Todd Ruger

Special Counsel in Russia Probe Gets Separate Funding Path
Cost of Mueller’s work not a part of the regular appropriations process

Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller started as special counsel to oversee the bureau’s investigation of alleged Russian efforts to impact the 2016 presidential election, but the cost of his work won’t be part of the regular appropriations process.

The funds for Mueller and his team come from a Treasury Department account for permanent, indefinite appropriations, said Lee Lofthus, the assistant attorney general for administration and a budget expert at the Justice Department.

Supreme Court Rejects Two Black-Majority N.C. Districts
High court upholds lower court ruling on improper use of race in redistricting

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina unconstitutionally used race to draw two congressional districts with substantial increases of black voters, in a voting rights case that could influence how states can consider race when redistricting.

The justices found that a lower court correctly decided that state lawmakers used race as the predominant factor in significantly altering the 1st and 12th congressional districts, held by Democratic Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Alma Adams, respectively, both African-Americans.

Robert Mueller Tapped as Special Counsel for Russia Probe
Deputy AG taps former FBI director to lead investigation

The Justice Department on Wednesday evening appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel for the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, the agency announced along with the order signed by Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein.

Judges Again Wrestle With Trump’s Words on Travel Ban
Intent, statements and authority are the ‘nub’ of the case

Another federal appeals court considered Monday whether to let the Trump administration implement its revised travel ban, grappling with the president’s comments about his reasons for the executive order and whether courts should second-guess him on a national security issue.

The three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who heard the case in a Seattle courtroom didn’t clearly reveal whether they would side with President Donald Trump or the challengers during more than an hour of arguments carried live on television and the court’s live video stream.

Supreme Court Won’t Revive North Carolina Voter ID Law
‘Racially discriminatory intent’

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a voting rights case out of North Carolina, leaving in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s photo identification requirement and other election changes as motivated by “racially discriminatory intent.”

The fight over the North Carolina law — and the explanation of Chief Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to let the lower court’s ruling stand — reflects the deeply divided political culture in the Tar Heel State.

How to Watch Trump’s Defense of Travel Ban on TV
Federal appeals court hearing arguments

A second federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday over whether the Trump administration should be able to implement its revised travel ban, this time with an expected audience of millions watching via live video stream.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit hears one hour of arguments on the case starting at 12:30 p.m. ET in a Seattle courtroom. Interested viewers can tune in via the court's live stream or on C-SPAN's website.

Rosenstein Cameo Adds Drama to Hectic Hill Day
Meeting with Senate Intel leaders catches observers off guard

By TODD RUGER and RYAN LUCAS, CQ Roll Call

For a longtime federal prosecutor who won bipartisan praise from lawmakers for his professional integrity, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein quickly finds his reputation in the political frying pan.

Tuesday Night Massacre Affirms Comey’s Place in History
Trump firing of FBI director comes amid Russia election probe

As much as FBI Director James B. Comey drew controversy for his role shaping the 2016 presidential election, his firing Tuesday promises to be even more historic.

In an extraordinary use of his authority, President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired Comey, the man heading the federal investigation into the alleged connections between the president’s campaign and Russian operatives during the presidential election.

Appeals Court Focuses on Trump’s Travel Ban Comments
Trump used phrases ‘Muslim ban’ and ‘we all know what that means’

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court appeared ready Monday to deliver another legal setback to the administration’s revised travel ban based on whether it should use President Donald Trump’s own comments against him.

Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and as president were front and center as the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard more than two hours of arguments about whether the government should be able to implement key parts of an executive order that advocacy groups say unconstitutionally targets Muslims.

Listen: Appeals Court to Hear Travel Ban Arguments Today
All eyes on Richmond for court deliberation

Trump Takes Aim at Controversial Birth Control Mandate
Executive order aims to end legal challenges to contraceptive mandate in 2010 health care law

President Donald Trump sought Thursday to end years of legal challenges to the contraceptive mandate in the 2010 health care law, signing an executive order he said makes it easier for religious nonprofits to win an exemption because of their beliefs.

The change, part of an executive order on religious issues announced in a Rose Garden ceremony on the National Day of Prayer, strikes at one of the most contentious provisions of the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) that prompted several Supreme Court rulings. 

Comey Defends Pre-Election Actions on Clinton Investigation
But FBI director says he wouldn’t change decision to release info

FBI Director James B. Comey vigorously defended his actions ahead of the 2016 presidential election when it came to criminal investigations about candidates, as senators from both political parties warned him at a hearing Wednesday that the agency’s reputation was on the line.

Comey testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee the day after Hillary Clinton blamed him in part for her election loss, since he told Congress just 11 days before the election that the agency was reopening a criminal probe into her use of personal email to improperly send classified information when she was secretary of State.

Trump’s Rhetoric Causes Trouble in Court
Judge calls government approach ‘schizophrenic’

The Trump administration’s political rhetoric about the purpose of immigration executive orders isn’t matching the arguments it makes in court — and that disconnect has cut against efforts to implement policies central to President Donald Trump’s campaign promises. 

The latest example: Trump’s executive order to cut funding for “sanctuary” jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal enforcement of immigration laws.

Supreme Court to Explore Power of Congress to Affect Lawsuits
Separation of powers between branches is at issue

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a case that could reshape Congress’ power to use legislation to affect the outcome of specific ongoing court cases — in this instance, a 2014 law about a Michigan land tract and its use as a Native American casino.

The move puts the justices back into a long chain of litigation and legislation about whether the Interior Department could take that tract into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians to pave the way for gaming operations — and whether a nearby resident can sue to stop it.

Clerks for New Supreme Court Justice Know Capitol Hill
Gorsuch picks also have White House and justice department experience

The clerks Justice Neil Gorsuch hired to help launch his Supreme Court career bring a wealth of experience from the political branches of government, including work on Capitol Hill, at the Justice Department and the White House.

That, in turn, could help guide Gorsuch on legal issues this term dealing with cases about the inner workings of Congress or politics. While Gorsuch worked for the Justice Department before becoming a federal judge, Justice Stephen G. Breyer is the only justice with experience working for the legislative branch  — as Senate Judiciary Committee counsel in 1979-80 for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Former Rep. Schock Asks Judge to Throw Out Case
Attorney says prosecutors are playing ‘Monday morning quarterback’

An attorney for disgraced former Rep. Aaron Schock sought Thursday to dismiss federal fraud and theft charges stemming from his time in office, saying the indictment “repeatedly trespasses on land the Constitution reserves for Congress.”

Prosecutors say Schock used campaign and government funds for personal expenses — including travel and the lavish redecoration of his Capitol Hill office in the style of the popular television show, “Downton Abbey.” The Republican, first elected in 2008, resigned from his seat representing Illinois’ 18th District in May 2015.

Tense Senate Confirms Gorsuch to Supreme Court
Colorado jurist will restore conservative tilt as Scalia replacement

Updated 1:41 p.m. | The Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch as the next Supreme Court justice on Friday on a mostly party-line vote, 54-45. Democrats Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana joined all Republicans present in voting to confirm. Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia did not vote.

Gorsuch was supported by the fewest number of senators since Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991 on a 52-48 vote. 

Senate Moves Closer to Supreme Court Showdown on Gorsuch
Graham: ‘If we have to, we will change the rule and it looks like we’re going to have to.’

Updated 6:22 p.m. | Long-held Senate rules that require consensus for Supreme Court nominees appear doomed, after enough Democrats announced they would block Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation and force Republicans to alter filibuster rules if they want to put President Donald Trump’s pick on the high court.

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines Monday, as expected, to favorably advance Gorsuch’s nomination to the Senate floor, but not before key Democrats said they would oppose the 49-year-old federal appeals court judge from Colorado.

Gorsuch Floor Fight Foreshadows Change in Senate
Process likely to become longer, nastier and more political

Updated 4:35 p.m. | A committee vote Monday on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will kick off a consequential weeklong confirmation showdown — one that is primed to reshape the Senate and fill the high court seat left vacant for more than a year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to advance Gorsuch’s nomination to the Senate floor, with the panel’s 11-member GOP majority expected to deliver enough votes for a positive report.

Gorsuch Avoids Missteps at Supreme Court Hearing
“I have no difficulty ruling for or against any party”

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch spent 11 hours Tuesday abstaining from giving personal opinions on controversial issues and reassuring critics that he isn’t beholden to President Donald Trump, generally avoiding the kind of major slip that could trip up his confirmation.

Gorsuch adopted a solemn tone at times and tried to add dashes of levity at others, as he fielded gentle Republican questions and fended off Democratic queries on abortion rights, campaign finance and his previous decisions on administrative law and workers rights.