House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo’s political speeches

House Democrats are widening an investigation into whether Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump COVID-19 result raises pressure on Pompeo GOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi tests negative for COVID-19 MORE is illegally campaigning for the president ahead of the November election. 

Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelDemocrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Overnight Defense: Congress recommends nuclear arms treaty be extended | Dems warn Turkey | Military’s eighth COVID death identified Democrats warn Turkey over involvement in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCalls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive Democrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Disinformation, QAnon efforts targeting Latino voters ramp up ahead of presidential election MORE (D-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter Monday to the State Department demanding the agency’s legal guidance over at least three recent speeches Pompeo delivered in the U.S. 

This includes speeches to the Wisconsin state legislature and a church in Texas in September and a speech Saturday at an event for the anti-abortion advocacy organization the Florida Family Policy Council.

Pompeo was originally expected to deliver his remarks in person, where attendees paid upward of $10,000 for tickets to secure a personal visit with the secretary, CNN reported.

Pompeo rescheduled his remarks, delivering them remotely from Washington out of an abundance of caution following President TrumpDonald John TrumpQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight White House staffers get email saying to stay home if they experience coronavirus symptoms White House says ‘appropriate precautions’ were taken for Trump’s outing to see supporters MORE’s positive diagnosis of COVID-19. 

But his participation in the event one month before the election is adding to outrage from congressional Democrats with oversight of foreign affairs. Trump is trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight CNN anchor confronts senior Trump campaign adviser after motorcade: Trump’s ‘downplaying the virus’ Biden again tests negative for COVID-19 MORE in Florida, according to the most recent poll published by Siena College and The New York Times. 

“It is concerning that the Secretary is suddenly crisscrossing the country at taxpayers’ expense to speak with state legislators and private groups and that these events appear to be increasing in frequency as the November 3rd election approaches,” Engel and Castro wrote in the letter.

It was sent to Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao and acting Legal Adviser Marik String, two close allies of Pompeo.

The documents requested by House Democrats builds on an investigation launched in August over whether Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by delivering pre-recorded remarks to the Republican National Convention while he was on diplomatic travel in Israel. 

The Hatch Act prohibits federal officials from using their government positions for partisan political activity. In June,

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House Democrats Probe White House Over Swaying FDA, CDC on Virus

(Bloomberg) — A House Oversight subcommittee wants two federal health agencies at the fore of the U.S. coronavirus response to disclose information about the White House’s involvement in scientific decisions, according to letters reviewed by Bloomberg News.



a sign on the side of a building: A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. As the novel coronavirus has spread in the U.S., the CDC is under increasing heat to defend a shaky rollout of crucial testing kits.


© Bloomberg
A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. As the novel coronavirus has spread in the U.S., the CDC is under increasing heat to defend a shaky rollout of crucial testing kits.

The letters addressed to the leaders of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seek documents about agency actions submitted to the White House for review, including communications, comments, first drafts and documents that show changes made during the review process.

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The letters sent Monday are signed by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The subcommittee’s letters express concern about the influence of non-scientists and political appointees over public-health decisions, including how the FDA will assess experimental coronavirus vaccines now in trials. The letter to the CDC asks about what it calls “White House censorship” of CDC guidance.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available faster than top government scientists say is likely. The FDA has been expected to issue final guidelines on how vaccines may be cleared for emergency use, a document intended to assuage concerns that a shot might be rushed to market for political reasons.

Trump said last month that the White House might not approve the FDA’s guidelines for vaccine authorization. They haven’t been published as of Monday morning. Krishnamoorthi asked the FDA to publish such guidelines in a previous letter.

Extensive Reviews

Monday’s letters ask about the role of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, known as OIRA, in decisions at the scientific agencies. OIRA, part of the Office of Management and Budget, has legal authority to review federal regulations.

Representatives for the CDC and FDA didn’t immediately comment. A spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees OIRA, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg News reported last month that OIRA and other agencies performed extensive reviews of CDC publications related to the coronavirus that delayed guidelines for nursing homes, schools, houses of worship, and businesses, sometimes for weeks.

A new process to review nearly every public document or guideline related to Covid-19 delayed CDC publications in layers of bureaucracy from across the federal government, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Administration officials defended the process, saying it was within OIRA’s authority, and didn’t diverge from past practice.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force sought to make sure CDC’s communications were “fully reviewed, studied, and vetted by administration officials, including the top medical doctors, for accuracy, effectiveness,

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House Oversight expands probe of pandemic ad blitz

DD&T is led by Den Tolmor, the longtime business partner of HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo, who conceived the campaign. Caputo is currently on medical leave and last month announced that he was seeking treatment for cancer.

“[T]he Administration may be improperly steering federal contracts to individuals with financial ties to senior political appointees,” Clyburn wrote in his letters, requesting documents by Oct. 15. The oversight subcommittee had previously opened a probe into a $250 million contract awarded as part of the ad campaign.

The House panel is seeking the contracts and related documents and all communications with Caputo, his personal scientific adviser Paul Alexander and Jeffrey Souder, who held multiple roles for Caputo’s private public relations firm.

Last month, senior House Oversight Democrats began probing the ad campaign, while calling for work to be halted while it’s under investigation.

An HHS spokesperson on Thursday said the contract was awarded “after a limited competition,” and that a technical evaluation panel of career federal officials reviewed the proposals. “Based on the review, the Technical Evaluation Panel recommended Atlas Research for the award,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

DD&T and Atlas Research did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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House Intel Committee Chairman Schiff announces subpoenas in Homeland Security whistleblower probe

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced subpoenas Tuesday for documents and testimony from the Department of Homeland Security as part of the committee’s whistleblower investigation.

Brian Murphy alleged that officials pressured him to downplay information on Russian influence and the threat represented by White supremacists. The complaint also alleges that Murphy was retaliated against and demoted.

Schiff accused the DHS and Joseph B. Maher, the head of its Office of Intelligence and Analysis, of “effectively blocking the whistleblower from testifying” and failing to provide documents.

DHS has denied the allegations in both the complaint and from Schiff.

WOLF TAKES AIM AT ‘FABRICATED’ COMPLAINTS, REPORTS AT CONFIRMATION HEARING

“The whistleblower complaint from Mr. Murphy is patently false, it’s a fabrication, completely,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said at a Senate confirmation hearing last week.

He said Murphy was reassigned because of allegations he abused his authority by personally directing the collection of information on U.S. journalists.

In this March 3, photo House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schiff said Tuesday, Sept. 29, that he will subpoena the Department of Homeland Security after a department whistleblower wasn’t allowed access to documents and clearance he needs to testify. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In this March 3, photo House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schiff said Tuesday, Sept. 29, that he will subpoena the Department of Homeland Security after a department whistleblower wasn’t allowed access to documents and clearance he needs to testify. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In a letter to Maher, Schiff wrote that Murphy’s lawyers had not been granted temporary security clearances by the DHS that would allow them to work on his deposition in the case, which the committee said it has repeatedly been forced to delay.

“The Committee will no longer tolerate the obstruction and attempts to run out the clock by the Department,” Schiff said in a statement.

The subpoenas aim to force the DHS to hand over records related to an ongoing whistleblower probe and to compel Maher to testify under oath.

ADAM SCHIFF URGES ‘GOOD CONSCIENCE’ REPUBLICANS IN TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO STEP DOWN: ‘IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO RESIGN’

The DHS denied that it was “stonewalling” the committee and said in a statement that the subpoenas amounted to “obvious political theater.”

DHS said it produced “nearly 3,000 pages of documents” in addition to other materials for the House committee.

The subpoenas are seeking an Oct. 6 deadline for DHS to hand over the documents and testimony from Maher on Oct. 2.

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“The Committee has a responsibility to independently investigate and substantiate Mr. Murphy’s serious allegations, and you and your office have a legal obligation to comply,” Schiff wrote to Maher. “The allegations, as the Committee has underscored repeatedly, fall squarely within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction and strike at the heart of the Committee’s constitutional oversight responsibility.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

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Illinois Democrats look to win more suburban state legislative seats in November despite corruption probe

After winning a slew of suburban state legislative seats long held by Republicans in 2018, Illinois Democrats are looking to expand their reach even further in November as renewed controversy swirls around their powerful leader, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan.



a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Illinois state Rep. Grant Wehrli.


© Grant Wehrli campaign/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Illinois state Rep. Grant Wehrli.

Republicans for years have built their campaign strategy around vilifying Madigan, who has been speaker for all but two years since 1983, but it hasn’t paid off in a big way at the ballot box. This year, however, the GOP hopes its anti-Madigan message will resonate in a new way after federal prosecutors in July alleged that Commonwealth Edison engaged in a “yearslong bribery scheme” designed to curry favor with the speaker.

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But Madigan, who has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing, is only on the ballot in his Southwest Side district, and Democrats are hoping to capitalize on a changing suburban electorate’s dissatisfaction with the name at the top of the Republican ticket: President Donald Trump.

All 118 Illinois House seats and 22 of 59 state Senate seats are on the ballot this fall. But because 52 House and 11 Senate races are uncontested, a handful of competitive districts — largely in the suburbs — will determine whether Democrats lose or add to their veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Democrats hold supermajorities of 74-44 in the House and 40-19 in the Senate, meaning Republicans would need a historic number of victories to take control of either chamber.



Michael Madigan et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan walks out after a House Democratic caucus meeting on Nov. 12, 2019, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.


© Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan walks out after a House Democratic caucus meeting on Nov. 12, 2019, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

The Democrats not only control both chambers of the General Assembly and all statewide offices, but they also enjoy an overwhelming advantage in campaign cash.

With billionaire former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s funding out of the picture and other conservative donors focusing their spending on defeating Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated-rate income tax amendment, “if it were just about money, it really would be a wipeout,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science with the University of Illinois system’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

On a larger scale for Republicans nationally, spending big to keep the Democrats from picking up a couple of seats in the Illinois legislature “doesn’t really seem like a good investment if you can flip a chamber” in another state, Redfield said.

“But for the Commonwealth Edison investigation, you’re really looking at a perfect storm in terms of the Democrats building their majority, with the changes in the suburbs and then the overwhelming money advantage,” Redfield said.

“If you want to ask the question, why are they making such a huge push when they already have such big majorities in both chambers, one of the answers might be that it’s an opportunity to so damage the Republican Party in the state of Illinois that it will be very difficult for them

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Democrats threaten to impeach William Barr over John Durham Russia probe

Democrats are turning up the heat on William Barr, accusing the attorney general of trying to influence the November presidential election and threatening impeachment after he gave a fiery speech last week lambasting career federal prosecutors.

The chairs of four House committees urged the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to open an “emergency” investigation into whether Mr. Barr is using U.S. Attorney John Durham’s Russia probe as part of an effort to taint the presidential election.

In a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the four lawmakers said Mr. Barr’s comments and actions could be damaging “to public confidence in the integrity of the DOJ and our democratic process.”

“Attorney General Barr has signaled repeatedly that he is likely to allow DOJ to take prosecutorial actions, make public disclosures, and even issue reports before the presidential election in November,” the lawmakers wrote. “Such actions clearly appear intended to benefit President Trump politically.”

The letter arrived the same day Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, authored a scathing op-ed calling for Mr. Barr’s impeachment and a day after Democratic senators pleaded for Mr. Horowitz to intervene.

A Justice Department spokeswoman and a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office declined to comment.

Democrats were rankled by Mr. Barr’s speech marking Constitution Day last week at Hillsdale College, a school with conservative ties.

Mr. Barr accused his Justice Department prosecutors of acting as “headhunters.” He also compared them to preschoolers, decried them as part of the “permanent bureaucracy” and suggested they should be reined in by politically appointed leaders.

The next day, the Democrats launched a three-pronged assault on Mr. Barr. They targeted the Durham probe in particular.

The Durham probe has been digging into the origins of the Russia collusion probe since May 2019 and veered into a criminal investigation five months later. Democrats now worry that Mr. Durham’s team is cooking up an “October surprise” for the presidential race.

Mr. Barr’s political opponents say his public comments about the investigation could violate Justice Department policy if Mr. Durham releases a report or brings indictment within 60 days of Election Day.

Mr. Barr in 2018 authored a report saying politically charged prosecutorial and law enforcement actions must be avoided within 60 to 90 days of Election Day, but Democrats contend Mr. Barr has changed his mind. They cite an interview the attorney general had earlier this year with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category,” he said in the interview.

Democrats fear Mr. Barr will try to skirt Justice Department rules by having Mr. Durham issue a report instead of filing criminal charges.

“With potentially devastating consequences for our democracy, Attorney General Barr appears to have changed his position and

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NHL let Florida Panthers handle abuse probe, discipline of former assistant Mike Kitchen

The NHL said it was aware of an incident where a Florida Panthers assistant coach allegedly kicked a player on the bench, but said that it left any investigation and punishment up to the team.

Canada’s TSN reported this week that coach Mike Kitchen, 64, kicked a Panthers player on the bench during a Jan. 20 game between Florida and the Minnesota Wild. The report claimed that Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Dale Tallon were made aware of the incident after the game.

The Panthers announced this week that Kitchen would not return to their coaching staff next season, though they didn’t specify why. After the incident, he remained on the staff through the March 12 “pause” due to COVID-19. Kitchen opted out of joining the team in the Toronto “bubble” for the restarted postseason. Florida was eliminated by the New York Islanders in the qualification round.

The alleged incident happened just over a month after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there was a “zero tolerance policy” for teams not informing the league of incidents of abuse.

“Our message is unequivocal: We will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind,” Bettman said at the December 2019 board of governors meeting in Pebble Beach, California. “Going forward, our clubs are on notice that if they become aware of an incident of conduct involving NHL personnel, on or off the ice, that is clearly inappropriate, unlawful or demonstrably abusive or that may violate league policies, either [deputy commissioner] Bill Daly or me must be immediately advised.”

Daly said the Panthers did reach out to the league about the incident.

“The team made me aware of the incident a while ago. We discussed with the team the appropriate approach,” Daly told ESPN on Saturday. “The team conducted its own investigation and made its own decision.”

Kitchen had been an assistant coach for 26 seasons, including with Quenneville on the Chicago Blackhawks bench from 2010 to 2017. He was head coach of the St. Louis Blues for 131 games from 2003-04 to 2006-07. He rejoined Quenneville in 2019-20, the head coach’s first season in Florida.

Tallon’s contract expired after the season, and he was replaced as general manager by Columbus assistant GM Bill Zito. Tallon is also under investigation by the NHL for allegedly using a racial slur while with the team in Toronto.

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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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U.S. House probe of 737 MAX finds ‘disturbing pattern’ of Boeing failures and ‘grossly insufficient’ FAA oversight

An intensive investigation by a U.S. House Committee into the causes of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes reveals new details documenting what a final report calls “a disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments made by Boeing,” along with “grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chair of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, signaled in a teleconference briefing that the committee plans to soon propose legislation reforming how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies airplanes as safe to fly.

He called it “mind boggling” that the MAX, which had two crashes that killed 346 people within five months, was originally certified by both Boeing and the FAA as compliant with all safety regulations.

“The problem is, it was compliant and not safe. And people died,” DeFazio said, “Obviously the system is inadequate.”

The report says Boeing engineers at various points during development of the MAX raised questions about all the critical design elements of the flight control software that later led to the crashes — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

It cites internal Boeing memos and emails in which engineers asked about the system being triggered by a single sensor, about the potential consequences of a faulty sensor, about how repetitive MCAS activations might affect the ability of pilots to maintain control, and about whether pilots would react in time if MCAS was triggered erroneously.

“Ultimately, all of those safety concerns were either inadequately addressed or simply dismissed by Boeing,” the report states.

Nor did Boeing flag these issues to the FAA. The report documents four instances when Boeing engineers delegated to work on behalf of the safety regulator during the MAX’s certification “failed to represent the interests of the FAA.”

DeFazio said that in February 2019, after the crash of a Lion Air MAX jet but before the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Ali Bahrami, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, told him the accident was a “one-off” and that “there’s no problem with that plane.”

Yet DeFazio said that, based on a seven-hour interview with Bahrami by committee investigators last December, it appeared the FAA’s head of safety “really didn’t know much of anything about the MAX or its development.”

The House investigation concludes that “excessive FAA delegation to Boeing has eroded FAA’s oversight capabilities.”

DeFazio said the majority Democrats on the committee have been in discussions for weeks with the minority Republican members over “legislation to make sure this never happens again.”

The Senate’s Commerce Committee is likewise considering this week a bill to strengthen the airplane certification process.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Everett), chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, said the Boeing workers he represents are distraught at the MAX tragedies and that legislators “really do need to act.”

“We’re optimistic we can work it out,” DeFazio said.

Issues raised but dismissed

The report describes how Boeing “failed to classify MCAS as a safety-critical system, which would have attracted greater FAA scrutiny during the certification process.”

At a meeting documented in a

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