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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of a closed-door meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday in the White House Situation Room after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she wouldn’t fund his border wall even if he ended the government shutdown.

“She said ‘No,'” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, adding that Trump slammed the table. “He said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss’ …He just walked out of the meeting.”

Trump quickly confirmed Schumer’s version of events in a tweet, making the details of the testy exchange the only thing the president and his Democratic counterparts could agree on in their fight over reopening a partially closed federal government and funding a border wall.

Several federal agencies have been shut down since Dec. 22. Trump has demanded that Congress include $7 billion in border security and humanitarian aid — including $5.7 billion in money for the wall — in any spending bill to re-open the parts of the government that have been shuttered for nearly three weeks.

As he met with Republican and Democratic leaders and Vice President Mike Pence, the White House issued a threat to veto a series of House spending bills that would open individual agencies because they don’t include money for the wall. The threat said Trump’s advisers “would recommend” that he veto the bills, rather than using the stronger language that the “president would” veto the bills that the Office of Management and Budget sometimes uses.

Pelosi opened her remarks after the meeting by describing the discussion as frigid.

“It’s cold out here, and the temperature wasn’t much warmer in the Situation Room,” she said outside the White House.

Pelosi cast Trump, the wealthy son of a real-estate developer, as insensitive to the plight of government workers who are due to miss paychecks this week.

“He thinks they could maybe just ask their father for more money, but they can’t,” she said.

Vice President Mike Pence said Trump has been clear about his priorities all along and that Republicans will “stand firm” on keeping the government shut down until Democrats agree to build the wall.

“There will be no deal without a wall,” Pence said. “There will be no deal without the priorities the president has put on the table.”

And, though Trump had just walked away from the actual negotiating table, Pence said Democrats “should come back to the table” to work on a plan to build the wall and fund the government.

Trump is scheduled to visit the southern border near McAllen, Texas, on Thursday, and he has said that he is considering declaring a national emergency to give himself greater authority to direct his administration to build a wall if Congress doesn’t appropriate money for that purpose.

The Pentagon, which undertakes military engineering and construction projects, has $4 billion in authority to transfer existing funds if the secretary of Defense deems such a move to be in the “national interest” — regardless of whether the president declares an emergency. But there are conditions on shifting the money around that could turn the maneuver into a major political and legal fight between Congress and the White House.



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Supreme Court rejects appeal from mystery company fighting Mueller subpoena

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is rejecting an appeal from a company owned by an unidentified foreign government that has refused to turn over information demanded by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The justices didn’t comment Monday in turning away the company, which is racking up a fine of $50,000 a day for not complying with the grand jury subpoena for documents.

Mueller turned over his report to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, but the status of the grand jury is unclear.

Fines have been accruing since Jan. 15 and could total nearly $3.5 million. New daily fines stop once the grand jury is discharged.

Mueller found no evidence President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Trump claims vindication.

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Omarosa Manigault Newman says she’s ‘not buying’ Trump’s ‘spin’ on Mueller report

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By Ludwig Hurtado

Ex-White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said Monday that she expects her former boss, President Donald Trump, to claim exoneration from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but she’s “not buying” it.

“He is going to scream from the mountaintop that he has been wronged, there was a witch hunt, and he was exonerated,” Manigault Newman said in an interview with Craig Melvin on MSNBC.

“Like most, until I see the report, I’m not buying the spin coming out of the Trump camp,” she added. “They’re good at spin. The first rule of spin is to get ahead of the message, get ahead of any bad news and frame it. The framing is that he’s been exonerated, I’m just not buying that.”

Manigault Newman also said she thinks Congress is “going down the right path” with its continuing probes into Trump’s actions during the campaign.

“We know that he has been involved in paying off porn stars and campaign finance violations possibly,” she said. “Following the money is actually going to lead us to get a better picture of how Donald Trump misled this country, possibly influenced the election in that way. So he is not totally out the clear, Craig. I think that we need to just kind of wait and see. pump the brakes and let the full story be heard.”

In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr wrote that Mueller’s investigation did not find collusion between the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it and the Russian government in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Barr added that the special counsel declined “to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on obstruction of justice, leaving it up to the attorney general to draw a conclusion about actions such as the president’s firing of James Comey as FBI director in May 2017.

Barr said he concluded Trump did not obstruct justice based on the evidence presented and not because of Department of Justice guidelines on prosecuting a sitting president. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'” Barr wrote.

On Sunday, Trump called the main findings of the special counsel and Barr a “total exoneration.”

“There was no obstruction, none whatsoever, and it was a complete and total exoneration,” Trump told reporters outside of Air Force One as he departed Mar-a-Lago for Washington. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame your president had to go through this.”

“This was an illegal takedown that failed,” he said of the Mueller probe.

Trump on Monday responded “yes, he did” when asked if Mueller acted honorably. During the course of the nearly two-year Mueller probe, Trump had repeatedly attacked the special counsel and his team of lawyers as conducting a “witch hunt” against him.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Barr in an interview Monday on NBC’s “Today” show, saying the recently confirmed Department of Justice head did not make a “snap judgment” about whether Trump had obstructed justice.

“It’s not a snap judgment,” Sanders said, adding that Barr “takes his job seriously.”

The comments came after NBC’s Savannah Guthrie pointed out that Barr wrote a memo last year arguing that the president could not have obstructed justice. Guthrie added that some critics said the attorney general — who determined that Trump did not obstruct justice within 48 hours of receiving Mueller’s report on Friday — might have acted in haste.

“It wasn’t that he took this upon himself,” Sanders continued, referring to Mueller’s decision to leave it up to Barr to decide whether the evidence presented in the report amounted to a criminal offense. “That’s the process of the law. When the special counsel couldn’t make a decision, couldn’t make a final determination, they refer that to the attorney general to make that decision.”

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Pence rips 2020 Democrats for being ‘afraid’ to stand with Israel

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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Monday accused the 2020 Democratic presidential field of being “afraid” to stand with Israel.

“Anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in the land,” Pence said to raucous applause from the crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference here. “It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”

Liberal groups asked 2020 Democratic hopefuls to avoid the event, and most have stayed away from it. It’s not clear which, if any, of the Democratic contenders were invited to speak; emails seeking comment on that question from multiple campaigns and spokespeople for the AIPAC conference went unreturned.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, was expected to attend the conference to speak to his state’s delegation.

But at a conference where bipartisanship is typically emphasized as a strength in promoting ties between Israel and the United States, Pence tried to persuade the audience that Democrats are abandoning their commitment to defending the relationship.

“It’s astonishing to think that the party of Harry Truman … has been co-opted by people who promote rank anti-Semitic rhetoric,” Pence said. Without mentioning her by name, he pointed to the controversy surrounding Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who has been rebuked by Republicans and Democrats for a series of remarks offensive to Jewish people.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States of America,” he said. “Any member who slanders those who support the historic alliance between the United States and Israel … should not have a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

Pence’s remarks follow weeks of Trump trying to persuade Americans that Jewish voters are leaving the Democratic Party in droves — a claim for which he has provided no evidence and which is at odds with larger trends in Jewish voting patterns away from Republicans and toward Democrats in recent elections.

Earlier this month, Trump said Democrats have become “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish.”

While the Democratic Party has struggled with opposition to Israel on its left flank, Trump has been accused of insensitivity to anti-Semitism in the past. Critics have pointed, in particular, to his conclusion that there were “very fine people on both sides” when white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us” clashed with protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and the closing ad of his 2016 campaign, which featured the images of several prominent American Jews and anti-“globalist” rhetoric.

The audience at AIPAC, however, has been pleased with his policy toward Israel, which has mirrored the desires of hard-liners. Trump officially moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and recently announced that he would recognize Israel’s claim on the contested Golan Heights region.

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