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‘Penelopegate’ hits Fran?ois Fillon’s approval ratings

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PARIS – Francois Fillon’s bid for your French presidency is affected by the fallout of a scandal over disputed payments to his wife.

According to your poll performed since the scandal broke, 61 percent of French voters employ a “negative” or “very negative” opinion of the conservative former prime minister, whilst the proportion of “positive views” of Fillon plummeted to 39 percent from 54 percent before “Penelopegate” became top news.

Fillon, who until recently was the hands-down favorite to win May’s presidential election, is struggling to draw a line below the scandal. On Thursday, he?was placed directly under preliminary investigation on suspicion that he or she could have abused public funds by paying his wife 500,000 over eight years for any parliament job they did not carry out.

Later within the same day, he tried to react up against the allegations inside a prime time TV interview, saying he previously had provided evidence to the financial prosecutor proving that his wife, Penelope, had indeed executed benefit which she was paid. “She has edited my speeches, stood set for me at events while i couldn’t be there, done newspaper reviews,”?said Fillon, who wouldn’t deny having paid his British wife.

But his statement?would not lift the black cloud that has descended over Fillon’s campaign.

Worse, even Fillon’s half-hearted attempts at transparency in that interview are back-firing.?He volunteered on TF1 that he has once employed on specific missions among his children, “who were lawyers,” while he would have been a French senator (in the years before he became prime minister in 2007).

The overnight, the daily Liberation noted that the two children, Marie and Charles, were only students at that time in support of became lawyers later. Furthermore, they focused upon areas that have little with regards to the usual concerns on the French MP.

So Fillon now faces queries about what the”missions” were, and how much he paid his student children.

    Fillon standard

    During his primary campaign, the 62-year-old repeatedly said politicians facing serious investigations ought not run for office. When, Fillon’s?remark was aimed towards former president Nicolas Sarkozy, an adversary for your center-right nomination who had been under formal investigation.

    “To the political team that is certainly threatening me on my voicemail, I despise threats we do not give straight into pressure”?-?Christine Kelly

    Now they have return to haunt him. In the news, Fillon said he’d terminate his campaign if your probe triggered him being placed directly under formal investigation.

    Not all preliminary investigations – a young evidence-gathering phase in the French judicial system – bring on formal investigations. Nonetheless they can drag on for months with evidence frequently leaked for the press, a serious liability for Fillon.

    Adding to his troubles, a journalist who done research for your biography on Fillon, and met with people his family including his wife, claimed on Twitter they have been threatened by folks a definite political campaign who left messages for my child phone.

    “To the political team that is threatening me on my voicemail, I hate threats and that i slacken straight into pressure. This is a first warning,” tweeted?Christine Kelly, whose biography “Le secret et l’ambition” (“The Secret along with the ambition”) was published in 2007.

    Kelly was on Friday due to?provide testimony for the financial prosecutor investigating Fillon’s case.

    ‘Stink bomb’

    With the scandal just 72 hrs old, Odoxa’s poll would be the first sign that Penelopegate is an effect around the public have a look at Fillon, to date the?favorite with the presidency. It also highlighted widespread frustration using the cozy practice of hiring spouses in parliament, with 76 percent of respondents saying to merely view the practice banned.

    Standing by to gain from Fillon’s complaints are his two main rivals for your presidency: National Front chief Marine Le Pen, and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who’s running as a possible independent using a center-left, pro-European platform.

    Le Pen, herself under investigation over suspicions that they misused assistants at the European Parliament, has pointedly avoided commenting on Fillon’s affairs, except once when she?referred to as the original report in Le Canard Enchaine a “stink bomb.” Though the scandal’s subtext – which a former prime minister was free to direct public money toward his or her own wife without scrutiny – plays directly into her arguments that France’s elites are corrupt and detached in the problems of normal people.

    Macron, who recently continues to be catching up to Fillon in polls, wouldn’t comment on the report.

    However, along with his liberal economic views and centrist positioning, Macron is poised to gain middle-ground conservatives who had been consumed by Fillon on account of his stance on fiscal prudence. The 39-year-old former Rothschilds investment banker in addition sold himself as being an “anti-system” candidate, while using implication that he is not perhaps the establishment clique that made Fillon’s payments possible.

    An Ipsos-Steria poll conducted before Penelopegate put Macron in third place behind Fillon and Le Pen, with 17-21 percent within the vote before election’s first round, determined by which other candidates participate.

    Macron’s campaign is gathering momentum amid weak need for a left-wing primary election whose final round is on Sunday.

    In that contest, former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his ex-education minister, Benoit Hamon, are vying for the left-wing presidential nomination, using the latter expected to win. Both Valls and Hamon have considered necessary “greater transparency” in public life since Penelopegate broke.

    Whoever wins is not?required to make it after first round of your presidential election.

    This article was updated on Saturday with additional information.

    Pierre Briancon contributed reporting.

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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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