but has requested money from the US Congress after the government of Mexico refused to pay.

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Donald Trump steps up talks with Democrats on taxes as timetable set

U.S. President Donald Trump listens during his joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque Related News

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday stepped up his outreach to Democrats to try to make good on a campaign promise for major tax cuts, while fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives promised an outline of a tax plan in two weeks.

The White House and the Republican-led Congress have not put forth a detailed tax plan despite months of talks. House Speaker Paul Ryan said an outline will be unveiled during the work week beginning Sept. 25, with the House tax-writing committees then crafting legislation in the subsequent weeks. “It’s the beginning of a very important process to achieve for the first time in a generation overhauling our tax system and giving middle-class families a much deserved break,” Ryan told reporters.

As Trump continues to seek Democratic input on the tax front, he was set to meet on Wednesday afternoon at the White House with House members, including eight Democrats and five Republicans. Trump also invited Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to dine with him on Wednesday night, Democratic sources familiar with the matter said. Trump last week blindsided Republican leaders by striking a deal with Schumer and Pelosi on the U.S. debt limit and federal spending for three months, and also spoke to them about how to resolve the fate of 800,000 young adults brought into the United States illegally as children, the so-called Dreamers. The White House said Trump’s meeting with seven senators, including three Democrats, on Tuesday night on taxes was “highly productive” and would “spur constructive discussion.”

Trump went to Twitter to urge Congress to “move fast” on what he called “the biggest Tax Cut & Tax Reform package in the history of our country.” He also tweeted that the tax measure “is needed more than ever” after the damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

DIFFERING VISIONS

Republicans have been trying for most of the year to come up with a detailed tax plan while ignoring the Democrats. There has been no comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. tax code since 1986, and the starkly different visions embraced by the two parties for how to move forward promise to make the task difficult. Republicans are advocating a deep cut in the corporate tax rate, tax cuts for the middle class and a simplified code. But Democrats, emphasizing the need for relief for the middle class, have criticized the Republican efforts as benefiting mainly the wealthiest Americans.

Ryan said the outline being worked on now would reflect the consensus of the House Ways and Means Committee, Finance Committee and the Trump administration. “I would love to have the Democrats supporting and working with us in a constructive way on tax reform, but we’re going to do it no matter what,” Ryan said. Ryan, in an interview with the Associated Press, left the door open on whether the tax proposal would increase the U.S. deficit or follow Republicans’ long-standing principle that the cost of any legislation be offset by government spending cuts.

Ryan and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week expressed confidence that Congress will pass the tax legislation this year. Both have cast doubt on the  likelihood that the plan would realize Trump’s goal of cutting the corporate tax rate from the current 35 to 15 percent. In his nearly eight months in office, Trump has failed to get his major legislative goals through Congress. A bid to dismantle the Obamacare healthcare law fell apart and he has not unveiled detailed proposals on taxes and infrastructure spending. Democrats largely have lined up against Trump’s legislative priorities, but he has shown a newfound willingness to work across party lines.

Democratic aides said Schumer and Pelosi will press Trump on Wednesday evening for action to protect the Dreamers after the president rescinded a five-year-old program to spare them from deportation, and to stabilize health insurance markets under Obamacare. Democrat Joe Manchin, one of the senators who met with Trump on Tuesday, told CBS News that Trump was “very aggressive” on the need for a bipartisan plan. “The president comes out right away and says, ‘Listen, this is not a tax cut for the rich. I’m not going to get a tax cut, nor any of the wealthy, super one-percenters will get any tax cuts,‘” said Manchin, saying he is “anxious” to see a template of the plan.

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Donald Trump administration orders purge of Kaspersky products from US government

The direct financial impact of the decision will likely by minimal for Kaspersky Lab. (File Photo) Related News

The Trump administration on Wednesday told U.S. government agencies to remove Kaspersky Lab products from their information systems, saying it was concerned the Moscow-based cyber security firm was vulnerable to Kremlin influence. The Department of Homeland Security issued a directive to agencies ordering them to identify Kaspersky products on their information systems within 30 days, develop plans to remove and discontinue the products within 60 days, and begin discontinuing their use within 90 days.

“The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” the department said in a statement.

Kaspersky did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and said it would not help a government with cyber espionage. It said there is no evidence for accusations by U.S. officials and lawmakers that its antivirus software may be used to provide espionage services to the Kremlin.

The decision by the Trump administration came as the U.S. Senate was planning to vote as soon as this week on a defense policy spending bill that includes language that would ban Kaspersky Lab products from being used by U.S. government agencies. Rob Joyce, the White House cyber security coordinator, said Wednesday at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit that the Trump administration made a “risk-based decision” to order Kaspersky Lab’s products removed from federal agencies. Asked by Reuters whether there was a smoking gun showing Kaspersky had provided intelligence to the Russian government, Joyce replied: “As we evaluated the technology, we decided it was a risk we couldn’t accept.”

The direct financial impact of the decision will likely by minimal for Kaspersky Lab, one of the world’s leading anti-virus software companies that was founded in 1997 and now counts over 400 million global customers. Federal contracting databases reviewed by Reuters show only a few hundred thousand dollars in purchases from Kaspersky, and an employee told Reuters in July the company’s federal government revenue was “miniscule.” But Kaspersky also sells to federal contractors and third-party software companies that incorporate its technology in their products, so its technology may be more widely used in government than it appears from the contracting databases, U.S. officials say.

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Hope Hicks, 28, formally named White House Communications Director

The 28-year-old Hope Hicks had been acting director since the spectacular departure of Wall Street personality Anthony Scaramucci, who held the position for less than two weeks. (Source: AP photo/File) Top News

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday formally appointed one of his most trusted aides, Hope Hicks, as Communications Director — one of the most powerful roles in Washington, the White House officials said.

The 28-year-old replaces Wall Street personality Anthony Scaramucci who was fired in July after holding the position for less than two weeks. Scaramucci faced the axe for using harsh language for two former White House advisers.

Hicks is the third White House communications director in the eight months of Trump administration. She was working as an interim director after Scaramucci’s exit.

Hicks has served as Trump’s presidential campaign’s lead spokesperson. She has been interim communications director for the past few weeks. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Hick has been named to the job permanently.

Donald Trump’s communication director Hope Hicks and Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn speak before observing a moment of silence in remembrance of those lost in the 9/11 attacks at the White House in Washington, US. (Source: Reuters)

A former Ralph Lauren fashion model, Hicks has been a keen defender of Trump’s image. Her responsibilities now include shaping the administration’s message.

After appointing Hicks as acting communications Director, Trump had said, “She’s always on the phone talking to the reporters, trying to get the reporters to straighten out their dishonest stories. Hicks is a “tremendously talented person.”

In this photo taken on October 10, 2016 file photo, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is handed a box of cookies by his press secretary Hope Hicks during a visit Eat’n Park restaurant in Moon Township, Pa. (Source: AP photo/File)

“She’s a little shy, but that’s OK because she is really, really talented,” he added.

Hicks is a native of Greenwich, Connecticut.

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