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Trump Continues Rant on McCain in Ohio Speech

U.S. President Donald Trump has continued his string of attacks on late Sen. John McCain, saying during a speech in Ohio that he was never thanked for “giving [McCain] the kind of funeral that he wanted.”

Trump went on an extended rant about McCain, who died of brain cancer nearly seven months ago. It was the fourth time in five days the president made pointed, public criticisms of McCain, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and longtime U.S. Republican senator.

“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this. I didn’t get a thank you. That’s OK,” Trump said during his speech.

“To be honest, I’ve never liked him much,” he added.

Trump was not invited to McCain’s funeral last year. The flag over the White House was left at full staff after McCain’s death until the administration was criticized by Democrats and Republicans.

Trump has renewed his attacks on McCain in recent days, blaming him for instigating the lengthy investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia during the 2016 election, and later for casting the decisive vote that doomed Trump’s effort to overhaul national health policies that were the signature legislative achievement of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

During the president’s days-long rant, McCain’s supporters have fiercely defended him.

Republican stalwart U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia lashed out at Trump in an interview Wednesday with Georgia Public Broadcasting. Isakson, who vowed at the time of McCain’s death to defend him to detractors, called the president’s comments “deplorable.”

Earlier, Isakson raised concerns about the message Trump was sending to U.S. troops by targeting McCain, a naval fighter pilot who was held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi for 5.5 years.

Meghan McCain, a regular on the morning talk show The View, said Wednesday her father would “think it was so hilarious that our president was so jealous of him that he [McCain] was dominating the news cycle in death.”

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Trump: Mueller Probe Report Should Be Made Public

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 election should be made public.

But Trump again questioned the grounds for the nearly two-year-old investigation, which is also examining whether the president himself criminally obstructed the probe.

With expectations rising that Mueller will wrap up his operation within weeks after having already charged six Trump associates and over two dozen Russians, Trump said that the secret report to be submitted to the Attorney General Bill Barr should be revealed to the public.

“If you want to let them see it, let them see it,” Trump told reporters.

Trump questioned how Mueller — a man “out of the blue” who “never got a vote” — can be investigating him, given his victory in the 2016 election.

“I’m saying to myself, wait a minute, I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country … and I have somebody writing the report who never got a vote, called the Mueller report. Explain that,” Trump said.

“Because my voters don’t get it. And I don’t get it. At the same time, let it come out. Let people see it.”

‘Confidential report’

Even so, that could be difficult. Under the rules of his May 2017 appointment, Mueller, a former director of the FBI, is to submit to Barr “a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions.”

That report, experts say, is unlikely to be revealed in the raw — it could have confidential data on people not charged, as well as top secret information on sources.

But Barr is also compelled to submit to Congress his own summary of the investigation, a report which could be made public.

Barr, who was a critic of Mueller before Trump appointed him attorney general in February, would not have to be as detailed as Mueller.

He could possibly leave out information that might be damaging to individuals like Trump, according to legal experts.

On the other hand, if Mueller finds criminal behavior by Trump and believes the evidence strong enough to support an impeachment motion by Congress, he could, with Barr’s permission, write a separate report making that case.

An important question then is whether Barr would permit that, and allow that report to be released.

‘Witch hunt’

Trump has repeatedly branded the Mueller investigation an “illegal witch hunt” over the past two years and labeled his team of investigators politically biased.

While Mueller has revealed little about how he views Trump and his family as possible targets of the investigation, the president and the White House have stepped up their political campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the investigation.

“No collusion, no collusion,” Trump declared Wednesday.

“I had the greatest electoral victory in the history of our country, one of them,” he said. “Tremendous success. Tens of millions of voters. Now somebody’s going to write a report, who never got a vote.

“We will see what the report says. Let’s see if it’s fair.”

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Trump Accuses Twitter, Facebook, Google of Siding with ‘Radical Left Democrats’

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused social media outlets, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, of being biased, and suggested that the situation needs scrutiny. In answer to a reporter at the White House Tuesday, Trump said digital platforms tend to suppress Republican and conservative views. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.

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Records Show FBI Was Probing Michael Cohen Long Before Raid

Special counsel Robert Mueller began investigating President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for fraud in his personal business dealings and for potentially acting as an unregistered foreign agent at least nine months before FBI agents in New York raided his home and office, according to documents released Tuesday.

The series of heavily redacted search warrant applications and other documents revealed new details about the timing and depth of the probe into Cohen, who ultimately pleaded guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

The records show the inquiry into Cohen had been going on since July 2017 — far longer than previously known— and that a big part of its focus was Cohen’s taxi businesses and misrepresentations he made to banks as part of a scheme to relieve himself of some $22 million in debt he owed on taxi medallion loans.

Prosecutors were also interested in money that was flowing into Cohen’s bank accounts from consulting contracts he’d signed after Trump won office. Some of those payments were from companies with strong foreign ties, including a Korean aerospace company and Columbus Nova, an investment management firm affiliated with Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.

Cohen was ultimately not charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.

Many sections of the records dealing with the campaign-finance violations Cohen committed when he paid two women to stay silent about alleged affairs they had with Trump were redacted. A judge ordered those sections to remain secret after prosecutors said they were still investigating campaign finance violations.

Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said the release of the search warrant “furthers his interest in continuing to cooperate and providing information and the truth about Donald Trump and the Trump organization to law enforcement and Congress.”

The FBI raided Cohen’s Manhattan home and office last April, marking the first public sign of a criminal investigation that has threatened Trump’s presidency and netted Cohen a three-year prison sentence he’s scheduled to start serving in May. The agents who also scoured Cohen’s hotel room and safe deposit box, seized more than 4 million electronic and paper files in the searches, more than a dozen mobile devices and iPads, 20 external hard drives, flash drives and laptops.

Both Cohen and Trump cried foul over the raids, with Cohen’s attorney at the time calling them “completely inappropriate and unnecessary” and the president taking to Twitter to declare that “Attorney-client privilege is dead!”

A court-ordered review ultimately found only a fraction of the seized material to be privileged.

Tuesday’s release of the search warrant came nearly six weeks after U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III partially granted a request by several media organizations, including The Associated Press, that the search warrant be made public due to the high public interest in the case.

David E. McCraw, vice president and deputy general counsel for The New York Times, said he was hopeful Pauley would approve the release of additional materials in May after the government updates the judge on its investigation.

“The documents are important because they allow the public to see first hand why the investigation was initiated and how it was conducted,” McCraw said in an email.

The judge acknowledged prosecutors’ concerns that a wholesale release of the document “would jeopardize an ongoing investigation and prejudice the privacy rights of uncharged third parties,” a ruling that revealed prosecutors are still investigating the campaign-finance violations.

The judge ordered prosecutors to redact Cohen’s personal information and details in the warrant that refer to ongoing investigations and several third-parties who have cooperated with the inquiry. But he authorized the release of details in the warrant that relate to Cohen’s tax evasion and false statements to financial institutions charges, along with Cohen’s conduct that did not result in criminal charges.

“At this stage, wholesale disclosure of the materials would reveal the scope and direction of the Government’s ongoing investigation,” Pauley wrote in a ruling last month.

Cohen pleaded guilty over the summer to failing to report more than $4 million in income to the IRS, making false statements to financial institutions and campaign-finance violations stemming from the hush-money payments he arranged for porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen implicated Trump in his guilty plea, saying the president directed him to make the payments during his 2016 campaign.

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Trump Calls Aide’s Husband ‘A Total Loser’

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the husband of one of his top aides, Kellyanne Conway, “a total loser” after lawyer and Trump critic George Conway suggested that Trump is increasingly mentally impaired.

George Conway is without qualifications in psychology.

But on Sunday, as Trump vented his wrath at a variety of targets in a hail of Twitter comments, Conway cited the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to claim that the president embodies “a grandiose sense of self-importance,” is “pre-occupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance” and shows signs of “irritability and aggressiveness.”

“His condition is getting worse,” said Conway, a Republican attorney who was considered for the job of solicitor general by the Trump administration but withdrew from consideration.

His wife, a fixture on U.S. news shows defending Trump and by now accustomed to her husband’s months of taunts against the president, dismissed his armchair assessment of Trump’s mental stability.

“No, I don’t share those concerns,” she said Monday.

But the feud between George Conway and the president escalated Tuesday when Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said on Twitter that Trump “turned down Mr. Kellyanne Conway for a job he desperately wanted. He barely worked @TheJusticeDept and was either fired/quit, didn’t want the scrutiny?”

He added, “Now he hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success,” claiming that Trump “doesn’t even know him!” The couple, however, has attended black tie events together at the White House.

Trump retweeted Parscale’s disparaging assessment of George Conway, saying, “A total loser!”

Within minutes of Trump’s comment, George Conway replied, “Congratulations! You just guaranteed that millions of more people are going to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism! Great job!”

The president’s doctor, after examining Trump last month, said he is healthy although overweight.

“I am happy to announce the president of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency, and beyond,” White House doctor Sean Conley said.

George Conway helped co-found Checks and Balances, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers who have attacked Trump for the way he has handled legal and political situations during his 26-month presidency.

After earlier attacks on him, Trump called him “Mr. Kellyanne Conway” and said, “He’s just trying to get publicity for himself.”

But Trump’s assessment of his key aide’s spouse was once decidedly more favorable.

The Washington Post published a 2006 letter, a decade before Trump ran for the presidency, in which Trump, then a real estate mogul, praised George Conway for his work representing him in a dispute with tenants at his Trump World Tower condominium in New York.

“I want to thank you for your wonderful assistance in ridding Trump World Tower of some very bad people,” Trump wrote Conway. “What I was most impressed with was how quickly you were able to comprehend a very bad situation.”

Conway, 55, and Kellyanne Conway, 52, married in 2001 and have four children together.

Conway told one interviewer last year that he knows his wife does not appreciate his barbed comments about her boss, the president.

“But I’ve told her, I don’t like the administration, so it’s even,” he said.

 

 

 

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Sen. Warren Tests 2020 Message With Black Voters in US South

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was walking down a street in the town of Cleveland in the rural Mississippi Delta on Monday when she stopped to examine a small home’s sagging roof.

“You can be sure there’s a lot of love in these homes. They just can’t afford (to fix) it,” state Senator Willie Simmons told Warren during the Democratic presidential candidate’s three-day campaign swing through Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.

Affordable housing is a chief concern for the senator from Massachusetts, who recently reintroduced a $500 billion housing plan she says will create millions of housing units and reduce rental costs by 10 percent.

But the trip to the deep South, the first extended tour of the region by any of the more than dozen Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 White House nomination, also gave Warren an opportunity to try to set herself apart from the crowded and diverse field.

During meetings with housing advocates in Memphis, Tennessee, and walking tours of small Mississippi towns, Warren, who is white, tested and tailored her central message of combating income inequality to black voters, a critical Democratic voting bloc.

The trip outside the mostly white early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire that are drawing much of the early 2020 campaign focus signaled that Warren, 69, intends to make a play for support in other states that also could prove important to securing the nomination.

“I’m running to be president of all the people, and it’s important to go around the country and have a chance to talk with people face to face,” Warren told reporters after a town hall that drew about 500 people to a high school in Memphis.

Democrats will have to look beyond the traditional early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina for opportunities to pick up voters next year if an obvious front-runner does not immediately emerge.

Alabama and Tennessee are among the states holding their 2020 nominating primaries on the March 3 “Super Tuesday” following South Carolina’s contest. Mississippi is set to host its primary in mid-March. All three states have sizeable black populations.

Being first to those states will not guarantee votes. But it could win local endorsements and help recruit volunteers for Warren, who lags in national 2020 Democratic presidential opinion polls behind Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.

“Warren’s biggest advantage in making this trip is that she will likely have the attention of a critical mass of African-American Democratic primary voters in a cycle where the black vote will drive the nomination process,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who managed African-American advertising for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

‘Visiting helps’

Clinton beat Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating race in large part because his insurgent campaign failed to gain traction with black voters and flamed out when the contest moved to the South from the early voting states.

In the general election, Clinton’s loss to Republican Donald Trump was partly due to the fact that the black turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

African-American turnout in 2016 dropped 7 points from four years earlier, when Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, was re-elected.

During her trip, Warren touted how her housing plan was aimed at closing the wealth and housing gap between white and black Americans. Her proposal would give first-time homebuyers who live in low-income, formerly segregated areas grants to use for down payments.

It is specifically tailored to benefit black families whose relatives faced discriminatory housing policies in the years leading up to the U.S. civil rights era.

Many residents said they appreciated Warren taking the time to come and focus on their issues. On Tuesday, she planned to tour historic sites in Selma, Alabama, where the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march marked a turning point in the civil rights movement.

“Visiting helps. It lets the people down here know that somebody in Washington does care about them,” said the Rev. Alice Crenshaw, 75, whose church marked the start of Warren’s walking tour in Cleveland.

The tour of Cleveland on Monday ended at Senator’s Place, the restaurant owned by Simmons, the Mississippi Democratic state senator. Simmons has not endorsed Warren, but like others she spent time with during the campaign swing, he seemed warm to her candidacy.

Sandra Miller-Foster, 68, arrived at Senator’s Place knowing there would be a special visitor but not who. She liked what she heard from Warren.

Asked to assess the Democratic field, which includes two black U.S. senators vying for the nomination, she said policy, not race, would earn her support.

“All people want is a decent job, to own their own home and be able to send their kids to school. We’ve got to know what you’ll do for Mississippi,” Miller-Foster said.

 

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Bush Calls Immigration ‘Blessing’ and ‘Strength’

Former U.S. president George W. Bush on Monday called immigration a “blessing and a strength,” as lawmakers tussled with Donald Trump over border wall funding.

The Republican, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight after leaving office in 2009, did not explicitly criticize Trump or the border wall policy.

Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 51 new American citizens at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, the nation’s 43th president called for reform of “outdated and ineffective” immigration laws.

He also emphasized: “Borders are not arbitrary and they need to be respected.”

“Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength,” Bush said in prepared remarks.

“I hope those responsible in Washington can dial down the rhetoric, put politics aside and modernize our immigration laws soon.”

Bush’s remarks came as Congress and the White House were gearing up for a court fight over Trump’s declarations of an emergency to fund construction of a border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congress had refused to appropriate money for the project — a central promise of the Republican’s 2016 election campaign.

In an embarrassing rebuke to Trump, some fellow Republicans joined Democrats in voting to terminate his declaration of an emergency. Trump vetoed the legislation Friday.

Opponents, who accuse Trump of executive overreach and hyping the problem on the border, could now fight the emergency measure in court.

 

 

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Warren Calls for Scrapping US Electoral College in 2020 TV Town Hall

Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of more than a dozen Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, on Monday called for the scrapping of the electoral college, the method used to elect U.S. presidents.

It was the first time Warren has explicitly called to eliminate the system established by the U.S. constitution, in which each state is allotted a set number of “electors” based on the combined total of the state’s representation in Congress.

Warren was participating in a televised CNN town hall in Jackson, Mississippi, when she was asked how, if elected, she would expand access to voting, including for those convicted of felonies.

Warren, 69, said there should be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote, and called for the repeal of laws that make it more difficult to cast ballots.

She then lamented that White House candidates do not spend much time in places like Mississippi, which is conservative, and therefore not considered a swing state in U.S. presidential elections.

“Well, my view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting. And that means get rid of the electoral college and everybody counts,” Warren said, eliciting some of the most enthusiastic applause of the night.

The electoral college has 538 electors and 270 are needed to win the presidency. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election but Republican Donald Trump won the electoral college.

Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee introduced a constitutional amendment this year to eliminate the electoral college, but it has not been brought up for a vote in the House, which is controlled by Democrats.

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White House Proposes Caps on Student Loan Borrowing

The Trump administration on Monday proposed new limits on federal student loans taken out by parents and graduate students as part of a broader proposal to curb the cost of college. 

 

White House officials included the plan in a list of suggested changes to the Higher Education Act, a sweeping federal law that governs student lending. The legislation is getting its first overhaul from Congress in more than a decade. 

 

Ivanka Trump, the daughter and adviser of President Donald Trump, unveiled the plan at a meeting of the National Council for the American Worker, an advisory group that Ivanka Trump helps lead. 

 

“We need to modernize our higher education system to make it more affordable, flexible and outcomes-oriented, so all Americans, young and old, can learn the skills they need to secure and retain good-paying jobs,” Ivanka Trump said on a call with reporters. 

 

A primary goal of the proposal is to curb the growth of college tuition rates and reduce the nation’s student debt load, which has reached nearly $1.5 trillion and has more than tripled since 2003. 

 

The White House’s proposed solution is to cap federal loan programs available to students’ parents and to graduate students. The plan doesn’t propose specific limits, but officials suggested it could vary based on academic program. 

​Colleges’ fault?

 

Underpinning that idea is a belief that colleges are largely responsible for the nation’s education debt woes. The White House says easy access to federal aid has led colleges to drive up prices, adding that they are “unable or unwilling” to make education more affordable. 

 

Colleges often argue they have been forced to raise tuition to make up for reduced funding from their states. Many Democrats have echoed that position, with some calling for greater government support for schools. 

 

Borrower advocates said they welcome attention to the topic but don’t think the White House plan will help. Federal loans for students’ parents and graduate students total about $25 billion a year, compared with $151 billion in total federal student loans. 

 

James Kvaal, president of the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success, said the plan takes the wrong approach, adding that there’s “no evidence” the availability of federal loans has led to higher college costs. 

 

“The solution is to invest more in Pell scholarships for low-income students, to work with states to make public colleges and universities more affordable,” said Kvaal, who is also a former policy adviser to President Barack Obama. 

 

White House officials say they also want to simplify the loan repayment process, a goal shared with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate committee overseeing education and is leading the push to update the Higher Education Act. 

 

Lamar said it is “helpful” to have the White House’s perspective as he works with Democrats on the overhaul. 

 

“I share the administration’s goals to make a college education worth it and to make it simpler to apply for federal student aid and pay back student loans,” he said. 

Proposed change in debt erasure

 

Several items on the White House’s wish list were also included in the Education Department’s budget proposal for next year, including the elimination of public service loan forgiveness, a program that can erase debt for certain borrowers after 120 months of repayment. 

Instead, the White House says all federal borrowers should get undergraduate debt wiped clean after 180 months of repayment.  

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised the White House plan as “an important road map for working with Congress to rethink higher education and pass meaningful reforms.” She added that legislation to simplify lending “should be passed immediately.” 

 

The White House is also asking Congress to make federal Pell grants available to be used in short-term certificate programs, and to take other steps intended to help workers gain skills outside traditional colleges and universities. 

 

“The higher education system has been slow to adapt to the changing nature of work,” the White House said. “Millions of jobs remain unfilled in part due to a lack of Americans with appropriate skills.” 

 

Congress is still in the early stages of its work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Alexander has made it his mission to update the legislation before he retires in two years. The law, originally signed in 1965, received its last major update in 2008. 

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Judge to Release Info on FBI Raid of Trump’s Former Lawyer

A judge has directed prosecutors to publicly release documents related to the search warrant that authorized last year’s FBI raids on the home and office of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said redacted versions of the documents should be released Tuesday.

Media organizations had requested access to the records.

Pauley sentenced Cohen to prison in December for crimes including lying to Congress and paying two women to stay silent about affairs they claimed to have had with Trump.

Cohen is scheduled to report to prison in May.

Pauley had ruled early that some parts of the search warrant documents can remain secret because making them public could jeopardize ongoing investigations.

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