Politics & Government

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Special Counsel. So What? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

May 23, 2017

The appointment of a special counsel to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia seemed to elicit a bipartisan sigh of relief. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead the independent inquiry, even as the congressional probe continues. Mueller’s involvement could bring much needed answers about Russia to the forefront, but it could complicate things, too.

We’ll take your questions about the special counsel, Mueller and where the investigation goes from here.

GUESTS

Carrie Johnson, Justice correspondent, NPR

President Trump's proposed budget, released Tuesday, calls for a major reworking of the nation's social safety net for low-income Americans. It would impose more stringent work requirements and limits on those receiving aid, including disability and food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It would also give states more control of, and responsibility for, such spending.

Anti-poverty advocates have vowed to fight the budget plan, which requires congressional approval to go into effect.

President Trump's fiscal plan released on Tuesday claims to balance the budget deficit while cutting funding for safety net programs like food stamps and increasing defense spending. Read more about budget' aims.

Justice Department ethics experts have decided Robert Mueller can proceed as the special counsel leading the investigation into the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, despite his former law firm's representing President Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Mistrust and alienation between black men and the police have become so entrenched that we need radical, sweeping change. The collective experience of black men in the criminal justice system is sobering. African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites, and numerous studies have shown that black men are disproportionately targeted, stopped, frisked, and searched through the practice of racial profiling.

Public support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has generally improved in the U.S., Europe and Canada, according to a newly released poll from the Pew Research Center.

The uptick in support comes in the wake of the turbulent U.S. presidential race where then-candidate Donald Trump called NATO "obsolete," prompting European leaders to express alarm.

Updated at 3:38 p.m. ET

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday that Russia "brazenly interfered in the 2016 election process," despite U.S. efforts to warn it off. Brennan testified in an open session of the committee, one of a handful of congressional committees now investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

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We're going to turn now to Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking member on the House intelligence committee. He joins us this morning on Skype. Congressman, thanks for being with us again.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

In 1983, an explosive story appeared in an Indian newspaper, The Patriot: the AIDS virus was the result of American biological weapons research.

President Trump's full budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, to be released Tuesday, calls for a $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, spending cut to education. The cuts would be spread across K-12 and aid to higher education, according to documents released by the White House.

None of this can be finalized without Congress. And the political track record for Presidents who want to reduce education funding is not promising, even in a far less poisoned atmosphere than the one that hovers over Washington right now.

Student loans

Updated at 3:02 p.m. ET.

The Trump administration says it can balance the federal budget within a decade. Its proposal calls for significant cuts to social safety net programs and assumes more robust economic growth.

The administration released what it calls a "Taxpayer First" budget on Tuesday.

"This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes," White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters in a briefing on Monday.

President Trump asked two top U.S. intelligence chiefs to push back against the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and his presidential campaign, the Washington Post reported Monday evening.

A diplomatic dispute deepened when Turkey summoned the American ambassador in Ankara to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Monday, to protest "the aggressive and unprofessional actions taken" by American security personnel against Turkish security officers.

Updated at 10:08 p.m. ET.

The Office of Government Ethics has rejected a White House attempt to block the agency's compilation of federal ethics rules waivers granted to officials hired into the Trump administration from corporations and lobbying firms.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is narrowing the scope of an executive order on so-called sanctuary cities.

A federal judge in California last month blocked a key part of that order, reasoning that the Trump administration had overstepped by threatening to yank federal money from those places.

A Mississippi lawmaker apologized Monday for saying the Louisiana leaders who supported the recent removal of four Confederate monuments "should be LYNCHED!" Karl Oliver, a GOP state representative, had made the comment in a Facebook post this weekend.

Here is the original statement:

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The ransomware attack on worldwide computer networks earlier this month largely spared those of the federal government. While the government dodged a bullet this time, experts say, its systems are still vulnerable — although perhaps less so than in the past.

When the global malware attack — dubbed "WannaCry" — was first detected, a government cybersecurity response group moved quickly.

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It's pretty safe to say President Trump did a few attention-grabbing things this weekend on the first leg of his first foreign tour in office. He delivered an address to the leaders of Muslim-majority countries, for instance, and took part in a sword dance with Saudi leaders in Riyadh.

Updated at 3:25 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, saying the state relied too heavily on race in drawing them.

Updated at 6 p.m. ET

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on Monday, refusing to hand over documents subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The panel wants to see documents relating to Flynn's interactions with Russian officials as part of its probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET

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