THE DRAMA GOES ON: GOP, Dems battle over FBI’S report on Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (AP) — A high-stakes partisan row quickly broke out Thursday over a confidential FBI report about allegations that Brett Kavanaugh sexually abused women three decades ago, with Republicans claiming investigators found “no hint of misconduct” and Democrats accusing the White House of slapping crippling constraints on the probe.

The battling commenced as the conservative jurist’s prospects for winning Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court remained at the mercy of five undeclared senators, with an initial, critical vote looming Friday. It followed the FBI’s early-morning release of its investigation, which President Donald Trump reluctantly ordered under pressure from a handful of senators.

“There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a written statement. He said he based his view on a briefing from committee aides and added, “This investigation found no hint of misconduct.”

In a potential sign of momentum for Kavanaugh, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told CNN that “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information” and said the investigation had been comprehensive. Flake, who’s not stated his position on the nomination, was among three Republicans who pressed Trump to order the renewed FBI background check.

Another GOP lawmakers who has publicly taken no stance, Susan Collins of Maine, called the probe “a very thorough investigation” and said she’d read the documents later. Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski said she’d read the report.

Other Republicans who’d already voiced support for Kavanaugh echoed Grassley, saying after a briefing that there’d been no corroboration of wrongdoing by Kavanaugh. Said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., “The senators who requested the supplemental background check got what they requested, and I am ready to vote.”

Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have also not declared how they will vote.

Top Democrats fired back at Grassley after getting their own briefing.

The Judiciary panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, said it appeared that the White House had “blocked the FBI from doing its job.” She said that while Democrats had agreed to limit the probe’s scope, “we did not agree that the White House should tie the FBI’s hands.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already started a process that will produce a crucial test vote in his polarized chamber Friday on Kavanaugh’s fate. Should Republicans get the majority of votes they need — and Vice President Mike Pence is available to cast the tie-breaker, if necessary — that would set up a decisive roll call on his confirmation, likely over the weekend.

Several senators said 10 witnesses were interviewed for the report. One senator said it was about 50 pages long.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said agents reached out to 10 but spoke only to nine. He said five were witnesses connected to accusations by Christine Blasey Ford and four involved a separate claim by Deborah Ramirez.

Feinstein complained Thursday that agents had not interviewed Kavanaugh or Ford, who has testified that he sexually attacked her in a locked bedroom during a high school gathering in 1982. Feinstein also said attorneys for Ramirez, who’s claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were Yale freshmen, had no indication the FBI had reached out to people she’d offered for corroboration.

Grassley said the FBI could not “locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations,” and he said there is “no contemporaneous evidence.” He provided no specifics.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats’ fears that the “very limited process” laid out for the investigation would restrain the FBI “have been realized.”

He also said, “I disagree with Sen. Grassley’s statement that there was no hint of misconduct.” Neither side provided any detail about what the report said, constrained by years-old arrangements that require the results of FBI background checks to remain confidential.

Earlier, White House spokesman Raj Shah rebuffed Democrats’ complaints, saying, “What critics want is a never-ending fishing expedition into high school drinking.” He said the FBI reached out to 10 people and interviewed nine, including “several individuals at the request of the Senate, and had a series of follow-up interviews … following certain leads.”

While the FBI interviews were to focus on sexual assault allegations, Democrats have also questioned Kavanaugh’s drinking habits during high school and college and dishonest comments they say he has made about his background. Kavanaugh has said stories of his bad behavior while drinking are exaggerated.

Three women have accused him of sexual misconduct in separate incidents in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, 53, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has denied the claims.

The White House received the FBI report around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Trump weighed in hours later in a tweet in which he denounced what he called “the harsh and unfair treatment” of Kavanaugh. “This great life cannot be ruined by mean” and “despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told reporters Thursday that time slots for reading the FBI file are so full that senators are being told they might have to wait until Friday to read it. “They’re so swamped,” she said.

The report arrived at a Capitol palpably tense over the political stakes of the nomination fight and from aggressive anti-Kavanaugh protesters who have rattled and reportedly harassed senators. Feeding the anxiety was an unusually beefy presence of the U.S. Capitol Police, who were keeping demonstrators and frequently reporters at arm’s length by forming wedges around lawmakers walking through corridors.

Barring leaks, it was unclear how much of the FBI report, if any, would be made public. While senators from both sides have expressed support for revealing at least parts of the findings, FBI background checks on nominees are supposed to remain confidential.

With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 Senate majority and five senators — including three Republicans — still publicly undeclared, the conservative jurist’s prospects of Senate confirmation could hinge largely on the file’s contents.

Underscoring rising tensions, Democrats suggested that previous FBI background checks of Kavanaugh may have unearthed misconduct by the nominee.

Democrats wrote to Grassley challenging a Tuesday tweet by GOP aides saying prior investigations never found “a whiff of ANY issue — at all — related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.” Democrats wrote that the GOP tweet contained information that is “not accurate.”

Committee Republicans tweeted in response that their prior tweet was “completely truthful” and accused Democrats of “false smears.”

Ford, now a California psychology professor, has testified that when the drunken Kavanaugh attacked her, she believed he was trying to rape her.

The FBI interviewed several people, including three who Ford has said attended a 1982 high school gathering in suburban Maryland where she says Kavanaugh’s attack occurred, plus another Kavanaugh friend. The agency has also spoken to a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a Yale party when both were freshmen.


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller, Padmananda Rama, Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to the contents of this report.

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DELAY TACTICS: Feinstein calls for postponement of Kavanaugh vote, FBI investigation of alleged assaults

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Sunday sent a letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley calling for an immediate postponement of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and a federal investigation into the sexual assaults being alleged toward Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court.

The full context of the letter reads as follows:

September 23, 2018

Honorable Charles Grassley
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley:

I am writing to request an immediate postponement of any further proceedings related to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. I also ask that the newest allegations of sexual misconduct be referred to the FBI for investigation, and that you join our request for the White House to direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford as well as these new claims.

Today, Deborah Ramirez came forward with serious allegations of sexual misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh. The New Yorker article recounting her experience states that there are witnesses who can corroborate her claims and who challenge Mr. Judge’s account. An investigation needs to be conducted as part of Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation by career professionals at the FBI – not partisan staff of the Committee. We need a fair, independent process that will gather all the facts, interview all the relevant witnesses, and ensure the Committee receives a full and impartial report. Should the White House continue to refuse to direct the FBI to do its job, the Committee must subpoena all relevant witnesses.

It is time to set politics aside. We must ensure that a thorough and fair investigation is conducted before moving forward.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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‘COMPLETELY FALSE’: Kavanaugh comes out swinging against claims of 80’s sexual assault; White House says accuser ‘will be heard’.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday denied allegations made by a woman who claims he sexually assaulted her while at a high school party in the 1980’s.

“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in the statement Monday. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making the accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”

Kavanaugh, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, also visited the White House on Monday for a closed-door meeting with the president on the matter.

Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is standing firm in her allegations against him, however, and is willing to testify before Congress if asked, Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, told reporters Monday.

In a letter published by CNN and sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D)-Calif, Ford claimed: “Brett Kavanaugh physically and sexually assaulted me during high school in the early 1980s.”

“The assault occurred in a suburban Maryland area home at a gathering that included me and four others,” Ford wrote. “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stair well from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help.”

“She clearly considers this an attempted rape,” Katz said Monday. “She believes that if it were not for the severe intoxication of Kavanaugh, she would have been raped.”

Kavanaugh, in a statement last week, said he has nothing to hide and too is willing to testify under oath on the matter.

“I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh said, adding that he “categorically and unequivocally” denies the allegations that have been made against him.

So far the White House has not made any determination as to whether or not the president will revoke Kavanaugh’s nomination, but issued a statement on Monday that Ford “deserves to be heard”.

“This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored. I think the Senate is headed toward a reasonable approach, allowing this woman to be heard in sworn testimony, allowing Judge Kavanaugh to be heard in sworn testimony,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, told “Fox & Friends” Monday. “I spoke with the president, I spoke with Senator [Lindsey] Graham and others. This woman will be heard.”

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SORRY…NOT SORRY: Immigration officials defend handling of border issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Top federal immigration officials went before Congress Tuesday to defend their handling of President Donald Trump’s now-abandoned policy of separating migrant children from their families, saying they keep records of children in their custody. They also said they can document decisions by hundreds of detained parents to willingly leave the U.S. without their children, an assertion that has drawn skepticism from lawmakers.

“We do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty,” Carla L. Provost, acting chief of the U.S. border patrol told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But the officials ran into bipartisan criticism from lawmakers appalled at the hundreds of migrant children who remain apart from their parents, more than a month after Trump dropped his family separation policy under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The Judiciary panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, called the separations “immoral and haphazard.” No. 2 Senate Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois said he wanted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign, saying the policy shows “the extremes this administration will go to to punish families fleeing” horrible conditions, adding, “Someone in this administration has to accept responsibility.”

Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Trump’s crackdown on people illegally crossing the border from Mexico was well-intentioned but has had unintended consequences.

He said the administration has “mishandled” family separations. He also cited reports that immigrants have experienced sexual and other abuse at some government detention facilities and said those held must be treated humanely.

Late Monday, Grassley and Feinstein sent a letter asking the inspectors general of the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments to investigate news organization’s reports of abuse of immigrants at detention centers.

“No one, no matter what their immigration status, should have to suffer such abuse,” Grassley said at Tuesday’s hearing.

Matthew Albence, an executive associate director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, described recreational and health care opportunities available at detention facilities and said he is “very comfortable” with the service they provide.

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting migrants entering the U.S. without authorization, his separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, and botched efforts to reunite many of them has drawn election-year criticism from both parties. More than 700 children remain separated, including more than 400 whose families have already left the U.S. without them.

Officials from ICE and Health and Human Services said they keep records of migrants who have been detained and have documentation of parents who left the U.S. without their children.

Commander Jonathan D. White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who is coordinating efforts to reunite divided families, called a family’s decision to leave children behind “a desperate last act of a parent” that he said is “unfathomable until you’ve walked in those parents’ shoes.”

Albence said ICE uses a court-approved form that documents decisions by some parents to leave the U.S. without their children. For the public health service, parents leaving without their children undergo an interview and then sign a form designating who will care for the children, White said.

Some migrants separated from their children have said they did not understand what they were signing.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, defended the officials and said Congress was also to blame for the administration’s problems with handling the separated families. He said congressional critics “offer no plausible or workable solution at all.”

Trump began his policy of “zero tolerance” this spring, prosecuting all migrants caught entering the U.S. without authorization. To help discourage border crossing, his administration also began separating children from their detained parents, rather than following the policy used by previous administrations, which generally released the entire family pending court action.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a deadline of last Thursday to reunite the families. While he commended administration officials for reuniting many parents in its custody with their children, it faulted them for leaving hundreds of families still apart and warning that a better system must be in place.

The senators’ letter, based on articles by The Associated Press and other news organizations, says the allegations suggest “a long-term pattern” of mistreatment. Those reports describe claims of abuse from this year dating back to before Trump took office and include accusations of sexual and other forms of assault at some facilities.

The AP reported last month that children held at an immigration detention facility in Staunton, Virginia, said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked in solitary confinement and left nude and cold in concrete cells.

A civil rights lawsuit has been filed alleging mistreatment at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center from 2015 to 2018. The alleged victims, Hispanic youths held for months or years, have submitted sworn statements in the case. Lawyers for the facility have denied the alleged abuse.

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TICK TOCK, DIANE; Savage to decide on Feinstein senatorial challenge by March 8

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Conservative author and radio talk show host Michael Savage announced this week he will decide whether or not to challenge Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein for her coveted California Senate seat by March 8.

In a statement posted to his website (https://tinyurl.com/ybs76pmk) Savage says that if he runs his platform will be based on his trademark commitment to borders, language, and culture.

“BORDERS, LANGUAGE, CULTURE: Three seminal words that have been the core of my credo for many years as a talk show host,” Savage wrote. “I have earned a unique platform to communicate with people nationwide and the philosophies and solutions I proposed have always resonated with voters, most notably the populist election of our current President Donald Trump. I have been the voice of the forgotten in California as radical Leftists have devastated my home state. After being approached by a number of people, I am now openly considering the race for the U.S. Senate.”

“Like many Americans, I am the son of an immigrant who had to work for where I am today,” Savage continued. “People relate to this work ethic, to this honesty that I share with them. For far too long, we have heard the stump speeches, the talking points, now is the time for truth.

“If I enter this race,” Savage challenged, “I will oppose Senator Dianne Feinstein for her seat, who is no longer endorsed by the California Democratic establishment. With the Democratic Party in such opposition, now more than ever the conservative citizens of California have the chance to be heard, to have a true representative in office.”

Savage, who has long been the subject of criticism by those he refers to as “fake Conservatives” says if he decides to run, he’ll be anything but your typical candidate.

“I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to go out and hug illegal aliens and wash their feet like Nancy Pelosi,” he said on his nationally syndicated radio show “The Savage Nation”. “I’m going to say, ‘Build a wall that’s so thick, a hurricane couldn’t blow it down.’ I’m not talking about a wall, I’m talking about a citadel. California needs to be sealed off.”

In addition to being the best selling author of books such as “Scorched Earth: Restoring the Country after Obama,” Stop the Coming Civil War: My Savage Truth,” and “God, Faith and Reason”, Michael Savage holds a Master of Science degree in botany and a Master of Arts degree in anthropology. Savage also obtained a PhD in 1978 from the University of California, Berkeley, in nutritional ethnomedicine.

“I have until March 8th to make my ultimate decision whether or not I will throw my hat in the race,” Savage wrote on his website. “For the time being, I will be carefully considering the advice and opinions offered by those of you who have supported me in the past.”

Calls for statement to Diane Feinstein’s representatives on a possible Savage challenge were met with “no comment”.

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TOO SAVAGE FOR SENATE? Bad boy talk show host Michael Savage hints at a senatorial run

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Controversial talk show host and best selling author Michael Savage says he’s considering giving Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein a run for her money in the upcoming Senatorial election.

“Some very important people have come to me and said ‘Savage, would you like to run as an independent for the U.S. Senate in the of California against the esteemed Dianne Feinstein?’ Now you may say ‘you don’t have a ghost of a chance.’ With all those illegal aliens, with all that union money, with no press on your side, how could you David run against the Goliath of Feinstein?” The native New Yorker turned San Francisco based commentator said Friday on his nationally syndicated radio show “The Savage Nation”.

“I’ve been holding down the fort for 24 years this March. 24 years in the radio business and I am younger than Dianne Feinstein,” the National Radio Hall of Fame inductee continued. “That’s right. I’ve been asked by a number of very powerful, important people to run as an independent for the U.S. Senate in the state of California.”

Savage, also known for his best selling books “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder,” “Trump’s War,” and “God, Faith and Reason” is as unapologetic as he is outspoken.

Banned from entering the U.K. on May 5, 2009 under former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Savage was accused at the time of fostering hatred for his comments on immigration and Islam. On July 12, 2010, the government of then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Mr. Savage would continue to be banned from the country, a ban which stands in place to this day.

Admitting he’s also been “banned by Fox News” and other national television stations for “refusing to play the PC game” Savage and his millions of fans have been credited by president Donald Trump as playing a vital role in helping to secure Trump’s presidential win in 2016 (https://tinyurl.com/y7mlsmg3).

“Trump’s victory is in large part due to the blood, sweat and tears that you and I put in to get that man to Oval Office,” Savage told his listeners shortly after Trump was elected. “Never forget what a huge role you’ve played in creating history.”

Savage said Friday that if he chooses to run, it’s all or nothing.

“I am contemplating whether I really want to leave what I’ve worked for all my life and roll in the mud because politics is the dirty business on the planet,” Savage said of possibly giving up his radio show to dedicate his life to politics.

Meanwhile, Feinstein is again asking that delegates again endorse her for reelection.

“Today, more than ever, California and our nation’s progress are threatened on many fronts by Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress…California Democrats can and must lead Democrats across the nation to victory. Please know that I stand with each and every one of you and that I deeply appreciate all you do for our party and for the values we share,” the 84-year-old wrote in a mailer sent to California Democrats last week (https://tinyurl.com/yd8w8ngj).

Savage has not yet revealed when he will announce his final decision.

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‘SCENE OF HORROR’: SHOOTER OPENS FIRE AT SAN FRANCISCO UPS FACILITY; FOUR DEAD, INCLUDING SUSPECT

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Police say four people are dead after a gunman opened fire inside a UPS facility in San Francisco on Wednesday, killing three victims before turning the gun on himself.

According to a San Francisco NBC affiliate (http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Active-Shooter-San-Francisco-Police-428441423.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_BAYBrand), investigators have identified San Francisco resident Jimmy Lam as the shooter. Although a motive for the shooting is not yet known, police have confirmed that Lam was employed at the facility.

Lam, who sources say has a history of mental illness, was dressed in his UPS uniform when he opened fire.

Speaking on behalf of the company, a UPS spokesperson said that although he could not give specifics in light of the ongoing investigation, the company was devestated to hear of the tragedy.

“The company is saddened and deeply concerned about affected employees, family members and the community we share,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

In a press conference shortly after the incident, police officials were quick to assure the public that the shooting was not an act of terrorism.

“This is a tragedy that has touched many lives today,” Assistant Police Chief Toney Chaplin said. “The shooting is not related to terrorism.”

Democratic leaders in California expressed their sympathy for the victims before calling again for the need for stricter gun laws.

“I was heartbroken to learn that yet another senseless act of gun violence has marred our wonderful City. My heart goes out to the victims and their families, and to everyone affected by this despicable act,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.

California Gov. Jerry Brown also issued a statement via Twitter, tweeting, “Our thoughts & prayers are with everyone impacted by senseless violence today in SF & Alexandria.”

Chaplin confirmed that two other victims suffered gunshot wounds during the attack, but doctors say they are expected to recover.

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EMAILGATE EXPLODES: FBI DIRECTOR CONFIRMS CLINTON FORWARDED CLASSIFIED EMAILS TO ANTHONY WEINER

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was the subject of an FBI probe amid reports that she stored and sent classified emails from her home computer, allegedly sent some of the highly sensitive emails in question to Anthony Weiner, FBI director James Comey testified on Wednesday.

Clinton, who served as Secretary of State at the time, allegedly stored thousands of government emails and documents on a secret server kept on site at her upstate New York home. How these documents wound up on Weiner’s computer remains a subject of debate, said Comey. The receipt of these emails is of major concern because Weiner, who was married to vice chair of Clinton’s campaign at the time, Huma Abedin, did not have classified clearance to receive such information.

“Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information,” Comey said. “His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him to print out for her so she could deliver them to the Secretary of State.”

“Really the central problem we had with the whole email investigation was proving people… had some sense they were doing something unlawful. That was our burden and we were unable to meet it,’’ he said of the FBI’s decision not to charge Clinton in the matter.

“Why did you conclude that neither of them committed a crime?” Sen. John Kennedy, (R)-La., asked Comey during his testimony Wednesday at a Senate judiciary committee hearing.

“Because with respect to Ms. Abedin in particular, we didn’t have any indication that she had a sense that what she was doing was in violation of the law, couldn’t prove any sort of criminal intent,” Comey answered.

Comey also defended his decision to announce that he had reopened the investigation into the Clinton email scandal just days before the election, saying he was forced to choose “between really bad and catastrophic.’’

“The team also told me we cannot finish this work before the election and then they worked night after night after night and they found thousands of new emails, they found classified info on Anthony Weiner,” Comey said while responding to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill. “Having repeatedly told this Congress we are done and there’s nothing there … To re-start in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning, and not speak about it would require an act of concealment in my view.”

Meanwhile, as a result of a Freedom of Information request, 29 previously undisclosed email exchanges including classified information were released, part of a total of 317 emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to turn over to the State Department, The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday (http://freebeacon.com/national-security/comey-thousands-clinton-emails-forwarded-anthony-weiner/).

“These new emails show Hillary Clinton is a serial violator of various laws concerning the handling of classified material,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch told the Beacon in response to the revelation.

Clinton, speaking at a Womens’ conference on Tuesday, blamed Comey, among others, for her loss to Donald Trump, her Republican rival in the 2016 presidential election. “If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

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