Potential 2020 hopeful Swalwell declares Trump’s days of ‘presidential immunity’ are over

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Congressman and likely presidential candidate Eric Swalwell predicts that when the Democrats take over the majority in the House of Representatives next month, President Donald Trump “will be held accountable.” And in a conversation with Fox News and local New Hampshire news organizations, the California Democrat highlighted that he’s “seriously looking … Continue reading “Potential 2020 hopeful Swalwell declares Trump’s days of ‘presidential immunity’ are over”

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Congressman and likely presidential candidate Eric Swalwell predicts that when the Democrats take over the majority in the House of Representatives next month, President Donald Trump “will be held accountable.”

And in a conversation with Fox News and local New Hampshire news organizations, the California Democrat highlighted that he’s “seriously looking at running for president” and added that his potential White House bid would not be “some vanity project.”

Discussing Trump, Swalwell said, “we now have more evidence than ever that he – the president – was associated with a criminal campaign and a criminal transition and presides today over a criminal presidency.”

Swalwell's comments came after a very difficult week for the president, with a growing number of investigations into the White House and federal prosecutors arguing that Trump orchestrated the paying off of two alleged former mistresses to buy their silence during the 2016 campaign.

Trump, in his first interview since Michael Cohen was sentenced to prison, told Fox News on Thursday that he never directed his former longtime attorney and fixer to do anything wrong.

Pointing to the current GOP controlled House and Senate, Swalwell said Trump “has enjoyed for two years presidential immunity. So those days are over. He will be held accountable and in many ways regardless of what happens with impeachment, we can intervene, we can stop his worst instincts from materializing, where they would hurt the American people.”

The congressman cautioned that the incoming Democratic majority in the House shouldn’t rush to impeach the president. But he added that Trump “might be impeached.”

“If that’s the case it will be because an airtight case will have been presented, bipartisan buy-in will have occurred and the American people will understand why what he has done crossed red lines. But we’re not there yet and we don’t want to be as reckless with the truth as the president has been,” he added.

Swalwell, a frequent guest on MSNBC and CNN who sits on the high profile House Intelligence Committee, was re-elected last month to a fourth term representing California’s 15th Congressional District, which covers most of eastern Alameda County and parts of central Contra Costa County.

Asked about a timeline to decide on a White House bid, Swalwell said: “I’m continuing to talk to folks and I expect a decision after the first of the year or the first quarter.”

“I’m encouraged by what I have seen across the country – in New Hampshire, in Iowa, I’ll be in South Carolina next week – which is this appetite to go bold, do big, and do good. And they want candidates that are going to bring new energy and ideas and leadership, and I think I can offer that,” he added.

Swalwell was interviewed at the Red Arrow Diner in downtown Manchester. The iconic eatery is a must-stop for White House hopefuls. Swalwell was making his second trip in fewer than two months to New Hampshire, the state that for a century’s held the first primary in the race for president.

If he launches what would be considered a longshot bid for the Democratic nomination, Swalwell said he’s confident he could compete with rivals with bigger names and bigger wallets.

Spotlighting his working-class roots, he said, “I’m connected to the American people and the American experience. I was the first in my family to go to college. I have a young family, two kids under two. I still have student loan debts. I understand that American struggle of want and grit.”

“Day by day I’m going to keep coming to New Hampshire, I’m going to listen, I’m going to learn, and they’re (voters) going to see someone who wants to not only be for them but is one of them,” he emphasized.

Swalwell also touted his years as deputy district attorney in Alameda County, and his years in Congress, saying “my experience, I would say, puts me at the top of the field in national security experience, if you look at the Democratic candidates – going on three terms on the House Intelligence Committee and also a term on the Homeland Security Committee. I know the threats our country faces.”

Swalwell met with Democratic lawmakers and activists during his quick trip to the Granite State. And he closed out his visit with a stop at the New Hampshire Young Democrats annual holiday party.

At 38, Swalwell would be one of the youngest candidates in a field that could eventually include up to 20 contenders. But Swalwell, who’s 39 years younger than Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said his age is a calling card.

“We can’t count on the same old leaders to solve the same old problems,” Swalwell offered. “I think if we want to get out of this rut, out of this gridlock, we’re going to need to rely on the next generation of leaders.”

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.

World War II veteran with terminal cancer to receive Purple Heart 74 years after he was injured in Belgium

You can't say U.S. Army Cpl. Francis Byrne isn't a patient man.

After all, he waited 74 years for recognition since that day in Belgium in 1944 when he was hit by shrapnel from an exploding Nazi landmine. But the 94-year-old World War II veteran is now locked in a life-or-death battle with a new foe — cancer — and Byrne told the New Hampshire Union Leader he was worried time was finally running out.

Then he got a phone call this week from Washington, D.C. — Byrne would get his elusive Purple Heart.

The Manchester, N.H. resident is finally set to receive the military honor awarded to members of the armed forces wounded or killed while serving, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., revealed Thursday.

“Francis Byrne is an American hero and I’m so thrilled that he will finally receive his Purple Heart for his incredible sacrifice and service,” Shaheen said. “This Purple Heart is invaluable to Mr. Byrne and his family, and I so look forward to seeing him presented with it in the near future.”

Byrne, who was given four months to live after being diagnosed with terminal kidney and bladder cancer two months ago, said it was a dream come true to finally receive the Purple Heart.

“I started shaking,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader about his reaction when Shaheen called to give him the good news. “I was so emotional. I didn’t think I would live to see the day.”

Byrne enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 at the age of 18. He saw his first combat a year later on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day and was injured in the line of duty in Belgium.

“A kid about 30 feet away from me stepped on one, and a piece of shrapnel hit me right there. Still there in the bone,” he told WMUR, while pointing to his leg.

He told the Union Leader he didn’t see any visible wounds in the immediate aftermath of the explosion and told a medic to work on the soldier who had triggered the mine. When he realized he'd been hit by shrapnel, his lieutenant promised to fill out the paperwork that would get Byrne the Purple Heart.

But the lieutenant was killed the next day in battle.

Byrne was discharged in 1945 and worked as a construction supervisor in Massachusetts.

An X-ray on his leg taken in 2006 showed a 6-millimeter metallic object in his ankle, a piece of the Nazi shrapnel which doctors believe slowly migrated south from his shin over the years, the Union Leader reported.

In his house, Byrne has a display case on the wall that holds the medals he received, including ones for fighting on D-Day and at the Battle of the Bulge.

In the middle is an empty spot where he plans to place the Purple Heart.

“I can’t wait to see it there,” he told the Union Leader.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Experienced skydiving instructor committed suicide by releasing harness midair, police say

An experienced skydiving instructor who plunged to his death while flying tandem with a student in Maine deliberately released his safety harness to commit suicide, state police revealed Monday.

Brett Bickford, 41, of Rochester, N.H., died on Sept. 27 after he separated from his student and fell a mile to his death, Maine State Police said.

The unidentified student landed safely with the parachute and quickly contacted police. Bickford’s body was found the next day about 750 feet southwest of the Lebanon Airport runway by a search and rescue team.

Maine’s medical examiner concluded this week that Bickford’s death was a suicide.

“Brett was one amazing smart young man. Those who knew Brett know he had a free spirit of life to live one day at a time,” his obituary said. “Brett’s smile and laughter live on in all who knew him.”

A two-month investigation concluded Bickford loosened his harness midair and that it was an intentional act. Police said they spoke with other skydiving instructors and industry officials, who all concluded that no experienced skydiver would loosen a parachute harness by mistake, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Steve McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, told the newspaper that Bickford, who had been an instructor at Skydive New England in Lebanon for 10 years, did not leave a suicide note.

Nicole Koreen, director of sports promotion for the U.S. Parachute Association, told the newspaper that tandem skydiving has a solid safety record, with an average of one student fatality per 500,000 tandem jumps over the past decade.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

New Hampshire family, farm being terrorized as part of ‘vicious shakedown,’ FBI says

A farm meant for rescue animals in New Hampshire has instead turned into the site of a terrorizing two-year shakedown plot against one family, federal officials said Tuesday.

The FBI said in in a news release the family that owns the Rickety Ranch in Hollis, N.H. has sustained thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles and a barn after receiving multiple extortion letters in an attempt to collect $250,000.

“The vicious shakedown of this family and the use of violence to intimidate them will not be tolerated," said Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division. "We’re asking anyone with information about who is terrorizing them to come forward and share that information with us so we can put a stop to it and bring whoever is responsible to justice."

In the letters sent to the family, the mysterious sender offered to spare them from harm and "claimed to be capable of settling their ongoing disputes with the Town of Hollis, New Hampshire."

The Rickety Ranch in Hollis, N.H. has had someone damage vehicles and farm equipment over the past two years. (FBI)

The agency said that it was not aware of any disputes between the family and the town. Besides thousands of dollars of damage done to the property over the past two years, officials said that "multiple acts of animal cruelty" were committed on the farm. Some animals died, while others were seriously injured, according to the FBI.

One of the photos released by the FBI shows two springer spaniels that were listed as "victims of animal cruelty."

The farm lists itself on Facebook as an "educational rescue farm for kids and run by kids." Besides being a working farm, the facility also offers free-range poultry and eggs, grass-fed beef, pork, goat, turkey and smoked cheeses.

One of the extortion letters sent to the family was written in rhyme with multiple errors, and read:

"Act 2

I saw your flag on your lawn

And time almost gone

I know your in

Just pay me know and you will win

It will be simple and fast

I left instructions under glass

On your grass

From here o keep 50k cash on your a–"

An extortion letter that was sent to a family in New Hampshire, according to federal officials. (FBI)

The agency is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location, arrest, and prosecution of the person or people responsible. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI Boston Division at (857) 386-2000.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed