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Virginia political crisis in stalemate after impeachment threat

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Virginia political crisis in stalemate after impeachment threat

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) – The chaos that has swirled around the Virginia statehouse for more than a week showed no signs of waning on Tuesday, one day after a lawmaker backed down from his threat to seek the impeachment of one of three top-ranked Democrats engulfed in scandal.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax presides over the senate before the start of a session in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

The decision by Patrick Hope, Democratic member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, not to initiate impeachment proceedings against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, 39, over accusations of sexual assault has left the next move unclear.

Fairfax, once a rising star in the U.S. state’s Democratic party, has resisted all calls to resign following accusations he raped a fellow student at Duke University and forced himself sexually on another at a Boston hotel 14 years ago.

Fairfax has said sexual encounters with both women were consensual and called the allegations a “smear campaign” against him.

Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have separately refused to step down over revelations that both wore blackface in the 1980s.

The three scandal-marred officials clinging to their jobs have rattled Democratic party leadership in a swing state that could play a pivotal role in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Democrats have gained power in the Southern state during the last few election cycles.

IMPEACHMENT RETREAT

In retreating from his vow to seek Fairfax’s impeachment, Hope renewed his calls for the lieutenant governor to resign but said he wanted to reconsider whether impeachment was the best solution.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, the Republican who would become governor if all three Democrats resigned, said on Monday it was too soon to say whether he would support impeachment.

Members of the legislature’s black caucus are also seeking an investigation that does not immediately involve impeachment of Fairfax, who is black.

The stalemate is reflected in the opinions of Virginia voters about the scandal. A Washington Post poll taken last Wednesday through Friday showed residents evenly split over Northam’s fate, with 47 percent wanting him to step down and 47 percent saying he should stay on. But black residents were far more supportive, with 58 percent saying he should remain in office versus 37 percent who said he should leave.

Northam has insisted he would not resign over a 1984 medical school yearbook picture, which showed a person in blackface next to another wearing the robes and hood of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. Northam denied being in that picture but admitted to dressing in blackface for a social event that same year.

Blackface traces its history to 19th-century minstrel shows that mocked African-Americans, and is seen as offensive by many Americans – though its use continued in U.S. popular culture through to the early 21st century.

Reporting by Gary Robertson,; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Rosalba O’Brien

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McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump’s a Russian asset

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McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump’s a Russian asset

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview Tuesday that he believes it is possible that President Trump is a Russian asset and thinks “that’s why we started our investigation.”

McCabe has said in the past that the FBI had a good reason to open up a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was working with Russia and a possible national security threat.

The former official was on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” when he was asked if he believes Trump may still be a Russian asset. He said he’s “anxious” to see the conclusion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.

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He was also asked if he believes Trump is fit to serve and said it is not up to him to make the determination.

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Gowdy challenges McCabe’s claim congressional leaders didn’t object to Russia counterintelligence probe

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Gowdy challenges McCabe's claim congressional leaders didn't object to Russia counterintelligence probe

Former congressman and Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy disputed former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe’s claim Tuesday that congressional leaders didn’t object to the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation over President Trump’s Russia ties.

“The reason he’s doing it this way is that [Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.] and [former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.] are not allowed to discuss anything that’s said in a ‘Gang of Eight’ meeting and McCabe knows that,” Gowdy said on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” “So he can level the accusation and Devin and Paul cannot refute him.” Nunes chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2015-19.

McCabe, in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday morning, said no members of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, including Nunes and Ryan, objected to the investigation.

“I told Congress what we had done,” McCabe told Savannah Guthrie.

“Did anyone object?” Guthrie asked.

“That’s the important part here, Savannah,” McCabe replied. “No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”

DAN BONGINO: MCCABE FINDS IMPETUS OF TRUMP PROBE ‘INARTICULABLE’

Gowdy, formerly a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he believed McCabe wasn’t telling the truth and that Nunes and Ryan did not know about a second investigation.

“There were three investigations into a duly elected president. The Peter Strzok one from July of 2016 and then McCabe started a counterintelligence [probe] and if he’s telling the truth, started a criminal probe into the president of the United States,” Gowdy told Martha MacCallum.

“I listened to Devin and Paul quiz the [Justice Department] and the FBI for hours on multiple occasions about the one counterintelligence investigation, we all knew about it. I find it stunning that they would know about a second one and not say a single solitary word.”

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Gowdy also addressed former FBI Director James Comey’s May 2017 firing and McCabe’s belief that the president was trying to shut down the Russia investigation.

“If thinking that Jim Comey is not a good FBI director is tantamount to being an agent of Russia then just list all the people that are agents of Russia. [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi, [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein…,” Gowdy said.

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum contributed to this report.

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Trump, Giuliani deny president tried obstructing Michael Cohen investigation

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Trump, Giuliani deny president tried obstructing Michael Cohen investigation

President Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, denied a New York Times report that Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker whether U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a presidential ally, could be put in charge of the investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Trump’s onetime personal attorney Michael Cohen.

“The president said today he had no such conversation with the acting AG, and I believe Mr. Whitaker issued a statement to the same effect,” Giuliani said in a statement late Tuesday. “The rest of the piece is just a regurgitation of previously refuted obstruction theories. They all fail as obstruction because as [Harvard Law] Professor [Alan] Dershowitz’s recent book and many other authorities make clear, all of the alleged actions were within the president’s sole discretion under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.”

The Times report said that Whitaker told Trump that he could not put Berman in charge of the Cohen investigation because he had already recused himself from that matter. The paper claimed that Trump “soured” on Whitaker and “complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.”

Trump denied the story at the White House Tuesday afternoon, referring to the Times report as “more fake news” and saying that he had a “very good” relationship with Whitaker, who was replaced last week by William Barr.

“I have a lot of respect for Mr. Whitaker. I think he’s done a great job,” Trump said. He said Whitaker was “a very fine man, and he should be given a lot of thanks by our nation.”

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec referred to testimony Whitaker gave to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

WHITAKER CALLS TIME ON DEM CHAIRMAN: ‘YOUR 5 MINUTES IS UP’

“Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then-Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,'” Kupec said. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.”

Berman was named acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in January 2018 by the AG at that time, Jeff Sessions. Berman was appointed to the position indefinitely by the panel’s judges three months later.

Prosecutors in the Southern District say Trump directed Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments to two women — adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — in order to keep them quiet about alleged sexual encounters with them dating back more than a decade and coming soon after he’d married his current wife, Melania. Cohen is scheduled to report to prison next month to begin a three-year sentence after pleading guilty this past August to campaign finance and other violations.

Cohen is also scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 28. His attorney, Lanny Davis, has said that Cohen also plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight Committee before the end of this month. In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

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Fox News’ John Roberts and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

Click for more from The New York Times.

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