RUSSIA PROBE

Mueller to testify publicly before House on July 17

WASHINGTON

Special counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify publicly before Congress on July 17 after Democrats issued subpoenas to compel him to appear, the chairmen of two House committees announced Tuesday.

Mueller’s unusual back-to-back testimony in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees is likely to be the most highly anticipated congressional hearing in years, particularly given Mueller’s resolute silence throughout his two-year investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s campaign. Mueller never responded to angry, public attacks from Trump, nor did he ever personally join his prosecutors in court or make announcements of criminal charges from the team.

His sole public statement came from the Justice Department podium last month as he announced his departure, when he sought to explain his decision to not indict Trump or to accuse him of criminal conduct. He also put lawmakers on notice that he did not ever intend to say more than what he put in the 448-page report.

“We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself,” Mueller said May 29. “I would not provide information beyond what is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

Those remarks did little to settle the demands for his testimony.

SOUTHERN BORDER

Border official resigns amid uproar

over migrant children

HOUSTON

The acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection resigned Tuesday amid an uproar over the discovery of migrant children being held in pitiful conditions at one of the agency’s stations in Texas.

Acting Commissioner John Sanders’ departure deepened the sense of crisis and added to the rapid turnover inside the agencies responsible for enforcing President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration priorities as the U.S. deals with record numbers of migrant families coming across the border.

In a message to employees, Sanders said he would step down on July 5. He did not give a reason for leaving.

“Although I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful, I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career,” he said.

Hours after Sanders’ departure became public, two officials told The Associated Press that he was being replaced by Mark Morgan, who was named acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just last month. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the move and declined to be identified.

House passes funding bill for migrant care crisis

WASHINGTON

It took last-minute changes and a full-court press by top Democratic leaders, but the House passed with relative ease Tuesday a $4.5 billion emergency border aid package to care for thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bill passed along party lines after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quelled a mini-revolt by progressives and Hispanic lawmakers who sought significant changes to the legislation. New provisions added to the bill Tuesday were more modest than what those lawmakers had sought, but the urgent need for the funding — to prevent the humanitarian emergency on the border from turning into a debacle — appeared to outweigh any lingering concerns.

The 230-195 vote sets up a showdown with the Republican-led Senate, which may try instead to force Democrats to send Trump a different, and broadly bipartisan, companion measure in coming days as the chambers race to wrap up the must-do legislation by the end of the week.

DIPLOMACY

Iran says ‘idiotic’ new US sanctions shut

doors of diplomacy

TEHRAN, Iran

Iran warned Tuesday that new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington amid heightened tensions, even as President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being “afflicted by mental retardation.”

President Donald Trump called that a “very ignorant and insulting statement,” tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with “great and overwhelming force ... overwhelming will mean obliteration.” His secretary of state said the Iranian statement was “immature.”

The sharp remarks from Tehran shows the pressure that the nation’s Shiite theocracy and its 80 million people feel over the maximalist campaign of sanctions by the Trump administration. From Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran could walk through an “open door” to talks with America but also warned that “all options remain on the table” if Tehran makes good on its promise to begin breaking one limit from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The verbal volleys recalled North Korea’s statements about Trump before the dramatic change in course and the start of negotiations with Washington. In 2017, state media quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

RULING

Federal judges send 2020 census lawsuit back to lower court

BALTIMORE

A lawsuit that alleges a 2020 census question pushed by the Trump administration violates minorities’ rights will be sent back to a federal court in Maryland so new evidence can be considered, U.S. appeals judges ruled Tuesday.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision comes a day after U.S. District Judge George Hazel of Maryland suggested in an opinion that racial discrimination and partisan power plays could be the underlying motives in asking everyone in the country about citizenship status. The 4th Circuit’s order sending the case back to Hazel could be pivotal.

“The decision today opens up a potentially new legal front in the fight against the citizenship question,” said Thomas Wolf, counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and an expert on census matters.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide this week whether the Trump administration can add its citizenship question to the 2020 population survey. However, the justices are not considering legal questions about whether the citizenship addition might be discriminatory.

Now that the 4th Circuit has sent this lawsuit back to the federal court in Maryland, Hazel could issue an injunction blocking the citizenship question. If that were to happen, the order issued by the lower court would have to hold until the Supreme Court can take up the matter, according to Wolf.

— Associated Press

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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