POLITICO - TOP Stories
Theresa May to meet Trump
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Reporter: Montana House GOP candidate 'body-slammed' me
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly “body-slammed” a reporter on Wednesday at a campaign event.

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian tweeted that Gianforte “body slammed me and broke my glasses” at a campaign event in Bozeman, Montana. Other reporters on the scene confirmed via Twitter that they witnessed some sort of altercation between the two and that police were called to the scene.

In audio of the incident posted by the Guardian Gianforte can clearly be heard getting upset. In it, Jacobs asks Gianforte about the Republican health care bill. Gianforte tells him "let me talk to you about that later" as Jacobs continues trying to ask a question. "Speak with Shane," Gianforte says, referring to his spokesman.

A crashing can then be heard, as Gianforte yells: “I’m sick and tired of you guys."

“The last guy who came here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here. Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?”

“Yes! You just broke my glasses,” Jacobs says.


“The last guy did the same damn thing,” Gianforte says.

“You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacob says.

“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte yells.

"I'm not sure I've seen anything like this before,” BuzzFeed reporter Alexis Levinson, who was on the scene, tweeted in a long thread. "This happened behind a half-closed door, so I didn't see it all, but here's what it looked like from the outside. Ben walked into a room where a local TV crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte. All of a sudden, I heard a giant crash and saw Ben's feet fly in the air as he hit the floor.”

"Ben walked out holding his broken glasses in his hand and said: "He just body-slammed me,” Levinson continued.

The incident occurred the day before Thursday’s special House election in Montana to replace Ryan Zinke, who is now the Trump administration's Secretary of the Interior. Gianforte, a technology executive, is running against Democrat Rob Quist, a folk singer and first-time candidate. The race is turning out to be closer than many thought the traditional Republican stronghold would be.

Whitney Bermes, a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, tweeted that the police were called to the scene. The Daily Chronicle also reported that Jacobs was treated by an ambulance on the scene, and Bermes later tweeted that one person was transferred to the hospital.

"Gianforte sitting in a Jeep. Sheriff's deputies were talking to him earlier. Now a medic is at the window talking with him,” Bermes also tweeted.


Gianforte then left the event before he was scheduled to speak, according to reporter tweets.

On its web site, the Gallatin County Sherrifs Office confiremd that it is currently investigating "allegations of an assault involving Greg Gianforte," saying it would provide more information when appropriate.

In a statement, Gianforte spokesperson Shane Scanlon said the incident was a result of Jacobs being "aggressive" and blamed the reporter for creating a scene.

"Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave," Scanlon said. "After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."

In the audio posted by The Guardian, which does not include the entire interaction, no one is heard asking Jacobs to lower his recorder.

Jacobs and The Guardian did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committeee called on Gianforte to drop out of the race, "after his alleged violent assault of an innocent journalist," spokesman Tyler Law said.

Elena Schneider and Gabriel Debenedetti contributed to this report.


Peril for Republicans if they push forward with Obamacare repeal
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
Within minutes of the release showing 23 million fewer Americans would be insured over a decade, two Senate Republicans blasted the estimate.
Sessions' background check form omitted meetings with Russian
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not include two meetings with the Russian ambassador on a security clearance form submitted late last year, but his aides say the information was left out because the FBI indicated it shouldn't be listed.

Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the form was completed by a Sessions staffer who initially listed all the senator's meetings with foreign officials in 2016. However, the aide was told by the FBI that meetings Sessions held in his capacity as a senator did not need to be included, so it was taken off the form when it was filed, Flores said.

"The staffer was instructed by the FBI not to list any contacts related to Senate business," added a second Justice Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The aide confirmed Sessions signed the form after the staffer prepared it.

FBI officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the advice the Sessions aide was allegedly given. Written instructions with the form say that meetings at foreign conferences attended on official business need not be listed, but the guidance doesn't appear to include the broad exemption the FBI is said to have relayed.


Sessions found himself in hot water with Senate Democrats earlier this year after it was revealed he had met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year. Democrats said he should have disclosed the meetings at his confirmation hearing in January, but Sessions called his answers "honest and correct." He said understood the questions he was asked to be about campaign-related meetings, while the encounters with Kislyak were related to Sessions' role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sessions has recused himself from the FBI's ongoing probe of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, but he did endorse President Donald Trump's decision earlier this month to dismiss the man leading that investigation, FBI Director James Comey.


10 key points from the CBO report on Obamacare repeal
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Here are some key facts and figures from the new CBO report on the American Health Care Act, the House-passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. CBO stressed the uncertainty of its estimates, given that it's hard to know which states would take up the chance to opt out of certain key parts of Obamacare. All figures are for the decade spanning 2017-2026 unless otherwise specified.

14 million

14 million fewer people will be insured one year after passage.

23 million

23 million fewer will be insured in 10 years.

$834 billion in Medicaid cuts

AHCA would cut spending on Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for low-income people, by $834 billion. The program would cover 14 million fewer people.

Premiums will go up in 2018 and 2019

Premiums will go up in 2018 and 2019. After that, there will be significant variation depending on whether someone lives in a state that opts out of key Obamacare insurance rules.

In some states, premiums would decline

In states that waive some Obamacare rules, premiums would decline by 20 percent over a decade compared to current law.

Relatively stable markets

One out of 6 Americans will live in an area with an unstable insurance market in 2020 where sick people could have trouble finding coverage. But 5 out of 6 would have access to relatively stable markets.

Older Americans face much higher premiums

Poor, older Americans would be hit especially hard. The average 64-year-old earning just above the poverty line would have to pay about 9 times more in premiums.

Twice as many uninsured

In 2026, 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured — almost twice as many as the 28 million who would have lacked coverage under Obamacare.

Less savings

The bill will save $119 billion, which is $32 billion less than a previous version of AHCA.

$664 billion

It repeals $664 billion worth of taxes and fees that had financed Obamacare.


10 key points from the CBO report on Obamacare repeal
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Here are some key facts and figures from the new CBO report on the American Health Care Act, the House-passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. CBO stressed the uncertainty of its estimates, given that it's hard to know which states would take up the chance to opt out of certain key parts of Obamacare. All figures are for the decade spanning 2017-2026 unless otherwise specified.

14 million

14 million fewer people will be insured one year after passage.

23 million

23 million fewer will be insured in 10 years.

$834 billion in Medicaid cuts

AHCA would cut spending on Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for low-income people, by $834 billion. The program would cover 14 million fewer people.

Premiums will go up in 2018 and 2019

Premiums will go up in 2018 and 2019. After that, there will be significant variation depending on whether someone lives in a state that opts out of key Obamacare insurance rules.

In some states, premiums would decline

In states that waive some Obamacare rules, premiums would decline by 20 percent over a decade compared to current law.

Relatively stable markets

One out of 6 Americans will live in an area with an unstable insurance market in 2020 where sick people could have trouble finding coverage. But 5 out of 6 would have access to relatively stable markets.

Older Americans face much higher premiums

Poor, older Americans would be hit especially hard. The average 64-year-old earning just above the poverty line would have to pay about 9 times more in premiums.

Twice as many uninsured

In 2026, 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured — almost twice as many as the 28 million who would have lacked coverage under Obamacare.

Less savings

The bill will save $119 billion, which is $32 billion less than a previous version of AHCA.

$664 billion

It repeals $664 billion worth of taxes and fees that had financed Obamacare.


Senate Dems seize on CBO to slam GOP
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Senate Democrats on Wednesday seized on a new projection that 23 million more Americans would be uninsured under the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal to hammer the Republican senators now crafting their own plan.

Led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Democrats staged a fiery press conference less than 45 minutes after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its report on the House-passed Obamacare repeal. Schumer argued that Senate Republicans are making a mistake similar to their House counterparts’ hasty passage of a bill before its CBO score emerged.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is crafting his Obamacare repeal plan with “no hearings, no amendments,” Schumer told reporters, “because they’ll be embarrassed by the similar product they’ll come out with.”

Senate Republicans are “stuck, they’re just stuck,” Schumer said. McConnell acknowledged earlier Wednesday that “I don’t know” yet how his conference can craft an Obamacare repeal that can pass with 50 Republican votes.


Senate Democrats have held daily events hitting the House bill for weeks. But after a chaotic news cycle dominated by the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the party sought to return the focus to health care.

“Call it whatever you want, but please do not call this bill a health care bill,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of Democratic leadership, told reporters. “This is legislation that provides over $200 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) preemptively rebutted any attempt by Senate Republicans to argue that their Obamacare repeal plan, presently spearheaded by a 13-member all-male working group, would look different from the House version that the CBO analyzed.

“Let me guarantee you that the Senate Republicans are using the House bill as a foundation for the product that they are constructing,” Murphy told reporters. “The CBO score is important and relevant because the Senate product, if it ever emerges from these secret meetings, will simply be a variant of the House bill.”


McConnell also gave an early rebuttal to Democrats' anticipated alarm at the CBO projection before its release. The Kentucky Republican said in a floor speech Wednesday that "instead of continuing to hold press conferences in what ultimately can only be described as a defense of the Obamacare status quo, I’d ask our Democratic colleagues to come to terms with the situation Americans are facing" under the existing law.

Sanders and Schumer also suggested that the House-passed bill might face difficulty complying with budget rules that dictate the amount of savings it must achieve in order to be taken up under reconciliation, the powerful procedural tool that would allow Obamacare repeal to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

The savings target must be met by both committees whose jurisdiction the health care bill falls under; if it falls short, the House would have to modify the bill and hold another, potentially difficult, vote on it.

"We don't know yet, but there's a real possibility that it doesn't meet reconciliation [requirements]," Schumer said.


Health care or Russia? Democrats divided on 2018 focus
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
Party strategists are split over what issue should be their top attack against Republicans.
Politicians react to the CBO report on Obamacare
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
Suit over billionaire's underage sex abuse settles
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Virginia Giuffre alleged she was pulled into years of abuse by investor Jeffrey Epstein.
Brown: Trump will come around on climate change
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Jerry Brown, one of the Democratic Party’s most outspoken critics of Republican climate change policy, said Wednesday he now believes that President Donald Trump is a political “realist” who will likely listen to what Pope Francis, China and other world leaders are saying on the key issue – and that progress under his administration may be “not as disastrous as we thought a few months ago.”

Brown cited Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday – and the delivery of a papal encyclical on climate change – as one reason for optimism. Other positive signs: China’s growing efforts to contain pollution and the effects of global warming, and the Trump administration’s approval this week of $657 million for the electrified Caltrain project in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“President Trump is a realist – and there’s nothing more real than the atmosphere and the chemistry that determines our weather and our long-term climate,” Brown told reporters at a climate change conference hosted by the Netherlands in San Francisco on Wednesday. “I don’t know that he’s going to come aboard immediately – but I do know that with our efforts in California, joining with other states and other provinces in the world, that we will be successful in pushing this agenda.

“There will be some bumps in the road,” Brown said. “There’s a great deal of denial – I see that in some of the people [Trump has] appointed. But I’d say the trend is toward dealing with climate change – and I don’t think President Trump will stand in the way of that, ultimately.”

The California governor – who has in the past lambasted Republicans as “luddites” on the climate change issue and Trump as a climate change denier – said he took it as a good sign that the president met with Pope Francis and that the two discussed the issue.


“Don’t underestimate the power of the Holy Father,” Brown said. “The pope is talking about climate change, he’s handing him an encyclical … and there are many conservative leaders in the world who support” efforts to reduce climate change.

The papal encyclical calls for drastic cuts in fossil fuel emissions, and the gift has been viewed as pressure on Trump to not withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Trump has recently played up his admiration and positive relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Brown noted that the fact that “China is asserting such a world leadership role” in the matter is key. Brown will head to China next month to meet with Chinese leaders “and further that effort … and I don’t think President Trump will want to stand aside as this climate story unfolds.”

Brown also cited the federal funding for Caltrain – the electrification of a commuter rail project that serves tens of thousands of workers daily in Silicon Valley – as a sign of progress, because it comes in spite of objections from GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican House delegation.

“Obviously, President Trump had a very different view than Mr. McCarthy,” Brown said. While it appeared initially that the project was in danger from the Republican opposition, “that’s the wonderful thing about politics – no matter what someone says today doesn’t mean they won’t change their minds tomorrow.”


Fox didn’t pressure Hannity on Rich story
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
Despite its own retraction, the network did not ask Hannity to stop spreading theories about DNC staffer’s murder.
House Republicans to drop debit rule repeal
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

House Republican leaders will drop language from a sweeping bank deregulation bill that would have eliminated a cap on debit card swipe fees, handing a major victory to retail lobbyists who spent months trying to kill the provision.

GOP leaders decided to remove the proposal from the nearly 600-page Financial CHOICE Act after confirming Wednesday that it threatened support for the rest of the bill, multiple senior Republican sources familiar with the matter said.

The legislation, which would repeal and replace key parts of the landmark 2010 Dodd-Frank law, is a top priority on the GOP's agenda.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling plans to offer a manager's amendment to remove the provision from the bill, which he wrote, committee spokesman Jeff Emerson said.


The Texas Republican kept the debit card rule repeal in the legislation despite signs that a number of Republicans were increasingly uneasy with it. House leaders used Wednesday's whip count to confirm that the provision was jeopardizing the bill.

The issue forced lawmakers to choose between the banks, which wanted to repeal the regulation from Dodd-Frank, and retailers, which were fighting to keep it alive. Both sides claimed billions of dollars were at stake, and in the end, the banks lost.

The decision was the culmination of a months-long lobbying battle going back to last year, when the proposal first appeared in an earlier draft of Hensarling's bill. The regulation at issue is known as the Durbin Amendment, after its author, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Hensarling had signaled that his proposed repeal of the debit fee cap — which was one sentence in the sprawling bill — might not remain in the final version.

As the House took up the legislation this year, he acknowledged the provision was controversial even as he fiercely defended other elements of the bill, in particular a section that would let banks escape financial regulations if they opted to abide by stricter capital requirements.

“I’ve said before that repeal of the Durbin Amendment was the most contentious part of the bill among Republicans," Hensarling said in a statement Wednesday.

"I believe it belongs in the Financial CHOICE Act, but I recognize and respect that many members of Congress feel differently. We won’t let this one provision hinder passage of an important priority bill that will end bank bailouts and help renew healthy economic growth for all Americans.”


The defeat in the House probably spells the end of the fight over debit fees. Senate Republican leaders have shown no appetite for taking up the issue as they craft their own bank deregulation bills.

Austen Jensen, vice president for government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said it should "finally put to rest any more efforts to repeal the debit reforms."

“Republicans in both chambers are looking for three things right now: consensus, progress and wins," Compass Point analyst Isaac Boltansky said. “Publicly reopening the Durbin debate wouldn't help toward those goals. They needed to retrench in order to get a bill that will unify the House Republicans and possibly catalyze the conversation once it gets to the Senate."

Bank lobbyists failed to muster the support they needed, but American Bankers Association President and CEO Rob Nichols said the debate was not over.

“We will continue to let members know that a vote to keep the Durbin Amendment on the books is a vote for government price controls and against consumers," he said.


The Issue Democrats Wish Would Go Away
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
Can the Democratic Party retake Congress by giving up on gun control? Should it?
Does Trump Care About Human Rights?
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
The president says his foreign policy is based on “principled realism.” Where’s the principle?
Democratic leaders to join Sanders on $15 minimum wage pitch
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Congressional Democratic leaders will unveil a proposal to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour on Thursday alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made the issue a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other senior Democrats will join Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, in releasing the legislation.

Nearly two dozen other Democratic senators publicly pledged to endorse the proposal last month. Sanders has long pushed for the $15 minimum wage, but the plan drew significantly more Democratic support — and a formal addition to the party platform — after the Vermont independent challenged Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.


The $15 minimum wage proposal also offers Democrats a new potential plank in an economic agenda they are rolling out ahead of the 2018 midterms with a nod to the working class-friendly populism that Sanders seized on during his White House bid. Senate Democrats have already released an infrastructure framework, and Schumer has said a separate trade package will soon be in the offing.

Among the other Democratic leaders joining Schumer, Pelosi, Sanders and Ellison on Thursday will be third-ranked Senate Democratic leader Patty Murray of Washington and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).


CBO: House Obamacare repeal bill would leave 23 million more uninsured
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
The nonpartisan office also forecasts the GOP plan would cut the deficit by $119 billion over a decade, primarily because of its cuts to Medicaid and private insurance subsidies.
Carter Page backtracks on House hearing date
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Carter Page appears to have jumped the gun when he told ABC News he would appear June 6 before the House panel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

President Donald Trump’s former campaign foreign policy adviser backtracked in response to questions from POLITICO, saying the hearing date was not yet finalized. Members of the House Intelligence Committee also declined to say that a firm date had been set.

“Details still being worked out,” Page said of his testimony next month. “We’ll see.”

Members of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, seemed taken aback when informed of the ABC News report, saying they had not heard about a hearing date being set.

“I know he was certainly on our list of requests,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the panel. “I hadn't heard that he had confirmed.”

A spokesman for Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the panel's top Democrat, said he could not confirm or comment on the hearing date.


Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who is leading the investigation, twice declined to say whether Page would appear before his panel, saying: “I don’t talk about the details.”

Another potential witness, longtime Trump associate Roger Stone, said Wednesday that he “turned over all documents” to Congress pertaining to a “specific issue area” in the investigation.

“I reiterate my desire to testify in public before the Senate or the House committee,” he said while guest hosting a program on Infowars. “It’s time for the Feinsteins, the Frankens, the Warners, and on the House side, the Schiffs, the Swalwells, the Speiers, to put up or shut up.”

Ali Watkins contributed to this report.


Cruz: Franken is ‘obnoxious’ for joking about me in new book
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Ted Cruz called Al Franken "obnoxious and insulting" for devoting an entire chapter to the Texas GOP senator in Franken's new book titled "Giant of the Senate."

Franken, who told USA Today that he hates Cruz in an interview promoting the book, has deemed Cruz "singularly dishonest and smarmy." Cruz, for his part, said that the Minnesota Democratic senator is just trying to goose his sales with the Cruz-centric chapter called "Sophistry."


"Al is trying to sell books and apparently he's decided that being obnoxious and insulting me is good for causing liberals to buy his books," Cruz said in an interview. "I wish him all the best."

An excerpt of the book circulating online on Wednesday contained a passage in which Franken intervened in a joke Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was writing about Cruz, with Franken cracking that Cruz is "full of sh--" like a Carnival cruise.

Franken explained to USA Today that he described such private interactions because Cruz had already broke Senate protocol by saying Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told a "lie" on the Senate floor.

Asked about that logic, Cruz laughed and said: "Said what I'm going to say"


Mulvaney: Debt ceiling deadline could come sooner than expected
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney warned Wednesday that Congress may have to raise the debt ceiling sooner than previously expected.

“My understanding that the [tax] receipts, currently, are coming in slower than expected and you may soon hear from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin about a change in the date,” Mulvaney told the House Budget Committee. “We look forward to working with the Hill on the best way to go about this.”

The debt limit was reinstated in March, but the Treasury Department is using extraordinary measures to avoid a devastating government default. Previous budget estimates projected action would be needed around late September or early October.

Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday that lawmakres should act before they leave for their annual August recess. And he said he wants a so-called clean debt ceiling boost, with no spending cuts or reforms connected to raising the limit.

“I urge you to raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer,” Mnuchin said. “We can all discuss how we cut spending in the future and deal with the budget going forward.”

Mnuchin added that it is “absolutely critical” that “we can raise our debt ceiling to pay our debts.”


The Treasury secretary might find opposition to an easy debt limit boost from House conservatives, who he met with in a closed door meeting Tuesday.

“We believe that the debt ceiling is something we need to address sooner than later,” said House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a participant in the meeting. “And so hopefully we’ll be taking an official position as the Freedom Caucus shortly.”

Meadows demurred on whether the Freedom Caucus would withhold its votes to increase the government's borrowing capacity in return for spending cuts, a tactic Republicans have tried before.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.


The Roger Ailes I Knew
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM
For six years in the 1980s, I was Roger’s right-hand man. He was on top of the world, and still saw himself as an underdog.
McConnell: 'I don't know' how we get to 50 votes on health care bill
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said the path forward for the legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare remains unclear, adding that he is unsure at the moment how such a measure will secure the requisite 50 votes from the GOP’s 52 senators.

"I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told Reuters in an interview. He said passing a repeal-and-replace measure, a campaign promise of GOP lawmakers for more than seven years and a key plank of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, remains a top priority.

Work on repeal-and-replace legislation had already begun in the Senate well before the House managed to pass its own bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act. Multiple GOP senators have said that they do not intend to take up the House-passed measure but will instead work on approving their own bill.

McConnell told Reuters that he does not intend to reach out to any Democrats in order to pass the Senate’s version of the healthcare bill because the gulf between the two parties on the issue is too great to overcome.


Even in the House, where the Republican majority is greater than it is in the Senate, the issue proved to be a thorny one within the GOP caucus. Republicans were unable to strike a deal between arch-conservative and more moderate members in the House on their first try at healthcare legislation and were just narrowly able to do so on a second attempt. The bill cleared the House without a single Democratic vote.

The Senate’s other top priority, McConnell said, is tax reform, the forecast for which is “pretty good” according to the majority leader. Such legislation, he said, is "not in my view quite as challenging as healthcare."


Spicer left out of Vatican visit
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

ROME – President Donald Trump’s entourage at the Vatican on Wednesday included his wife, his daughter, and an array of staffers—but not White House press secretary Sean Spicer, a devout Catholic who told reporters earlier this year that he gave up alcohol for Lent.

Both sides, according to a White House official, agreed to limit the number of staffers who attended. Two other senior communications aides from the White House were included: Hope Hicks, who like Melania and Ivanka Trump wore a black veil over her hair, and Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media and a longtime Trump loyalist.

Also in attendance were State Department aide Brian Hook, security head Keith Schiller, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Hicks, a loyal aide who has been at Trump's side since before he announced his candidacy, was introduced to Pope Francis by the president as someone who has worked for him a long time. Scavino was included, despite tweeting during the election last year, "amazing comments from the Pope — considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls" after Pope Francis criticized Trumps plan for a border wall.

Other members of the traveling Trump team who are not practicing Catholics said they gave up their spots to accommodate Catholic White House aides. But Spicer – a regular churchgoer who was mocked last year for appearing on CNN with ashes on his forehead in honor of Ash Wednesday – was notably absent.


That was in line with a lower-key role the press secretary has been playing during the president’s nine-day, five-country tour. Trump is considering scaling back Spicer’s public role behind the podium in the White House briefing room, POLITICO reported last week, as he weighs a broader shakeup of his communications team.

Spicer, who has loyally defended Trump even when it has meant damaging his own credibility with the press, is expected to stay in a senior administration role, albeit one that is more behind the scenes. He is not expected to continue the daily televised White House press briefing that has made him a household name and a viral sensation as a character on "Saturday Night Live" after Trump returns to Washington.

Spicer declined to comment about his role or the audience with the Pope.

Before Trump departed, White House aides said he expressed relief that the trip would provide a reprieve from the daily press briefing, which he believes has become more of a distraction than a tool to drive the White House’s message of the day.

Since day one of the trip in Riyadh, Spicer has not conducted a single on-the-record briefing with the traveling press. Instead, he has been trying to give reporters more access to senior administration officials to talk about the president’s objectives on the trip and to answer questions.


Spicer helped organize three briefings with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who seemed to warm up to the exercise after receiving criticism for not traveling with his own State Department press corps. “We have two press corps seats on the plane, and I do meet with whoever’s along,” he explained to reporters flying on Air Force One between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, about how he handles State Department travel. “I invite them back to my little office and we chat with the two people that are with me.”

Spicer has also organized multiple background briefings with senior administration officials involved in planning the trip, and overall appeared in good spirits during a busy, sleepless slog of a junket.

In a television interview during the transition, Spicer talked about his deep Catholic faith. “I’m going to look to God every day to give me the strength to do what’s right,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for is to get up and say, 'Can I do this thing?' Help guide me and ask Him for strength.”


Poll: Americans don't think Trump is draining the swamp
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

Less than a quarter of Americans surveyed in a new Monmouth University poll released Wednesday said President Donald Trump is making progress on his promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption.

Thirty-two percent of those polled said Trump is actually making the "swamp” worse, while just 24 percent said he is draining it. Thirty-five percent of respondents said the president has done nothing to change Washington’s culture.

Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” was one of his most popular campaign speech bits, a line that evolved into a call-and-response at many of his rallies. And while he has instituted some limitations on future lobbying for those working for his administration, Trump has also taken some steps that seem at odds with his anti-corruption message, including removing from public view the list of White House visitors and installing well-connected individuals within his administration, including several from Wall Street megabank Goldman Sachs.

Among those polled, 35 percent said the president has paid “a lot” of attention to the most important issues to average Americans, while 30 percent said he had paid “a little” attention and 32 percent said he had not been attentive to those issues. Sixty-two percent of participants said they wished the president would pay more attention to the issues that matter most to them, while 34 percent said Trump had paid adequate attention to their preferred issues.


On the White House-backed plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, 55 percent of respondents said they disapprove of the bill, while 32 percent said they approve of it. Forty-six percent said the measure, dubbed the American Health Care Act, was passed by the House “largely to give Republicans a political victory.” Twenty-one percent said the bill is a genuine attempt to repair the nation’s healthcare system, and 27 percent said thought it was a mix of both.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they expect healthcare costs to go up under the AHCA, if it becomes law, while 13 percent said those costs would go down and 36 percent said healthcare prices would remain roughly at their current levels.

The Monmouth University poll was conducted from May 13-17 in English among 1,002 adults nationwide, half of which were reached on landlines and half on cell phones. The poll’s margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.1 points.


Trump Org says singling out profits from foreign guests is ‘impractical’
May 24th, 2017, 07:17 PM

President Donald Trump’s company says it will be “impractical” to single out individual foreign guests as part of its plan to donate foreign government profits to the Treasury Department, sparking a complaint from a top House Democrat who says the plan may violate a constitutional block on such payments to presidents.

Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had pressed the Trump Organization in April for more information on the profit arrangement, and in return they got a copy of a nine-page pamphlet the company distributed to a range of senior Trump employees who handle everything from property management to sales, food and beverage and human resources.

The glossy pamphlet – which includes images of Trump-branded hotels in Washington and Chicago, as well as one of its iconic Miami golf courses – goes into detail about how the company would be using hospitality industry standards for accounting and financial reporting as it comes up with a total dollar figure for profits earned from foreign governments. As president, Trump—who remains owner of the Trump Organization—is prohibited from receiving such payments, known as emoluments.

But it also explains that there will be a limit on whose payments to Trump properties would go into the totals.


“To fully and completely identify all patronage at our Properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand,” the Trump Organization said. “It is not the intention nor design of this policy for our Properties to attempt to identify individual travels who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity on foreign government business.”

Trump and his lawyers didn’t mention the difficulty of breaking out such payments when they first outlined their ethics plan in January just weeks before the presidential inauguration. The concern also didn’t make it into a statement the company released in March when it first started publicly describing how it wouldn’t be making its first donation until 2018.

According to the pamphlet, the Trump Organization’s accounting of foreign government payments also won’t cover profits earned by owners of condominium-hotel units in Trump-managed properties because “those profits belong to the individual condominium-unit owners.”

Trump officials relayed details of its voluntary policy to its employees at each hotel, golf and social club, as well as its winery outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in an April 11 email from Chief Compliance Counsel George Sorial. They explained that the policy – with two follow-up training sessions for employees – went into effect upon Trump’s inauguration as president on Jan. 20.

“Please review and adhere to this important internal policy and be sure to share it only with your team members as appropriate. The policy makes very clear the scope and sources by which properties shall identify foreign government patronage,” Sorial wrote.


The Trump Organization’s donation policy has been under close scrutiny on Capitol Hill since Trump in January first outlined how he’d arrange his private business enterprise while serving in the White House – maintaining ownership but handing over daily duties to his adult sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, as well as longtime executives.

Senate Democrats last week sent their own letter to Trump company officials demanding more details of the company’s operations since January. But it was Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who led the request for information on the president’s profit donation policy that yielded the company sharing its pamphlet and other internal materials.

Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who plans to leave Congress next month, well before his term expires, didn’t publicly release the Trump Organization’s documents. Instead, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who had joined in the initial information request as the committee’s ranking member released the materials and sent his own letter Wednesday back to Trump Organization officials saying that he’s still not satisfied with the information it has shared.

“Unfortunately, your meager response does not include the vast majority of documents we requested in our letter,” Cummings wrote. Citing Trump’s own words when he announced the ethics plan at the January press conference in Trump Tower, Cummings added, “This pamphlet raises grave concerns about the President’s refusal to comply with the Constitution merely because he believes it is ‘impractical’ and could ‘diminish the guest experience of our brand.’”

“Complying with the United States Constitution is not an optional exercise, but a requirement for serving as our nation’s President,” Cummings added. “If President Trump believes that identifying all of the prohibited foreign emoluments he is currently receiving would be too challenging or would harm his business ventures, his options are to divest his ownership or submit a proposal to Congress to ask for our consent.”

Also on Wednesday, top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee responded to the Trump Organization's statements by releasing their own letter demanding that the president provide them with documentation detailing the company's dealings with foreign governments.

Led by ranking member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), they presented Trump with a series of questions about his position in various Trump Organization business ventures and their foreign deals.


Chaffetz and Cummings had also asked the Trump Organization for a more complete account of how it would track and publicly report the donations to the Treasury, as well as whether donations would be claimed by the company as tax deduction gifts. And they asked for documents showing which Trump properties would be donating profits from foreign government sources.

But in his May 11 reply to the lawmakers, Sorial explained that those details aren’t ready for release yet.

“We believe it is premature to respond at this time insofar as final determinations regarding these matters are dependent on many factors that will not be known to [the Trump Organization] until after the close of this year,” Sorial wrote.

Cummings also criticized the Trump Organization for failing to brief lawmakers on their profit policy by a May 19 deadline that the lawmakers originally gave. The Democrat asked the company to schedule that meeting by June 2.

"We have received and are in the process of reviewing the letter. We take these matters seriously and are fully committed to complying with all of our legal and ethical obligations," said a spokesperson for the Trump Organization.

Chaffetz’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Cummings’ letter.


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