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Bipartisan briefing to be held on ‘Spygate’

Top Senate and House party leaders and Intelligence Committee leaders from both parties will be briefed on whether an informant was embedded in President Donald Trump’s campaign on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The briefing comes after complaints from Senate Democrats and some Republicans about the adminstration’s plans for an unprecedented briefing for two prominent House Republicans from FBI Director Christopher Wray and and the Justice Department on Thursday. At noon, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy will meet with White House chief of staff John Kelly, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, according to guidance from the Department of Justice.

But two hours later on Capitol Hill, those same officials with meet with House and Senate Democratic Republican leaders as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the Intel Committees, a stunning shift after the initial exclusion of Democrats. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) hinted that the meeting would come on Thursday afternoon after he said he’d “leave it up to the process” regarding whether he and the top Intelligence Democrat in the Senate would be included.

The developments marked a major break from the partisan play from House Republicans, who have largely joined President Donald Trump’s war on the Justice Department. Their counterparts in the Senate, by comparison, are deliberately avoiding the crossfire.

It’s not that GOP senators aren’t interested in potential misconduct by law enforcement officials. But their default is to defend the FBI rank and file, not trash its leadership, as House members did at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, the politics over in the House have become the issue. And in the Senate, we’ve tried not to become the issue, we’ve tried to investigate the facts,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who recently gave a speech defending FBI agents in the face of attacks from the House.

Senate Republicans are not dismissive of the FBI informant matter and are still demanding documents from the Justice Department about it. Plus, a trio of Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee quietly asked to attend Thursday’s event, including Cornyn, who serves on both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

But Burr and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) have maintained a cooperative bipartisan rapport during the panel’s probe into Russia’s influence on the 2016 elections. And senators don’t want it to turn into into the months-long food fight that the House Intelligence Committee has become. After securing a Gang of Eight bipartisan meeting that would include Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for June, the Gang pushed to have it moved up to right after the House-only briefing on Thursday.

And in a sharp contrast to the House’s dueling partisan assessments of the Russia investigation, the Senate panel has released several reports together with sign-off from both parties. The White House’s plans for a bipartisan briefing before Memorial Day with the intelligence committee’s leaders marked a victory for the upper chamber’s approach as House Republicans tried to steamroll their Democratic colleagues with a partisan meeting.

“There’s a stylistic difference. We’re trying to be able to work through it in a bipartisan way as much as we can,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). “It’s important for the country because this is going to be a very contentious investigation … whatever the decision is at the end, we’ve got to be able to say we were together on this.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan will not attend the bipartisan meeting Thursday due to a “longstanding schedule commitment,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman.

“Chairmen Gowdy and Nunes will continue to lead in this space for House Republican,” she said.

Whether Senate Republicans are succeeding in their efforts to depoliticize their own investigatory efforts is another question. Senate Republicans have tried to stay above the rhetoric from Trump and his allies, underscoring their support for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential collusion with Russia by the president’s allies.

The scheduling of Thursday’s meeting between senior law enforcement officials and House Republicans was a major test for the Senate GOP’s ability to conduct oversight without blocking and tackling too much for Trump. Many Democrats clamored for the inclusion of the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, as well as their respective intelligence committee leaders — the Gang of Eight that often participates in high-level national security briefings.

“What kind of congressional oversight only involves one party?” asked Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Limiting the number of lawmakers privy to such sensitive law enforcement information, he noted, typically involves the Gang of Eight as a matter of custom.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 GOP leader, said that having Senate Republicans at the meeting “would probably be a good thing” and suggested that top Democrats in the Gang of Eight should also be involved even before the White House agreed — yet another oblique criticism of the House’s unicameral, partisan approach.

Burr has studiously avoided even commenting on the informant issue, wary of how partisan the issue has become on the other side of the Capitol. He and most other members of his committee are worried about the lasting damage that could come from portraying the FBI as a political enemy and the precedent that will be set from outing a confidential informant in a partisan way. And It’s clear that if he had agreed to attend and leave Warner behind, it would have damaged their relationship.

Warner warned that he might “start to lose faith and trust in individuals that would attend such a meeting, since this is against any of the traditional procedures and protocols that the intelligence community has used for decades.”

Reminded that some Senate Republicans have sought to attend the meeting, Warner decried “antics driven by these House guys.”

The three GOP senators who requested to attend the Thursday meeting with DOJ and FBI, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cornyn, had yet to receive a reply as of late Wednesday. Grassley had earlier received a pledge from Rosenstein to get “access to the same information” that the House intelligence panel has received in its ongoing probe of the FBI’s investigative activity ahead of the 2016 election.

“There has to be accountability and oversight by the Congress of how the Department of Justice and the FBI do their work,” Cornyn said on Wednesday. “The idea that they’re going to say what we can see and what we can’t see is offensive.”

A top House GOP ally of Trump’s, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, toldreporters that he doesn’t expect DOJ to disclose the informant-related documents that the president’s supporters have pushed for access to.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another Intelligence member, said he‘s not concerned with the Justice Department’s actions and believes the department was targeting people claiming to be “agents of a foreign government … they were targeting those individuals, not the campaign.”

“On this particular case, if something was done inappropriate, we should know about it,” Rubio said. “But that hasn’t been my sense up to now.”

Report calls Trump ally’s testimony into question

A report that Erik Prince attended an August 20016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. casts doubt on the Blackwater founder’s prior congressional testimony about his involvement with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Prince attended the meeting at Trump Tower along with an Israeli social media specialist and a representative of two Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. At the meeting, the Gulf states’ representative, George Nader, reportedly offered help with the presidential campaign while the social media specialist pitched Trump Jr. on his services.But in November, Prince testified to the House Intelligence Committee that his involvement in Trump’s campaign was limited to donating money, attending fundraisers and authoring papers on foreign policy for Trump’s advisers. Prince did not mention any August 2016 meeting and told the committee he had no other formal contact with the campaign.

The discrepancy raises questions about whether Prince was truthful in his testimony before the committee and also whether Prince played a role in arranging high-level meetings between the Trump campaign and foreign interests.

In response to Saturday’s report, Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University, tweeted that Prince’s testimony now “looks a lot like perjury.”

“It appears that he lied to Congress, but there’s always a difference between there appears that a crime has been committed and being able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

It’s unlikely Prince would face legal consequences for any false statements, according Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who worked for special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of national security-related leaks during the George W. Bush administration.

“Lying to Congress is tough to prove. Just ask Roger Clemens,” he said, referring to the former Major League Baseball pitcher who was charged with perjury — but ultimately acquitted — after evidence emerged contradicting claims he made to Congress that he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.

Prince did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating the Trump Tower meeting. It is not the only intrigue-shrouded meeting involving Prince that has come under Mueller’s scrutiny.

Last April, the Washington Post reported on a January 2017 meeting between Erik Prince and a representative of a Russian state-backed investment fund in the Seychelles. Nader helped arrange that meeting. Prince testified to Congress he traveled to the Seychelles to meet with Emirati officials and that the meeting with the Russian official, Kirill Dmitriev, was incidental and not pre-planned.

In March, both the Washington Post and the Times reported that Mueller has also obtained evidence that Prince’s meeting with Dmitriev was in fact pre-planned, apparently contradicting Prince’s congressional testimony on that matter as well.

Poll: Jewish Israelis Love Trump

The Trump administration on Monday celebrated moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. But ever since the move was announced in December, it has been condemned in the Middle East and around the world. The Arab League called the embassy relocation a “blatant attack on the feelings of Arabs and Muslims” and a “grave violation of the rules of international law” that could destabilize the region. British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement.” Meanwhile, at the Gaza border, tens of thousands of Palestinians protested the embassy move—and Israeli fire killed dozens of them and wounded hundreds.

Americans, for their part, are divided on President Donald Trump’s approach to U.S.-Israeli relations. But there’s at least one group outside the United States that overwhelmingly supports the embassy move, according to a new University of Maryland poll: Jewish Israelis. Overall, 73 percent of them support moving the embassy, including the timing of it.

Perhaps it doesn’t seem surprising that Israeli Jews would agree on this matter. But in fact, they are a group deeply divided on many domestic and foreign policy issues, including the path forward on Palestinian relations. And since Jerusalem has both religious and political significance, one would expect variations across the religious/secular divide within Judaism. On the embassy issue, however, Jewish Israelis seem to have banded together to support Trump’s move—to the point that they also strongly support the U.S. president himself, in contrast with most Americans and indeed most people around the world, who hold unfavorable views of Trump.

Of course, Arab citizens of Israel—who constitute about one-fifth of the Israeli population—view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the U.S. Embassy move much differently from Jewish Israelis. In the poll—conducted among a representative sample of 650 Israeli Jews from May 6-9—my colleagues and I chose to focus on Jewish Israelis because we wanted to find out if there are substantial differences among Israeli Jews, including on the embassy issue. Where Israeli Jews diverge, according to the poll, is on how much sovereignty Israel should hold over East Jerusalem, the largely Arab part of the city that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and that Palestinians would claim as the capital of a future Palestinian state. That disagreement, at least, suggests that a large segment of Jewish Israelis might be open to ceding parts of East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state if a peace agreement ever materialized (keeping in mind that all of East Jerusalem is occupied territories in the eyes of the United Nations).

On the question of the U.S. Embassy move, the poll found that only 5 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose the decision. Even among secular Israeli Jews, only 8 percent oppose the move. In addition to the 73 percent of Israeli Jews who support moving the embassy, including the timing of it, another 20 percent support the move but would have preferred that Trump had waited until he unveiled his plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (For the record, the poll was fielded by phone by Statnet; the margin of error of was 3.92 percent.)

Week 51: Avenatti Strips Cohen to His Bare Essentials

Every political scandal ultimately turns into a money scandal. The article of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon included charges that he’d been party to the payment of “substantial” amounts of money to silence or influence potential Watergate witnesses. The Iran-Contra affair sluiced money from illegal arms sales to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan contras. Spiro Agnew resigned from the vice presidency while being investigated for bribery, tax fraud, and extortion.

This week, the Russia scandal vectored in that direction as Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s financial records ripped a pants seam and news of the ill-gotten cash he had deposited in his shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, gushed out. We learned that AT&T gave Cohen $600,000 for his “insights,” that Novartis dropped $1.2 million on him for political advice on “health care policy matters,” and Korea Aerospace Industries chipped in $150,000 for “legal consulting.” The most audacious money drop came from Columbus Nova—a U.S. company reportedly controlled by a Russian company controlled by oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government. Columbus Nova blew $500,000 on the besieged attorney, calling the payment a “consulting fee.” On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen pitched his consulting services to Ford, but they shut him down. On CNN, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti guessed that investigators would want to determine whether he had lied about what he could deliver. “If you lie to somebody to get their money, that’s fraud,” Mariotti said.

In an interview with HuffPost, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani asserted that the president had no idea Cohen was raking in influence bucks. “The president had no knowledge of it,” Guiliani said.

Money always leaves a trail. Dirty money leaves a trail of slime that taints everybody it touches. One unanswered question this week is whether all the consultative moolah coursing through Cohen’s LLC and moving through his “shadowy business empire” of real estate, New York City and Chicago taxi medallion holdings, and assorted investment is on the up and up. If proved dirty, will they contaminate his boss, Trump, who traditionally loves using other people’s money? And, if Cohen has committed the money crimes that some suspect of him, will special counsel Robert S. Mueller III convince him to flip on his one-time boss and testify against him? Mueller has already demonstrated his interest in the slosh of Cohen cash and deal-making on behalf of the Trump Organization to Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Mueller obviously has or will scrutinize the way Cohen used Essential Consultants LLC money to mute a potential series of women carnally linked to the president. Besides adult film actress Stormy Daniels, the LLC paid off an ex-Playboy model who was allegedly impregnated by Republican campaign moneyman Elliott Broidy. She got $1.6 million to go away and be quiet. Cohen earned $250,000 for his labors in arranging her silence. The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Sorkin speculated this week that the corporate money flowing into Cohen’s Essential Consultant piggybank might have served as a slush fund used repeatedly to buy-off Trump’s paramours. Rudy Giuliani seemed to tacitly endorse this theory when he told the Washington Post “there probably were other things of a personal nature that Michael [Cohen] took care of.” Out-speculating Sorkin was New York magazine’s Paul Campos who drew an elaborate alternative universe portrait of the $1.6 million payout to the ex-Playboy model. What if it was Trump and not Broidy who had the affair with the model? And what if it was his baby, not Broidy’s that she allegedly aborted, and Broidy took the public fall for him? Make sure you’re sitting down when you ingest this theory.

Cohen’s legal nightmare, which commenced last month when the FBI raided his homes and office after a referral from Mueller’s operation, was intensified by the agit-prop freestyling of his legal nemesis—Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti. This week, Avenatti’s release of the documentsthat detailed the flow of corporate money to Cohen’s Essential Consultants launched searches by a hundred investigative reporters eager to determine how much of this interesting money flowed into Trump entities and exactly what sort of influence it purchased. Avenatti, who has brutalized Cohen in scores of news channel appearances, appeared on CNN Thursday to promise more dirt on Cohen. “We haven’t even scratched the surface with this email today and the information that we released earlier in the week,” Avenatti said. “We’ve got emails, we’ve got text messages, we’ve got other financial information, and people better be very careful in the representations that they make.”

Judd Legum of ThinkProgress says this isn’t an empty threat. He surmisesthat the emails that Avenatti has been sharing with the press that document Cohen’s correspondence with attorney Keith Davidson, Daniels’ previous attorney, fell into Avenatti’s possession when Avenatti took over the actress’ case. “If the client decides to seek new representation, the information in the case file is generally deemed to belong to the client, and it’s then forwarded to the new attorney,” Legum writes. Legum assumes that additional materials seized in the Cohen raids will be claimed by Avenatti, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood permitting.

But back to the money. ABC News reported this week that the Mueller probe has gone after the millions of dollars donated to Trump’s inauguration committee last year. Donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have fallen under his scrutiny. Trump friend Thomas Barrack amassed $107 million for the event. Andrew Intrater, the CEO of Columbus Nova, who is cousin to oligarch Vekselberg, gave $250,000 to the inauguration committee. He made additional donations to the Trump Victory fund and the Republican National Committee. Because he’s a U.S. citizen, these transactions were legal. Both Intrater and Vekselberg attended the Trump inauguration (Intrater supplied the tickets). Vekselberg was one of two Russian oligarchs who were stopped and questioned at New York-area airports earlier this year as part of Mueller’s probe, CNN reported. Intrater has also been grilled. Vekselberg, who insists on being the Zelig of this story, was also a guest at the 2015 dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Russian propaganda network RT, also attended by Trump’s future (and short-term) national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The star of the week’s proceedings was Avenatti, who, as the Daily Beastput it, “has vexed the president’s own legal team, getting them to haphazardly admit that Trump knew about hush money payments” and “has exposed a secretive network of finances that allowed Cohen to both pay off Daniels (and, potentially, other women) as well as recruit business for a shadow-lobbying operation during the Trump administration.”Our easily offended president hasn’t tweeted at Avenatti and the usual Trump surrogates have remained uncharacteristically still in the face of his provocations. This timidity demands an explanation. Perhaps Trump knows that Avenatti knows what’s hidden at the bottom of all that suspicious money and fears riling him.

Cordray, DeWine advance to Ohio gubernatorial election

Democrat Richard Cordray won the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio Tuesday night, setting up a November race against Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Cordray, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, bested former Rep. Dennis Kucinich and several other contenders in the Democratic primary. Cordray had 64 percent of the vote to Kucinich’s 23 percent when the Associated Press called the race early, with just over 2 percent of precincts reporting.

Cordray had been the Democratic frontrunner since leaving the CFPB to run for office again in Ohio, where he had previously served as attorney general, treasurer and a state legislator. But Kucinich, who also entered the race late, proved to be a tenacious challenger, hitting Cordray from the left for his past position on guns and highlighting his own longtime support for single-payer health care. People and entities aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the nonprofit group Our Revolution, actor Danny Glover — supported Kucinich’s bid.

But Cordray, a sometimes prickly former “Jeopardy!” champion who often came off as reserved compared to the hyper-energetic Kucinich, had his own populist credentials to tout. Cordray ran as a pocketbook watchdog at the CFPB, sprinkling praise from former President Barack Obama into his ads and getting fundraising emails and campaign appearances from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Cordray and DeWine must now turn do a difficult general election battle — a rematch of their 2010 attorney general contest, which DeWine won. DeWine got the GOP nomination over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, with 65 percent of the vote when the Associated Press called the race at about 8:30 Eastern time.

Taylor spent over $2.8 million on TV, according to Advertising Analytics, and won endorsements from Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as well as outgoing Gov. John Kasich. But DeWine’s bigger spending and long career — he was previously a U.S. senator from the state — won out.

Now, both Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a slog of a general election.

“There’s no magic bullet for winning the state of Ohio. It’s hard work. It’s reaching people. It’s connecting with people on issues that are important to them,” said Democratic state Rep. David Leland, a Cordray backer. “That’s a hard tough slog that either candidate is going to have to do if they’re going to be successful.”

Even in a state that President Donald Trump won by about 8 points, where the outgoing governor is a Republican and the GOP controls both chambers of the state legislature, some Republicans are warning their party not to get complacent in the long-time swing state, especially with the political environment favoring Democrats.

“This is the matchup that everyone thought would occur. The favorites won,” said Ohio Republican strategist Mike Hartley, adding: “I think any Republican their election has to run as hard as possible because it’s one of those election years where the environment is favorable to Democrats. But the one person who I can do that is Mike DeWine.”

Leland said the candidates’ focus must now shift to the ever-shrinking number of swing voters available.

“That number gets smaller and smaller every year but we still need to get every one of them,” Leland said. And we need to get dissatisfied Republicans who feel like there needs to be a check on what’s going on in Washington D.C.”

Stormy Daniels attorney: Giuliani interview an ‘unmitigated disaster

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ attorney said on Sunday that Rudy Giuliani’s appearance on ABC minutes before him was an “absolute unmitigated disaster” for President Donald Trump’s legal counsel.

“I can’t believe that that actually just happened,” Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” “I mean, what we witnessed by Rudy Giuliani may be one of the worst TV appearances by any attorney on behalf of a client in modern times.”

Avenatti argued that Giuliani, a former prosecutor and mayor of New York, does not have a solid grasp of the facts on Trump’s actions in relation to the $130,000 payment the president’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, made to Daniels during the 2016 election campaign.

Earlier this week, Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the sum, contradicting denials from the White House and forcing Giuliani to walk back the statement. The former mayor later conceded that he is still getting up to speed on the facts.

On Sunday, Giuliani conceded that it is possible Cohen paid additional women during the campaign.

“I have no knowledge of that, but I would think, if it was necessary, yes,” Giuliani told Stephanopoulos minutes before Avenatti’s interview.

“He made payments for the president, or he conducted business for the president, which means he had legal fees, monies laid out and expenditures, which I have on my bills to my clients.”

Claiming that he has evidence Trump knew about the Daniels payment, despite denying it to reporters on Air Force One, Avenatti said the end result of the case “is going to be a disaster for Michael Cohen, the president and now Rudy Giuliani.”

“It is time for Rudy Giuliani to be put out to pasture,” Avenatti concluded.

Trump set to scale back spending cut plan to $11B

The White House will formally ask Congress on Monday to slash $11 billion from old spending accounts, according to two Republican aides on Capitol Hill familiar with the plan.

That would mean the Trump administration would again downsize ambitions for a presidential rescissions package. Some in the administration were initially eyeing a package of cuts up to $60 billion. A top appropriator later said that figure had shrunk to $25 billion.

The proposal expected to land on Capitol Hill on Monday will not target funds from the recently passed $1.3 trillion spending bill, the individuals familiar with the plan said. It will instead focus on years-old spending that has been approved but hasn’t yet been spent.

This is likely the first round of rescissions, with more to come later this year.

The presidential rescissions process — which hasn’t been used since 2000 — has been heralded by Trump’s belt-tightening budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, as a way to get spending cuts around the Senate filibuster.

Mulvaney, who has put together the spending cuts plan, has said he’s hoping for a vote on the House floor before July. The package is unlikely to pass muster in the Senate, however, even if it doesn’t require 60 votes like all other spending packages.

After the White House submits its proposal, Congress has 45 days to consider the request before it expires. During that time, the funding is automatically frozen and agencies cannot spend it.

CIA’s latest push for Haspel slammed by left

The CIA on Tuesday released a broad timeline of Gina Haspel’s career, part of an ongoing push to coax her imperiled nomination to lead the spy agency past undecided senators in both parties.

But the new information is only fueling further pushback from liberal and human rights groups outraged over Haspel’s role in the George W. Bush administration’s use of brutal interrogation tactics on detained terrorist suspects.

Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ultimately won over five of the 15 Senate Democratic Caucus members who had previously backed him as CIA director, but Haspel has no similar base of support — and a more target-rich background for the left.

The latest two-page CIA timeline offers basic job titles for Haspel ahead of her May 9 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Its release follows the declassification of an internal 2011 memo that absolved her of impropriety in the destruction of videotapes said to have shown waterboarding and other instances of torture later outlawed by Congress.

However, the memo offered little reassurance to many Senate Democrats, who were already demanding more transparency from the CIA, and won Haspel no new commitments of support from the handful of swing votes. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) already opposed to President Donald Trump’s nominee, she will need some Democratic backing to get confirmed in a chamber split 51-49.

One key undecided senator, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, said in a recent interview that the 2011 memo was “very thorough” and “satisfies my concerns about the role that she did not play in the destruction of the videotapes.”

That release from the CIA addresses “one very important issue, but there are still other issues,” added Collins, an intelligence panel member. Among them, Collins said, is the importance of more clarity about “her role in overseeing the interrogation of detainees.” Haspel reportedly was once in charge of a clandestine CIA “black site” at which waterboarding took place.

The slow pace of new public releases on Haspel’s background has only emboldened progressive activists who see her involvement in the use of harsh interrogation techniques as inherently disqualifying. The liberal group Indivisible, for instance, has made her defeat its top federal policy priority and accused the CIA of withholding key material.

“We’re not playing on an even playing field here,” the group’s foreign policy manager, Elizabeth Beavers, said in an interview. “The CIA is choosing to selectively declassify information about her and putting people in a spot where they aren’t able to fully engage in fleshing out the worst parts of her record.”

The career timeline released Tuesday shows that Haspel served in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center from 2001 to 2004 and became chief of staff at the directorate of operations in 2005, the year that the controversial videotapes were destroyed. The recently declassified CIA memo, the result of a disciplinary review, found that she “acted appropriately” in writing a cable ordering the tapes’ destruction at the request of her boss.

Another undecided intelligence committee member, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), said in a recent interview that he is “still looking for more” disclosure on that front.

“I’m not satisfied on this issue, and that’s the issue I’m mostly concerned about,” King, who caucuses with Democrats and supported Pompeo, said late last week.

King said he would make no final decision on Haspel’s bid until after her hearing but endorsed a request from the intelligence panel’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), for a copy of the report prepared by a Department of Justice special prosecutor who declined to charge any CIA officials in the videotapes’ destruction.

Even as senior Republicans lauded Haspel for doing her duty regarding the videotapes, her opponents off Capitol Hill seized on the internal memo as fodder for the case against her.

“Do we really want someone who is just going to do what she is ordered to do, or do we want someone who is going to speak truth to power?” Raha Wala, national security advocacy director at Human Rights First, asked in an interview.

The CIA has also offered to let senators view classified material about Haspel’s record in a secure setting, but Democratic critics have said that’s insufficient — and that more information should be declassified and made available to the broader public.

Among the swing votes seen as in play in the Haspel confirmation battle are Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the latter of whom opposed Pompeo for CIA but supported him for State amid a reelection challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Other red-state Democratic incumbents facing voters in November will also come under pressure from the right. The Republican National Committee is already gearing up to replicate its pro-Pompeo messaging strategy, which targeted that crop of politically vulnerable Democratic senators, according to an early copy of its plans shared with POLITICO.

One part of the RNC campaign focuses on the public praise Haspel already has won from five veterans of the Obama-era intelligence community.

“If red state Democrats plan to oppose the first female CIA director because of terrorist interrogations that occurred in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it’ll put them to the left of all the Obama administration officials who say she’s universally qualified,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said by email.

And while Trump may be closer with Pompeo than Haspel, the White House is already backing up the CIA’s internal effort to boost her prospects.

news release about the veteran spy, posted Tuesday to the White House’s website, portrays Haspel as a female trailblazer in a male-dominated agency: “When Haspel first took over as a Chief of Station in a tumultuous capital abroad, the skepticism of some of her male colleagues was obvious. It didn’t take long for her to prove the doubters wrong.”

Faiz Shakir, national political director for the ACLU, predicted that opposing Haspel would prove politically beneficial to any senator heading into the midterms.

Her confirmation provides red-state Democrats “a good opportunity to stand up loudly and proudly and say ‘we want to serve as accountability and checks on the system’,” Shakir said in an interview. “That argument serves you well no matter where you are.”

But the agency’s combination of partial declassification and total promotion of Haspel has some critics concerned that the strategy could hurt their campaign against her confirmation.

As one activist working against the nomination put it, on the condition of anonymity: “I just think we’re getting screwed by the CIA’s very successful propaganda campaign — totally selective declassification.”

James Monroe is born in Virginia, April 28, 1758

James Monroe, the nation’s future fifth president, was born on this day in 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. A contemporary of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Monroe was the last of the Founding Fathers to ascend to the presidency.

Monroe was elected to the Senate in the 1st Congress, where he joined the Jeffersonian faction. He rose to national prominence when he resigned his Senate seat to become President Jefferson’s minister to France and helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During the War of 1812, Monroe served as both secretary of war and secretary of state under President James Madison.

In 1816, Monroe decided to seek the presidency. His wartime leadership had established him as Madison’s heir apparent and the front-runner. Monroe received 183 of 217 electoral votes, winning every state but Massachusetts, Connecticut and Delaware.

In 1820, Monroe, a slaveholder, signed into law the Missouri Compromise, which sought to ease tensions over slavery by promising to admit slave-holding and nonslave-holding states into the Union in equal numbers. He supported founding colonies in Africa for repatriated free African-Americans who would eventually form the nation of Liberia. (Its capital, Monrovia, is named in his honor.)

Enactment of the Missouri Compromise contributed to the “Era of Good Feelings” over which Monroe presided and facilitated his election to a second term. In his second inaugural address, Monroe noted that while the nation had struggled in its infancy, it had emerged in good shape.

As president, Monroe had to contend with the First Seminole War (1817-18). When Seminole Indians and escaped slaves raided Georgia from Spanish Florida. Monroe sent Gen. Andrew Jackson to deal with the problem. Despite being told not to invade Spanish-held Florida, Jackson did so and deposed the military governor. This eventually led to the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 under which Spain ceded Florida to the United States.

Monroe was the first U.S. senator to become president and the first president to ride on a steamboat. In 1823, he declared his opposition to European intervention in the Western Hemisphere. In ensuing decades, the Monroe Doctrine became a key facet of U.S. foreign policy.

Monroe was the last U.S. president to wear a powdered wig, a tricorn hat, and knee-breeches in keeping with late 18th-century fashions. That earned him the nickname “The Last Cocked Hat.”

After leaving office, Monroe sought in vain to persuade Congress to reimburse him for the personal funds he spent to furnish the executive mansion. His debts forced him to sell his Virginia estate and move in with his daughter in New York City, where he died on July 4, 1831 at age 73.

Historians and political scientists have tended to rank Monroe as an above-average chief executive. Political scientist Fred Greenstein has argued that Monroe was a better executive than some of his more renowned predecessors, including Madison and John Adams.

Trump backtracks, delays release of JFK assassination records until at least 2021

President Donald Trump on Thursday delayed the full release of JFK assassination records until at the latest 2021, siding with the CIA and FBI over national security concerns that the release of the remaining files could spark.

“I agree with the Archivist’s recommendation that the continued withholdings are necessary to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Trump wrote in a memorandum released by the White House.

Trump added that need for the continued protection of the documents, “can only grow weaker with the passage of time.”

For now though, the decision to grant additional delays means the president has backtracked from his promise last October. At the time, Trump wrote on Twitter “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

The full release of the remaining records related to the JFK assassination was signed into law in 1992 by then-President George H.W. Bush. As POLITICO previously reported, the law ordered the immediate release of thousands of documents and set a 25-year deadline for the release of 3,100 unreleased documents and the full, unredacted versions of 30,000 pages already mad public. The 25-year window ran out last year, but the law does give the opportunity for extensions to be granted for concerns, like national security reasons.

The memo coincided with the National Archives release of over 19,000 documents, the final release in accordance with Trump’s directive from last year. According to the archives, 520 documents remain withheld in full and were not subject to the 25-year requirement and 15,834 documents are still redacted, although less so then they were as of October 2017.

Last October, Trump gave the FBI and CIA until Thursday to re-review the remaining files. The White House memo released Thursday said those agencies are also instructed to re-review those redactions over the next three years.

The 1992 law came amid a public outcry after the Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-filled “JFK,” which went on to win an Academy Award. Despite multiple government inquires into the assassination, there remains a fervent base of people who feel JFK’s death was the result of a conspiracy.