Sen. Lamar Alexander Called Trump’s National Emergency To Build A Wall A “Constitutional Crisis”


WASHINGTON — Sen. Lamar Alexander has come out against Trump’s state of emergency on the southern border, possibly becoming the crucial fourth Republican needed for Congress to formally rebuke the president.

Trump declared the state of emergency in order to divert billions of dollars toward building a border wall. If Alexander joins Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Thom Tillis, there will be enough votes, including Democrats, to pass a resolution to end the state of emergency.

Alexander argued Thursday that the founders of the country rejected the concept of a king who can set taxes and spending on his own and said these powers must remain with Congress.

“Separation of powers is a crucial constitutional imperative that goes to the very heart of our freedom,” he said.

Alexander also warned that if Trump sets this precedent, future Democratic administrations will use emergency powers to advance their agenda.

“I support what the president wanted to do on border security but I do not support the way he has been advised to do it. It is unnecessary and unwise to turn a border crisis into a constitutional crisis,” said Alexander.

Despite his clear condemnations, after his speech Alexander would not confirm that he will vote for the resolution to end the state of emergency, noting that the Senate has two weeks to go on bringing this up.

“I learned a long time ago in the United States Senate, it’s not wise to announce how you’ll vote on a vote you may never have to take,” he said.

Alexander told reporters he had not spoken to anyone at the White House about his opposition, but provided a copy of his speech to the administration and to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before he spoke Thursday.

Democrats in the House passed this resolution earlier this week with the support of 13 Republicans, and the Senate must hold a vote on it within the next couple weeks.

Trump will almost certainly veto it if it is passed through Congress. White House adviser Stephen Miller signaled Trump would veto the resolution, telling Fox News earlier this month, “obviously the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.” To override the veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, which is likely out of reach.

Still, the vote will put many Republican senators in an awkward position. Several of them have objected to the president using a state of emergency to access funds not approved by Congress. But most Republicans are wary of crossing the president, and McConnell has been diligent about blocking votes that would do so. For months he has blocked a vote on a bipartisan bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

But because this is a privileged resolution already passed by the House, McConnell, who supports the national emergency, cannot stop a vote from occurring.

Sen. Chuck Grassley acknowledged that Republicans aren’t happy about having to vote on the disapproval resolution. Both he and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told reporters that Republicans had tried to come up with alternatives to the vote, but had run into procedural issues. “You’re caught between a need for border security and agreeing with what the president wants to do, but not how he wants to do it,” Grassley said.

Trump’s state of emergency declaration was immediately challenged in the courts. Republicans have warned the legal battle could drag past the end of Trump’s current term in office.



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House Intelligence Committee Wants To Question Allen Weisselberg, The Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer


WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee plans to question Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, following testimony on Wednesday that suggested he has information relevant to hush money payments to women during the 2016 campaign and other fraudulent activity the Trump Organization may have been involved in.

“The Committee anticipates bringing in Mr. Weisselberg,” a Democratic aide told BuzzFeed News. The committee’s plans were first reported by the Daily Beast.

Weisselberg was brought up multiple times Wednesday during Michael Cohen’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee, the only of multiple appearances Cohen has made on Capitol Hill this week that was public. Cohen is President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer and has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. Weisselberg was reportedly granted immunity by federal prosecutors last year in the investigation into Cohen, and his signature appears on a check Cohen provided to the committee as evidence. Cohen told lawmakers the check was part of a reimbursement for payments he made to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who allegedly had an affair with Trump, to prevent her from taking her story public during the 2016 campaign.

Following the hearing, Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings told reporters he spoke with California Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, adding that there would be “a number of things that he’s going to be able to use from our hearing for his hearing.”

There’s reason to believe that the Oversight Committee will also take interest in talking to Weisselberg itself. Asked if the committee would bring in Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. following the hearing, Cummings said, “we probably will,” adding that there are areas the committee has to be cautious of looking into in order to avoid interfering with work done by special counsel Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Cummings said anyone Cohen had named would likely be called in to testify.

Spokespeople for the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian election interference, declined to say whether the panel wants to interview or had already interviewed Weisselberg.

Members had several questions about Weisselberg’s work for Trump in Wednesday’s hearing that could preview the kinds of information the House Intelligence Committee will seek from him.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Cohen if, to his knowledge, Trump had ever provided inflated assets to an insurance company, to which he responded affirmatively. When she followed up to ask who else knew that Trump did that, Weisselberg was among those Cohen named.

Ocasio-Cortez also asked about an October 2018 New York Times report that said Trump participated in tax fraud to increase his own wealth. Cohen said he didn’t know if that report was accurate, but when Ocasio-Cortez followed up to see who would know the answer to questions about the report, Cohen again pointed to Weisselberg.

California Rep. Ro Khanna, another member of the Oversight Committee, questioned Cohen about payments he received from the Trump Organization. He asked Cohen about the check Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr. signed.

“Payments like this check resulted in numerous false statements in the books and records of the Trump Organization. And it’s important for the American public to understand this. Nothing to do with collusion. This is financial fraud, garden-variety financial fraud. It was disguised as a payment for legal services to you,” Khanna said to Cohen.

“I just want the American public to understand that solely apart from Bob Mueller’s investigation, there is garden-variety financial fraud, and your allegation and the explosive smoking gun document suggests that the president, his son, and his [chief financial officer] may be involved in a criminal conspiracy.”

Weisselberg has worked for the Trump organization for more than 40 years, and initially worked for Fred Trump, Trump’s father. He has remained a constant fixture in Trump world in the decades since he first fell into the family’s orbit, and is so close to the now-president that in a 2016 Wall Street Journal profile, a former Trump employee said, to describe the relationship between Weisselberg and Trump, “If Donald had a cold, he [Allen] would sneeze.”

The White House declined to comment. The Trump Organization did not immediately return a request for comment.

Tarini Parti contributed reporting to this story.





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Khloé’s BFF Spoke Out After Being Called A “Hypocrite” For Dating Married Men And Dragging Jordyn Woods


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Sen. Lamar Alexander Called Trump’s National Emergency To Build A Wall A “Constitutional Crisis”


WASHINGTON — Sen. Lamar Alexander has come out against Trump’s state of emergency on the southern border, possibly becoming the crucial fourth Republican needed for Congress to formally rebuke the president.

Trump declared the state of emergency in order to divert billions of dollars toward building a border wall. If Alexander joins Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Thom Tillis, there will be enough votes, including Democrats, to pass a resolution to end the state of emergency.

Alexander argued Thursday that the founders of the country rejected the concept of a king who can set taxes and spending on his own and said these powers must remain with Congress.

“Separation of powers is a crucial constitutional imperative that goes to the very heart of our freedom,” he said.

Alexander also warned that if Trump sets this precedent, future Democratic administrations will use emergency powers to advance their agenda.

“I support what the president wanted to do on border security but I do not support the way he has been advised to do it. It is unnecessary and unwise to turn a border crisis into a constitutional crisis,” said Alexander.

Despite his clear condemnations, after his speech Alexander would not confirm that he will vote for the resolution to end the state of emergency, noting that the Senate has two weeks to go on bringing this up.

“I learned a long time ago in the United States Senate, it’s not wise to announce how you’ll vote on a vote you may never have to take,” he said.

Alexander told reporters he had not spoken to anyone at the White House about his opposition, but provided a copy of his speech to the administration and to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before he spoke Thursday.

Democrats in the House passed this resolution earlier this week with the support of 13 Republicans, and the Senate must hold a vote on it within the next couple weeks.

Trump will almost certainly veto it if it is passed through Congress. White House adviser Stephen Miller signaled Trump would veto the resolution, telling Fox News earlier this month, “obviously the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.” To override the veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, which is likely out of reach.

Still, the vote will put many Republican senators in an awkward position. Several of them have objected to the president using a state of emergency to access funds not approved by Congress. But most Republicans are wary of crossing the president, and McConnell has been diligent about blocking votes that would do so. For months he has blocked a vote on a bipartisan bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

But because this is a privileged resolution already passed by the House, McConnell, who supports the national emergency, cannot stop a vote from occurring.

Sen. Chuck Grassley acknowledged that Republicans aren’t happy about having to vote on the disapproval resolution. Both he and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told reporters that Republicans had tried to come up with alternatives to the vote, but had run into procedural issues. “You’re caught between a need for border security and agreeing with what the president wants to do, but not how he wants to do it,” Grassley said.

Trump’s state of emergency declaration was immediately challenged in the courts. Republicans have warned the legal battle could drag past the end of Trump’s current term in office.



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Ayanna Pressley Fought To Get Her Party’s Attention In 2018. Now Democrats Running For President Are Fighting For Hers.


“I’m not sure that they all realize that she could be the person who starts the avalanche of support that could make someone the president of the United States.”

Posted on February 28, 2019, at 2:23 p.m. ET




Nurphoto / Getty Images

Rep. Ayanna Pressley listens as Michael Cohen testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

Ayanna Pressley was one of the most surprising congressional candidates of 2018, upsetting a longtime Democratic incumbent in one of last year’s most closely-watched primaries. Now, as she cultivates a national profile that reflects the political yearnings of a movement of black women in the Democratic Party, candidates are engaging in a high-stakes fight for her backing in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Pressley may not be as famous as House colleagues like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is busy wresting power from more senior lawmakers through a combination social media virality and headline-grabbing proposals. But the backing of the first black American woman to be elected both to Boston’s City Council and to Congress in her state’s history is certain to get the attention of the black women set to have an enormous impact on 2020’s nomination process.

“Ayanna has done something in Massachusetts twice that no one who looks like her has done before, so when she says or does something as important as endorsing a presidential candidate it will get our attention as black women,” said A’Shanti F. Gholar, the national political director for Emerge America, which trains and encourages Democratic women to run for elective office. “We have to deal with a lot stress as black women. Whether it be in our daily lives’ work or dealing with people in our community. So when you see another black woman who is able to achieve what she has, we know that she had to fight, she couldn’t be scared or back down against people who told her that that office was not for her. That alone is going to get people’s attention and make them want to be in the room with her.

“We see her and say, ‘Yep, she’s a real one.’”

“We see her and say, ‘Yep, she’s a real one.’”

Symone D. Sanders, who had a top role in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, told BuzzFeed News that she’s convinced the Democrat in the presidential race who most effectively excites and mobilizes black women is going to be the party’s nominee.

“But the question for the political operations of these candidates and the candidates themselves is whether or not they understand what an endorsement from Ayanna Pressley actually represents,” she said, echoing forecasters’ belief that black women will have even more of a say in the election than they did in 2016. “I’m not sure that they all realize that she could be the person who starts the avalanche of support that could make someone the president of the United States.”

Two sources familiar with Pressley’s thinking, including a top aide, said that while she has not made an endorsement decision, she’s not ruling anyone out. The 2020 race features her home state senator, Elizabeth Warren, with whom she enjoys a close relationship, and two black senators, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who are courting Pressley. (Other campaigns did not return requests for comment.)


Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pressley talk at a rally also attended by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez on Sept. 9, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In interviews with a half-dozen current and former Pressley staffers about the 2020 race, a loose portrait emerges of a woman who at her core is motivated to, as she said in her first floor speech, “lift the voices of the unheard.”

Booker, known for being a regular at meetings of the Congressional Black Caucus, has been in contact with Pressley, according to someone familiar with the communication. Pressley and Booker had a “great” constructive conversation during the annual legislative conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the source said. Both are interested in legalizing marijuana in a way that promotes justice for black people and creates pathways for greater inclusion for black entrepreneurs.

While Booker and Harris have rolled out endorsements from home-state politicians, Warren has so far not released a similar show of support from Massachusetts Democrats, like Pressley.

Pressley and Warren have relationship that goes back years: She was one of the first significant state Democrats to back Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign to unseat Scott Brown. Once Warren was the nominee, Pressley served as a surrogate. According to two sources with knowledge of matter, Warren faced internal pressure from inside the party to endorse incumbent Mike Capuano over Pressley in last year’s House primary, but cited her close relationship to both of them as the reason she elected to stay out of the race. After Pressley won, she and Warren traveled to Georgia to campaign for Stacey Abrams.

.@AyannaPressley fights tirelessly for young people, families, and immigrant communities. Her leadership and bold vision is exactly what we need in Congress. #BlackHistoryMonth

Pressley’s political team has been in touch with elected officials of color like Massachusetts State Rep. Russell E. Holmes, who said in an interview with BuzzFeed News that Warren has deep relationships in the community, but his constituents are interested in seeing a presidential ticket with Harris and Joe Biden. “It’s not like Ayanna owes anyone in Washington anything,” he said. “So she should take her time.”

Pressley has been content flying a bit under the radar in Washington compared to the more famous House freshmen, reflecting her disinclination to allow her own popularity as one of 2018’s instant sensations to obscure the work she’s doing for her constituents. Pressley, who turned 45 this month, declined an interview for this story, but said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that while her main priority is “the important work to be done in Congress and on behalf of the people of the Massachusetts 7th” district, that “it couldn’t be any clearer that electing a Democrat in 2020 is critical, and I look forward to doing everything I can to make that a reality.”

Almost as soon as she became a serious threat to Capuano in last year’s primary, Pressley felt the force of resistance to her candidacy in the Democratic Party: EMILY’s List, which wants to elect pro-choice women to office, named her its 2015 recipient of the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award, but declined to endorse her in the primary; the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed her opponent, as did former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, citing how Capuano had taken a chance on him when he was unknown.

For Pressley, though, thinking through 2020 is about more than her endorsement or who the nominee is. The two aides familiar with Pressley’s thinking said she’s strategizing about ways to push her party in a new direction, away from the conventions that defined who is electable, and cast Capuano as a sexagenarian avatar of the Democrats’ political malaise.

Pressley’s commitment to move her party to adopt new rules and ways of doing things reflect the politics of #BlackWomenLead, a black-led movement within the party. The movement, while critiquing Trump’s moral leadership, wants to emphasize what Democrats are pushing for and reorient the party’s voter outreach efforts more fully around people of color. It wants the party to reward black women’s partisan loyalty with power, and institutionalize plans that would create more Ayanna Pressleys, especially given how much more difficult it is for black women candidates to raise money. The movement also wants to frame black women’s work for the Democratic Party as a morally-principled, intergenerational force of resistance that helped build and preserve American democracy, rather than just blind loyalty for Democrats to take for granted.

That was the substance of Pressley’s address to a closed-door meeting of top Democratic Party donors in Washington late last year, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News. Pressley has expressed both in private and in public that there are lessons from her race she believes are necessary to adopt in order for the party to win in 2020. Pressley said in the meeting that Democrats have to be honest about their shortcomings — and grapple with both the question of whether the lives of black Americans matter only in election years, and why, as an institution, the party has failed to support insurgent candidates like her.

Since getting to Washington, Pressley has modeled a legislative style that recalls Shirley Chisholm’s populism and courage as the first black woman ever elected to Congress. (Pressley scored the congressional office that had once belonged to Chisholm; knowing that she was her idol, Katie Hill of California, after being given the office, wanted her to have it.) Along with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Pressley sponsored legislation ensuring protections for low-wage federal contract workers who were not guaranteed back pay after last month’s government shutdown. Her first floor speech was a sharp, one-minute rebuke of “the occupant of the White House” that has been viewed well over a million times.

.@RepPressley “I rise today in opposition to the occupant of the White House…I see right through you and so do the American people.”

According to a top aide, Pressley is watching how the 2020 candidates deal with her fight against the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement policies. Disturbed by the separation of children from their families at the border, Pressley led a group of lawmakers that included Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib in a letter to colleagues calling for stronger oversight of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The group of lawmakers is calling for cuts in funding to both agencies, and an end to mechanisms that enable the Trump administration to ramp up detention programs. Pressley, who sits on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was one of 19 House Democrats to vote no on a government funding compromise, citing an increase in funding for DHS.

Most of her posts on social media show her actually working, or are crafted to let her constituency in on the insidery, day-to-day details of what it’s like to be a member of Congress. She calls her legislative apparatus, in Boston and in Washington, an “organization,” and is trying to build a pipeline of leaders who will find their footing as a members of the organization.

Even though she’s only been in office for a little over a month, Democrats are excited about what she could mean for the future of their party.

“Ayanna will be a key endorsement in the 2020 presidential race, both because she reflects the growing power of the next generation of progressive black women in the Democratic Party and because she’s one heck of a campaigner,” said Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy for America. “The grit, determination, and raw political talent it takes to credibly take on, let alone beat, a nearly 20-year Democratic incumbent in a state like Massachusetts would be a tremendous asset to just about any Democrat running for president.”

“Black women are going to have a tremendously important role in 2020,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief public affairs officer for the progressive advocacy group MoveOn. “We are the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituency and more than ever before we’re demanding a seat at the table that reflects that reality. Any Democrat hoping to win the nomination or the general election is going to need to be able to persuade and inspire black women to turn out.”

Pressley’s shown that she can inspire outside of traditional politics — a picture she posted of herself on Twitter in glasses after she ran out of contacts went viral, with women responding with pictures of themselves in glasses. The picture and the replies became a Twitter Moment.

So. I ran out of lenses & had no choice but to wear these in public, something I never, ever do, although I’ve been rockin’ bifocals since 2nd grade. Ran into a mom who asked me to post this pic for her 9yr old who hates her new glasses. Paging @LaurenUnderwood @RashidaTlaib @AOC

“The success of Ayanna Pressley and others in the 2018 midterm has changed the way America views black women’s leadership,” said co-founder Kimberly Peeler-Allen, the co-founder of Higher Heights for America, which founded #BlackWomenLead in 2011. “Black women on the ticket are able to galvanize a wide variety of voters that are needed to build a winning coalition. The opportunity to have more than one black woman discussed in broad circles as a candidate for president or vice president of the United States is a huge step forward to ensure that America’s 23 million black women’s voices, votes, and leadership matter in the political sphere.”





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The Jonas Brothers Are Officially Releasing New Music, And Here Are Some Of The Best Reactions


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Andrew Wheeler, A Former Coal Lobbyist, Is Trump’s EPA Chief


The Senate just confirmed Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The Thursday afternoon vote, 52 to 47, was largely along party lines.

Wheeler’s formal addition to President Donald Trump’s cabinet has been a long time coming. He has been serving as the EPA’s acting administrator for about seven months, since Trump’s former agency head Scott Pruitt resigned last July amid multiple ethics investigations.

Trump announced he was tapping Wheeler for the top agency position in November, saying he had “done a fantastic job” in the temporary role.

Under Wheeler’s watch, the agency has pushed the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda. This includes proposing to freeze car mileage standards; replacing Obama’s signature climate rule, the Clean Power Plan, with a weaker rule for limiting coal plant carbon pollution; and easing other air pollution standards for new coal plants.

The EPA under Wheeler has also continued to fill its science advisory boards with controversial figures, including climate denier John Christy.

The agency has also been slow to enforce environmental rules under Trump, according to a review by the watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project, including completing fewer inspections and evaluations, cutting enforcement staff, opening fewer criminal cases, and referring fewer civil cases to the Department of Justice compared to the Obama administration.

Many Republicans have praised Wheeler’s leadership. On Wednesday, Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said Wheeler “has led efforts to issue common sense regulatory proposals” at the agency. According to Barrasso, 63 agricultural and forestry groups wrote a letter in support of Wheeler’s nomination.

In a break from her party, however, Sen. Susan Collins from Maine said Wednesday she opposed Wheeler’s bid because “the policies he has supported as Acting Administrator are not in the best interest of our environment and public health, particularly given the threat of climate change to our nation.”

Democrats and environmental groups have also been critical of Wheeler’s close industry ties, rule rollbacks, and views on climate change. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island on Thursday called Wheeler a “slightly cleaned up version of Scott Pruitt.”

In response to climate questions at his confirmation hearing in January, Wheeler said: “I would not call it the greatest crisis” but added: “I would call it a huge issue that needs to be addressed globally.”

Before joining the EPA last year, Wheeler worked for law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, where he lobbied for the coal mining company Murray Energy Corporation, as well as other energy companies, on environmental regulations. Before becoming a lobbyist, he worked as a Senate staffer for more than a decade, working on environmental and energy issues. And prior to that, he worked at EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.

Wheeler was also the president of the Washington Coal Club in 2016, and worked on energy and environmental issues on Trump’s campaign as a volunteer that same year, according to records he submitted to Congress that were released in a Freedom of Information Act request to the Sierra Club.





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