Ryan/Trump Health Care Fails! Russia/Campaign Cloud Persists.

 

The Republican Healthcare Bill was scheduled to be voted on Thursday, March 23, the seventh anniversary of ObamaCare passage.  Speaker Paul Ryan had nursed the bill through seventeen days of argument, horse trading and cajoling the Freedom Caucus and other conservatives who were “No or Leaning No” votes. 218 was the magic number needed for passage in The House.  Even the Heritage Foundation and Koch brothers were against the bill.   Many representatives had survived town meetings where thousands of angry constituents waved signs, booed and shouted “ACA…ACA…ACA”  Affordable Care Act also known as ObamaCare.  The people did not like what they heard about ‘RyanCare’ or ‘TrumpCare’.  They told poignant stories of family members whose lives were being saved by ObamaCare.

As March 23 neared,  polls revealed that 56 percent of the American people now favored keeping ObamaCare ; only  17 percent wanted to change.  The rest were undecided.  President Trump had launched a charm offensive the last days ,  inviting members to the White House and using his deal-making strategies to win their support.  Finally, he sent Steve Bannon and other aides to Congress to present his case that “Campaign promises must be kept”.  On Thursday evening, when Speaker Ryan postponed the vote to Friday,  Trump issued an ultimatum to the House members:  “Vote Yes tomorrow or you’ll be stuck with ObamaCare!”

24 million Americans, who knew they could lose their health care from Medicaid in 2018, heard those words as a reprieve —not a threat.  For other millions it brought a sigh of relief.  Friday morning, Trump was ready to move on, meeting with supporters of the Keystone Pipe line, including Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry to reverse Obama’s original order.  He seemed calm when asked by reporters whether the votes were there to pass Health Care later that day.  He just said, “We’ll see what happens.”   C-Span listed the final vote for 4 p.m. ET.

That final vote never happened.  About noon, Paul Ryan had gone to the White House to tell Trump the votes were not there and they should pull the bill.  Trump was furious, and wanted the vote to proceed to punish the Freedom  Caucus   publicly.  Ryan warned that would kill any cooperation for future legislation. By mid-afternoon,  Trump called Ryan and told him to pull the bill.

The contrast between Obama’s l87 day roll out of the Affordable Care Act  and the Republican substitute over just 17 days was clear.  Obama had led an open process, going out to the people to sell his plan and bringing in Congress members to discuss and debate.  Trump had joined in at the end while Ryan hid the plan in a basement from members.  The failure of Republican Repeal and Replace Obamacare became “Breaking News” on Cable TV.  It was described by all political and media commentators as an enormous defeat for Trump that would “cast a shadow” over his entire agenda.

Russian Collusion with Trump campaign:  On Monday, March 20, F.B.I. Director Comey came to the House Intelligence Committee to testify on the growing story of possible Russian collusion with the Trump Campaign. It had become known that the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, had met twice with Senator Jeff Sessions, leading to his recusal as Attorney General from any investigation into Russian activity. Kislyak had also spoken by telephone with the National Security Adviser Michael Flynn five times on the day President Obama set economic sanctions against Russia and expelled 30 plus Russian diplomats from their D.C. consulate.  Paul Manaforte, Tump’s second campaign manager,  had extensive history and financial ties to Ukraine  oligarchs, earning ten million dollars a year for service.  J.D.Gordon,  on Trump’s security team, met with Kislyak at the  Republican convention in July and worked to keep tough language out of the party platform about Ukraine. Jason Greenblatt, Trump White House special rep, met in summer 2016 with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of President Putin.

Director Comey confirmed to the intelligence committee that the F.B.I. has been conducting an investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian ties during the United States election since July, 2016.  He said, “Officers would pursue it no matter how long it takes.”  Comey was accompanied to the meeting by Admiral Michael Rogers , Director of the National Security Agency, who also testified.  Their appearance was the first public acknowledgement of the F.B.I. inquiry. Comey said,  The F.B.I. was “ investigating any links between individuals associated with the  Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts.”

In a full day of testimony, Comey also dismissed the wiretapping claim that Trump had made against former President Obama weeks before.  He and Admiral Rogers both made clear that Trump’s accusation was false.  Their appearance was front page news in the media and on Cable News. It served to refute Trump’s insistence that “Russia is fake news.”  The White House dismissed most of Comey’s testimony.  They said there had been no coordination between the campaign and Russia. Thus, no need for an investigation. Before the hearing began, Trump had issued a series of tweets, calling the possibility of collusion with Russia “fake news” and urging Congress and the F.B.I. to focus instead on leaks to the press.

On Wednesday, March 22,  Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee became the headline news when he decided to meet with President Trump to share information from Director Comey’s meeting with the committee.  He did not tell Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member, nor members of the committee he was going to do this.  He did tell Paul Ryan.  Then  he held his first press conference on Capitol Hill with reporters.  After he met with Trump, he held a second press conference in the West Wing Driveway.  Since Nunes had served on the Trump transition team, his behavior was a bombshell, with heavy press coverage at both locations.  His explanations were vague. “I didn’t want to get too much into the details, but these were intelligence reports, and it brings up a lot of concern about whether things were properly minimized or not. The things I read bothered me and I think it should bother the president himself and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

In response to Nunes,  Adam Schiff held a hastily arranged press confenence where he expressed dismay that Nunes had gone to the White House to share information from their Monday meeting with Comey & Rogers.  He answered questions and said Nunes had to decide whether he was going to oversee the Intelligence Committee or be a White House surrogate. “He can’t do both. This is deeply troubling.”  Schiff  called again for the appointment of a Select Commission similar to 9/11 to investigate the  possibility of Russian/Trump team collusion during the  campaign. Committee members were also interviewed on Cable Networks along with political commentators.  All expressed serious concerns that Nunes should no longer head the committee.  When Trump was interviewed, he was pleased that Nunes had said the president or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in surveillance by foreign spy agencies.

Epilogue:  With April rapidly approaching,  Senator John Mc Cain, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee is calling for a Select Commission to investigate possible Russian/Trump colluding during the presidential campaign.  A F.B.I. criminal investigation revealed by Director James Comey is ongoing.  The cloud will hover over the White House as Trump and his team decide what to do next to distract the American people.  They may need  a lot more than management by Tweets to weather the coming storm.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

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Trump’s Very Bad Week: Travel Ban 2. Budget. Health Care Bill.

 

Washington D.C. was not a happy place in mid-March. Even the famous cherry blossom trees that surround the Tidal Basin were weeping, their too early blossoms covered in ice from a frigid cold snap. Only half would survive for the yearly Festival.

Travel Ban II: On Wednesday evening, March 15,  Hawaii and Maryland federal judges halted  Donald Trump’s second attempt  at a ban on travel from majority Muslim countries.  This time there were six instead of seven,  with Iraq omitted.  Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan.  Their populations ranged from 90.7 to 99.8 percent Muslim.   In Hawaii, Federal Judge Derrick Watson held a hearing before he ruled on the lawsuit brought by Hawaii’s Attorney General Doug Chin challenging the constitutionality of the travel ban.  Chin  introduced comments Trump had made in his campaign, calling for “a total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States.”  He argued that Trump’s  comments indicated” intent”  behind Travel Ban I and II.  Chin’s  said the Establishment Clause of the Constitutuion forbade religion as the basis for  the Travel Ban against the six countries. The administration argument was that the travel ban was for “ national safety”.  Judge Watson  asked them, “Are you  saying we  close our eyes to the statements before this?”  Watson issued an order blocking the  Travel Ban nationwide, effective immediately.  He wrote in his decision, “The record before this court is unique.  It includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the executive order. “

At the same time in Maryland, Federal Judge Theodore Chuang issued an even stronger  ruling:  a preliminary injunction that would block the ban through a trial on the merits of the case.  He included in his ruling current statements by Trump aide, Stephen Miller that indicated “religious animus” as an influence on the Travel Ban.   Judge Chuang also gave heavy weight to statements by Trump and his surrogantes during the campaign.  He said that “Mr. Trump’s promises were too categorical to be ignored.” He added “Simply because a decision maker made the statements during a campaign does not wipe them from judicial memory.”  When Donald Trump learned  that the Federal Judge in Hawaii  had ruled against Travel Ban II,  he was in Nashville, holding a rally before nearly ten thousand cheering fans.  He  reacted angrily saying,  “This ruling makes us look weak.  We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the  Supreme Court.”.  Then he added,  “I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way.”    In contrast, attorneys general across the country hailed the rulings.  Bob Ferguson of Washington said he would ask Judge James Robart to extend his TRO freezing the first travel ban.  Joining  Ferguson were: Eric Schneiderman of New York, Maura Healy of Massachusetts and Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon.   Ferguson and his colleague, Attorney Lori Swanson of Minnestota, were expected to file updated complaints against the new travel ban within the week.

Trump Budget:  On March 16, the 2018  proposal was released, raising spending in only three of the 17 categories: Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.  Trump would cut spending at the State Department by 29 percent ; Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent.  Health and Human Services by 16 percent.  Farm states which supported Trump would face a 21 percent cut in the Department of Agriculture. Smaller agencies would be eliminated entirely including: Legal Services which funds legal aid groups, The National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Good bye to Big Bird and friends on Sesame Street!  Meals on Wheels in effect since the 1950’s would no longer aid the elderly and infirm. Foreign aid which only amounts to 3 percent of total spending would be cut  with fewer dollars to the United Nations and humanitarian programs for African and Asian peoples.

The budget summary released deals only with discretionary spending, about one third of the money Congess has to appropriate annually. It is different from budgets going back to Ronald Reagan that cover the important mandatory programs:  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as well as estimates of tax revenues, interest payments or deficits.  Thus, there was no explanation or analysis of WHY the drastic cuts are proposed in major government departments . The White House Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney whose confirmation hearing was drawn out ,  describes the Trump Budget as “putting numbers on campaign promises.” The New York Times lead editorial on March 17 called it “Mr. Trump’s Tear-Down Budget.”

Since the major programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were not mentioned in the document,  members of Congress were left in the dark as to Trump’s intentions.  Of course, the House bill to repeal ObamaCare does include “Medicaid Reform”, an oxymoron  for eliminating Medicaid for millions of American men, women and children in 31 states.

Health Care Bill in the House of Representatives:  The American Health Care Bill is called “Trump Care” by some critics or “ Ryan Care” by others. Trump had promised during the campaign that the new bill would “provide insurance for everybody”. However, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO)  revealed on Monday, March13 that the Republican replacement would cut health care for low-income Americans.  14 million people on Medicaid would lose health insurance next year, 2018. The number losing insurance in 2020 would rise to 21 million and 24 million in 2026.  By that date, the total number of uninsured Americans would be 52 million.

The bill had been hidden in a basement, unavailable to members of Congress who were eager to see it.  As soon as the CBO report became known, it was clear that the Medicaid money would be translated into tax cuts for the rich. There would be a $600 billion tax cut over ten years for wealthy Americans who would no longer be subject to the taxes that pay for the health care subsidies in ObamaCare.   When Paul Ryan talked about the plan, he emphasized the money — the deficit reduction of $337 billion by 2026.  When Nancy Pelosi,  Democratic Minority Leader of the House,  spoke of it, she stressed the millions of people  who would lose health care coverage in their lives.

The Republicans have voted  to repeal ObamaCare  over fifty times in the last seven years. After the CBO report hit the news, the replacement bill  became very controversial.  Republicans were  split in the House with the Conservative Freedom Caucus  and others completely opposed.  When the Congressional Reps  went home for their recess, they found that their constituents  now wanted to keep the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care.  At  noisy town meetings, Reps were  met by thousands of angry voters  who waved signs and shouted at them. “ ACA… ACA…ACA”…. Individuals told first hand stories of lives being saved by the Affordable Care Act.  The polls also showed that the majority of the American people now wanted to save it and improve it.  Repeal was no longer an option for them.

Donald Trump insisted that everything was running smoothly on the Health Care front.   He was deeply involved in trying to tamp down the ongoing scandal of his tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping him at Trump Tower.  He had added to the story by insisting that the British had taken part in the spying and wire-tapping during the campaign.  They were furious and called the charge “ridiculous”.  Trump waved it all away saying critics should contact Fox News where it was first reported.   Monday, March 20 would be the day that F.B.I. Director Comey would appear before Intelligence Committees once more to deal with the “story” that refused to die. Most observers believe Trump will never retract nor apologize for his hasty tweets that set off the firestorm early that Saturday morning.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

Double Edged Sword: Deportation Force//Immigrant Travel Ban

 

Donald Trump made clear from the day he entered the presidential race  –when he called Mexicans, “rapists and murderers” – that he harbored prejudices against  undocumented immigrants.  We never knew if he was aware that millions of men and women from Mexico and other Central American countries have worked and paid taxes for decades. They are an essential part of our agriculture and service  industries throughout the United States.    During the campaign, we heard Trump criticize Judge Gonzalo Curiel as “biased since he was Mexican”.   The judge  ruled against him in a case brought by former students at Trump University.   Judge Curiel, who was born in Indiana, had parents who came from Mexico.

In contrast to John F. Kennedy, who wrote of the United States as “A Nation of Immigrants” , Donald Trump emphasizes “America First” as his motto..  One wonders if he knows what that slogan of Charles Lindbergh meant in the 1920’s.  At that time, it conjured up admiration of Hitler’s Nazi Germany, pure Aryan white people, devoid of other lesser peoples of mixed races and inferior religions.  He probably would be shocked to learn that African Americans are described in history textbooks as 14th generation Americans.  Except for the native Americans,  the rest of Americans are from more recent immigrant generations.  The most important symbol concerning immigration is the Statue of Liberty, built in France in tribute to our shared ideals of freedom.  She stands in the waters of New York Harbor to welcome peoples from across the globe to our shores.

During our history, we have at times excluded certain peoples on the basis of their nationality .  The Chinese Exclusion Act of l882 was the first such law enacted.  In 1924, after World War I,  a Quota System was passed that favored immigration from northern and western European countries with quotas in large numbers.   Southern and Eastern countries were given quotas with small numbers    Thus, British Isles, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia had large quota numbers.  Russia, Poland, Czechloslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Italy and Greece had small numbers. Those people often waited years or decades.   This system remained in effect until 1965, when the Lyndon Johnson presidency eliminated the quota system entirely. The Trump Travel Executive Order would be banning immigrants from foreign countries once more based on their nationality.

Deportation Force:  During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump warned that undocumented aliens “routinely victimize Americans”,  “disregard the rule of law” and “pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.  On February 22, 2017, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security , retired General John Kelly, released memos that laid out  new  rules affecting  eleven million undocumented immigrants.  The rules were comprehensive , broadening enforcement policies to include even minor offenses.  There was a broad phrase that would allow I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs  Enforcement) officers or Border Patrol agents, or local police officers   or sheriff’s deputies to take in anyone who they think could be “a risk to public safety or “national security”.    Secretary Kelly asked Congress for funds to hire 10,000 I.C.E. officers and 5,000 Border Patrol Agents.

The new rules also affect the speed with which undocumented immigrants can be deported.  During Obama and Bush years,  immigrants apprehended near the border who had entered recently were subject to immediate deportation.  In the new rules, immigrants caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove they had been here “continuously” for at least two years would be subject to immediate deportation.  Within days, I.C.E. agents  were emboldened and expanded their targets and started roundups.  In Texas and Colorado agents entered courthouses looking for immigrants during hearings.  In Virginia, agents entered a church where immigrants had gathered to stay warm.

The Sanctuary Cities  were ready, They had been preparing  in advance and included Los Angeles,  Chicago, New York, Oakland, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and others. Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago declared, “it will always be a Sanctuary City”.  All have reaffirmed plans to defy a Trump administration and act as “a bulwark” against mass deportations.  These cities risk losing millions of dollars in federal aid for services like fighting crime and running homeless shelters. They are well aware of this possibility, since Trump has warned to block all federal funding if local officials do not cooperate with I.C.E. agents.   Many city leaders are seeking to calm immigrants fears. Churches and synagogues are offering their houses of worship as sanctuaries. In Oakland, Mayor Schaaf has asked local philanthropists to provide $140 million if federal funds are cut, to sustain low-income pre-school programs and meals for homeless shelters. The largest clash will occur in California which has 2.3 million undocumented immigrants

On February 23,  New York Times reporter Vivian Yee wrote, “ Migrants Hide, Fearing Capture on Any Corner.”  “ No going to church.  No going to the store. No doctors appointments for some. No school for others. No driving, period— not when a broken taillight could deliver the driver to I.C.E.

On February 27, the day before his address to Congress,  Trump spoke to news anchors from cable TV and said he was open to a plan that would allow some immigrants to stay and work toward legal status.  This did not include citizenship, but he did indicate that the Dreamers might be able to reach that goal.  This was a dramatic switch in his former statements and policies.   The next night in his address to joint sessions of Congress,  listeners were shocked to hear him stay with his very tough “immigrant deportation force” position.  There was no mention of the changes he had shared the previous day.  Nor has there been any explanation of why he introduced those ideas at all.

Immigrant Travel Ban:  After Trump issued his first travel ban, known as a Muslim ban,  by executive order.  it was challenged in Washington State and Minnesota by their Attorneys General.  Next, District Court Federal Judge James Robart  issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) which served to halt the chaos at airports in the United States and across the world that had resulted from  the ban being executed without any previous warning.  People with visas and green cards were stopped and detained. Immigration lawyers came to U.S. airports to  aid them.   Trump was furious, called Robart a “ so called judge” and had the justice department appeal the TRO ruling. The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court , accepted the case with three judges hearing arguments from both sides.   Within days, their unamimous decision was shared with the nation and the world by telephone in an hour televised program on major cable networks.  Two of the three judges had been appointed by Democratic presidents; one by a Republican.  Their questions appeared to focus on “evidence” and whether the seven countries listed in the ban, all with a majority of Muslim citizens, had committed any terrorist attacks on the United States.   The answer was “None” from those countries. One judge noted that Trump during his campaign had vowed to block Muslims from coming to the United States, an indication of intent on his part.

Trump’s initial response was to tweet, “ SEE YOU IN COURT. THE SECURITY  OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” a signal he would go to the Supreme Court.  In the days that followed, that was set aside by a plan to revise and improve the first travel ban.  This process took time with postponements for weeks until Monday, March 6 when the revised Travel Ban was revealed. Some critics called it “Muslim Ban Lite”.  There were now six instead of seven countries, with Iraq no longer on the list. Defense Secretary Mattis had warned that 5000 American troops were in Iraq as advisors in the campaign against ISIS. Iraq had reacted very strongly against the first Immigrant Ban.  President Trump was not present this time, waving his executive order as he had done on January 27.   Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly each spoke briefly.

Another factor had been added on Monday, March 6.  The Trump administration announced a four month suspension of refugee admissions into the United States, “so security procedures can be improved.”  Most significant, the total number of refugees allowed into the country was cut by half from Obama’s 110,000 to 50,000.  More than 37,000 have been admitted since the fiscal year began in October.  Fewer than 12,700 openings remained.

Final note: There were court filings almost immediately from Hawaii and San Francisco against the second travel ban. The process had begun once more, a fresh legal assault on Trump’s immigration policies.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

The Trump/Putin Connection: To Russia With Love!

The characters could star in a James Bond movie or a John Le Carre spy novel.  The setting is Washington D.C. at the highest levels of government.  A central figure is Sergey Kislyak , who has been the  Russian Ambassador to the United States  since 2008. He had served in the Washington embassy from l985 to 1989 during the late Soviet period.  Kislyak, 66,is a career diplomat who has become a gregarious fixture during the past nine years in political circles.  He speaks fluent, accented English and often advocates Russia’s assertive policies.  Last April, Kislyak was introduced to Donald Trump in a receiving line at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Trump would be giving a foreign policy speech and Kislyak was one of four ambassadors seated in the front row.  The evening was sponsored by The Center for The National Interest, whose president,  Dimitri Simes, is a supporter of closer Russian-American relations.

Several United States officials starred in a complex web of  meetings, conversations and communications that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign and after the election.  They included:  Retired General Michael Flynn , a vigorous surrogate for Donald Trump during the campaign who became his National Security Adviser.  Senator Jeff Sessions who was a loyal surrogate during the campaign, often at Trump’s side wearing the ubiquitous “Make America Great” cap.  Paul Manafort, Trump’s second campaign chairman, had regular communications with a former Russian military translator in Kiev.  Manafort’s  history and contacts in Ukraine led to his replacement as campaign head. J.D.Gordon  a former pentagon official on Trump’s national security team, met with Ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican Convention. Gordon was trying to keep tough language about Ukraine out of the party platform at the time. Jason Greenblatt, a special representative for international relations at the White House, met in the summer of 2016 with Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and an ally of President Putin.

During the campaign, Donald Trump shared his opinions and feelings about President Vladimir Putin, President of Russia with the huge cheering crowds at his rallies.  He was clear in wanting to develop a reset with Russia where the adversarial relationship of past years would be replaced with one of cooperation toward common goals.  He also expressed these ideas during media interviews when he praised Putin as a “strong leader” contrasting him with President Obama  “leading from behind.”  Trump particularly basked in the fact that Putin had called him “brilliant”.   He did not know the exact translation of that word in Russian.  It does not refer to exceptional mental capacity; it translates as “flashy” or “showy”.

Key events related to Russia unfolded during the 2016 campaign. On June 14, the Democratic National Committee revealed that Russian hackers had penetrated their computer system.  On July 25, the F.B.I. announced it had begun an investigation into the D.N.C. hacking. On July 27, candidate Trump during a news conference, said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” in an obvious reference to Clinton’s deleted emails.   On October 7, the Obama administration accused the Russian government of interfering with the United States election process.  In early December the U.S. Intelligence agencies concluded the Russia was behind the D.N.C. hacking and that it took the action in favor of Donald Trump.   It became known that Michael Flynn had five telephone conversations with the Russian ambassador on the same day President Obama had levied sanctions against Russia and expelled their diplomats from Washington.  On February 13, Flynn resigned as national security adviser after reports that he misled Vice President Pence about talks with Kislyak.

Jeff Sessions was nominated by Trump to head the Justice Department as Attorney General of the United States.  He was a controversial candidate with a background of racism that led to his being denied a federal judgeship in the 1980’s.  At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 10, 2017, Senator Al Franken, a Democrat, asked Sessions what he would do if “there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the  Russian government in the course of the campaign.” Sessions replied, ‘I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians,  and I’m unable to comment on it.” On January l7, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat asked Sessions in a written questionnaire whether he had been “in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election either before or after Election Day.”  Sessions replied, “No.”

On March l, 2017 The Washington  Post reported that Sessions had met twice with Kislyak.  A firestorm erupted in D.C. and on TV cable news.  There were demands for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation, as well as calls for his resignation from Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.  They stressed his lying under oath to the Judiciary committee.  Darrel Issa, Repulican, called for a Select Committee to investigate.   Sessions issued a statement in the late evening, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.  I have no idea what this allegation is about.  It is false.” By the next day, March 2, Sessions held a brief press conference.  He denied that any conversations with Russian officials were related to the presidential campaign. Then, he recused himself from any current or future investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump was unhappy that Sessions had recused himself, and blamed members of his staff for advising him to do so.  He was also very frustrated and angry that Russian interference in the U. S. election was the top news story once more, overshadowing his speech to Congress  earlier in the week. After six a.m. Saturday morning, March 4, Trump tried to change the subject. He fired off  a barrage of  shocking tweets accusing President Barack Obama of having his phones tapped at Trump Tower the month before the election. In one tweet, he declared, “How low has President Obama gone to tap (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick)guy!”

This bizarre charge was the big story all day. TV commentators and newspaper reporters  described it as a “false accusation” with “no proof or evidence.”  Trump  did not give the source of his information, although it had been carried on  Breitbart news.  Barack  Obama issued a statement saying that neither he “nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.”  On Sunday,  March 5, James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, denied that the government had wiretapped Trump Tower before the election.  He added there was no knowledge of any effort to do so before Obama left office.  The headlines were that F.B.I. chief James Comey had asked the Justice Department on Saturday to publicly reject and refute Trump’s unproven wiretapping assertion against Obama.

Epilogue:  Trump’s attempt to change the subject had not worked.  CNN issued their timely public opinion poll on Monday morning, March 6. Their findings:  55% of the American people were “ very concerned or concerned”  about Russian interference in the 2016 election. 65% wanted a Select committee similar to the 9/11 Commission to investigate the  Russian connection.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Joyce S. Anderson