Niels Lesniewski

Democrats Continue Camera Shy Ways With Brett Kavanaugh
Senate courtesy meetings continue, but with nary a photo op

Democratic senators have, at least from Republican states, started meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but they are mostly avoiding the press when doing so. 

With senators back in town, meetings with President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court resumed Wednesday, with a pair of Democrats on the agenda.

Trump Won’t Follow Congressional Directives on Russia and Crimea
Defense authorization signing statement effectively discards restrictions on recognizing Crimea as Russian

President Donald Trump objects to an effort by Congress to prevent his administration from recognizing Crimea as part of Russia.

Crimea is a region in Ukraine that has been occupied by Russia for several years, with the Russian Federation having claimed to have annexed the region in March 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed the territorial matter is settled, but many in Washington disagree.

At Fort Drum Event, Trump Boosts McSally, Does Not Mention McCain
Arizona GOP Senate candidate among lawmakers highlighted in New York's North Country

Arizona politics headed eastward to New York’s North Country on Monday, as President Donald Trump signed a Pentagon policy bill there named after one of his frequent nemeses, Republican John McCain, who went unmentioned by the president, and singled out for praise a woman seeking to become McCain’s Senate colleague: Rep. Martha McSally.

McSally made the trip across the country to the Army’s Fort Drum and was  rewarded with a shout-out from Trump, although not an endorsement.

Road Ahead: Senate Returning to DC for the Ides of August
Floor agenda will look familiar: judicial nominations and appropriation bills

Thank goodness the Senate has “manufactured weather.”

That’s what Carrier called the system that was first installed to cool the chamber in the early 20th century. The modern air conditioning will be in full use this week as the Senate returns for a rare mid-August session.

McConnell Casts Doubt on Legislation to Restrict Trump’s Trade Authority
Kentucky Republican talked taxes and trade Friday in Louisville

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stopped at a water tank manufacturing company Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, to tout the benefits of the Republican tax overhaul, but the conversation not surprisingly turned to trade.

The Kentucky Republican said it was unlikely Congress could enact restrictions on President Donald Trump’s trade authority, despite some GOP senators’ efforts to reign in the president’s actions.

Bill Nelson Says Florida Election Systems Compromised by Russians
Senate Intelligence Committee avoids confirming or denying Democratic senator’s statement

If the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Sen. Bill Nelson to alert Florida election officials about Russian interference in their systems, they aren’t saying.

Nelson, a Florida Democrat on the ballot in 2018, was quoted by the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday saying that, “We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records.”

Maryland Democrat Pushes for Answers on Trump Role in FBI Headquarters Project
Sen. Chris Van Hollen said the GSA has not been fully forthcoming

A Maryland Democratic senator wants to know how involved President Donald Trump has been in the development of a new FBI headquarters building.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen has written to General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy to give her an opportunity to expand on answers she gave in response to written questions for the record following a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing back in February.

Summer Book Review: Angus King's Instagram Photos Are Now in Print
 

Maine Sen. Angus King’s Instagram isn’t run by his staff.  Since New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker “badgered” him into joining the social media app back in 2014, King has posted nearly 600 photos of New England landscapes, senatorial behind-the-scenes access and snowy Maine winters, amassing almost 15,000 followers. Just in time for all of D.C. to hit the beach this summer, King has released a new photo book of the greatest hits of his Insta-photography.

Lindsey Graham Quips That Trump Brought Up Mueller and Russia ‘About 20 Times’
South Carolina senator said he told Trump that ending the Mueller probe would undermine GOP in November

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday night that he has told President Donald Trump that ending the special counsel investigation of Robert S. Mueller III would undermine GOP chances in November.

The South Carolina Republican, who played golf with Trump on Sunday in New Jersey and discussed several issues with the president, was asked about the investigation of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election at a Monday evening event hosted by the Greenville County Republican Party.

Paul Laxalt, Nevada Senator and ‘First Friend’ of Ronald Reagan, Dies at Age 96
Republican was governor and three-time chairman of Reagan presidential campaigns

Updated 1:55 p.m. | Paul Laxalt, a former Nevada governor and senator who was President Ronald Reagan’s closest friend and adviser in the Senate, died Monday. He was 96.

Laxalt, who was governor of the Silver State from 1967 to 1971, was first elected to the Senate back in 1974, overcoming the weight of Watergate to narrowly defeat Democratic Lt. Gov. Harry Reid. As fate would have it, Reid would ultimately succeed Laxalt following his retirement, winning his Senate seat in 1986.

Lindsey Graham Cheers Trump China Policy After Golf Outing
South Carolina Republican was President Trump’s golf partner Sunday in New Jersey

Sen. Lindsey Graham, fresh off a Sunday golf outing with President Donald Trump, said he stands with the president on getting tough on trade with China.

But the South Carolina Republican told reporters in his home state Monday that he said the best way to combat China’s trade practices like mandatory technology transfers is through U.S. deals with allies in North America and Europe.

Mitch McConnell Is Already Running for Re-Election — In 2020
Formally announced his plans in Kentucky on Saturday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proved again this weekend he won’t be caught asleep at the wheel when it comes to his own campaigns in Kentucky.

McConnell formally announced Saturday his plans to seek a seventh term, speaking at a Republican breakfast in western Kentucky ahead of the Fancy Farm picnic, which is the bipartisan political event of the year in the commonwealth.

Graham, Menendez Introduce ‘Sanctions Bill From Hell’ Targeting Russia and Putin
Bipartisan bill also would make it harder to leave NATO

A bipartisan Senate contingent has introduced what Republican Lindsey Graham has called the “sanctions bill from hell,” targeting Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

The legislation, which was introduced just as senators were departing for a shortened August recess on Wednesday, targets Russian oligarchs and Putin family members for additional sanctions, and it would seek to require a two-thirds vote of the Senate for any attempt by the U.S. to abandon NATO.

Democrats Seek Probe of Air Force One Tours for Mar-a-Lago Members
Warren, others question special access for members of the president’s club

Were members of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club given special tours of Air Force One?

That’s the question a group of Senate Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, want two Pentagon inspectors general to find out.

Senate’s Out for Truncated August Recess
Judicial nominations and spending bills await when senators return in mid-August

Senators may be skipping the traditional August recess, but that does not mean they will be spending too much time on Capitol Hill.

Just before the Senate adjourned shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado had the responsibility of getting several district judges confirmed, passing remaining legislative items and — perhaps most importantly — announcing the schedule.

Senate Intelligence Authorized to Give Maria Butina Transcripts to Legal Teams
Move allows document production for the case against alleged Russian foreign agent

The Senate late Wednesday authorized the Intelligence Committee to hand over documents relevant to the case of the United States v. Maria Butina.

Butina is the Russian national who has been indicted on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent without proper authorization.

Durbin Blasts Removal of Myanmar Sanctions From Defense Bill
Signs point to McConnell not allowing language targeting country also known as Burma

A legislative effort to punish officials responsible for atrocities committed against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar appears to have stalled thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin gave a speech ahead of floor consideration of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization conference report in which he decried, “the irresponsible removal of provisions related to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.”

Facebook Removes Pages, Russian Intelligence Suspected
Lawmakers say Facebook’s announcement is another warning sign

Updated 3:28 p.m. | Facebook’s announcement about the removal of bogus pages that might be tied to Russian intelligence efforts has the top Democrats on the congressional Intelligence Committees renewing warnings about what’s ahead in 2018.

“Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation, and I am glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement. “I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future.”

McConnell Embraces ICE, Rejects Democrats’ ‘Foaming Hysteria’
Majority leader thinks Democratic presidential hopefuls are going too far

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks Democrats are going too far in pushing to eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said Tuesday.

The Kentucky Republican opened the Senate by declaring the chamber’s GOP faction stands behind ICE. McConnell spent part of his day Friday visiting the local ICE headquarters in his home of Louisville.

Brett Kavanaugh Meets With Joe Manchin, First Democrat to Sit Down With Him
Forgoing a photo op, West Virginia senator does not tip hand about how he will vote

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh met for the first time since being tapped for the high court with a Democratic senator on Monday, but to little fanfare or opportunity for the press to take note. 

About two hours after walking in, Kavanaugh left the office of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III. But this time would not be like the last time he met with a nominee of President Donald Trump’s for the Supreme Court.