Richard Blumenthal

DOJ Watchdog Report on Comey Stirs Politics on Hill
Sessions calls report an opportunity to learn from past mistakes

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies during a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday. On Friday, President Trump declared feeling “total and complete vindication.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even before the results of an internal Justice Department probe were released Thursday, that report into former FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign had reopened deep political divisions and fueled fresh questions about congressional oversight of the agency’s work.

That’s unlikely to change during the upcoming week of hearings and headlines on Capitol Hill about the watchdog’s report, starting with a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing slated for Monday and another before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees set for Tuesday.

Senators Push Defense Amendment to Restore ZTE Sanctions
Proposal would effectively block ZTE from American technology — again

Sen. Tom Cotton is leading a bipartisan effort to restore penalties on ZTE. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A bipartisan contingent of senators wants to use the defense authorization to restore penalties against Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE that were eased Thursday morning.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas joined Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Charles E. Schumer of New York in filing the legislation as an amendment to the defense programs bill. Senators are expected to begin amendment debate on the broader legislation early next week.

Lawmakers’ Challenge to Trump Finances Faces Court Test
‘We cannot approve, we cannot consent to, what we don’t know’

A federal district court will consider arguments about a Democratic lawsuit regarding President Donald Trump’s business practices. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

A federal district judge will hear arguments Thursday about whether Democratic lawmakers can pursue a lawsuit over President Donald Trump’s vast business interests and whether he must get congressional approval before accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments.

More than 200 Democrats filed the lawsuit a year ago, in the first months of Trump’s presidency, when their concerns included payments from governments at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and trademarks issued by the Chinese to Trump and his companies. 

Former USA Gymnastics Chief Invokes Fifth Amendment to Avoid Senate Testimony
Comes as senators question tax-exempt status of Olympic sports organizations

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., left, and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., spoke with USA Gymnastics sexual abuse survivors before a press conference on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The former president of USA Gymnastics faced questions from senators Tuesday about his role in the sex abuse scandal that plagued his organization, but they were ones Steve Penny did not answer, repeatedly invoking constitutional protections against self-incrimination before being excused from the witness table by Sen. Jerry Moran.

The Kansas Republican is chairman of the consumer protection subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee that has been investigating the inability of Olympic and amateur sports organizations to protect young athletes from abuse.

Members Join Rubio in Criticizing Trump Over China Talks
President says he is not satisfied with outcome of latest trade negotiations

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and James Risch, R-Idaho, attend a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in January 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It was Sen. Marco Rubio, not Donald Trump, who used a morning tweet Tuesday to help shape the day’s agenda. The Florida Republican slammed the president’s trade talks with China, prompting other members to voice their concerns.

Rubio wrote that China is “out-negotiating the administration & winning the trade talks right now,” criticizing the Trump administration for putting on hold tariffs aimed at Beijing while moving ahead with efforts to save troubled Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE. He also panned the White House for not forcing concessions from Chinese officials.

White House Uses Obama to Try to Salvage Jackson Nomination
Trump opens door to let VA nominee see himself out, Democrats question White House vetting

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves the Dirksen Senate Office Building after a meeting on Capitol Hill with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The White House is trying to salvage Ronny Jackson’s nomination for Veterans’ Affairs secretary by citing former President Barack Obama, even after President Donald Trump publicly advised him to step aside.

Hours after Trump told reporters he would not continue as the nominee if he were in the White House physician’s shoes, a senior official shared information touting Jackson’s record. The information included praise from Obama, including the 44th president’s recommendation that Jackson, a Navy officer, be promoted ahead of his peers.

Allegations of Excessive Drinking and Hostile Work Environment Delay VA Nominee’s Hearing
Jackson gave Trump clean bill of health in January

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves the Dirksen Senate Office Building after a meeting with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will delay confirmation hearings for Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, after allegations rose from his past.

An aide with ranking Democrat Jon Tester confirmed to Roll Call that hearings were delayed after Chairman Johnny Isakson told the Washington Post and CNN.

White House Provides No Internal Assessment Backing Mueller Firing Claim
After making vague contention, Sanders said: ‘I can’t go anything beyond that’

The White House is unable to provide any internal analysis to support its contention that President Donald Trump can fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

White House officials are unable to point to any internal assessment to justify their contention that President Donald Trump has the legal authority to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Many Republican and Democratic lawmakers are urging Trump to let the former FBI director complete his investigation of Russian election meddling and possible misconduct by the president and his campaign associates. Those pleas intensified last week when the president and his top spokeswoman signaled the White House has concluded he has the authority to do so.

FCC Rejects Democrats’ Request to Review Sinclair License
Broadcast group made its anchors read a promotional script blasting other outlets’ ‘fake news’

Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission, rejected 12 senators’ request to investigate Sinclair Broadcasting group's license after its "fake news" segment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai declined Thursday to follow through on a request from 12 senators that his bureau review Sinclair Broadcasting group’s license and temporarily block its merger with Tribune Media.

Eleven Democratic senators and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote their request in a letter to Pai Thursday that highlighted the local television media conglomerate’s recent move to force its anchors in dozens of U.S. cities to read a scripted, uniform segment blasting “fake news” and media bias that favors liberals.

Mueller Protection Bill Faces Political, Procedural Headwinds
Judiciary Committee looks at consideration of bill in two weeks

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is preparing his committee for a vote on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Judiciary Committee appears poised to vote in two weeks on a bill that would give job protections to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, even as President Donald Trump asserted again Thursday that he has the authority to fire the man investigating connections between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.

Thursday’s discussion revealed how the bill still faces potential political hazards at the Judiciary Committee. Democrats have raised concerns about a yet-to-be-seen amendment that Republicans want to add to the measure. Some Republicans have concerns about the constitutionality of a bill that would limit a president’s ability to make personnel decisions in the executive branch.