Joe Scarborough blasts Republicans findings on Russia probe: Made for talk radio

MT. LEBANON, Pa. — A razors edge separated Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone early Wednesday in their closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, where a surprisingly strong bid by first-time candidate Lamb severely tested Donald Trumps sway in a GOP stronghold.

Lamb claimed victory before exuberant supporters after midnight, though many absentee ballots were still to be counted in the contest that has drawn national attention as a bellwether for the midterm elections in November when the Republican Partys House and Senate majorities are at risk.

The committee also voted in January to release the transcript of its interview with Glenn Simpson, who co-founded Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned an unverified dossier outlining allegations of links between Trump and Russia. That vote followed a decision by Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to release unilaterally the transcript of that panel’s interview with Simpson.

Lamb, a Marine veteran, told his crowd that voters had directed him to do your job in Washington. Mission accepted, he declared. Earlier, Saccone told his own supporters, Its not over yet, were going to fight all the way, all the way to the end, well never give up.

Schiff said Tuesday that committee Democrats will continue working on the Russia investigation. “Our work is far from done,” he said. He released a 21-page status report listing witnesses, documents and angles that Democrats say still need to be pursued. Those include questions about the hacking of campaign emails; possible contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediates; and election security.

Regardless of the outcome — and a recount was possible — Lambs showing in a district Trump won by 20 points in the presidential race was sure to stoke anxiety among Republicans nationwide and renewed enthusiasm among Democrats.

Quigley, who has been one of his party’s leading interviewers of witnesses, said some witnesses flat-out lied to the committee. In others cases, he said in a statement, Republicans “have done everything they can to defend these witnesses from answering our questions truthfully and have done nothing to corroborate a word they said.”

After midnight with all precincts reporting, unofficial results had Lamb leading Republican state Rep. Saccone by fewer than 600 votes. More than 1,000 absentee ballots were still being tabulated as the count carried into Wednesday.

House Democrats cite evidence of Trump-Russia collusion

PARIS — In his final years, the only thing connecting the brilliant physicist to the outside world was a couple of inches of frayed nerve in his cheek.

As slowly as a word per minute, Stephen Hawking used the twitching of the muscle under his right eye to grind out his thoughts on a custom-built computer, painstakingly outlining his vision of time, the universe, and humanitys place within it.

On Tuesday, Republicans said their final report would be released in the coming weeks. It will contradict assessments by the American intelligence community that Russian meddling in the election was designed to help Trump, according to a draft summary they sent out.

What he produced was a masterwork of popular science, one that guided a generation of enthusiasts through the esoteric world of anti-particles, quarks, and quantum theory. His success in turn transformed him into a massively popular scientist, one as familiar to the wider world through his appearances on The Simpsons and Star Trek as his work on cosmology and black holes.

Democrats on the panel say they weren’t consulted on the decision to shut down the investigation. Representative Michael Quigley of Illinois said Tuesday the goal of Republicans appears to have been to protect the president, "at all costs."

House Republicans Conclude Pretend Russia Investigation, Declare Trump Innocent

Hawking owed one part of his fame to his triumph over amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative disease that eats away at the nervous system. When he was diagnosed aged only 21, he was given only a few years to live.

But Hawking defied the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years, pursuing a brilliant career that stunned doctors and thrilled his fans. Even though a severe attack of pneumonia left him breathing through a tube, an electronic voice synthesizer allowed him to continue speaking, albeit in a robotic monotone that became one of his trademarks.

WASHINGTON — Everyone knew of Stephen Hawkings cosmic brilliance, but few could comprehend it. Not even top-notch astronomers.

Hawking, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, on Wednesday at age 76, became the public face of science genius. He appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, voiced himself in The Simpsons cartoon series and wrote the best seller A Brief History of Time. He sold 9 million copies of that book, though many readers didnt finish it. Its been called the least-read best-seller ever.

Among the 30 key witnesses listed – some of whom, the document says, have offered to cooperate – are current or former Trump campaign officials like Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller and Sean Spicer.  There are witnesses to pivotal moments, like Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who attended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, and businessman George Nader, who was reportedly present at the January 2017 Seychelles meeting. There are also individuals associated with the National Rifle Association, who Democrats said might have knowledge of outreach to the Trump campaign from the Kremlin.

In some ways, Hawking was the inheritor of Albert Einsteins mantle of the genius-as-celebrity.

His contribution is to engage the public in a way that maybe hasnt happened since Einstein, said prominent astronomer Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories. Hes become an icon for a mind that is beyond ordinary mortals. … People dont exactly understand what hes saying, but they know hes brilliant. Theres perhaps a human element of his struggle that makes people stop and pay attention.

Separately from their conclusion that collusion did not occur, some of the committees Republicans have made seemingly contradictory statements about another key finding in their report – namely, that it did not support American intelligence agencies assessment, made with high confidence in January 2017, that President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” and sought to help his election chances.   

With Einstein, most people are familiar with e=mc2, but they dont know what it means. With Hawking, his work was too complicated for most people, but they understood that what he was trying to figure out was basic, even primal.

The update renews Democrats previous calls to compel testimony from witnesses who have already appeared but declined to provide answers beyond a certain scope of questioning, including Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Hope Hicks. There are also dozens of entities, companies and documents listed, ranging from Deutsche Bank to Kushner Companies to internet companies like Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr and Twitter.

NEW YORK — One Cabinet member was grilled by Congress about alleged misuse of taxpayer funds for private flights. Another faced an extraordinary revolt within his own department amid a swirling ethics scandal. A third has come under scrutiny for her failure to answer basic questions about her job in a nationally televised interview.

President Donald Trumps Cabinet in recent weeks has been enveloped in a cloud of controversy, undermining the administrations ability to advance its agenda and drawing the ire of a president increasingly willing to cast aside allies and go it alone. Trumps ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday may have just been the first salvo in a shakeup of a Cabinet that, with few exceptions, has been a team of rivals for bad headlines and largely sidelined by the White House.

A day after House Intelligence Committee Republicans unilaterally declared an end to the committees year-long investigation into Russias interference in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats came out in force to criticize the decision, the majoritys conclusions, and the 150-page draft report that Democrats were summarily presented with on Tuesday morning.

Donald Trump is a lone-wolf president who doesnt want to co-govern with anybody and doesnt want anyone else getting the credit, said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. For his Cabinet, he brought in a bizarre strand of outsiders and right-wing ideologues. Many are famed conservative or wealthy business people, but that doesnt mean you understand good governance.

It was a biting reference to a months-long controversy, principally stoked by Republicans, that culminated in the public release of dueling partisan memos on alleged surveillance abuses. The episode marked a low point in the committees once-bipartisan operation and has become, it would appear, emblematic of its process for releasing future products. 

The string of embarrassing headlines for Trumps advisers, as well as the presidents growing distance from them, stands in sharp contrast to how he portrayed the group last year.

WASHINGTON — Mike Pompeos hawkish instincts may seem at odds with traditional diplomatic norms. But after 14 demoralizing months of budget cuts and staffing reductions for the State Department, his conservative political bent and closeness to President Donald Trump could breathe new vigor into an agency all too often sidelined on many of the nations most pressing national security matters.

“The issue we have is with the analytic tradecraft,” Conaway said on Tuesday, saying that while “98 percent” of the analysis was “just fine,” there were “standards that CIA analysts and other analysts hold themselves to and we believe that on this one narrow little piece of the deal that the standards were not upheld.”

Pompeo, the outgoing CIA chief, will bring a new, blunt-speaking style to the job of secretary of state, strikingly different from Rex Tillersons understated approach. Pompeos arrival in Foggy Bottom also promises far more aggressive stances on Iran and North Korea, and hell at least start with Trumps full confidence — something Tillerson never enjoyed.

One of the most important jobs for the secretary of state is to make clear to the world the presidents policies and priorities, Sen. Lindsey Graham, an establishment Republican and initial Tillerson backer, said Tuesday, after Trump announced via tweet that Pompeo would replace Tillerson. No one has a stronger relationship with President Trump than Mike Pompeo. This relationship will empower him throughout his tenure as secretary of state.

But the House Republican investigation is not going to exert itself to extreme measures like learning the names of major figures involved in the case. Even publicly available evidence, like the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which leading campaign officials eagerly met with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, or the public boasting by Papadopoulos that the campaign had obtained Russian dirt on its opponent, have failed to move his allies in the lower chamber. Trump was just a big-hearted business tycoon who wanted to help some Russian orphans and maybe give down-on-his-luck lobbyist Paul Manafort a job (unpaid). For all that, they seem to believe, he has been smeared by the notoriously left-wing American intelligence apparatus as a dupe for a foreign country that didnt even necessarily want him to win the election!

Tillerson had been widely criticized for an aloof management style, which had alienated droves of career diplomats and driven many of the agencys senior brass into early retirements. But his foreign policy was far less controversial, as he hewed to much of the agencys pragmatic approach, from climate change to free trade agreements, and to preserving the Iran nuclear deal, even when that put him at odds with his president and his most conservative supporters.

The House GOP investigation failed to interview Manafort, or his partner Rick Gates, or Michael Flynn, or George Papadopoulos, all of whom have been indicted by Robert Mueller, and the latter three of whom are cooperating with his investigation. Representative Mike Conaway, the Republican heading the investigation in the wake of Nuness quasi-recusal, admitted last week, I dont have any clue who George Nader is. Nader has been the subject of two front-page New York Times stories linking him to a secret post-election meeting between Trump and Russian officials.

In Pompeo, the diplomats and civil servants who make up the 70,000-strong department may now encounter the opposite: a fiercely partisan veteran of some of the most bitter battles in Congress while he was a House Republican, and someone willing to jeopardize his reputation to defend Trump, as evidenced when he called up journalists to try to discredit a New York Times story outlining Trump campaign connections to Russia.

This outcome was completely predictable from the outset, when the committees chairman, Devin Nunes, snuck off to the White House late at night to produce an explosive but eventually debunked charge that Trump had been the victim of nefarious unmasking by Obama officials in 2016. Nunes continued to churn out explosive but false countercharges depicting the Russia investigation as a Deep State conspiracy against the completely innocent Trump campaign.

The three military fathers sat at the commanders conference table on the U.S. Army base in Germany, pleading for help.

Alternatively, if you want Congress to hold a real investigation, or any oversight whatsoever over the Executive branch, you need to hope Democrats win the midterm elections.

They told the commander that their daughters were among a half-dozen girls sexually assaulted by a boy in their first-grade class at the base school. The principal had known about the boys behavior for months, they said, but the abuse continued.

The girls parents had already turned to Army police, military child-abuse authorities and sex-assault specialists. The response throughout the U.S. militarys vast support structure was always the same, they said: Sorry this has happened; theres nothing we can do.

It gives us a sense of hopelessness, one of the fathers, a soldier, said. We can only do so much as parents.

Tens of thousands of children and teenagers live and attend school on U.S. military bases while their parents serve the country. Yet if they are sexually violated by a classmate, a neighborhood kid or a sibling, they often get lost in a legal and bureaucratic netherworld . Thats because military law doesnt apply to civilians, and the federal legal system that typically handles civilian crimes on base isnt equipped or inclined to prosecute juveniles.

From Maine to Hawaii, thousands of students planned to stage walkouts Wednesday to protest gun violence, one month after the deadly shooting inside a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Organizers say nearly 3,000 walkouts are set in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Students from the elementary to college level are taking up the call in a variety of ways. Some planned roadside rallies to honor shooting victims and protest violence. Others were to hold demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Massachusetts and Ohio, students said theyll head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun regulations.

The coordinated walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Womens March, which brought thousands to Washington, D.C., last year. The group urged students to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in the Florida shooting.

Although the group wanted students to shape protests on their own, it also offered them a list of demands for lawmakers, including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are sharply disagreeing with Republicans on the panel who say they dont see any evidence of collusion or coordination between President Donald Trumps 2016 campaign and Russia.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, said Tuesday that he believes there is significant evidence of collusion between Trumps campaign and Russia, though he couldnt say if there was criminal wrongdoing.

Republicans on the committee announced Monday that theyd completed a draft report and they saw no evidence of collusion. Schiff, who saw the GOP report for the first time on Tuesday, said Democrats on the committee would try to continue the investigation where possible and would write their own report to lay out conclusions from the intelligence panels yearlong investigation into Russian meddling.

The GOP report misleadingly characterizes events, and paints a portrait and tells a story that could not have been better written if it was written in the White House itself, Schiff said.

Trump enthusiastically praised the draft Republican report, telling reporters Tuesday morning that the White House is very, very happy with the GOP conclusions.

BEIRUT — For the first time since its meteoric rise in 2012 amid the chaos of war, al-Qaidas branch in Syria is in retreat, battling rival militant groups in the north and fighting for survival in a key foothold near the capital, Damascus.

Over the past three weeks, the extremist group has been driven from nearly all of the northern province of Aleppo, losing dozens of fighters in battles there and in nearby Idlib province.

The fighting poses a major challenge to the militant group, already beset by infighting and a string of assassinations that have taken out some of its top leaders. Unlike previous battles in which al-Qaida-linked fighters were able to quickly crush their opponents, the fighting has been particularly fierce, with the militants losing dozens of villages.

The al-Qaida-linked coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee is still one of Syrias most powerful armed groups, with fighters numbering in the thousands.

While the U.S.-led coalition and Russian-backed Syrian troops have focused on driving the Islamic State group from the countrys east, the al-Qaida-linked group has consolidated its control over Idlib, where it remains the strongest force despite its recent losses there.

AMMAN, Jordan — Sara al-Matoura watched through a window as her one-year-old daughters chest heaved up and down under a tangle of medical wires.

The 22-year-old mother from the Syrian city of Homs hadnt eaten for a day and stayed up all night at a hospital in the Jordanian capital, Amman, holding her daughter, imagining the scalpel cutting her babys chest open soon.

Al-Matoura fled the Syrian war for Jordan in 2012, where she met Alaa Zatima, 34, another refugee from Daraa. They married and had a son, Omar, now 4 years old and waiting at home.

Al-Matoura was only four months pregnant with her second child when she found out the baby had a congenital heart defect known as tricuspid atresia, which has a mortality rate of 90 percent before age 10.

Jordanian doctors encouraged her to abort the fetus. Al-Matoura refused. She is my gift from God, she said. She named her daughter Eman — faith in Arabic.

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