Richard Blumenthal

Senators Threaten Legislation Over Social Media Firms' Content

Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said he was more focused on oversight than legislation for social media companies and their content. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Big social media companies made a case against new legislative mandates by emphasizing their voluntary efforts to root out terrorism-related material and other objectionable content on their sites during a Senate hearing Wednesday.

But senators from both parties warned representatives of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter of legislative action even as Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said he was focused on oversight rather than legislation, which could further open the companies to lawsuits. The committee approved a bill that would allow online businesses to be sued and prosecuted for sex trafficking content, but Thune indicated he wasn’t ready to do the same over terrorism content.

Opinion: White People in Norway? Who Knew?
Kirstjen Nielsen displays the rhetorical contortions necessary to serve under Trump

Kirstjen Nielsen might want to stay away from categories on Norway or basic geography if she ever appears on “Jeopardy” — especially if the answer is, “What’s a Scandinavian country with lots of white people?” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the conclusion of more than four hours of testimony Tuesday before an often hostile Senate Judiciary Committee, Kirstjen Nielsen, the new secretary of Homeland Security, slowly gathered up her papers, shared a few laughing words with Arizona Republican Jeff Flake (the last senator in the room) and confidently exited surrounded by an armada of aides.

Depending on her level of self-awareness and the degree of flattery from her staffers, Nielsen may have nurtured the belief that she aced her Capitol Hill exam. After all, the loyal Cabinet secretary avoided saying almost anything controversial, even when pressed by Democrats over Donald Trump’s doubly confirmed reference to “shithole countries” during last Thursday’s White House immigration meeting that she attended.

White House Won’t Deny Trump’s Slur About Haiti, African Nations
President reportedly complained about immigrants from ‘shithole countries’

The White House is not denying that President Donald Trump used a derogatory term when talking about immigrants from Haiti and African countries. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The White House is not denying that President Donald Trump used a vulgar expression Thursday when talking about immigrants from Haiti and African countries during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office.

The president allegedly called those nations “shithole countries” when complaining about their immigrants to the United States.

Trump Slams Feinstein Over Russia Info Release
Calls California senator ‘sneaky’

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., arrives in the Capitol for the Senate Democrats' policy lunch on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump slammed Senate Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein for releasing the transcript of a Fusion GPS co-founder’s testimony to the panel, calling her “sneaky” and suggesting — without evidence — she might have broken the law.

The California Democrat said she made the transcript public because she felt the American people had the right to know what the firm’s leaders said about a dossier of Russia-related information about Trump. But she did so over the objections of panel Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa, angering Republicans and the White House.

Tax Overhaul Caps What Congressional Republicans Say Is Successful Year
Members say legislative, regulatory and judicial victories overshadow health care setback

From left, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, are basking in their win on taxes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The GOP-led tax overhaul caps off a year in which, despite some high-profile setbacks, congressional Republicans scored a slew of key victories.

GOP lawmakers say the accomplishments provide ammunition against critics who questioned whether the party could effectively govern with full control of Washington, D.C., and give Republicans newfound energy going into an election year.

As Crunch Time Approaches, More Rumbling About Trump Behavior
Many members taken aback by a chaotic 48 hours last week

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on Sept. 27. A recent 48-hour period last week, which was chaotic even by Trump's standards, has lawmakers newly concerned about his mindset. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Several veteran Democratic lawmakers were flabbergasted last week by 48 hours that were among the wildest so far of Donald Trump’s presidency. And in private conversations, they say many of their Republican colleagues share similar concerns.

Trump appears to embrace a certain amount of chaos. After all, it generates media coverage — and the president is a voracious consumer of cable television and print news. But the 48 hours between last Tuesday and Thursday caused a spike in concerns among longtime Democratic members about Trump’s mindset and competence.

Trump Executive Actions a ‘Disruptive’ Lot
Full effects of president’s unilateral moves still years away, experts say

President Donald Trump after signing an executive order Oct. 12 targeting the 2010 health care law. Experts and lawmakers say his executive actions are among the most “disruptive” of any president. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

The executive actions President Donald Trump has signed have the potential to be among the most “aggressive” and “disruptive” ever issued by a chief executive, according to lawmakers and experts.

Trump and his top aides often describe his use of executive orders, actions and memoranda as the president using his constitutional authorities to “put America first” and plot a policy course to benefit the country’s forgotten men and women. Both were major themes of his 2016 campaign.

Democrats Drop Congeniality as They Fire Away at Sessions
‘Give me a break,’ attorney general implores at one point

From left, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal talk Wednesday as Sessions arrives for the Senate Judiciary oversight hearing on the Justice Department. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions took an unusual path to the witness table before Wednesday’s Justice Department oversight hearing. He looped behind the dais to smile and shake the hands of his former Senate Judiciary Committee colleagues and pat them on the shoulder.

But the next four hours made it clear that congeniality has faded for the former Alabama Republican senator. Democrats lectured him on immigration policy, questioned his truthfulness in previous testimony about Russia and criticized his implementation of the Trump administration’s conservative policies.

Photos of the Week: SCOTUS Is Back, Gun Debate Reignited and Federal Budget Steps
The week of Oct. 2 as captured by Roll Call’s photographers

West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin III and Shelley Moore Capito talk during their news conference on the introduction of the American Miners Pension Act in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Supreme Court began its new term this week and heard oral arguments in a case that could determine whether political redistricting is constitutional. And after the Sunday night massacre in Las Vegas, GOP lawmakers appeared Thursday to be coalescing around a bill that would ban bump stocks, a type of device that effectively transforms a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic.

Also this week: The House passed a budget resolution for fiscal year 2018, as the Senate began committee consideration of its own resolution. These steps are meant to pave the way for a tax overhaul measure.

Las Vegas Shooting Reignites Gun Debate on Capitol Hill
Members offer prayers and condolences to victims and families, tributes to police and first responders

People scramble for shelter at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after a gunman opened fire, leaving at least 50 people dead and more than 2oo wounded. (David Becker/Getty Images)

Democratic lawmakers on Monday morning renewed their pleas for legislative action to restrict access to firearms after a gunman unleashed a storm of bullets on concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday night.

At least 58 people were killed, officials said. Multiple media outlets have reported that more than 500 people were taken to local hospitals for treatment in what is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.