Nebraska

U.S. commander warns of risks from Trump’s troop withdrawal
Votel’s testimony clashes with recent remarks by the president, who has celebrated the complete defeat of the Islamic State

Army Gen. Joseph Votel says the Islamic State remains a dangerous threat and that the president’s plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan could be risky. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. commander in the Middle East warned lawmakers Thursday about the risks of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw American forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

The Islamic State terrorist group is down to less than one square mile of territory in Iraq and Syria, but the group has made a “calculated decision” to lay low and remains a dangerous threat, Army Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.

Things that go boom: Michael Cohen, Apollo 11 and this week
“Says who?” guy from 2016 dropped in on Capitol Hill

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, testifies Wednesday during a House Oversight and Reform hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There was so much political theater this week, it wouldn’t fit into just one podcast. So we did two! 

Michael Cohen, who will forever, at least to Political Theater, be the “Says who?” guy from the 2016 campaign, dropped in on Capitol Hill this week for a round robin of testimony with multiple committees about his fixer-for-Donald-Trump days. Sturm? Meet Drang. 

Democrats see loss of Senate power in latest judicial vote
Both home-state senators opposed appointment of Eric D. Miller to 9th Circuit

Eric D. Miller is the first appeals court judge confirmed over the objections of both home state senators since at least 1956. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate confirmed another of President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees Tuesday evening, in a vote that Democrats say represents further erosion of senators’ power to influence who is appointed to federal courts from their states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor that Eric Miller’s law career makes him “well prepared” for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is based in San Francisco and hears cases from nine states. Miller, confirmed 53-46, will fill a spot that has traditionally been associated with a nominee from Washington state.

Senate vote on abortion legislation fails to advance measure
Bill stalls despite lobbying efforts and Trump support

A bill by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., would not outlaw abortion at any stage of pregnancy, but rather seeks to provide protections for an infant who survives the procedure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL file photo)

UPDATED 6:20 pm | The Senate voted Monday evening on a bill that Republicans say would guarantee additional protections to an infant who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.

The bill fell short on a procedural vote, 53-44, despite lobbying efforts by anti-abortion groups and support from President Donald Trump. Sixty votes were required to proceed on the measure.

Senators want ban on Chinese Huawei tech in energy infrastructure
Letter to Cabinet comes from key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Sen. John Cornyn is leading senators calling for a ban of Huawei products from U.S. energy infrastructure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan group of senators, led by members of the Intelligence Committee, want the Trump administration to prohibit electrical equipment made by Huawei from being used in the U.S. energy infrastructure.

The call for a ban on the components from the Chinese technology giant came in a letter dated Monday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, led by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Road Ahead: Michael Cohen returns amid disapproval, gun votes
Senate will also continue work on key presidential nominations, as House takes up gun legislation

Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, leaves the Monocle restaurant on Capitol Hill on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Three days of congressional testimony by President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney round out what could be a crazy week on Capitol Hill — even by recent standards.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate will have their chance to grill Michael Cohen this week. The former Trump fixer is scheduled to talk to the Senate Intelligence panel Tuesday behind closed doors for a deposition-style interview, ahead of long-awaited public testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Democrats ‘went low’ on Twitter leading up to 2018
An analysis of tweets from candidates running for Senate leading up to Election Day

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., arrives for the confirmation hearing for Neomi Rao, nominee to be U.S. circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 5. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — Voters in 2016 repeatedly heard Democrats cry out against negative Republican rhetoric, especially from the party’s presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“When they go low … ?” came the call at rally podiums. “We go high!” constituents would shout.

Democrats are right to be wary of Howard Schultz
Coffee mogul’s independent run could complicate Electoral College math

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is considering running for president as an independent.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — The frenzy over businessman Howard Schultz’s announcement that he is considering an independent run for president is understandable.

Democrats think President Donald Trump is headed for defeat in a one-on-one general election contest, and anything that changes that trajectory improves his re-election prospects.

Lawmakers want to boost Pentagon input on tariffs
A proposal gives the Pentagon a lead role on deciding whether tariffs are needed to protect national security

Vice chair Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, and chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., talk before the start of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats" on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As the trade war with China drags on, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers is pushing to give the Defense Department the lead role in analyzing whether tariffs are needed to protect national security.

The draft legislation, released Wednesday in both the House and Senate, marks a significant revision of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which gave the Commerce Department the authority to analyze the tariffs and ultimately make a recommendation to the president on whether to invoke national security.

Lots of questions, but few answers at hearing on troops’ border deployment
First House Armed Services Committee hearing probes rationale, effects of active duty mission

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., used his first Armed Services Committee hearing as chairman to probe the Pentagon's deployment of active-duty troops to the southern border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The first House Armed Services hearing of the new Congress, an examination of the deployment of thousands of troops to America’s southern border, did not answer fundamental questions about the mission, now in its third month.

Most lawmakers neglected to adequately press defense officials on the contentious deployment on Tuesday, and Pentagon witnesses were unable or unwilling to answer many of the questions they got.