US President Donald Trump has accused Democrats of “killing the Great State of Virginia” in response to the scandal that has engulfed Virginia’s top three elected officials, including Governor Ralph Northam, whose medical school yearbook featured a racist photo.
A woman has alleged that state’s lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, sexually assaulted her, a charge he denies. And the state’s attorney general has acknowledged that he also wore blackface once as a teenager.
Mr Trump claimed in a tweet on Thursday that the response to the fallout has been politically biased, alleging that: “If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken.”
While Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Virginia in the 2016 presidential election, Mr Trump predicted in his tweet that the state will turn back to Republican.
Democratic politicians are now waiting on the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to respond to the latest developments threatening to bring down the state’s top three elected officials.
The caucus quickly condemned Gov. Ralph Northam and called on him to resign after the revelation that a photo of two men in blackface and KKK costumes was put on his yearbook page back in 1985.
But the group has been silent so far since Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual harassing a woman 15 years ago and the next official in line to replace a governor, Attorney-General Mark Herring, also admitted that he once wore blackface to a party as a teenager.
It comes as the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced a sweeping new congressional investigation.
Mr Schiff said it would include “the scope and scale” of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election, the “extent of any links and/or co-ordination” between Russians and Mr Trump’s associates, whether foreign actors have sought to hold leverage over Mr Trump or his family and associates, and whether anyone has sought to obstruct any of the relevant investigations.
Mr Schiff’s investigation comes after Republicans on the panel closed their own probe last year, saying there was no evidence of collusion or conspiracy between Russia and Mr Trump’s campaign.
The Senate intelligence committee is also investigating the Russian meddling. That bipartisan probe has been ongoing since early 2017.
But in Some good news for Mr Trump, on Thursday afternoon the Senate Judiciary Committee approved William Barr’s nomination for Attorney General.
As the country’s chief law enforcement officer, Mr Barr would oversee the remaining work in Mr Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
Mr Barr has said he will be as transparent as possible under Justice Department regulations and will make as much public as he can. But he has also noted that he takes seriously department regulations that say the report Mr Mueller submits to the Justice Department should be treated as confidential.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, said she was concerned that Mr Barr won’t commit to releasing Mr Mueller’s report to Congress.
“This is particularly concerning, as nothing in existing law or regulations prevents the attorney general from sharing the report,” Ms Feinstein said on Thursday. “In fact, as part of our oversight responsibilities, Congress routinely requests, and receives, confidential information related to closed investigations.”