The holiday season officially ended on Tuesday morning, but official Washington is really getting back to work today, with two new senators being sworn in and congressional leaders trying again to cut a spending deal that would keep the federal government operating for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year.
New Sens. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat who won a fiercely contested special election last month, and Tina Smith, a Democrat appointed by Minnesota’s governor as at least a temporary replacement for resigned Sen. Al Franken, will take the oath of office at midday. Because Jones takes a seat previously held by Republicans Jeff Sessions and Luther Strange, his victory will reduce the Senate’s Republican majority to 51-49.
And, of course, there is more intrigue in the ongoing investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.
Steve Bannon, who until last summer was the White House’s chief political strategist, is being quoted this morning as describing as “treasonous” an August 2106 meeting between a Russian lawyer and senior leaders of the Trump for President campaign. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., the meeting’s organizer, will “crack… like an egg” under pressure from federal investigators,” Bannon told author Michael Wolff.
Meanwhile, the founders of a research firm that commissioned an explosive dossier on President Trump’s business dealings in Russia are calling on Republican and Democratic leaders to release transcripts of their closed-door testimony to congressional committees last summer.
Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the ex-journalists who founded and run Fusion GPS, penned a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday that accused the Trump administration and its GOP allies of attempting to smear them and their firm.
The president has attacked them on Twitter, the men wrote, and “his allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.
“We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have,” the pair asserted. In 21 hours of closed-door testimony to House and Senate committees, they and their firm “toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories about their work,” the men wrote.
“The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation,” they added.
Fusion GPS was hired in 2015 by the Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing website, to develop background information on Trump and several other Republican presidential hopefuls. As Trump emerged as the leading GOP contender, the Free Beach ended its research and Fusion was hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign to continue the inquiry.
Fusion in turn contracted with Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, who developed a dossier alleging that Russian intelligence services had obtained embarrassing information about Trump and evidence of the Russian government’s work to aid the Trump campaign.
Two senior Republican senators, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa, and Orrin Hatch of Utah, told reporters months ago that they expect the Fusion testimony to be made public; it remains secret however.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections