Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

Republicans on Capitol Hill are still reeling from the waves of scandals that have hit Washington in quick succession over the last few days: President Donald Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey, the admission he did so to in order put the kibosh on the bureau’s investigation of his own campaign, reports that Trump pressured Comey in a private meeting to drop that investigation, and news that Trump revealed highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians.

Any one of those revelations on its own could drive a wedge between a President and his own party in Congress. In combination, they threaten to derail Trump’s presidency entirely.

While the latest Comey allegations have forced reluctant Republican leaders to initiate some oversight of Trump, and at least two GOP lawmakers have raised the possibility of impeachment, most members are standing by their man. Here are the some of the arguments GOP members made to reporters as to why Trump’s pressure on Comey to let Flynn off the hook does not constitute an obstruction of justice.

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Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has been one of the loudest critics of President Donald Trump as scandal after scandal has hit the administration over its first few months.

He had already been one of just a tiny handful of GOP lawmakers backing Democrats’ call for an independent commission to investigate Trump, and he went a step further on Wednesday.

Asked if the new revelations that President Trump pressured then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of national security advisor Mike Flynn’s communications with the Russian government could be grounds for impeachment, Amash told reporters: “If the allegations are true, yes. But everybody in this country gets a fair trial, including the president.”

Asked who he trusts more if the matter comes down to a dispute between Comey’s memos versus Trump’s account of their conversations, Amash said: “I think it’s pretty clear I have more confidence in Director Comey.”

Amash’s comments came on the heels of Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) raising the possibility of impeaching Trump in an interview Tuesday night on CNN.

“Any effort to stop the federal government from conducting an investigation, any effort to dissuade federal agents from pursuing an investigation is very serious and could be construed as obstruction of justice,” he said. “We’ve seen that these obstruction of justice cases, when they deal with presidents, can get ugly very fast.”

“Obstruction in the case of Nixon and in the case of Clinton in the late 90s has been considered an impeachable offense,” he added.

The first version of this reported cited Amash as the first sitting Republican to float impeachment. Curbelo was in fact the first. We regret the error. 

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo will come to Capitol Hill Tuesday night to brief members of the House Intelligence Committee about the shocking developments of the past week, including the revelation that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information about an Islamic State threat with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting.

The top Democrat on that committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said at a conference in Washington earlier Tuesday that he fears the president’s carelessness could cause the source of the intelligence in question to “dry up or go away.” He added that the ally nation that reportedly produced the intelligence and shared it with the United States could decide that the Trump administration can’t be trusted with sensitive information. If that information concerns threats to the American homeland, Schiff noted, this rupture could prove dangerous.

“We immediately have to go into damage mitigation mode,” Schiff said, urging the administration to reach out to the ally and “assure them we’ll be more careful in the future.”

With several members of the intelligence community testifying over the past few months that Russian meddling in U.S. elections is likely to continue in the future, Schiff warned that the only way to “inoculate” the country from future attacks is to “fully investigate what they did and how they did it.”

“The most fundamental point is how we protect our democracy in the future,” he said.

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Senators arriving at the Capitol Monday night to return to their normal business of confirming nominees and passing bills were once again confronted with and forced to respond another disaster unleashed by President Donald Trump. This time, it was news broken by the Washington Post that Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Russian government officials in their Oval office meeting last week.

Only a few Republican senators, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), came out strongly against the president’s actions, which reportedly included revealing foreign intelligence related to an ISIS threat that the U.S. was not authorized to share.

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House Democrats are planning to use a special procedural tool this week to force the GOP majority to vote on a bill to establish an outside, independent commission to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

The use of the discharge petition, which requires only a simply majority to pass, can enable a minority party to force a vote on a bill that the majority is blocking from the floor. But the move is unlikely to succeed, because Democrats would need more than a dozen Republicans to join them in order to secure such a vote against leadership’s wishes. But it is one of several procedural tools Democrats are using to call attention to Republicans’ muted response to President Donald Trump’s shocking decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has languished in committee since it was introduced last December. It gained new life last week, when Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) backed the call for an independent commission following Comey’s ouster .

Amash is one of just two Republicans co-sponsoring the bill, along with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). Nearly 200 Democrats have signed on.

In announcing the attempt to move the bill Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote: “The question remains: what do the Russians have on President Trump financially, politically and personally that he and Republicans in Congress want to hide?”

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) office announced Monday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday and talk to all 100 senators in a classified, closed-door briefing about last week’s ouster of FBI Director James Comey.

Rosenstein wrote a memo that was sharply critical of Comey’s handling of the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private emails server, and the White House initially pointed to that recommendation as the main driver for the decision to terminate Comey. Later, President Trump admitted in a TV interview that he had already decided to can Comey before reading Rosenstein’s justification.

Since then, the deputy attorney general has come under scrutiny from Democrats, including those who supported his confirmation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a statement saying he hopes Democratic and Republican senators will use the Rosenstein briefing “to seek the full truth regarding Director Comey’s firing, to press the Deputy Attorney General to make way for a special prosecutor, and to ensure the administration will preserve and make public any audio recordings of conversations between the President and the former director.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is demanding a similar briefing from Rosenstein for all 400-plus House members.

“In the days since the firing of Director Comey, there has been a distressing disparity of information being made available to the Senate but not to the House,” she wrote in a public letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). “The people’s representatives on both sides of the Capitol must have the opportunity to hear from and interrogate the key figures in the FBI director’s firing.”

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The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), hastily exited the hearing they were chairing Thursday morning on “worldwide threats” to huddle with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Behind closed doors, they discussed the fate of the FBI and the Senate’s respective probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

When they emerged, they announced to dozens of reporters that they had made arrangements for both investigations to move full steam ahead.

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