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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Photos by Jonathan Ernst and Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    File photo: Ousted FBI Director James Comey and President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Trump announced the immediate removal of Comey from the FBI. Photos by Jonathan Ernst and Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    In announcing Tuesday’s unexpected removal of FBI director James Comey, President Donald Trump wrote a letter saying the ousted head of the agency is “not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

    Read the president’s full letter below:

    Dear Director Comey:

    I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

    While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

    It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.

    I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

    Donald J. Trump.

    WATCH: FBI Director James Comey testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee

    The post Read President Trump’s full letter to Comey on his firing from the FBI appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a promising lung cancer treatment from Cuba that’s drawing attention from U.S. patients.

    Some Americans are already traveling there to try the drug, in the hopes of stopping their cancer from growing. Former President Obama cleared the way for collaboration between both countries on such research, and clinical trials have started. Those trials may take years. But early results have some researchers intrigued by this new form of immunotherapy.

    Special correspondent Amy Guttman has the story.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Mick Phillips travels from his home near Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Cuba once a year. Despite his passion for vintage cars, that’s not what draws him. He goes there for CimaVax, a Cuban-made drug used to treat cancer that’s kept him alive longer than any doctor predicted.

    MICK PHILLIPS, Lung Cancer Patient: So, I have this little lunch box here that’s insulated. And, in there, I carry my medication and I also carry gel packs.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Phillips is 69 years old and owns an industrial pump factory, where he continues to work every day. He was first diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer seven years ago. After chemotherapy and radiation treatment, his cancer went into remission.

    But it returned less than a year later, in 2011. He did another round of chemotherapy, then took CimaVax, and is now in remission. Fewer than 5 percent of stage 4 lung cancer patients like Phillips survive for five years. But CimaVax appears to be improving those odds for some.

    MICK PHILLIPS: I started the CimaVax and have been cancer-free ever since then.

    AMY GUTTMAN: And how long were you supposed to live once you went into remission?

    MICK PHILLIPS: The prognosis was maybe six months to a year.

    AMY GUTTMAN: How many years ago was that?

    MICK PHILLIPS: That was six years ago.

    AMY GUTTMAN: At La Pradera, a hotel-like hospital near Havana, Phillips pays about $5,000 for an annual supply of CimaVax. The doctor visit costs only $50.

    Back in Wisconsin, Phillips says he’s lucky that his oncologist, Dr. Timothy Goggins, continues to treat him. American doctors can’t prescribe CimaVax, because the Food and Drug Administration won’t approve it until U.S. clinical trials can prove its effectiveness.

    DR. TIMOTHY GOGGINS, Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology: How are things going?

    MICK PHILLIPS: Oh, pretty good.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Dr. Goggins monitors Phillips with regular scans.

    DR. TIMOTHY GOGGINS: Compare this to where he is today, no evidence of growth necessarily in that area. In fact, there might even be shrinkage. I would have expected, in this case, further growth, definitely within the lungs. I’m surprised Mick’s still here.

    So, I do believe that, outside of divine intervention, there’s some sort of scientific basis to what he’s doing.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Published results of trials done in Cuba show those given CimaVax lived, on average, as little as three months and as much as 11 months longer than those not given the drug. Some did even better.

    Dr. Michael Caligiuri, president of the American Association for Cancer Research says, even with the success in Cuba, there must be further study.

    DR. MICHAEL CALIGIURI, American Association for Cancer Research: Whenever there’s an early evidence of efficacy in a single population, a single institution study, the chance that it will be replicated inter-institutionally is real, but not a given.

    AMY GUTTMAN: This facility outside Havana produces CimaVax. It doesn’t kill cancer cells. Instead, it engages the patient’s immune system to reduce the protein cancer thrives on.

    What makes this different from other immunotherapies is, it uses a patient’s own antibodies, rather than manufactured ones, which carries fewer side effects and is cheaper.

    Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, waited four years to get the green light for clinical trials of CimaVax that began in January.

    The institute’s chair of immunology, Dr. Kelvin Lee, was in Havana recently for a conference.

    DR. KELVIN LEE, Roswell Park Cancer Institute: In many cases, the tumors just stop growing. They’re there, but they don’t get any bigger. The patient has the possibility of going on for a very long time.

    AMY GUTTMAN: CimaVax is given by injection and is considered a therapeutic drug for now. But Dr. Lee and his colleagues are applying for funding to test it as a preventive vaccine for high-risk patients.

    DR. KELVIN LEE: Because it is safe, inexpensive, easy to administer, you could use it, potentially, to prevent lung cancer.

    AMY GUTTMAN: The embargo that prevented Cuba’s access to American pharmaceuticals led the late President Fidel Castro to invest heavily in developing medicines and vaccines.

    Former President Obama traveled to Cuba last year. He later announced new policies making it easier for American researchers to apply for FDA approval to trial Cuban drugs in the United States.

    Mick Phillips voted for President Trump, but Mr. Trump has vowed to rollback some of Obama’s policies when it comes to Cuba relations. Phillips fears what that could mean.

    MICK PHILLIPS: I am concerned that access to this medication will go away for many, many people.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Dr. Lee says it’s all part of a potential change in the way doctors approach cancer treatment.

    DR. KELVIN LEE: There is an idea that’s developing of converting cancer into a chronic disease. We give you a pill that you take every day, and it allows you to live a perfectly normal life.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Outside Cuba and the U.S., there’s great interest in CimaVax. It’s approved in five different countries. Worldwide, 5,000 patients have been treated with the drug since 2011, 1,000 of them Cubans.

    But no one sees CimaVax as a magic pill. Twenty percent of vaccinated patients have not lived longer than the average survival of the unvaccinated group.

    Phillips’ doctor, Tim Goggins, says there are many unknowns about the drug.

    DR. TIMOTHY GOGGINS: At some point in time, the immune system will probably not respond to that cancer cell. The cancer cells find a way around it.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Mick Phillips hopes the new American president will allow the progress he credits to Cuban drugs to continue.

    MICK PHILLIPS: The key is that the political relations staying in place. If that relation stays as it should, I believe that we can all benefit from it.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Since taking office, President Trump has not said much more about his approach toward Cuba. It’s still unclear what this could mean for future trials of the drug.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Amy Guttman reporting from Havana.

    The post This Cuban lung cancer drug is giving some U.S. patients hope appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn our focus to Asia.

    After months of political upheaval, South Korean voters have elected a new president today, a man who is promising to take the nation in a new direction.

    President-elect Moon Jae-in addressed throngs of cheering supporters, and offered a message of unity to all South Koreans.

    PRESIDENT-ELECT MOON JAE-IN, South Korea (through interpreter): Starting tomorrow, I will become everyone’s president. I will become a president who unifies people and serves even those people who didn’t support me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Moon will assume control of the deeply divided government after the fall of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye. Park, South Korea’s first female president, was impeached last year and later arrested on corruption charges. She sits in jail now, and could face up to life in prison.

    The allegations against her sparked massive months-long protests and were a major factor for voters ahead of the polls today.

    CHOE EU-JIN, Voter (through interpreter): Park Geun-hye abused her national authority, which angered the people. I voted with the hope of not electing the same kind of president again in future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Moon now faces several challenges, both at home and abroad, including an increasingly provocative North Korea.

    During the campaign, he called for a return to engagement with Pyongyang, including economic incentives that would be a significant break from recent South Korean policy. Moon also said he will reevaluate the U.S. military’s deployment of the so-called THAAD missile defense system to the peninsula, which has angered China.

    All of this could lead to friction with the Trump White House. President Trump has had tough words, at times, for the North, threatening unilateral military action. But he’s also said he would be honored to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.

    And in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he said of Kim:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So, obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part Moon told The Washington Post last week he’s on the same page as Mr. Trump and believes he is — quote — “more reasonable” than he is generally perceived.

    Today, the White House offered congratulations and said the U.S. looks forward to working with Moon.

    We take a deeper look at Moon’s election and its implications for South Korea, and for U.S. policy in the region, with David Kang. He is the director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California.

    Professor Kang, thank you very much for joining us.

    Give us a thumbnail sketch, if you will, of Mr. Moon. What about his background?

    DAVID KANG, University of Southern California: Well, I think the overriding thing about Mr. Moon is that he has worked for sort of left or progressive policies ever since he was a student and was arrested in the 1970s in pro-democracy movement, a human rights lawyer, and worked as a chief of staff for a noted progressive president 10 years ago, Roh Moo-hyun.

    So, he’s very clearly on the progressive or leftist side of Korean politics.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, coming, what, after almost a decade of conservative rule in South Korea, why do you think voters chose him?

    DAVID KANG: Well, it’s important to remember that there is domestic politics in any country, and the pendulum swings left and right. There were 10 years of left presidents, and then there were 10 years of rightist presidents.

    I think, in particular, there has been a move back to the left, which began before Park was getting impeached. The electorate had elected a majority national assembly last year that was more to the leftist side. So there was a lot of expectation that the country had wanted to be — a little bit more engagement with North Korea and was very concerned about corruption and collusive ties.

    So in a way, it’s not a surprise that he won the election, because the electorate was swinging left.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how much friendlier do you expect his approach to North Korea will be?

    DAVID KANG: I think there actually is a chance for some major changes.

    Engagement, which he broadly supports, is a viable strategy. And Moon actually has talked about being very forward-leaning, even opening a joint economic — reopening a joint economic zone between North and South Korea.

    I suspect one of the first things he will do is send an envoy to North Korea to find out what is even possible. So, I think, in many ways, he’s going to be much more proactive in dealing with North Korea than previous Korean administrations and the United States has been.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of the U.S., what is his attitude toward the U.S., and what do we know of his attitude toward President Trump?

    DAVID KANG: You know, in some ways, it’s a misnomer that leftist Korean presidents are hard for the alliance.

    Almost every Korean president, left or right, realizes that a good relationship with Washington is important. And so, when he was chief of staff, that was when South Korea and the United States signed the free trade agreement, for example.

    So, I don’t actually think there will be that much change in the U.S. relationship. He’s also said the right things about Trump, which is, he thinks he can work with Trump. And I think that the particular important thing for Moon is to craft that kind of personal relationship with President Trump.

    For the last six months, we have had a power vacuum in South Korea. There has been no president, so there has been no way for South Korea to craft a relationship with the U.S. So, it’s very important that he does that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And two other things. What about his attitude, his thinking about China and its ability to, if you will, get the North Koreans to be more cooperative?

    DAVID KANG: Sure.

    I think one thing that Moon will do is, in some ways, I think he will take a more independent stand. I don’t think he wants the lean toward China, any more than he wants the lean toward the United States. He very clearly wants South Korea to be the driver of the relationship.

    As such, I think he will push on China for cooperation, but, in many ways, his approach, which emphasizes economic relations, fits in with China’s approach. So, there may be more room to cooperate than we might think right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And one other thing. There has been some back and forth between the U.S. and South Korea recently over this missile defense system called THAAD, the acronym.

    What has he said about that? What do you expect to happen there?

    DAVID KANG: You know, the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, I think in some ways has gotten blown up over the last year as a bigger issue than it really is.

    China doesn’t like it, but for the last — it was announced last summer, so we’re coming up on an entire year that THAAD has been in deployment and is now fully deployed. But China and the United States had been negotiating with an empty chair in South Korea because of the political power vacuum of the previous president.

    So Moon has a lot on his plate, but with the proper diplomacy, I think he can assuage some of China’s fears, while still retaining the missile defense system. That’s his task as a president, is to be able to deal with both of these big countries at the same time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Professor David Kang at the University of Southern California, we thank you.

    DAVID KANG: My pleasure.

    The post Will South Korea’s new president change course with North Korea, U.S.? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS14ZLT

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we get a Democratic perspective.

    We’re joined on the telephone by Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

    Congressman Swalwell, your reaction to the news that President Trump has fired the director of the FBI, James Comey?

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-Calif.: Good evening. Judy.

    This is an abuse of power unlike anything we have seen in our country since President Nixon. I worry right now for our democracy. And I hope that Republicans join me in making sure that this investigation into the president doesn’t go away, as it seems like he wishes it would.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, let me just cite you a little of what I just heard from Senator Susan Collins, who has been outspoken at times in her disagreement with President Trump on different issues.

    But, in this instance, she said in so many words that she believes the FBI director left himself open when he violated protocol, in essence, violated the pattern of behavior, practice at the FBI, and went public last summer with the investigation that the FBI had conducted into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, in saying that the FBI wouldn’t prosecute, and yes, he had found that they conducted the investigation poorly, but there would be no prosecution.

    And he talked about the investigation.

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Judy, it’s so interesting to hear Republicans defend Hillary Clinton now.

    And that’s — a reason that may have been believable when Donald Trump took office on January 20. But since Donald Trump took office, the FBI director has told Congress and the American people that the president’s campaign is under a criminal and counterintelligence investigation.

    So, this is nothing more than taking the headrest off the court, and people should see it exactly as that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the president does have the right, the authority to remove the FBI director. Is that not right?

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL: He does.

    And the Senate, of course, will be, you know, a part of a future FBI director’s confirmation. However, past presidents have shown restraint in removing FBI directors when their administrations were under investigation.

    And the fact that this president could not demonstrate that, I think, says a lot about how fearful he is about where this FBI director was going.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again, to the point that both the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, made in the letter he put out and this — and, again, I was just quoting, poorly quoting Senator Susan Collins — their point is that what the FBI director did violated longstanding principles and, therefore, he left himself open for this sort of judgment.

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL: And, again, Judy, that is something that we didn’t hear from any Republican when the FBI director made those statements or sent that letter.

    So, for that to be the reason now, again, it is too late. The FBI director is in the middle of an investigation into the president’s campaign, and to pull him off this investigation is very, very disturbing for our democracy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Congressman — we’re talking with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a Democrat of California — what do you expect will happen next?

    Have you have had a chance to talk to other members of Congress about what the next steps are here?

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL: No.

    And, right now, Judy, we’re piecing all of this together to see what we can do to preserve the integrity of the FBI’s investigation and also make sure that our own House investigation is one that is still independent, credible, and makes progress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and that — and I do want to ask you about that just quickly, because I asked Susan — Senator Collins about whether she had confidence that the Justice Department, the FBI could continue to carry out the investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. She said she does have that confidence.

    What would you answer be?

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Well, right now, the attorney general is recused on any Russian investigation. Now we are without an FBI director, so I am very, very worried that the president’s desire to see this investigation, which he called a hoax just yesterday on Twitter, is, He’s going to try and bury it.

    And we must do everything we can to keep light shining on what happened with Russia’s interference and make sure any U.S. persons who were involved are held accountable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Representative Eric Swalwell of California, member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman, thank you very much for talking with us.

    REP. ERIC SWALWELL: My pleasure.

    The post Rep. Swalwell: Comey firing amid Russia probe ‘disturbing for our democracy’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Tuesday that the FBI's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election "should go forward."

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we now get reaction from Capitol Hill to President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    I’m joined by Republican Susan Collins of Maine. She serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence.

    Senator, we had invited you on to talk about health care, and maybe we will get to that, but I have to ask you about the shocking news just moments ago that the president had fired the FBI director.

    What do you know about this?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: Well, Judy, like every other American, I’m just learning about this news.

    I wonder in some ways if it were the inevitable conclusion to decisions that were well-intentioned by Mr. Comey that he made last July in which he held a press conference to announce his decision not to pursue an indictment against Hillary Clinton and went on to give his personal opinion in the case.

    He did so in a manner that was contrary to the policies of the deep Department of Justice, although I have no doubt that his intentions were good. This seemed to snowball in a way that led to the additional events last fall, and embroiled him in a political controversy that had continued to this day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He said at the time, Senator, that he felt he had to do that because of the huge importance of the national presidential election that was taking place, and he owed it to the American people.

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: He did say that, and I have no doubt at all, knowing the FBI director, that he was sincere in his conclusion and in saying that.

    But the fact is that the Department of Justice has very specific policies that requires the FBI to go to his superiors at the Department of Justice and get their decision, and it really wasn’t his call.

    And, in that area, it does appear that his actions were contrary to the general rules followed by the Department of Justice, particularly in dealing with very sensitive criminal cases.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, do you think this was the right decision by President Trump?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Well, it’s hard to say, because I’m still learning about it.

    But I do think that perhaps it was inevitable, given the fact that Mr. Comey has been unable to put this controversy to rest, and it was contrary to the rules of the Department of Justice.

    I do hope that the next FBI director will have the same kinds of integrity, intelligence, and determination that Mr. Comey exhibited, but perhaps better judgment on when it’s appropriate to go public with the results of an investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does this give you confidence in the Justice Department at this moment, in the administration at a time when we know this investigation is under way into connections between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Well, the president didn’t fire the entire FBI. He fired the director of the FBI.

    And I have every confidence that the FBI will continue pursuing its investigation into the Russian attempt to influence the elections last fall. In addition, the Senate Intelligence Committee on which I serve is continuing its bipartisan investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying you feel that’s all going to go forward?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You have confidence that all goes forward as it should?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Yes. It should go forward, and it will go forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Collins, I do have a few minutes left.

    And I want to ask you about the health care bill, because that is front and center. It’s another issue very much before the country.

    All the reporting I have seen says that Republicans in the Senate at this point wouldn’t support the health care reform bill that came out of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Do you agree with that, and, if so, why not?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: First of all, I think that it is evident that the Senate is going to draft its own bill.

    I have a bill that Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who is a physician, and I introduced back in January. And we think we have come up with a better model than what the House passed just this last week.

    There are a lot of questions and concerns about the House bill. It is difficult to evaluate it because the House voted prior to having a Congressional Budget Office analysis about the impact of the bill on coverage and on cost, both to the federal government and to families and individuals. So, that is the major problem.

    As we know, the earlier House bill would have resulted in 14 million people losing their coverage next year, 24 million over 10 years. That is an issue that concerns me gravely.

    I’m also concerned about the substantial changes that the House is proposing in the Medicaid program and whether that would end up shifting a lot of cost to state government, to hospitals, to nursing homes, and to those of us who are insured.

    And there is another real flaw in the House bill, and that is that the tax credits that are proposed are not adjusted to reflect the income of the individual who qualifies for the credit. So, it seems to me those tax credits should be weighted toward low-income families and individuals.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as you know, the House leadership is very much behind that bill, for all the issues you point out, but, Senator, this is a complex piece of legislation that you and Senator Cassidy are proposing.

    But tell us in a nutshell, how would it be different?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: It would be very different from the House bill, because our goal is to actually expand coverage, rather than reduce the number of people covered.

    And what we would do is give more options to the states. And one of those options would be that if a state finds that the Affordable Care Act is working well for that state, they could keep that model.

    For many states, it is not working well, and the individual market is on the verge of collapse and premiums have gone sky-high and deductibles are too burdensome for low-income people.

    We have a second plan that is available in our bill, which we call the Better Choice, which would set up health savings accounts for individuals that would be federally funded for low- and middle-income families and individuals. And they would be paired with a high-deductible plan, plus basic pharmaceutical coverage.

    Those health savings accounts could be used to buy more generous insurance plans or to pay first-dollar expenses, such as your co-pays or deductibles. And it’s important to note that, regardless of what choice a state makes, that we would keep all of the consumer protections that are in the Affordable Care Act, such as protecting people with preexisting conditions, allowing young people to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26, no lifetime or annual caps from coverage, and also no discrimination based on gender or race or national origin.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, Senator, I’m sure you know that, at this point, you and Senator Cassidy are pretty much alone in supporting this.

    There haven’t been many others to sign on to this. What makes you confident you can win support for this proposal, when it does preserve a pretty significant chunk of Obamacare, if that’s what states want to do?

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Well, we do have three great Republican co-sponsors. And I’m pleased about that, so there are five Republicans on the bill.

    But our goal is to have a bipartisan bill. One of the problems with Obamacare is that it was totally a partisan effort. And that was one reason that there weren’t more Republican ideas incorporated into the bill, and we’re seeing the results of that now.

    We want a more market-oriented reform, but we also recognize that there are some good provisions in the Affordable Care Act that should be retained.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: And that is why I think, in the end, we will be able to attract some moderate Democrats to our approach. And I have had those discussions that are starting now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, we thank you very much for talking both about the FBI and about this complicated health care issue. Thank you.

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Comey’s firing ‘perhaps inevitable’ after Clinton email controversy, says Sen. Collins appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, in the day’s other news — and there was other news — there’s word that the Trump administration is considering a plan to return to an expanded role for the U.S. military in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    The Washington Post reported the proposal could send up to 3,000 more U.S. troops to the country, and give the Pentagon, not the White House, the power to set troop levels. President Trump is expected to make a decision before a NATO summit on May the 25th.

    The Trump administration is also ramping up efforts to battle the Islamic State in Syria by arming Kurdish fighters there with heavier weapons. It’s all part of an operation to recapture the city of Raqqa from ISIS. The decision was made despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which claims that the Kurdish forces are linked to rebels who are battling the Turkish government.

    White House officials today defended a decision not to immediately act on warnings about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had testified just yesterday that she alerted the White House in January that Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians.

    Press Secretary Sean Spicer today said that Yates’ warning was minimized by the White House because she was, in his words, a strong supporter of Clinton.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: She had come here given a heads-up, told us there were materials. And at the same time, we did what we should do.

    Just because someone comes in and gives you a heads-up about something and says I want to share some information doesn’t mean that you immediately jump the gun and go take an action.

    I think if you flip the scenario and say, what if we had just dismissed somebody because a political opponent of the president had made an utterance, you would argue that it was pretty irrational to act in that manner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a related development, CNN is reporting that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina intends to look into President Trump’s business dealings in Russia.

    Spicer responded by saying that the president has directed a law firm to send Graham a certified letter stating that the president has no connections.

    South Korea has elected a liberal president for the first time in a decade; 64-year-old Moon Jae-in comes to power after months of political turmoil in that country that led to the impeachment of former conservative President Park Geun-hye. With the highest turnout in 20 years, Moon secured 41 percent of the vote, leading his nearest opponent by 17 points.

    We will take a closer look at the impact of the election later in the program.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Department of Energy declared a state of emergency after a breach at a nuclear storage facility some 200 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington. Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation were evacuated or told to seek cover after the roof of a tunnel used to transport nuclear waste caved in.

    The site’s spokesperson updated the situation this afternoon on Facebook Live.

    DESTRY HENDERSON, Hanford Nuclear Reservation: All personnel in the immediate area have been accounted for. They are safe, and there’s been no evidence of radiological release.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The effort to rid the Hanford site of radioactive material has been ongoing since it stopped producing plutonium back in the 1980s.

    Violence erupted at a Florida airport overnight after Spirit Airlines canceled nine flights, stranding hundreds of travelers. Enraged passengers swarmed the ticket counters at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport when they were told there were no available pilots. Three people were arrested. Spirit Airlines blamed the cancellations on an ongoing dispute over the pilots’ contracts.

    President Trump has set his sights on reelection, rolling out a revamped campaign Web site today touting his achievements thus far. It promises — quote — “the truth that the mainstream media is hiding” about the president’s first 100 days in office. Mr. Trump filed legal papers for reelection the same day he took office.

    Nearly 250 migrants are missing and feared dead after two separate shipwrecks in the Mediterranean over the weekend. Survivors from one wreck told United Nations agencies that smugglers crammed more than 130 people onto a rubber boat designed for 20 people. Today, a U.N. spokeswoman gave a grim assessment of the number of migrants who’ve disappeared trying to make the perilous journey.

    CECILE POUILLY, UNHCR: The total number of people who are feared dead or missing while trying to cross from North Africa to Italy since the beginning of the year has now reached more than 1,300 people, and a total of over 43,000 people trying to cross the Central Mediterranean to reach Italy since the beginning of the year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials fear the surge in migration will continue to rise as the weather becomes warmer.

    A new study has found that your Americans’ lifespan can vary by as much as 20 years based on where they live. That’s according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. U.S. counties with the highest life expectancy, in Colorado and California, also had high incomes and education levels. Communities with the lowest life expectancy, in the Dakotas, along the Mississippi valley, and in Appalachia, were poorer and less educated.

    And stocks were mixed on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 36 points to close above 20975. The Nasdaq rose nearly 18 points, and the S&P 500 slipped two.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Our lead story is breaking right this minute.

    President Trump has fired James Comey as the director of the FBI.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made the announcement just moments ago.

    And here to tell us what we know at this time is our own White House correspondent John Yang.

    John, this looks like a bolt out of the blue. What have you learned?

    JOHN YANG: It was absolutely out of the blue.

    It was after we were told, the White House press were told there would be no more news developments for the night. Sean Spicer walked into the Briefing Room, read a very brief statement saying that President Trump had fired James Comey on the recommendation of the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

    We’re getting letters. We’re slowly getting bits and pieces of the reasons why, the letters that Sessions sent to the president recommending this move and Rosenstein’s memo recommending it as well.

    It appears to center around Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, ironically enough, that his announcement, his holding a press conference in July clearing her, but also criticizing her at the same time. Usually, they don’t make statements like that. Usually, they just say the investigation is closed, no charges have been brought.

    Rosenstein said his memo that Comey — that — I’m sorry — he, Rosenstein, doesn’t understood Comey’s refusal to accept — quote — “nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken in that.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, mistaken in not going ahead and prosecuting Hillary Clinton for what happened with her e-mails?

    JOHN YANG: As I understand it, mistaken in going public with what they had gathered and then saying we’re not going the prosecute, rather than just saying, we’re closing this investigation with no prosecution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John, did we know that this kind of an investigation was under way at the Justice Department looking into Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mail matter?

    JOHN YANG: The irony of this is that all this criticism had been coming from the Democrats, but apparently this was being looked at within the Justice Department.

    Now, this is also an FBI director who was conducting an investigation into possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russia. There will be, I’m sure, conspiracy theorists. I’m sure there will be allegations of, were they looking for a reason to do this?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And up until now, President Trump has given every indication that he wanted James Comey to continue.

    JOHN YANG: Although today, very telling, perhaps tellingly, we don’t know, there was — after the letter was sent, he had to correct, clean up some of his testimony to the Senate regarding — again regarding this e-mail investigation, a separate instance.

    Sean Spicer was asked, does the president — still have the support of the president? Sean said: I have not spoken to the president since this development. I would be reluctant to say that now without speaking to the president first.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, John Yang, again, this story breaking just as we’re sitting here this evening. It broke just 15 minutes before we went on the air at 6:00 Eastern, learning that the — from the White House, the president has fired the FBI director, James Comey.

    But the issue you’re talking about right now, John, has to do with what James Comey said last month when he testified before a Senate hearing and, in essence, he talked about how he had handled the Clinton e-mail matter.

    JOHN YANG: And there had been questions all along in this process about whether or not Comey still had the support of the president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    JOHN YANG: And the question was asked again today, and Sean Spicer didn’t give the support.

    Now, there is one interesting line in the president’s letter to Comey firing him. He said: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate investigations that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, John Yang, I want you to stay with us.

    On the phone joining us now is someone who was a huge figure in the Watergate investigation back in the early 1970s, which, of course, led to the resignation of then-President Richard Nixon.

    We’re joined on the phone by John Dean. He was the White House counsel then for President Nixon.

    John Dean, you’re listening to this. What do you make of it?

    JOHN DEAN, Former White House Counsel for President Nixon: Well, it’s not totally surprising. I was actually brooding about it at lunch and wondering how Comey was going to deal with the screw-up on his testimony.

    And I thought, for the sake of the bureau, he might step down, because he’s really splashed mud all over themselves with this one.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why did you think this might be so serious? What was it about the mistake which he made in that testimony last month that had you questioning?

    JOHN DEAN: Well, his rationale for how he handled the Clinton investigation vs. vis-a-vis the Trump investigation, where he disclosed one publicly and didn’t disclose the other, is — the rationale has been so thin, and the differences are really so inconsequential, that it made most — really no sense to what he was saying.

    So, now when he gets up and bolsters his case with bogus evidence, he looks really bad. And he doesn’t look like a director with an even hand should look. So, I don’t know what Sessions — I didn’t hear anything about what Sessions’ position was, but I thought he was in trouble. I mean, that was just in the air to me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I was going to read just briefly from a portion of the letter that was just issued by the White House, by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

    He says: “I have concluded a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI. It’s essential this Department of Justice clearly reaffirm its commitment to longstanding principles that ensure the integrity and fairness of federal investigations and prosecutions.”

    They’re clearly trying to connect their concern about James Comey with the way the Justice Department operates and the confidence the American people and, of course, the president have to have in that.

    JOHN DEAN: Absolutely true.

    You know, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s not unlike post-Watergate, when they had a very difficult time deciding who to select, and we had a series of federal judges who were put in there who were absolutely beyond any kind of question. Bill Webster was put in that post, if you recall, a former sitting federal district court judge who had been a U.S. attorney in Saint Louis, and followed by William Sessions, who got fired.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly.

    Now, John Dean — we’re on the phone with John Dean, who, of course, was the White House counsel to Richard Nixon.

    There are going to be a number of comparisons drawn out of this, one of them, of course, the Saturday night — so-called “Saturday Night Massacre,” when President Nixon fired his attorney general and others because they wouldn’t carry out his wishes in the time of Watergate.

    Any connection with that, or is this a completely different set of circumstances?

    JOHN DEAN: I think this is different, Judy. I think it doesn’t have any of that kind of feel.

    Archibald Cox was defying the president and taking his own course of action and taking a — making a decision that was very much placing Nixon in jeopardy. So, I don’t think we have any similarities here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just refresh our memory on the role of the FBI director. This is intended to be an independent position, is it not? I’m asking to remind everyone that the FBI is conducting a critical investigation right now into any connections between the Trump campaign for president and Russian officials.

    JOHN DEAN: Well, it was post-Watergate that they — indeed, after Hoover, that the Congress made this a 10-year appointment, to give it some independence, where it could go over from one president to the next.

    The presidents do have the ability, if they don’t have confidence in the director, to fire him, but we have not seen that very often. It has been the exception to the rule. They have tried to depoliticize the bureau, which is the way it should be, where we have a politics-free federal investigation unit, but he is subject to the — reports to the attorney general, who, of course, is a political appointee.

    So, there is always that filter. But yet just the weight of the bureau itself carries its own independence. And when it has strong leadership, it is highly respected. When that leadership has not been so strong, it has been suspect.

    And we — you’re absolutely right. It couldn’t come at a more difficult time, given the implications of the Russian hacking and how that’s going to all unravel.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, to wrap up, John Dean, your sense of what has happened here, you were saying at the outset, didn’t surprise you that much, given the mistake, mistake in testimony that it turns out James Comey gave to the Congress last month.

    JOHN DEAN: Well, that certainly gave both — because of the delay in correcting it, you immediately knew there was a problem, because Republicans had leaped on it, they were using it for political purposes on bogus information, so it was going the embarrass them by undercutting them.

    So I just knew there was trouble, and I didn’t know how far it would go, and I thought Comey himself might step away from it, rather than let anyone else resolve it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just to refresh anyone in the audience, what we’re speaking about is when Director Comey spoke before a Senate committee last month and talked about how e-mails were transmitted from Hillary Clinton’s e-mail — I mean, from her server to the e-mail account of her assistant, Huma Abedin, and then they were printed out on — by her husband, the former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

    John Dean, thank you very much.

    JOHN DEAN: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And here with me at the table at our studio in Washington, John Yang, our White House correspondent.

    John, just to refresh everybody who may be tuning in, the breaking news just moments ago, President Trump has announced he’s fired the FBI director, James Comey.

    You now have some — a little bit of new information.

    JOHN YANG: That’s right, Judy.

    We now have the memo that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote to the attorney general recommending this firing, and this does indeed center on that press conference that Comey held in July 2016 detailing — in which he detailed Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and her handling of classified e-mails.

    And in it, Rosenstein writes: “The director was wrong to usurp the attorney general’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the director to make such an announcement.”

    He goes on: “Compounding the error, the director ignored another longstanding principle. We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. Derogatory information sometimes is disclosed in the course of criminal investigations and prosecutions, but we never release it gratuitously.”

    And in conclusion, he writes, “Although the — says: “I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former department officials the way the director handled the conclusion of the e-mail investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, again, it’s going back to the announcement by James Comey last summer, blockbuster announcement, that he made public that the FBI had been looking into the Clinton e-mail matter and had determined that there was — that it was messy, that it was sloppy, what Hillary Clinton had done, in keeping these — putting in her personal e-mail server government e-mails, but he concluded that the law had not been broken and that they were not going to be — and that there was no criminal intent and they were not going to prosecute.

    JOHN YANG: The irony, of course, Judy, is that that press conference gave Donald Trump the candidate so much grist for his campaign speeches, for his rallies. It led to the chants of “Lock her up,” and now this is the basis for him to fire the FBI director.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he was very critical then. Then, he himself was critical of Director Comey at that point, saying in effect that he was in the pocket of Hillary Clinton, he was doing what she wanted.

    I remember we interviewed Hillary Clinton around that time. She pointed out — she and others pointed out James Comey had been known as a Republican before he came into the administration.

    JOHN YANG: Exactly. And it was the Democrats, it was the Hillary Clinton campaign that blamed, has blamed and continues to blame James Comey for Donald Trump’s victory and her defeat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John, you have been covering this city for quite some time, as I have. What do you — what can you recall in the past that equates to this moment?

    JOHN YANG: Yes, the only — I cannot recall anything in the recent past.

    The only thing that you mentioned was the Saturday night massacre during Watergate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then we heard John Dean say it’s a different situation.

    JOHN YANG: Exactly, exactly, exactly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it’s — what we heard from John Dean, in talking to Richard Nixon’s legal counsel just now, is that he’s not so surprised.

    He said, when the FBI director makes a significant mistake like that and takes weeks to clear it up, to clarify, he said, that’s not good.

    JOHN YANG: Although that’s not the reason why he’s being fired.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly. And that was what got attention earlier today.

    JOHN YANG: Yes, exactly. And that’s what sparked the question at the briefing about whether the president still had confidence and trust in Comey, a question Spicer declined to answer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John Yang, this is a shocker.

    So, unfair question: Any idea who will be named as a replacement?

    JOHN YANG: All we know is that the president said that the search has begun, that they are looking for someone who will restore trust and confidence in the FBI.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    John Yang, I know you’re going to continue to report on this, our White House correspondent. Thank you, John.

    JOHN YANG: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, of course we’re going to continue to update this story throughout the program.

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    FBI Director James Comey’s ouster Tuesday was in some ways an “inevitable conclusion” to the months-long controversy over his handling of the agency’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, says Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

    Comey’s decision last July to hold a press conference announcing that the FBI would not indict Clinton for using a private email server as Secretary of State was “well intentioned,” Collins told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in an interview Tuesday night, shortly after the White House fired Comey.

    But “it really wasn’t his call and in that area it does appear that his actions were contrary to the general rules followed by the Department of Justice,” Collins said.

    READ MORE: President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

    Comey’s unusual press conference last July was a break from tradition for the FBI, which has a longstanding policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. Four months after the conference, Comey sent a letter to members of Congress — 11 days before the election — informing lawmakers that the FBI had uncovered new emails in the Clinton investigation.

    The letter put the FBI probe back in the headlines in the final days of the election, when Clinton was leading Donald Trump in the polls. Clinton has blamed the Comey letter, in part, for her loss to Trump.

    WATCH: Clinton blames misogyny, FBI, Russia, herself for 2016 election loss

    President Trump’s decision to fire Comey with little warning Tuesday was perhaps “inevitable given the fact that Mr. Comey has been unable to put this controversy to rest,” Collins said.

    In recent months Comey also found himself in the media spotlight as FBI and House and Senate investigators launched probes into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as Russia’s possible interference in last year’s election.

    Collins, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was confident the FBI’s probe into Russia’s role in the 2016 election would not be impacted by Comey’s firing.

    Rep. Swalwell: Comey firing amid Russia probe ‘disturbing for our democracy’

    “I have every confidence that the FBI will continue pursuing its investigation into the Russian attempt to influence the elections last fall,” Collins said. “It should go forward and it will go forward.”

    Collins also touched on the health care debate on Capitol Hill, which has shifted to the Senate after House Republicans passed a health care bill last week.

    Collins said it was “evident” the Senate would draft its own health care bill, instead of trying to pass the House measure. Several Republican senators have objected to provisions in the House bill to undo major parts of the Affordable Care Act, making its passage in the upper chamber — where the GOP holds a slim 52-48 majority — highly unlikely.

    READ MORE: Senate GOP weighs future of Medicaid in health care overhaul

    Collins said she was concerned with the parts of the House bill that would overhaul Medicaid and create a system of age-based tax credits. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the original House bill, which failed to get enough support in March, would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2026.

    “That is an issue that concerns me greatly,” Collins said.

    In January, Collins and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced a healthcare bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that would allow states to keep the law in place. The bill would maintain several of Obamacare’s most popular provisions, like protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, a provision allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plans through age 26.

    Watch Collins’ full interview with Judy Woodruff on the May 9 episode of PBS Newshour.

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    A The Federal Bureau of Investigation building in Washington on May 9, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

    The White House said in its letter announcing Comey’s firing that the search for his replacement “will begin “immediately.”

    But the exact timeline for replacing Comey remains unclear.

    Speculation in Washington on who might replace Comey started shortly after news of his ouster broke. Several Republicans lawmakers and analysts called on Trump to choose someone with a reputation for independence and professionalism.

    “Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement. “I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests.”

    Trump could move swiftly to nominate his replacement, as he did after firing Michael Flynn as national security adviser on Feb. 13. Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg as acting national security adviser the same day.

    The process for replacing Comey could take longer, because the FBI director must be confirmed by the Senate.

    Four days later, Trump wrote in a Twitter post that Kellogg and three other candidates were “very much in play” to become the permanent national security adviser. The rumored shortlist also included former CIA Director David Petraeus. But three days after that, on Feb. 20, Trump appointed H.R. McMaster to the position, which does not require Senate confirmation.

    The process for replacing Comey could take longer, because the FBI director must be confirmed by the Senate. Comey’s replacement needs 51 votes to pass under current Senate rules for executive branch nominees. Senate Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the upper chamber.

    Traditionally, the Senate confirmation process for FBI director nominees has been bipartisan. Before Comey, every nominee to lead the agency was confirmed unanimously, or without any “no” votes.

    But the tradition showed signs of cracking in 2013, when Comey was confirmed on a 93-1 vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the lone “no” vote — it was the first time a senator had voted against an FBI director nominee.

    It’s possible that Comey’s replacement could face opposition in the Senate, depending on how Senate Democrats decide to proceed. Several of Trump’s cabinet nominations, along with Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court pick, faced a tough time in the Senate, though all were eventually confirmed.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, struck a bipartisan tone Tuesday.

    “The next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee,” Feinstein said in a statement.

    The post How quickly can Trump replace Comey? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI director James Comey’s removal from office, which Trump wrote was “effective immediately,” surprised FBI and Justice Department officials.

    A statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the search for a new director will begin immediately.

    Initial reactions to Comey’s firing tended to fall along party lines. Many Democrats called for a special prosecutor and questioned whether the president was attempting to influence the investigation into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russian officials. Republicans largely supported the president’s decision to oust Comey, saying that he was justified, because Comey’s statements about the Hillary Clinton email investigation had eroded trust with the agency. Yet, some bipartisian criticism did emerge.

    Here’s a rundown of reactions from politicians on both sides of the aisle:

    What Democrats said:

    Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois)
    Comey’s removal raises questions about “whether the FBI investigation of Russia’s interference in the last presidential campaign will continue,” Durbin said, along with what will happen to the investigations into Russia’s possible ties to Trump associates.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
    Schumer told reporters in a news conference that the Department of Justice should appoint a special prosecutor. Failing to do so would indicate Comey’s removal was part of a cover-up, he said.

    Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) – vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

    In a statement, Warner called Trump’s actions ‘shocking’ in the midst of “an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

    “President Trump has so far fired the acting Attorney General, nearly every U.S. attorney, and now the Director of the FBI. In addition, this President’s choice for Attorney General has been forced to recuse himself, and the National Security Advisor has resigned, as a result of undisclosed contacts with Russian officials,” Warner added.

    He too, called for a special prosecutor. “Now more than ever, it is vital that our ongoing investigation is completed in a credible and bipartisan way.”

    Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.)

    Wyden said in a statement he’d long been a critic of Comey on a variety of topics, from his stance on torture to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    “But Donald Trump’s decision to fire him now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous,” he wrote.

    He called for an immediate open hearing in which Comey would testify about the status of the Russia investigation at the time of his firing.

    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) – Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

    Schiff said he has “profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter.”

    “While I had deep reservations with the way Director Comey handled the investigation into the Clinton emails which I made clear at the time and since, to take this action without addressing the profound conflict of interest of the President and Attorney General harkens back to a similarly tainted decision by President Nixon,” he said in a statement, referring to the former president’s firing of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and subsequent resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, during the Watergate scandal.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

    Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

    Leahy called Trump’s decision “nothing less than Nixonian.”

    “Given that the Attorney General supposedly recused himself from the Russia investigation, he should not have played any role in removing the lead investigator from his duties. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein now has no choice but to appoint a Special Counsel,” he added in a statement.

    Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.)
    “This is Nixonian,” Casey said in a statement sent to the NewsHour, echoing calls for an independent prosecutor. “This investigation must be independent and thorough in order to uphold our nation’s system of justice.”

    What Republicans said:

    The Republican response runs the gamut in responses to Comey’s firing. Some lawmakers said the ouster was a logical conclusion after his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Others offered criticism of the president’s decision.

    The president himself tweeted late Tuesday night, accusing Schumer of acting ‘indignant’ over Comey’s firing despite earlier doubts about his confidence in the FBI director.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) – Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

    Grassley supported Comey’s firing, saying in a statement that the former director’s handling of the probe into Clinton’s emails “is a clear example of how Comey’s decisions have called into question the trust and political independence of the FBI. In my efforts to get answers, the FBI, under Comey’s leadership, has been slow or failed to provide information that Comey himself pledged to provide.”

    Grassley added that the “effectiveness of the FBI depends upon the public trust and confidence. Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost.”

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

    The Maine senator mirrored Grassley’s statement, saying in an interview on the PBS NewsHour that Comey’s firing was perhaps an “inevitable conclusion to decisions that were well-intentioned by Mr. Comey that he made last July in which he held a press conference to announce his decision not to pursue an indictment against Hillary Clinton.”

    “He did so in a manner that was contrary to the policies of the deep Department of Justice, although I have no doubt that his intentions were good. This seemed to snowball in a way that led to the additional events last fall, and embroiled him in a political controversy that had continued to this day,” she added.

    Kellyanne Conway – counselor to the president
    Conway rebuked Sen. Schumer’s claim that the Comey’s firing was orchestrated as part of a cover-up. “He’s wrong,” she told CNN.

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

    The Arizona senator said Comey’s firing was “unfortunate,” saying that the former director was a “good man.” McCain acknowledged that Trump had the legal authority to remove Comey from office, adding that the president’s decision ought to pave the way for a special commission into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) – Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

    Burr released a statement saying that he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” for Comey’s termination.

    “I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee,” the senator wrote. “In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee. Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation,” he added.

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

    “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it,” the senator tweeted.

    MORE: Read President Trump’s full letter to Comey on his firing from the FBI

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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" in Washington, D.C. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the “Oversight of the State Department” in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump abruptly fired James Comey as director of the FBI in the midst of the law enforcement agency’s investigation into whether Trump’s presidential campaign was connected to Russian meddling in the election. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump abruptly fired James Comey as director of the FBI in the midst of the law enforcement agency’s investigation into whether Trump’s presidential campaign was connected to Russian meddling in the election.

    READ MORE: President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

    In a letter to Comey, Trump said the dismissal was necessary to restore the public’s trust and confidence.

    Often lauded for his independence, Comey had come under intense scrutiny in recent months for his role in the agency’s investigation into the email practices of Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, including a pair of letters he sent to Congress on the matter in the final days of last November’s election.

    Read President Trump’s full letter to Comey on his firing from the FBI

    A look at key moments in Comey’s tenure and the lead-up to Trump’s decision to fire him.
    ___

    Sept. 4, 2013: Comey is sworn in to office as the seventh director of the FBI. He was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

    July 5, 2016: Holds news conference to announce that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, over her email practices as secretary of state, but criticizes Clinton and her staff for being “extremely careless” in their handling of classified material.

    July 5, 2016: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calls the FBI’s decision not to bring criminal charges against Clinton the greatest example yet that the system is “rigged.”

    July 7, 2016: Comey vigorously defends the decision not to prosecute Clinton over her use of a private email server as secretary of state. Under an onslaught of Republican criticism, Comey says that to charge Clinton would have been unwarranted and mere “celebrity hunting.”

    Director James Comey is sworn in before testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" in Washington U.S. July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron - RTX2K5VV

    FBI Director James Comey is sworn in before testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the “Oversight of the State Department” on July 7. Photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron.

    Did Clinton get off easy? House committee grills FBI’s Comey

    Oct. 28, 2016: Days before the election, Comey informs Congress by letter that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email practices based on new evidence, citing the discovery of emails on a laptop used by a top Clinton aide. Justice Department officials warned Comey against sending the letter, saying that doing so would be inconsistent with department policy meant to avoid the appearance of prosecutorial interference or meddling in elections.

    Oct. 28, 2016: Trump reacts to FBI’s decision to investigate new messages related to Clinton’s emails, telling a campaign rally that he has “great respect for the FBI for righting this wrong.”

    Nov. 6, 2016: Comey tells Congress in a follow-up letter that a review of newly discovered Clinton emails has “not changed our conclusions” that she should not face criminal charges.

    READ MORE: What’s behind Comey’s unprecedented reveal to Congress about Clinton probe?

    Nov. 6: Trump criticizes Comey’s second letter to Congress, saying Clinton was being protected by a “rigged system” and pronouncing her “guilty,” despite the FBI’s conclusion that criminal charges were unwarranted.

    Nov. 8, 2016: Trump is elected president.

    Nov. 12, 2016: During a telephone call with top campaign donors, Clinton blames Comey for her defeat by Trump. Clinton said her campaign was on track to win the election until Comey sent the letter to Congress on Oct. 28.

    READ MORE: Clinton blames FBI director for presidential election loss

    Nov. 13, 2016: In a CBS “60 Minutes” broadcast after the election, Trump said he hadn’t decided whether to keep Comey.

    Jan. 6, 2017: Comey is among a group of four top U.S. intelligence officials who briefed then-President-elect Donald Trump on their conclusions that Russia meddled in the presidential election on his behalf. Trump told The Associated Press by telephone after the meeting that he “learned a lot” but declined to say whether he accepted their conclusion about Russia.

    Jan. 22, 2017: Two days after taking office, Trump appears to single out Comey at a White House reception to thank law enforcement officers and others that helped during the inauguration. Trump called Comey over to where he was standing in the Blue Room to offer a handshake and a partial hug, then commented that Comey has “become more famous than me.”

    This January file photo shows President Donald Trump greeting Director of the FBI James Comey as Director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy (L) watches during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House. Photo by      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    This January file photo shows President Donald Trump greeting Director of the FBI James Comey as Director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy (L) watches during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    March 8, 2017: During a cybersecurity conference at Boston College, Comey said he planned to serve his entire 10-year term, quipping, “You’re stuck with me for another 6½ years.”

    March 20, 2017: Comey testifies to Congress that the FBI has been investigating possible links between Trump associates and Russian officials since July, the same month he held an unusual news conference to discuss the investigation into Clinton. Comey had previously refused to acknowledge the parallel Trump investigation, and his disclosure enrages Democrats who already blamed Comey for costing Clinton the presidency.

    March 20, 2017: Comey testifies at the same hearing that the FBI and Justice Department have no information to substantiate Trump’s unsubstantiated claim on Twitter that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him before the election.

    Comey: FBI is investigating possible links between Russia, Trump associates

    May 2, 2017: Clinton again lays part of the blame for losing the election on Comey’s Oct. 28 letter. “If the election were on Oct. 27, I would have been your president,” she tells a women’s luncheon in New York.

    May 3, 2017: Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey insists that he was consistent in his handling of the separate investigations into Clinton and Trump. Comey also said it made him feel “mildly nauseous” to think his actions in October might have influenced the election outcome. But he told senators: “I can’t consider for a second whose political futures will be affected and in what way. We have to ask ourselves what is the right thing to do and then do it.”

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS14ZLT

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    May 9, 2017: Comey sends Congress a letter correcting his prior sworn testimony regarding emails handled by longtime Clinton associate Huma Abedin. Comey had told Congress that Abedin had sent “hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband’s laptop, including some with classified information. The two-page, follow-up letter said that, in fact, only “a small number” of the thousands of emails found on the laptop had been forwarded there while most had simply been backed up from electronic devices.

    May 9, 2017: Trump abruptly fires Comey. “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump states in a letter addressed to Comey.

    READ MORE: How quickly can Trump replace Comey?

    The post All of the key moments that led to FBI director Comey’s firing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS14ZLT

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey throws a huge cloud of doubt over the bureau’s investigation into allegations of Trump campaign ties to Russia.

    The FBI and three congressional committees have been investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump connections. As head of the FBI, Comey had been leading the complex counterintelligence investigation that has dogged the Trump White House since Inauguration Day.

    The White House said Tuesday its search for a new FBI director had already begun. And the person Trump appoints will likely have a huge impact on how the investigation moves forward and whether the public will accept its outcome. But given concerns by members of Congress in both parties over Comey’s dismissal, it’s unlikely a permanent director will be in place soon.

    A new director chosen by Trump could decide to drop the FBI investigation altogether, or not pursue it as aggressively as Comey has. He or she could also decide not to fully cooperate with the congressional investigations, which rely on information from the FBI.

    Timothy Flanigan, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, said, “It does seem to me, however, that, if investigations are underway, they will likely continue.” He said acting FBI directors have limited abilities to derail an ongoing investigation.

    Trump said his decision to fire Comey had nothing to do with Russia. But the impact of removing an independent FBI director who was leading an investigation with potentially dire ramifications was not lost in the dramatic removal of the nation’s top law enforcement official.

    “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. said in one of the strongest statements from a Republican. As chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Burr is leading one of the three congressional investigations and has been in regular contact with Comey.

    “His dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the committee,” Burr said.

    This picture shows a copy of the letter by U.S. President Donald Trump firing Director of the FBI James Comey at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    This picture shows a copy of the letter by U.S. President Donald Trump firing Director of the FBI James Comey at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Comey’s firing was the latest and most significant White House-driven distraction from the Russia investigations. Trump has ridiculed the probes, calling them a “hoax,” and he has denied that his campaign was involved in Russia’s election meddling. In his brief letter to Comey, Trump thanked him for telling him three times “that I am not under investigation.”

    The FBI has not confirmed that Comey ever made those assurances to Trump. In public hearings, Comey has declined to answer when asked if the president was under investigation, urging lawmakers not to read anything into that statement.

    But it’s hard to see Comey’s firing as anything other than political, said Frank Montoya Jr., a former FBI agent who worked on counterintelligence investigations and led the bureau’s Seattle office. Montoya said other counterintelligence investigations were important but never got the level of attention that the Russia investigation has.

    “They were fought in the shadows. It was spy versus spy,” Montoya said. He said there would be no question about the current investigation continuing if not for the political implications.

    Others questioned whether Trump’s actions amount to interfering in an ongoing investigation. Already, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was active in the Trump campaign, has recused himself.

    The decision to fire Comey, “raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement. Schiff is the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is also investigating. Schiff and other Democrats said it is imperative that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor.

    In an abrupt and stunning development, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, after receiving recommendations from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Judy Woodruff explores what we know so far with John Yang and gets reaction from John Dean, former White House counsel for President Nixon.

    The executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, Danielle Brian, said Trump’s move — whether or not so intended — “undermines the independence and credibility of that investigation.”

    “This is a deeply troubling development for our system of checks and balances and the rule of law,” Brian said in a statement.

    The FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, was named the acting director until Trump appoints a replacement and the Senate confirms the appointment. McCabe was dragged into the spotlight of the Russia investigation in February when the White House said he rejected media reports that Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election. The FBI never confirmed that McCabe and Comey gave the White House the go-ahead to knock down the stories.

    While unlikely, Comey’s ouster also could lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a recommendation Democrats have been pushing for months.

    WATCH: White House claims Comey’s firing was due to handling of Clinton email case

    The post What does Comey’s firing mean for the FBI’s Russia probe? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Amid Democratic calls for a special prosecutor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a new investigation of Russia meddling could only serve to impede the current probes under way.

    Watch live in the player above.

    McConnell spoke on the Senate floor as Democratic senators gathered to try to pressure the GOP over President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    Reactions to the decision, amidst the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 elections and possible ties to Trump’s campaign, were split Wednesday morning, with Democrats calling for a special prosecutor as the investigation continues and Republicans torn on Comey’s removal and its timing.

    Comey’s top deputy, Andrew McCabe, was named acting director of the bureau late Tuesday. But it’s unclear how quickly Trump will move to find a permanent replacement for the position, which requires Senate approval.

    McConnell didn’t give his own view on Trump’s decision to fire Comey. But he noted that Democrats had repeatedly criticized Comey in the past, and had called for his removal.

    Following McConnell on the floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a special prosecutor.

    But McConnell said: “Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done.”

    The Senate and House intelligence committees are investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: McConnell may address Comey firing on Senate floor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    File photo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will meet Wednesday with Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat at the White House, officials say, marking the highest level, face-to-face contact with Russia of the American leader’s young presidency. It would also signal that the two countries have improved ties that Trump recently described as being at an “all-time low.”

    Trump’s talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take place after the Russian’s meetings earlier in the day with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

    A Russian plan to stabilize Syria after more than six years of civil war is the most urgent foreign policy topic on the agenda. But the meeting will be impossible to separate from the Trump administration’s unfolding political drama in Washington, where FBI and congressional investigations are looking into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin related to last year’s presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies have asserted that Moscow meddled in the election to help Trump’s chances of victory.

    The stigma of the Russia probes has been impossible for Trump to shake. Trump on Tuesday abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of the bureau’s investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia.

    READ MORE: What does Comey’s firing mean for the FBI’s Russia probe

    Less than a month into Trump’s presidency, he fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying Flynn misled senior administration officials about his pre-inauguration talks with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador in Washington.

    In a Senate hearing Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she bluntly warned Trump’s White House in January that Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Kislyak.

    Trump has said he has no ties to Russia and isn’t aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian election interference. He calls the various investigations a “hoax” driven by Democrats still bitter that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, was defeated last year.

    But in the meantime, his hopes for a possible rapprochement with Moscow, so regularly repeated during the campaign, have been derailed. Ties soured further in April after the U.S. blamed a Russian ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, for a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians and Trump ordered that some 60 cruise missiles be fired at a Syrian air base in response.

    After Tillerson visited Putin and Lavrov in Moscow on April 12, Trump said flatly, “Right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all.”

    READ MORE: U.S.-Russia relations, trust ‘at a low point,’ says Tillerson in Moscow

    Still, Tillerson’s meeting provided a blueprint for how the former Cold War foes might go about improving ties.

    A main focus is Syria, where both governments want to end a civil war that has killed up to 400,000 people, contributed to a global refugee crisis and allowed the Islamic State group to emerge as a global terror threat. The continued fighting between rebels and Assad’s military has complicated U.S. efforts to defeat IS.

    Lavrov will be coming to the American capital with a Russian plan to end the violence, after hashing out an agreement with Iran and Turkey last week.

    It focuses on the creation of four de-escalation zones. Critical details still need to be finalized and the U.S. response has been cautious, with top officials such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis saying they’re still studying the concept and its various unanswered questions. The would-be safe zones would not cover areas where the U.S.-led coalition is fighting IS.

    Despite the lack of clarity, the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Lavrov would in itself be a sign of some progress.

    The Russian diplomat hasn’t visited Washington at all since 2013, a year before Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and two years before it intervened militarily in Syria to help Assad remain in power.

    The post Trump to meet top Russian diplomat at the White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump defended his firing of FBI Director James Comey, asserting in a flurry of tweets Wednesday that Republicans and Democrats “will be thanking me.” Trump did not mention any effect the firing might have on the probe into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia.

    Instead, Trump tweeted that he’ll name a replacement “who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”

    Nevertheless, Tuesday’s abrupt firing throws into question the future of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russia and immediately raised suspicions of an underhanded effort to stymie a probe that has shadowed the administration from the outset. Trump has ridiculed the investigations as “a hoax” and denied any campaign involvement with the Russians.

    Democrats likened Comey’s ouster to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” and renewed calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor, and some Republicans also questioned the move.

    In a flurry of tweets, Trump said Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington,” adding: “When things calm down, they will be thanking me!”

    In his brief letter Tuesday to Comey, Trump said the firing was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the FBI. The administration paired the letter with a scathing review by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of how Comey handled the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices, including his decision to hold a news conference announcing its findings and releasing “derogatory information” about Clinton.

    While Comey has drawn anger from Democrats since he reopened the email investigation in the closing days of last year’s campaign, they didn’t buy that justification for his firing. Several Republicans joined them in raising alarms of how it could affect probes into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    READ NEXT: ProPublica report: Comey’s testimony on Huma Abedin forwarding emails was inaccurate

    In one of the strongest statements by Republicans, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said, “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.”

    “His dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the committee,” Burr said.

    Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told Trump in a phone call he thought dumping Comey was a mistake. On Wednesday, Trump labeled the Senate minority leader “‘Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.'”

    Trump will now appoint a successor at the FBI, which has been investigating since late July, and who will almost certainly have an impact on how the investigation moves forward and whether the public will accept its outcome.

    It was only the second firing of an FBI director in history. President Bill Clinton dismissed William Sessions amid allegations of ethical lapses in 1993.

    Democrats compared the ouster to Nixon’s decision to fire the independent special prosecutor overseeing the Watergate investigation in 1973, which prompted the resignations of the Justice Department’s top two officials.

    “This is Nixonian,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., declared on Twitter. “Outrageous,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, calling for Comey to immediately be summoned to testify to Congress about the status of the Trump-Russia investigation. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said the White House was “brazenly interfering” in the probe.

    Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Congress must form a special committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the election.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said only: “Once the Senate receives a nomination, we look forward to a full, fair and timely confirmation process to fill the director position. This is a critical role that is especially important as America faces serious threats at home and abroad.”

    Comey was speaking to agents at the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles when the news broke. Television screens in the office began flashing the news, and Comey initially chuckled, according to a law enforcement official who was present and spoke on condition of anonymity. But Comey finished his speech before heading into an office and did not reappear in the main room. He later left Los Angeles on a plane to return to Washington.

    In his letter to Comey, Trump thanked him for telling him three times “that I am not under investigation.” The FBI has not confirmed that Comey ever made those assurances to the president. In public hearings, Comey has declined to answer when asked if Trump is under investigation, urging lawmakers not to read anything into that statement.

    Comey, 56, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013 to a 10-year term, though that appointment does not ensure a director will serve the full term.

    Praised frequently by both parties for his independence and integrity, he spent three decades in law enforcement. Before the past months’ controversies, the former deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration was perhaps best known for a remarkable 2004 standoff with top officials over a federal domestic surveillance program. In March of that year, Comey rushed to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft to physically stop White House officials in their bid to get his ailing boss to reauthorize a secret no-warrant wiretapping program.

    But his prominent role in the 2016 presidential campaign raised questions about his judgment and impartiality. Though the FBI did not recommend charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information, Comey was blisteringly critical of her decision to use a personal email account and private internet server during her four years as secretary of state.

    Comey strongly defended his decisions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. He said he was “mildly nauseous” at the thought of having swayed the election but also said he would do the same again.

    Clinton has partially blamed her loss on Comey’s disclosure to Congress less than two weeks before Election Day that the email investigation would be revisited. Comey later said the FBI, again, had found no reason to bring any charges.

    AP writers Darlene Superville, Ken Thomas, Vivian Salama, Catherine Lucey and Sadie Gurman in Washington and Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

    The post Trump defends Comey firing, says both parties will thank him appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum in Atlanta, Georgia, in April. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum in Atlanta, Georgia, in April. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — With James Comey ousted as FBI director, President Donald Trump will have an opportunity to select a replacement for a new 10-year term. The FBI in the interim will be led by Comey’s top deputy, Andrew McCabe. But Trump is likely to reach outside the bureau to find someone to run the storied law enforcement agency.

    “The FBI is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions, and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.

    Here are some possible candidates:

    — RAY KELLY: The longest-serving police commissioner in New York City, Kelly oversaw the force in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks when terror threats were routine. His tough-on-crime stance, including support for provocative tactics like stop-and-frisk, could make him a natural ally of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a go-to-guy for a fellow New Yorker like Trump. Kelly as commissioner defended a police operation, exposed by The Associated Press, that conducted secret surveillance of Muslims. He could partner with Trump and Sessions on anti-terrorism efforts.

    [Watch Video]

    — CHRIS CHRISTIE: Though his relationship with Trump has been topsy-turvy, the governor of New Jersey has known the president for years and could bring law enforcement bona fides to the job. Christie is a former Republican-appointed United States attorney in New Jersey, and he cited that background time and again during his 2016 presidential campaign. His legacy as governor took a hit, however, with a Bridgegate scandal that was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted and brought down some of his allies.

    — DAVID CLARKE: A wild-card, but the outspoken and polarizing Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, sheriff has been a fierce supporter of Trump and even landed a speaking spot at last summer’s Republican National Convention. A conservative firebrand known for his cowboy hat, Clarke has called himself “one of those bare-knuckles fighters” and has been critical of what he called the “hateful ideology” of the Black Lives Matters movement. But he’d be a long shot given that a county jury recently recommended criminal charges against seven Milwaukee County jail staffers in the dehydration death of an inmate who went without water for seven days.

    READ NEXT: What does Comey’s firing mean for the FBI’s Russia probe?

    — TREY GOWDY: The South Carolina Republican led the House committee investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Gowdy is also a former federal prosecutor who boasts of his work on drug trafficking, bank robberies and child pornography cases. He was among lawmakers critical of Comey’s decision not to prosecute Clinton in the email server investigation, saying other government officials would have been prosecuted if they handled classified information like Clinton did, but federal officials disagree with that assessment. Gowdy said after Comey’s firing that though he had differences with the former FBI director on some matters, he “never lost sight of the fact that he had a very difficult job.”

    Associated Press writer Sadie Gurman contributed to this report.

    The post Some names Trump might consider in picking a new FBI chief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Census

    Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson will depart the bureau on June 30. File photo by stocknshares via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The director of the people-counting Census Bureau is leaving his job just as the agency steps up its once-a-decade tally, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

    Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson was expected to leave the agency at the end of the year but instead will depart June 30, according to a government statement. Thompson said he is pursuing “opportunities in the private sector.”

    “Your experience will be greatly missed,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the same statement.

    Thompson testified to a House committee last week that the 2020 Census was on track. Members of the panel expressed concern about the escalating costs and overruns of the decennial accounting exercise mandated by the Constitution. The 2010 Census was the costliest U.S. Census in history, at about $12.3 billion, Robert Goldenkoff, strategic issues director for the Government Accountability Office. Thompson, who was confirmed to his post in 2013, told the same panel that the cost of the 2020 Census will cost about $12.5 billion.

    Some of the increased projection is the result of modernizing the counting process, Goldenkoff said.

    Asked whether Secretary Wilbur Ross or Trump himself had asked Thompson to step down, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said by email: “He’s simply retiring from public service. He spent 30 years in public service and 10 in the private sector.”

    The Census, conducted every 10 years since 1790, is critical to determining how to run the country as it grows and diversifies. Beyond government spending, the private sector also uses demographic information collected in the enumeration.

    The U.S. recently surpassed 325 million people. By 2044, whites are expected to become a minority. In 2020, the questionnaire is expected to include a new classification for Americans who are of Middle Eastern descent.

    The director is nominated by the president for a five-year term and confirmed by the Senate.

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    baby holding hands

    Texas approved the “Freedom to Serve Children Act” in a 94-51 vote late Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Flickr user rwhitesi37

    AUSTIN, Texas — Many state-funded Texas adoption and foster care agencies routinely deny non-Christian, gay, and unmarried applicants on religious grounds — and legislation that got initial approval in the state House on Tuesday is designed to protect them from potential lawsuits from doing so.

    The private organizations, which are paid by the state to place foster children with adoptive families, want to continue the practice and are seeking legal protections through Texas’ “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” which the GOP-controlled chamber approved 94-51 late Tuesday night.

    A final vote will be needed Wednesday to send the measure to the state Senate, which is even more conservative.

    The bill would be the nation’s second allowing state-funded adoption agencies to reject families on religious grounds. South Dakota passed similar legislation in March but it’s too soon to measure its practical effects. While the Texas proposal may not pass constitutional muster, that hasn’t stopped the state’s lawmakers before, who have in recent years approved a voter ID law and abortion restrictions that were overturned in court.

    Randy Daniels, vice-president of Child and Family Services for the Dallas-based Christian child welfare organization Buckner International, said religious agencies are terrified of lawsuits for turning away parents.

    “We want to make sure we can practice within the framework of our sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Daniels.

    Buckner only accepts Christian heterosexual couples who have been married for at least four years, in addition to some single individuals — which is more liberal than many other faith-based groups, which refuse single parents, said Daniels.

    “These are our requirements, and we’re clear, this is just who we are,” said Daniels. “We want to make sure that groups like Buckner continue to have a place at the table because we bring solutions.”

    READ NEXT: LGBTQ groups fear Tennessee bill would roll back civil rights

    Republican sponsors of Texas’ bill say it is designed to retain providers by shielding them from possible court fights.

    “We want to make reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system,” said state Rep. James Frank of Wichita Falls. “Everyone is welcome. But you don’t have to think alike to participate.”

    Megan Lestino, vice-president of public policy for the National Adoption Council, said she knows of faith-based adoption agencies denying LGBT and other prospective parents around the country — which upsets families but does not violate the law unless the state fails to present other options.

    “Equal protection requires that there’s another option for every family,” said Lestino. “And there typically is some option for every family.”

    Four states have passed legislation protecting private adoption agencies only, which Cooper said was seen by some to “codify” existing practices and fall within legal limits. South Dakota, and now Texas, seek to go further.

    Frank said his bill directs state child services to ensure that other outside adoption providers without religious objections are made available to help would-be adoptive parents who get turned away by any who do raise objections.

    But Rebecca Robertson, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas’ legislative and policy director, said the state — whose only faith providers are Christian — is lacking in such options.

    “If organizations are turning people away and those people are unable to be served that’s a violation,” she said. “I know this bill would make that happen at multiple levels in this state welfare system.”

    Robertson also said the proposal violates the Constitution since it involves taxpayer dollars.

    “When Texans come to the table, the government has to treat all Texans the same,” she said. “This is state-sponsored discrimination.”

    During lengthy debate, opponents said the measure fails to prioritize the needs of adoptive and foster children.

    “I truly want to see something that doesn’t create so much concern and fear,” said Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat. “That we recognize there are a wide variety of beliefs and non-beliefs and all should be guaranteed services and should not be denied services on the basis of their beliefs or of their gender identity.”

    The chamber’s Republican majority defeated Democratic modifications to the bill that would have required adoption agencies to document their rejection of families.

    “It’s one thing to protect providers’ rights to refuse to provide a service they do not agree with, but I also want to make sure the kids are protected,” said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, also a Democrat from Austin, who proposed one such unsuccessful amendment.

    Frank said his bill was designed to draw as many participants as possible into adoption and foster care and said those who say the bill is discriminatory misunderstand it.

    “I hope the message that gets tweeted out at the end of this is that Texas is open for anybody and everybody,” said Frank.

    The post Texas House OKs bill letting adoption groups deny non-Christians appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    The abrupt removal of James Comey as FBI director Tuesday marked the third time President Donald Trump has fired a high-profile official in his first three-plus months in office, following the ousters of his national security adviser and acting attorney general.

    Here’s everything we know about Comey’s firing:

    How it happened

    Comey, three years into his 10-year term as FBI director, didn’t know he was fired until news of his removal appeared on TV. Multiple outlets reported that Comey was giving a speech at the FBI’s Los Angeles office when he found out that Trump had let him go Tuesday evening.

    In fact, Comey thought it was, at first, a “fairly funny prank,” The New York Times reported.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, President Donald Trump’s trusted former security guard — now head of White House operations — Keith Schiller was sent to deliver a manila envelope containing official letter of termination to Comey’s office at FBI headquarters.

    Trump had also alerted a few senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, about the move. Several outlets reported that the president had fumed over the FBI’s continued investigation into contacts between his campaign officials and Russia.

    Trump said in the letter that Comey is “not able to able to effectively lead the Bureau,” adding that someone new in the role would restore public trust in the FBI. The president’s letter was published in a press release from the White House that included recommendations for Comey’s ouster from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

    Rosenstein’s letter provided the groundwork for Trump’s decision, citing support for Comey’s firing from other former justice department officials, though he didn’t go so far as to call for his removal. However, Buzzfeed reported that former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who is cited in Rosenstein’s letter, called Comey’s firing a “sham.”

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday in a news briefing that the president had a conversation Monday with Sessions and Rosenstein over their concerns with Comey.

    “The president asked that they put their concerns and recommendations in writing, which is the letter that you all had received,” she said.

    Both Democrats and some Republicans questioned the timing of the decision, asking how this would affect the FBI investigation into alleged collusion between Russian officials and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Some also questioned Session’s role in firing the head of an investigation that he was supposed to be recused from overseeing.

    Hours after the firing lit up cable news, Trump sent out a slew of tweets defending his decision. He said Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike.”

    “When things calm down, they will be thanking me!” he added.

    News of Comey’s ouster sent shockwaves through he FBI, Politico reported. “I’m literally in tears right now,” one agent said.

    Wednesday morning, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told PBS NewsHour’s Lisa DesJardins that Comey had notified Congressional officials he wanted to expand the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election in recent days.

    Who runs the FBI now?

    White House officials confirmed Tuesday that Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director under Comey, took over the bureau as acting director after his boss was fired. McCabe was sworn at 5:30 p.m. ET, according to CBS.

    McCabe joined the FBI in 1996 and worked his way up from his first posting in the bureau’s New York field office. Comey tapped McCabe as the FBI’s No. 2 official in January of 2016.

    By all accounts, McCabe is respected and well liked within the FBI. But he may not last long as acting director because of his own ties to the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

    Last year, McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received roughly $500,000 in campaign contributions from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., — a longtime Clinton ally — toward her run for a state senate seat in Virginia.

    As deputy FBI director at the time, McCabe came under fire for not recusing himself from the bureau’s Clinton investigation.

    In January, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz launched a review of Comey’s handling of the FBI’s Clinton case. Horowitz said the review would include a look into whether McCabe should have recused himself from the investigation.

    What will Comey do next?

    In the immediate aftermath of his firing, there were reports that now-former Director Comey would still appear at an FBI recruiting event scheduled Tuesday evening in Hollywood. Instead, he abruptly left town. The event went on without Comey, but with a powerpoint still listing him as keynote speaker, the LA Times reported.

    What will Comey do next? He’s scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed hearing on Thursday. Sen. Mark Warner, the panel’s top Democrat, told CNN he still wanted Comey to attend the hearing, even as a former FBI director.

    Comey’s testimony may be in high demand going forward. Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden called for Comey to immediately testify in an open hearing about the status of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far, that hearing hasn’t been scheduled.

    But don’t hold your breath for Comey to spill the beans on what’s going on inside the FBI, now that he’s a civilian. Much as former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was unable to speak publicly about classified information during her public appearance before the Senate last week, Comey will only be able share his deepest secrets in closed hearings.

    What does the distant future hold for Comey? Two public servants who came before him might offer a guide. William Sessions, who is the only other FBI director fired by a president, lives in Texas and has had a prominent legal career, despite the scandal that cost him his government job. In 2010, Sessions contributed to a task force reviewing the legality of detaining terrorism suspects.

    Special prosecutor Archibald Cox, the victim of a pink slip issued by President Richard Nixon at the end of the Watergate scandal, has been compared to Comey since both men were running active investigations of their respective presidents at the moment they were fired. Cox was widely respected before his firing, and Nixon’s rebuke further galvanized public opinion of his stature. In his later years, Cox argued two cases before the Supreme Court and led Common Cause, a liberal nonprofit focused on improving government ethics.

    How similar is this to what Nixon did?

    It depends on who you ask.

    Comey’s firing drew some almost immediate comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon fired Cox (the independent special prosecutor) in the midst of the Watergate scandal. The firing prompted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus,

    On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., called Trump’s dismissal of Comey, in the midst of the Russia investigations, “Nixonian.”

    And Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement that while he “had deep reservations with the way Director Comey handled the investigation into the Clinton emails which I made clear at the time and since, to take this action without addressing the profound conflict of interest of the President and Attorney General harkens back to a similarly tainted decision by President Nixon.”

    But John Dean, Nixon’s former counsel, told the NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Tuesday that “it doesn’t have any of that kind of feel.”

    “Archibald Cox was defying the president and taking his own course of action and … making a decision that was very much placing Nixon in jeopardy. So, I don’t think we have any similarities here,” he said.

    In an abrupt and stunning development, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, after receiving recommendations from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Judy Woodruff explores what we know so far with John Yang and gets reaction from John Dean, former White House counsel for President Nixon.

    Less than a month after Nixon’s decision to fire Cox, a district judge said his dismissal was illegal. Though some have questioned Trump’s removal of Comey, it’s not yet clear what consequences, if any, the action will have.

    How often have FBI directors been fired?

    Before now, just once.

    Twenty-four years ago, then-President Bill Clinton dismissed FBI Director William Sessions after ethical concerns over his use of agency perks.

    Sessions, a Reagan appointee, served from 1987 to 1993; Clinton removed him from office in the wake of an investigation into Sessions’ use of government resources, after he refused to resign on his own.

    Since the FBI became an independent arm of the DOJ in 1935, there have been just seven full-time directors, including Comey. Firing has “been the exception to the rule,” former Nixon counsel John Dean told the NewsHour on Tuesday.

    In 1976, in response to J. Edgar Hoover’s 36-year term, lawmakers made the position a 10-year appointment requiring Senate approval. The idea was to give the bureau a stronger sense of independence, with a leader that could carry over from one president to the next.

    It’s preserving that independence that most worries critics who have accused Trump, in Comey’s firing, of meddling in an ongoing investigation that in part examines his own campaign.

    READ MORE: Some names Trump might consider in picking a new FBI chief

    The post Everything we know about Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Flames from a flaring pit near a well in the Bakken Oil Field. The primary component of natural gas is methane, which is odorless when it comes directly out of the gas well. In addition to methane, natural gas typically contains other hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane, butane, and pentanes. Raw natural gas may also contain water vapor, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon dioxide, helium, nitrogen, and other compounds. (Source: www.earthworksaction.org). As of July 2014, roughly 30 percent of the Photo by Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images

    Flames from a flaring pit near a well in the Bakken Oil Field. The primary component of natural gas is methane, which is odorless when it comes directly out of the gas well. Photo by Orjan F. Ellingvag/Corbis via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — In a surprising win for environmentalists and Democrats and a blow to the fossil-fuel industry, the Senate on Wednesday failed in a bid to reverse an Obama-era regulation restricting harmful methane emissions that escape from oil and gas wells on federal land.

    The vote was 51-49 in the Republican-led Senate with three GOP lawmakers — Maine’s Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona — joining forces with the Democrats to block efforts to overturn the rule.

    Graham and Collins had publicly opposed the repeal effort, but McCain’s vote surprised many on both sides of the debate.

    McCain said in a statement he is concerned that the Interior Department rule may be “onerous,” but said passage of a resolution undoing the rule through the Congressional Review Act would have prevented the federal government from issuing a similar rule in the future.

    “I believe that the public interest is best served if the Interior Department issues a new rule to revise and improve the (existing) methane rule” administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management, McCain said.

    The Obama administration finalized a rule in November that would force energy companies to capture methane that’s burned off or “flared” at drilling sites because it earns less money than oil.

    Energy companies frequently “flare” or burn off vast supplies of methane — the primary component of natural gas — at drilling sites because it earns less money than oil. An estimated $330 million a year in natural gas is wasted through leaks or intentional releases — enough to power about 5 million homes a year.

    Gas flaring is so prevalent in oil-rich North Dakota that night-time flaring activity on drilling sites is visible in NASA photos from space.

    For months, Republicans have rammed through reversals of rules issued by President Barack Obama on issues including gun rights, coal production, hunting and money for family planning clinics. The GOP has used the previously obscure Congressional Review Act, which requires just a simple majority in both chambers to overturn rules recently imposed by the executive branch.

    The latest target was the Interior Department rule on methane.

    A coalition of groups with ties to the fossil-fuel industry and the conservative Koch Brothers had waged a public campaign to overturn the rule, which they said would decrease energy production on federal lands, raise energy costs and eliminate jobs.

    Republicans and industry groups call the rule an example of federal overreach under Obama and say it duplicates state rules in place throughout the West.

    Democrats and environmental groups countered that the rule protects the public health and generates millions of dollars in revenue for state, local and tribal governments.

    Gleeful Democrats hailed the vote as a breakthrough in the GOP-controlled Congress.

    “Today’s vote is a win for American taxpayers, a win for public health and a win for our climate,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “Rejecting this Republican attempt to allow oil and gas companies to continue wasting natural gas owned by the American people will ensure that American taxpayers will not get burned. And it will ensure we don’t lose control of managing methane emissions on public lands that contribute to climate change.”

    The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying group, called the Senate vote disappointing, but said in a statement it looks forward to working with the Trump administration on policies to boost energy production.

    Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, an environmental group that had pushed to defend the Obama rule, said the Senate vote was the result of grassroots efforts by voters across the country.

    “In recent months, thousands of Americans asked the Senate to stand up for clean air and against the oil lobby, and their efforts were successful today,” Williams said.

    The post Senate blocks move to repeal Obama-era rule on methane emissions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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