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Democrats, Sanders Blast Trump on Claims Against Obama

Democrats in the United States Senate came out strong today after Donald Trump’s weekend Twitter meltdown in which he accused President Obama of personally ordering wire-tapping against him last year. Trump’s charges were made all the more ridiculous, given that the U.S. president does not have the authority to make such a unilateral request.

“The White House has offered no clear evidence or facts to support this claim,” said Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), in a statement. “The President should stop these absurd attempts to distract from the real oversight needed on Russian interference.”

“The President’s repeated practice of making bizarre and unsubstantiated statements undermines the truth and tarnishes the integrity of our democratic institutions. It is patently clear that and independent special prosecutor is needed to fully investigate Trump Administration and campaign connections to Russia and Russian interference so the American people can learn the truth and regain confidence in our democracy.”

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) echoed Bennet’s belief that Trump is simply trying to distract the American people from larger issues involving Russia, saying on Twitter “Trump’s tweets are designed to distract from Russian election, possible collusion with Trump officials and potential cover-up.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that the latest Twitter tantrum only perpetuates the much larger issue of Trump’s inability to tell the truth and to distinguish reality from fantasy.

“President Trump cannot continue to lie, lie, lie. It diminishes the office of the president and our standing in the world,” said Sanders. “Mr. Trump claimed without any evidence that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower last year — a claim which the FBI and intelligence officials have rejected as false.”

Here’s more from Sanders:

“He said that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally. Another lie. He said ‘it looked like a million and a half people’ at his inauguration. Not even close. He said his 2016 victory ‘was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.’ Also a lie.

“And Mr. Trump has been lying long before he was president when he started the ‘birther’ conspiracy against President Obama in an attempt to delegitimize our country’s first black president. The United States will not be respected or taken seriously around the world if Donald Trump continues to shamelessly lie.”

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) agreed that Trump is using his ludicrous allegations against Obama to derail the news cycle from the issue of his administration’s close ties to Russia and the extent to which he now occupies the White House based on that interference.

“I’ll remind you that the big issue here that I think President Trump is trying to distract us from is whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and our last presidential election, and the larger issue that faces all of us is whether we’re going to defend our democracy against Russian aggression,” said Coons.

And, like Sanders, Coons reinforced the notion that Trump wouldn’t recognize the truth if it was as sexy to him as Vladimir Putin praising his intellect.

“Let’s remember the record here. Donald Trump dedicated years of his life to running around our country claiming that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States without a shred of evidence, and immediately after his election claimed millions of people voted illegally and demanded an investigation, which even in this investigation-prone Republican Congress they haven’t taken him up on it because there’s no evidence of that either.”

Senate Democrats Quickly Assail Muslim Ban 2.0

Senate Democrats have been quick to react to the Trump Administration’s second kick at the can on banning Muslims from the U.S. after Trump signed his latest executive order this morning. It is essentially the same racist, xenophobic decree Trump issued in January — to disastrous results and legal rebukes — and he’s introduced it again with the main modification being that it now only discriminates against people from six countries instead of seven.

Here are some responses from Democrats in the U.S. Senate over the last couple of hours:

Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

“Today’s order is just a second version of Trump’s previous Muslim-ban – equally immoral and un-American. The intent is the same and sends the same discriminatory message that Muslim immigrants are not welcome. Despite what Trump claims, this ban will not make our country safer – the Department of Homeland Security, intelligence agency and national security officials, and officials abroad have stated that it will in fact, do the opposite. The ban will threaten and undermine our relationships with allies abroad, and serve as a valuable recruiting tool for ISIS. This is not who we are and it needs to be repealed.”

Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

“Just like the old ban, the new ban makes our country less safe. Giving ISIS propaganda while ‘solving’ a problem that the Department of Homeland Security itself says doesn’t exist is, to put it diplomatically, unwise.”

Cory Booker (D-NJ)

“A rebranded Muslim ban is still a Muslim ban. Plain and simple.”

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

“President Trump is recklessly pursuing a campaign promise at the expense of fundamental American values and our safety. The Trump administration’s decision to delay this revised ban in order to maximize positive press coverage sends a clear message that this directive is about politics, not national security.

“Arbitrarily imposing travel restrictions on certain Muslim-majority countries only makes us less safe by reinforcing terrorist propaganda and recruitment. It’s shameful that this administration would needlessly separate families and single out refugees who are fleeing violence and seeking a better life. Immigrants make up the fabric of this country, and they continue to enrich our communities and strengthen our economy. America is better than this.”

Ed Markey (D-MA)

“If at first you don’t succeed on a travel ban, fail, fail, again. President Trump’s two travel ban executive orders are a bad movie with a bad sequel. The executive order remains blatantly discriminatory and still encourages the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to engage in religious-based questioning. We cannot allow the Trump administration to write bigotry into U.S. immigration policy.

“This new travel ban will not make our nation safer and only serves as a recruitment tool for ISIS and other terrorists. The courts blocked Donald Trump’s first Muslim ban because it trampled on Constitutional rights, and I anticipate this new attempt to repackage it will meet the same fate.”Markey

Sasse Statement on Trump’s Wiretapping Allegations

Conservative Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) made a damning statement on Donald Trump’s ridiculous assertion that President Obama personally ordered wire-tapping of Trump in the closing months of the 2016 presidential election. Sasse says that Trump should provide further information if he is going to level such a charge.

Here is the full statement:

“The president today made some very serious allegations, and the informed citizens that a republic requires deserve more information. If there were wiretaps of then-candidate Trump’s organization or campaign, then it was either with FISA Court authorization or without such authorization. If without, the President should explain what sort of wiretap it was and how he knows this. It is possible he was illegally tapped.

“On the other hand, if it was with a legal FISA court order, then an application for surveillance exists that the Court found credible. The President should ask that this full application regarding surveillance of foreign operatives or operations be made available, ideally to the full public, and at a bare minimum to the US Senate.

“We are in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust, and the President’s allegations today demand the thorough and dispassionate attention of serious patriots. A quest for the full truth, rather than knee-jerk partisanship, must be our guide if we are going to rebuild civic trust and health.”

And here Sasse points out the can of worms that Trump unwittingly opened on himself: either he is lying in his statement about Obama’s actions or there truly was a FISA court ordered issued — which Obama could not have requested — which means the subject of the investigation about Trump will eventually come to light.  In other words, what probable cause did the FISA court find to even issue the court order?

Either way, it doesn’t turn out well for Trump and this all illustrates again what we’ve already known, which is that Trump has a toddler’s impulse control in making such serious accusations.  But it also shows that he simply is not very bright.

Schumer Calls for Sessions’ Resignation

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) just called for a special prosecutor to look into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election and to investigate news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have perjured himself before Congress by denying conversations with Russian officials during the campaign.

He also called on Sessions to resign.

“Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign,” said Schumer this morning. “But, whatever one’s views are on resignation, the most important thing we must do is ensure the integrity of the investigation. Has it already been compromised? What can we do to ensure it moves forward in a way that ultimately leads to the unvarnished truth?”

Durbin on Trump’s Curious Omission From Tuesday’s Speech

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) went to the Senate floor this afternoon and talked about one major event, one foreign country, that was curiously left out of President Mini-Mitts’ speech last night… You’ll never guess what.

“There were some omissions that I found very interesting,” said Durbin. “Not once, not one time in the course of an hour did President Trump ever say the word ‘Russia.’ Not one time.”

Have a look.

Schumer on Trump’s Speech Tonight

Here’s Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the Senate floor this morning talking about what to expect from Trump’s speech before a joint session of Congress tonight. An excerpt:

“He talks like a populist, but governs like a pro-corporate, pro-elite, hard-right ideologue. He promised to be a champion for working people in his inauguration and then one hour later signed an executive order making it harder for working people to afford a mortgage. He told raucous crowds that he would tear down the power structure in Washington and drain the swamp, but he spent his first month in office appointing bankers and billionaires and titans of Wall Street to fill his administration.”

And the full video:

Warren Persists Again – Goes After Trump and Commerce Nominee

Well, at least nobody told her to sit down this time.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who was a driving force in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before being elected to the Senate, was expected to be among the most informed and vocal of Wilbur Ross’s critics in confirmation debates and she did not disappoint earlier today.

“Mr. Ross is a Wall Street billionaire with a long history of profiting from the suffering of others,” said Warren, opening her remarks on the Senate floor. “He also has shady ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. That’s just his record. And because of that record, I do not have confidence that he will protect the interests of the American people as Secretary of Commerce.”

Warren then read chapter and verse on everything we know about the Trump Administration’s seemingly endless ties to Putin and listed Ross as one of the primary players in those cozy relationships.

“In this context, Mr. Ross’s connections to Russia raise dangerous issues. We know that Ross installed a former KGB official and close associate of Vladimir Putin as the vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, a bank that Mr. Ross controlled and a bank that was flooded with Russian money.

“How closely connected was this former KGB official to Vladimir Putin? Here’s one hint: He was so closely connected to Putin that he was given $100 million dollar payout by a Russian-controlled mining company as a golden parachute. And he wasn’t even the only Putin pal on Mr. Ross’ board. That’s right. Mr. Ross wanted the bank he controlled to have multiple board members from Putin’s inner circle.”

The Massachusetts Senator then reviewed how normal this has all become with Trump’s cabinet nominees.

“We’ve never seen a cabinet like this in history. Like many of President Trump’s other nominees and like President Trump himself, this nominee seems to see his time in public service as a chance to increase his own wealth. In other words, on any given deal, he might be working for the American people or he might just be working for himself. We will have no way to know.

“There is significant reason to believe that the President of the United States has substantial financial ties with Russia, but nobody actually knows any of the details because he has failed to reveal his tax returns. And now President Trump expects the Senate to rubber stamp his nomination of a top banker to Vladimir Putin’s buddies to run the Commerce Department of the United States.”

Warren saved the best for last by revealing that Ross has long been the leader of a Wall Street “Secret Society” — his official title within this little fraternity is the “Grand Swipe” — that gathers to both commiserate on their shabby public image and to poke fun at the very people they routinely victimize.

“Ross ran a secret club of top Wall Street tycoons called Kappa Beta Phi. I am not making this up. It is actually true,” said Warren. “So he runs this secret club which apparently gathers every year to get drunk and entertain themselves by putting on off-color skits that make fun of the millions of Americans they’ve swindled over the years.”

I can’t believe that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t jump up and protect his buddies after that one. But even if he had, Warren would undoubtedly have persisted. Here’s the full video of her floor speech.

GOP’s Collins Wants Flynn Testimony, Maybe Trump Tax Returns

I hear a lot from people these days that Senate Republicans will do nothing to derail the disaster-bound Trump Train and, while I agree with that to a large extent, I think it’s important that we leave room for a few of them to surprise us. We saw hints of that in the cabinet confirmations when Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) went against the GOP by voting ‘nay’ on Betsy DeVos’s nomination as Education Secretary.

Collins was also the lone Republican voting against Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to head the EPA and she’s doing good things again as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — this time saying that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn must be forced to appear at upcoming committee hearings on Russia corrupting the 2016 presidential election.

(Flynn resigned as Trump’s senior security advisor on February 13 after lying to Mike Pence about discussions he had with Russian officials in December.)

The Maine senator said in a radio interview that she and “many of the members” of the Intelligence Committee will make a formal request compelling Flynn to testify under oath, adding that “We’ve asked all of the agencies and campaign officials involved to preserve all documents, all emails, all text messages that could be in any way relevant to the investigation.”

Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and the senior Democrat on the panel, Mark Warner (D-VA), issued a joint statement last month saying that a full investigation will be done.

Collins also suggested that if it had probative value the committee would subpoena Trump’s tax returns.

“I don’t know whether we will need to do that,” said Collins. “If it’s necessary to get to the answers, then I suspect we would.”

While this is all good news, the Intelligence Committee conducts many of its hearings behind closed doors and we may never know what actually happens in those meetings. This is where we can only count on Democrats to make sure nothing is swept under the carpet. Joe Manchin (D-WV) won’t do much, but I think we can count on Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

But from Collins’ point of view, things are full speed ahead and she says she is committed to getting to the bottom of what happened with Team Trump and Russia.

“This is a broad investigation, and I am confident that since it is a completely bipartisan investigation with full-time staff, that we will get to the bottom of this.”

Wyden Demands Answers on Questionable Phone Searches at Border

In yet another sign of what our country is becoming under the Trump regime, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has sent a letter to Homeland Security chief John Kelly demanding to know why Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been ordering some people to unlock their cell phones for examination.

Wyden also cited a recent statement by Kelly saying that people visiting the U.S. may be asked to give security officers their social-media passwords so agents can examine their usage of applications like Facebook and Twitter.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” Kelly told the House Homeland Security Committee earlier this month. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

While Kelly’s comments before that committee were in the context of what will likely happen in the future as immigrants are vetted for admission to the U.S., reports are surfacing that people are already being subject to these searches upon entering the country.

In January, Sidd Bikkannavar, who was born in the U.S. and is an employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was detained on reentering the country after a vacation in Chile and asked to give CBP agents the password to his phone. Bikkannavar complied but remains concerned because the phone was issued by NASA, contained sensitive information and he has no idea what agents gleaned from their search.

“I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it.”

In his letter, Wyden challenged Kelly to answer five specific questions, including the following:

What legal authority permits CBP to ask for or demand, as a condition of entry, that a U.S. person disclose their social media or email account password?

What legal authority permits CBP to ask for or demand, as a condition of entry, that a U.S. person turn over their device PIN or password to gain access to encrypted data? How are such demands consistent with the Fifth Amendment?

Wyden also told the Homeland Security Secretary that he intends to introduce legislation to “… guarantee that the Fourth Amendment is respected at the border by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching devices, and prohibiting the practice of forcing travelers to reveal their online account passwords.”

“These digital dragnet border search practices weaken our national and economic security. Indiscriminate digital searches distract CBP from its core mission and needlessly divert agency resources away from those who truly threaten our nation.”

Franken Tries to Have GOP Senator Sit Down – As They Did With Warren

Something really awesome, that has flown completely under the radar, happened on the Senate floor yesterday — and you’re going to love this. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) was speaking on behalf of Scott Pruitt’s EPA nomination and said, as Republicans have many times lately, that the only reason Democrats had any objection to Pruitt was not based on record or qualifications but on being mad that they lost the presidential election.

Al Franken (D-MN) jumped up, demanded to be recognized and made a parliamentary inquiry on whether or not he could force Barrasso to take his seat based on Senate Rule 19, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) did to Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on February 7. Franken reasoned that saying Senate Democrats don’t really care about the issues or the American people did indeed violate the rule, which says that “no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

The Presiding Officer (a Republican) ruled against Franken’s question. Here’s a clip of the whole, wonderful exchange:

Franken then said he was only trying to make a point.

And it’s a valid point that, if McConnell can throw such a fit over Senator Warren simply quoting Ted Kennedy and Coretta Scott King, Democrats should be objecting every day to the ongoing Republican attacks on their motives.

Yes, Democrats are relatively powerless in the Senate right now, but Franken has been stepping up big time since Trump took office — as have Senators like Schumer, Warren, Brown, Merkley and others.

I thought you should see this.

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