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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

Politics

Huckabee lashes out at Trump critic Romney: ‘Makes me sick’ you could have been POTUS

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Huckabee lashes out at Trump critic Romney: ‘Makes me sick’ you could have been POTUS

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee lashed out at Sen. Mitt Romney after the Utah Republican said he was “sickened” by the level of dishonesty from President Trump’s administration in response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS,” Huckabee tweeted Friday.

Earlier in the day, Romney tweeted that it was good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump with collusion or obstruction of justice. The former GOP 2012 presidential candidate then blasted Trump and his campaign for having contacts with Russians.

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,” Romney posted.

“I am appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement,” he wrote.

Mueller’s long-awaited report was released Thursday morning and contains nearly 900 redactions. It showed investigators found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. No conclusion was reached on whether Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction.

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Huckabee ran against Romney for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination and is the father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Romney and Trump’s contentious relationship has been well documented, with both men having exchanged congratulations and insults over the years.

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CNN wanted accusations against Trump to be true, White House spokesman says

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CNN wanted accusations against Trump to be true, White House spokesman says

White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley struck back at CNN host Anderson Cooper on Friday, a day after having a contentious interview with the journalist, saying he would not be lectured by a member of the mainstream media who has been “lying” about President Trump.

“First of all, I’m not going to take a lecture on truth-telling from anybody in the mainstream media who has been lying about this president for the last two years, telling the American people that Donald Trump committed treason which is a crime punishable by death as you well know,” Gidley told “Ingraham Angle” host Laura Ingraham.

ROMNEY SAYS MUELLER REPORT LEFT HIM ‘SICKENED AT THE EXTENT AND PERVASIVENESS OF DISHONESTY AND MISDIRECTION’

On Thursday, Cooper and Gidley went back and forth over the release of the long-awaited Mueller report.

The report showed investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia but did lay out an array of actions taken by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction inquiry.

At one point during the interview Cooper asked Gidley if the president lied.

“No, i’m not aware of him lying. He hasn’t lied to me,” Gidley responded.

“I feel bad that you’re scared to say that your boss lied,” Cooper later added.

Gidley accused CNN of wanting accusations of collusion between the president and Russia to be true.

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“The point is, for me to sit there with CNN and listen to them, who they wanted this to be true so badly. So many in the media did, and I understand why they don’t drop it,” Gidley said.

“Because if they did, they would be admitting the fact that the last two years of their life was a complete and total waste.”

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

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DOJ calls Nadler subpoena for full Mueller report ‘premature and unnecessary’

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Gingrich suggests Nadler’s push to further probe Mueller report is an attempt to save his job in the House

The Department of Justice responded Friday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s request for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full and unredacted report, dismissing the request as both “premature and unnecessary.”

DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement that Attorney General Bill Barr provided Mueller’s report on Thursday with only “minimal redactions” and, “in the interest of transparency,” the department had provided certain members of Congress, including Nadler, with a report that had “even fewer redactions.”

NADLER REQUESTS MUELLER TESTIFY BEFORE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ‘AS SOON AS POSSIBLE’

“In light of this, Congressman Nadler’s subpoena is premature and unnecessary. The Department will continue to work with Congress to accommodate its legitimate requests consistent with the law and long-recognized executive branch interests,” Kupec continued.

Nadler said in a statement early Friday that he subpoenaed the DOJ for the “full version” of the Mueller report and “underlying evidence,” requiring the department to comply by May 1.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,” Nadler’s statement read. “The redactions appear to be significant. We have so far seen none of the actual evidence that the special counsel developed to make this case.”

Prior to the release of the long-awaited report, Nadler also made a request that Mueller himself provide testimony “as soon as possible” before his committee to explain his findings in the nearly 400-page report.

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“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings.”

While there was no immediate response from Mueller, Barr said at a press conference prior to Nadler’s request that he would be open to providing testimony on the report.

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