Donald Trump’s new attorney general failed to disclose Russian contacts

If  asked last night, you’d probably have said the future of health care under President Donald Trump would likely be the dominant topic of a “telephone” town hall that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson will hold at 6 p.m. this evening.

But this morning, another topic jumped up. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Cal., has urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations relating to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. So has U.S. Rep.  Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. All because of this from the Washington Post:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

 

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The New York Times augments today’s conversation with this:

In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

 

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American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.

Given that, until just a few days ago, Sessions was a trusted and respected colleague, the development creates a delicate situation not just for Isakson, but for all Republican senators.

Isakson’s virtual town hall is the first such gathering of any sort, by phone or in person, by a Georgia senator since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. (His staff points out that Isakson is still recuperating at home from major back surgery last week, which ruled out an in-person event.)

Click here to begin the sign-up process. An aide said callers will be randomly selected to pose questions, which will then be screened. The session is expected to last about an hour.

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One of Georgia’s two members of the Freedom Caucus has quietly left Congress’ band of rabble-rousing conservatives.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said he didn’t renew his membership with the secretive group of roughly 40 Republican lawmakers because “I’m just out of bandwidth.” He denied any ideological differences.

“I ran out of time. And until somebody puts in a bill that extends the day from 24 to 48 hours, there’s only so much I can do,” he said in an interview.

Loudermilk and  Jody Hice of Monroe joined the Freedom Caucus shortly after it was created in 2015. The deeply conservative group quickly became a thorn in the side of then-Speaker John Boehner, spearheading the effort that eventually led to the Ohio Republican’s resignation that fall.

While Hice has moved up to take a leadership role in the Freedom Caucus this year, Loudermilk said a full plate of committee assignments and a leadership position in another, far larger conservative group, the Republican Study Committee, has sapped away much of his free time.

“I don’t disagree with the principles and the ideas of the Freedom Caucus, it’s just I felt that I could actually take my principles and values and help lead on the Study Committee at this point,” he said.

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Republican congressional leaders huddled with President Donald Trump at the White House yesterday to talk legislative priorities.

Not a whole lot of news materialized from the private meeting, but Perdue said Trump tasked the lawmakers with helping him accomplish the goals laid out in his speech to Congress Tuesday night:

“The meeting today is exactly what I would expect from a business guy. We met as a team on how we can put this bold agenda into action and the President was very clear on what he expects.”

Perdue got something like a shout-out from Trump during his address to Congress. Though he didn’t mention the Georgia senator by name, the president endorsed a shift toward a “merit-based” U.S. immigration policy. Which is the point of a bill Perdue is now sponsoring with U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

Perdue’s presence at Wednesday’s meeting was notable since he’s not a member of the Senate GOP leadership team. But he has positioned himself as a key Trump ally and frequently draws parallels between the new president and his own rise as a political outsider from the business world.

And per this picture tweeted by Vice President Mike Pence, Perdue got a pretty prime spot at the table, next to Pence and across from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

https://twitter.com/VP/status/837014178871316480/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

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As congressional Republicans bicker about the details of an emerging Obamacare replacement plan, former Georgia Congressman Tom Price held his tongue in an appearance on Fox News yesterday in one of his first interviews since being confirmed as Health and Human Services Secretary.

He wouldn’t say whether the White House backed GOP leaders’ leaked health care plan and he played down current divisions in the party over details such as tax credits, saying the party was getting “very close” to releasing a proposal.

“This is what the legislative process looks like,” Price said. “This isn’t anything unusual.”

Watch his segment on “Special Report with Bret Baier”:

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Here’s a surprise: Six state Senate Democrats sponsored a resolution to commend Ashley Bell, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Georgia who now works for the Donald Trump administration. The measure was adopted on Tuesday without debate.

Senate Resolution 333 praises Bell’s “determination, intelligence and work ethic” in rising from Hall County commissioner, as a Democrat, to become the highest-ranking African-American official at the Republican National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. Bell now has a high-ranking post at the U.S. State Department. Bell became a Republican in 2010.

The resolution honoring him was sponsored by state Sens. Lester Jackson of Savannah, Emanuel Jones of Decatur, Ed Harbison of Columbus, Freddie Powell Sims of Dawson, Harold Jones of Augusta and Gail Davenport of Jonesboro.

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State Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, met with a pair of conservative celebrities last week: Duane and Beth Chapman, stars of the “Dog the Bounty Hunter” show.

Both were supporters of Donald Trump and have become increasingly active on the political circuit.

If he runs for higher office, expect them to return to Atlanta to host a fundraiser or two.

 

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