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Fran?ois Fillon fights growing ‘Penelopegate’ scandal

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PARIS – Francois Fillon’s campaign to turn into French president is losing altitude.

On Thursday, aides on the former prime minister rushed to have a growing scandal over reports that Fillon’s British wife completed generously paid operate in parliament for some time without really performing.

After an economic prosecutor opened an initial investigation, top backers vowed they will prove his innocence. Bruno Retailleau, Fillon’s?campaign coordinator, promised that evidence would prove rapidly that Penelope Fillon had indeed done the project that she was paid 500,000 over eight years.?The judicial probe could are months, dogging Fillon all over the the majority of the campaign.

“As soon because the [financial prosecutor’s] offices are open, Francois Fillon’s lawyer will go there using a certain amount of bits of evidence,” Retailleau, a senator, told Europe 1 radio early Thursday, without specifying the of the evidence.

Conservative allies also rushed to shield Fillon, whose poll scores have slipped up to now month but who remains favorite to win the presidential election in May. Valerie Pecresse, an ancient budget minister in Fillon’s government, attacked the timing of your investigation, launched 90 days before a presidential election. She hinted that it was politically motivated. “I’ve never witnessed a court investigate so rapidly on the basis of a newspaper report – the speed is astonishing,” she told RTL.

Crisis communications

After staying silent for the very best component of a couple of days – save for describing?the allegations as “sexist” – Fillon made television?Thursday night to insist his wife tried real improve him since then he was elected to parliament three decades ago.

“She has edited my speeches, stood in for me at events as soon as i couldn’t be there, done newspaper reviews,” he stated, adding that proof could well be made available to the public prosecutor.

    Fillon said his wife had worked pro bono for him until 1997, when among his parliamentary aides resigned and then paid her from?his MP’s payroll.

    Critics assailed the “misogyny” defense as awkward and near the point. Instead of dousing a media blaze, it just sharpened focus on independent reports disputing the bona fides of Penelope Fillon’s parliamentary job.

    In l’Obs magazine, a longtime parliamentary journalist wrote that they never saw Penelope Fillon at the job in the chamber. His testimony echoed that relating to an MP’s assistant who was simply that will share duties with Fillon’s wife, but told Le Canard Enchaine she?was not ever around.

    “None individuals has any memory of ever encountering her [Penelope Fillon] in the Palais Bourbon [National Assembly], not just through the buffet at the reception,” wrote Olivier Picard in l’Obs.

    Fillon have not denied having paid his wife for parliament work, that he said was legal. In this particular sense he will be correct, as no rules prohibit MP hiring spouses or relations, a practice that is certainly fairly common.

    However, neglecting to perform a project for what design pays is illegal, additionally, the practice of doing so contains a long history among France’s right-wing politicians. Former president Jacques Chirac, under whom Fillon served like a minister, was dogged for years by allegations that as mayor of Paris he or she paid dozens of people doing work in “fictional jobs,” as being the practice may be known in France. Chirac was never found guilty of any crime, but his heavily covered trial made the notion familiar to an incredible number of French those who recognize it now from the “PenelopeGate” scandal.

    Nice work if you possibly can get it

    Beyond the strictly legal risk, we have a political minefield awaiting Fillon. Having campaigned, very successfully, on promises to rein in public places spending and shock the French economy into recovery, as a result faces accusations of hypocrisy, wanton using of institutional privilege and being disconnected from regular people.

    Penelope Fillon’s reported earnings contrast sharply with France’s median monthly gross income of approximately 2,250. For blue-collar workers, the figure is all about 1,700.

    Fillon’s political rivals – particularly Marine Le Pen, who may be widely expected to go up against him inside of a run-off opt for france presidency – will never let this type of opportunity be wasted.

    Macron may even see an opportunity to steal Fillon voters, selling himself as fiscally responsible as well as ethically clean.

    For now, the nation’s Front president goes easy on the conservative candidate, her closest rival to your presidency. She may not choose to draw attention to the reality that she and several other National Front MEPs they are under investigation for misuse of parliamentary assistants?along at the European Parliament – an incident that sounds as being similar to Fillon’s.

    But Le Pen, who’s got positioned herself as a champion of blue-collar workers, does not need to carry on the attack for Fillon’s case to function to her advantage.

    Another potential winner is Emmanuel Macron. The 39-year-old former minister was doing Fillon in polls before the PenelopeGate scandal broke, largely due to the scarcity of a center-left candidate in the race. (The last round on the Socialist Party’s primary is born Sunday, with left-winger Benoit Hamon required to clinch the nomination.) Now, Macron may even see a chance to steal Fillon voters, selling himself as fiscally responsible and even ethically clean.

    Fillon will have to formulate some convincing answers soon to receive his campaign back to normal.

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    Cummings hospitalized as wife suspends campaign for governor

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    Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is currently hospitalized after a task to drain an infection, three sources told POLITICO, the most up-to-date setback inside of a string of medical issues which have plagued the longtime lawmaker since a year ago.

    Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a Democratic policy consultant, suspended her gubernatorial bid in Maryland on Friday, shortly before news surfaced that her husband is at the hospital.

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    Soon after POLITICO first reported his hospitalization, Cummings\’ office released an argument saying his health problems were associated with a bacterial infection in the knee.

    "Doctors drained the infection in the minor procedure today. He\’s resting comfortably and expects the full recovery," his office said Friday.

    Cummings was hospitalized and sidelined for a lot of months not too long ago due to heart issues.

    In a press release announcing wants to suspend her campaign, Rockeymoore Cummings cited personal issues but wouldn\’t elaborate.

    \”Making an attractive and direct contribution towards state of Maryland also to our nation was my greatest motivating factor for getting into the public arena. Unfortunately, caused by personal considerations, We\’re suspending my bid for governor of Maryland,\” she said within an email to supporters.

    Multiple sources said Rockeymoore Cummings\’ decision to leave out the race was linked to her husband\’s health concerns. Democratic aides said Cummings was moving slowly ahead of the Christmas break.

    Cummings, 66, was hospitalized last May after what his office described back then as a \”minimally invasive\” heart valve replacement. He was scheduled to revisit work after that but ended up missing many months a result of a post-op infection that kept him clear of Capitol Hill until September.

    Upon his return, Cummings was noticeably slimmer and said he\’d have got to sustain a stricter diet and acquire more sleep. But he brushed aside any notion that he or she wasn\’t competent to fully perform his job.

    Cummings has represented his hometown Baltimore inside your home since 1996. He or she is well-liked and revered among all parties, even while he\’s sparred with Republicans over contentious issues for the reason that top Democrat over the House Oversight Committee.

    Rockeymoore Cummings was one among nine Democrats vying to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. She was endorsed by EMILY\’s List after she jumped within the race in October. But Rep. Cummings was the gubernatorial candidate\’s biggest single surrogate both publicly plus regards to fundraising. The congressman was listed as being a headliner a great upcoming fundraiser for Rockeymoore Cummings on Sunday.

    Despite the support with the prominent Democratic congressman, Rockeymoore Cummings wasn\’t the irrefutable front-runner however. At the beginning of polling of your Democratic primary, she trailed candidates including former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George\’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

    Despite a considerable primary as well as general Democratic lean of Maryland, Democrats aren\’t as optimistic about unseating Hogan as they are about beating incumbent Republicans in states like Illinois, Boise state broncos, or Maine. That\’s largely because Hogan is popular: An October poll by Morning Consult listed him for the reason that governor while using the second-highest approval near your vicinity, behind only Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

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    GOP senators recommend FBI probe of Trump 'dossier' author Steele

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    Two Republican senators have recommended which the FBI pursue a criminal investigation against Christopher Steele – this writer of the disputed Trump-Russia dossier – for the purpose they described as evidence that they made false statements to federal investigators.

    "I cannot take lightly generating a referral for criminal investigation. But, because would with any credible proof a criminal offense unearthed while in our investigations, I\’m obliged to secure that information along on the Justice Department for appropriate review,\” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in the joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

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    The senators did not provide public evidence to substantiate their request, nevertheless they noted they sent a "classified memorandum" to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray containing the foundation within their request.

    The request isn\’t going to measure the validity of your Steele dossier, nor can it constitute a criminal allegation. "The referral is made for further investigation only," according to the statement.

    Even so, Democrats quickly responded in anger.

    "I wasn\’t consulted concerning this referral nor were all of my Democratic colleagues," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the highest Democrat on Grassley\’s committee. "I do believe this referral is unfortunate since it\’s clearly another effort to deflect attention from what medicine committee\’s main concern: determining whether there is collusion regarding the Trump campaign and Russia to steer the election and whether there were subsequent obstruction of justice."

    One congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the choice by Grassley and Graham to mention Steele towards Justice Department raises an obvious anomaly.

    "These are speaking about DOJ a justice based upon documents DOJ gave them and according to witness testimony into the DOJ," the aide said.

    Steele, an old British intelligence officer, was commissioned in 2016 by research firm Fusion GPS to research President Donald Trump\’s ties to Russia. The dossier he produced, which Trump has derided as fiction, describes a lot of illicit connections between Trump, his business and also the Kremlin.

    Republicans have persistently questioned how the FBI handled the dossier after receiving it in the 2016 campaign, including whether or not it formed the foundation of your surveillance warrant against a Trump campaign associate and whether the FBI independently verified any kind of Steele\’s information.

    Republicans in addition sounded the alarm over reports that Fusion was paid by the Clinton campaign for Steele\’s research, suggesting that Steele\’s work was the merchandise of your partisan smear effort.

    The two senators claim in their letter to obtain seen proof "potential violations" by Steele on the law prohibiting false statements to government officials. These potential violations, they assert, occurred "regarding his distribution of information contained in the dossier."

    Their letter was copied to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the highest Democrat to the Judiciary Committee, and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the most notable lawmakers for the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top part lawmakers on the House Intelligence ommittee.

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    DOJ clash with Trump allies hits Ryan's doorstep

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    The two sources told POLITICO there was an endeavor by Ryan and DOJ leaders to reduce the temperature newest hostilities between the Justice Department and Trump allies in Congress. That group of House Republicans has railed against the department\’s leadership amid partisan questions its handling with the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia. Nunes had even threatened contempt citations against DOJ and FBI leaders should they failed to comply with his request.

    Still, this probably is not the end of it for Ryan. There are signs that Wednesday\’s agreement won\’t placate the GOP lawmakers most hostile toward the Justice Department. And therefore the speaker will probably be in the heart of ongoing run-ins between some of his hard-line members as well as DOJ as they quite simply fight over the definition of typically closely guarded documents – from surveillance warrants to evidence connected with ongoing investigations.

    Indeed, Ryan\’s attempt to help broker a truce suggests he\’ll be a central figure in resolving disputes that Democrats and several Republicans fear could erode public confidence inside justice system.

    On Thursday morning, just hours after the tentative détente, Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) requested Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be replaced unless he exerts with additional control in the FBI and produces documents Congress have been requesting.

    "It\’s time for Sessions to get started managing from a spirit of transparency to give doing this improper behavior to light and stop further violations," they wrote within a op-ed within the Washington Examiner.

    Though Ryan hasn\’t waded publicly into these fights, multiple GOP lawmakers repeat the speaker\’s attitude may be consistent: He firmly believes during the House\’s authority to conduct oversight with the Department of Justice and FBI.

    "Is know for Representatives carries a constitutional duty to workout oversight from the executive branch," said the spokeswoman, AshLee Strong. "The speaker always expects the administration to observe the House\’s oversight requests, and then he will support his chairmen when they get them to be."

    Rosenstein and Wray "wasted a visit to the Capitol," said one Republican lawmaker near the speaker. "Once Paul assures himself that this request is legitimate and there\’s grounds for it, he always backs the chairperson who requires it."

    Democrats have declared that the GOP attacks to the Justice Department – and Special Counsel Robert Mueller for example – really are a cynical try to protect Trump as investigations of his campaign\’s ties to Russia encroached upon his group of friends. The document requests and claims of bias, they\’ve argued, are aimed towards delegitimizing your research.

    Republican lawmakers themselves are divided about precisely how harsh an approach to take toward the FBI and Justice Department. But in interviews, some House lawmakers say Ryan has come across a unifying theme throughout the conference: transparency.

    "Paul Ryan can be an institutionalist," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who\’s been being among the most aggressive critics of Justice Department leaders\’ handling of the Trump-Russia probe. "I really believe he shares our frustration using the loss of responsiveness."

    "Perhaps we have seen several different camps regarding how aggressive people must be … but those camps are typical coming together with one singular focus, which will come down on the medial side of needing more documents, more transparency," added another GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity to characterize conversations with colleagues.

    "I do believe there was clearly lots of division earlier, even so the more the GOP members uncover … greater careers aligning of investigative strategies and tactics," the lawmaker said.

    Ryan states little publicly over the matter since October, as he chided DOJ due to its refusal to cooperate with congressional investigators demanding more info about how exactly the FBI handled its Trump-Russia investigation.

    "As soon as the executive branch, in this situation, the FBI as well as DOJ are stonewalling or foot-dragging, making it harder for us to accomplish our obligation of conducting oversight about the executive branch," he vented within an interview with Reuters back then.

    Since then, some Trump loyalists inside the house have ratcheted up their complaints. First, they took concentrate on Mueller, who was simply tapped by Rosenstein in May to oversee the Trump-Russia investigation after the president fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller\’s team, they complained, included officials who had donated to Democrats, they can said raised the specter of bias.

    That group of Republicans close with Trump – including Gaetz, Jordan, Meadows and Ron DeSantis – also pounced on reports that Mueller had removed a highly regarded agent from his team in July after learning of a few texting criticizing Trump that he had provided for a colleague.

    At once, even more traditional Republicans over the intelligence, judiciary and oversight panels also began more quietly question the FBI\’s tactics inside the Russia probe, though failed to allege bias or corruption necessarily. Recently, POLITICO also reported that Nunes and various Republicans about the House intelligence committee ended up perfecting a probe they assert could spotlight wrongdoing by top officials inside FBI.

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