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National Politics

    President Donald Trump used a White House event Monday to pay tribute to federal immigration officials, returning to the fight over the U.S. southern border. The president was honoring employees of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Customs and Border Protection. The federal agencies have been thrust into the debate over the Trump administration's separation of migrant children from their parents after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. 'We love you, we support you, we will always have your back,' Trump said. He added: 'For America to be a strong nation, we must have strong borders.' Trump has assailed some Democratic lawmakers for seeking to abolish ICE ahead of the November midterm elections. In a letter to state and local leaders, Trump wrote that ICE workers had been subjected to a 'nationwide campaign of smears, insults and attacks' by politicians 'catering to the extreme elements in our society.' At the White House event, Trump said that most people support ICE and that opponents are 'just a small group that gets a lot of publicity.' 'They have no courage, they have no guts, they just have big loud mouths,' Trump said. Trump has made border security a key part of his message as he tries to maintain Republican control of Congress in the November elections. Before the president arrived, the White House held a panel discussion on immigration with several state and local officials, who pointed to the role that a secure border plays in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking and questioned calls to abolish ICE. Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who has worked closely with the administration on immigration legislation, said he struggled to see the point of eliminating the federal agency, likening it to someone saying, 'I want to get rid of the Marines.' 'I just think it's unconscionable, and frankly, I think it's downright unpatriotic and treasonous,' Perdue said.
  • Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, could be charged before the end of the month with bank fraud in his dealings with the taxi industry and with committing other financial crimes, two people familiar with the federal probe said Monday. The people confirmed reports that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were considering charging Cohen after months of speculation over a case that has been a distraction for the White House with the midterm elections approaching. The New York Times reported Sunday, based on anonymous sources, that prosecutors have been focusing on more than $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that Cohen and his family own. As part of the investigation, prosecutors have subpoenaed records from Sterling National Bank, one of the institutions that loaned Cohen money with his ownership in taxi cabs as collateral, one of the people said. The material was sought because it's suspected Cohen falsified some of the paperwork, the person said. The people, who weren't authorized to discuss the case and spoke on Monday on condition of anonymity, refused to answer questions about speculation that Cohen still might strike a plea deal with prosecutors requiring his cooperation. Absent a quick resolution, it's believed that prosecutors would put off a decision on how to go forward with the case until after the election in compliance with an informal Justice Department policy of avoiding bringing prosecutions that could be seen as political and influence voters. Both the U.S. attorney's office and an attorney for Cohen, Lanny Davis, declined to comment Monday. A spokesman for Sterling National Bank declined to comment. Cohen had gained notoriety as Trump's loyal 'fixer' before FBI agents raided his officies and a hotel where he was staying while renovations were being done on his apartment in a Trump-developed building. Prosecutors were initially silent about why Cohen was under investigation. Some details became public after lawyers for Cohen and Trump asked a judge to temporarily prevent investigators from viewing some of the seized material, on the grounds that it was protected by attorney-client privilege. The search of Cohen's files sought bank records, communications with the Trump campaign and information on hush money payments made in 2016 to two women: former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who received $150,000, and the porn actress Stormy Daniels, who got $130,000. At the time, Trump branded the raid 'a witch hunt,' an assault on attorney-client privilege and a politically motivated attack by enemies in the FBI. The president's initial support for Cohen degenerated over the summer into a public feud, prompting speculation that, to save himself, Cohen might be willing to tell prosecutors some of the secrets he'd help Trump keep. Davis, Cohen's lawyer, has been sending signals of his own. First, he went on CNN with a tape of Trump talking about the McDougal payment. Then, over the weekend, he revealed that he's been having conversations with John Dean, the White House lawyer who helped bring down President Richard Nixon. Davis said Monday that he sees major parallels between Cohen and Dean and that he wanted to hear what he'd learned from Watergate and his perspective on what Cohen is going through. Cohen hasn't spoken to Dean, Davis said. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Sisak and Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.
  • Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested that attorneys preparing to question President Bill Clinton in 1998 seek graphic details about the president's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The questions are part of a memo in which Kavanaugh advised Independent Counsel Ken Starr and others not to give the president 'any break' during questioning. He suggested Clinton be asked whether he had phone sex with Lewinsky and whether he performed specific sexual acts. Kavanaugh worked on Starr's team investigating Clinton. He said it may not be 'our job to impose sanctions on him, but it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear — piece by painful piece.' The memo was released on Monday by the National Archives and Records Administration. In the subject line, Kavanaugh asks, 'Slack for the President?' Kavanaugh goes on to answer the question with a resounding no. He said he had tried to bend over backward to be fair to Clinton and to think of reasonable defenses for his behavior, but in the end, became convinced there were none. 'The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me,' Kavanaugh wrote. He also accused Clinton of committing perjury, turning the Secret Service upside down, and trying to disgrace Starr and the independent counsel's office with 'a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.' Kavanaugh in the memo states, 'The president has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles.' The release from the Archives comes before confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, scheduled for the week after Labor Day. Kavanaugh has been making courtesy calls to senators and met Monday for about an hour with the senior Democratic member of the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to have Kavanaugh confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy before the new court session begins Oct. 1. After leaving Starr's investigative team, Kavanaugh went on to serve in the administration of President George W. Bush and as a circuit court judge. He's reflected on various occasions about investigations involving a sitting president. He wrote in a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article that it would be appropriate for Congress to enact a statute that would allow civil lawsuits against a sitting president to be deferred until the president's term ends. He said Congress should consider doing the same with 'respect to criminal investigations and prosecutions of the President.' Democrats have asserted that Trump chose Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court because he would protect him from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Kavanaugh's August 1998 memo to Starr and his legal team said that he was mindful of the need to respect the office of the president. But he said the full facts should be gathered 'so that the Congress can decide whether the interests of the Presidency would be best served by having a new President.' Otherwise, he asked, 'Aren't we failing to fulfill our duty to the American people if we willingly 'conspire' with the President in an effort to conceal the true nature of his acts?' He went on to suggest 10 questions for Clinton that go into vivid detail about sexual acts, how often they occurred and whether Lewinksy would be lying if she had recounted those actions. Clinton was impeached in a post-election session of the House, acquitted in the Senate and remained in office.
  • President Donald Trump on Monday dared John Brennan to sue him after the former CIA director told reporters he was considering legal action against the president over the decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance. >> Read more trending news “I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit,” Trump wrote Monday morning in a tweet. “It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!” The president said in a subsequent tweet that Brennan was being defended by people in the intelligence community and beyond because security clearances are “worth great prestige and big dollars” and “everybody wants to keep their Security Clearance.” “It certainly isn’t because of the good job he did!” the president wrote. “He is a political ‘hack.’” More than 200 former U.S. intelligence officials have signed letters condemning the decision to strip Brennan of his security clearance, Axios reported. Brennan said Sunday in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had been contacted by “a number of lawyers.” >> Former CIA Director John Brennan: ‘I will not relent’ “They have already given me their thoughts about the basis for a complaint, an injunction to try to prevent him from doing this in the future,” Brennan said. “If my clearances and my reputation -- as I’m being pulled through the mud now -- if that’s the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it’s a small price to pay.  “I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will, I will do that.” Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance last week. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited Brennan's 'erratic conduct and behavior' as the reasoning behind the revocation and accused him of 'lying' and 'wild outbursts.'  >> Trump revokes former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance Brennan has been critical of Trump, calling his performance at a joint press conference last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland 'nothing short of treasonous.' Last week, he accused the president of revoking his clearance as “part of a broader effort … to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics.” “I will not relent,” he wrote. >> Trump wants to revoke security clearances for ex-Obama intelligence officials, White House says Huckabee Sanders said last week that officials continue to look at revoking the clearances of other former officials, including former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. 
  • At least once a week, they assemble in Capitol meeting rooms for an hour-long strategy session. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer convenes the gatherings, which regularly include several Democratic senators, a dozen Senate aides and representatives of about 20 liberal organizations. The goal: figuring out how to derail President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick, conservative appellate judge Brett Kavanaugh. Up to now, participants say the strategy sessions have been cordial. Yet with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings just two weeks off, cracks in the alliance are showing. Schumer, D-N.Y., who plans to meet Kavanaugh privately early this week, is methodically building arguments that would help vulnerable Democratic senators in Trump-loving states vote 'no,' while avoiding explicitly pressing them. But the party's restive left wing says he's not aggressively rallying Democratic lawmakers to oppose the nominee, thwarting the momentum needed to galvanize voters and maybe even win the uphill fight to block Kavanaugh. 'It's really a test for Schumer,' said Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director of Indivisible, an anti-Trump group. 'Is he going to be the minority leader who lost Roe?' Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion rights. 'We're looking to Sen. Schumer to unite the Democratic caucus to fight Kavanaugh,' said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the activist MoveOn.org. He said unless leaders unify the party and raise the battle's visibility, the news media will focus on Trump nemeses like fired White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and lawyer Michael Avenatti. It's the latest manifestation of the Democratic debate over how ideologically pure and confrontational the party's strategies and candidates should be in resisting Trump and his hard-right stances. That battle has played out in Democratic congressional primaries around the country and in Congress, where left-wing lawmakers are pushing proposals like universal health care that other Democrats shun. Democrats agree that Kavanaugh's confirmation would tip the nine-member court to the right, threatening abortion rights, former President Barack Obama's health care law and constitutional constraints on Trump's actions as president. Even so, the votes of three moderate Democratic senators facing difficult re-election races seem up for grabs: Indiana's Joe Donnelly, West Virginian Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. A few other Democrats are seen as uncertain, from Alabama and Florida, for example, while about 20 who are considered certain to oppose Kavanaugh haven't declared their positions. 'It undermines our efforts when members of the public don't see their elected leaders in Congress reacting with more fury,' said Brian Fallon, a former Schumer aide now heading Demand Justice, a Democratic-aligned liberal group trying to sink the nomination. Fallon said there is 'urgent need for Democrats to unite quickly against Kavanaugh in order to shift the dynamic here.' Republicans have a 50-49 Senate edge, excluding the absent and ailing Arizona Republican John McCain, so Democrats alone can't stop a united GOP. Schumer's hopes of defeating Kavanaugh lie in unearthing game-changing revelations in documents from his earlier White House and judicial jobs, or creating an irresistible groundswell against him among constituents of moderate Republicans and vacillating Democrats. 'Our job is to convince the American people he will undo women's reproductive freedom and undo health care,' Schumer said in a brief interview when asked about liberals' complaints about his efforts. Abortion rights, environmental and other liberal groups applaud Schumer's measured tactics, which have included Senate speeches and news conferences and frequent conference calls with outside organizations. Schumer's focus on Kavanaugh's perceived threat to abortion rights is aimed at pressing moderate GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. Talking about health care provides ammunition to Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states, where the benefits of Obama's health law are often popular. 'What really matters is not so much what happens in Washington but what constituents think in Indiana, West Virginia and North Dakota when they realize Kavanaugh would take away their health care,' said Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. Liberal activists are adamant that Kavanaugh would be a vote against 'Obamacare' on the bench, particularly in a coming case challenging protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But an Associated Press review in July of Kavanaugh's decisions, other writings and speeches provided few clues about how he might rule on the law. Schumer is also increasingly focused on the GOP's refusal to request the release of millions of pages of documents from Kavanaugh's three years as President George W. Bush's staff secretary, which could reveal the nominee's views on touchy subjects like torture of terrorist suspects, abortion and government eavesdropping. With many documents probably remaining secret until after a Senate confirmation vote that could come by Oct. 1, Schumer's subtext for senators backing Kavanaugh is: Beware. 'Those documents will come out eventually and senators will really have egg on their faces if they voted for someone without knowing what was in their record,' said Kristine Lucius, a vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Mindful of November elections in which Democrats have an outside chance of grabbing Senate control, Schumer seems to be giving his red-state senators space to back Kavanaugh if Republicans assure his confirmation by remaining united. It also makes sense because with moderates always trying to show their independence, 'If the leadership tried to twist the arms of redder state senators, it would backfire,' said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Even so, liberals say Schumer is not living up to his promise in July to oppose Kavanaugh 'with everything I've got.' 'It's pretty reprehensible that they haven't voiced their opposition to Kavanaugh already,' said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of Ultraviolet, a liberal women's advocacy group.
  • MTV is launching its first-ever midterm election drive to encourage young people to register and vote, hoping fans make voting a communal effort with their friends. The youth-centric network will first publicize the effort Monday at its annual Video Music Awards being held at Radio City Music Hall. The effort hearkens back to MTV's 'Choose or Lose' campaign when Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992. The interest in social activism this year among its audience convinced MTV to target the issue in a non-presidential election year, said Chris McCarthy, network president. Voter turnout in those years is typically depressed, particularly among young people. MTV designed its campaign around the concept of shared experiences after noting the importance young people place in them, he said. For example, it is working with the Ford Foundation on a mobile unit where people can register, then check whether their friends are registered and encourage them to do so if they aren't. The network is also looking to host some 1,000 parties of different sizes across the country on election day, including larger ones with the participation of yet-to-be-named musicians. 'Voting is important,' McCarthy said. 'It matters. But voting with a friend matters even more.' MTV isn't the cultural force that it once was. But McCarthy has engineered a turnaround in the network's fortunes this past year, betting on reality shows and familiar brands. The network's audience has also aged somewhat, enough so that 86 percent of its typical viewer at any time is 18 or over, or voting age. MTV is only the latest group to commit to turning out the youth vote in November. Liberal activist and billionaire Tom Steyer has promised to spend at least $31 million on voter organization, believed to be the largest campaign ever targeted to young people. Activists seeking gun control legislation are making similar efforts, buoyed by the work of students following the Parkland school shooting in Florida. MTV isn't saying how much it will spend on its campaign, called '+1thevote' in a reference to the phrase for bringing a guest to a concert. While the other groups are clearly invested in trying to change Republican control of Congress, McCarthy said MTV's effort is non-partisan. Still, it is being launched at a time Democrats seem more active and engaged. MTV says its measure of success will be an increase in the percentage of young people voting. During the 2010 midterm election in President Barack Obama's first term, only 18 percent of people aged 18-to-20 voted, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. 'MTV's mission is to engage and entertain and celebrate the spirit of youth — everything from activism to escapism and all the messy stuff in between,' McCarthy said.
  • Melania Trump talked up the importance of teaching children positive cyber habits Monday on the same morning that her husband sent tweets deriding current and former U.S. officials, including one message referring to a former CIA director as a 'political hack.' Asked about the contradictory messages, the first lady's office said in a statement that she 'is aware of the criticism but it will not deter her from doing what she feels is right. The President is proud of her commitment to children and encourages her in all that she does.' Mrs. Trump delivered brief remarks to help open a government-sponsored summit called Federal Partners on Bullying Prevention, encouraging social media and technology companies to provide more opportunities for young people to share ideas for how to be good citizens online. But the split screen of the first lady encouraging children to act a certain way when they see President Donald Trump behaving in the opposite way underscored the challenge Mrs. Trump faces with her 'Be Best' campaign. A key focus is on youth cyberbullying. Mrs. Trump spoke highly of a group of students she recently met who participate in Microsoft's Council for Digital Good. The students provide the computer software maker with ideas and feedback for Microsoft's policy work on youth-centered online safety. She told the summit at the Health Resources and Services Administration building in Rockville how impressed she was by their 'deep understanding of how important it is to be safe' and said she was 'inspired by their sincere commitment to reducing peer-to-peer bullying through kindness and open communication.' 'I encourage technology and social media companies, schools and community groups, to establish more opportunities for children such as Microsoft's Council for Digital Good,' the first lady said. 'By listening to children's ideas and concerns, I believe adults will be better able to help them navigate this often-difficult topic.' 'Let's face it: Most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults, but we still need to do all we can to provide them with information and tools for successful and safe online habits.' After speaking, Mrs. Trump took a seat in the front row and listened as a panel featuring representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute talk about how they're responding to the issue. As the panelists spoke, Trump sent fresh tweets about John Brennan, calling him 'the worst CIA Director in our country's history' and a 'political hack.' Brennan, who led the CIA under President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has been an outspoken critic of Trump, a Republican, over his performance and behavior as president. Trump recently revoked Brennan's security clearance. Trump also tweeted against Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has come under Republican scrutiny for his contacts to Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS. The opposition research firm hired former British spy Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign to compile a dossier on Trump and his Russia ties. Ohr's wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign — and Trump has been tweeting about the connection to highlight his assertions of political bias behind the Russia investigation. Trump tweeted Monday: 'Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions 'Justice' Department? A total joke!' Trump said last week that he was close to revoking Ohr's security clearance, too. The first lady's appearance at the conference came as part of her campaign to help children 'Be Best,' which also includes an emphasis on child well-being overall and opioid addition. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the Health Resources and Services Administration, which sponsored the conference and which his department oversees, began an anti-bullying campaign in 2001 to help raise awareness. He said one in five children experience bullying, and that 16 percent of children currently are victims of cyberbullying. 'We need to recognize that bullying is bullying wherever it occurs,' Azar said. 'And we need to stop it.' The conference also heard from Joseph Grunwald, who described his experiences being bullied during middle and high school. Grunwald said the bullying started as taunts on the school bus and grew into physical harassment by high school, including violence. He did not go into detail. As the same time, he said he was also being harassed on social media. 'Because the bullying was also online, I couldn't escape it, no matter where I was,' Grunwald said. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • Steve Bannon has a dire warning for Republicans — rally around President Donald Trump. During a Sunday interview with The Associated Press, the former chief strategist to Trump said he believes the GOP would lose 35 to 40 seats in the House if the election were held today, thereby ceding their majority to Democrats he's convinced will pursue impeachment. He argued there's still time to turn that around and is launching a group, Citizens of the American Republic, to pitch the election as a vote to protect Trump from that outcome. 'You can't look at this as a midterm and you can't run it out of the traditional Republican playbook. If you do that, you're going to get smoked,' said Bannon, arguing that Republicans must redouble efforts against motivated Democrats. The effort is a test of Bannon's sway in the GOP a year after he was fired from his White House post. His relationship with Trump soured after a tell-all book published in January included searing quotes of Bannon portraying Trump as undisciplined and criticizing son Donald Trump Jr. His stock fell further after he stuck by Alabama Republican Roy Moore's Senate campaign even after decades-old sexual misconduct allegations emerged. A reliably Republican Senate seat turned Democratic. As he attempts a comeback, Bannon acknowledged the challenges he faces, including an invigorated Democratic base. Less than three months from Election Day, Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake the House, and the party is increasingly bullish about its chances after strong turnout in a series of special elections. Bannon said Republicans can gain ground if they focus on turning out Trump supporters. 'This is not about persuasion. It's too late to persuade anybody. We're 90 days away from this election. This is all about turnout and what I call base-plus,' he said. While Bannon makes his move, many Republicans view holding the House as an uphill battle. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bannon said his new venture will focus on rapid response and polling with the goal of framing the election as an 'up or down vote' on Trump and impeachment. He is also releasing a movie about the president, 'Trump@War,' geared at Trump supporters. Bannon said he was being backed by private donors, but he did not detail who was funding the effort or how much he had raised. He said his efforts were independent of the Republican National Committee, the White House or a Trump-supporting super PAC. In keeping with his midterm mission, Bannon defended the president on both policy and style, arguing that the president had an economic record to run on and has been making the right pitch on the campaign trail. On trade, Bannon backed the president's aggressive tariffs, which have drawn criticism in agricultural states crucial to Trump's victory. He argued they were a key part of Trump's nationalistic economic strategy. 'People in Iowa, once it's explained to them, will fully support the president in this,' he said. 'We don't have a choice. We either win the economic war with China or we're going to be a secondary, a tertiary power.' He said Trump's culture wars, which have included public attacks on women and minorities, don't present a problem, calling it his 'house style' and saying people should 'separate out the signal from the noise.' He argued that Trump would benefit from shutting down the government over funding for his border wall, saying it would 'galvanize the populist right,' though he acknowledged it was a minority view. Bannon also pushed back against the idea that a loss of the House could be a positive development for Trump as it would give him a new foil heading into the 2020 presidential election. He called such notions 'dangerously naive.' Looking ahead to 2020, Bannon said attorney Michael Avenatti, who is weighing a bid as a Democratic candidate, could be a contender. The combative attorney has been taking on Trump on behalf of a porn actress who claims a sexual encounter with the president, which Trump denies. 'He's a fighter and people are looking for fighters,' Bannon said of Avenatti, though he believes Trump would defeat any opponent. 'He's going to be a force in the primary for the simple reason that he comes across as what many of the Democrats don't, which is a fighter.
  • President Donald Trump on Monday dared former CIA Director John Brennan to take legal action to try to prevent him from stripping security clearances from other current and former officials. 'I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country's history, brings a lawsuit,' Trump tweeted. 'It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with' the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. 'He won't sue!' The war of words between Trump and Brennan continued as scores more former U.S. national security employees joined a wave of opposition to the president's threat to continue pulling clearances. To date, more than 250 have publicly expressed opposition. Speaking Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' Brennan said he's been contacted by a number of lawyers about the possibility of an injunction in the wake of Trump's move to revoke his clearance and threaten nine others who have been critical of the president or are connected to Mueller's investigation, which Trump has called witch hunt. 'If my clearances and my reputation as I'm being pulled through the mud now, if that's the price we're going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it's a small price to pay,' Brennan said. 'So I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future. And if it means going to court, I will do that.' Brennan, who served in President Barack Obama's administration, said that while he'll fight on behalf of his former CIA colleagues, it's also up to Congress to put aside politics and step in. 'This is the time that your country is going to rely on you, not to do what is best for your party but what is best for the country,' he said. Trump yanked Brennan's security clearance on Wednesday, saying he felt he had to do 'something' about the 'rigged' probe of Russian election interference. And he has said he may do the same for nine others, including a Justice Department official whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing a dossier on Trump's ties to Russia. Soon after, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden called Trump's moves 'McCarthy-era tactics.' Writing in The Washington Post, William H. McRaven said he would 'consider it an honor' if Trump would revoke his clearance, as well. That was followed by a joint letter from 15 former senior intelligence officials, who said the president's decision had 'nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.' The signees included seven former CIA directors, six former CIA deputy directors and two former national intelligence directors, James Clapper and retired Navy Adm. Denny Blair. A day later, 60 former senior CIA officials added their names. This past weekend, the organizers of the initial messages were inundated with more than 175 additional requests to sign on to the opposition, not only from people who have worked in intelligence, but also senior officials who had worked at the State, Defense and Justice departments, the National Security Council and NASA. They issued a letter of their own on Monday. 'Everybody wants to keep their Security Clearance, it's worth great prestige and big dollars, even board seats, and that is why certain people are coming forward to protect Brennan,' Trump said in another tweet Monday. 'It certainly isn't because of the good job he did! He is a political 'hack.' Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Obama, likened it to President Richard Nixon's use of a political enemies list. Mullen told 'Fox News Sunday' that while he doesn't agree with Brennan's decision to criticize the president, the former CIA director has the right to freedom of speech unless he's revealing classified information. 'It immediately brings back the whole concept of the enemies list,' Mullen said, 'and even before that, in the early '50s, the McCarthy era, where the administration starts putting together lists of individuals that don't agree with them and that historically, obviously, has proven incredibly problematic for the country.' Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin agreed with Trump that Brennan's comments 'really did cross a line.' But, he said, rather than pulling officials' security clearances, Trump should avoid politicizing the issue and simply deny them access to classified material. 'I don't want to see an enemies list,' he said. ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin reporting from Bridgewater, N.J., and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report
  • President Donald Trump pressed his criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday, accusing Mueller's team of 'enjoying ruining people's lives' and 'looking to impact the election.' Trump's tweets followed a New York Times report that the White House general counsel, Don McGahn, has been cooperating extensively with the special counsel team investigating Russian election meddling and potential collusion with Trump's Republican campaign. Over the weekend, Trump insisted his general counsel isn't a 'RAT' like President Richard Nixon's and accused Mueller's team of 'looking for trouble.' He contrasted McGahn with John Dean, the White House counsel for Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Dean ultimately cooperated with prosecutors and helped bring down the Nixon presidency in 1974, though he served a prison term for obstruction of justice. 'The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type 'RAT,'' Trump wrote Sunday, misspelling 'counsel.' 'But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide ...' he wrote. On Monday he called Mueller 'disgraced and discredited.' 'Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone looking for trouble,' he wrote. 'They are enjoying ruining people's lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side - the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more!' Dean, Nixon's White House counsel and a frequent critic of Trump, tweeted Sunday that he doubts the president has 'ANY IDEA what McGahn has told Mueller. Also, Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors, b/c I told him. However, he didn't think I would tell them the truth!' Trump's original legal team had encouraged McGahn and other White House officials to cooperate with Mueller, and McGahn spent hours in interviews. Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in an appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that Trump didn't raise executive privilege or attorney-client privilege during those interviews because his team believed — he says now, wrongly — that fully participating would be the fastest way to bring the investigation to a close. 'The president encouraged him to testify, is happy that he did, is quite secure that there is nothing in the testimony that will hurt the president,' Giuliani said. McGahn's attorney William Burck added in a statement: 'President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn's testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the Special Counsel team's questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must.' Giuliani, in his interview, also acknowledged that the reason for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer, arranged by Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., was that they had been promised dirt on Trump's 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. 'The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about Clinton,' he said, adding that the Trump team didn't know that Natalia Veselnitskaya was Russian — even though emails later released by Trump Jr. show that she had been described as a 'Russian government attorney.' Giuliani also tried to make the case that having Trump sit down for an interview with Mueller's team wouldn't accomplish much because of the he-said-she-said nature of witnesses' recollections. 'It's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth,' he said, telling NBC: 'Truth isn't truth.

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  • The body of a woman who went missing while kayaking on a Troup County lake has been found. Someone called sheriff’s officials about 9 a.m. Monday to say they saw a body in the water, authorities said. Just after noon, the sheriff’s office confirmed the body was that of Maranda Whitten, 24, of Valley, Ala.  “The search for Maranda Whitten has unfortunately been suspended,” sheriff’s Sgt. Stewart Smith said in an emailed statement. “Maranda was found earlier this morning, a victim of an apparent drowning. As standard procedure her body will be sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be Maranda’s family. We appreciate all those who have gave of their time and resources during this time.” Whitten’s body was found with an extension cord, which was missing from the campground, tied to her ankles, then tied to a large rock, he said. Her death is being treated as a suicide, according to Smith. Whitten was last seen Friday. Officials said she was on a family camping trip at Shaefer Heard Park when she disappeared while kayaking on West Point Lake, which is about 82 miles southwest of downtown Atlanta.  “Around 12:30 p.m., some campers saw her kayaking out in the water and shortly after that, a storm came through and around 2:30 her kayak was seen floating into the water with the paddle and the life jacket,' Smith said. Investigators from the sheriff's office, several other agencies and some civilian volunteers searched Saturday and Sunday for Whitten.
  • Fans swarmed the Varsity’s Midtown restaurant Saturday to get 90-cent deals on the iconic chili-dog chain’s 90th anniversary. It was an all-hands-on-deck day for the North Avenue landmark: Members of the family that owns the restaurant directed traffic in the jammed parking lot and had to turn away the overflow. But the family faces bigger tests for the business. One is how to grow it. The other is more basic. “We want the brand to survive all of our generations,” said John Browne, the Varsity’s vice president and husband of one of Varsity founder Frank Gordy’s grandchildren. Another of Gordy’s grandchildren, Gordon Muir, is the Varsity’s president, and a great-grandchild, Ashley Weiser, oversees the chain’s marketing. “We are on generation four,” Browne said. “We are studying how to make this last through generation 10.” » RELATED: Growing up in Athens, the Varsity’s other hometown » RELATED: Photos of the Varsity through the years » RELATED: Podcast makes a visit to the Varsity Some decisions are taking longer than expected. They’ve been contemplating opening a restaurant in Winder for about five years. They’ve considered another in Auburn, Alabama, for maybe a decade. More recently they bought nearly the entire block around their Athens restaurant at the corner of Broad Street and Milledge Avenue and tore down buildings of other businesses that had been there. What will they ultimately use the land for? “We don’t know that yet,” Browne said. “Right now we are planting grass.” “This family is a generational investor,” he said. “We have learned we are better at purchasing and owning land, not developing it. We are just worn-out old hot dog men.” The Varsity, which opened in 1928, is owned by the founder’s daughter and her two surviving biological children. But a bigger group of family members — 22 in all — are convening for a retreat in September to discuss the family business. They had a somewhat similar gathering earlier this year, and they’ve hired a family business consultant to help them as they think about the future of the company. More than two years ago they brought in a consultant to help them survey customers and contemplate potential future restaurant locations.  But they haven’t opened a new stand-alone restaurant since locating one in Dawsonville several years ago. (They also closed one in Alpharetta.) » RELATED: Photo gallery from Saturday’s birthday bash One part of the business will remain constant, Browne said. “We are not changing anything as far as the food.” That continues to be a draw. So does generational customer loyalty, passed down from parents to children. That and 90-cent prices Saturday attracted big crowds to the intown Varsity near Georgia Tech. Hundreds of people stood outside in lines that snaked through the parking lot. One woman said she waited 40 minutes just to get to the threshold of one of the restaurant’s entrances. Cars were backed up along Spring Street. “I’ve been here 33 years,” said Gordon Muir, The Varsity’s president, “and I’ve never seen a line out the door and to the sidewalk.” Another first, he said: They repeatedly had to turn drivers away from the packed parking lot. A vintage firetruck that was part of the planned party had to be turned away initially; there was no room for it. Some customers put in giant orders: 150 to 200 hot dogs each, Muir said. All the Varsity’s stand-alone locations were “very busy,” he said. Pam Aiken made the trek to Midtown from her home in Snellville. “I’ve been coming here since birth almost,” said the 72-year-old, who grew up in Atlanta. It was a top spot as a teenager after movies. Carhops, she said, would jump on the hoods or trunks of customers’ cars and ride them in. The food, Aiken said, “is an acquired taste.” She planned to order her usual: chili steak, onion rings or fries and a P.C. (a cup of plain chocolate milk drizzled over shaved ice, according to The Varsity’s unique lingo). Sonya Ferguson, 59, of Decatur remembered her dad bringing her Varsity meals as a child. She came back Saturday for more. She said she isn’t sure the family who owns The Varsity really wants it to get much bigger, given the potential risks for any business making dramatic changes. Perhaps, she said, “they like it just the way it is.” »THE ACCESSATLANTA PODCAST GOES TO THE VARSITY  At ajc.com/podcasts, check out our weekly accessAtlanta podcast’s visit to the Varsity in advance of the 90th anniversary celebration. Hear interviews with staff and customers and get the story of the beloved fast-food spot’s past, present and future from president Gordon Muir.
  • A firefighter died last week from falling tree debris after thousands of gallons of retardant were dropped on the area where he was helping battle California's largest-ever wildfire, according to a preliminary report from investigators. The summary report by California fire officials says Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett was struck by debris on Aug. 13 at the Mendocino Complex Fire. Three other firefighters had minor injuries. Funeral services for the 42-year-old Burchett were held Monday in his home state of Utah. He is survived by a wife and 7-year-old son. The two-paragraph summary calls for an immediate corrective action, saying firefighters must remain clear of areas with overhead hazards during a retardant drop. Paul Grenier, a spokesman for California's firefighting agency, said he couldn't provide more details because the investigation is continuing. That includes disclosing the type of aircraft involved, why the four firefighters were underneath, or even if all four firefighters were from the same unit. 'Eventually that information will be released,' he said, but perhaps not for weeks. 'They're going to get their i's dotted and their t's crossed.' Cliff Allen, president of the union representing state wildland firefighters, said he understood investigators were still conducting interviews, but said fire supervisors should have made sure the firefighters were well clear of the drop zone. 'Operations will contact air attack and say 'We want to concentrate drops in this area of the fire,'' he said. 'It's the job between air attack and operations to make sure the area is clear of personnel or that it's clearly marked where personnel are on the ground.' There also could have been a radio miscommunication or the crew may not have heard or chose to ignore the radio warning, he said, though that's part of what's being investigated. He cautioned that it's not clear from the preliminary report whether the tree was weakened from the fire or from the retardant drop, or if the firefighters were hit by fire retardant slurry, which is a mixture of water, fertilizer and red dye. 'Anytime you're working in trees, you have trees that are fire weakened, then strong winds or water or retardant drops could potentially cause them to fall and possibly injure folks,' he said. 'It's often referred to as 'widow makers.'' Modified DC-10s can drop 12,000 gallons (45,424 liters) of slurry, 12 times the amount carried by the standard smaller air tanker used by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It can lay a swath of fire retardant as wide as a football field for as long as a mile. CalFire says the modified 747 can drop 24,000 gallons, double that of the DC-10. It uses a system that can release the slurry under pressure or as gently as falling rain from an altitude as low as 400 feet (122 meters). Lead planes guide in the huge aircraft, showing them where to go and when to start and stop slurry drops.
  • New Zealand’s minister for women rode her bicycle “mostly downhill” to a hospital Sunday to give birth, The New York Times reported. >> Read more trending news  Julie Anne Genter, 38, who is also associate minister for health and transport, posted pictures on social media of herself and her partner, Peter Nunns, enjoying a “beautiful Sunday morning” ride to the hospital, the Times reported. “There wasn’t enough room in the car for the support crew. ... but it also put me in the best possible mood!” Genter wrote on Instagram. Genter, who is 42 weeks pregnant, will become the second government official in New Zealand to give birth this year. Prime Minister Jacinda Aldern gave birth in June, the Times reported. Genter, who was expecting her first child, was scheduled to be induced at an Auckland hospital, the newspaper reported. Genter, who grew up in Los Angeles, emigrated to New Zealand in 2006. She has had two miscarriages, the NZ Herald reported. She is expected to take three months off from Parliament before returning to her post in November, the newspaper reported.
  • Two people are dead after rip currents forced several rescues at a New Hampshire beach. >> Read more trending news  Seven swimmers were pulled from the water at Seabrook Beach, near 131 Ocean Drive, just after 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Seabrook Police said two of the people were unconscious when they were brought to shore. The beach does not have lifeguards, but lifeguards from nearby Hampton Beach helped pull a man from the water around 12:59 p.m. He was transported to the hospital where he later died. New Hampshire State Police have not released his identity, but said the victim is a 49-year-old Methuen man. 'They were probably three-quarters of a mile out from what I could see,' Rich Ferrara said. 'Pretty intense.' A 47-year-old woman was transported to the Seabrook Emergency Room and was pronounced dead Monday morning. Officials said the two were married. 'I've never seen anything like that, where so many people were in trouble,' Ferrara said Seabrook Police said an officer helped several of the people to shore before helping in the search for the last person, who was unaccounted for at the time. 'One of the police arrived and stripped down, took off his gun belt,' Ferrara said. 'He dove into the water and started swimming out because there were people screaming that there were girls missing.' >> Trending: 14-year-old surfer bitten by shark off North Carolina coast The officer was one of the first to jump in, helping to bring everyone involved to shore. 'He pulled a woman in, she wasn't breathing when he finally got her in,' Linda Farrell said. The Seabrook Fire Department, along with Seabrook Beach Patrol were the main responding agencies in the incident.
  • A Utah woman wasn’t going to let the man she said was trying to record her daughter who trying on clothes in a store’s changing room get away. Police said the woman chased down Jorge Leon-Alfara after witnesses said the 36-year-old man was trying to record the woman’s daughter from a changing room next to the teen at a Rue 21 in Salt Lake City, KSTU reported. The mother recorded the man, and the comments she made to him, as they waited for police.  The woman called him a predator, saying, “This right here is what a predator looks like. I caught this guy underneath my daughter’s stall while she was changing at Rue 21.” She warned Leon-Alfara that she was going to make sure people knew what she said he did, KSTU reported. “Not today, buddy Not today,” the mother said. “I’m going to make sure your face gets out, so that you’re not in any more stalls, looking under little girls dressing.”  The video was uploaded to Facebook where it has been watched millions of times.  Police attribute people being aware of what was happening for being able to arrest Leon-Alfaro who now faces felony charges of voyeurism of a child under 14, KSTU reported. >> Read more trending news