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National Govt & Politics
FBI Director defends handling of Clinton, Trump election year probes
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FBI Director defends handling of Clinton, Trump election year probes

FBI Director defends handling of Clinton, Trump election year probes
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

FBI Director defends handling of Clinton, Trump election year probes

Facing flak from members of both parties for completely different reasons, FBI Director James Comey told a U.S. Senate hearing that he would not change how he handled revelations about Hillary Clinton's email server right before the 2016 elections, as Democrats demanded to know why the FBI chief had instead stayed silent about a pre-election probe of links between Russia and the campaign of President Donald Trump.

"Even in hindsight - and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences - I would make the same decision, Comey said. "I would not conceal that on October 28th from the Congress," he added, telling Senators that a move to keep that development from Congress would have been "catastrophic."

His voice rising in his own defense before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) he still feels "mildly nauseous" that his announcement about possible new Clinton emails - less than two weeks before Election Day - might have influenced the outcome of the race for President.

"Why didn't you just do the investigation like you would normally, with no public announcement?" asked Feinstein, as Democrats weren't buying Comey's public explanation, still believing that the FBI chief put his thumb on the scale late in the 2016 campaign against the Democratic Party's nominee.

"In my 42 years here, I've never seen anything like it," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

While Democrats pressed Comey over how the FBI dealt with the Clinton email server matter - saying people were "confused and disappointed" - the FBI chief also took flak from the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee over the handling of the probe into links between Russia and the campaign of President Donald Trump.

"It was a hard choice - I still believe in retrospect, the right choice - as painful as this has been," Comey said, not budging from his decisions.

Supporters of Clinton were clearly not swayed by the FBI Director's explanation.

While Democrats were aggravated with Comey, there was grumbling from Republicans as well over how the FBI dealt with questions about Russia and the Trump Campaign.

"So, a cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who started the hearing by raising questions about the "Steele Dossier," a private intelligence review undertaken by a former British Intelligence official.

Grassley also directly pressed Comey on whether he and his top aides had been leaking information from the Russia investigation about aides to the Trump Campaign - Comey's response was he was not giving reporters any information.

Republicans also pressed the FBI Director on why charges weren't filed against former Clinton aide Huma Abedin, over her handling of classified information, some of which showed up on a laptop owned by her former husband, ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (R-NY).

In exchanges with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Comey said the FBI did not pursue charges against Abedin, because the feds could not "prove any sort of criminal intent," an answer that didn't sit well with GOP Senators.

Comey said the same about the underlying investigation of Hillary Clinton as well.

"I believed what I said," Comey told Senators. "There was not a prosecutable case there."

As for the probe of Trump-Russia links, the FBI Director offered little in the way of new information about the investigation, simply again confirming that there was an ongoing probe, and once more denying that there was any surveillance in 2016 of the Trump Campaign.

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News

  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday walked out of a planned meeting to discuss infrastructure issues with Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, amid frustrations over ongoing investigations into his presidential campaign and administration. >> Read more trending news Trump walked out of the meeting after three minutes, opting instead to hold a news conference in the Rose Garden. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Trump tells Dems - no legislating until investigations are stopped “I walked into the room and I told Sen. Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure, I want to do it more than you want to do it,’” he said. “‘But you know what, you can’t do it under these circumstances, so get these phony investigations over with.’” Democrats said the walkout seemed scripted. Pelosi called it all 'very, very, very strange' and said she was praying for Trump and the nation. The meeting at the White House had been set weeks ago, after Trump and the Democratic leaders agreed to talk further about a possible $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Trump was due to provide the Democrats his ideas on how to pay for it. Schumer said when Trump 'was forced to say how he would pay for it he had to run away.' >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Pelosi accuses Trump of being 'engaged in a cover-up' Earlier Wednesday, after a closed-door hearing with Democrats, Pelosi accused Trump of being “engaged in a cover-up” aimed at blocking oversight related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials.  Mueller completed his probe last month after 22 months of investigation. In a report released earlier this month, Mueller said his team found no evidence that Trump or his campaign officials colluded with Russia to win the election. He did not, however, make a determination around whether Trump obstructed justice in connection to the investigation. >> More on Robert Mueller's investigation Trump has denied all wrongdoing and consistently framed Mueller’s investigation as an expensive and politically motivated “witch hunt” aimed at hurting his presidency.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A man accused of stealing $80,000 from a woman he met on a dating website was arrested Tuesday in Tennessee. John Martin Hill, 34, allegedly told the Alpharetta, Georgia, woman he was a millionaire and convinced her they were in love. Within a week of meeting on Match.com, they agreed to marry, according to officials with the Gwinnett County Police Department. The money was was purportedly going toward the purchase of their first home. Police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said that once the money changed hands, the woman did not hear from him again. Police released a photo of Hill on Tuesday morning and asked for the public’s help to locate him. Before the day was out, he was behind bars in Franklin, Tennessee, Pihera said in a Wednesday news release. Hill faces a charge of theft by deception in Gwinnett County. Since announcing the charge, Pihera said police have heard from a few other women who said they were in a relationship with Hill or knew another woman who was. >> Read more trending news  Police are hoping the Alpharetta woman’s misfortune will be a cautionary tale for others who seek love online. “When meeting someone online, be very cautious sharing personal information, financial information, or cash with someone in the early stages of a relationship,” Pihera said in a statement. “These types of con men are very good at manipulating their victims. They tend to say everything that a woman wants to hear.” According to investigators, the scheme started March 27. Hill and the Alpharetta woman exchanged messages on the dating site and arranged to meet in person later the same day. The proposal came next. “During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together,” Pihera said. “They went house hunting and selected a home they were interested in.” Related: Man meets Georgia woman on dating site, defrauds her out of $80K, police say The woman thought her $80,000 contribution would help with a down payment on the home and buy the couple some furniture. Police said she didn’t know Hill was already living in an apartment in Duluth, Georgia, with another woman and a child.  Investigators learned Hill has changed his name more than five times in the past three years and is accused of committing similar acts in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. They did not quantify the number of cases connected to Hill.  According to officials with the Franklin Police Department, officers tracked Hill to a Marriott hotel Tuesday night, acting on a tip. When they confronted him, Hill allegedly darted into a hotel conference room and hid under a table. He came out on officer’s orders and was arrested.  Hill, who also has a listed address in South Carolina, is being held in the Williamson County Jail in Tennessee in lieu of a $500,000 bond, according to Franklin Police Department officials. He is expected to be extradited to Georgia, officials with the department said.  “By sharing this story, it is our hope that he is not able to victimize any other women using this scam,” Pihera said in a statement. “We are thankful that the victim in our case came forward and reported this crime,” she said. “If any other women have been victimized by Hill, we encourage them to contact their local police department.”
  • A Chicago-area high school is reprinting its yearbooks after students appeared to show hand gestures associated with white supremacy in more than a dozen photos. >> Read more trending news  Students made the upside-down “OK” gesture in 18 photos of the Oak Park River Forest High School yearbook, Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said in an email sent after a specially called school board meeting Monday night. The school will pay $53,794 to reprint the yearbooks, The Chicago Tribune reported. The gesture started as part of the “circle game,” a juvenile “made-you-look” game, according to the Tribune. Students making the hand gestures in the yearbook were of “various races, ethnicities, genders and grades,” Pruitt-Adams said. However, the gesture has recently been appropriated by white supremacists. Among those who have publicly flashed the symbol is the suspected gunman in the March 15 New Zealand mosque attack that left 51 people dead, the Tribune reported. School officials worried the gesture will become more closely associated with white supremacy, and could harm students when they’re applying to colleges or jobs. “My understanding is [yearbook staff] followed protocol,” she said. “Things in this country change so rapidly. I don’t want anyone to think we are accusing our students of anything. For us, it was the impact of what the publication could have on the student body.” Options like cutting pages out of the yearbook or placing stickers over the photos were considered, but deemed infeasible, Pruitt-Adams said. It’s expected to take three to four weeks to receive the new yearbooks. In the meantime, the school has ordered 2,200 autograph books for students to collect signatures in.
  • The House Intelligence Committee delayed a potential vote Wednesday over whether to hold U.S. Attorney General William Barr in contempt in the ongoing battle over special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report. >> Read more trending news The House Intelligence Committee had planned to meet Wednesday morning to discuss taking “enforcement action” against Barr in light of his refusal to release documents and materials related to Mueller’s investigation, CNN reported. However, the news network reported the meeting was canceled after the Justice Department agreed to turn over documents to the committee. >> William Barr contempt order: What is contempt of Congress; how does it work? “The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement obtained Wednesday by Politico. “That initial production should be completed by the end of next week.” Schiff issued a subpoena earlier this month to compel Barr to share documents and materials related to the Mueller investigation, including the full, unredacted report. Barr has previously declined to release the full report, citing grand jury information that cannot be released by law among other restrictions. >> Trump: 'We're fighting all the subpoenas' “The law is on our side,” Schiff said in a May 8 statement announcing the subpoena. “The Committee’s efforts to obtain necessary documents to do our constitutionally-mandated oversight work will not be obstructed.” In a statement posted Wednesday on Twitter, Schiff said the subpoena “will remain in effect, and be enforced should DOJ fail to comply with the full document request.” Barr has already been held in contempt by one congressional committee for his refusal to turn over an unredacted version of the report to the House Judiciary Committee. The panel voted May 8 to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. >> House committee votes to hold AG William Barr in contempt of Congress Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told The Wall Street Journal the department appreciates the “continued dialogue with the Committee and look forward to working towards appropriately accommodating their requests.”
  • Officials at a Texas state park posted photographs on social media of a rare snake that mimics a cobra when it feels threatened, the Houston Chronicle reported. >> Read more trending news  The snake, an eastern hognose, was spotted Sunday at Brazos Bend State Park after recent rains flooded areas of the park, the newspaper reported. >> Snake slithers from car hood as woman leaves Texas state park According to a Facebook post by park officials, the snake gets its name from its upturned snout, which is used for digging in sand or dirt. When the reptile believes it is in danger, it raises it head and puffs it out to appear larger. It also flattens out the skin around its neck, making it look like a cobra, park officials wrote. >> Oklahoma man finds 7-foot snake in dryer vent The snake can be found in several colors, including yellow, gray, brown or red. The one spotted Sunday was orange and black, park officials said. Unlike the cobra, the hognose’s venom is not deadly. Park officials called it “mild” and said it was not harmful to humans, the Chronicle reported. >> Snakes alive! Woman scared after finding reptile in golf cart When threatened, the snake can also play dead or spray a “foul, musky smell” to deter predators, the newspaper reported.
  • A senior prank could prevent up to 140 Central Florida high school seniors from walking at graduation. >> Read more trending news  Last week, eight Wekiva High School students were arrested on vandalism charges, and dozens of their classmates might be penalized for the prank, even though they weren't arrested. Deputies said the group broke into the high school May 14. While the Orange County school district will not confirm those students will be banned from graduation, several students said more than 140 seniors will not walk during ceremonies at the Apopka school.  'I just feel it's not right. Nobody's trying to hear our side of the story. They're just going off what they're hearing. Nobody's trying to hear the students' point of view,' student Jakia Dickson said. Investigators said they found graffiti on campus walls and flour, glitter and baby oil throughout the hallways.  Invesitgators said the prank caused $20,000 in damages. 'I'm feeling for these kids because it makes no sense,' student Trinity Bell said. One student who will not be allowed to walk is Wilnes Accius. He said he was playing music while others were using toilet paper and bubble wrap. 'We did a prank -- some of it went too far,' Accius said. '(Some) got inside the school trashing it, but we shouldn't be held accountable for it.' >> High school prank involving chickens runs ‘afowl’ of school administrators Another student has started an online petition in hopes that the district will change its mind. That petition already has 3,300 signatures. Some students said some school employees were aware students intended to carry out a prank at the school and gave them access. The district said the students unlawfully entered the school and the act was vandalism and not a prank.