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Trump builds unprecedented war chest; Sanders tops Dems 2020 fundraising fight

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Trump builds unprecedented war chest; Sanders tops Dems 2020 fundraising fight

President Donald Trump enjoys a humongous financial head start over his Democratic challengers as the 2020 election cycle heats up, after hauling in more than $30 million in fundraising in the first three months of this year.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – one of the co-front runners in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination polls – holds a large lead over his rivals when it comes to the cash his campaign has on hand. Presidential candidates must report to the Federal Election Commission by the end of Monday how much money they raised and spent in the first quarter of 2019.

TRUMP HAULS IN $30 MILLION IN FIRST THREE MONTHS OF 2019

Trump’s re-election campaign brought in $30.3 million in the January-March first quarter of fundraising, and reports having $40.8 million cash on hand. The Republican National Committee, which will be backing the president’s re-election, raised an additional $45.8 million in the first three months of the year, a record for the party in a non-election year. Combined, the party and Trump’s two re-election committees can boast having $82 million in the bank, a massive war chest so early in a presidential election cycle.

“The President is in a vastly stronger position at this point than any previous incumbent president running for re-election, and only continues to build momentum,” said Trump re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Breaking with generations of precedent, the president filed his campaign paperwork to run for re-election on the day he took over in the White House, and has raised more than $127 million during his first two years in the Oval Office.

It’s a dramatic change from his 2016 campaign, a low budget affair compared to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump ended up self-financing much of his campaign, putting $66 million of his own money into his White House bid.

TRUMP BLASTS PELOSI OVER OMAR 9/11 COMMENTS

And Trump’s setting up his re-election bid immediately after assuming the presidency stands in stark contrast to his two immediate two-term successors.

President Barack Obama didn’t declare his candidacy for re-election until April of 2011, and had only $2 million cash on hand at that time. And President George W. Bush raised less than $270,000 during his first two years in office, ahead of his 2004 re-election.

The Trump campaign touted its small-dollar grassroots appeal, announcing that 98.79 percent of first-quarter contributions were $200 or less, and that the average donation to the campaign was $34.26.

WATCH THE BERNIE SANDERS TOWN HALL ON FOX NEWS CHANNEL ON MONDAY AT 6:30 PM ET. 

Among the Democrats, Sanders is on top when it comes to the amount of cash raised and the amount of money in the bank. The Independent from Vermont, who’s making his second straight bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, reported raising $18.2 million, with $28 million cash on hand, having transferred money left over from his 2018 Senate re-election bid.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California reported raising $12 million. So did former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who’s considered a long-shot for the nomination. But $11.7 million of that haul was an infusion of cash from the candidate, who’s a self-made multi-millionaire.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas raised an eye-popping $9.4 million during the first 18 days of his campaign, with $6.1 million of the haul coming in the first 24 hours after declaring his candidacy.

When Pete Buttigieg announced earlier this month that he had brought in nearly $7.1 million during the first quarter, it was another sign that 37-year old South Bend, Indiana mayor had moved from a long-shot status to one of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. In Monday’s filing with the FEC, his campaign revealed that it had $6.4 million cash on-hand as of April 1, indicating he’s been frugal with his resources.

But his burn rate may increase going forward, as Buttigieg, over the past two weeks, has doubled his campaign staff from 20 to 40, moved into a larger headquarters, and now is in the process of staffing up in the early voting primary and caucus states.

Buttigieg’s campaign also touted that it raised $1 million in just a few hours on Sunday after the candidate formally declared he was running for president.

Among those celebrities who contributed to Buttigieg during the first quarter – actors Jayne Lynch, Mandy Moore, Ryan Reynolds and entertainer Chelsea Handler.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised $6 million in the first quarter. The Massachusetts Democrat, who’s stressing fighting corruption and big money in politics, announced in late February that she was forgoing “fancy receptions or big money fundraisers only with people who can write big checks,” as well as phone calls with wealthy donors. The senator had $11.2 million in the bank, thanks to a large transfer of funds from her 2018 re-election campaign.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota raised $5.2 million from her campaign launching during a snowstorm in February until the end of the first quarter. She had $7 million cash on hand as of April 1, thanks to a transfer of cash from her 2018 re-election campaign.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York only raised $3 million in the first quarter, but thanks to a transfer of funds from her 2018 re-election bid, she had $10.2 million in the bank for her presidential campaign. And Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey brought in $5 million in his first two months as a presidential candidate, and as of April 1 had $6.1 million cash on hand.

Fundraising is considered an important barometer of a candidate’s popularity and a campaign’s strength. The cash can be used by a candidate to build an organization and hire staff and consultants, increase voter outreach efforts, travel and fund ads.

Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, a presidential campaign veteran, highlighted that the numbers are an important “data point to show us how campaigns are doing.”

“The numbers will surely be over-interpreted, but they will tell us who is building the base of support needed in order to stay in for the long haul,” explained Ferguson, who served as a senior spokesman on the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign.

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George Conway calls Trump a cancer that needs to be removed in blistering op-ed

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George Conway calls Trump a cancer that needs to be removed in blistering op-ed

George Conway, the husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and a fierce critic of President Trump, penned an op-ed in The Washington Post that calls Trump a “cancer on the presidency” and urged Congress to take action to remove him from office.

After 22 months, a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia interference report was made available to the public. The report showed no evidence that Trump’s team “coordinated or conspired” with Russia, but many Democrats pointed out that Mueller identified 10 times where there was potential obstruction, and essentially left the next steps up to Congress.

Mueller wrote that Trump’s efforts to obstruct “were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels.”

READ THE FULL REPORT 

He continued, “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

Trump’s team late Thursday appeared to take a wait-and-see approach on how the public absorbed the findings. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, seemed to be in no particular hurry to release a 45-page rebuttal when asked about it on CNN.  The White House claimed total victory and vindication for the president

Conway, who has clashed publically with the president before and questioned his mental fitness, barely touches collusion in his piece but highlighted the obstruction argument.

“Mueller couldn’t say, with any “confidence,” that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” Mueller did not so state,” Conway wrote.

He pointed out that even if Trump did not reach the threshold of criminality, he could still be impeached based on earlier precedent. He called on Congress to act to “excise” the cancer in the White House “without delay.”

There is no love lost between Trump and Conway. Trump has called Conway a “stone cold LOSER & husband from hell.”

MUELLER REPORT THE ‘BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING’: AXIOS EDTIOR

“George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!” Trump tweeted in March.

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, wrote in the New York Post that Trump could have simply shut down the investigation and assert executive privilege to “deny the special counsel access to key White House witnesses,” but he didn’t.

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“Most important, the special counsel found that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that the president’s frustration wasn’t over fear of guilt — the typical motivation for obstruction — but that the investigation was undermining his ability to govern the country,” McCarthy wrote.

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Ambassador Grenell: Mayor Buttigieg pushing ‘Jussie Smollett’ hate hoax against Pence

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Mike Pence hits back at Pete Buttigieg after criticism: 'He knows better'

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, defended Vice President Mike Pence against accusations of homophobia alleged by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and compared the claims to a “hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett.”

“Mayor Pete has been pushing this hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett for a very long time now, several weeks,” Grenell, who is openly gay, said Thursday on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.”

Smollett, an actor, is accused of faking a hate crime and is currently being sued by the city of Chicago.

ROB SMITH: I’M GAY AND SUPPORT MIKE PENCE — DON’T BELIEVE PETE BUTTIGIEG’S CLAIM THAT PENCE IS ANTI-GAY

Buttigieg, who is openly gay and was once cordial with Pence, has boosted criticism of the vice president calling him anti-gay.

“This is someone who was against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ who felt it was too pro-gay.  He wanted to make sure even closeted of couldn’t serve,” Buttigieg said Tuesday about Pence on CNN.

Grenell, who called Pence a friend, accused the mayor of South Bend of drumming up accusations to boost fundraising and asked why he didn’t speak up while Pence was the governor of Indiana.

“It’s ironic that right about now when he’s starting his fund-raising apparatus to run for president that he comes up with this… idea and this attack,” Grenell said.

The ambassador defended Pence and his wife and cited their Christianity and said the couple “accepted” Grendell and his partner.

“Mike and Karen are great people, they’re godly people, they’re followers of Christ.  They don’t have hate in their heart for anyone. They know my partner, they have accepted us. You asked me do we agree philosophically on every single issue? No,” Grendell said adding that he disagrees with other people he respects.

BUTTIGIEG, ONCE CORDIAL TO PENCE, NOW CRITICAL AMID CAMPAIGN

Grendell chastised the gay community for shifting from a group about tolerance to a group that demands “we all think alike” before noting that Pence has always supported Buttigieg.

“When Mayor Pete came out, the vice president complimented him and said he holds him in high regard. The vice president or then governor has said nothing but positive things about Mayor Pete. I think this is a total hate hoax and I think it’s outrageous,” Grenell said.

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Trump’s written — at times snarky — answers to Mueller’s questions revealed

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Why the Mueller report could turn into a never-ending story on the Hill

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump communicated directly at one point during the long-running investigation into Russian election interference, when the president’s legal team submitted written testimony in response to Mueller’s questions on a variety of topics in November 2018.

And in some cases, Trump and his attorneys brought the sass.

One of Mueller’s questions referred to a July 2016 campaign rally, when Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

That was a reference to the slew of documents deleted from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server — one that prompted numerous accusations that Trump was improperly sending a signal to Russian hackers. Mueller’s report noted that hours after Trump’s remarks, a Russian-led attempt to access some Clinton-linked email accounts was launched, although there was no evidence Trump or his team directed or coordinated with that effort.

“Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity or individual?” Mueller’s prosecutors asked.

Mueller’s report noted that after Trump’s statement, future National Security Adviser Flynn contacted operatives in hopes of uncovering the documents, and another GOP consultant started a company to look for the emails.

“I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer,” Trump’s attorneys shot back. “The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016, press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference.”

Separately, Mueller asked Trump why he previewed a speech in June 2016 by promising to discuss “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” and what specifically he’d planned to talk about.

Trump didn’t hold back.

“In general, l expected to give a speech referencing the publicly available, negative information about the Clintons, including, for example, Mrs. Clinton’s failed policies, the Clintons’ use of the State Department to further their interests and the interests of the Clinton Foundation, Mrs. Clinton’s improper use of a private server for State Department business, the destruction of 33,000 emails on that server, and Mrs. Clinton’s temperamental unsuitability for the office of the president,” Trump responded.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ‘BOMBSHELLS’ THAT FIZZLED? BUZZFEED’S COHEN TESTIMONY SCOOP, THE GOP PLATFORM SWITCH, ETC?

After discussing other events, Trump concluded his reply: “I continued to speak about Mrs. Clinton’s failings throughout the campaign, using the information prepared for inclusion in the speech to which I referred on June 7, 2016.”

In all, Mueller’s 448-page report included 23 unredacted pages of Mueller’s written questions and Trump’s written responses. The special counsel’s team wrote that it tried to interview the president for more than a year before relenting and permitting the written responses alone.

An introductory note included in the report said the special counsel’s office found the responses indicative of “the inadequacy of the written format,” especially given the office’s inability to ask follow-up questions.

Click here for the full exchange between Mueller’s team and Trump.

Citing dozens of answers that Mueller’s team considered incomplete, imprecise or not provided because of the president’s lack of recollection — for instance, the president gave no response at all to the final set of questions — the special counsel’s office again sought an in-person interview with Trump, and he once again declined.

Mueller’s team said it considered seeking a subpoena to compel Trump’s in-person testimony, but decided the legally aggressive move would only serve to delay the investigation.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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