Dems, GOP stretch for hard-to-get districts in House races

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — In a rustic Virginia district that bounced its Republican congressman after he officiated a same-sex wedding, the battle to replace him pits a self-described “biblical conservative” backed by President Donald Trump against a Black doctor who worked in Barack Obama’s White House.



FILE - In this June 14, 2020, file photo 5th Congressional District Republican candidate Bob Good leaves Lynchburg's Tree of Life Ministries, in Lynchburg, Va. Good is running against Democrat Cameron Webb. (Amy Friedenberger/The Roanoke Times via AP, File)


© Provided by Associated Press
FILE – In this June 14, 2020, file photo 5th Congressional District Republican candidate Bob Good leaves Lynchburg’s Tree of Life Ministries, in Lynchburg, Va. Good is running against Democrat Cameron Webb. (Amy Friedenberger/The Roanoke Times via AP, File)

The district, which stretches from Washington’s far suburbs to the North Carolina line, has elected just one Democrat for a single two-year term this century. Trump carried it by 11 percentage points in 2016. Yet Democrats are spending money to go after it.

The contest between Republican Bob Good and Democrat Cameron Webb will answer whether a Black candidate with an expertise in health care can prevail in a traditionally conservative area during a pandemic and a time of racial reckoning. It’s also an example of how both parties are pursuing a handful of districts that might seem a reach.

Democrats are contesting over a dozen seats from New York’s Long Island to Alaska where Trump won by at least 10 percentage points, usually a daunting margin. Republicans have fewer viable targets but are spending serious money in places like South Florida and central California where Trump lost badly four years ago.

Marking the efforts’ seriousness, at least one side’s outside groups are spending $1 million or more in most of these races. The expenditures come during an election when the question isn’t whether Democrats will keep their House majority but how large it will be.

Democrats have more opportunities because of the suburbs’ continuing flight from Trump, GOP retirements and primaries that produced some weaker candidates, and a fundraising edge that lets them spend amply.

“The political environment is tough, so it’s forcing us to shore up key defensive seats,” said Dan Conston, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a big-spending political committee aligned with House GOP leaders. But he said strong candidate recruitment “has created great pick-up opportunities for us to win back seats in surprising places.”

The paramount factor is Trump, whose unpopularity is wounding numerous GOP congressional contenders. Trump compounded his problems with his fuming debate performance against Democratic rival Joe Biden, his COVID-19 diagnosis and his scoffing at the perils of a virus that’s killed over 215,000 Americans.

“Strategists on both sides see a very real potential for a total blood bath on Election Day for Republicans, for the president,” said Brendan Buck, who advised former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., explaining Democrats’ spending in difficult races. “If there’s a wave, you don’t want to leave any opportunity behind.”

“We’re on offense this cycle, and we didn’t get here by accident,” said Lucinda Guinn, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s House political arm.

In Virginia, Good snatched the GOP nomination from

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Texas Dems highlight health care in fight to flip state House

Texas Democrats are making health care the heart of their final pitch as they look to flip the state House, which Republicans have held since 2002.

In a “contract with Texas” that Democrats are rolling out Thursday and which was shared first with The Hill, the party is touting policies it would try to enact should it flip the net nine seats it needs to gain control of the chamber. The central pillar of the plan is expanding Medicaid in Texas, which has the highest number and rate of uninsured people in the nation, as well as boosting coverage for children and making care for women more equal. 

The party is betting that voters in the state who normally rank health care as a top issue will be even more receptive to messages around expanding coverage in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the Lone Star State particularly hard. And after Democrats across the country won in a “blue wave” in 2018 fueled by promises to improve coverage, Texas Democrats are confident their strategy will work. 

“I think we have seen for a while now, before the pandemic, before any of us heard of coronavirus, that health care was a top-ranked issue, really across the country. Certainly in the 2018 elections, health care was a key issue that year,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic caucus. “But this year, with this pandemic, with the health care crisis that is affecting everyone, it’s just through the roof right now. People expect policymakers to address health care access.” 

The heart of the Democrats’ “Affordable Health Care for Every Texan” plan is providing coverage for 2.2 million more residents by expanding Medicaid, which the party says would also lower premiums and prescription drug prices for all Texans. Estimates from the party gauge that Texas would receive $110 billion in federal money over a decade if Medicaid is expanded. 

The plan also calls for expanding coverage for children by extending children’s Medicaid “through 12 months of continuous eligibility to align with [the Children’s Health Insurance Program].”

Lastly, Democrats look to bolster women’s health care by ensuring access to abortion — including by ensuring clinics that offer the procedure receive proper funding — and reducing maternal mortality rates, including bringing down the disproportionate rate at which Black mothers die during childbirth.

The party is also eyeing other health care-related legislation, including bills to strengthen protections for people with preexisting conditions if ObamaCare is repealed and ending surprise medical billing.

Texas Democrats have long lamented Republicans’ policies on health care in the state, including their refusal to expand Medicaid and work to curb abortion access, but indicate those efforts would face reenergized resistance if they win back the state House.

“Without the gavel, we haven’t been able to dictate the tone and tenor of what happens on the floor, so this time around we will be able to keep divisive and hurtful legislation off the floor and we’ll

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Dems in Key House Races Fear Loss of Critical Student Votes With College Campuses Empty

In a COVID-less world, Dylan Taylor would be in East Lansing now, spending his free time at a table outside the dorms at Michigan State University beckoning fellow Spartans to register to vote. Instead, the 19-year-old treasurer of the MSU Young Democrats is stuck living with his parents in the Detroit suburb of Madison Heights, attending classes via Zoom and trying to replicate election-year campus activism remotely with concepts like “Friend Banking.” “You text people you know and ask them, ‘Are you registered to vote?'” he says. “It is a skewed sample. Everyone says, ‘I’m already registered.’ And then I’m done. It is a lot less effective than being on campus.”



a group of people sitting at a park: Sparsely populated college campuses due to COVID limitations on in-person learning could prove problematic for some Democratic Congressional candidates who rely on student votes and campaign volunteers to help them get elected.


© Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Sparsely populated college campuses due to COVID limitations on in-person learning could prove problematic for some Democratic Congressional candidates who rely on student votes and campaign volunteers to help them get elected.

For Democrats in tough House races across the nation who were counting on students from nearby colleges to work as campaign volunteers and to vote, not having Dylan and people like him on campus is a looming political problem. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, nearly half of American college and universities are offering entirely or mostly virtual classes this fall according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, thereby scattering millions of students who might have been cajoled into voting for the first time and then motivated to support Democrats through peer pressure and appearances from big-name campaign surrogates. Polls consistently show college students skew Democratic by a 70-30 percent margin—the exact percentage, in fact, who said they planned to vote for Joe Biden in a poll of 4,000 students enrolled in four-year colleges by the Knight Foundation this August. So the absence of on-campus organizing is widely seen as an advantage for Republicans.

“That’s a really big deal for my

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House Dems seek to curb presidential power with new bill targeting potential abuses

House Democrats unveiled a sweeping package of government reforms Monday aimed at curbing future abuses of power by a president and strengthening congressional oversight powers, in response to the conflicts they’ve had with the Trump administration in the last three years. 

The legislation, called the “Protecting Our Democracy Act,” wouldn’t pass the Republican-controlled Senate even if it were to pass the House before the end of the current Congress, but it is among the bills Democrats have prepared, should they recapture the Senate and White House this November. It would complement H.R.1, another reform package targeting voting rights, campaign finance and government ethics House Democrats passed in 2019. 

The committee chairs who authored the legislation say it will prevent future abuses and restore the balance of power between Congress and the White House, and they argue that the foundation of democracy is “deeply at risk” without changes.  

“Since taking office, President Trump has placed his own personal and political interests above the national interest by protecting and enriching himself, targeting his political opponents, seeking foreign interference in our elections, eroding transparency, seeking to end accountability, and otherwise abusing the power of his office,” the chairs said in a statement. “It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president.” 

The latest legislation tries to claw back more power for Congress and to curb the president’s power under the Constitution, an area where Democrats have struggled, despite hundreds of hours spent on investigations of the current administration and impeachment proceedings that ended with the president’s acquittal in the Senate. 

It would speed up the process by which Congress can turn to the courts to enforce a subpoena and empower the courts to fine government officials who fail to comply. Democrats have used the contempt process to try to compel Attorney General William Barr, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and former White House Counsel Don McGahn to comply with subpoenas, only to see those efforts stall in court or fail to produce documents they sought. 

There are also provisions aimed at limiting the administration’s ability to govern through emergency declarations or to divert federal funds away from the use intended by Congress. 

The bill would also try to curb potential political interference by the Justice Department, and even allow fines against White House officials who violate the Hatch Act by engaging in partisan political activity while acting in an official capacity. An ethics watchdog for the White House recommended that one of President Trump’s key advisers, Kellyanne Conway, be fired for violating the act, but she faced no consequences from the White House. 

Other measures would strengthen protections for whistleblowers in the federal government and try to give further support to the inspectors general who independently investigate federal agencies.  

The president himself would face increased scrutiny and limits on his ability to issue pardons or commutations to relatives or officials who were found to have obstructed Congress. Self-pardons would

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House Races Feature Party-Switcher Van Drew, Dems on Defense | Pennsylvania News

By MIKE CATALINI, Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The presidential contest in New Jersey doesn’t look competitive, with Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by double digits, but a handful of the state’s dozen House districts are shaping up as competitive.

New Jersey voters will be electing representatives in all 12 U.S. House districts in November’s first-ever mostly mail-in election.

Democrats are on defense in three seats they picked up in 2018, but perhaps the highest-profile race is in the 2nd District where Republican incumbent Rep. Jeff Van Drew faces Democrat Amy Kennedy for the seat he won as a Democrat in 2018.

Van Drew gained national attention for switching parties during the House impeachment of the Republican Trump, saying there was no place for him in the Democratic Party as an opponent of impeachment. The defection won Van Drew, who pledged his “undying support” to the president, an Oval Office visit as well as a Trump rally in Wildwood. He also had a speaking role at the Republican National Convention.

In all of the most watched districts, unaffiliated voters have the most registrations, followed by Democrats. Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats across New Jersey by more than 1 million registered voters. Democrats recently surpassed people registered as unaffiliated and currently have 177,000 more registrations.

A look at some of the most-watched races:

Van Drew is well known in the district, and the GOP there has embraced him, even after spending years trying to defeat him in the state Legislature, where he served as a Democrat.

Kennedy is a former teacher and the spouse of former Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy is the son of former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

New Jersey’s 2nd District covers about the southern third of the state and includes all or part of eight counties. It runs from the southern Philadelphia suburbs in the west to the shore resort towns along the Atlantic Ocean, including Atlantic and Ocean cities.

There are about 707,000 people in the district, according to the Census Bureau. More than 500,000 residents are white, while over 91,000 are Black. Hispanics account for 121,000. The median income is $68,000.

Van Drew won the district in 2018 by eight points over Republican Trump supporter Seth Grossman.

Freshman Democratic incumbent Rep. Andy Kim faces former Hill International executive David Richter, the Republican in the race. Richter had planned to run against Van Drew but changed districts when he switched parties.

The 3rd District stretches from suburban Philadelphia’s Burlington County in the west, across the Pinelands, to Ocean County in the east. Burlington is a Democratic stronghold, while Ocean is reliably Republican.

The district’s 736,000 people have a median income of about $86,000, according to the Census Bureau. About 582,000 residents are white. Eighty-five thousand are Black, while 67,000 are Hispanic.

Kim defeated Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur in 2018 by one point, in part because of Democratic strength in Burlington.

Freshman Democrat Tom Malinowski is taking on Tom Kean Jr., the state Senate

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Kamala Harris visits Supreme Court to pay tribute to ‘titan’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg; calls on Dems to win Senate and White House

Kamala Harris stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday to pay tribute to “titan” Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and show she’s ready to fight for the iconic liberal justice’s legacy.



a group of people walking down the street: Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (L) and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, stop in front of a memorial outside the US Supreme Court as the US mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Ginsburg died September 18, opening a crucial vacancy on the high court expected to set off a pitched political battle at the peak of the presidential campaign.


© Brian Stukes
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (L) and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, stop in front of a memorial outside the US Supreme Court as the US mourns the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Ginsburg died September 18, opening a crucial vacancy on the high court expected to set off a pitched political battle at the peak of the presidential campaign.

The Democratic vice presidential candidate joined throngs of mourners outside the court building in Washington D.C. as she quickly moved to shape the looming, titanic partisan battle over replacing Ginsburg.

“The stakes of this election couldn’t be higher,” Harris tweeted after offering prayers for Ginsburg and her grieving family. “Millions of Americans are counting on us to win and protect the Supreme Court—for their health, for their families, and for their rights.”

With early voting underway in five states and Election Day just over six weeks away, Democrats and Republicans were largely unified late Friday in praising Ginsburg as a leading legal thinker and advocate for women’s rights. But strategists in both parties also seized on the moment to find an advantage.

According to the Associated Press, multiple Republicans close to the White House believe that Trump will likely nominate a woman, who could serve as a counterweight of sorts to Biden’s choice of running mate Kamala Harris, who would be the first woman to serve as vice president.

Trump himself did not immediately comment on replacing Ginsburg.

Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate and Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. But several GOP senators have expressed various degrees of uneasiness with the idea of jamming a replacement through so close to a presidential election.

“We cannot let them win this fight,” said Harris in a statement to supporters on Saturday. “Millions of Americans are counting on us to stand up, right now, and fight like hell to protect the Supreme Court — not just for today, but for generations to come.“

“The work of holding Senate Republicans accountable to the standard they set in 2016 starts now. To Joe and me, it is clear: The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg.”

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State Dept. provides House Dems docs previously given to Ron Johnson’s Biden probe

The State Department on Friday turned over 16,000 pages of documents to a House committee that were previously given to Senate Republicans investigating Joe and Hunter Biden — providing Democrats with key information as a top GOP senator prepares to release a report expected to be highly critical of the Democratic presidential nominee.

The massive document production to the House Foreign Affairs Committee led Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) to rescind his July subpoena for the documents and pause the panel’s contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It also comes as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is leading the GOP probe targeting the Bidens, is teasing a forthcoming report detailing the allegations, which center on Biden’s son Hunter and his role on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. Johnson has said his report is likely to be published next week.

Democrats have described Johnson’s probe as a politically motivated smear campaign against President Donald Trump’s challenger that has already been discredited and tainted by Russian propaganda. The intelligence community has identified a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian lawmaker, Andriy Derkach, as an agent of a Russian disinformation campaign intended to denigrate Biden.

“This ‘investigation’ is obviously designed to boost the president’s campaign and tear down his opponent, while our own intelligence community warns it is likely to amplify Russian disinformation,” Engel said in a statement. “We’re going to make sure the American people see the whole picture, not just cherrypicked information aimed at breathing new life into debunked conspiracy theories.”

Democrats have raised concerns that material gathered by Derkach, who met in December with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, has been laundered into Johnson’s material. Johnson has strenuously denied the allegations, but Democrats sought the documents he obtained from the State Department to understand the direction his probe is taking. POLITICO first reported that Derkach mailed information about the Bidens to Johnson, but Johnson’s office has denied receiving anything from Derkach.

Derkach has pushed many of the same claims against Biden that Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is pursuing. Johnson’s probe centers on allegations that a Democratic public-affairs firm sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma in order to influence the Obama-era State Department.

Johnson has also alleged that Hunter Biden’s role was itself a conflict of interest because his father, who at the time was the vice president, was spearheading U.S. policy toward Ukraine.

Johnson has drawn condemnation in recent weeks for characterizing his probe as potentially fatal to Biden’s presidential candidacy, a political calculation that Democrats said removed any doubt about the goal of his investigation.

Some Republicans have expressed discomfort with Johnson’s probe, too. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) last week described it as a “political exercise” and said he opposed Johnson’s efforts to subpoena additional witnesses as part of the investigation. POLITICO reported earlier this year that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Johnson that his probe could aid Russia’s

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House Dems call for an ‘emergency’ DOJ watchdog review of Durham probe

President Donald Trump has sought more prosecutions related to Durham’s probe, and has called for FBI and intelligence officials he views as his political enemies to be punished.

The Democrats are asking Horowitz to expedite a review of various aspects of Barr’s comments and Durham’s review. Among them: Whether Barr’s public commentary complies with DOJ policy and the 2018 inspector general report; whether DOJ has implemented Horowitz’s earlier recommendations on politically sensitive investigations; if a Durham report issued before the election would comply with department policies; whether Durham has the legal authority to be conducting his probe, including a formal scope memo; and whether Durham is permitted to issue a public report about anyone who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Senate Democrats sought a similar probe in a letter to Horowitz on Thursday.

Barr has rejected the notion that any findings issued by Durham ahead of the election would inappropriately influence the campaign. He has argued that DOJ practices prohibit such steps but only if they are aimed at candidates themselves or their very close associates.

Barr has publicly indicated that the Durham probe does not contemplate investigating former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden or former President Barack Obama. He has at times publicly characterized potentially explosive findings in Durham’s investigation but has denied that there’s political pressure to move it quickly.

Last week, a top Durham aide and long-serving federal prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, resigned from the DOJ amid a push from the president to publish the results of the probe before the election.

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House Dems Call For Investigation Into Forced Hysterectomy Claims

Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform called for a federal investigation on Tuesday into allegations that detainees at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia were receiving unwarranted hysterectomies.

Reports of inadequate conditions for both detainees and employees were the subject of a whistleblower letter filed with the Office of Joseph V. Cuffari, the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), on Monday. In the letter, a nurse at Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) alleged that some detainees had hysterectomies performed on them without explanation. Conditions at the ICDC were often allegedly unsanitary, even in areas reserved for medical examinations or quarantining detainees.

In the Tuesday letter to the DHS Inspector General, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Chairman Jamie Raskin of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties requested “an emergency investigation into shocking allegations of medical atrocities and detainee mistreatment” at the ICDC.

According to the letter, members of the committee visited the ICDC in September 2019, “during which they observed alarmingly urgent health and safety issues.” Although the DHS said the committee’s findings would be factored into future inspection visits to the detention center, no progress updates were made to the committee.

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Maloney and Raskin requested that Cuffari schedule a briefing for an update on the DHS’s findings, incorporating any findings regarding the allegation in the whistleblower letter.

Newsweek reached out to the office of the DHS Inspector General for comment.

ICE, detention center
Some Democratic lawmakers called for an investigation into allegations of “medical atrocities” that took place at an immigrant detention center in Georgia.
David McNew/Getty

In the letter detailing the alleged abuses at ICDC released by advocacy group Project South, whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a registered nurse employed by ICDC, said the number of hysterectomies performed on detained immigrant women raised a “red flag.” Wooten described the doctor performing the hysterectomies as “the uterus collector.”

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“Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out,” Wooten said. “What in the world.”

Wooten also alleged that hysterectomies are performed without consent.

“I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going,” Wooten said.

Some requests by detainees for medical attention were allegedly shredded, according to Wooten. Medical and quarantine areas were also allegedly cleaned haphazardly, leaving the floors and tables in examination rooms dirty.

In a Tuesday statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that if the allegations about the conditions at the ICDC were true, they constituted a “staggering abuse of human rights.”

“Congress and the American people need to know why and under what conditions so many women, reportedly without their informed consent, were pushed to undergo this extremely invasive and life-altering procedure,” Pelosi added.

Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc said ICE’s actions were tantamount to “genocide.”

“Forced sterilization is genocide,”

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House Dems investigating Pompeo, wife to face off with senior State Dept. officials

Two House Democratic chairs have been investigating allegations against Pompeo.

Months of tension between House Democrats and the State Department are set to spill out into public display on Wednesday when senior department officials testify about the firing of the agency’s inspector general.

President Donald Trump’s removal of the federal watchdog at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came as the independent office was investigating Pompeo and his wife leading to accusations of retaliation that the Pompeos have denied.

Those accusations were revived on Friday after the House published a transcript of two top Pompeo aides’ closed-door testimony.

The House Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees’ Democratic chairs have been investigating several allegations against the top U.S. diplomat, including his unprecedented speech to the Republican National Convention, his cooperation with a Republican-led Senate investigation of Trump’s opponent Joe Biden and his private dinners at the State Department for elite guests.

Inspector general Steve Linick was fired in May. At the time, Pompeo confirmed he requested to have Linick removed and accused him of leaking or “investigating policies he simply didn’t like.”

Linick’s office was investigating allegations of the Pompeos’ use of career staff to run personal errands, the secretary’s use of an emergency authority to bypass Congress and sell arms to Saudi Arabia, the department rescinding an award to a Finnish journalist who criticized Trump and allegations of “workplace violence” in the Office of the Chief of Protocol.

Pompeo has denied that Linick’s firing was retaliatory — at first saying he was unaware of any investigations and then saying while he answered questions about the arms sale probe, he didn’t know the full scope.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Dept., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Washington.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Dept., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Washington.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Dept., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Washington.

Stephen Akard, a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence who had served as acting inspector general after Linick was fired, told the House committees that “Pompeo was interested in the release of” the OIG’s Saudi arms sale probe, but that he had recused himself from it. As a political appointee who still served as director of State’s Office of Foreign Missions, he wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest before resigning in August.

Akard’s sworn affidavit, released by the committee Monday, is the latest participation by a department official in the committee’s probe. Its chair, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., released transcripts Friday from two top Pompeo aides, a longtime confidante Toni Porter and a career official Lisa Kenna, who serves as executive secretary, a key gatekeeper for a secretary of state.

Porter told the committees that she was interviewed two weeks ago by the Office of Inspector General about “misuse of government resources” by Pompeo and his wife Susan

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