By Robert A. Vella
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. has ignited an internal Republican firefight over the fate of the committee’s Russia probe, as the panel’s GOP chairman showed no signs of backing down despite fierce criticism from many of his colleagues that it was time to move on.
The sudden infighting threatened to undermine support for the Senate’s Russia investigation, which is the sole bipartisan probe in Congress into Russian interference in the 2016 election and has been widely praised as operating with little public drama.
Much of the backlash against the decision by Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.) to subpoena President Trump’s eldest son came from GOP senators who are up for reelection next year and from those closely aligned with the president. The outrage was partially fueled by Trump Jr. and his own allies.
Contempt of Congress
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on Friday that House Democrats are considering fines on Trump administration officials in order to enforce contempt actions.
He said Democrats could use Congress’ “inherent contempt power” to try to force officials to obey subpoenas.
“”Much as I like the visual of [throwing people in jail], I think it’s far more practical to consider levying individual fines on the person — not the office — until they comply,” Schiff, a frequent target of personal attacks by President Donald Trump, told Axios’ Mike Allen at a Friday morning newsmaker event. “You could fine someone $25,000 a day until they comply. You can do that. We’re looking through the history and studying the law to make sure we’re on solid ground.”
WASHINGTON — A Russian gun rights activist who admitted she was a secret agent for the Kremlin and tried to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups while Donald Trump rose to power says she believed her notes and analysis would be “valuable” for Russian officials.
Maria Butina, who admitted covertly gathering intelligence on the National Rifle Association and other groups at the direction of a former Russian lawmaker, spoke to National Public Radio in an interview airing Friday.
Butina pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent and was sentenced in April to serve 18 months behind bars. The 30-year-old has been jailed since her arrest in July.
Secret meeting on Iran
WASHINGTON — In a highly unusual move, National Security Adviser John Bolton convened a meeting at CIA headquarters last week with the Trump administration’s top intelligence, diplomatic and military advisers to discuss Iran, according to six current U.S. officials.
National security meetings are typically held in the White House Situation Room. The six current officials, as well as multiple former officials, said it is extremely rare for senior White House officials or cabinet members to attend a meeting at CIA headquarters.
The officials said the discussion was not about the intelligence that led to the decision in the following days to surge a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East, but did not describe what the meeting covered.
Trump’s North Korea strategy failed miserably
WASHINGTON — North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday for the second time in a week, prompting President Trump to acknowledge that “nobody’s happy” about the implications for his diplomatic effort to denuclearize the country.
Hours before the president’s comments, the United States said it had seized a North Korean ship that was flouting sanctions by carrying banned exports of coal. Meanwhile, a research group revealed a huge, years-old base that appears to have been designed to hide and protect the North’s growing arsenal of long-range missiles.
The menacing signals from both sides were further evidence that Mr. Trump, less than a year into his initiative to deal one on one with a North Korean autocrat, has run headlong into the roadblocks that doomed the efforts of his four immediate predecessors.
Trump donor under investigation
MIAMI — The FBI has opened a public corruption investigation into Republican donor and South Florida massage-parlor entrepreneur Li “Cindy” Yang, focusing on whether she illegally funneled money from China into the president’s reelection effort or committed other potential campaign-finance violations, the Miami Herald has learned.
Trump’s spitefulness over disaster aid
President Trump called for Republicans to reject a $17 billion disaster relief bill providing millions in funding to areas ravaged by natural disaster in the last few years.
Trump’s tweets came on the eve of a House vote Friday on a sweeping disaster relief package to provide additional financial aid to places across the country besieged by hurricanes, wildfires and flooding since 2017.
Economic backlash against anti-abortion moves
Hollywood players who have long enjoyed tax incentives for operating in Georgia could be angling to pull their productions out of the Peach State following this week’s signing of an early-abortion law there.
On Tuesday, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. (That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant.)
Since then, celebrities and creatives have decried the decision and are beginning to put their money where their mouth is, potentially threatening the well-being of the Hollywood of the South, which is home to high-profile productions such as “The Walking Dead,” “Ozark” and “Stranger Things.”
Hospitals at center of healthcare crisis
Across the nation, hospitals treating patients with private health insurance were paid overall 2.4 times the Medicare rates in 2017, according to the RAND analysis. The difference was largest for outpatient care, where private prices were almost triple what Medicare would have paid.
The disparity shows how competition has faltered in an opaque market where the costs of care are secret and hospital systems are increasingly consolidated, gaining outsize clout in price negotiations with employers, some experts say.
This yawning spread in hospital rates will likely fuel the debate over Medicare-for-all proposals that would give the federal government authority to decide what to pay hospitals and that have proved popular with many Democratic voters on the presidential campaign trail. The plans, especially one championed by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, would provide universal coverage by replacing employer-based insurance with a government-run program.