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Schumer Calls for Sessions’ Recusal, Full Investigation

From the Senate floor a little while ago… Here’s Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) making it clear that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has no choice but to recuse himself from any Justice Department probe of the Trump/Flynn/Russia scandal. (See video below.)

Not seen in this short clip are some other important things Schumer said about how Flynn’s resignation is only the beginning of this story:

“It is now readily apparent that General Flynn’s resignation is not the end of the story, it is merely the beginning of a much longer story. The circumstances of General Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador during the transition, the recent reports of potential high-level contact between the Trump Campaign and Russian intelligence, including general Flynn, should raise hairs on the necks of everyone in this body and every American of goodwill, democrat, republican, conservative, liberal, independent.”

On Trump’s Culpability

“Every report that suggests deeper ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government needs to be followed up on and verified. We need to get all the facts.

“The White House knew for weeks that General Flynn misled the Vice President and let General Flynn stay on the job. They knew for weeks that his discussion about sanctions with the Russian government could potentially compromise our national security because he’d be subject to blackmail, and they let him stay on. The president knew for weeks about this and let General Flynn stay on in his full capacity, present at and participating in the highest level of national security discussions until those reports were made public.

“If the reports of General Flynn’s incorrect statements to the Vice President were never made public by the Washington Post, would the president’s trust ever have eroded? Would General Flynn ever have been fired? Would he still be in his job today? We’ll never know now.”

Blumenthal Calls for Independent Counsel on Flynn Case

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is demanding a special counsel in the case of Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned yesterday after less than 30 days in the Trump administration. Flynn quit after it was revealed that he lied to the White House about his conversation with a Russian official in which he discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia by Barack Obama, over interference in the November U.S. elections.

“There are very serious questions about who knew what and when,” said Blumenthal today from the Senate floor. “These classic what did they know and when did they know it questions must be answered by an independent counsel or commission, and the reason that it must be independent is the same very profoundly important reason that I gave to then-nominee Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General.”

Blumenthal made it clear that it was Sessions’ closeness with Trump for the entirety of the presidential campaign and during the transition that made him question the new Attorney General’s objectivity.

“I certainly have respect for the office of the Attorney General, but Jeff Sessions was deeply involved in President Trump’s campaign and in the presidential transition, and I expressed to him in the hearing on his nomination that he would have to distance himself from an investigation of exactly these issues to maintain impartiality and objectivity in that investigation.”

Most importantly, the Connecticut Democrat emphasized that this investigation must have an unending reach and that it must include a probe into how soon Trump knew that Flynn was having these discussions with the Russian government.

“The Attorney General must appoint a special counsel in cases where there is reason to question his complete impartiality and objectivity. The reality as well as the appearance mandate here that there be an independent investigation by a special counsel.

“Only a special counsel independent of the Attorney General and of the White House can ask with penetrating, aggressive, unflinching analysis whether the President knew before Michael Flynn made those phone calls to the Russian ambassador and other phone calls to other foreign powers, what the subjects of the conversation were, even whether they were going to be made.”

Indicating that nobody in Congress should be willing to push this critical issue under the carpet, Blumenthal said the topic was much bigger than just this single circumstance.

“This issue is about more than just a phone call to the Russian ambassador. It is about the integrity and honesty of public officials about the protections that we give to our intelligence and about the independence of our justice system.”

Graham Not Fooled By Flynn – Well…

“Lieutenant General Flynn understands the important role the United States plays in the world order. I believe he will advocate for a stronger American leadership role as the best way to defend our nation. With this selection, I believe the days of America ‘leading from behind’ will be over.”

~ Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), November 18, 2016.

Ouch. Awkward.

Brown on Senate Floor: Mnuchin a Liar, GOP Senators Afraid of Trump

If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was thrown into such emotional turmoil by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reading statements by Ted Kennedy and Coretta Scott King, he must have been in a fetal position in the corner when Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was done with his floor speech yesterday.

Brown was speaking on the nomination of Steven “Foreclosure King” Mnuchin to be Treasury Secretary and he started by discussing the sense he got that Mnuchin expected easier, more lenient treatment when he appeared before the Senate Finance Committee last month.

“He headed what’s been called a foreclosure machine, profiting from kicking hardworking Americans out of their homes,” said Brown. “When presented with tough questions from members of the Finance Committee in which he appeared, Mr. Mnuchin expected leniency and understanding from a bunch of senators. But it’s not something that he gave, leniency and understanding, for Ohio families trying to keep a roof over their heads.”

Brown then talks at length about the real-life, human costs of these foreclosures:

“Most U.S. Senators have never been foreclosed on and I’m guessing most U.S. Senators have never spent a lot of time socially with people who are foreclosed on. And I’m guessing a whole lot of senators have probably never talked in detail about what it means to be foreclosed on.

“When we talk about foreclosures, we ought to think about what happens to these families. The wife maybe has her hours cut back, the husband maybe loses his job because the plant closes. Then what happens? Then they go to the kids and they first say we’ve got to get rid of our pet because pets cost a lot of money, going to the vet, keeping them in food, maybe occasionally having someone else watch it. So they give a pet away, which is pretty heartbreaking to kids and the parents. And then they have to cut back on other things.

“Then they realize they’re about to be foreclosed on or evicted, then they have to move. They bring their son and daughter, maybe 12 and 14 years old in and they’ve got to say — ‘we don’t know what school district you’re going to be in. We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know if you’re going to be around your friends as much because we’re moving.’ All of those kinds of things where their lives then turn upside down. They lose many of their possessions. Their children’s lives are so different.

“That’s why what Mr. Mnuchin did on these foreclosures is just morally repugnant and outrageous.”

(As a side note, you have to wonder how many times that scenario played out for people dumb enough to have voted for Donald Trump.)

Mnuchin a Liar

Brown then goes into how Mnuchin’s bank used “robosigning” on foreclosure and eviction notices with nobody taking more than 60 seconds to actually examine each case. More importantly, Brown calls out how Mnuchin lied about this in confirmation hearings and that even the most conservative newspaper in Ohio has nailed him on it.

According to Brown, Mnuchin also failed to disclose almost $100 million in real estate investments and told the committee he had simply forgotten about it. Here’s Brown:

“Would you not know if you were the CEO making tens of millions of dollars a year, you wouldn’t know they did robosigning and had staff that signed and signed and signed without looking at these documents, spending an average of less than one minute on each document? So you’re going to approve a document having to do with a loan to somebody and you didn’t even spend, as the bank, 60 seconds looking at it? Why? Because all the profits were generated by volume. Didn’t matter about quality

“Ohio reporters found dozens of foreclosure cases in Columbus that had been robosigned. Yet, Mr. Mnuchin — you know, in this town nobody wants to use the word I’m going to use. They want to say it was a ‘half truth’ or it was not quite right or fabricated. No. What Mr. Mnuchin did is he lied.

“The Columbus Dispatch, said he did. He lied. They say it more nicely perhaps that ‘Mnuchin’s denials don’t match his record.’ He lied. And again his lying, it wasn’t just lying, it’s what he lied about. Where people lost their homes as a result.

“It’s bad that he lied to a bunch of senators… it’s bad that he lied to the American public but he lied about something that resulted in people getting evicted, foreclosed on, thrown out of their homes.”

Republican Senators Afraid of Trump

Finally, Brown was especially tough on his Republican colleagues and said directly that the only reason they lack the courage to vote against any of the administration’s cabinet nominees is fear of Donald Trump.

“This Senate is only three days away from party-line voting for this incredibly ethically-challenged Secretary of the Treasury. Why? Listening to my Republican friends here, a number of them suggest they really don’t much like this nominee. They didn’t much like Secretary Price, a guy that did everything but sell stocks on the floor of the House, bought and sold health care stocks while he was working on health care legislation for those companies.

“They didn’t much like voting for him, and a whole lot of them wanted to vote against the Secretary of Education because she was maybe the least qualified Secretary of Education that’s ever been nominated. But they voted for these people. Why? Because they’re fearful. They’re fearful of what Donald trump will try to do to destroy their careers.

“There’s not enough reason for any Republican, not one Republican to vote against him [Mnuchin]? Not one Republican? I would like some of my colleagues to meet some of these people who were foreclosed on and have them explain to them why they’re voting for Mr. Mnuchin.

“Is it because of fear of Donald Trump? He might call them out and call them a name and try to destroy their career? Apparently. I can’t think of any other reason. “

Sherrod Brown would have been my pick to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate and speeches like this, as well as the legislation he backs, are part of the reason why. But I also love that Brown will simply call a liar, a liar. And that’s a rare thing on Capitol Hill these days.

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