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House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel pumps brakes on punishing Ilhan Omar for remarks seen as anti-Semitic

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House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel pumps brakes on punishing Ilhan Omar for remarks seen as anti-Semitic

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he’s not poised to punish Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., for her latest controversial remarks, which have spurred new allegations of anti-Semitism.

Omar has faced a backlash for controversial tweets dating back to 2012, when she claimed that Israel had “hypnotized the world.” In February, she suggested on Twitter that supporters of Israel have been bought, and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) contributes to pro-Israel politicians despite the fact that the group does not make campaign contributions.

The freshman congresswoman then accused Israel supporters of swearing “allegiance” to the Jewish state.

Rep. Eliot Engel said he was not looking to "punish" Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Rep. Eliot Engel said he was not looking to “punish” Rep. Ilhan Omar.
(Getty, File)

Amid bipartisan condemnation, there have been growing calls for Omar to be stripped of her role on the House Foreign Affairs panel, with critics pointing to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa; he was stripped of his committee roles by House GOP leadership over remarks widely criticized as racist.

As of now, Engel is pumping the brakes regarding any punishment.

When asked on Tuesday night if he thought that Omar was an anti-Semite, Engel responded that he doesn’t “throw names around.”

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“I think the remarks she’s made have been very troubling. I have spoken out very publicly and forcefully about it in saying she should apologize,” Engel told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “Look, you hope that people who get elected to office and they grow. I would hope the same thing would happen to her, but I’m not going to sit silent as long as there are people who are yelling out anti-Semitic tropes or anti-anything tropes, by the way. I’m opposed to Islamophobia. I’m opposed to hatred of any group.”

“I’m hoping that she’ll grow and she’ll change. I’m hoping. Some people change their beliefs, I’m hoping she’ll change hers,” Engel continued, downplaying accusations of anti-Semitism. “I think what she said was wrong and hurtful. I think she should understand that.”

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“At what point do you say to her, Congresswoman Omar, ‘Look, you’re not on this committee anymore.’ You strip her of her seat.” Burnett asked if Engel was close to that.

“No, I’m not close to it,” Engel firmly answered. “First of all, it’s not up to me, this is done by the leadership. I don’t know that that would do anything except exacerbate the situation even more. I’m looking to get rid of anti-Semitism, not looking to punish anybody.”

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Trump says he does not mind if public sees Mueller’s Russia probe report

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Trump says he does not mind if public sees Mueller's Russia probe report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing about his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible links to the Trump campaign.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“Let it come out, let people see it, that’s up to the attorney general … and we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We’ll see if it’s fair,” he added.

Mueller is preparing to submit a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on his findings, including Russia’s role in the election and whether Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

Barr already is coming under pressure from lawmakers to make the entire document public quickly, though he has wide latitude in what to release.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 420-0 last week on a non-binding resolution calling for Mueller’s report to be released both to Congress and to the public, but it is not clear how the measure will fare in the Senate.

Asked if the public should be allowed to see the report, Trump said: “I don’t mind.” He said he had no idea when it would be released.

As he has before, Trump questioned the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation.

“I had the greatest electoral victory – one of them – in the history of our country, tremendous success, tens of millions of voters and now somebody’s going to write a report who never got a vote,” he said.

Mueller was appointed to handle the Russia investigation in May 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the effort. Mueller has previously held several senior positions in the Justice Department, including FBI Director.

Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by David Alexander and Andy Sullivan; editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis

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Clarence Thomas makes rare intervention during Supreme Court arguments

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Clarence Thomas makes rare intervention during Supreme Court arguments

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas surprised court watchers on Wednesday when he made a rare intervention in court arguments — asking a question in a case where a death row inmate is challenging his conviction and sentence.

Thomas, who is the only African-American and the only Southerner on the court, asked his rare question toward the end of arguments in a case involving a black Mississippi death row inmate, Curtis Flowers, who was tried six different times for the 1996 murders of four people in a furniture store.

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Flowers’ lawyers claims a white prosecutor had a history of impermissibly using jury strikes to exclude African-Americans from the jury.

The Associated Press reported that a clear majority of the court appeared “troubled” by the actions of the prosecutor — District Attorney Doug Evans — in the prosecution of Flowers.

Thomas asked if Flowers’ lawyers in the case had made similar decisions, and the race of any struck jurors. Lawyer Sheri Lynn Johnson said three white jurors were excused by Flowers’ lawyer.

According to The Washington Post, two of Flowers’ trials were hung, and convictions in three others were overturned because of misconduct by Evans.

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But the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his 2010 conviction, despite Evans striking five of six black jurors, arguing that Evans had race-neutral reasons for the strikes.

Thomas’ last questions in a case  were in 2016, and that was his first intervention in a decade. He has said previously that he relies on the written briefs and believes his colleagues interrupt too much.

Fox News’ Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump says he doesn’t mind if public sees Mueller’s Russia probe report

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Trump says he doesn't mind if public sees Mueller's Russia probe report

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing about his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible links to the Trump campaign.

Mueller is expected to send his report to Attorney General William Barr soon.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann

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