House Ethics Committee clears intel chairman Nunes
The House Ethics Committee on Thursday cleared the chairman of the House intelligence committee on a complaint that he may have leaked classified information, paving the way for Rep. Devin Nunes to again lead his panel’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The Ethics Committee said in a brief statement that it determined Nunes, a California Republican, did not release classified material while talking about information he had received on a clandestine trip to the White House in April. Nunes had stepped aside from the Russia probe pending the ethics investigation and amid criticism that he was too close to the White House.
If Nunes were to return to the investigation, it would put a close ally of President Donald Trump at the head of one of the congressional investigations into whether Russia coordinated with his campaign. Nunes was part of Trump’s transition team after the election and questioned suggestions of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
FBI chief defends agency against attacks
Countering strident attacks on his agency from the president who appointed him, FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday defended the tens of thousands of people who work with him and declared, “There is no finer institution, and no finer people, than the men and women who work there and are its very beating heart.”
Wray provided his first public defense of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency since a weekend of Twitter attacks by President Trump, who called the FBI a biased institution whose reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” and urged Wray to “clean house.”
The outburst from the president followed a guilty plea from his former national security adviser for lying to the FBI and the revelation that an agent had been removed from a special team investigating the Trump campaign because of text messages seen as potentially anti-Trump.
Wray, who served as a top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush and was nominated as FBI director by Trump, has faced Republican criticism over perceived political bias in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential election and in the handling a year earlier of an FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server that ended without criminal charges.
EPA leader denies sidelining science
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said Thursday that his proposed regulatory rollbacks and other policies are grounded in science, dismissing criticisms that he is sidelining experts in a push to appease industries.
Pruitt defended his approach during his first appearance before a House oversight subcommittee responsible for environmental issues. The former Oklahoma attorney general said science is central to ongoing reviews of pollutants, toxic waste cleanups and other actions.
“It is a matter of priority to make sure that we have scientific rules at the agency that are objective, transparent and peer reviewed and that’s a commitment we are enforcing at the agency,” said Pruitt, a Republican.
Committee Democrats grilled Pruitt over what ranking member Frank Pallone of New Jersey called an “unprecedented assault on independent science” by purging academic experts from federal advisory boards and replacing them with industry representatives.
White House: Trump’s throat ‘was dry’
The White House said the president’s throat was merely dry when he seemed to slur his words during a Wednesday address.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to internet speculation about President Trump’s seemingly slurred words, saying Thursday, “The president’s throat was dry — nothing more than that.”
Trump noticeably mispronounced “states,” when concluding an address to the nation on his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The moment was quickly shared online, and prompted speculation about the 71-year-old president’s health.
Sanders also said Trump will undergo the customary presidential physical in early 2018 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. rogacy. Franks and his wife, who have struggled with infertility, have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy.
Franks, 60, says he had become familiar with the surrogacy process in recent years and “became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.”
He said he regrets that his “discussion of this option and process in the workplace” with two female staffers made them feel uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee said Thursday it is expanding its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Blake Farenthold, RTexas.
The committee said it will investigate whether Farenthold sexually harassed a former member of his staff and retaliated against her for complaining. The committee also said the panel would review allegations that Farenthold made inappropriate statements to other members of his official staff.
Lauren Greene is a former communications director in the congressman’s office.
She alleged in a 2014 federal lawsuit that she was sexually harassed and fired soon after complaining of a hostile work environment. Farenthold said when the case was settled in 2015 that he didn’t engage in any wrongdoing.
The committee had already been conducting a discretionary review of the matter and has examined more than 200,000 pages of materials and interviewed multiple witnesses.
However, a press release announcing the subcommittee’s formation said the resolution of the case had been significantly delayed by difficulties in obtaining testimony from key witnesses and in accessing confidential documents the parties exchanged as the lawsuit was ongoing.