Niels Lesniewski

CIA Releases Report Finding Haspel Not at Fault in Destruction of Torture Tapes
But some key Senate Democrats now want more answers

The Central Intelligence Agency released an unclassified but partially redacted version of an internal memo Friday finding “no fault” on the part of current director nominee Gina Haspel regarding the destruction of infamous tapes.

The tapes showed the use of harsh interrogation tactics on detainees who had been subject to rendition at so-called “black sites.” Clarity about Haspel’s involvement is one key to the deputy director’s chances for Senate confirmation to be the director.

How to Change Senate Rules, Slowly, With the 'Book of Spells'
Undercover Capitol takes you inside the historic workplace — one video at a time

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., made history when she brought her newborn daughter to the Senate floor to cast a vote. Changing the rule to allow that to happen took a Senate vote that set a precedent — and (eventually) a new entry in Riddick's Senate Procedure, the parliamentarian's road map for getting things done correctly....
Schumer’s 4/20 Surprise
Senate minority leader announced plans for marijuana decriminalization legislation in TV interview

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is the latest senior Democrat to call for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Schumer also said that he would support legalization in his home state of New York, in a well-timed interview with VICE News which aired Thursday night.

Lankford: Best to Let Russia Investigation Run Its Course
“The best politics would be do the right thing,” says Lankford

A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is reiterating his advice that President Donald Trump should let Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation run its course.

Sen. James Lankford said in an interview taped Thursday that the best strategy will be to let the chips fall where they may, citing the example of how the firing of FBI Director James Comey precipitated an expansion of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, rather than cut it off.

Tammy Duckworth and Baby Cast Their First Senate Vote Together, Opposing NASA Nominee
But Bridenstine confirmed to lead space agency, leaving House seat vacant for months

Maile Pearl Bowlsbey made Senate history Thursday, becoming the first newborn allowed on the Senate floor.

Maile, the daughter of Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, born just last week, came to the floor the day after the chamber changed its antiquated rules to allow senators to bring in children under the age of 1.

Senate Changes Rules to Allow Babies on the Floor
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth made Senate history when she gave birth last week

The Senate took a leap forward into modernity Wednesday, changing the rules to allow mothers to bring their infants onto the Senate floor.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the ranking Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee, was among the lawmakers hailing the change, which was adopted by unanimous consent.

Flake Flip on NASA Nominee Followed Senate Tumult
Vote to break filibuster of Bridenstine briefly deadlocked

A confluence of events put President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA on the verge of an unexpected blockade Wednesday afternoon.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona had initially voted against limiting debate on the nomination of GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, but after almost an hour, he switched his vote.

Corker Won’t Campaign Against Democratic Ex-Governor Who Wants to Succeed Him
Retiring Republican has contributed to Blackburn, but has long relationship with Bredesen

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen has significant crossover appeal, but just how much may depend on whether Tennessee voters think control of the Senate is at stake.

That is the view of the retiring senator who Bredesen and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn are seeking to replace, who thinks the Democrat might be ahead by six points today.

Mitch McConnell Puts Kibosh on Bill Protecting Robert Mueller
Majority leader reiterates belief that Trump won't fire the special counsel

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would not be making floor time for legislation designed to shield Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III from firing.

McConnell’s determination that the action is not needed is apparently regardless of what happens in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meet the New Senate Sergeant-at-Arms
Mitch McConnell announces SAA chief of staff Michael Stenger will take over

The next Senate sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper is a familiar face with a distinguished law enforcement background.

Michael C. Stenger, who has most recently served as chief of staff to outgoing Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin, will be taking over the office.

Intel Committee Democrats Renew Calls to Declassify Parts of Haspel’s Record
Members express concerns about public information campaign supporting CIA director nominee

A trio of Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are signaling they have seen problematic classified information about CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s career at the agency.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Ron Wyden of Oregon made the assertion in a letter sent Friday to CIA Director Mike Pompeo that was circulated publicly on Monday.

Trump and Gardner Strike Deal to Avoid Crackdown on Colorado Marijuana
Agreement includes lifting hold on DOJ nominees

President Donald Trump will not be letting Attorney General Jeff Sessions undermine Colorado’s thriving marijuana industry.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado had held up a variety of Justice Department nominations over the Trump administration’s decision to pull back a memo from then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole that had restricted federal enforcement of drug laws against marijuana.

Ryan Won’t Run for Re-Election, Ready to Go Home to Family
Democrats say speaker’s retirement is a sign of things to come in November

Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election and will leave Congress at the end of his term.

“This has been one of the two greatest honors of my life,” the speaker said. The other, he said, is his role as a husband and father, which he cited as his reason for leaving.

Senators Face Off With Zuckerberg in Marathon Hearing
Joint hearing starts off with pop, brings unexpected questions, and then gradually fades

“Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?”

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin asked that of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg nearly two hours into Tuesday afternoon’s headline-grabbing Senate hearing.

Judiciary Chairman Calls Firing Mueller ‘Suicide’ for Trump
Grassley warns president against firing Mueller or Sessions, notes potential Supreme Court vacancy

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is warning President Donald Trump against removing Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The Iowa Republican’s defense of Sessions, who faced criticism for recusing himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, seemed in part because Grassley thinks his committee may be facing the prospect of a Supreme Court nomination later in 2018.

Bill Nelson's Big Day
Florida Democrat found himself at the center of the political and policy news Monday

It seemed like Sen. Bill Nelson was everywhere on Monday.

The third-term Democratic senator from Florida will forever be best known for, during his time in the House, orbiting Earth aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

Congress Returns, With Eyes Off the Floors
Committee activity will be headlined by Zuckerberg and Trump Cabinet picks

Congress returns Monday after two weeks away, but much of the focus will be on the action outside the House and Senate chambers.

The highlight of the week will be hearings with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg amid the ongoing fallout from the social media giant’s admission that user data was improperly shared with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

New Chinese Tariffs Prompt Farm-State Senator Rebuke of Trump on Trade
Ernst brought concerns directly to Trump on Wednesday

China’s announced plans for roughly $50 billion in new tariffs on U.S. goods has escalated the criticism from farm-state lawmakers of President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she talked with Trump himself Wednesday about concerns about effects on Hawkeye State producers.

Top Democrats: Diverting Pentagon Dollars to Build the Wall Would Be Illegal
Request opinion from Defense Secretary Mattis

The Senate’s top Democrats overseeing the Pentagon said Monday that President Donald Trump has no authority to divert defense funds to pay for construction of a wall along the border with Mexico, and that administration officials might put themselves in legal jeopardy if they were to do so.

Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Jack Reed of Rhode Island outlined their analysis in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis. The senators requested that Mattis respond as to whether or not the Pentagon agrees.