Democrats, some Republicans call for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to step down

Clearly exhausted with the investigation into a Russian connection, the White house was also tired of answering questions on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

“We’re not going to start answering questions like that kinda stuff,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

Nunes, R. Calif, himself remains defiant.

“Are you going to stay as chairman of this investigation?” a reporter asked him.

“Why would I not?” Nunes said.

The “why” began when Nunes first revealed that intelligence officials may have inadvertently picked up communications of the president and his transition team.

Then came revelations that he got that information “somehow” on White House grounds.

Now, even some Republican senators have joined House Democrats in saying he is too close to the president.

“That sounds like their problem. I don’t have, my colleagues are perfectly fine,” Nunes said.

When asked if Nunes should step down from the Russia investigation House Speaker Paul Ryan, R- Wis. said “No and no.”

The House investigation  was supposed to continue this week will the testimony of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, but it was abruptly canceled prompting suspicion that the administration tried to block her.

 “You guys are just speculating,” Nunes said.

The White House was quick to deny the allegation.

“The White House did not stop Yates from testifying,” Yates said.

President Donald Trump had no comment as he was signing an executive order Tuesday rolling back climate change regulations put in place by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama.

All of it prompting outrage and protests just outside of the White House gate.

“Nobody ever told me politics was such fun,” Trump said. 

Follow this story

Hillary Clinton makes most political remarks since losing election

Hillary Clinton took the stage at a diversity conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, making her most political comments since losing the 2016 presidential election.

“There is no place I’d rather be than here with you,” Clinton said, before adding: “Other than the White House.”

During her keynote address at the annual conference hosted by the Professional BusinessWomen of California, Clinton spoke largely about women’s equality and peppered in criticism of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

“Obviously the outcome of the election wasn’t the one I hoped for, worked for, but I will never stop speaking out for common sense benefits that will allow moms and dads to stay on the job,” Clinton said.

Besides a few comments in public gatherings and tweets from her personal account, Clinton has largely laid low since the election. She was spotted after the election in the woods near her New York home and, along with her husband former President Bill Clinton, she attended Trump’s inauguration.

She called Republicans’ attempted replacement for the Affordable Care Act “a disastrous bill,” adding that the Trump administration has been “met with a wave of resistance” that indicates the protests against Trump’s policies are just getting started.

“People who had never been active in politics told their stories at town hall meetings.” Clinton said. “They were people who had something to say and were determined to be heard.”

During the question and answer portion of her appearance, she grew incredulous at the GOP health care debate.

“Really? Take away maternity care?” Clinton said. “Who do these people talk to?”

Clinton also focused on issues like inclusivity and diversity of women in the workplace and the need for the private sector to make better efforts to bring more women to the table.

“Advancing the rights and opportunities of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” she said, while noting that women’s representation in Washington is “the lowest it’s been in a generation.”

The former secretary of state also responded to racially charged incidents directed at two prominent black women today.

In one, White House press Secretary Sean Spicer told April Ryan, a longtime White House correspondent and one of the few black women journalists in the press briefing room, to “stop shaking your head” and accused her of being “hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays.”

In another, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly came under fire for racist comments mocking Rep. Maxine Waters’ hair, saying her hair looked like a “James Brown wig.”

O’Reilly later apologized, but not after a slew of controversy. Tuesday, Clinton said Waters had been “taunted by a racist joke about her hair.”

Women of color, said Clinton, have “a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride.”

On the policy front, Clinton criticized the US for still not having a national paid family leave policy and said those who do benefit from such policies are often among the highest income workers. Clinton called on the private sector to do more to help.

“You’re the people who figured out how to fit computers in the palms of our hands,” she said. “You have the power.”

But overall, Clinton offered an optimistic tone in the face of Trump’s victory.

“Where some see a dark vision of carnage, I see a light shining on creativity and opportunity,” she said, referencing the inaugural address.

She offered the audience her new mantra: “Resist, insist, persist, enlist.”

She encouraged the audience to “resist actions that go against our values as Americans,” insist on “putting people first,” “persist” like Sen. Elizabeth Warren did when she was prevented from reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King about Sen. Jeff Sessions, and “enlist” others by running for office or opening a business.

“I’ll be right there with you every step of the way,” she said.

Follow this story

Congress just killed your Internet privacy protections

The future of online privacy is now in President Donald Trump’s hands.

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to repeal Internet privacy protections that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration.

The Senate voted along party lines to undo the rules last week. The resolution now goes to Trump’s desk. The White House said Tuesday it “strongly supports” the repeal.

The rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required Internet service providers to get your permission before collecting and sharing your data. The providers have data on your web browsing history, app usage and geo-location.

Providers would also have been required to notify customers about the types of information collected and shared.

The privacy rules were intended to give consumers extra control over their personal data online at a time when everything from smartphones to refrigerators can be connected to the Internet.

Opponents of the privacy rules argued it would place an undue burden on broadband providers while leaving large Internet companies like Facebook and Google free to collect user data without asking permission.

Representative Michael Burgess, a Republican, described the rules as “duplicative regulation” on the House floor and said the repeal would “level the playing field for an increasingly anti-competitive market.”

But rather than apply similar protections to more businesses, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to scrap the rules entirely.

Democrats and privacy advocates have argued this approach effectively hands over the customer’s personal information to the highest bidder.

“It totally wipes out privacy protections for consumers on the Internet,” Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo said on the floor. “I don’t want anyone to take my information and sell it to someone and make a ton of money off of it just because they can get their mitts on it.”

Michael Capuano, a Democratic Representative, took it one step further. “Just last week, I bought underwear on the internet,” he said. “Why should you know what size I take, or the color, or any of that information?

Many broadband providers already share some of their customers’ browsing behavior with advertisers. Providers typically offer the choice to opt out, but consumers may not even be aware of this data collection — let alone how to get out of it.

With Facebook and Google, weary users may choose to limit their activity on the sites or switch to rival services. But switching providers is often difficult, as is hiding your Internet activity from your Internet provider.

“Most people can’t simply walk away from their Internet service provider,” says Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the ACLU. “They need the Internet and they may not have another option.”

A virtual private network, or VPN, is one option to protect your online activity. One service, NordVPN, says it has seen a “sharp increase” in consumer interest in the days since the Senate vote.

The repeal is a big win for large providers like AT&T and Verizon. They have bet billions on content, including AT&T’s pending acquisition of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

This content can potentially be paired with subscriber data to build up lucrative targeted advertising businesses that compete with Google and Facebook.

“I don’t think of it as game over,” says Guliani, who predicts Republicans will face pushback from their constituents for the privacy vote. “I think of it as a setback.”

Follow this story

McConnell: Full Senate vote on Gorsuch on April 7

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday the Senate will vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch next Friday, April 7, before lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week recess in Congress.

“We’re going to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There will be an opportunity for the Democrats to invoke cloture. We’ll see where that ends. The Democratic Leader who will be out here shortly says that we will not get cloture, so that is a good question to ask him. But it’ll be really up to them how the process to confirm Judge Gorsuch goes forward.”

Democrats are mounting a filibuster of the nomination, and Republicans, who number 52 in the Senate, are trying to bring on board the eight Democrats needed to break the filibuster.

If they fail to get 60 votes, Republicans could change the rules and confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority — a decision known as the “nuclear option” — though the move would be highly contentious.

Gorsuch completed his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings last week and is expected to be voted out of committee on Monday, April 3.

Follow this story

Border wall ask: $1 billion for 62 miles

The Trump administration wants the first $1 billion of border wall funding to cover 62 miles — including replacing some existing fencing along the southern border.

The $999 million requested by the White House in its budget supplement for just defense and border security spending would cover just 48 miles of new wall, according to justification documents from the Department of Homeland Security obtained by CNN.

The documents describe exactly where the administration hopes to put its first installment of the border wall, as it described its modest 2017 funding ask.

The money will fund 14 miles of new border wall in San Diego, 28 miles of new levee wall barriers and six miles of new border wall in the Rio Grande Valley region and 14 miles of replacement fencing in San Diego. The fencing would likely include concrete elements, a source familiar with the plans told CNN.

President Donald Trump made building a border along the entire US Southern border a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and repeatedly pledged Mexico would pay for it, but the initial ask for funds to start building has been modest. The administration requested $1 billion in its supplemental for 2017, and another $2.6 billion for border infrastructure and technology in 2018.

Estimates for a full wall along the Southern border have ranged from $12 billion to more than $20 billion.

The budget request documents also make clear that the Trump administration is looking to ramp up border security elsewhere, specifying millions to bolster detention facilities and legal support for building the wall.

The documents also claim that Trump’s executive orders on immigration enforcement are already having an effect, saying arrests are up 50%, charges are up 40% and requests to detain arrested individuals who are deportable are up 80%. When asked, ICE did not have information on what the administration is using as a baseline.

Wall or fence?

Although on the campaign trail, Trump described building a tall, concrete wall, many career officials within DHS recommended see-through fencing as a more secure option, as CNN previously reported, in part to have visibility on what’s happening on the other side.

The federal government is soliciting contracting bids for two types of construction according to the bid website — “one focused on concrete designs, and one focused on other designs.”

W. Ralph Basham, a former Customs and Border Protection commissioner under the Bush administration, said instead of paying for a concrete border wall the government should strategically fund increases in surveillance technology and the construction of additional fencing based upon recommendations made by DHS.

“What does border patrol need to get the job done?” Basham said. “A lot of people in this country think that this wall is a good idea, but when you really break it down, it may not be the best way of spending the taxpayer dollar.”

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified to Congress in February that some border patrol agents made him aware of their concerns about a solid, concrete wall as opposed to see-through fencing.

Experts also said at the same House Homeland Security Committee hearing that a border fence could have advantages over a concrete wall, because agents could more easily see across the border.

Kelly said the wall will take time to construct.

“We’re not going to be able to build a wall everywhere all at once,” he said.

But he didn’t give a clear timeline or cost estimates.

“I’d like to see we’d be well underway in two years,” Kelly said of the wall. “This is going to take some time, but there’s places I think we can right away get at this problem.”

Follow this story

Travel ban lawsuit could speed toward more sweeping full bench review

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is mulling over whether the full court — as opposed to only three judges — should hear a challenge to a federal district court’s decision to halt a core provision of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban nearly two weeks ago.

US District Court Judge Theodore Chuang imposed a nationwide halt to the portion of the President’s executive order that tried to bar foreign nationals from six majority-Muslim nations from entering the country for 90 days. The Justice Department formally appealed Chuang’s decision on Friday, calling it “extraordinary.”

Normally, such an appeal from a trial court’s decision would be heard by a randomly assigned panel of three judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Yet, on Monday the appeals court issued an order asking both sides whether the case should be heard by the full court — otherwise known as “en banc” review — in the first instance and skip the three-judge panel.

The move may potentially signal to the parties the weightiness of the issues involved, as rehearings en banc are generally “not favored” in the federal system and “ordinarily will not be ordered unless … necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court’s decisions; or the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.”

“It’s unusual for a court of appeals to go en banc at such an early stage, but not unheard of — and may simply signal an entirely understandable view that, given the significance of the questions presented, the matter was likely to go to the full court even if it was first heard by a three-judge panel,” explained Stephen Vladeck, a CNN contributor and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

“Given that, and given that the travel ban remains on hold pending the appeal, I think it’s a rather frank admission by the court of appeals that, regardless of how it comes out, this case is a pretty big deal — and ought to be treated as such,” he added.

The parties have until Thursday to provide their positions on the issue.

An attorney who represents the refugee groups and other individual plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit declined to comment, and the Justice Department did not immediately respond.

Last week, the 4th Circuit set an oral argument date in the case for May 8 in Richmond, Virginia.

Meanwhile, litigation over the travel ban continues in federal court in Hawaii. Like Chuang, US District Court Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu issued a nationwide temporary restraining order, which blocked the core provisions of the travel ban, and is now considering whether to convert that ruling into a longer-term order. The Justice Department has not made any moves to appeal Watson’s ruling.

Follow this story