Congress certifies Trump's victory Friday as protests fail

WASHINGTON — Congress certified Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s victory in the 2016 election for president and vice president during a joint session Friday afternoon.

Several Democratic House members raised formal objections to the Electoral College results, but they did not have the backing of any senators — a requirement for being considered.

Vice President Joe Biden, who presided over the session, repeatedly slammed the gavel on debate, saying the objections could not be entertained.

"It is over," said Biden said as Republicans applauded.

Trump, tweeting Friday morning, wrote that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were “never going to beat the PASSION of my voters.”

“THEY SAW A MOVEMENT LIKE NEVER BEFORE,” he wrote in all capital letters.

Even if a bicameral objection to Trump’s election is raised, it stands no chance of passing a Republican Congress. It would only delay the certification of his 304 electoral votes, as the joint session breaks to allow each chamber to debate the objection and vote on whether to count the votes in question.

Still, several groups are urging lawmakers to challenge the results, either on the basis of Russian interference, allegations of voter suppression or what they consider to be illegal votes cast by Republican members of the Electoral College. A group of independent attorneys that researched the results claims at least 50 electoral votes are invalid because they were cast by dual office holders or electors who don’t live in the congressional district they were representing.

“We’ve been fighting him at the Electoral College, we’re going to fight him at the certification, we’re going to be there at inauguration, and we’re going to be there every day after,” said Ryan Clayton, of Americans Take Action, one of the groups pushing the legal research.

The last time bicameral objections were considered was in 2005, when the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and former Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats, objected in writing to the Ohio electoral votes because of reported voting irregularities in the re-election of President George W. Bush.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus attempted to raise objections in 2001 to the counting of Florida’s electoral votes but no senator endorsed the challenge. That forced Vice President Al Gore, as president of the Senate, to preside over the certification of electoral votes for his opponent, George W. Bush.

© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters Members of the US House of Representatives are sworn in on the House floor on the first day of the new session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 3, 2017.

Congress begins to search for funds to help Trump build border wall

Republicans in Congress are beginning to grapple with how to help President-elect Donald Trump fulfill one of his biggest campaign promises: to build a wall along the Mexican border to slow illegal immigration.

Trump is expected to ask Congress to provide the initial funding for the massive project, estimated to cost between $12 billion and $38 billion.

Once construction gets underway, Trump has said he will demand reimbursement from the Mexican government, even though Mexican officials have said they will refuse to cooperate.

Amid concerns American taxpayers would shoulder the burden, Trump promised Friday that he would force the U.S. neighbor to pony up the money.

“The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” he tweeted.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox responded on Twitter, “Trump may ask whoever he wants, but still neither myself nor Mexico are going to pay for his racist monument. Another promise he can't keep.”

Meanwhile Republicans were scrambling Friday to figure out how to provide initial support for the wall, despite opposition from Democrats and resistance from budget conservatives in their own party.

“I’m not sure anyone believed the government of Mexico was going to write a giant check to the federal registry, but there are other ways to ensure Mexico does pay for the border buildout,” said Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. “There are broad conversations about fulfilling all of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.”

An aide to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said no new talks are underway with the Trump transition team on the border issue. But Trump’s transition team acknowledged that they would seek help from lawmakers.

“Obviously a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s successful campaign was, ‘I’m going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it,’” said advisor Kellyanne Conway on “Fox and Friends.” “That hasn’t changed, but Congress is examining ways to have the wall paid for through their auspices and Mr. Trump is making the point that he will have Mexico pay it back.”

During the campaign, Trump suggested that if Mexico did not agree to pay for the wall, the U.S. might impose a fee on financial remittances sent home by Mexicans working in the U.S. illegally. Such a move would surely provoke opposition from the financial services industry.

Messer said another possibility would be raising some of the funds, about $4 billion, by cutting a child tax break for immigrants here illegally.

The president-elect has also suggested the U.S. could try to pressure Mexico by reducing or slowing down the process by which Mexicans get travel cards and visitors' visas.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, parent for the Border Patrol, has already budgeted $175 million for "procurement, construction and improvements." But even if that money is diverted to the wall, it wouldn't be nearly enough.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans noted that President George W. Bush signed a 2006 law that authorizes construction of a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico. It was passed by a Republican-led Congress, with support from now Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and other Democrats. But it did not provide the needed funding.

Trump has estimated a wall would cost up to $12 billion to build. But it could be more than triple that, $38 billion, according to an analysis published by MIT Technology Review. That’s equal to the entire annual budget for the Department of Homeland Security.

The difference depends on the type of the fencing —  double versus single layer, for example —  and how much of the border the wall covers.

Republicans said one scenario would be to link new border funds to a must-pass bill to keep the government running past April 28.

Such a legislative maneuver would force Democrats, who mostly oppose border funding absent broader immigration law changes, to join the vote or run the risk of a springtime government shutdown.

“They would have a hard time going home and explaining why they voted against it,” said one Republican leadership aide, granted anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

But the strategy could backfire if Republican deficit hawks raise concerns about adding to the debt load. It is unclear if Trump will propose offsetting any wall construction costs with spending cuts elsewhere.

A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee said the Trump team has not submitted a funding request for the wall.

“The chairman and the committee have no interest in threatening a shutdown,” the spokeswoman said. "The committee has not received any request from the Trump team or leadership on this issue. If and when a proposal is received, we will take a careful look at it.”

This is not the first time Trump has indicated that U.S. taxpayers would front the costs.

During an October speech in Gettysburg, Pa., in which he outlined promises for his first 100 days in office, Trump said he would ask Congress to approve legislation that fully funds a wall.

"Don't worry about it," he said at the time. "Remember, I said Mexico is paying for the wall, with the full understand[ing] that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such a wall, OK?"

Trump Asks Congress To Investigate Source Of News Report On Russian Election Hacking

The NBC News story quoted an unnamed intelligence official confirming the post-election celebrating, a detail first reported by The Washington Post. The intelligence official also described the findings of a top-secret, multi-agency report, which lays out the case that Russia stole, then released, thousands of emails intended to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the report Thursday afternoon. Trump was scheduled to receive the same briefing on Friday in New York. But the fact that someone knew what was in the report before Trump did, and spoke to the press about it, seemed to enrage the president-elect.

“How did NBC get ‘an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?’ Who gave them this report and why? Politics!” Trump tweeted Thursday evening. The comment was the latest in Trump’s growing list of disparaging statements against the U.S. intelligence community.

Trump appears to have gotten a number of important details wrong about the NBC story. No one “gave” NBC the top-secret report, as Trump claimed. As the NBC story notes, the official quoted by the network never even saw a copy of the intelligence report; he or she just repeated to NBC what someone had said about its findings.

On Friday morning, Trump told The New York Times that the ongoing public interest in possible Russian interference in the presidential election was “a political witch hunt.” He also complained the election-hacking story was getting more attention than other instances where government computers were compromised. These previous hacks, however, did not include releasing the stolen information to the public.

In asking congressional panels to investigate the NBC source, Trump wondered why “top secret intelligence” was “shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.”

It was unclear whether Trump would actually follow through with a formal request to congressional committees to look into the NBC report. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said his office had not received a formal request from Trump for an investigation.

It was also unclear why NBC was the sole target of Trump’s fury, and not The Washington Post, which broke the story. A spokesman for the Trump transition did not respond to questions from The Huffington Post about the tweets.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wasted no time questioning Trump’s priorities.

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