Big news this week was James Comey’s testimony with the Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump’s plan to return to a confiscated Russian diplomatic compound on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and closed door Senate meetings on repealing the ACA.
- On Thursday, former FBI director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he believes that President Trump fired him to change the course of the Russia investigation.
- Senator Cardin called Comey’s testimony “disturbing,” and told NPR’s Morning Edition that special counsel Robert Mueller will have to consider whether Comey’s account proves that President Trump obstructed justice.
- Senator Van Hollen said that President Trump “abused his power and certainly crossed a line we don’t expect presidents to cross.”
Other Russia-related news
- The Trump administration is taking steps to hand back to Russia two diplomatic compounds – one on Maryland’s Eastern Shore – that President Obama closed as punishment for Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Senator Van Hollen joined several other senators in condemning the move as unjustifiable.
- Meanwhile, the Senate is inching closer to a vote on additional sanctions on Russia. Senator Cardin told reporters this week that senators haven’t reached a consensus and are still sorting out provisions from different bills already introduced.
- Senator Van Hollen joined other Senate Democrats this week in criticizing tax breaks in the House Republicans’ legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Meanwhile, Republicans are reportedly undermining the current operation of the Affordable Care Act to bolster their argument that the current law is falling apart.
- In the Senate, an all-male group of thirteen Republicans continues its closed-door meetings to draft a Senate response to the House legislation. But the GOP faces at least four big hurdles, according to NPR.
Privatizing air traffic control
President Trump endorsed a decades-old proposal to privatize air traffic control, an idea that Senator Cardin said would cause “irreparable harm to the safety of America’s skies, the security of the communities they serve, and our nation’s economy at every level.”
While the president blames Senate Democrats for “slow-walking” his nominees, the Associated Press reports that the president is, in fact, to blame: he lags his predecessors in naming candidates for key government posts. Senator Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says only five would-be ambassadors are awaiting action out of dozen of slots to be filled. He blames the president’s “lack of nominations.”
Paris climate agreement
- Congressman Ruppersberger (MD-2) issues a statement on Paris climate agreement
Congressman Sarbanes (MD-3) speaks on Trump administration’s plans to return two diplomatic compounds (used for Russian intelligence) in the U.S. to Russian control; also comments on infrastructure
House Oversight Committee to get new Chairman
- Congressman Trey Gowdy to become Chairman of House Oversight Committee; vote is Tuesday; he will be in a position to help probe the circumstances behind President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey
- Gowdy was formerly Chairman of the now-disbanded committee to investigate the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya