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Richard Grenell has declassified a new batch of Russia probe documents on his way out as acting director of national intelligence, leaving the decision on whether to make those files public up to newly sworn-in Director John Ratcliffe.

The documents include transcripts of phone calls that then-incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak had in December 2016, during the presidential transition period. Grenell said publicly last week that he was in the process of declassifying those files, after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked that he do so.

Fox News has learned that the declassification review of those transcripts is now complete, and it will be left up to Ratcliffe on whether to release them publicly.

Fox News has learned that Grenell also completed the declassification review of other documents related to the origins of the Russia probe — including one that a senior intelligence official told Fox News was “very significant in understanding how intelligence was manipulated to support launching the Russia investigation.”

The official could not provide further details on that newly declassified document, but said that it will also be up to Ratcliffe to decide whether to make it public.

The declassification comes after Grenell, who served as acting director while simultaneously serving as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, made waves with previous declassifications related to the Russia investigation, as well as other actions during his three months on the job.

Earlier this month, Grenell cleared for release more than 6,000 pages of transcripts of interviews from the House Intelligence Committee’s long-running Russia investigation. Schiff, under pressure from Grenell and House Republicans, ultimately released the transcripts which revealed, among other things, that top Obama officials acknowledged they knew of no “empirical evidence” of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

Then, Grenell declassified a list of Obama-era officials who requested to unmask the identity of Flynn in intelligence reports during the presidential transition period. The roster included top-ranking figures including then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough, among others.

Flynn’s calls with the former Russian ambassador during the transition were picked up in surveillance and information about them was later leaked. Flynn’s case returned to the national spotlight after the DOJ moved to dismiss charges against him of lying to the FBI about those conversations, despite a guilty plea that he later sought to withdraw.

Considering those calls raised widespread concerns about Flynn, Democrats like Schiff in turn pressed Grenell for the underlying documents. The transcripts Grenell has declassified, though, are for five phone calls Flynn had with Kislyak on Dec. 29, 2016. Flynn’s specific call with Kislyak from Dec. 22, 2016, which was picked up in surveillance and later leaked to the press, is in the FBI’s possession, a source told Fox News, noting that it was not in Grenell’s jurisdiction to declassify.

Meanwhile, last week Grenell moved to declassify an email that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent to herself on President Trump’s Inauguration Day, documenting a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting with Obama and others, during which the former president provided guidance on how law enforcement needed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

The declassified email revealed that Comey suggested to Obama that the National Security Council might not want to pass “sensitive information related to Russia” to Flynn, due to the fact that he had been “speaking frequently” with the Russian ambassador.

Grenell also declassified more than three dozen previously redacted footnotes from the Justice Department inspector general’s report into intelligence community failures during the Russia investigation.

“Richard Grenell brought unmatched energy and transparency to ODNI during his tenure there,” a senior administration official told Fox News. “He took seriously the rule that classification must not be used to hide potential misconduct or to save the government from embarrassment.”

The official added that Grenell “made strides to depoliticize intelligence and towards rebuilding the American peoples’ trust in the IC.”

But Democrats criticized Grenell for being a staunch Trump loyalist, and accused him of carrying out duties as acting intelligence director in the president’s interest.

Schiff said in a recent letter to Grenell that his declassification of the list of Obama administration officials is “without precedent” and “corrupt.”

“It was a transparent political act — in an election year and during a pandemic, no less — in which you used the authorities of your position to insinuate wrongdoing by officials who acted appropriately in requesting the identity of masked U.S. persons to better understand foreign intelligence reports,” Schiff wrote. “This is inconsistent with the oath and obligations of an acting Director of National Intelligence.”

However, aside from his declassification of documents related to the Russia probe, Grenell made other big moves within ODNI during his three-month tenure.

A senior intelligence official told Fox News that during his time at ODNI, Grenell appointed the first female to lead the National Counterterrorism Center, Lora Shiao; established an intelligence community-wide working group to support a policy for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the 69 countries where being LGBT is a punishable offense; finalized and released the National Intelligence Estimate on the future of ISIS through 2021; and engaged foreign liaison partners to form a working group to increase intelligence sharing with key allies on Hezbollah.

The official also told Fox News that Grenell directed the intelligence community to change the way it protects the identities of U.S. citizens contained within intelligence reporting, urging consistency to the process and ensuring the “greater privacy” of U.S. citizens.

Earlier this month, Grenell also announced that the intelligence community would lead new election security threat briefings for presidential candidates, their campaigns and major political parties ahead of the 2020 election. The decision was not made unilaterally, but was “coordinated and approved” by all agencies involved, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies inside the intelligence community.

Another senior intelligence official said that Grenell “set a good precedent for John Ratcliffe to follow, and if the new DNI continues in this mold, the country will be stronger for it.”

Ratcliffe was sworn-in as director of national intelligence on Tuesday by Grenell at ODNI, after having been confirmed to the post by the Senate last week.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Ratcliffe, until recently a Republican member of Congress representing a Texas district, pledged to senators that he’d deliver intelligence information without bias if confirmed for the job. Ratcliffe, who was one of Trump’s fiercest allies during impeachment, said he had the experience to be an independent leader of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, given his past work as a federal prosecutor.

“The best job I ever had was to be the United States attorney and what I loved… it was an apolitical position,” Ratcliffe told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month. “I stood up always to represent the United States of America. Never one party or another. And I very much view that as this role for the DNI.”

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Grenell declassifies slew of Russia probe files, as Ratcliffe takes helm as DNI

Top Obama administration officials purportedly requested to “unmask” the identity of former national security adviser Michael Flynn during the presidential transition period, according to a list of names from that controversial process made public on Wednesday.

The list was declassified in recent days by Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and then sent to GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, who made the documents public. The roster features top-ranking figures including then-Vice President Joe Biden — a detail already being raised by the Trump campaign in the bare-knuckle 2020 presidential race where Biden is now the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.

The list also includes then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Obama’s then-chief of staff Denis McDonough.

“I declassified the enclosed document, which I am providing to you for your situational awareness,” Grenell wrote to the GOP senators in sending along the list.

Grenell’s note was addressed to Sens. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Johnson, R-Wis., who had penned a letter to him and Attorney General Bill Barr regarding the declassification of files related to the unmasking process earlier in the day.

As Fox News previously reported, Grenell already made the decision to declassify information about Obama administration officials who were involved in the “unmasking” of Flynn — whose calls with the former Russian ambassador during the presidential transition were picked up in surveillance and later leaked. His case has returned to the national spotlight after the DOJ moved to dismiss charges against him of lying to the FBI about those conversations, despite a guilty plea that he later sought to withdraw.

Trump allies claim Flynn was wrongly targeted, and have suggested high-level involvement in an effort to bring him down. Democrats, however, claim the DOJ’s decision to abandon the case shows how it has become politicized.

Both the DOJ and Grenell had been discussing these “unmasking” files, after Grenell appeared to have delivered those files to the department last week. There were some tensions between the two offices over who would actually pull the trigger to release them — ultimately, the publication came from Capitol Hill after Grenell sent lawmakers the files.

The declassified list specifically showed officials who “may have received Lt. Gen Flynn’s identity in response to a request processed between 8 November 2016 and 31 January 2017 to unmask an identity that had been generically referred to in an NSA foreign intelligence report,” the document, obtained by Fox News, read.

“Each individual was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through NSA’s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request,” the document said. “Only certain personnel are authorized to submit unmasking requests into the NSA system. In this case, 16 authorized individuals requested unmasking for [REDACTED] different NSA intelligence reports for select identified principals.”

The document added: “While the principals are identified below, we cannot confirm they saw the unmasked information. This response does not include any requests outside of the specified time-frame.”

The list revealed that then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power made unmasking requests seven times between Nov. 30, 2016 and Jan. 11, 2017. The list revealed that Clapper made three requests from Dec. 2, 2016 through Jan. 7, 2017; and that Brennan made two requests, one on Dec. 14 and one on Dec. 15, 2016. Comey also made a request on Dec. 15, 2016. On Jan. 5, 2017, McDonough made one request, and on Jan. 12, 2017, Biden made one request.

The day McDonough requested the information is the same day as an Oval Office meeting that has drawn scrutiny in the wake of the Flynn developments. The meeting included Obama, Biden, Clapper, Brennan, Comey, then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice and then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

That meeting was the first time Yates learned about Flynn’s calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to notes from her special counsel interview which were released last week. Yates, in her interview, indicated Obama was aware of Flynn’s intercepted December 2016 phone calls with Kislyak during the presidential transition period.

After the briefing, Obama asked Yates and Comey to “stay behind,” and said he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Russia’s ambassador about sanctions. Obama “specified that he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.”

That Oval Office meeting aligns with an email that Rice on Jan. 20, 2017, the day President Trump was sworn into office — sent herself documenting Obama’s guidance, evidently in the same meeting, about how law enforcement should investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

“President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’” Rice emailed to herself. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”

The email also appeared to reflect Obama’s guidance on sharing sensitive information with both the Russians and the incoming Trump administration.

Rice wrote that Obama said, “he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.”

Meanwhile, the unmasking documents come just a day after Biden initially told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that he knew “nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” and called the topic a “diversion” from the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden was pressed on the issue, and then clarified: “I thought you asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted. I’m sorry. … I was aware that … they asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it, and I don’t think anything else.”

Soon after the release of the documents, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale blasted Biden’s claim during his “Good Morning America” interview.

“Joe Biden’s limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable. Biden is listed among the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn,” Parscale said in a statement. “We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked.”

He added: “Americans have a right to know the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax.”

The Biden campaign countered by accusing the Trump camp of “lying,” pointing to an argument that those on the list merely made requests that “might” have unmasked Flynn. The documents released Wednesday give a mixed picture on this, saying the list covers officials who requested to unmask Flynn’s identity, but also saying the identity they sought was at first only “generically” referenced in an intelligence report.

In a statement on Wednesday, Andrew Bates, Biden’s Director of Rapid Response, downplayed the latest Flynn revelations.

“These documents have absolutely nothing to do with any FBI investigation and they confirm that all normal procedures were followed — any suggestion otherwise is a flat out lie,” Bates said. “What’s more, it’s telling that these documents were selectively leaked by Republicans abusing their congressional powers to act as arms of the Trump campaign after having them provided by a partisan official installed for this very purpose.”

The unmasking concerns events between the November 2016 election and Inauguration Day 2017. Unmasking occurs after U.S. citizens’ conversations are incidentally picked up in conversations with foreign officials who are being monitored by the intelligence community. The U.S. citizens’ identities are supposed to be protected if their participation is incidental and no wrongdoing is suspected. However, officials can determine the U.S. citizens’ names through a process that is supposed to safeguard their rights.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Wednesday penned a letter to Grenell inviting him to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Government Oversight next week about the unmasking of Flynn, noting that he has questions about what Biden and former President Barack Obama knew.

“During my prior oversight of this matter, I met several dead ends, and I have many remaining questions in regard to President Obama’s administration abusing its authority,” Paul wrote to Grenell Wednesday. “Unlawful unmasking of U.S. persons should never be swept aside in hopes of being forgotten in time.”

But a senior administration official told Fox News that Grenell will not testify.

The official said that Grenell will be “continuing his efforts to be transparent and will continue to be responsive to congressional requests for documents, but will not appear for testimony.”

Officials in the Obama administration have acknowledged that they moved to unmask some Americans in intelligence reports, but insisted that their reasons were legitimate. Those officials include Rice, Power and former deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes.

A Justice Department official told Fox News this week that the DOJ has been reviewing the unmasking of U.S. officials as part of its broader examination of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and was taking a look at the files that Grenell declassified and delivered to the Justice Department last week.

Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera contributed to this report.

Author: Brooke Singman, David Spunt

Source: Fox News: List of officials who sought to ‘unmask’ Flynn released: Biden, Comey, Obama chief of staff among them

The Trump administration is in talks over potentially winding down the coronavirus task force, even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in the U.S. and as sectors of the economy begin to reopen.

President Trump defended the talks Tuesday while speaking to the media in Phoenix, Ariz., where he was touring a mask production facility, saying his advisers were continuing to examine the virus “very closely,” and the doctors on the task force would continue to make their voices heard. He also said, “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years… We’ve learned a lot about the coronavirus.”

The president also denied his message was, “mission accomplished.”

Vice President Pence, who has led the task force, said Tuesday that White House officials were “having conversations” about finishing up the group’s business and, instead, having “agencies take over the work” — specifically mentioning the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA]. Pence said, though, that the earliest the agencies could take over the group’s responsibilities would be Memorial Day or early June, if the task force itself were to be discontinued.

A White House official told Fox News the White House has been shifting focus toward re-opening the country, as outlined in Phase 1 of the administration’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines. The official said it would be an ongoing shift over the next several weeks.

The official told Fox News that doctors will continue to play an “important advisory role” in the process, as the administration has aimed to “make sure medical guidelines are kept up to date” and Americans are able to safely return to work. The official stressed that doctors were not being removed from the equation and called any reports reflecting that “false.”

The official told Fox News that members of the task force will continue to provide input, but the group will not be meeting as regularly as they had been at the outset of the pandemic. The official added that the White House’s focus was shifting towards vaccines, therapeutics, testing and re-opening the economy.

The task force, according to the official, was always meant to be a temporary arrangement. The official stressed that experts will continue to provide input, even while not meeting each day.

The task force has included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator under both the Trump and Obama administrations; U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and more.

The task force had delivered near-daily briefings from the White House for nearly two months, sometimes lasting for more than an hour, providing updates on the impact of the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response.

But, those briefings also became a source of controversy.

Trump led many of them, taking criticism for spending chunks of time touting his administration’s accomplishments and sparring with some of the media. Perhaps the most controversial moment came last month when Trump seemingly suggested that a product as simple as household disinfectant potentially could be used for treatment in humans for coronavirus.

The president later said he was just being “sarcastic.” But, Lysol and even the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] put out statements reminding people that disinfectants should not be ingested or injected into the human body. Shortly afterward, the White House stopped hosting the briefings on a regular basis.

Fox News’ Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.

Author: Brooke Singman, John Roberts

Source: Fox News: Trump administration in talks over potentially winding down coronavirus task force

President Trump on Wednesday said the administration will be “fading out” the federal social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus that are slated to expire Thursday.

The White House implemented the “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines last month, extending the strategy the White House rolled out in early March that included guidance on social distancing, working from home, washing hands frequently and avoiding unnecessary travel.

The 30 days are set to expire Thursday, April 30, and are unlikely to be extended.

The president told reporters from the Oval Office Wednesday that the White House will be “fading out” the guidelines.

Vice President Pence added that those guidelines are “very much incorporated in the guidance.”

The “fading out” of the White House social distancing guidelines comes as the states across the nation begin Phase One to reopen their economies amid the coronavirus crisis.

The White House, earlier this month, laid out guidelines to reopen the economy, and passed the decision on when to move to each phase to governors and local officials.

The Trump administration’s guidelines outline what individuals, businesses, health care workers and more should do over three phases in reopening the economy, with states making it to the first phase only if they see a decrease in the number of cases within their borders over 14 days.

Meanwhile, Fox News obtained a draft proposal of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a phased reopening of the economy.

The CDC draft contains guidelines for child care centers, schools, day camps, faith-based institutions, bars and restaurants and public transportation, and an outline of specific directions for each sector.

The draft proposal is reportedly under review by White House officials, and the CDC could release a final proposal in the coming days.

As of Wednesday, the U.S. reported more than 1 million positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 58,900 deaths.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump says White House ‘fading out’ social distancing guidelines set to expire this week

President Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee brought in more than $63 million in March, bringing their first-quarter fundraising total to more than $212 million amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Trump campaign, the RNC and its authorized joint-fundraising committees (Trump Victory 2020 and Trump Make America Great Again Committee) on Monday touted their fundraising success during the first quarter of 2020 — which covered the president’s Senate impeachment trial and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new figures released Monday continue to show the campaign with a huge cash advantage over the Democrats, just as former Vice President Joe Biden becomes the party’s presumptive nominee to take on the president. The Trump campaign and RNC committees raised $56 million more than during the final quarter in 2019 – a 36 percent increase – and highlighted their $240 million total cash-on-hand.

“Americans can see President Trump leading this nation through a serious crisis and they are responding with their continued enthusiastic support for his reelection,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement Monday. “Joe Biden, Democrats, and the media continue to oppose his every action, but the people know that President Trump is fighting for them so they are fighting for him as well.”

The first quarter fundraising efforts brought their total this cycle to more than $677 million — a figure the campaign said is $270 million more than former President Barack Obama had at this point in 2012.

While the campaign and joint-fundraising committees raised more than $63 million in March, that figure represented a dip from the month prior, when they raked in more than $86 million in February — but more than their $60 million raised in January.

Democrats have yet to release their March hauls, but at the end of February, Biden’s campaign and the DNC held just roughly $20 million combined, accounting for debt held by the national party.

“President Trump’s unyielding commitment to the American people has shown time and again that he is the President we need to lead our country through the crisis and it’s clear that voters are responding to his bold leadership,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday. “The enthusiasm for President Trump and our Party remains strong, and we continue o be all systems go toward November.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign and joint-fundraising committees transitioned to a “completely virtual operation in just 24 hours.” The Trump Victory fundraising committee touted nearly 1 million volunteers who were trained last month, and have made more than 17 million contacts since March 13.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump campaign, RNC raise $212 million in first quarter amid impeachment, coronavirus

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden spoke over the phone Monday afternoon about the coronavirus crisis, Fox News has learned, in a rare conversation between the two likely nominees for president in November.

During the White House coronavirus task force press briefing in the evening, the president confirmed that he spoke to Biden over the phone earlier in the day. “We had a really wonderful, warm conversation, a very nice conversation,” Trump said.

A source familiar with the call said they spoke about the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We talked about, pretty much…what everyone is talking about, this is what they want to talk about,” Trump said, referring to coronavirus. “He gave me his point of view and I fully understood that.”

Trump said the “friendly” conversation lasted about 15 minutes.

“It was really good, really good. Really nice,” he said.

But Trump wouldn’t divulge specifics, telling reporters that he and Biden “agreed we weren’t going to talk about what we said,” and maintained that it was a “very good talk.”

“I enjoyed it. I hope he enjoyed it too,” Trump said, adding that the former vice president “had suggestions” but “it doesn’t mean that I agree with those suggestions, but certainly he had suggestions. I also told him some of the things we’re doing.”

Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield also confirmed the call took place.

“Vice President Biden and President Trump had a good call,” Bedingfield said in a statement to Fox News. “VP Biden shared several suggestions for actions the administration can take now to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and expressed his appreciation for the spirit of the American people in meeting the challenges facing the nation.”

The call comes after Fox News first reported last week that Biden offered to have a phone call with Trump directly to discuss a strategy to combat the virus.

On Monday, the president teased the former vice president, tweeting: “What ever happened to that phone call he told the Fake News he wanted to make to me?”

Biden, on Monday, replied to the president’s tweet, appearing to keep the offer of a chat on the table.

“Mr. President, I hope we can gather in Milwaukee, but that is going to depend on you stepping up and doing what needs to be done to handle this pandemic,” Biden tweeted, before plugging his campaign page outlining his own response.

He added: “Happy to discuss anytime.”

Earlier Monday, a source familiar told Fox News that despite the president expressing interest in having a phone call with the Democratic frontrunner, the Biden campaign did not hear from the White House.

The source told Fox News that the Biden campaign reached out to the White House Monday to set up the call, which took place Monday afternoon.

Last week, when asked whether he would be receptive to a call with the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Trump said: “Oh sure, absolutely. I’d love to speak with him.”

“I always found him to be a nice guy. I don’t know him very well, frankly, but I think he’s probably a nice guy,” Trump said last week. “If he’d like to call, I’d absolutely take his call.”

Biden’s offer of a phone call came after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway challenged him to stop criticizing the Trump administration’s efforts and instead “call the White House today and offer some support.”

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump, Biden have a ‘really good’ phone call about coronavirus

President Trump said Monday his administration has asked pharmaceutical companies to “accelerate” efforts to create a coronavirus vaccine, just a day after the second confirmed U.S. fatality related to the virus.

The president, sitting alongside Colombian President Dubuque Marquez in the Oval Office, told reporters that pharmaceutical reps have been slated to visit the White House Monday for weeks, but that the meeting will now be focused on coronavirus and vaccines.

“We are working very hard with the CDC, with everyone on a subject that has become a big subject,” Trump said, noting that “our country is doing well” and that those leading the efforts to combat and control the virus are “doing a great job.”

“We have big meetings with the most powerful companies in the world,” Trump said of meetings slated for Monday afternoon. “When it comes to drugs and vaccines, maybe a cure is possible, so we’ll see about that.”

He added: “We’re going to have another subject, vaccines, and how they’re doing…We’ve asked them to accelerate whatever they’re doing in terms of vaccines, absolutely.”

The president was asked whether it was “safe” for him to continue to hold campaign-style rallies as the country battles the virus. “You should ask that to the Democrats…They’re all having rallies, they’re campaigning,” he quipped while saying, “I think it’s very safe.”

Trump’s comments come just days after he authorized new travel restrictions and warnings in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The administration’s strict travel warning affects Iran, Italy and South Korea.

“There’s no reason to panic at all. This is something that is being handled professionally,” he said, while also acknowledging more cases in the U.S. are “likely.”

The virus has sickened 89,000 people across 66 countries, resulting in at least 3,061 deaths including two in the U.S. Most of the deaths have occurred in mainland China.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump calls on US pharmaceutical companies to ‘accelerate’ efforts on coronavirus vaccine

EXCLUSIVE: House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes blasted committee Chairman Adam Schiff for what he called an “alarming” and “blatant disregard” for the rules governing the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump, saying Schiff transmitted his investigative findings to the Judiciary Committee for the next phase in the proceedings without consulting him.

Fox News exclusively obtained the letter Nunes, R-Calif., sent to Schiff, D-Calif., on Sunday night. In the letter dated Friday, Nunes wrote that Schiff chose not to consult with him so that he could meet a “bogus” deadline for impeaching the president. The GOP congressman also accused the Democrat of having a “vendetta” against the president.

“I write in objection to your December 6, 2019 transfer of additional records and other materials relating to the Democrats’ partisan impeachment inquiry to the House Committee on the Judiciary,” Nunes wrote.

He went on to cite the rules governing the impeachment inquiry, passed in the House in October, which stated that “the chair of the Permanent Select Committee or the chair of any other committee having custody of records or other materials relating to the inquiry referenced in the first section of this resolution is authorized, in consultation with the ranking minority member, to transfer such records or materials to the Committee on the Judiciary.”

“As the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, I received no consultation prior to the transfer of materials, in violation of H. Res. 660,” Nunes wrote. “Accordingly, I expect that you immediately provide me a full accounting of documents that were provided to the Committee on the Judiciary.”

“Your consistent and blatant disregard for the rules is alarming,” Nunes continued. “I can see no reason for you to continue to ignore these rules, which the Democratic majority put in place, other than to meet a bogus deadline of impeaching the President by Christmas.”

He added: “I urge you to put an immediate end to your vendetta against the President, stop your constant rule breaking, and begin treating this Committee and its oversight responsibilities with the seriousness they deserve.”

Last week, the Intelligence Committee voted to adopt and issue a scathing report on its findings from its impeachment inquiry. Democrats on the panel asserted that their inquiry “uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.”

In their impeachment inquiry, the committee conducted extensive interviews with witnesses connected to the Trump administration’s relationship with Ukraine, after an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint alleging that during a July 25 phone call, Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as issues related to the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and witnesses have claimed showed a “quid pro quo” arrangement. Trump repeatedly has denied any wrongdoing.

The Democrats’ report claimed that Trump withheld nearly $391 million in military aid from Ukraine, conditioning its delivery as well as a White House visit with Zelensky on a public announcement that Zelensky was conducting the investigations. It also accused Trump of obstruction of justice for instructing witnesses not to comply with congressional subpoenas.

Nunes took issue with the issuance of the report to the Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., without consulting with him, as well as the transmission of additional underlying investigative material, according to an aide familiar with the matter. Also part of the committee’s report were Nunes’ phone records, which Schiff subpoenaed and released in connection with the impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, House Republicans issued their own report earlier this week delivering a point-by-point rebuttal to Democrats’ impeachment efforts.

“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” Republicans said in their report released Monday.

Nevertheless, Nadler and Judiciary Committee Democrats, in consultation with Intelligence Committee and Oversight Committee Democrats, and at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have begun drafting articles of impeachment, which are likely to encompass two major themes: abuse of office and obstruction.

The Judiciary Committee is set to hold a hearing Monday, when counsels for the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees’ Democrats and Republicans are to present evidence in the case.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Nunes blasts Schiff for ‘blatant disregard’ of impeachment rules; blames ‘vendetta’ against Trump

Acting deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli was reportedly forced to leave an event on Thanksgiving eve after former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley blasted him for carrying out the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

The incident allegedly took place at the Dubliner, an Irish pub on Capitol Hill where Cuccinelli and O’Malley were said to be attending an event with fellow graduates of Gonzaga College High School, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the encounter.

“Martin O’Malley just drove Ken Cuccinelli out of the Dubliner in DC w/ a passion-laced and shame-invoking tirade on behalf of immigrant refugee children!!!” Siobhan Arnold, who’s identified as a Villanova University media relations associate and was reportedly at the bar, tweeted late Wednesday.

Speaking to the Post, Arnold said O’Malley used Cuccinelli’s grandparents in a bid to shame him, a remark which she said Cuccinelli barely responded to.

“O’Malley was shouting,” Arnold told the Post. “I don’t think Cuccinelli was responding. I think he’s like, ‘Time to go. Just got here and I’m leaving.’ He pretty much retreated.”

O’Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland from 2006 to 2014, and a 2016 presidential candidate who withdrew his White House bid after an early defeat in the Iowa caucuses, defended his actions to the Post.

“We all let him know how we felt about him putting refugee immigrant kids in cages — certainly not what we were taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga,” O’Malley said in a text to the Post, adding that Cuccinelli is “the son of immigrant grandparents who cages children for a fascist president.”

A DHS spokesman did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Cuccinelli has been known as one of the Trump administration’s most vocal immigration hardliners. He was appointed acting deputy DHS secretary earlier this month under new acting Secretary Chad Wolf, after serving as acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director. Cuccinelli, along with acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, had been one of the favorites among immigration hawks to lead the department.

But Cuccinelli is not the first Trump administration official to be harassed for his work involving enforcement of President Trump’s immigration policies.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was repeatedly heckled for her role in the administration, and was forced, last year, to cut a working dinner short at a Mexican restaurant in Washington after protesters harassed her, shouting “shame!” Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was also forced to leave a Virginia restaurant during the same time period. Those incidents took place after Trump signed an executive order to stop the administration’s controversial family separation policy.

The president has repeatedly said that the administration has no plans to reinstate that policy and has sought to place blame on former President Barack Obama instead.

“Obama separated the children, just so you understand. President Obama separated the children,” Trump said in April. “The cages that were shown, very inappropriate, they were built by President Obama and the Obama administration –not by Trump.”

He added: “The press knows it, you know it, we all know it. I’m the one that stopped it.”

Initial images of cages with children inside that spread on social media last year indeed were from the Obama administration. The photos, taken in 2014 by The Associated Press, were wrongly described as illustrating imprisonment under the Trump administration.

But while family separations happened under Obama, it became more widespread during the border crisis that occurred during the early part of the Trump administration.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Ken Cuccinelli, acting DHS deputy, forced to leave bar after being assailed by Martin O’Malley

U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the intelligence and law enforcement communities’ handling of the Russia probe is quietly but steadily expanding under the shadow of the high-profile House impeachment inquiry against President Trump—and could represent something of a wild card in the president’s attempts to fight back.

Attorney General Bill Barr appointed Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut, to ensure intelligence collection activities by the U.S. government related to the Trump 2016 presidential campaign were “lawful and appropriate.”

His probe reportedly will soon focus on the roles of key Obama administration intelligence officials like John Brennan and James Clapper. And it converges with other simultaneous investigations, including Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s probe of alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses, which, coupled together, could give the president ammunition to attack his critics, even if the material does not directly relate to the Ukraine controversy fueling the impeachment push.

“If the rumors are true that IG Horowitz’s report and findings in Durham’s review will blast the conduct of the FBI’s Russia investigation, it will give Trump a lot of ammo to support his argument that he was unjustly targeted then and is being unjustly targeted now,” a House GOP source told Fox News on Tuesday. “It will justify Trump’s warnings about the Deep State acting to hobble his presidency.”

Trump claimed Tuesday that the impeachment push amounted to a “lynching” — which touched off a round of fiery condemnation from Democratic critics.

“The president should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter in American history,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters.

But as Trump and Democrats loudly clash over the probe, Durham has pressed forward quietly with an investigation that could ding the reputations of some of Trump’s biggest critics.

Durham was appointed to review the events leading up to the 2016 presidential election and through Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration. But Fox News has learned that he’s since expanded his investigation to cover a post-election timeline spanning the spring of 2017—when Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel.

Durham is “gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries,” according to Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, who also acknowledged that Trump has helped to facilitate communications for Barr and Durham with foreign powers.

“At Attorney General Barr’s request, the president has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the attorney general and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials,” Kupec said last month.

Barr and Durham have already traveled to Italy to speak with law enforcement officials, and have also had conversations with officials in the U.K. and Australia about the probe, according to multiple sources familiar with the meetings.

Durham also has reportedly expressed interest in interviewing several current and former intelligence officials. Former CIA Director John Brennan told NBC News that Durham plans to interview him and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

A spokesman for Clapper did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Meanwhile, Horowitz is expected to release his long-awaited review of alleged FISA abuses by the Department of Justice and the FBI during the Russia investigation—there has been speculation that his report could drop any day.

Horowitz, for more than a year and a half, has been investigating alleged misconduct related to the FISA warrants delivered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Justice Department and FBI obtained warrants in 2016 to surveil Trump adviser Carter Page. It is unclear, at this point, if Page was the only Trump campaign official that the DOJ obtained a FISA warrant against.

Horowitz’s highly anticipated findings could spark new congressional investigations and deliver critical information to Durham’s probe.

Horowitz has been probing how the salacious anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was used to secure the original FISA warrant for Page in October 2016, as well as three renewals. Horowitz also has looked into why the FBI may have regarded Steele – funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign through law firm Perkins Coie – a credible source, and why the bureau used news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility before the FISA court.

“As soon as Horowitz is done with his review of the FISA warrant application, the counterintelligence investigation, the Trump campaign, we’ll have a hearing in public with Horowitz and we’ll call a bunch of witnesses,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox Business Network’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Graham has vowed to probe alleged FISA abuses at the start of the Russia investigation, saying earlier this year that his Senate committee would look for answers on how much money the Democrats paid research firm Fusion GPS to commission the dossier compiled by Steele, or if the contents of the dossier have been verified.

It is unclear if Graham, amid the House impeachment inquiry, has begun this investigation. But Graham has said that he could call on Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and former FBI Director James Comey to appear before his panel.

The president and his allies are already touting the progress being made by Durham, and are hoping Horowitz’s report will provide new fodder to counter impeachment talk.

“Democrats are afraid that the reports will validate what the president has been saying for years—his enemies in Congress are so desperate to undo the results of the 2016 election that they will manufacture conspiracies and sell them to the American people,” a senior Republican aide told Fox News on Tuesday.

Trump has the authority to declassify and release as much of the report as he wants, and has been hyping its forthcoming release.

“I predict you will see things that you don’t even believe, the level of corruption—whether it’s [James] Comey; whether it’s [Peter] Strzok and his lover, [Lisa] Page; whether it’s so many other people—[Andrew] McCabe; whether it’s President Obama himself,” Trump told reporters last week.

“Let’s see whether or not it’s President Obama. Let’s see whether or not they put that in,” he added.

The president has sought to shift focus on the current impeachment inquiry in the House to potential misconduct that could be found in these ongoing investigations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the formal process last month, following revelations surrounding the president’s summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressed for politically charged investigations.

As detailed in a whistleblower complaint and transcript of the call, Trump pushed the Ukrainian president to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, over their dealings in Ukraine—specifically, why the elder Biden pressured the former Ukrainian president to fire a top prosecutor who was investigating a natural gas firm where Hunter sat on the board.

The president’s request also came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, something critics have cited as evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement. The White House and the president’s allies have denied a quid pro quo — though Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney seemed to say otherwise, before walking it back — and the Bidens have maintained that they did “nothing wrong.”

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Expansive Durham probe could give Trump ammo amid impeachment fight

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