Political drama between FBI and Trump Administration continues

A few weeks ago, in the first week of March 2017, President Donald Trump seemed to claim on Twitter that former President Obama was wiretapping his residence at Trump Tower before his victory in the Presidential Election. In a hearing on Monday, FBI Director James Comey said he had seen no evidence of such surveillance.

At the same time, the Trump Administration has been facing continued pressure over allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned amid controversy over communications with Russia, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any inquiries into the controversy.

In the same hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey not only dismissed Trump’s wiretap claim, but he also acknowledged the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible relationships between members of the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 election. Major newspapers reported that the FBI was undertaking such an investigation, but Comey publicly confirmed these suspicions for the first time.

All this comes during the relatively uncontroversial (aside from normal partisan divisions) Senate confirmation hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, on which the Senate is expected to vote Thursday. Continued interest on the Russian inquiries and on Comey’s contradictions of Trump’s tweets may also prove to be a political factor in Thursday’s House vote on Republicans’ replacement Healthcare bill.

Also This Week:

…From Local News

Gilberto Grave, a Boy Scout from Providence, along with nine other scouts, was chosen to meet with politicians and government officials in the District of Columbia and deliver the Boy Scouts of America’s annual Report to the Nation.

Representatives in the Rhode Island legislature have introduced a bill that would ban vehicles from traveling in the left-most lane on a highway, and restrict it to passing only. Nearby states like Massachusetts and Connecticut have similar laws aimed at preventing vehicles from passing on the right.

 

The City Council in Warwick paused all discussion on controversial local ordinances that place restrictions on panhandling on Monday. Cranston City Council, which neighbors Warwick, has already successfully passed an ordinance that banned panhandling or fundraising from people in motor vehicles.  Since passing this ordinance, Cranston has faced significant opposition, including from the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

…From National News

This week, the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security issued a ban on electronic devices on certain flights from ten airports in eight countries with a majority-Muslim population. All devices bigger than a cellphone, such as laptops and tablets, must be checked and may not be carried on a plane on international flights to the United States. Affected countries include Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

On Monday, conservative lawmakers concluded negotiations on changes to the American Healthcare Act of 2017, the Republican replacement bill for Obamacare, intended to increase Republican support. The changes would allow states more discretion in Medicare requirements and funding, repeal some of the taxes imposed by Obamacare in 2017 instead of 2018, and prevent tax credits from being used for abortion coverage, while also allowing for a possible increase in tax credits for people aged 50 to 64.

…From World News

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 on March 29 and officially begin negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union. Official negotiations and the results of these negotiations might affect other European nations’ decisions to stay or leave the Union.

Martin McGuinness, a former commander for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and then a former Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, died at 66 on Monday night. He resigned as Deputy First Minister just three months ago in January of 2017, citing his declining health.

A British newspaper, The Guardian, reported on Monday that some of the largest banks in Britain were involved in processing more than $700 million dollars that came from a large-scale Russian money-laundering scheme from 2010 to 2014. Those banks include HSBC, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, among 14 others.