North Carolina state legislators announced late Wednesday they had reached a deal with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to repeal the controversial HB2 law, which restricted transgender bathroom access in the state.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, according to local reports, said at a late-night press conference that House Bill 142, which would repeal House Bill 2, would be re-introduced to the Senate floor Thursday morning.
“We have reached an agreement with the governor," said Berger. “We have agreed with the governor that we will take no questions tonight.”
The pair of legislators gave no further details of the repeal measure, but asserted that the bill "will pass" when it hits the floor of the legislature Thursday.
If the repeal is successful, it would shutter a hotly contested law enacted under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory that prevented individuals from entering government facilities that matched their gender identity.
The law also limits discrimination protections on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
The repeal process, if completed by noon Thursday, could also mean the state may escape punitive measures from the NCAA, which had threatened to remove the state from contention for being chosen for championship sites from 2018 through 2022. The NCAA had previously relocated other events, including men's basketball tournament games that were to have been played in Greensboro this month.
The HB2 law, which has been fiercely protested by LGBT-advocacy groups and national political figures, has also threatened to pose harsh long-term economic problems for the state, with numerous high-profile lucrative deals, pulled or on the verge of being pulled in opposition to the law. Since the law's passing, numerous companies have mounted boycotts and a spate of protests in its opposition have been held at the local, state and national level.
Despite the rebuttal of local Republicans, who pushed the bill through the legislature last March, analyses have painted a dire picture of its economic impact. An Associated Press analysis found that $3.76 billion would be lost in business over a dozen years in the state if HB2 remained in place.
Seattle filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Wednesday, charging that President Donald Trump’s executive order threatening funding for “sanctuary cities” is “unconstitutional and ambiguous,” and violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.
Mayors and police chiefs from around the country gathered in Washington on Wednesday to meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and complain about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ warning that cities that do not fully comply with immigration laws could see tens of millions in federal funding disappear.
Pulling funding would lead to a spike in crime, mayors have argued, and would be a punishment for not breaking any laws — they say the law does not require municipal authorities to report immigration status to the federal government, and that anyway, the term “sanctuary city” is too broad to account for each city’s individual approach to undocumented immigrants.
They argue that the chilling effect has already led to immigrants being too scared to report crimes and instilled unnecessary fear.
“Seattle will not be bullied by this White House or this administration, and today we are taking legal action against President Trump’s unconstitutional order,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, announcing the suit. “We have the law on our side: The federal government cannot compel our police department to enforce federal immigration law and cannot use our federal dollars to coerce Seattle into turning our backs on our immigrant and refugee communities. We simply won’t do it.”
Murray did not attend the mayors’ meeting with Kelly in Washington, D.C. But after that meeting on Wednesday, DHS spokesman David Lapan said the administration is aware that lawsuits might be coming, but hadn’t done advance preparation for them, despite expectations of being taken to court.
“As you’d imagine, every day there are potential suits against the department for any number of things, so we generally wait to see the facts as they come forward,” Lapan said.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, the Republican president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said he believed that DHS is starting to understand the problems with attempting the kind of crackdown the executive order seems to project.
“Police chiefs and police departments are pretty much in alignment in how things have been going and the way things are executed today, and I think Secretary Kelly is in alignment with that,” Cornett said after the meeting.
But he said he’s open to joining lawsuits, either as the mayor of his own city or the conference president, depending on what the administration demands in terms of detainment.
“Yeah, there might be constitutional issues, especially on the containment side,” Cornett said.
The lawsuit charges: “The City of Seattle and our welcoming city policies do not violate federal law. The Executive Order calls for localities to cooperate with the federal government and share information. City employees are directed to cooperate with, not hinder, federal actions; however, City employees are prohibited from inquiring into immigration status. The City doesn’t not prohibit information sharing, but instead limits the collection of information.”
But city officials appear to be reveling in taunting Trump.
“I hope,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement, “the president will refrain from tweeting his legal opinion before our Courts have an opportunity to do so.”
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt says President Donald Trump’s imagination is at work if he doesn’t believe in climate change science or the Paris agreement that President Barack Obama signed onto before leaving office.
And Immelt is calling on other companies to step up to fill the void that the administration is leaving behind.
“Companies must be resilient and learn to adjust to political volatility all over the world," Immelt wrote Wednesday in an internal company blog post obtained by POLITICO. "Companies must have their own ‘foreign policy’ and create technology and solutions that address local needs for our customers and society.”
Immelt has been GE’s CEO since 2000, and is often seen as one of the country’s major business leaders.
Taking aim at Trump’s latest executive order rolling back Obama-era energy regulations, which was signed Tuesday, Immelt said the company’s incorporation of green technology in response to “well accepted” climate change science has had a demonstrable effect both on environmental protection on improving company profits.
“We believe climate change should be addressed on a global basis through multi-national agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. We hope that the United States continues to play a constructive role in furthering solutions to these challenges, and at GE, we will continue to lead with our technology and actions,” Immelt wrote.
This isn’t the first time Immelt has taken issue with Trump. Responding to the first travel ban, Immelt wrote in another blog post, “I understand many of you are very concerned about the potential impacts of this order and I share your concern.”
Citing the company’s diverse group of employees, Immelt promised, “we will continue to make our voice heard with the new administration and Congress and reiterate the importance of this issue to GE and to the business community overall.”
Under Obama, Immelt served as the head of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. But he frequently caused heartburn for the Obama White House, including criticizing the president for cutting into his company’s profit margins because of Obamacare, and for revelations of GE’s workarounds on the corporate tax code.
Immelt has previously expressed openness to Trump, particularly on regulatory reform.
“We will be less of a leader in trade. Meanwhile, we are stripping away years of bad regulatory and economic practices to promote competitiveness,” he wrote in a letter to shareholders at the end of last year.
Then, in a February interview with CNBC, Immelt said that he hoped to work with the president on job creation.
"I would say to the president, 'Look, level the playing field. We can take on any company in the world. Help us do that,'" Immelt told Jim Cramer then.
House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff said he'll meet with Chairman Devin Nunes on Thursday to discuss their ongoing stalemate over the panel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Schiff — who in recent days has publicly called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation — told CNN he and Nunes had not yet agreed on terms to hear testimony from FBI Director James Comey and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
According to Schiff, Nunes was seeking to have Comey testify on the subject before the panel in a closed- door meeting next Tuesday, instead of having an open hearing the same day.
"We weren't willing to do that," Schiff said of the plans to meet behind closed doors.
The senior iItelligence Democrat added that he'd be willing to participate in a closed session with Comey, but not as a substitute for the planned open hearing with Comey, Yates and former Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan that Nunes had cancelled.
Schiff said Nunes was the only person currently standing in the way of Yates testifying before the committee.
“We would like [Yates] to testify. The public would like to hear would she has to say,” Schiff said. “There is no obstacle to having her come in now except a decision by the chair not to reschedule that hearing.”
During his appearance on "The Situation Room," Schiff proposed a compromise.
"We propose, let's do both. We're more than happy to do both and are waiting to hear back on that," he said.
Schiff also kept up his criticism of how Nunes is handling the probe.
“We can’t conduct an investigation this way," he said. "That's not sustainable. It’s not credible”
California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter — under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged campaign violations — insists he did nothing wrong.
Hunter won't say who is responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in campaign charges for personal expenses, but he says it wasn't him and he's broken no laws.
"I was not involved in any criminal action," Hunter said in an interview Wednesday. "Maybe I wasn't attentive enough to my campaign. That's not a crime."
However, the Marine Corps combat vet and five-term lawmaker declined repeatedly to say who was responsible for making the charges.
"I didn't make any of those charges. None. None of those expenditures," Hunter insisted.
When asked who did — if it was his wife, Margaret, who was listed as his campaign manager — Hunter would not say.
"I'm not saying that. I'm saying that I didn't make any of those charges," Hunter said. "That's for an investigation. I'm just telling you that I didn't make any of those expenditures."
The San Diego Union-Tribune, which initially disclosed the questionable personal expenses on Hunter's campaign, reported in April 2016 only Duncan and Margaret Hunter had access to a campaign credit card. Only Duncan Hunter has access to the card now, according to the newspaper.
The Office of Congressional Ethics began a probe into Hunter's campaign expenses after the campaign logged an extraordinary range of questionable charges that total tens of thousands of dollars. They include flying a pet rabbit cross-country, registering his daughters in an Irish dance competition and paying for $1,300 of video games for his son.
The San Diego Union-Tribune catalogued the array of expenses, including an $800 oral surgery bill, purchases at Disneyland, and a family trip to Italy. Other charges included thousands of dollars in expenses at grocery stores, purchases at a surf & skate shop and repairs to a garage door at his home.
Margaret Hunter also received tens of thousands of dollars of income from the committee.
Hunter took out a personal loan and repaid all the questionable expenses prior to last November's election.
But OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee conduct a full-scale investigation into the Hunter case. Only the Ethics Committee has the power to sanction a member for violations of House rules.
Ethics Committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, top Democrat on the panel, announced last week that it was holding off on its own probe at the request of the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into the matter.
Hunter has publicly stated that he was not aware of any of the potentially improper expenses until he saw news reports about them. Hunter said he then ordered an audit and immediately repaid any charge that didn't seem legitimate.
"I'm not the treasurer, but I am the congressman. And the father. And the husband," Hunter told POLITICO. "The buck does stop with me. That's why I paid it back it back, and before the election."
Hunter said neither he and his wife nor his staff have been contacted by the Justice Department. And the California Republican does not believe there will be any criminal charges in this matter, noting again that all the campaign charges were promptly repaid.
"At some point, the justice system will work. I've got faith in that," Hunter said.
Hunter rejected any comparison of his case to that involving former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Ill.), and his wife Sandi. The Jacksons pled guilty in 2013 to illegally diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, including school tuition, mortgage payment and memorabilia from the late singer Michael Jackson. Both Jacksons went to prison for their crimes.
“He didn’t try to repay back what he thought were accidental expenditures, or incidental expenditures,” said Hunter of the former Illinois Democrat. “Jesse didn’t look at his FEC report and go, ‘Holy shit, what is that? I'm gonna pay that back.’”
Hunter, though, would not admit that campaign funds were used to pay his family's expenses, despite campaign records and news reports stating that, and repeated that he had "no knowledge" of any such actions.
"I've been doing this for a while. I know what's appropriate and what's not," Hunter declared.
Hunter admitted that he was "embarrassed" by the scandal, but vowed to continue to go on with his work on the Armed Services Committee and other panels.
President Donald Trump is looking to his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, for tips on how to improve his poll numbers.
Trump, addressing a women’s empowerment panel Wednesday, said Melania is “doing a great job.”
“I shouldn’t say this, but her poll numbers have gone through the roof last week,” Trump said. “What was that all about? Through the roof. She has to give us the secret, Mike.”
While the president’s approval rating has fallen into the 30s, Melania’s has soared. Fifty-two percent of Americans said they have a favorable view of her, while 32 percent view her unfavorably, according to a recent CNN/ORC poll. Three percent have never heard of her, while 12 percent have no opinion.
This is a sharp increase from the start of Trump’s presidency, when just 36 percent saw the first lady favorably.
Ivanka Trump on Wednesday said she will take a formal but unpaid role in President Donald Trump’s White House.
POLITICO reported last week that the president’s daughter had secured her own office on the second floor of the West Wing and begun the process of obtaining a security clearance and government-issued communications devices.
The arrangement raised ethics concerns — she remains connected to her eponymous fashion and jewelry brand, which counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway endorsed from the White House in a Fox News interview — although Ivanka Trump had said in a statement that she would “voluntarily” abide by ethics restrictions on government employees.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tom Carper of Delaware sent a letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub earlier Wednesday requesting information on the first daughter’s compliance with federal ethics rules.
“I have heard the concerns some may have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement to The New York Times, which first reported that she would take a formal role in the White House.
“Throughout this process I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role,” added Ivanka Trump, who will serve as a special assistant to the president.
Ivanka Trump, however, will join not only her father in the White House but also her husband, Jared Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president.
The arrangement the White House initially announced appeared to defy Justice Department legal opinions that said advisers either had to have an official position or be informal and outside the White House operation.
But by accepting a formal title and government position, Ivanka Trump is going down a route the Justice Department blessed in an opinion issued in January that said there was no obstacle to the president appointing his relatives to posts in the White House.
“We are pleased that Ivanka Trump has chosen to take this step in her unprecedented role as First Daughter and in support of the President,” a spokeswoman for the president told The Times. “Ivanka’s service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency, and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously.”
Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.
As a candidate, Donald Trump promised rural towns and states hit hard by opioid addiction that he'd solve the epidemic ravaging their communities. "We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need," Trump vowed in October.
Trump won many of those communities — often overwhelmingly. But as president, he's proposing deep cuts to research and treatment in favor of funding a border wall to stop drug traffic, while hinting at bringing back policies like criminalization of drug misuse — and announcing Wednesday yet another big presidential commission to study the problem.
Public health advocates say those plans at best duplicate those of the Obama White House and at worst could set back efforts to tackle a problem that contributes to more than 47,000 deaths per year. Many experts advocate treatment and support services over jail for drug abusers, saying they reduce the risk of a person committing another crime.
The emerging Trump strategy, including failed plans to repeal Obamacare protections that enabled millions to get substance abuse treatment, "doesn't bode well for the public health approach, such as it is," said Leo Beletsky, a law professor at Northeastern University who specializes in health and drug policy. He points to Republican rhetoric about criminalizing the crisis, as well as proposed funding cuts to research and treatment.
"This new shift will certainly make the situation much worse," Beletsky added.
Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday creating a high-level opioids commission led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has spoken about the need to prioritize treatment for opioid addiction. It includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has suggested more of a crime-and-punishment approach.
Public health experts question the value of the commission. It was just last November when Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released his office's first-ever report on opioids and addiction, which included tools and recommendations collected from more than a year of research. The CDC also released prescribing guidelines after thorough study.
"These people don’t need another damn commission," said a former Obama administration official who worked to address the opioid crisis and asked not to be named. "We know what we need to do. … It's not rocket science."
The White House on Tuesday also shuffled the leadership at the Office of Drug Control Policy, replacing acting head Kemp Chester — a compromise pick between the outgoing Obama and incoming Trump administrations — with acting head Rich Baum, a former Hill GOP staffer who's been critical of legalizing marijuana and wants to tackle drug cartels abroad.
Baum specializes in what's called the "supply side" of drug policy — cracking down on the flow of illegal drugs — as opposed to "the demand side," or treating the end user. Baum is close to GOP policy experts who worked to enact the "war on drugs" tactics under previous Republican presidents, several sources told POLITICO.
But many officials are doubtful about the supply side approach.
“Our hope is they would take a public health approach to addressing this epidemic," said Laura Hanen, chief of government affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. She pointed out that while there have been inroads to clamp down on over-prescribing of prescription opioids, there's been a corresponding uptick in heroin and fentanyl. “You squeeze one end of the balloon and the air goes to the other end. … If we’re only going to use a supply side approach I doubt it ‘ll be very effective.”
Drug-policy experts also worry about Sessions' punitive view of drug abuse and his skepticism about treatment, which he believes seldom works. “We can wish that we could just turn away and reduce law enforcement,” he said in a speech last year. “But I do believe that we're going to have to enhance prosecutions. There just is no other solution.”
The White House issued a budget request recently that would siphon billions of dollars from NIH research and CDC public health work this year while steering about $2 billion toward construction of Trump's border wall with Mexico.
The president has promoted the wall as a linchpin of his strategy to fight the opioid epidemic. "A wall will not only keep out dangerous cartels and criminals, but it will also keep out the drugs and heroin poisoning our youth," Trump said in October in New Hampshire — a state hard-hit by the opioid crisis.
"We must ... focus on prevention and law enforcement," Trump said at a Wednesday event showcasing the effort. "That is why I have issued previous executive actions to strengthen law enforcement and dismantle criminal cartels. Drug cartels have spread their deadly industry across the nation and the availability of cheap narcotics — and by cheap, some of it comes in cheaper than candy — has devastated our communities."
But Trump's own homeland security czar said the border wall "in and of itself will not do the job" and drug-policy experts warned cartels would be motivated to find a way around it. In any case, it may be a non-starter this year; Congress will rebuff the request, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a senior appropriator, signaled on Tuesday.
Democrats on the Hill also blasted Trump for a plan that they say prioritizes optics like a border wall and a political commission over investing more dollars in caring for people who are addicted to opioids, recovering or are at risk. They also said that the ill-fated American Health Care Act — the House Republican plan to strike down Obamacare — would have dealt a critical blow to coverage for millions of substance misusers.
"I’d take President Trump’s proposed efforts on opioids more seriously if he hadn’t spent the last two months trying to derail the historic steps forward on substance abuse treatment through the Affordable Care Act — and if his budget didn’t also include a 20 percent cut to mental health services, which are so important in the fight against this epidemic," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement.
"I was pleased to see then-candidate Trump recognize this issue on the campaign trail," Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) told POLITICO. "[But] I am concerned that rather than show a commitment to increasing resources to boost treatment capacity, President Trump has so far pushed policies that would harm our efforts to combat the crisis."
Several advocates pointed out that the failed House Republican bill to repeal Obamacare would have significantly hindered access to addiction treatment. The legislation was not only projected to lower coverage but also would have eliminated essential health benefit guarantees — including mental health — for millions of Americans covered through various ACA-related programs.
The bill would have slashed Medicaid expansion, which experts have concluded helped nearly 1.3 million low-income Americans gain access to substance-use treatment.
Trump's budget proposal for next year keeps the $500 million allotted to states through the 21st Century Cures Act to fight opioid addiction and proposes $175 million more to fight drug trafficking. But it would cut funding by 14 percent for the Coast Guard, whose maritime interdiction efforts are necessary at a moment when cocaine production and trafficking is at an all-time high.
Drug policy experts across the federal government say they weren't consulted on the executive order to create the opioids commission.
"The first time I learned about this was when I saw it in the press" on Sunday night, one said.
Policy experts stressed that the Obama administration made its own blunders in fighting the opioid epidemic, such as failing to increase access to drugs like naloxone, which can keep addicts from dying from overdoses. The same experts are nervous to see the current administration potentially repeat the last one's mistakes.
"Paradoxically, the [opioid] crisis also helped to get us here," Beletsky added. "The failure to curb overdoses — and address the deep structural issues that have fueled them — also helped Trump make the case that government wasn't working."
Brent Griffiths contributed to this report.
As Senate Democrats threaten to filibuster the vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick to sit on the Supreme Court, Republican leaders are weighing whether to “go nuclear” to get him over the line.
The so-called nuclear option would set a new precedent for the way Supreme Court nominees are confirmed in the Senate, weaken a key tool minority parties use to exert influence on the process, and further exacerbate partisan tensions in Congress.
Here’s a rundown of the issues at play.
What is the nuclear option?
The nuclear option technically refers to changing Senate rules with a simple majority vote. In this case, Republicans are considering changing the rules so it’s easier to cut off filibusters, attempts to prevent votes by dragging out debate on the floor, of Supreme Court nominees.
Currently, most legislation and Supreme Court nominations must get past a 60-vote supermajority to avert a filibuster. If Republicans go nuclear and change the rules, Supreme Court nominees would only need a simple majority, typically 51 votes, to cut off debate and allow a vote, a process known as cloture.
If Senate Republicans decide to go nuclear to change the rules ahead of a vote on Gorsuch, nominated to fill the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, Democrats would not have enough votes to stall his confirmation.
Republicans could change those Senate rules without needing any Democrats to go along.
Has the nuclear option been used before?
Democrat Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, triggered the nuclear option in 2013 to lower the threshold needed for cloture to a simple majority for most presidential nominations, but not for Supreme Court picks.
That dramatic change came during a fight over confirming three people nominated by President Barack Obama to a U.S. appeals court. Reid argued that his move to remake Senate rules was justified because Republicans were being obstructionists.
“The American people believe the Senate is broken, and I believe the American people are right,” Reid said at the time. “It’s time to get the Senate working again.”
Mitch McConnell, then the minority leader, disagreed. He called it a “power grab” by Democrats and lamented that it was a “sad day in the history of the Senate.”
Some liberals also think it was the wrong move. Now that Democrats are in the minority, they say Reid paved the way for Republicans to use the nuclear option on Supreme Court nominees too. But before he retired last year, Reid defended his decision.
Will Republicans use it now?
McConnell, now the Senate majority leader, holds the institutional traditions of the Senate in high regard, and he seemed reluctant earlier this year to change the chamber’s rules again. But he and other Republican leaders have since signaled their willingness to trigger the nuclear option if Democrats try to block Gorsuch, who is widely viewed as qualified to serve on the court.
As Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told POLITICO: “We’ll give our Democratic colleagues a chance to see if they provide the 60 votes; if they do, it’s a moot point. And if they don’t, as I said before, we will confirm him one way or the other.”
Republicans are reportedly confident that they can get enough of their caucus on board to change the rules.
Some Senate Republicans who have previously seemed skittish about going nuclear have changed their tune as Democrats continue threatening to filibuster Gorsuch. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the option a “last resort” but said he’d support it if necessary.
Why are Democrats threatening to filibuster Gorsuch?
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and his members are under pressure from interest groups and activists on the left to oppose Gorsuch (and, really, everything Trump does). Gorsuch’s record is conservative and his originalist judicial philosophy mirrors the late Scalia’s.
Adding to their frustration, Democrats remain angry that McConnell refused to hold hearings or a vote in 2016 for Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s pick to succeed Scalia. When Trump took office, he nominated Gorsuch to the seat rather than stick with Garland.
Some on the left frequently refer to the spot on the court that Gorsuch may soon occupy as a “stolen seat.”
Still, Democrats largely recognize that Gorsuch will probably be confirmed — whether they filibuster or not — because Republicans can use the nuclear option.
How unusual is this fight?
Historically, few Supreme Court nominees have had to overcome a filibuster. Garland, for example, never faced one. Republicans who controlled the Senate simply refused to hold a vote on whether to confirm him.
Abe Fortas, who was nominated to serve as the court’s chief justice in 1968, was the last nominee successfully blocked through the maneuver. More recently, some Democrats attempted to block Samuel Alito’s nomination to the court by President George W. Bush in 2006. But the Senate invoked cloture, and Alito was confirmed.
Some Democrats claim Obama’s two successful Supreme Court nominees in essence had to pass a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. That argument, though, is misleading. While both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were confirmed with more than 60 votes, Republicans did not attempt to filibuster either of them.
O'Rourke, if he declares, would be the first Democrat to announce his intention to challenge Cruz. Rep. Joaquin Castro is also considering a Senate run. With Democrats defending 25 seats in 2018, including 10 in states won by President Donald Trump, a competitive race against Cruz would be a major boon to the party. Only two other GOP-held seats, Arizona and Nevada, are currently expected to be competitive. Democrats would need to pick up three seats to win the majority.
The announcement is expected to come at a rally in El Paso, according to the Houston Chronicle, which first reported the news. A spokesman for O’Rourke did not immediately return a comment.
O'Rourke wouldn't confirm he was running Wednesday but also didn't refute the Houston Chronicle story, saying only he hasn't talked to the newspaper.
"I don't want to say anything publicly about a decision to run until I can do it in front of the people I represent," O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke did say he has talked to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently but wouldn't divulge details. The Texas Democrat said he has not spoken with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of Senate Democrats' campaign arm, since last year.
But O'Rourke didn't pass up a chance to slam Cruz, saying he's sure the controversial Republican is beatable even in deep-red Texas.
"He's been running for president for four years while he should've been serving the people of Texas," O'Rourke said.
Castro told POLITICO he hasn't ruled out also running for the Texas Senate seat, saying he still plans to announce his decision at the end of April.
In an interview this month, O'Rourke insisted a Democrat can win in the conservative bastion.
"People have just come to take it as an article of faith that a Democrat can't win," O'Rourke said. "I don't think there's anything real magical about this."
A spokeswoman for Cruz declined to comment.
The immediate challenge for O'Rourke will be fundraising: Cruz ended 2016 with $4.2 million in his Senate campaign account, far more than the $399,000 O'Rourke had in his coffers as of last Dec. 31.
O'Rourke first won his El Paso-based and majority Latino House seat in 2012, after upsetting Rep. Silvestre Reyes in a Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton won 68 percent of the vote in O'Rourke's district last year.
Chelsea Clinton has a one-word response to the swirl of rumors and news reports that she is considering running for office: “No.”
“I am not running for public office,” she said in an interview with Variety published Wednesday.
Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, shot down rumors that she was considering running, saying that her answer “has never changed.”
“I am really constantly surprised by the stories of me running for, fill-in-the-blank: Congress, Senate, City Council, the presidency,” she said. “I really find this all rather hysterical, because I’ve been asked this question a lot throughout my life, and the answer has never changed.”
Clinton, who is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, said she thinks it’s important for young people to ask whether they would like to run for public office, and whether they think they would do a better job than the people currently in office. But she doesn't think she would — yet.
“I love my city councilwoman, she’s awesome,” Clinton said. “I’m obsessed with Tish James, who is our public advocate in New York City. I support our mayor. I love my congresswoman. I love our senators. I clearly do not support the president and certainly hope that he is defeated in the next election, but I don’t think I’m the best person for that job.”
“So if I support everyone up to that point and think they’re doing a good job, then of course the answer is no,” she added. “And if someone steps down or something changes, I’ll ask and answer those questions at that time. But right now, no. I am not running for public office. Period.”
President Donald Trump on Wednesday needled Chris Christie as he praised the New Jersey governor for his early endorsement, joking that Christie's support was less than whole-hearted.
Trump, who sat next to Christie at the meeting in the White House about battling opioid addiction, gave credit to the governor for being “an immediate endorser, once he got out of the race.”
But then he cracked, “He liked himself more than he liked me, but other than that."
“Still do, sir, but that’s all right,” Christie quipped in response.
“Other than that, he’s been great,” Trump continued to some laughter. “And he’s a very effective guy, I will tell you. To have you working on this.”
Trump also praised Christie, who has joined the White House effort to address the opioid crisis, for a standout moment during the Republican primary campaign, when the governor gave a well-received speech about drug addiction.
“And a great moment, actually, if people remember, was you talking about your friend,” Trump said. “That was probably your greatest moment during the campaign for president, and it showed how much you knew about this issue, so thank you very much.”
More than two months into President Donald Trump’s administration, Melania Trump is easing into her role as first lady.
Trump presented the secretary of state’s International Women of Courage Award to a dozen women on Wednesday at the State Department, where she shared an uplifting message for the youth.
“To the young people here today, I ask you to allow the triumphs exemplified by these heroic women to inspire you in your own lives and to remind yourself that you, too, are capable of greatness,” she said. “I urge you to not be afraid to fail. A failure will never have the power to define you as long as you learn from it. And realize that your first steps will always involve taking a leap of faith, by believing in yourself while choosing to replace fear for hope.”
Trump, in a sense, has only recently begun taking her first steps as first lady. She has largely been absent from the first weeks of her husband’s administration, spending most of her time with their son, Barron, in New York as he finishes out the school year.
But she has been notably active in Washington this week, announcing on Monday that deputy White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham would transition to being her communications director. Trump also joined the president Tuesday evening to host a bipartisan reception with senators and their spouses at the White House.
“Mrs. Trump is working hard on her initiatives while balancing being a mother, a wife and serving the country as the First Lady,” Grisham said in a statement to POLITICO. “The team continues to grow and we look forward to the work ahead.”
Grisham said Trump has been “very busy” since her husband’s inauguration, noting her appearances during state visits from foreign leaders and at occasional bill signings. Trump, Grisham continued, also hosted a women’s empowerment luncheon earlier this month and will host next month’s White House Easter Egg Roll.
On Wednesday, though, her focus was recognizing women.
“I am deeply humbled to be here today to honor these 12 remarkable and inspirational women who have given so much for so many regardless of the unimaginable threat to their own personal safety. Each one of these heroic women has been an extraordinary story of courage, which must inspire each of us to also achieve more than we have ever imagined possible,” she said.
Trump has said she wants to focus on cyberbullying as first lady. In a rare speech days before her husband’s election, she highlighted anti-cyberbullying as “one of the main focuses of my work if I’m privileged enough to become your first lady” — along with working to improve women’s everyday lives.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, she focused mostly on the latter Wednesday.
“As leaders of our shared global community, we must continue to work towards gender empowerment and respect for people from all backgrounds and ethnicities, remembering always that we are all ultimately members of one race, the human race,” she said. “Each one of us is uniquely gifted. We must continue to lead a forum of American values as we join with the international community to make our world safer through acts of collaborative and individual bravery.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that the president shares the same view as his wife on women empowerment.
“The president believes as the first lady said this morning, quote: ‘Wherever women are diminished, the entire world is diminished with them. However, wherever women are empowered, towns, villages, schools and economies are empowered, and together we are all made stronger,’” Spicer said, citing an excerpt from the first lady's remarks. “The Trump administration will continue to work to ensure that the American economy is a place where women can work and thrive.”
The New York Times sought to correct the record with President Donald Trump Wednesday, pushing back on his claim that the Times “apologized to subscribers” for its election coverage.
“Remember when the failing @nytimes apologized to its subscribers, right after the election, because their coverage was so wrong,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Now worse!”
The Times’ communication team tweeted back, calling the claim “false.”
“.@realdonaldtrump False, we did not apologize,” the tweet read. “We stand by our coverage & thank our millions of subscribers for supporting our journalism.”
Trump was likely referring to a letter that New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wrote to Times subscribers three days after election night. In the letter, Sulzberger wrote that the Times and other news outlets “underestimate[d] his support among American voters,” but said the paper’s staff believed it “reported on both candidates fairly during the presidential campaign.”
“As we reflect on this week’s momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism,” Sulzberger Jr. wrote in the letter, which thanked readers for their loyalty to the paper and did not include an apology. “That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.”
Trump has repeatedly tweeted about how the Times was “forced to apologize” for its reporting. That claim has also been repeated by right-wing media outlets.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tom Carper are requesting information from the Office of Government Ethics about Ivanka Trump’s compliance with federal ethics rules amid reports that the president’s elder daughter is expanding her unofficial role in the administration.
Warren (D-Mass.) and Carper (D-Del.) sent a letter to director Walter Shaub on Wednesday asking whether the White House has requested or received guidance from the office about Ivanka Trump’s role in the White House and the rules about disclosures, divestments and recusals that could be required of her amid her growing White House role.
Ivanka Trump, who has previously said she would have no formal role in the administration, is expanding her unofficial White House role, POLITICO reported last week. Trump’s daughter, who remains owner of a retail clothing brand bearing her name, has been given her own office in the West Wing and has applied for a security clearance to accommodate her expanding administration role. She also regularly attends meetings with political figures, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Ivanka Trump has said she would voluntarily follow ethics rules, and she and her husband, Jared Kushner, have sold millions of dollars in assets to comply with federal ethics rules. (Kushner is serving in an official White House administration role as a senior adviser.)
But her expanding role, which is unprecedented, has raised many questions about which ethics rules apply and how they could be enforced.
“Ms. Trump’s increasing, albeit unspecified, White House role, her potential conflicts of interest, and her commitment to voluntarily comply with relevant ethics and conflict of interest laws have resulted in substantial confusion,” the letter reads.
Trump’s elder daughter was previously embroiled in an ethics controversy after senior adviser to the president Kellyanne Conway told Fox News viewers to purchase items from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. The ethics office subsequently said Conway committed a “clear violation” of ethics rules, and Shaub recommended that the White House investigate the remarks.
Warren and Carper have requested that more information be provided by mid-April.