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Virginia governor appears at funeral as pressure grows on his No. 2

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Virginia governor appears at funeral as pressure grows on his No. 2

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made his first public appearance on Saturday since defying calls a week ago to step down over a racist yearbook photograph, as his potential successor, a fellow Democrat, faced growing pressure over sexual assault allegations.

FILE PHOTO: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, accompanied by his wife Pamela Northam announces he will not resign during a news conference Richmond, Virginia, U.S. February 2, 2019. REUTERS/ Jay Paul

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the state’s second-highest elected official, faces the prospect of impeachment proceedings at the hands of another Democrat next week after two women separately accused him of sexual crimes, including rape.

Fairfax has denied both claims and called them a “coordinated smear campaign.” He has been as defiant as Northam in refusing to step down. Northam’s own troubles began when a racist image from his medical school yearbook went public on Feb. 1.

After staying out of sight since he faced the press on Feb. 2 to deny he was pictured in a blatantly racist photo on his yearbook page, but admitting that he had worn blackface on another occasion, Northam, 59, returned to the public eye to attend the funeral of a slain state trooper.

Before leaving for the service in Chilhowie, a small town in the state’s rural southwest corner, Northam doubled down on his determination to stay in office, pledging to promote racial reconciliation in the remaining three years of his term.

“It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post on Saturday. “There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity.”

He told the Post that conversations this week with black state lawmakers, who are among those calling for him to resign, helped him better understand the history and hurtfulness of blackface, which he admitted using in 1984 to portray Michael Jackson at a dance contest.

The governor also said in the interview that he would take “a harder line” on moving the state’s Confederate monuments, which have become lightning rods for racial division, from public property into museums.

The week’s political chaos surrounding the state’s top two elected officials stretched down to the second-in-line to succeed Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, 57, who admitted that he, too, had once darkened his face to imitate a black performer.

The possibility of all three top-ranked leaders of Virginia’s executive branch having to resign raised the prospect of Democrats losing the governorship to the Republican speaker of the state House of Delegates, who is next in the line of succession.

It also has stirred Democrats’ concerns that political discord in Virginia, a key swing state in presidential elections, could flip it back into the Republican column in the 2020 White House race.

Despite the calls on Northam to step down, greater pressure was focused on Fairfax, after a state House member, Patrick Hope, declared on Friday that he would introduce articles of impeachment on Monday unless the lieutenant governor resigns.

Fairfax, 39, has insisted his encounter with a woman who has accused him of forcing himself on her sexually in Boston in 2004 was entirely consensual. He said an accusation by a second woman that he raped her when they were both students at Duke University in 2000 was “demonstrably false” and has demanded a full investigation.

“I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide,” Fairfax said in a statement. “I will not resign.”

Calls for Fairfax, who is African-American, to step aside have come from state House and Senate Democrats, the Legislative Black Caucus, former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s two U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, also both Democrats, and several potential Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Reporting by Gary Robertson in Richmond,Va.; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely and Jonathan Allen in New York, Katharine Jackson in Richmond, and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler

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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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Top Congressional Democrats call for Mueller to testify publicly

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Top Congressional Democrats call for Mueller to testify publicly

Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrives at his office in Washington, U.S., April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on Thursday called on Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify publicly about his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer criticized Attorney General William Barr for writing what they called a “slanted” summary letter and for planning a press conference before the expected release of the report detailing the probe’s findings on Thursday.

“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,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement.

(This story has been refiled to correct the sequence of events of press conference and report.)

Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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Left will continue to ‘believe in Russia collusion’ even after Mueller report release, Byron York says

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Left will continue to 'believe in Russia collusion' even after Mueller report release, Byron York says

The Russia collusion narrative is unlikely to go away even after the Robert Mueller report is released later today, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York predicts.

“A lot of Democrats have invested the last two years of their life in believing that there was collusion between Russia to fix the 2016 election. Don’t think they gonna give it up just because of this,” York told “Fox and Friends”.

“A lot of Democrats have invested the last two years of their life in believing that there was collusion between Russia to fix the 2016 election. Don’t think they gonna give it up just because of this.”

— Byron York

The prediction comes as Washington, D.C. is bracing for the release of the Mueller report that according to Attorney General William Barr didn’t establish collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

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

York pointed out that after Barr outlined the report’s conclusions in a letter and quoted Mueller stating that the evidence didn’t establish a conspiracy or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, many Democrats began doubling-down on the collusion charges.

“Immediately people on the left said maybe he couldn’t prove a criminal conspiracy but maybe there was some other sort of conspiracy. Or maybe he couldn’t prove to beyond a reasonable doubt but maybe there is evidence that the rest of us can believe,” York said.

“I really think we have already seen and they already tipped their hands that they are going to continue to believe in collusion.”

“I really think we have already seen and they already tipped their hands that they are going to continue to believe in collusion.”

— Byron York

On the obstruction of justice charges, York says those opposing President Trump will have even more to talk about after the report release as Mueller himself didn’t reach a conclusion about obstruction charges.

“If the Barr summary is pretty accurate, Mueller did not reach a conclusion about obstruction. That’s a question right there. He is a prosecutor. He has all the evidence. Why didn’t he reach some sort of conclusion?” he said.

FOX NEWS POLL: TRUMP POPULARITY HOLDING STEADY AFTER MUELLER SUMMARY RELEASE

“There will be a lot of ammunition, we know that already for Trump’s critics who say that firing James Comey or the Lester Holt interview or something else was proof of obstruction right there in front of our eyes. So I don’t think that argument is going to go away at all.”

Lastly, even if the Mueller report doesn’t find wrongdoing by Trump, it’s unlikely to end the talk of impeachment by Democrats even as the 2020 election nears.

“If you believed in impeachment before the Mueller report, why would you stop believing in it now?,” York said, pointing that there’s a conflict within the Democratic Party on how to proceed with this.

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“You have a lot of the leadership like Nancy Pelosi wanting to move on, these are the more senior people wanting to move on, wanting to focus on the legislative agenda,” he continued.

“But you are going to have the investigative committees, the judiciary committee, the intelligence committee investigating this stuff all the way until the next election.”

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