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As it happenedended1553721132

Trump news: Hope Hicks accused of lying to Robert Mueller as president is blamed for Bush ‘heart attack’

The latest updates from Washington

Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 27 March 2019 21:55 GMT
Trump on Mueller Decision: People Have Done Evil, Treasonous Things

Hope Hicks has been accused of lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by a former spokesperson for Donald Trump’s legal team.

Mark Corallo said the former White House communications director lied to investigators from the special counsel’s office about discussions that were had with the president on Air Force One after the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting was made public through media reporting.

Mr Coral said Ms Hicks told him she “handled” the crafting of a statement responding to the press reports about the meeting, to which he replied: “I just I listened to her yell and then I said, ‘Well you know you’ve probably made yourself a witness in a federal criminal investigation. Way to go, young lady.'”

“I just pointed out that the statement that they put out on Air Force One was inaccurate,” he added, saying it would make the president’s team appear “like they were trying to hide something.”

Meanwhile, it remains unclear to what extent Ms Hicks’ cooperation played in Mr Mueller’s 2016 report, as Wednesday brought another tense day on Capitol Hill as lawmakers wrestled over the handling of the final conclusions produced by Mr Mueller and later summarised by Mr Trump’s appointed attorney general, William Barr.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her fellow Democrats not to accept the verdict of the attorney general earlier this week.

“We cannot make a judgment on the basis of an interpretation by a man who was hired for his job because he believes the president is above the law and he wrote a 19-page memo to demonstrate that,” She reportedly told party members behind closed doors on Tuesday, calling for calm and a return to policy battles.

With renewed impeachment talk in the air, the House Judiciary Committee has meanwhile voted unanimously in favour of a resolution calling on the Justice Department to release all FBI files relating to obstruction of justice, kick-starting the Democratic fightback in earnest.

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Read The Independent's live updates from Washington on Wednesday below.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 10:47

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged her fellow Democrats not to accept the verdict of attorney-general William Barr on the Mueller report as Donald Trump continues to gloat over his “vindication” on collusion with Russia.

“We cannot make a judgment on the basis of an interpretation by a man who was hired for his job because he believes the president is above the law and he wrote a 19-page memo to demonstrate that,” Pelosi reportedly told party members behind closed doors on Tuesday, calling for calm and a return to policy battles.

She urged rank-and-file Democrats to "be calm" and focus on the policy promises of healthcare, jobs and oversight of the administration that helped propel them to the House majority in last autumn’s midterms.

"Some people are viewing it as a glass half full, glass half empty. I think half full," Pelosi said, according to an aide.

"There's so many indictments that came out of what he did. People will go to jail from what his investigation is about.

"Be calm. Take a deep breath. Don't become like them. We have to handle this professionally, officially, patriotically, strategically.

"Let's just get the goods," she concluded, ending the pep talk.

The opposition is currently grappling with the tricky task of working out how best to respond to Barr’s decidedly underwhelming take on the Mueller report as Republicans crow and threaten repercussions.

Yesterday a jubilant Trump told Republican senators the Barr letter “could not have been better” and said it had given him “a clean bill of health”.

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 10:47

So far the Democrats have focused on calling for the full release of the Mueller report - the chairmen of six congressional committees wrote to Barr asking for it on Monday - rather than simply accepting the attorney-general's synopsis.

Pelosi has meanwhile had this to say on renewed calls to pursue impeachment proceedings against the president:

She has regularly expressed her opposition to the practice, calling it “divisive” and potentially traumatic for the country and saying Donald Trump was “not worth it”.

Popular New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also appears to have backed down on calls for impeaching Donald Trump, bringing her more into line with the view of Pelosi.

“I think what's tough is, impeachment in principle is something that I openly support,” she told reporters after the same House Democratic caucus meeting.

“But it's also just the reality of having the votes in the Senate to pursue that. And so that's something that we have to take into consideration.”

One Democrat who is standing firm on the need to impeach is Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib, who was told by House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries: "We didn't run on impeachment, we didn't win the House of Representatives on impeachment - we are not focused on impeachment. What is clear is that the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic caucus want to drive our 'For the People' agenda."

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 10:55

Yesterday the House of Representatives won a vote on overturning Donald Trump’s veto of its resolution of disapproval against his national emergency declaration by 248 to 181.

However, this was 38 votes shy of the two-thirds majority required to win the day – leaving the president free to make use of the emergency powers he invoked last month to tackle the “crisis” of illegal immigration at the southern border and reallocate government funds to get his wall built.

The Pentagon approved $1bn (£759mn) towards the project from its military construction budget on Monday.

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 11:05

The House Judiciary Committee has meanwhile voted unanimously in favour of a resolution calling on the Justice Department to release all FBI files relating to obstruction of justice, kick-starting the Democratic fightback in earnest.

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, days after attorney-general William Barr told Congress he did not find an obstruction case against Trump, the Democratic-led panel voted 22-0 to send the measure to the full House of Representatives for a possible floor vote.

Full House approval would give Barr 14 days to comply with the demand for all records and communications concerning FBI investigations of Trump, as well any discussions within the Justice Department about secretly recording the president or seeking to replace him by invoking the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment provides the procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation or incapacitation.

Politicians are looking specifically at obstruction of justice and counterintelligence probes that former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe says he launched after Trump fired his predecessor, James Comey, in May 2017.

That effort was later superseded by US special counsel Robert Mueller, who last week concluded his investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. According to Barr's summary, Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia but also did not exonerate the president on the question of obstruction.

McCabe has said that deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein considered wearing a wire to secretly record conversations with Trump, an assertion that Rosenstein has denied. McCabe has also said there were discussions at the Justice Department about whether Cabinet members could remove the president under the 25th Amendment.

Democrats and Republicans are both determined to dig into the issue but for different reasons. Democrats hope to scrutinise early FBI evidence of obstruction by Trump, while Republicans expect to trace what they view as a possible anti-Trump conspiracy at the Justice Department.

"The Democrats may think there's something that will help them in the pursuit of trying to take out Trump. But to me, it may well prove to be evidence of treason at the Justice Department, trying to take out a president," said Representative Louie Gohmert, a committee Republican.

Democrats said they viewed Tuesday's resolution as a move to obtain Justice Department material that could also shed light on Mueller's findings and Barr's decision about obstruction.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who has called on Barr to testify before his panel, described the vote as "a very modest step towards obtaining the information that Congress deserves - and requires - in order to do its job."

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican chairman, Lindsey Graham, called on Barr to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible US law enforcement missteps in their probe of Trump. 

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 11:15

If the Democrats do prefer to take the fight to Donald Trump on policy grounds, healthcare will be a major focal point as the president renews his efforts to kill off Obamacare.

Trump is calling on Republicans to revive the effort to quash the Affordable Care Act, handing Democrats an opportunity to unite in defence of the law as they try to move past the Russia investigation and win the White House in 2020.

Trump's administration is asking a federal appeals court to strike down the entire healthcare law, the president vowing on Tuesday to make the Republicans the "party of healthcare" and told Senate Republicans to lean into their own agenda on the issue as they head into next year's election. 

The moves could help Trump rally his conservative base as he celebrates Barr's summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report saying there was no evidence the president or his associates colluded with Russia in the 2016 campaign. But the push also poured political kerosene on an issue that many Democrats credit with powering their midterm election victories in November. 

Top Democrats, including presidential candidates, said healthcare is an issue that resonates with voters more than the Mueller investigation. 

"This is something that Americans care deeply about," said Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a White House hopeful. "I may not have been asked about the Mueller report at town hall meetings, but I was sure asked about health care." 

"We have been dealing with healthcare constantly," Nancy Pelosi said. "The public attention has been on the Mueller report, but we have been focused on healthcare." 

Another 2020 contender, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, said if Trump "wants to have a fight on health care, it's a fight we're willing to have. And it's a fight he is going to lose." 

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 11:25

Here's Chris Riotta on the news that Trump trade policies are costing the American taxpayer a cool $1.4bn (£1m) per month.

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 11:35

Speaking of the cost of Trump, he's charging $150,000 (£113,500) for a premium ticket to attend his California fundraiser ticket next week.

The 5 April fundraising event in Los Angeles will bring the Republican president back to the heavily Democratic state where Hillary Clinton trounced him in the 2016 presidential election and which has continued to antagonise him by leading a legal challenge on behalf of 16 states against his US-Mexico border wall.

Tickets for a reception start at $15,000 (£11,350). That's according to an invitation paid for by Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee of the president's campaign and the Republican National Committee. 

The chance to take a photo with the president will cost supporters $50,000 (£37,840). 

The top-priced tickets include a roundtable discussion. 

Imagine what else you could do with that money though.

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 11:45

Here's an editorial from George Conway, husband of White House adviser Kellyanne, on the president's unfitness for office.

Conway has become known for his dogged anti-Trump tweets - risking his marriage to call out the man in the Oval Office - and was drawn into a heated battle with President Trump last week in which he was branded a "stone cold LOSER and the husband from hell" before responding pithily, "You. Are. Nuts".

Welcome aboard George! 

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 11:55

President Trump yesterday reportedly railed at the amount of US aid going towards Puerto Rico since the island was hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017 during a behind-closed-doors meeting with Republican senators.

He reportedly even brought along his own chart to highlight the $90bn (£68bn) Puerto Rico had received compared to the more recently disaster-hit states of Florida and Texas. 

The issue has clearly been on his mind: last month he asked Oval Office staff for ways to limit disaster relief funding being driven towards the recovering Caribbean nation.

Here's Tom Embury-Dennis.

Joe Sommerlad27 March 2019 12:05

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