Planned Parenthood has expressed alarm that it would lose millions of dollars under the changes, affecting millions of patients.
The source is now at the center of a battle that has pitted President Trump against his own Justice Department.
Five former Justice Department officials who served both Republicans and Democrats are coming to the aide of President Donald Trump’s long-stalled nominee to head the DOJ’s Criminal Division, amid Democratic questions about his work for a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin.
In a letter to the top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, five former leaders of the Criminal Division — including three Obama appointees — vouched for Brian Benczkowski’s integrity.
“Each of us is familiar with Mr. Benczkowski, either through our work with him at the Department of Justice, in private practice, or in other ways,” the former DOJ officials wrote to committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein. “We know him to be someone who is smart, fair, honest, and a tireless worker. Importantly, he respects the role of the Justice Department and will work hard to protect the integrity and independence of this important institution.”
The signers of the letter include Michael Chertoff, who went on to become the homeland security secretary in President George W. Bush’s cabinet, as well as Alice Fisher, who held the Criminal Division chief role during Bush’s second term. But most notable are the three Obama administration officials who held the post: Leslie Caldwell, Mythili Raman and Lanny Breuer.
Benczkowski, nominated by Trump last June, has faced stiff headwinds from Democrats on the panel given his ties to Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution that has faced scrutiny during the FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Benczkowski represented the bank while in private practice at the firm Kirkland & Ellis. Democrats portrayed his nomination as part of an effort to undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing Russia probe.
“Benczkowski nomination must be seen for what it is — the latest piece of a sustained, coordinated effort to undercut the Special Counsel’s credibility,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tweeted in January. “My colleagues should put country before party and vote NO.”
Feinstein was among the committee members to raise questions about his nomination, along with Sens. Kamala Harris, Patrick Leahy, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Coons, Mazie Hirono and Cory Booker.
But their opposition will now be tested by the support of the Obama appointees.
“We write … to express our collective view that Brian Benczkowski is well qualified to serve in this important position by virtue of his professional experience, temperament, and integrity,” the former officials said.
They noted his experience both in the criminal division as well as in other Justice Department roles and suggested that his wide-ranging experience would benefit the department. The letter made no mention of his previous role with Alfa Bank.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s probe, has also supported his nomination.
The informant made contact in the summer of 2016 with Trump campaign advisers who were already under scrutiny for ties to Russia.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warned Friday that his colleagues could be committing a crime if they obtain the identity of a secret FBI source and use it to undermine the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) raised the alarm in a Friday evening statement, as Republican allies of President Donald Trump have pressed the Justice Department for details about a source believed to have aided the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump campaign contacts with Russians.
“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election,” Warner said. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves.”
Trump raised questions about a potential FBI informant inside his campaign in a Friday tweet. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” he said, adding, “If true – all time biggest political scandal!”
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani later clarified that neither he nor the president are aware if the story is true, but the notion of an informant inside the campaign has been the subject of recent news reports and has led Trump allies to claim the campaign was inappropriately surveilled.
The Justice Department recently denied a request by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes for details pertaining to the unidentified source, claiming it would risk national security and potentially endanger lives. Nunes and his allies have dismissed those claims and suggested they’re not interested in the source’s identity but details about the source’s role in the probe.
Nunes, joined by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), traveled to the Justice Department last week for a briefing on top officials’ concerns about providing more information. However, it’s unclear if an accord has been reached.
FBI Director Christopher Wray offered a warning to Congress this week as well, telling the Senate Appropriations Committee that “The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.”
Warner echoed that sentiment Friday.
“The first thing any new member of the Intelligence Committee learns is the critical importance of protecting sources and methods,” he said. “Publicly outing a source risks not only their life, but the lives of every American, because when sources are burned it makes it that much harder for every part of the intelligence community to gather intelligence on those who wish to do us harm.”
The Trump administration’s proposal to bar certain federal funds from abortion providers has raised complicated questions about reproductive health care.
On Friday, the fighting centered on the question of whether Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, could formally enter the case.
(Reuters) – Missouri legislators convened on Friday to weigh the possible impeachment of Governor Eric Greitens, who has been embroiled in separate sex and fundraising scandals that have led to mounting pressure for his resignation.
Hilton announced that he was leaving CrowdPAC, which he founded in 2014, after his talks on Trumpism on his Fox show affected the PAC.
Robert Wilkie has experience in Washington, having held high-level posts in the Defense Department and worked on senators’ staffs.