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Trump news: House fails to override president's veto, as impeachment vote numbers are under 'consideration'

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Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 26 March 2019 21:35
Trump on Mueller Decision: People Have Done Evil, Treasonous Things

Donald Trump will use the supposedly favourable outcome of the Mueller report to go after his enemies in Washington with a “political bludgeon”, an aide has warned.

The FBI special counsel’s 22-month investigation found no evidence of his having colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, according to attorney-general William Barr, who reviewed the filing over the weekend after being appointed by the president in February.

“In terms of political payback, the people that I’ve talked to in the White House over the last 24 hours talk about what this means for 2020 and where we go from here. And I think you are going to see [Trump] use this as a political bludgeon,” ex-White House staffer Cliff Sims told CNN.

The FBI is meanwhile poised to brief the leaders of the House and Senate and the chairmen of the two chambers’ intelligence committees on Robert Mueller’s findings as to whether the president or anyone close to him is under the influence of a foreign power. Senior Democrats are meanwhile weighing up their options with regard to possible impeachment proceedings against the president.

Radiating a sense of vindication, Mr Trump strode into the Senate Republicans' lunch on Tuesday flanked by party leaders. GOP senators applauded.

“It could not have been better,” he said of the summary of the Mueller report by Mr Barr, which did not find the president colluded with Russia over the 2016 elections.

He told senators he was given a “clean bill of health,” according to those in the room.

But Mr Trump cut short the celebration by quickly turning senators focus on the challenges ahead, claiming, “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch!”

Inside the meeting, he urged Republicans to figure out a way to repeal Barack Obama's signature health care law and replace it with a GOP version, a major goal that has eluded the party during the first years of his presidency.

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Mr Trump's trip to Capitol Hill came right after his administration said late Monday it would not defend the Affordable Care Act in a court challenge - and as the House Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were unveiling a sweeping measure to rescue the program.

Additional reporting by AP. Read live updates from The Independent below.

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

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 08:56

Yesterday the president and his supporters enjoyed a victory lap after being given a clean bill of health from the Mueller investigation regarding collusion with Russia to rig the 2016 presidential election (in the opinion of attorney-general William Barr, that is).

"There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things – I would say treasonous things against our country," he said during a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign a proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the dispute Golan Heights.

“I will tell you, I love this country. I love this country as much as I can love anything: my family, my country, my god. But what they did, it was a false narrative. It was – it was a terrible thing.

He added: “We can never let this happen to another president again. I can tell you that. I say it very strongly. Very few people I know could have handled it.”

“I think Democrats and the liberal media owe the president and they owe the American people an apology,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told breakfast television. “They wasted two years and created a massive disruption and distraction from things that... impact everyone’s day-to-day lives.”

The investigation is thought to have cost $25m (£19m) and involved 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 2,800 subpoenas, 13 requests issued to foreign governments, 230 orders for communication records and 500 witnesses interviewed.

Here's Andrew Buncombe on a day of triumphalism in DC.

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 09:03

President Trump also commented: "This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully, somebody’s going to be looking at the other side."

Many read this as a warning he attends to come after the Democrats he argues engineered the "witch hunt" to discredit him with a view to ousting him from the White House.

Former aide Cliff Sims has since appeared on CNN to warn of precisely that.

"In terms of political payback, the people that I've talked to in the White House over the last 24 hours talk about what this means for 2020 and where we go from here. And I think you are going to see (Trump) use this as a political bludgeon," he told the network's Alisyn Camerota on New Day.

"In terms of political retribution, I think the main thing is going to be using this in the election in 2020 and the campaign to remind people that 'Hey, this is (Democrats') premise for beating me'," he said. "I think that's the message you can expect to hear from him going toward 2020."

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 09:08

But while the Republicans celebrate, demand apologies and threaten revenge investigations into stale Obama-era "scandals" (as Senator Lindsey Graham did yesterday), they may not be out of the woods quite yet.

According to NBC's Ken Dilanian, the FBI is poised to brief the leaders of the House and Senate and the chairmen of the two chambers’ intelligence committees on Robert Mueller’s findings as to whether the president or anyone close to him is under the influence of a foreign power. 

The so-called "Gang of Eight" will be briefed within the next 30 to 60 days on the matter behind closed doors. That's House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff and ranking member Devin Nunes, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chair Richard Burr and vice-chair Mark Warner, House of Representatives leaders Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy and Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.

Mr Barr's four-page letter to Congress on Sunday was silent on the issue.

The House Intelligence Committee has meanwhile postponed a hearing from Trump associate Felix Sater on Wednesday in order to refocus its attention on interviewing counterintelligence witnesses.

"In light of the cursory statement from the attorney-general and our need to understand Special Counsel Mueller's areas of inquiry and evidence his office uncovered, we are working in parallel with other committees to bring in senior officials from the DOJ [Department of Justice], FBI and SCO [Special Counsel's Office] to ensure that the Committee is fully and currently informed about the SCO's investigation, including all counterintelligence information", Mr Schiff's spokesman, Patrick Boland, said in a statement.

Here's Chris Baynes.

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 09:23

The Pentagon has meanwhile approved $1bn (£759m) in funding for President Trump's border wall and ordered military engineers to join the construction effort.

Remember when Mexico were going to pay for this thing?

The army would begin planning and building 57 miles of 18-foot-high fencing in Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, according to a statement by acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Mr Trump declared the "crisis" of illegal immigration at the southern border a national emergency on 15 February after Congress refused his request for $5.7bn (£4.4bn) during the 35-day government shutdown. The emergency allows him to divert up to $3.6bn (£2.75bn) from other military construction projects towards his signature campaign promise.

Here's Adam Withnall.

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 09:43

The wall news prompted Donald Trump Jr to tweet that Christmas has come early.

Sorry to spoil your fun Don Jr but here's a quick reminder of all the other congressional investigations still ongoing in relation to your father's administration, courtesy of Chris Riotta.

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 10:00

Emboldened by the Barr verdict on Mueller and wasting no time, the president's team have been quick to blacklist Democratic politicians and intelligence experts who have derided Donald Trump on TV.

A rather sinister memo headed "Credibility of Certain Guests" sent to TV producers yesterday advised them not to give an audience to "Democrat leaders and others lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion".

It asks whether certain contributors "warrant further appearances on your programming given the outrageous and unsupported claims made in the past". 

The list includes:

- House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff

- House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler

- Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez

- Ex-CIA director John Brennan

- Senator Richard Blumenthal

- Congressman Eric Swalwell

Mr Schiff was the subject of particular Trump administration ire yesterday, with Don Jr gloating on Twitter and White House counsel Kellyanne Conway calling for his head.

Eric Swalwell duly tweeted the below withering response and then appeared on Wolf Blizer's show on CNN in blithe defiance of the order.

Here's Tom Embury-Dennis with more.

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 10:15

TV is clearly as much on the president's mind as ever.

He posted a video of Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House yesterday that was shot as though the Israeli PM were a contestant arriving at Trump Tower on The Apprentice

Although the former reality TV star loves television, especially Fox and Friends, the box is not always kind to him. Here's Roisin O'Connor on Late Show satirist Stephen Colbert, who compared the Barr verdict on the Mueller report to the famously enigmatic ending of JJ Abrams's hit series Lost.

"Why couldn’t it have been like the ending to Seinfeld? Still disappointing, but at least they’re all in jail."

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 10:30

Here's the president's inner circle working overtime yesterday to claim the narrative over what was, after all, only the synopsis of a report written by an attorney-general handpicked by Mr Trump himself.

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 10:45

He's up. Still infuriated by negative press coverage in spite of his apparent "victory".

Joe Sommerlad26 March 2019 10:57

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