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FBI dropped requests for ‘necessary’ classified info during Clinton probe, and GOP asks why

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FBI dropped requests for classified info during Clinton probe, and GOP asks why

FBI investigators looking into Hillary Clinton’s email use in 2016 sought access to “highly classified information” they said was “necessary” to complete their probe, but later withdrew the request and cleared Clinton of wrongdoing.  Now, the Justice Department (DOJ) has 10 days to explain itself, three top Republican Senate committee chairmen said Tuesday.

The renewed GOP push for answers comes a month after it emerged that the DOJ negotiated an agreement with Clinton’s legal team that ensured the FBI did not have access to emails on her private servers relating to the Clinton Foundation. Republicans, citing whistleblowers, have contended that the charitable organization may have been involved in pay-to-play schemes, misappropriation of funds and quid-pro-quo promises made to donors during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

Meanwhile, sources confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday that as many as two dozen individuals may be implicated in House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes’ criminal referrals to the DOJ arising out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recently concluded Russia probe. The sources confirmed that the referrals related in part to the anti-Trump dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, and his work for the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee-funded firm Fusion GPS.

In a letter to the DOJ, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson demanded more information as to why the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, known as “Midyear Exam,” concluded without apparently accessing classified materials.

DOJ IG BLAMES SYSTEM-WIDE SOFTWARE GLITCH FOR MISSING FBI TEXT MESSAGES — STRZOK’S MUELLER PHONE TOTALLY WIPED

Relying on the findings in an unclassified DOJ Inspector General (IG) report and a classified annex attached to the report, the senators noted that the FBI “acquired classified material that ‘may have included information potentially relevant to the Midyear investigation,’ and the bureau later “drafted a memorandum in May of 2016 stating that access to the information was ‘necessary to complete the investigation.'”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., earlier this year in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., earlier this year in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

At that time, the GOP senators noted, then-FBI Director James Comey was drafting his public statement exonerating Clinton while noting she had mishandled classified information.

However, the memorandum seeking the classified information from the DOJ “was never completed,” the senators noted, and FBI witnesses claimed in interviews with the IG that the information would not have materially impacted their conclusions — despite the language in the memo.

FBI WON’T EXPLAIN SECRETIVE COMMS BETWEEN CLINTON LAWYER AND BUREAU’S THEN-GENERAL COUNSEL, JUDICIAL WATCH SAYS

Grassley, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, requested an explanation for the apparent discrepancy in October 2018, but was denied.

In a Sept. 17, 2018, phone call, the DOJ “declined to brief the Judiciary Committee, asserting without any clear basis, that it would interfere with Special Counsel Mueller’s equities,” the senators said Tuesday. “Now that the special counsel’s investigation has concluded, we are unaware of any legitimate basis upon which the department can refuse to answer the Judiciary Committee’s inquiries.”

The senators concluded: “Accordingly, we are reissuing the attached classified letter regarding the important questions raised by the appendix and reiterating our request for a classified briefing on the subject.  Please respond to these questions no later than April 26, 2019.”

“That we had to sue for this basic information shows the FBI may have something more to hide.”

— Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton

Separately on Tuesday, the transparency group Judicial Watch charged that the FBI failed to respond to its October 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking more information about secretive communications in late 2016 between a top Clinton campaign lawyer and the bureau’s then-general counsel.

Additionally, the group said, the FBI has ignored September 2018 FOIA requests concerning bureau communications with, and payments to, British ex-spy Christopher Steele — who authored the infamous anti-Trump dossier.

In response, Judicial Watch announced Tuesday it has filed lawsuits seeking the full release of all relevant documents. The flurry of litigation comes just days before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is set to be publicly released, with some redactions.

The Mueller report’s Thursday release is expected to shed more light on the Russia investigation’s conclusions that the Trump campaign did not improperly collude with Russia, despite multiple attempts by Russian-affiliated individuals to involve the Trump team in computer hacking.

The ongoing litigation and document requests could provide more information on the beginnings of the Russia investigation, which Republicans have charged was tainted with visible anti-Trump bias from the start.

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“How and why did the FBI pay Christopher Steele, who was already being funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC through Fusion GPS?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton asked in announcing the lawsuits. “That we had to sue for this basic information shows the FBI may have something more to hide.”

The separate suit to obtain the Clinton-related communications, Fitton said, aims to “fully expose the scandalous collusion between the Obama FBI and the Clinton-DNC political operation to target Hillary Clinton’s political opponent, Donald J. Trump.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

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Ocasio-Cortez-aligned group attacks Biden, says he’s ‘out-of-touch’ with Democratic Party

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Joe Biden announces 2020 presidential bid: 3 things to know about the former vice president

A progressive political group that boosted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s bid for Congress last year vowed to oppose former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, blasting him as part of the “old guard” and accusing him of standing in opposition to the “center of energy” in the Democratic Party.

JOE BIDEN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

“While we’re going to support the Democratic nominee, we can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘No, we can’t,’” the group Justice Democrats said Thursday.

Biden announced his candidacy for president Thursday. He enters a crowded field of Democratic contenders aiming to unseat President Trump — nearly 32 years after he announced his first campaign for president. The campaign is Biden’s third bid for the White House, having also unsuccessfully run in 1988 and 2008.

“The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today,” Justice Democrats said. “The party needs new leadership with a bold vision capable of energizing voters in the Democratic base who stayed home in 2016.”

The group added: “Joe Biden stands in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today.”

BIDEN’S SENATE RECORDS HELD BY HIS ALMA MATER WON’T BE RELEASED UNTIL LATE 2019, POSSIBLY EVEN LATER

“Democrats are increasingly uniting around progressive populist policies like ‘Medicare-for-All,’ a Green New Deal, free college, rejecting corporate money, ending mass incarceration and deportation. We don’t need someone who voted for the Iraq War, for mass incarceration, and for the Bankruptcy Reform Act while voting against gay marriage, reproductive rights, and school desegregation,” Justice Democrats said.

Others, though, took issue with the group’s claim about the energy in the party.

“It’s probably worth noting that while this group, Justice Democrats, calls Biden ‘out-of-touch’ with the ‘center of energy’ in the Democratic Party, only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election,” said Nate Silver, the editor of FiveThirtyEight.

According to its website, Justice Democrats says its mission is “to elect a new type of Democratic majority in Congress, one which will create a thriving economy and democracy that works for the people, not big money interests.”

The attacks could foreshadow the looming clash between the progressive and establishment wings of the party: Biden, along with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — who enjoys the support of Democratic Socialists in the party — have consistently topped the polls in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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Cory Booker’s tax returns shows income from lucrative speaking gigs, royalties

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Cory Booker's tax returns shows income from lucrative speaking gigs, royalties

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker’s tax returns show most of his wealth stems from lucrative speaking engagements and royalties.

Booker, the 2020 candidate who has yet to make a splash in the crowded Democratic field, released 10 years of tax returns on Wednesday after numerous other candidates released their records in recent weeks.

WHO ARE THE WEALTHIEST 2020 DEMS? WITH TAX RETURNS IN, THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU

The New Jersey senator reported income of $152,715 in 2018 for his salary, $22,781 in taxes which amounts to an effective tax rate of 15 percent, significantly lower than Sen. Kamala Harris’ 37 percent or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 26 percent.

Most of Booker’s wealth comes public speaking fees and royalties, including $2 million in speaking fees between 2009 and 2014, nearly $1 million in royalties from 2015 to 2017 after the release of his book, “United.”

But the lower effective tax rate may have something to with Booker’s sizeable charitable donations. In 2018, he donated $24,000 to charity. In total over the 10-year period, the senator donated nearly $460,000 to various organizations and causes.

BETO O’ROURKE CONFRONTED AT TOWN HALL ABOUT STINGY CHARITABLE DONATIONS

This appears to be significantly more in proportion than his opponents like Sanders or former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who faced questions over his household giving to charity just $1,166 in 2017, or about 0.3 percent of their income that year.

At the same time, more than half of those donations made by Booker came in 2013 amid criticism of his role in the founding of a social media company called Waywire, prompting him to give massive amounts of stock to charities in his city.

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The New York Times revealed that Booker’s wealth at the time – $5 million – consisted mostly of shares in the company.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Former Vice President Biden launches White House bid as Democratic frontrunner

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Former Vice President Biden launches White House bid as Democratic frontrunner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a moderate who has made his appeal to working-class voters who deserted the Democrats in 2016 a key part of his political identity, launched a bid for the White House on Thursday as the party’s instant frontrunner.

Biden announced the third presidential bid of his career by video on YouTube and other social media, drawing a stark contrast between himself and President Donald Trump in a contest he said was a fight for the future of American democracy.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” he said. “I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and let that happen.”

Trump responded in a post on Twitter, slamming Biden’s “intelligence” and vowing to meet him “at the Starting Gate” if the Democrat wins his party’s “nasty” nomination fight.

Biden, 76, had been wrestling for months over whether to run. His candidacy will face numerous questions, including whether he is too old and too centrist for a Democratic Party yearning for fresh faces and increasingly propelled by its more vocal liberal wing.

Biden starts as leader of the pack in opinion polls of a Democratic field of 20 contenders seeking a chance to challenge Trump, the likely Republican nominee, in November 2020.

Critics say his standing in polls is largely a function of name recognition for the former U.S. senator from Delaware, whose more than four decades in public service includes eight years as President Barack Obama’s No. 2 in the White House.

Obama’s spokeswoman Katie Hill said in a statement that Obama has long said selecting Biden to be his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made. The statement fell short of a formal endorsement, but said Obama relied on Biden’s insight, knowledge and judgment through both election campaigns and his entire presidency.

Biden will travel across the country in the coming weeks to detail his plans to rebuild the middle class, kicking off his tour with a visit on Monday to Pittsburgh, his campaign said.

On May 18, he will hold a rally in Philadelphia to “lay out his vision for unifying America with respected leadership on the world stage—and dignified leadership at home,” it said. 

Pennsylvania, not far from Biden’s home state of Delaware, is a key battleground state and former industrial hub that backed Trump in 2016. The Republican president is seeking to capture the state again even as Democrats saw wins there in the 2018 midterm congressional election.

Democratic U.S. Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania threw their support behind Biden in statements early on Thursday.

‘THREAT TO NATION’

As speculation about his bid mounted, Biden faced new questions about his propensity for touching and kissing strangers at political events, with several women coming forward to say he had made them feel uncomfortable.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in this still image taken from a video released April 25, 2019. BIDEN CAMPAIGN HANDOUT via REUTERS

Biden struggled in his response to the concerns, at times joking about his behavior. But ultimately, he apologized and said he recognized standards for personal conduct had evolved in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Trump and his allies seized on the flap, attempting to weaken the incumbent president’s likely top rival before Biden entered the race.

Even so, Biden was determined to push forward, arguing that his background, experience and resume best positioned him to take on Trump next year.

In his announcement on Thursday, Biden held up the example of the August 2017 attack at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed a female counterprotester as a defining moment for the nation.

“It was there … we saw (Ku Klux) Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open … bearing the fangs of racism,” Biden said, criticizing Trump’s remarks at the time that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

There was no moral equivalence between racists and those fighting such inequality, he said.

“In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime,” said Biden.

CENTRIST CANDIDATE

Biden’s candidacy will offer early hints about whether Democrats are more interested in finding a centrist who can win over the white working-class voters who backed Trump in 2016, or someone who can fire up the party’s diverse progressive wing, such as Senators Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, or Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

His long history in the Senate, where Biden was a leading voice on foreign policy, will give liberal activists plenty to criticize. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, he angered women’s rights activists with his handling of sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during the justice’s 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

He also has been censured over his ties to the financial industry, which is prominent in his home state of Delaware, and for his authorship of a 1994 crime act that led to increased incarceration rates.

Biden has been one of the party’s more aggressive Trump critics. Last year, he said he would have “beat the hell” out of Trump if the two were in high school because of the way the president has talked about women. That prompted Trump to call him “Crazy Joe Biden” and to claim on Twitter that Biden would “go down fast and hard, crying all the way” if they fought.

Biden later lamented the exchange, saying: “I shouldn’t get down in the mosh pit with this guy.”

Known for his verbal gaffes on the campaign trail, Biden failed to gain traction with voters during his previous runs in 1988 and 2008.

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks at a rally with striking Stop & Shop workers in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

He dropped his 1988 bid amid allegations he had plagiarized some of his stump oratory and early academic work. But his experience and strong debate performances in 2008 impressed Obama enough that he tapped Biden as his running mate.

Biden decided against a 2016 presidential bid after a lengthy public period of indecision following the death of his son Beau of brain cancer in May 2015. Beau had urged him to run.

Biden faces similar family considerations this time around as he continues to cope with Beau’s demise, while his other son, Hunter, has gone through a divorce.

Reporting by John Whitesides and James Oliphant; additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Rich McKay and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis, Peter Graff and Bernadette Baum

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