LAVAR REFUSES TO THANK TRUMP

LaVar Ball spoke to CNN’s Chris Cuomo after President Donald Trump offered a pair of critical statements about LiAngelo Ball following LiAngelo’s arrest in China on shoplifting charges.

Ball questioned Trump’s role in the situation and declined to offer a thank you to the president, telling Cuomo he “[doesn’t] have to go around saying thank you to everybody,” per CNN:

Ball said a trip for LiAngelo on Air Force One would’ve changed his attitude toward Trump, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell:

Ball minimized the gravity of LiAngelo’s crime and called it a “bad decision at a bad time.” CNN shared his statements on Twitter:

The elder Ball also questioned why Trump has turned LiAngelo’s arrest into a bigger story than it already was.

“Let him do his political affairs,” Ball said, per USA Today‘s Dan Wolken. “Let me handle my son and let’s just stay in our lane.”

Ball’s youngest son, LaMelo, reacted to LaVar’s interview:

The originator of the Big Baller Brand entered the orbit of President Trump after Chinese authorities arrested LiAngelo and two other UCLA basketball players on Nov. 7.

While the rest of the team headed home following a Nov. 10 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the trio of Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill remained in China to resolve their legal issues. They subsequently returned to the United States on Nov. 14.

A day later, Trump tweeted about the process and that the three players were facing 10 years in a Chinese prison:

ESPN.com’s Arash Markazi reported Chinese authorities had planned to detain Ball, Riley and Hill for one to two weeks. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg elaborated on that part of the story:

Markazi also spoke to LaVar, who minimized Trump’s importance in getting LiAngelo home.

“Who?” LaVar said when asked about Trump. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

That prompted a response from the president Sunday:

Given Ball’s defiant comments toward Trump on Monday night, it would appear the war of words between him and the president is unlikely to quiet down.

MAN WHO SHOT UP CHURCH WAS DISCHARGED FROM THE US AIR FORCE FOR ASSAULTING WIFE

How a man who was discharged from the US Air Force for assaulting his spouse and child was able to purchase the firearms he used to carry out the deadliest shooting rampage in Texas history is just one of many questions facing investigators as they continue to look for answers on Sunday’s church massacre that left 26 people dead.

On Monday the Air Force acknowledged it did not relay the killer’s court martial conviction for domestic assault to civilian law enforcement that could have prevented him purchasing the firearms used in the shooting.
The gunman in Sunday’s shooting has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, according to law enforcement officials. As a member of the US Air Force, Kelley served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico starting in 2010.
Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, assault on his spouse and assault on their child, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Monday. Kelley received a bad conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, she said.
The Air Force did not provide a date of the discharge, but his military record indicates he left the service in May 2014.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.

“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” an Air Force statement issued later Monday said.
The failure to relay the information prevented the entry of his conviction into the federal database that must be checked before someone is able to purchase a firearm. Had his information been in the database, it should have prevented gun sales to Kelley.

Kelley’s background

The man who opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs had previously faced multiple charges in his 2012 court-martial related to violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including several involving firearms, according to records released by the Air Force.
He was originally charged with assault and battery against his wife, aggravated assault against his step-son and four charges involving firearms — including two charges of pointing a loaded firearm at his wife and two charges of pointing an unloaded firearm.
The firearms charges were dropped prior to trial as a result of a plea agreement. Kelley pleaded guilty to aggravated assault against the child and assault against his wife.
Here is what he pleaded guilty to:
  • Assault against a child: Kelley assaulted a child under the age of 16 “striking him” on the “head and body” “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”
  • Assault against his wife: Kelley struck his wife with his hands, kicking her, choking and pulling her hair.
don christensen devin kelley stepson fractured skull tsr_00000000

Gunman assaulted wife, child in 2012 01:59
But despite his history of domestic abuse and questionable behavior involving firearms, Kelley was able to purchase the Ruger AR-556 rifle he allegedly used in the shooting from a store in San Antonio, Texas in April 2016, a law enforcement official said.
There was no disqualifying information in the background check conducted as required for the purchase, a law enforcement official told CNN.
At one point, the shooter tried to get a license to carry a gun in Texas but was denied by the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, citing the director of Texas’ Department of Public Safety.
“So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun,” Abbott told CNN. “So how did this happen?”

Planned reviews

The Air Force Inspector General is currently conducting an investigation into what happened. The Pentagon has also requested that its own inspector general review the handling of Kelley’s records, along with the Air Force, as well as its reporting practices more broadly.
“The DoD IG will also review relevant policies and procedures to ensure records from other cases across DoD have been reported correctly,” said Mark Wright, acting deputy director of defense press operations.
Consistent with the Air Force statement issued Monday, a federal law enforcement official told CNN that federal authorities have found no records they were notified of the conviction.
Federal law prohibits individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving domestic violence from owning firearms. The military is required to report domestic violence convictions to civilian law enforcement.
Classifying Kelley’s discharge as “bad conduct” rather than as “dishonorable” also raises an important distinction when it comes to the question of how he was able to purchase the firearms used in the shooting.
  • A dishonorable discharge is considered the most severe classification of punitive military judgments and US federal law prohibits ownership of firearms by those who have been dishonorably discharged.
  • A bad conduct discharge is considered slightly less severe and does not implicitly block individuals from obtaining or possessing guns.
On Monday, ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski addressed media questions regarding Kelley’s ability to purchase firearms with his previous discharge from the military.
“In general, if an individual has a dishonorable discharge from the military they would be prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms and this specific investigation we are early in the investigation, we do not have all the documentation yet. Until we can get all the documentation to determine exactly what his discharge and conviction in the military we will not have a determination on if this individual was prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms,” he said.

Classification

While the ATF was careful to say that they have not received all the documentation related to Kelley’s discharge, the specific classification of his release from the military could provide clues into how he was able to obtain the firearms.
It is known that Kelley was confined for 12 months following a 2012 court-martial that found him guilty of two counts of assault involving his spouse and child.
And the nature of those crimes is raising questions around how he was able to purchase the AR-556 rifle just four years later, despite federal law that prohibits individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving domestic violence from owning firearms.
“This is true whether or not the statute specifically defines the offense as a domestic violence misdemeanor. For example, a person convicted of misdemeanor assault against his or her spouse would be prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms,” according to a provision in the Federal Gun Act of 1968.
And the fact that his conviction carried a penalty of 12 months confinement should have also prevented him from buying a gun, according to ATF regulations.
“What is so beguiling is you are clearly prohibited from owning a firearm just as if you are a convicted felon or denounce your US citizenship,” legal analyst James Gagliano told CNN’s John King on Monday. “You have a misdemeanor conviction where there was violence detached to members of your family … that happened in the court martial,” he added, noting Kelley spent a year in confinement for his conviction.
Gagliano also echoed Abbott’s questions over Kelley’s ability to purchase a gun even though he was denied a license to carry it.
“It is utterly baffling and unconscionable that someone can own a weapon and not be allowed to carry it,” he said. “Remember, in Texas, to have an open carry privileged you have to have a concealed carry permit. Not every state requires that but Texas does.”
Kelley is accused of killing 26 people, including the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor, and injuring more.

REPUBLICAN SEN. JEFF FLAKE WILL NOT RUN FOR RE-ELECTION

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has sparred frequently with President Donald Trump, will not run for re-election, he said Tuesday in a blistering floor speech bemoaning the changing tenor of politics in the United States.

“If I have been critical, it’s not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the President of the United States,” Flake said. “If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience.”
He continued, “The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”
His decision means Flake joins retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker as an outspoken critic of Trump with nothing to lose in the year before 2018’s midterm elections.
The White House suggested it was time for Flake to retire.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.

“Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said during the daily press briefing.
In his first interview since speaking on the Senate floor, Flake refused to weigh in on Sanders’ comments but outlined his issues with the President to CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“It’s difficult to move forward in a Republican primary if you have been critical of any of the behavior that’s gone on,” Flake said on CNN’s “The Lead.” “We Republicans certainly can’t countenance that kind of behavior. We ought to stand up and say ‘This is not right. This is not us. This is not conservative.'”
Flake’s political fortunes suffered as a result of his long-running feud with Trump — including an anti-Trump tome Flake published over the summer. Private polls conducted by Republican and Democratic groups in Arizona, sources with those groups said, showed him on track to lose badly in next August’s Republican primary to challenger Kelli Ward.
His retirement is a double-edged sword for Trump’s White House: It opens the door for Flake to be replaced with a more supportive Republican. But his seat is also a prime Democratic pick-up opportunity.
And it turns Arizona — once a Republican stronghold but increasingly competitive in recent elections — into perhaps the most important state in the 2018 midterms, with Flake’s seat now open and questions looming about Sen. John McCain’s long-term prognosis as he is treated for brain cancer.
McCain and Corker were both in attendance of Flake’s Senate floor speech Tuesday and gave him a standing ovation at conclusion of his remarks — as did Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso.
“One of the greatest people I’ve served with,” Corker said after the speech, describing Flake and adding later, “He’s what I would call a real conservative.”
Corker said Flake told him about his decision after the lunch among Republican senators earlier Tuesday.
When asked what it said about the Senate that Flake said he couldn’t fit into the current Republican party, Barrasso said that is up to every senator to decide.
“Every senator speaks for themselves. I continue to be very privileged to represent the people of Wyoming and hope to continue to do that in the future,” Barrasso said.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the chamber, said it is “a very sad day” and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who recently decided to skip a run for governor and stay in the chamber, called Flake’s decision “incredibly disappointed.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia left the floor in tears following Flake’s speech, calling it “depressing.”
“When someone as good and decent a person as Jeff Flake does not think he can continue in the body, it’s a very tragic day for the institution,” Kaine said.

The fight with Trump

Flake’s congressional career came full circle. He began in the House in 2001 as an outsider raging against earmarks. By the time he launched his Senate campaign in 2012, he was a favorite of conservative groups like the Club for Growth, which had grown in power and influence on Capitol Hill. Now, Flake is again on the outs, with Trump’s populist policies taking hold with Republican voters.
In politics and personality, Trump and Flake have little in common.
Flake, a Mormon from the tiny town of Snowflake, Arizona, is polite and introspective. He journals regularly and, while in the House, regularly emailed his thoughts on travel and policy to a small, private list of family and friends.
He’s long expressed major policy differences with Trump — particularly on trade. In August he called Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a big mistake which will haunt us for a long time.” He has also defended the North American Free Trade Agreement, warning that its cancellation would badly damage the economies of border states like Arizona.
Flake refused to endorse Trump in the general election, and then three months ago published a book sharply critical of Trump titled “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”
In the book, Flake worries about “the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians.” He also called now “one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history.” And he questioned whether Republicans having won the House, Senate and White House in 2016 was worth the cost of putting “at risk our institutions and our values.”
“We shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the President ‘plays to the base’ in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience,” Flake wrote.
Trump, meanwhile, had long plotted to oust Flake.
He told supportive Republicans in Arizona prior to the 2016 election that he would spend $10 million of his own money to see that Flake is unseated in the primary.
His White House has been in regular contact with State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, former state party chairman Robert Graham and other Republicans about the race. Former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon backed Ward even while working in the White House, and Robert Mercer, the GOP mega-donor and close Bannon ally, has given $300,000 to a pro-Ward super PAC.
At an August campaign rally in Phoenix, Trump huddled backstage with DeWit, Graham and Rep. Trent Franks. Two sources familiar with the meeting told CNN it was focused on ousting Flake — who Trump calls “the flake.”

The fight in Arizona

Flake’s decision opens the door for Ward, a conservative former state senator who many Arizona Republicans see as a controversial and problematic general election candidate. But now that the seat is open, Republicans will try to recruit another candidate into the race.
As Republicans look for another candidate to enter the primary, all eyes are now on DeWit, who was the Trump campaign’s chief operating officer, one Arizona Republican operative said.
“The deal is, DeWit has two days to grab the ring. It’s his if he wants it, but he’s got to move quick. If he wants it, everyone steps out the way. If he doesn’t, chaos ensues,” the operative, who asked for anonymity to frankly discuss the state of play, said.
DeWit “definitely has the President’s support” whereas others would have to earn it, the operative said. If DeWit doesn’t run, the operative said, potential candidates include Reps. Paul Gosar and David Schweikert, as well as Christine Jones, a 2016 congressional candidate and former GoDaddy executive. Republicans have also eyed Rep. Martha McSally, and Rep. Trent Franks has been involved in conversations about ousting Flake.
The winner is likely to face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

JOHN MCCAIN WANTS ANSWERS TO FOR US SOLDIERS KILLED IN NIGER

John McCain said Wednesday the White House has not been forthcoming about the ambush that killed four US soldiers in Niger and he wants more information.

The Arizona Republican and head of the Armed Services Committee curtly replied “No” when asked whether the Trump administration has been transparent and helpful in releasing information about the attacks.

“That’s why we’re called the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s because we have oversight of our military,” McCain said, according to CNN. “So we deserve to have all the information.”

McCain added that he will decide whether an “investigation” is needed after his panel receives the information it “deserves and needs.”

ADVERTISING

The Department of Defense has launched an investigation into the surprise Oct. 4 attackand US Africa Command has sent investigators into the region to help determine exactly what took place.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was asked about details of the raid Thursday and replied, “I believe they’re still looking into the details of that.”

AFTER MARIA, TRUMP APPROVAL RATING DROP 20 POINTS!!

WASHINGTON (CNN)President Donald Trump’s approval rating for handling the federal government’s response to recent hurricanes has dropped 20 points in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

In mid-September, 64% of Americans said they approved of Trump’s handling of the US hurricane response. That finding followed his administration’s handling of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the US mainland in late-August and September. Now, as many Puerto Ricans remain without access to clean water or electricity nearly a month after Maria hit, just 44% say they approve.
In the weeks since Maria devastated the island, Trump’s response has vacillated between criticism and praise. He has used his Twitter account to contend that local officials aren’t doing enough to help and has threatened to withdraw assistance from the island entirely. At other times, he has praised the work of the military and first responders there.
In a Rose Garden news conference Monday, Trump mixed praise for the federal government’s response to the situation with criticism of local efforts, saying that ample supplies had reached the island but were held up by distribution issues.
“We have massive amounts of water,” Trump said. “We have massive amounts of food, but they have to distribute the food, and they have to do this. They have to distribute the food to the people of the island.”
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.

The poll found Trump’s numbers on this score have dipped across party lines. His ratings are down 9 points among Republicans, 22 points among independents and 25 points among Democrats.
The decline also includes a steep drop in his approval rating on handling hurricanes among non-whites, from 52% in September to 25% now. Among Hispanics, approval for Trump’s handling of hurricane response has dropped from 49% in September to 22% now.
In the September poll, majorities of men and women and majorities across age groups approved of the way Trump was handling the Hurricane response. Now, among women, just 36% approve, while only 32% of those under age 45 approve.
The 64% approval rating Trump held on this issue in September was the highest the President had received for any issue in CNN’s polling since he took office in January, exceeding his previous high of 55% approval for handling the economy in March by 9 points.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone October 12 to 15 among a random national sample of 1,010 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

AL MICHAELS APOLOGIZE FOR WEINSTEIN JOKE!!

The New York Giants, who were playing the Denver Broncos, came into the game winless and with a star receiver injured. During the third quarter, Michaels said, “Let’s face it, the Giants are coming off of a worse week than Harvey Weinstein, and they’re up by 14 points.”

Cris Collinsworth, Michaels’ partner on the broadcast, chuckled at the line and said, “Only my L.A. guy comes up with that one.”

“All you have to do is read the papers — any paper,” Michaels responded.

Later in the broadcast, Michaels said he was “a little flip about somebody obviously very much in the news all over the country. It was not meant in that manner. So, my apologies, and we’ll just leave it at that.”

Related: Harvey Weinstein – Nine days of accusations and collateral damage

NBC Sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Monday.

WEINSTEIN CO. LOSES ANOTHER LAWYER

The crippled Weinstein Co. may have a buyer — and he happens to be a close friend of President Trump.

On Monday the movie and TV studio announced a financing deal with Tom Barrack’s private equity firm Colony Capital. The deal will help the studio stay afloat in the short term.

But more significantly, Weinstein Co. said it is negotiating with Colony “for a potential sale of all or a significant portion of the company’s assets.”

“We will help return the company to its rightful iconic position in the independent film and television industry,” Barrack said in a statement.

A sale could wipe away the Weinstein Co. name and help the company recover from a widening sexual harassment scandal.

For the past eleven days the studio has been dragged down by allegations of sexual misconduct against co-founder Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was fired by the board on October 8, three days after a New York Times detailed a decades-long pattern of alleged harassment.

Further reports by The Times and The New Yorker indicated that the company’s senior management knew about some of Weinstein’s behavior, although that is in dispute.

As a result of all this, Weinstein Co. has been stuck in a state of corporate limbo. There are widespread doubts in Hollywood about Weinstein Co.’s future as a standalone company.

Now comes Barrack and Colony Capital. The private equity firm has had a business relationship with Weinstein Co. for several years.

Barrack’s name has been in the news lately because he is a rumored candidate for White House chief of staff. He has been a close confidant of Trump for years and was the chairman of Trump’s private Presidential Inaugural Committee.

His involvement on Monday provided undeniable intrigue, given that he’s helping to rescue a company paralyzed by a sexual harassment scandal — and that Trump has faced harassment allegations as well.

Then-candidate Trump strongly denied any wrongdoing when women came forward and accused him of misconduct in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” tape last year.

Trump has only publicly commented on the Weinstein scandal once. He said on October 7 that “I’ve known Harvey Weinstein for a long time. I’m not at all surprised to see it.”

The “immediate capital infusion” and the sale talks were announced by one of the company’s three remaining board members, Tarak Ben Ammar, in a statement “on behalf of the board.”

“We believe that Colony’s investment and sponsorship will help stabilize the Company’s current operations, as well as provide comfort to our critical distribution, production and talent partners around the world,” he said. “Colony’s successful experience and track record in media and entertainment will be invaluable to the Company as we move forward.”

The Weinstein Co. produces popular TV shows like “Project Runway” and films like “Lion.” The company’s next film, “The Current War,” was supposed to come out in November, but it has now been delayed to early 2018.

Monday’s announcement contradicts what the company’s co-chairman Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother, said just a few days ago. On Friday he denied a Wall Street Journal report that the company was “exploring a sale or shutdown and is unlikely to continue as an independent entity.”

“Our banks, partners and shareholders are fully supportive of our company, and it is untrue that the company or board is exploring a sale or shutdown of the company,” Bob Weinstein said in response.

He claimed that “business is continuing as usual as the company moves ahead.”

But that is far from the truth.

Barely any work is getting done at the company’s offices in New York and Los Angeles, sources told CNN.

Staffers are embarrassed and shocked by the depths of the scandal. Some have even compared working there to being aboard the Titanic.

WHEN THE PRESIDENT’S MISSPELLED TWEET GOES VIRAL!!!

Half a sentence and a typo from the President of the United States are the most-talked about trends on the Internet.

Pretty much 2017 in a nutshell so far.
So here’s what we know happened.
President Donald Trump tweeted “Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” a clause with no context, at 12:06 a.m. ET Wednesday.
US President Donald Trump tweeted "Despite the constant negative press covfefe," a clause with no context at 12:06 a.m. ET on May 31.

Trump’s tweet is the latest example of his ability to draw attention on social media — and keep the public guessing as to the meaning behind many of his remarks. It’s also a reminder of how different he is from past presidents and the traditional, carefully orchestrated pronouncements typically associated with the office.
The President’s Twitter feed was largely quiet during his recent trip abroad, but hours after returning home, he unleashed a social media blast that felt like a pent-up release of fury that had been simmering over the nine days of his debut foreign tour.
As usual, he took aim at the media and decried the ongoing Russia investigation.
The tweets represent Trump at his most authentic and defiant, lashing out when he feels he is under attack, and appeared to reflect a belief that only he, and not his staff, is qualified to speak in his own defense.
Wednesday’s tweet quickly drew a deluge of attention.
As of 4 a.m., the tweet garnered more than 108,000 retweets and more than 135,000 likes. To put that in context, the tweet in which he claimed — without proof — that he would have won the popular vote if it were not for voter fraud had more than 52,000 retweets and more than 160,000 likes at the time of writing this article.
Some of his more recent tweets got in the lower tens of thousands of retweets.
The tweet was finally deleted about 5:50 a.m. ET Wednesday.
At 6:09 a.m., Trump tweeted again: “Who can figure out the true meaning of “covfefe” ??? Enjoy!”
It seemed like the President was going to complain about the press — something he’s wont to do — but it wasn’t part of a Twitter rant. It was his first tweet in 20 hours (the last one was a retweet of a Fox News article saying Jared Kushner did not suggest opening Russian communications channel, citing an anonymous source.)
Though covfefe likely was a typo when the President meant to type coverage, he woke up to a lot of Twitter sass.

FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY EXPLAINED WHY HE SENT THE LETTER ABOUT THE CLINTON EMAIL INVESTIGATION

FBI Director James Comey strongly defended Wednesday his decision to alert Congress just days before the 2016 election about his agency’s investigation into emails potentially related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server, telling senators while the idea of impacting the election made him “mildly nauseous,” he would not change what he did.

“It was a hard choice, I still believe in retrospect the right choice,” Comey told senators at a judiciary committee hearing on oversight of his agency. “I can’t consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected.”
Comey faced sharp questions from both sides of the aisle and is testifying the day after both the sitting US President and the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee sharply criticized him for his role in the outcome of last year’s presidential election.
He also said Russia to this day is actively involved in trying to influence US politics, emboldened after the outcome of last year’s election.
“I think one of the lessons that the Russians may have drawn from this is: this works,” Comey said.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley originally called the Wednesday oversight hearing of the FBI to examine what the agency knows about a 2015 terrorist attack in Garland, Texas. But the broad oversight hearing almost immediately shifted to the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the US elections, a subject on which there are four congressional probes in progress that have led to a steady stream of revelations since President Donald Trump was elected.
Comey has become an almost equally divisive figure for Republicans and Democrats for his impact on the 2016 elections.
“A cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity,” Grassley said in his opening remarks, which listed a series of issues he took with the agency. The Iowa Republican added later, “The public’s faith in the FBI, Congress, and our democratic process has been tested lately.”
Comey’s revelation that the FBI was examining additional emails from Hillary Clinton that were discovered on disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s computer, has led Democrats — including Clinton herself — to say it cost them the White House.
“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee said Tuesday in an interview conducted by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at the Women for Women International summit in New York.
Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein used her first remarks to question the agency’s timing and handling the Clinton investigation.
“Why didn’t you just do the investigation as you would normally, with no public announcement?” the California Democrat asked.
“Having repeatedly told this Congress we’re done and there’s nothing there, there’s no case there, there’s no case there, to restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning and not speak about it would require an act of concealment in my view,” Comey responded as part of his lengthy answer explaining his letter to Congress.
Most recently, CNN reported Tuesday that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is prepared to testify before a Senate panel next week that she gave a forceful warning to the White House regarding then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and his conversations with the Russians nearly three weeks before he was fired, contradicting the administration’s version of events. Comey, responding to a question Wednesday from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, confirmed Yates discussed her assessment that Flynn may be vulnerable with him.
Following those remarks, Trump criticized Comey the night before the hearing.
“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony……Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” Trump said in a pair of tweets Tuesday.
Senate Democrats grilled the FBI chief about his decisions in the final days of the US election last year and his timing for releasing that information.
“The most important investigation the FBI is currently conducting is into Russia’s interference in our last presidential election,” Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, told CNN Tuesday. “This isn’t just about understanding Russian interference and potential coordination of some kind with the Trump campaign. This is about defending our next election as well.”
Meanwhile, Graham, who is leading his own investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, said he still wants Comey to answer whether the FBI issued any warrants against the Trump campaign — a question he asked months ago.
“I just want an answer. I just want to know what is going on here,” Graham said Tuesday. “You had (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper say there was no surveillance of the Trump campaign or Trump Tower. You’ve got press reports a FISA warrant was issued for Carter Page because of his ties to Russia. I just want to know what happened. And if we can’t do it in an open session, let’s do it in a closed session.”
Wednesday’s meeting will be the first of two consecutive hearings for Comey this week. The second will be a closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, focused largely on follow-up questions from their explosive first meeting in March.

ILLINOIS TEEN DIES AFTER BEING PUNCHED AT PARTY

A Clinton County, Illinois high school senior’s dreams to graduate and attend college were shattered after authorities said another student struck him with a fatal blow.

The county coroner said the incident happened at a party Saturday night at a party near Germantown. Somebody hit 18-year-old Jacob J. Arter. Friends rushed Arter to the hospital in their own car. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

“It’s an unfortunate tragedy that affects two families,” said Clinton County Sheriff Doug Maue.

Arter’s family is mourning his loss. He was enrolled at Central High School in Breese. The suspected student behind the attack also attended Central High School. That individual remains in juvenile custody.

People at Central High School were stunned that Arter is gone.

“He was very smart and nice. People liked to be around him and he was very involved in school. He played football and he did activities in school,” said Shawnee Zimmer, Arter’s schoolmate. “I was very shocked. I didn’t think that would ever happen here in the community.”