Donald Trump battles with GOP lawmakers in Washington

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Director James B. Comey defends the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the decision not to recommend charges be filed.

  • Donald Trump lays into GOP senators as Capitol Hill unity tour skids
  • With recent high-profile deaths of black men, Clinton brings policing issues to the fore
  • Director James Comey: ‘I have no basis for concluding that [Clinton] was untruthful with us’
  • Native American tribe to Trump: Quit mocking us at your rallies
  • Bernie Sanders may endorse and join Clinton on the campaign trail in New Hampshire

As Dallas police hunt for snipers, politicians start to weigh in

Politicians have begun to comment publicly on the killings of four Dallas police officers Thursday night by snipers who targeted them during a downtown protest against recent shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Dallas’ Democratic mayor issued a plea for unity.

Calling the shootings the city’s “worst nightmare,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings urged Americans to support the officers and “just grab each other’s arm and say we’re in this together.”

It was a call echoed by the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.

“In times like this we must remember -- and emphasize -- the importance of uniting as Americans,” he said in a statement.

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominees of their respective parties, had spoken out about the shootings late Thursday. But partisans on both sides offered their views.

Among the most provocative was former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who blamed President Obama and Black Lives Matter protesters for the killings in a series of tweets, at least one of which was later deleted.

“Obama says Cops are racist so 2 uneducated black thugs shoot 10 Dallas Cops tonight, killing 4. Wake up silent majority. Stand w our Cops,” he tweeted.

He added: “It’s time 4 patriotic Americans to stand up & stand against all the Cop haters - from Obama to the thugs on the street. It’s way past time.”

Others were more restrained, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in second in the GOP presidential nominating contest.

“Men & women of law enforcement selflessly run into harm’s way to save the lives of others. May God protect them and bring peace upon Dallas,” he tweeted.

On the Democratic side, national party leaders put out a statement that focused on this week’s shootings of two black men, Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, by police officers.

“Twice this week, first in Baton Rouge, La., then in St. Paul, Minn., tragic, deadly incidents in which black men were killed by police officers have left families and communities shattered while re-igniting anger and racial tensions in cities across the country,” said the statement by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and black caucus chair Virgie Rollins “… Thoughts and prayers are not enough. These fatal confrontations are yet another reminder that similar incidents have been and continue to be a serious problem in our nation, and they expose a larger issue plaguing our criminal justice system.”

They turned to the police officer shootings at the end of the fourth paragraph of a five-paragraph statement.

“… While most protesters have made their voices heard peacefully, tonight’s shooting of officers in Dallas is unacceptable and a reminder that the time to address these tensions and find common ground is long overdue,” they said.

Other Democrats focused more heavily on the deaths of the Dallas officers.

Paul Begala, a longtime Clinton confidant and an advisor to a pro-Clinton super PAC, cited Obama’s words from earlier in the day that said slain police officers’ lives matter as much as those of black Americans.

“Prayers for Dallas. Prayers for peace,” he tweeted.

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In new ad push, Hillary Clinton goes after Donald Trump on foreign policy

Hillary Clinton released a round of new ads on Thursday, castigating Donald Trump for his lack of foreign policy acumen and depicting the wealthy businessman as dangerous on the international stage.

The ads, which are set to begin airing in eight swing states in what the campaign said was an “eight figure” buy, will increase the spending advantage — already 15 to 1 — that Clinton and her supporters have in television and radio ads over Trump and his allies.

Clinton and a super PAC backing her candidacy, Priorities USA, have doled out $45 million on ads, according to a recent report from NBC News/SMG Delta. By contrast Trump and his supporters have spent about $3 million.

In one of the ads released Thursday, titled “Myself,” the Clinton campaign highlights Trump’s comments in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in March in which he talked about a host of issues, including foreign policy.

“Who are you consulting with consistently so that you’re ready on day one,” Mika Brzezinski, one of the show’s hosts, asked him.

“I’m speaking with myself ... because I have a very good brain,” replied Trump.

The ad then goes on to tout Clinton’s work as secretary of State, including her work helping to negotiate a cease fire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas in 2012.

The other ad from Clinton, titled “The Shows,” follows the same script, but at the outset highlights Trump’s statements in a “Meet the Press” interview in which he said he would watch Sunday shows in order to stay abreast of foreign policy matters.

Trump has said in recent months that he is seeking foreign policy advice from several people, though many have spent no time as policymakers.

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Cruz accepts Trump’s invitation to speak at GOP convention

Ted Cruz agreed Thursday to Donald Trump’s request that he speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but stopped short of endorsing the former rival who defeated him in the presidential primaries.

The Texas senator, who once branded the New York businessman a “pathological liar” when Trump linked Cruz’s father to the assassination of President Kennedy, told reporters that his meeting with Trump in Washington on Thursday was “positive and productive.”

“There was no discussion of any endorsement,” Cruz said.

A Cruz spokeswoman said Trump had asked the senator for his advice on future judicial nominations, and Cruz agreed “to do everything he can to help ensure principled constitutionalists on the courts.”

Cruz’s agreement to speak at the convention, which starts July 18, comes as Trump is struggling to unite the party behind his candidacy.

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Trump lays into GOP senators as Capitol Hill unity tour skids

What started as Donald Trump’s unity visit with Republicans on Capitol Hill hit trouble Thursday as he criticized three GOP senators who have refused to support him.

In a closed session with Senate Republicans, Trump said it’s “hurtful” that Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who was not present, doesn’t back him. He warned Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake he could work against his reelection. And he ribbed late-night tweeter Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

“You must want Hillary to win,” Trump said, according to those in the room, as senators met privately at campaign headquarters. “If you can’t support me, you’re supporting Hilary.”

Other senators downplayed the exchanges as a small part of an otherwise positive and free-wheeling discussion with the presumed GOP nominee.

“I don’t feel there was this tense exchange, even with Flake,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

Several Republican senators declined to comment specifically — many said they did not hear a reported remark by Trump characterizing Kirk, who is disabled from a stroke and in a difficult reelection battle, as a loser.

Many acknowledged the conversation was “frank.”

“Not bashful,” said Sen. Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho).

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said Trump was “casual and complimentary” to Sasse, and the most intense exchange involved Flake, who introduced himself as the other senator from Arizona, the one not “captured,” a reference to Trump’s criticism last fall of Sen. John McCain for having been a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Flake brought up Trump’s suggestion that the American-born judge overseeing lawsuits against the businessman can’t do his job properly because of his Mexican heritage.

Trump responded: “‘You’ve been hard on me, I haven’t responded, I’ve stayed out of it. I could engage, but I haven’t, “ according to those in the room.

“I didn’t hear it as a threat,” Lankford said. “I heard it more as playing kind of a tough guy kind of comment.”

Flake’s office declined further comment.

A Sasse spokesman said that Trump and the Nebraska senator “had a gracious exchange.”

“Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed,” the spokesman said.

Kirk did not attend the private meeting.

McCain praised his fellow Arizona senator as an independent voice.

Another Trump dissenter, his campaign trail rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, reportedly met with Trump separately.

Trump’s tour of Capitol Hill started with a call for unity after he was welcomed warmly by Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) for a private meeting with House Republicans.

“Let’s stick together,” Trump told House Republicans, according to one lawmaker in the room, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), an early supporter and informal advisor. “We need to stick together.”

Trump fielded dozens questions from lawmakers in both sessions — and plenty of unsolicited campaign advice. Protesters crowded the sidewalks outside.

He was joined by his daughter Ivanka, who did not address the group, and introduced by Larry Kudlow, an economic advisor to his campaign. Lawmakers gave him repeated applause.

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‘Something is profoundly wrong,’ Clinton says after high-profile killings of black men

Hillary Clinton has sat in churches and community centers, prayed and talked policy alongside the mothers of black men killed by police.

And in the last 24 hours, as the nation was confronted with gruesome video of two young black men killed by police officers, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in a St. Paul, Minn., suburb, Clinton has used the shootings to renew calls for strengthening bonds between minority communities and police.

“Too many African American families mourn the loss of a loved one from a police-involved incident,” she said in a statement late Wednesday, after the announcement that the Department of Justice will investigate Sterling’s death.

“Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that our country doesn’t consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin.”

Since she announced her candidacy, several black mothers who have lost sons in violent incidents with police have endorsed Clinton and have spoken on her behalf at campaign events.

On Thursday, Clinton, who is set to speak at a black church in Philadelphia this week, used social media to note Castile’s death, which was recorded in a Facebook Live video that’s received more than 3 million views.

“America woke up to yet another tragedy of a life cut down too soon. Black Lives Matter,” she tweeted.

For Clinton, efforts to strengthen bonds of trust between communities and police has become a key objective as she seeks to maintain her high level of support from African Americans.

High turnout from black voters in 2008 and 2012 helped propel President Obama to victory in swing states including Ohio and Virginia, and Clinton is counting on similar levels of voting this fall.

During her primary battle against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton received strong support among blacks, which powered many of her lopsided victories in southern states.

That support is likely to continue into the fall. A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll found Clinton leading Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, among African Americans by a 10-1 margin.

So far, Trump has not commented on the deaths of Sterling and Castile, and his campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Still, despite Clinton’s calls for racial justice, she has faced backlash from Black Lives Matter demonstrators for her support of a crime bill in 1994 that was signed by former President Bill Clinton. The bill helped contribute to the trend of greater levels of incarceration for black men. She has since said she believes that bill was flawed.

“The keys to a Clinton victory is an ascending diverse electorate,” said Cornell Belcher, a pollster for the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. “They are her constituency.”

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Comey says FBI did not ‘give a hoot about politics’ in Clinton email probe

FBI Director James B. Comey on Thursday defended his decision to recommend that no criminal charges be brought in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State.

Testifying before a House committee, Comey said that he and his team of FBI agents didn’t “give a hoot about politics” in reaching their determination, which was accepted by Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch in formally closing the investigation into the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate’s handling of classified information.

Comey said a key reason for his conclusion was that Clinton did not knowingly send classified information despite displaying “great carelessness” and at times lack of sophistication.

“I do not see evidence that is sufficient to establish that Secretary Clinton or those with whom she was corresponding both talked about classified information on email and knew when they did it, that they were doing something that was against the law,” Comey said.

Asked why Clinton’s conduct could not be prosecuted under a 1917 law involving “gross negligence,” he noted that only one other person had been charged under that provision in the past 99 years.

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Republican congressman questions ‘choreography’ of Clinton probe announcement, compares it to ‘Hamilton’

Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) questioned the timing of the FBI’s announcement that it would not recommend charges be filed against Hillary Clinton for using a private email server by comparing it to the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Mica said the timing of former President Bill Clinton’s meeting with Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch and Hillary Clinton’s interview with the FBI seemed highly choreographed, much like the smash musical.

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Trump healthcare plan would leave 18 million uninsured, study finds

(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Donald Trump’s healthcare plan would make 18 million people uninsured, but also lower premiums significantly for policies purchased directly by consumers, according to an independent study released Thursday.

The new policies would have less generous benefits than those sold now.

Trump’s plan would have little effect on people covered by employers health plans and those on Medicare. But millions of low-income adults covered by the Medicaid expansion in President Obama’s healthcare law would lose newly gained benefits. Separately, taxpayers may save money because the government no longer would have to subsidize insurance for millions of citizens.

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Tribe says Trump and backers need to quit mocking American Indians

(Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

A Native American tribe that was the target of invective from Donald Trump has called on the presidential contender to stop mocking American Indians at his campaign rallies, saying fake war whoops and insults are “blatantly discriminatory.”

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe came under attack from Trump earlier in his career when he was the biggest casino operator in Atlantic City, N.J.. and worried about competition from the tribe’s Foxwoods Resorts Casino in Connecticut.

At a 1993 congressional hearing about regulation of tribal casinos, Trump said tribes would not be able to police their casino operations to keep them free from organized crime, and he questioned the authenticity of the Pequot tribe, whose members have a history of intermarriage with African Americans.

“They don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians, and a lot of people are laughing at it,” Trump said when a congressman confronted him about jokes he had made about the tribe on a radio show.

In a statement Thursday, the tribe’s leaders said that “Mr. Trump’s statement was not only ignorant, but also demonstrates his proclivity for injecting racial stereotypes into national political discourse.”

The hearing was not the last time that Trump used personal attacks to try to cut down casino competition from Native Americans. In 2000, he secretly financed an attack campaign against the St. Regis tribe of Mohawk Indians, who were trying to build a casino near New York City, concealing his role behind a front group called the Institute for Law and Society.

Trump personally signed off on ads suggesting that the tribe was riddled with criminals and drug users; one ad had a picture of hypodermic needles and lines of powder, meant to depict cocaine. Trump paid $250,000 in fines to settle an investigation into whether he violated New York’s lobbying disclosure law.

During his presidential campaign, Trump has used Indian jokes to mock a political antagonist, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who has claimed Cherokee heritage. He has repeatedly called her “Pocahontas,” spurring his followers into mocking war whoops.

“Mr. Trump and his supporters’ words and actions are highly inappropriate, blatantly discriminatory, and are no laughing matter,” the Pequot tribe said in its statement, adding that Trump and his backers should “stop using racist language and offensive actions against Native Americans and all others who reflect the diversity of our country.”

Trump has repeatedly used racially tinged rhetoric during his campaign, targeting the background of a Mexican American judge, and suggested that undocumented Mexican immigrants are rapists. This week, he angrily defended his campaign’s use of a six-pointed star over a pile of cash in a tweet calling Hillary Clinton corrupt, arguing that it was not intended to be a Star of David or an anti-Semitic slur.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Pequot statement.

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Democrats defend Hillary Clinton, FBI director during House hearing

Democrats defended FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton during a hearing on the agency’s decision not to recommend charges be filed against the former secretary of State for her use of a private email server.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) defended Comey during his opening remarks, asserting Republicans felt Comey’s only job was to prosecute Clinton. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) reminded the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that Comey is a Republican and stated that Republicans have not been held to the same standard when it comes to the investigation of email servers.

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Trump gets warm welcome on Capitol Hill, tells Republicans, ‘Let’s stick together’

Donald Trump met privately Thursday with Republicans on Capitol Hill and was greeted “warmly” by Speaker Paul D. Ryan despite the candidate’s week of comments that have given many in the party pause.

Joined by his daughter, Ivanka, who did not address the closed session with House Republicans, and GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, Trump brought a message of party unity two weeks before the Republican convention in Cleveland.

“Let’s stick together,” Trump told House Republicans, according to one lawmaker in the room, Rep. Kevin Cramer, an early supporter and informal advisor from North Dakota. “We need to stick together.”

Trump fielded at least a dozen questions from lawmakers, mostly unsolicited campaign advice, at party headquarters as protesters crowded the sidewalks outside. Later, he headed across the Capitol complex to a meeting with Senate Republicans.

But after a week in which Trump praised Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator, and tweeted an image seen by many as anti-Semitic, he faced little pushback from Republicans.

Trump brushed aside his comments about Hussein as another example of the media taking his words out of context. His tweet of an attack on Hillary Clinton as corrupt, which included a six-pointed star and a pile of cash, did not appear to come up during the session.

The toughest question posed was about his poor standing with minority voters. Trump assured lawmakers he would do well with Latinos — particularly in Nevada — and said he was performing well in Ohio and other states.

“Hispanics love me,” he told them.

“He feels like there is a lack of fairness about showing him truly the way he is — and crowds, when they’re around him, come away with a different impression, and I think we did today,” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said.

“There are a whole lot of things about Mr. Trump that people are going to learn, and I think they’re going to be very pleased.”

Lawmakers particularly noted the “positive energy” between Trump and Ryan, who reluctantly endorsed the presidential nominee. The two joked and shared an easy rapport.

Even though Trump did not spend much time talking about the House’s policy agenda, which Ryan has labeled the “Better Way,” he repeatedly gave nods to Ryan and noted areas they can work together, lawmakers said.

In the Senate, Trump may face a tougher crowd. Senate Republicans are defending two dozen seats this fall to keep the majority. Many senators, particularly those from swing states, have distanced themselves from Trump as they try to win reelection.

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FBI Director Comey: Clinton set up email server for convenience

(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

FBI Director James B. Comey told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that HIllary Clinton’s private email server was likely created for convenience, not to conceal any communication or information from public record or Congress.

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FBI director dispels notion that decision on Clinton probe was politically motivated

FBI Director James B. Comey denied assertions that his agency’s release of its probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was politically motivated in any way.

Comey was questioned regarding Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton before the FBI released the findings of its investigation as well as Donald Trump’s assertion that Lynch was bribed by Clinton not to press charges.

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A refresher: Here’s our March 2015 coverage on the David Petraeus case

(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

March 3, 2015:

David H. Petraeus, the former CIA director and retired four-star Army general, admitted Tuesday that he gave eight handwritten journals containing highly classified information about secret operations and identities of covert officers to his mistress in 2011 and then lied about it to the FBI.

Petraeus pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of retaining classified information. Prosecutors agreed not to charge him with more serious crimes, such as obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI, the Justice Department announced.

Petraeus agreed to pay a $40,000 fine, and prosecutors said they would recommend that he receive probation instead of prison time.

The plea marks perhaps the final chapter in the dramatic disgrace of a modern military hero, and raises questions whether the 62-year-old former officer was treated more leniently than others accused of improper disclosures of classified information.

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Don’t be surprised if Clinton and Sanders make peace next week in New Hampshire

Don’t book the flight or secure a hotel room just yet.

But don’t be surprised if Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders show up in New Hampshire next week for Sanders’ long-awaited, much-delayed endorsement of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Top aides to the two have been in constant touch and are nearing agreement on a joint appearance, according to insiders who asked not to be identified discussing the private talks.

The Clinton campaign has announced that she will hold an event in New Hampshire on Tuesday although they have not said that Sanders will be present.

The Vermont senator has won a number of concessions from Clinton as the party hammers out the platform Democrats will adopt at their national convention this month in Philadelphia.

A final draft is due to be completed at a two-day meeting of the platform committee starting Friday in Orlando; Sanders’ forces are expected to press there for still more accommodations.

There have already been signs of the two candidates coming together.

On Wednesday, Sanders offered lavish praise after Clinton unveiled a plan to make college more affordable — one of his top priorities during their primary fight.

Sanders said he hoped more areas of accord would come “sooner rather than later.”

Sanders has said he would vote for Clinton and do all he can to ensure that Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, does not win in November.

But he has stopped short of uttering the “e” word — endorse — and a high-profile, unequivocal embrace of Clinton could help heal some of the lingering hard feelings from their vigorously contested nominating fight.

Sanders buried Clinton in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, lending added resonance to a joint appearance in the state, which is also one of November’s battlegrounds.

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FBI director: ‘No basis to believe’ Clinton lied to agency

FBI Director James Comey said the agency has “no basis to believe” Hillary Clinton lied during its investigation of her private email server.

Comey told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he was not qualified to determine whether Clinton lied to American voters.

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FBI Director Comey testifies on Clinton email probe

FBI Director James B. Comey will testify Thursday on the agency’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and its decision not to recommend that any charges be filed in the case.

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee began delivering harsh criticism of Comey’s investigation.

Here’s what’s happening at the hearing:

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Bernie Sanders edges closer to endorsing Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders hasn’t endorsed Hillary Clinton yet but admitted he can’t deny that it will happen, confirming a report that he is in talks with Clinton’s campaign to do so.

“You’re not denying the report that there are talks about a possible endorsement?” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked the Vermont senator Wednesday in an interview.

“That’s correct,” Sanders answered.

Clinton announced a new college plan this week that meshes her platform with Sanders’ and offers free in-state tuition for public university students in families making up to $85,000 a year. Sanders praised this joint effort as a “bold initiative.”

He acknowledged that Clinton has more delegates than him going into the Democratic National Convention and won more of the popular vote in the party’s primaries. And he said he will do whatever he can to beat Donald Trump, whose election Sanders said would be an “unmitigated disaster.”

“There is going to be a coming together,” Sanders predicted of Democrats. “We’re going to go forward together and not only defeat Trump, but defeat him badly.”

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Paul Ryan asks that Hillary Clinton be prevented from seeing classified information

Hillary Clinton’s email track record should disqualify her from receiving access to classified information or briefings when she becomes the Democratic nominee for president, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wrote to the director of National Intelligence on Thursday.

“It would send the wrong signal to all those charged with safeguarding our nation’s secrets if you choose to provide her access to this information despite the FBI’s findings,” Ryan wrote in a letter to Director James Clapper. “I firmly believe this is necessary to reassure the public that our nation’s secrets are secure.”

In announcing Tuesday that the FBI wasn’t recommending charges be brought in the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State, Director James Comey called her actions “extremely careless” and said they might be punishable with “security or administrative sanctions” under other circumstances. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that the investigation was closed.

Major-party presidential nominees generally start classified briefings after their national conventions. But Ryan argued that the FBI’s investigation proves Clinton cannot be trusted with secure information.

“Given the FBI’s findings, denying Secretary Clinton access to classified information certainly constitutes appropriate sanctions,” he wrote.

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Trump and Clinton are giving people lots of reasons to vote against them

In the span of a few days, the campaigns of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have each stumbled over flaws in the candidates that could mar the presidency of whichever one wins in November.

For Trump, the publication over the Fourth of July weekend of a tweet using anti-Semitic imagery underscored his willingness to use bigoted characterizations to advance his political career. His statements since, including denying the tweet’s connections to a white supremacist website, highlighted his repeated and documented use of falsehoods to push his case.

For Clinton, the blunt critique from FBI Director James B. Comey, who on Tuesday called her recklessly sloppy when it came to classified emails she handled as secretary of State, demonstrated anew that Clinton seeks to avoid scrutiny even when doing so skirts the law. The email episode also showed that Clinton had no one in her inner circle — at least at that time — with the standing to dissuade her when her instincts erred.

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