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O’Rourke, Trump trade blows in rival Texas border rallies

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O'Rourke, Trump trade blows in rival Texas border rallies

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman considering a White House run, and President Donald Trump traded political blows on Monday in rival rallies in El Paso, Texas, over the Republican’s fight for a border wall.

Beto O’Rourke, Democratic former Texas congressman, participates in an anti-Trump march in El Paso, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

O’Rourke, who narrowly lost a 2018 bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, accused Trump of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about his hometown El Paso, which Trump said was a dangerous place before it had a border fence.

“Here is one of the safest cities in the United States of America, safe not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke told a crowd of several thousand supporters, many waving “Beto 2020” signs and wearing “Immigrants Make America Great” baseball caps.

Two hundred yards away in El Paso County Coliseum, Trump told his supporters that O’Rourke had “little going for himself.”

“We are all challenged by a young man who lost an election to (Republican Senator) Ted Cruz,” said Trump, surrounded by banners reading “Finish the Wall.”

Trump was in El Paso to argue for a wall he says can protect Americans from violent criminals, drugs and a “tremendous onslaught” of migrant caravans.

The rally was his first direct clash with a potential 2020 rival, albeit on separate stages.

As Trump and O’Rourke spoke in Texas, U.S. congressional negotiators in Washington said they had reached a tentative deal on border security funding to avert another partial government shutdown due to start on Saturday.

An aide said it did not include the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for his wall, however.

EL PASO: “LOW ON CRIME”

In his State of the Union speech last week, Trump said the border fence separating El Paso from Mexico reduced the city’s high crime rate.

El Paso’s Republican mayor, Dee Margo, said the city had been safe for years before the wall was built.

“We were, I think, the No. 2 or No. 3 safest city before the fence went up and we progressed into No. 1,” he told Fox News. “We were significantly low on crime to begin with and always have been.”

O’Rourke told Oprah Winfrey last week he would make a final decision about running for president by the end of the month.

He declined to discuss a potential run on Monday. “I’m following the community’s lead tonight, no less, no more,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

Reporting by Tim Reid in El Paso, additional reporting by Steve Holland and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bill Tarrant and Sonya Hepinstall

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Mueller should testify, Dems should be able to ‘ask him whatever they want:’ Judge Nap

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Mueller should testify, Dems should be able to 'ask him whatever they want:' Judge Nap

Special Counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress and answer lawmakers’ questions regarding his report of the Russia investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Judge Andrew Napolitano said.

The Fox News senior judicial analyst said on “Fox & Friends” early Thursday morning – just hours before Attorney General William Barr is expected to release the highly anticipated report – said there is a “tremendous desire on the of Americans to see what is there.”

“This has consumed us for two years,” Napolitano added.

IN MUELLER REPORT’S RELEASE, TRUMP LOOKS FOR VINDICATION, BUT NEW FIGHTS LOOM

Napolitano said the report will be a 400-page summary of the documents, interviews and notes the special counsel has amassed over the past two years and it will be lightly redacted. That said, Democrats are going to look at everything see what they can use against the president.

“If there is anything in there that they can use to undermine his legitimacy or undermine his credibility or weaken his re-election chances, of course, they are going to do it,” he said. “That’s what they do. They are the other side.”

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein scheduled a 9:30 a.m. ET press conference to discuss the Mueller report’s public release. The Department of Justice said Wednesday that certain members of Congress will be able to see the report “without certain redactions” after its public release.

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Napolitano said certain ranking members of the Intelligence Committee have top security clearance to see anything.

“Now, can they reveal what they see? If they do, they are going to undermine their credibility,” he added. “They will never have a secret shared with them again.”

It was not immediately clear exactly when on Thursday the DOJ would release the redacted version of the nearly 400-page investigation into Russian election meddling, but the document was expected to be delivered to lawmakers and posted online by noon.

Barr has said redactions in the report’s release are legally mandated.to protect four broad areas of concern: sensitive grand jury-related matters, classified information, ongoing investigations and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, has said he is prepared to issue subpoenas “very quickly” for the full report if it is released with blacked-out sections, likely setting in motion a major legal battle.

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Landmark moment for Trump as Mueller report on Russia looms

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Landmark moment for Trump as Mueller report on Russia looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election will be released on Thursday, providing the first public look at the findings of an inquiry that has cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency.

Attorney General William Barr plans to release the nearly 400-page report detailing Mueller’s 22-month investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and questions about obstruction of justice by the president.

Its disclosure, with portions expected to be blacked out by Barr to protect some sensitive information, is certain to launch a new political fight in Congress and on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as Trump seeks re-election in a deeply divided country.

The release marks a watershed moment in Trump’s presidency, promising new details about some of the biggest questions in the probe, including the extent and nature of his campaign’s contacts with Russia and actions Trump may have taken to hinder the inquiry including his 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Mueller submitted the report to Barr on March 22. Two days later, Barr sent lawmakers a four-page letter saying the inquiry did not establish that Trump’s 2016 campaign team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia and that Mueller had not exonerated Trump of committing the crime of obstruction of justice. Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice.

A source familiar with the matter said the version of the report to be released on Thursday was “lightly redacted.”

The release of the report may deepen an already bitter partisan rift between Trump’s fellow Republicans, most of whom have rallied around the president, and his Democratic critics, who will have to decide how hard to go after Trump as they prepare congressional investigations of his administration.

Barr said he would hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on Thursday to discuss the report, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.

Copies of the report will be delivered to Congress more than an hour later, between 11 a.m. and noon (1500-1600 GMT), a senior Justice Department official said. The delay in seeing the report sparked Democratic complaints that Barr, a Trump appointee, wanted to shape the public’s views during his news conference before others had a chance to draw their own conclusions.

Top congressional Democrats called on Mueller to testify publicly in Congress about his investigation, criticizing Barr’s rollout of the report.

“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

The spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Mueller’s investigation, which Trump has called a “witch hunt,” raised questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and laid bare what the special counsel and U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian operation to derail Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and elevate Trump, the Kremlin’s preferred candidate.

‘POLITICAL HOAX’

Ahead of the report’s release, Trump went on Twitter to renew his attack on the inquiry, writing, “The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!” and attacking Democrats and “Dirty Cops.”

Jay Sekulow, a Trump lawyer, said the president’s team will respond to the document’s release “initially with a statement” and will decide on whether to release a rebuttal report “based on the developments of the day.” A person familiar with the matter said such a rebuttal report would be about 30 pages long.”

FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr would elaborate on Justice Department communications with the White House over the past several weeks regarding the report and whether the White House invoked a legal doctrine called executive privilege that allows the president to withhold information about internal executive branch deliberations from other branches of government.

Barr plans to address whether executive privilege was invoked by the White House in the Russia report to be released on Thursday and also elaborate on Justice Department communications with the White House over the past several weeks, a Justice Department spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House lawyers held talks with U.S. Justice Department officials in recent days about the conclusions in Mueller’s report, aiding them in preparing for its release.

Democrats are concerned that Barr, appointed by Trump after the president fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could black out material to protect the president.

Some Democrats have spoken of launching impeachment proceedings against Trump in Congress, allowed under the U.S. Constitution to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but top Democrats have been notably cautious.

Mueller charged 34 people and three Russian companies. Those who were convicted or pleaded guilty included figures close to Trump such as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, personal lawyer Michael Cohen and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Since Barr released the March 24 letter, Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration,” and condemned the inquiry as “an illegal takedown that failed.” At a March 28 rally in Michigan, Trump said that “after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead.”

Justice Department regulations gave Barr broad authority to decide how much of Mueller’s report to make public, but Democrats have demanded the entire report as well as the underlying investigative files. Barr is due to testify to Congress in public about the report in early May.

The Justice Department has been working for weeks to prepare the redactions, which will be color coded to reflect the reason material is omitted.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Barr said he would redact parts to protect secret grand jury information, intelligence-gathering sources and methods, material that could affect ongoing investigations and information that unduly infringes on the privacy of “peripheral third parties” who were not charged.

The release comes as both parties gear up for the November 2020 presidential election. Trump already has launched his campaign for a second four-year term, and a crowded field of Democrats has formed to seek the nomination to challenge him.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by David Morgan, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan, Jan Wolfe, Nathan Layne, Karen Freifeld and Makini Brice; Writing by John Whitesides and Will Dunham, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell

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Barr to discuss executive privilege in Russia report: spokeswoman

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Barr to discuss executive privilege in Russia report: spokeswoman

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr plans to address whether executive privilege was invoked by the White House in the Russia report to be released on Thursday and also elaborate on Justice Department communications with the White House over the past several weeks, a Justice Department spokeswoman said on Thursday.

“He’ll address whether that was invoked and what that looked like,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. Barr and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, have planned a news conference on Thursday morning before the release of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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