Chris Coons

Legal fight expected for Trump’s national emergency declaration
Experts predict high court will back his power to do so, but maybe not accessing military monies

President Donald Trump, here addressing reporters on Jan. 10, will sign a government shutdown-avoiding bill and declare a national emergency at the border to access Pentagon funds for his proposed southern border barrier. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency at the southern border to redirect military funds to his border wall project after lawmakers gave him $4.3 billion less than his $5.7 billion ask. But the move is expected to bring court fights that could sink his plan. 

A House-Senate conference committee could only agree to give the president just shy of $1.4 billion for the barrier project as conferees struck a deal needed to avert another partial government shutdown. The president — who earlier this week said he couldn’t say he was happy about the contents of the compromise — reluctantly agreed to sign it into law after the Senate and House sign off during floor votes Thursday.

Photos of the week: A polar plunge, SOTU and hearings are in full swing
The week of Feb. 4 as captured by Roll Call's photographers

Members react as acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker informs Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., his five minute questioning period was over during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Whitaker was questioned about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on Friday. Appearing from left are Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Nadler, Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga.( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s February on Capitol Hill and that means that many of the organizing efforts of a new Congress are well underway, and committees have begun their work for the year. 

In addition to the State of the Union on Tuesday, members of the House Judiciary panel met Friday to question acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker about the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

Barr nomination to get votes on the Senate floor next week
Comes after 12-10 committee vote, which reflected concerns from Democrats about how he would handle the Justice Department’s special counsel investigation

William P. Barr, left, nominee for attorney general, greets former Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, upon arriving for his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Hatch introduced Barr to the committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:18 p.m. | William P. Barr is on track to be confirmed as the next attorney general next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to limit debate and cut off any filibuster threats against the Barr nomination Thursday, setting up votes as soon as the Senate finishes work on a bipartisan package of public lands bills.

Appeals court nominee backpedals from college writings
“I cringe at some of the language I used,” Neomi Rao tells Senate Judiciary

Neomi Rao, nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arrives for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s pick for an influential appeals court distanced herself Tuesday from prior writings about sexual assault and other topics during a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing.

“To be honest, looking back at some of those writings and reading them, I cringe at some of the language I used,” Neomi Rao, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, testified. “In the intervening two decades, I like to think that I have matured as a thinker and writer, and indeed as a person.”

Sheldon Whitehouse takes aim at funding disclosure for court briefs
Rhode Island Democrat writes to chief justice about planned legislation

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has concerns the Supreme Court is not fairly enforcing a rule that prohibits someone from filing an amicus curiae when contributors to the effort are anonymous. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told the Supreme Court that he intends to introduce legislation this year meant to shed light on the funding behind groups that frequently file briefs aimed at influencing the outcome of high-profile cases.

The Rhode Island Democrat often decries how high-dollar, dark money donations can be funneled through advocacy groups to anonymously press political agendas through the Supreme Court and lower appeals courts — what he dubs “judicial lobbying efforts.”

Spy chiefs say Chinese, Russian cyber strengths are top threats to U.S.

From left, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, DNI Director Dan Coats, DIA Director Robert Ashley, NSA Director Paul Nakasone, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Director Robert Cardillo testify during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats” on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

China and Russia possess cyber technologies they will increasingly unleash on U.S. companies, the military, election systems and critical infrastructure, and that poses a significant threat to national security, Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence panel in an annual hearing called the Worldwide Threat Assessment.

“At present, China and Russia pose the greatest espionage and cyberattack threats,” but other countries are catching up, the director of National Intelligence told the committee Tuesday. 

Barr says he’d resign rather than fire Mueller without cause
Attorney general nominee fills in some blanks with new answers on special counsel probe, border wall, abortion

William P. Barr, nominee to be attorney general, speaks during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 15. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Attorney General nominee William Barr assured senators that he would not fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III without good cause or change Justice Department regulations for the purpose of firing him.

“I would resign rather than follow an order to terminate the special counsel without good cause,” Barr said in written answers to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members released Monday.

Barr assures senators of his independence
AG nominee says Mueller investigation isn’t a ‘witch hunt,’ Sessions ‘probably did right thing’ in recusing himself

William Barr, nominee for attorney general, testifies during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:59 p.m. | William Barr appeared to be on a path to confirmation as the next attorney general Tuesday, after he gave senators key assurances about the special counsel probe into the 2016 elections and distanced himself from some of President Donald Trump’s comments about the investigation.

During more than seven hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr avoided the kind of missteps that might cost him votes of Republicans, who have a 53-47 advantage in the chamber. But some Democrats say he did not do enough to reassure them that he would protect Robert S. Mueller III’s probe and make the results public.

Trump opts against declaring national border emergency — for now
President has yet to rule out the move if shutdown talks stall, White House aides say

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded to President Donald Trump's Oval Office address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump opted against using his first Oval Office prime-time address to declare a national emergency at the southern border, instead labeling the situation a “crisis” in an attempt to get Democrats to grant his demand for a wall and end the partial government shutdown.

The president delivered his plea to lawmakers to pass legislation to address the U.S.-Mexico border by repeating his hard-line rhetoric that the area is a transit route for hordes of migrants making illegal crossings, dangerous criminals, lethal narcotics and human traffickers. But he did not appear to dangle any olive branches toward Democrats or say anything that might attract enough Democratic votes to pass a bill with $5.7 billion for the barrier and end the shutdown.

Three things to watch in Trump’s border wall Oval Office address
Democrats expect more false, misleading statements as shutdown drags on

President Trump speaks in the Oval Office in February 2017 before Vice President Mike Pence swore in now-former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left). (John T. Bennett/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s first Oval Office prime-time address will put the border wall — his signature campaign promise — center stage as he considers declaring a national emergency at the southern border and aims to shift public opinion about the government shutdown.

Senior administration officials on Monday did not rule out the president making what would be a contentious announcement during his Tuesday address. Vice President Mike Pence was one of those officials, and he made clear in a television interview that aired Tuesday morning that Trump could make a move that Democrats already are panning.