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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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    Black caucus chairman pushes to censure Trump over ‘shithole’ remark

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    Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond on Thursday introduced a solution to censure President Donald Trump over what he contends would be the president\’s racist rhetoric referring to El Salvador, Haiti and African nations as \”shithole countries.\”

    The resolution – who has much more than 130 co-sponsors, including House Democratic leaders – calls over the House to publicly state its support for any nations Trump disparaged, censure and condemn the president for his statements, and demand he retract his comments and apologize.

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    At a news conference announcing the resolution alongside House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) as well as other Democrats, Richmond (D-La.) said Trump\’s controversial comments \”should have not been made\” and \”were factually inaccurate.\”

    Richmond conceded, however, the resolution isn\’t \”privileged,\” meaning House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) might need to say yes to carry it in order with the chamber to keep a vote. It\’s almost certain Ryan will not likely do this.

    \”If he doesn\’t, we then will be at other ways to just make a vote on there,\” Richmond told reporters. \”But the facts from the matter is definitely the speaker should bring it up. In the event that he doesn\’t, establishing is enabling and recurring to allow obama to perpetuate this hateful rhetoric, as well as at certain point – whether you agree or disagree – I believe this is the speaker\’s obligation to safeguard the dignity of the property.\”

    If Ryan will not allow a vote, Richmond said he among others would hunt for “creative” strategies to force one.

    Like most Republican leaders, Ryan hasn\’t said much for the president\’s reported comments, though he did acknowledge the other day that they are \”very unfortunate\” and \”unhelpful.\” For Richmond, however, that wasn\’t enough.

    \”It\’s unfortunate when I miss my bus. Or it\’s unfortunate in the event the airlines lose my luggage,\” he was quoted saying. \”But when the president of america decides to Africa, Haiti and El Salvador which he used, which isn\’t unfortunate. That is wrong. That\’s disgusting. That is definitely hurtful. There are a variety of words because of it, but unfortunate\’s undertake and don\’t.\”

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    Ryan's 2017 fundraising haul: $44 million

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    House Speaker Paul Ryan raised more than $44 million in 2017, an off-year record to get a House leader – a financial haul Republicans hope will shore up vulnerable GOP members in what\’s shaping up to often be a tough midterm cycle for Republicans.

    In a final quarter, Ryan raised $4.8 million, his political operation will announce Thursday – down from $6.7 million during the third quarter.

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    The infusion of greenbacks is a follower of Republicans passed a tax reform law last December, which GOP members said would drive support among voters and donors. But also in 2018, Republicans must defend its 24-seat majority spanning a broad battlefield, while President Donald Trump\’s approval ratings stay in the bottom 40s and Democrats hold a broad bring success the generic ballot. Nearly 24 retirements, including California Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa latest research by, will force Republicans to invest more heavily to protect these open seats.

    In 2017, Ryan transferred $32 million to the National Republican Campaign Committee, which announced a unique record-breaking off-year total with $85 million raised in the last year. Ryan also transferred $1.7 million on to GOP members, as well as hosting 49 fundraisers for members.

    "This eye-popping number is usually a testament to Speaker Ryan, House Republicans, as well as the agenda them to led your strugle on in 2017," said Kevin Seifert, executive director of Team Ryan, the speaker\’s fundraising committee.

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    Bannon won't testify again on Russia Thursday

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    Former White House adviser Steve Bannon declined House Russia investigators\’ request to go back for a second interview Thursday, telling lawmakers through his lawyer their own obtain him to go back just 2 days after his first appearance was "unreasonable."

    "The Committee\’s subpoena provides require Mr. Bannon\’s appearance for that second deposition [Thursday] at 2pm. That may be plainly insufficient time for me to undertake precisely what the Committee has asked," Bannon\’s attorney William Burck wrote within a Wednesday letter to store intelligence committee leaders obtained by POLITICO.

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    Instead, Burck told committee leaders that the former senior aide to President Donald Trump would return after reaching an accommodation when using the White House to make sure his testimony doesn\’t violate executive privilege.

    On Tuesday, Bannon-citing instructions from your Trump administration-refused to reply Republican and Democrats\’ questions on his amount of the White House, the post-election transition team and in some cases about his conversations with the president after he was fired from his post in August. His stonewalling infuriated persons in both parties, who subpoenaed him immediately. But despite the subpoena, Bannon declined to reply to their questions.

    Burck\’s letter told the committee\’s top Russia investigators, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), that Bannon remains ready to answer the committee\’s questions-but after striking an understanding together with the White House while on an acceptable scope of questioning.

    "There isn\’t any conceivable solution to talk to the White House Mr. Bannon\’s time using the transition and also the White House, obtain their thoughts about the knowledge he previously provide, communicate those views back to the Committee, relay the Committee\’s views time for the White House, and then negotiate or facilitate a binding agreement amongst the Committee along with the White House from the time allotted by the Committee\’s subpoena," Burck wrote.

    Committee members at the moment are weighing calling hold Bannon in contempt of Congress for avoiding their questions. They\’ve noted that White House lawyers haven\’t formally invoked executive privilege-they just have suggested that Bannon\’s testimony might implicate it.

    White House officials have argued that it is customary for Congress to coordinate the scope of the questions with current and former officials to stop violating privileged information.

    But GOP and Democratic lawmakers have questioned this argument, suggesting they see no reasonable interpretation of executive privilege that might preclude Bannon from discussing his time over the transition team, that is before Trump was president.

    Burck indicated that the committee didn\’t have use of White House and transition documents that has to be relevant precursors to the questions for Bannon and suggested lawmakers and Bannon would require time for them to produce them and review them before Bannon\’s next interview.

    "There are lots of lawyers over the Committee plus the Staff, and i also could well be surprised as long as they believed it becomes anything in addition to unprofessional even unethical should be expected to depose a witness that has did not have possibility for review relevant documents," he said.

    Burck also indicated a potential disconnect between committee staff and lawmakers. He revealed that he had informed the employees of the committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the White House "may not permit Mr. Bannon to discuss his in time the transition and the White House unless an accommodation was agreed between your Committee plus the White House."

    "Staff raised no objection to the telltale restrictions in any of such conversations," he said. "The main objection came yesterday within the Members who appear not to have been informed by Staff about our prior conversations."

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