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Politics

Helped Wanted: New Printer for 2020 Census

By Katherine Tully-McManus
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The Senate will attempt to pass the two biggest spending bills of the year in one fell swoop. Consideration of the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills could begin this week (senators are expected back on Wednesday).

CQ’s Kellie Mejdrich explains why the package could prove to be a heavy lift. 

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Peter Strzok, the senior FBI counterintelligence official who has been in the hot seat since the Justice Department’s inspector general discovered his anti-Trump text messages with DOJ lawyer Lisa Page, has been fired from the bureau, his attorneys told multiple news outlets.

Strzok, 48, was one of the main targets of a faction of House Republicans who have sought information on anti-Trump bias in the upper reaches of the DOJ.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney said in a statement that the office that usually handles disciplinary action within the bureau had recommended a demotion and 60-day suspension, but that  FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich ordered Strzok’s firing on Friday. “The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok is not only a departure from typical Bureau practice, but also contradicts Director Wray’s testimony to Congress and his assurances that the FBI intended to follow its regular process in this and all personnel matters,” Goelman said in his statement.

Those lawmakers, led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, have grilled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for dragging his feet at their requests that the DOJ hand over documents related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications to monitor some former members of President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.

At the heart of GOP lawmakers’ complaints about Strzok were a series of texts from August 8, 2016, between Strzok and Page, his alleged mistress, in which Strzok wrote to Page, “We’ll stop” a Trump presidency.

Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote.

“No. No he won’t,” Strzok responded. “We’ll stop it.”

At a joint panel of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees in June, Strzok vehemently denied that his personal distaste for Trump ever affected his work, which included leading the FBI’s probes into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the Trump campaigns potential ties with Russia.

“Let me be clear, unequivocally and under oath: Not once in my 26 years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took,” Strzok testified.

The DOJ’s inspector general concluded in a report released in May that department officials committed numerous indiscretions over the course of the Trump campaign investigation in 2016.

But IG Michael Horowitz “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected those specific investigative decisions,” he told the House Judiciary Committee on June 19.

Watch: Issa Asks Strzok to Read Anti-Trump Texts

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As more Democratic candidates say they will not support keeping Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader next year, President Donald Trump is urging them to reconsider. 

“Democrats, please do not distance yourselves from Nancy Pelosi,” Trump tweeted Friday evening. “She is a wonderful person whose ideas & policies may be bad, but who should definitely be given a 4th chance. She is trying very hard & has every right to take down the Democrat Party if she has veered too far left!”

The sarcasm-dripping tweet aside, Trump’s interest in Democrats backing the House minority leader is likely genuine. One of House Republicans’ primary campaign tactics has been to use Pelosi as a boogeywoman of sorts, trying to tie Democratic hopefuls to her. The California Democrat, like most congressional leaders, has low national approval ratings. 

Many Democratic candidates have refused to back Pelosi for speaker if their party takes control of the House in November. NBC News on Friday released a list of 51 such candidates and incumbents who have said they will not support Pelosi. 

ICYMI: Pelosi Campaigns in New Mexico, Speaking About Violence Against Women Bill

Trump’s reference to a fourth chance is about Democrats trying to take back the House. Since losing their majority to the GOP in 2010, Democrats have failed to regain control for three straight election cycles — 2012, 2014 and 2016.

The 2016 loss was particularly troubling for House Democrats, and anti-Pelosi fervor within the party grew. But she still won her race for minority leader that November against Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. 

A speaker’s race would be a different animal, however, because not only would Pelosi need majority support from the House Democratic Caucus, she would need a majority of the House to vote to elect her speaker on the floor.

With her unlikely to get any Republican votes, Pelosi would need to hope that some of the Democrats who have said they won’t support her could be convinced to back her in a floor vote.

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August might be a sleepy time for legislation, the Senate’s capital busy-work period notwithstanding. But this is a midterm election year, and we are still in the thick of primary season.

This Saturday, Hawaiians go to the polls to sort out their general election candidates, and come Tuesday, there’s another batch of primaries in Wisconsin, Vermont, Minnesota and Connecticut. 

The following week on Aug. 21, Alaskans and Wyomingites host their primaries. 

And the Sunbelt rounds out the month with primary elections in Florida and Arizona on Aug. 28. The Grand Canyon State features a marquee battle for the GOP Senate nomination between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the latter of whom got all kinds of positive press after being punked by Sacha Baron Cohen on the satirical “Who is America?” show. 

But wait, there’s more! Primary season isn’t over until September, when Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island get in on the action. 

Roll Call has the full calendar on its 2018 From Start to Finish section. 

There have been 11 special elections for the U.S. Congress since last year, and they all have one thing in common: Democrats have performed better than the partisan breakdown would suggest. Senior political writer Simone Pathé and elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales joined us to discuss this phenomenon. From a heavily Democratic California district seeing even more Democrats vote for their party to a comfortably Republican Ohio district becoming a swing one, each special election bore that out.  

This week was as solid a recess as one may get this August, at least in the Senate. The House is away until after Labor Day, but senators, not without some grumbling, will be spending more of August here in Washington. That all has ripple effects, including deferred maintenance and increased staffing costs for taxpayers. Roll Call’s own Katherine Tully McManus outlined it all: What the Recess Rollback Means for Capitol Hill (and Taxpayers)

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