Day: February 13, 2017

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$89,000 drug delays launch


CEO says drugmaker will meet with advocates to explain company's plans and review the community's concerns. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

A high-priced drug approved last week to treat a rare disease that affects young boys is not hitting the market after criticism over its $89,000-a-year price tag.

Marathon Pharmaceuticals said Monday that it is delaying the launch of Emflaza, a drug to treat the rare muscular disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The Illinois drugmaker didn’t say how long the drug would be delayed or when it initially planned to hit the market.

The company’s CEO, Jeff Aronin, said in a letter that it is pausing the launch to meet with drug advocates and “explain our commercialization plans, review their concerns, discuss all options, and move forward with commercialization.”

The delay announced Monday comes the same day that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., demanded answers about the $89,000 annual price for Emflaza.

The drug is a steroid that has been marketed overseas for $1,000. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug to treat Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy last week.

Trump 'evaluating the situation' with national security adviser Mike Flynn

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President Trump is “evaluating the situation” regarding national security adviser Michael Flynn role in the administration, the White House said Monday.

“The president is evaluating the situation,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “He is speaking to vice president relative to the conversation the VP had with General Flynn and also speaking to various other people about what he considers he single most important subject there is – our national security.”

Spicer’s statement came approximately one hour after Kellyanne Conway said on TV that Flynn has “the full confidence of the president.

02/13/17 5:17 PM

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Kellyanne Conway says Mike Flynn enjoys Trump's 'full confidence'


Flynn (center) has come under fire for statements he made about his contact with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said Monday the president’s embattled national security adviser continues to enjoy Trump’s full support despite a spate of reports suggesting he may have misled the vice president over his pre-inaugural contact with Russia.

“Gen. [Mike] Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president,” Conway said during an interview with MSNBC.

Flynn has come under fire for seemingly false statements he made to reporters and to Vice President Mike Pence about whether he discussed sanctions relief with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

Pence later repeated Flynn’s denial as fact.

Reports that indicate Flynn did indeed broach the topic of removing sanctions against Russia during his conversation with the Russian official have since surfaced, calling into question Flynn’s previous characterization of that conversation.

On Friday, Trump said he had not seen the reports about Flynn and promised to look into them.

Conway’s assurances on Monday marked the first time an administration official has spoken out in defense of Flynn since the allegations resurfaced late last week.

Democratic lawmakers have begun to call for Flynn’s resignation over what they have described as credibility issues.

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

Also from the Washington Examiner

Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

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McConnell: Democrats using double standard on Gorsuch


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Monday that Democrats are requiring a “special test” for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch that conflicts with a standard set by Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her confirmation hearing.

McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats are demanding Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, prove his judicial independence by giving them “drive-by legal conclusions” that would signal how he would rule on key issues.

“This new special test and special obligation are not about ensuring Gorsuch’s judicial independence, but is about compromising it,” McConnell said. “In the upside-down world of my Democratic friends, judge Gorsuch must lose his his judicial independence as a sitting circuit court judge and future Supreme Court Justice in order to prove his judicial independence.”

Democrats are demanding a 60-vote procedural hurdle for Gorsuch, and many Democratic lawmakers said they are skeptical of his nomination, while some have already announced their opposition.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a confirmation hearing in March. McConnell said Democrats should not expect Gorsuch to declare how he would rule on specific cases.

He pointed to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing in 1993, when, he said, she set the standard for nominees to maintain their independence on the high court by refusing to give specifics on how they might rule on specific cases.

“I do not want to give here any hints,” Ginsburg said when asked how she would rule on abortion cases. “I cannot say one word on that subject that would not violate what I said would have to be my rules about.”

McConnell said Supreme Court nominees who followed Ginsburg also declined to declare their position on specific issues. McConnell said Democrats “are in a pickle” because they cannot find a reason to oppose Gorsuch on the merits of his qualifications and are instead employing a “double standard,” with Gorsuch.

The Ginsburg standard will continue with Gorsuch, McConnell said. “No hints, no forecasts, no previews. Fair consideration and an up or down vote,” he said.

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

Also from the Washington Examiner

Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM

Trump avoids questions on Mike Flynn during press conference

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Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

02/13/17 3:10 PM



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Trump avoids questions on Michael Flynn during press conference


President Trump on Monday managed to avoid potentially uncomfortable questions related to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn while hosting a press conference at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Much of the national news media’s attention in recent days has been centered on Flynn after it was reported that he, contrary to what other White House officials have said, had contact with top members of the Russian government related to sanctions currently in place by the U.S.

Trump and Trudeau took two questions each at the joint conference on Monday but, as some reporters pointed out after it was over, Trump did not call on major news outlets that would have likely asked him about Flynn.

Instead, Trump called on a reporter from the conservative Daily Caller website and a reporter from Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns several local news stations.

The Daily Caller reporter asked Trump what he considered to be the biggest national security threat. Trump replied it was North Korea.

Reporters from news organizations that got shut out fumed afterward and accused Trump of deliberately avoiding questions about the big topic of the day.

Jennifer Griffen, Fox News’s national security correspondent, reacted on Twitter, “No questions about Flynn’s status even though it is leading every newscast?? Are these planted questions on the Washington side?”

Katy Tur, a White House correspondent for MSNBC, said Trump dodged talking about Flynn by not calling on any journalist “with some real heft.”

GOP senator: 'Troubling' if Flynn talked sanctions with Russia

Also from the Washington Examiner

If Flynn didn’t tell Pence the truth about the call, Collins said it would be a “huge issue.”

02/13/17 2:51 PM

Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg said in the last two days, Trump has only called on “conservative news orgs that did not ask about Flynn.”

And Peter Baker of the New York Times said that Trump managed to “get through news conference without being asked about Flynn.”

Trudeau, Trump emphasize need for tougher border security

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“We had a very strong and fruitful discussion,” Trudeau told reporters

02/13/17 2:47 PM



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Trudeau, Trump emphasize need for tougher border security


President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday emphasized the need for tougher security along their shared border, despite previous clashing over immigration restrictions that Trump believes will keep both countries safe.

“We had a very strong and fruitful discussion,” Trudeau told reporters at a joint press conference when asked if they discussed immigration policy.

“The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down to another country and lecture them on how they choose to govern themselves,” he later added.

In a joint statement released Monday afternoon, both leaders said their administrations would examine how to enhance border security without impacting cross-border trade or immigration

US says it was ready to shoot down North Korean missile

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The U.S. determined the missile would not reach Japan, but was ready to shoot it down if it looked like it might.

02/13/17 1:03 PM

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Music sales skyrocket for singer Joy Villa who wore pro-Trump dress to Grammys


On Amazon alone, Joy Villa's "I Make the Static" increased by more than 18,106 percent. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

In less than 24 hours after setting social media on fire by wearing a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” dress, singer Joy Villa reached her all-time high in sales.

On Amazon alone, Villa’s 2014 album “I Make the Static” increased by more than 18,106 percent, reaching No. 1 in their album sales charts. Just the day before her record was the 543,202 most-bought album on the website.

Villa experienced a big bump on iTunes as well. As of Monday morning, she had the No. 5 biggest-selling album, outpacing Grammy performers and winners including Adele, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd and Lukas Graham.

Read more at Red Alert Politics.

Could Trump save the media?

Top Story

The president’s Twitter barbs, and a public hungry for news, means a better forecast for 2017.

02/13/17 12:01 AM

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Democrat opposed to Trump's wall OK with 'strategic fencing'


A House Democrat from Texas who said in January he opposed President Trump’s plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border said Monday that he is open to “strategic fencing.”

“I think the best way is if we have some sort of strategic fencing,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told CNN Monday. “If we look at electronics, you know, the surveillance, other things that we’ve been using in the past.”

Cuellar’s support for “strategic fencing” seems to be a middle ground between Trump’s wall and the status quo, and sounded like a possible softening of Cuellar’s position from January. But a spokeswoman for Cuellar said he has always argued against a fence or wall imposed by Washington, D.C.

“A border fence is a 14th century attempt to solve a 21st century problem,” Victoria Glynn told the Washington Examiner. “Fulfilling the requests of border patrol commanders on the ground for technology and personnel would be far more effective.”

She also said Cuellar would demand that locals are allowed to have a say in any fence that is built.

“President Trump’s insistence on building a wall is more about looking tough than actually securing our homeland or supporting our law enforcement,” she said. “But, he is in the White House and Republicans control Congress. If some fencing must be built, he insists that we allow local communities to have input, respect private property rights, and give border patrol commanders leeway to be strategic about where such a fence is needed, without mandating the number of miles to be fenced.”

In January, Cuellar said he couldn’t support Trump’s border wall, and said only that he’s open to using technology to boost border protection and surveillance.

“I believe there are more effective and efficient ways to secure our borders, such as technologies currently deployed by the Department of Homeland Security including unmanned aerial systems, aerostats, video surveillance systems, and ground sensors; along with adding improvements to river access roads and increasing the number of Border Patrol agents on the ground,” he said in January.

Tennessee bill would bar suits against drivers who hit protestors

Also from the Washington Examiner

Drivers exercising care would be immune from civil suits.

By Lucas Theis

02/13/17 12:38 PM

Cuellar said Monday that the the U.S. should also be looking to get Mexico to do more to police its side of the border.

“We keep spending billions of dollars on the one-yard line called the U.S. border,” he said. “We need to extend it to their 20-yard line and work with those friends across the border.”

But he said a physical wall could be difficult for two reasons.

“There are mountains, there’s rivers, there’s a lot of natural boundaries that we have right now that it’s going to make it very difficult to put a fence or a wall,” he said.

“Second of all, in Texas, most of the private property that we have in the southwest border is in the state of Texas,” he said. “Private property, there will be lawsuits that will delay the building of any fence.”

Inconvenient truths for Trudeau trumpeters

Also from the Washington Examiner

Like Trump, Trudeau recently incited a wave of protests in his country.

02/13/17 12:28 PM

This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. to include comment from Cuellar’s spokeswoman

Could Trump save the media?

Top Story

The president’s Twitter barbs, and a public hungry for news, means a better forecast for 2017.

02/13/17 12:01 AM



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WATCH: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for first meeting with Trump


President Trump welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outside the West Wing of the White House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the White House just after 11am Monday for his first bilateral meeting with President Trump.

The Liberal Party leader is slated to meet with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office before joining Ivanka Trump and a group of female business leaders for a roundtable discussion on women entrepreneurs and child care policy.

Trudeau, who had a close relationship with former President Obama, has agreed to renegotiate the NAFTA trade deal that Trump so forcefully decried on the campaign trail. But the Canadian prime minister has expressed opposition to the president’s travel ban, which was put on pause last week following a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith,” Trudeau had tweeted the day Trump issued his controversial executive order on immigration.

The two men will hold a joint press conference following their meeting and roundtable discussion.

Could Trump save the media?

Top Story

The president’s Twitter barbs, and a public hungry for news, means a better forecast for 2017.

02/13/17 12:01 AM

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Report: Gay NPR commentary contributor charged with assault in Betsy DeVos fracas was a refugee whose family fled the Taliban


Bilal Ahmed Askaryar was the man charged with assault, according to Politico, in the effort to block Betsy DeVos from entering a public school. This is confusing, because I thought they wanted an education secretary who had “first-hand knowledge of public schools.”

It’s not clear yet exactly whom Askaryar is charged with assaulting, and Askaryar has pleaded not guilty.

Askaryar is a long-time human rights activist. He wrote a piece last month for NPR in which he tells the gripping story of fleeing Afghanistan with his family. Eventually they were granted asylum in the U.S. Askaryar writes that he and his family became citizens in 2000.

He told the story as well at the Washington Blade, the gay D.C., publication. In these stories, Askaryar recounts his family’s opposition to Soviet imperialism and to the Taliban.

An al Jazeera story from September 2011 tells Askaryar’s experience, as an Afghani-American following the 9/11 attacks, which were masterminded from Afghanistan, and the very Taliban regime that had driven him and his family out of the country.

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s commentary editor, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.

Could Trump save the media?

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The president’s Twitter barbs, and a public hungry for news, means a better forecast for 2017.

02/13/17 12:01 AM

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Republican governors in charge


When the Republican Governors Association holds its winter meeting in Washington, D.C., this month, it will be a full house. The party now controls more state governorships than at any time in almost a century while also having a friendly president and Congress.

“With 33 Republican governors, the most in 95 years, GOP chief executives are fired up to take action, reform their states and get results,” said RGA communications director Jon Thompson. “And now with Republican control of Washington, including a Republican in the White House, they are glad to finally have a seat at the table and have great hope that Washington will adopt many of the reforms they have championed in the states.”

Democrats don’t have as many reasons to be hopeful. In addition to losing the White House and being in the minority in both houses of Congress, they hold only 16 state governorships (Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is an Independent). Their state-level position is the worst it has been since the Civil War, as Democrats now have complete control — the governorship and both houses of the state legislature — in just five reliably blue states.

The New Republic described this statehouse stomping as “The Democrats’ biggest disaster.” Republicans have majorities in both legislative chambers in a number of important presidential swing states: Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Iowa.

President Trump won seven of these nine states last year and came tantalizingly close in the other two. That’s no coincidence. Trump’s campaign largely handed over its get-out-the-vote operation to the Republican National Committee and, to a lesser extent, the state parties. They delivered. Trump carried 31 states despite running 2 points behind Hillary Clinton in the national popular vote.

“Don’t like the Electoral College?” crowed a Republican strategist. “Too bad. Democrats aren’t even close to having enough state legislative seats to ratify a constitutional amendment that could do anything about it.”

Former President Obama’s strength in national elections did not translate well to down-ballot Democrats, especially at the state level. His party lost over 800 state legislative seats during his two terms in office, even though he won a majority of the national vote in both presidential elections.

Republicans invested heavily in state-level races during the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, spending $68 million to pick up nearly two dozen state legislatures. This gave them control over redistricting in many states, which in turn will help protect the Republican congressional majorities.

Angus King: Trump administration trying to 'delegitimize' his critics

Also from the Washington Examiner

He said the White House doesn’t respect checks and balances.

02/13/17 8:21 AM

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signed legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks and requiring doctors to display ultrasound images to women seeking abortions. (AP Photo)

Liberals worry that Republican-controlled states will perpetuate their power by making it more difficult for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote. Republicans argue that voter ID laws and other similar measures are necessary to prevent fraud, but progressives claim voter impersonation is rare and this legislation has disparate impact on poor and minority voters who are likely to cast their ballots for Democratic candidates.

“There were 25 debates during the presidential primaries and general election and not a single question about the attack on voting rights, even though this was the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” complained The Nation’s Ari Berman.

Conservatives are eager to see Republican governors cut taxes, balance state budgets and enact market-friendly reforms. Eric Greitens was elected governor of Missouri in November. In the short time he has been in office, the Republican has signed an executive order freezing new regulations on business and legislation making Missouri the 28th right-to-work state in the country. These states forbid compulsory union membership or dues payment.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, elected in 2015, has signed legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks and requiring doctors to display ultrasound images to women seeking abortions. Bevin had less success rolling back Obamacare in the state, though he received a federal waiver to alter Kentucky’s approach to Medicaid expansion.

Democratic senator: Trump is 'getting his feet under him' on diplomacy

Also from the Washington Examiner

But worries remain about his national security adviser.

02/13/17 8:01 AM

Some of these governors are looking to Republicans in the nation’s capital to help them deliver. Others heading to the RGA meeting want to be a model federal Republicans can follow.

“Republican governors will gather and share ideas with each other, talk about the 38 gubernatorial elections occurring over the next two years and participate in policy panels on what’s working in their states and what Washington and the federal government can learn from their success in the states,” Thompson said.

Yet Republicans face some risk of being victims of their own success. Midterm elections frequently go against the president’s party. Trump’s approval ratings are low for the short amount of time he has been in office, though his numbers may be better in red states and among the older white voters who have decided the last two midterms. The GOP governors will try to be the face of the party in their own states, but Trump is a tough man to upstage.

In recent elections, Democrats have had trouble mobilizing their base in the off years. Maybe Trump will fix that for them as George W. Bush did in 2006, getting minorities and millennials to the polls. It’s worth noting, however, that he did not turn out these voters in large enough numbers for Hillary Clinton.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has a job approval ratings above 70 percent. (AP Photo)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, currently the RGA chairman, faced a backlash comparable to the anti-Trump movement when he reformed public-sector collective bargaining. Protesters poured into Madison, Democrats and liberal groups worked to recall Walker and government workers’ unions and organized labor more broadly made him their top target.

Walker won his election, beat the recall and won re-election anyway. In November, Wisconsin voted Republican in a presidential election for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s 49-state landslide re-election bid in 1984. Maybe the anti-Trump “resistance” will prove similarly futile.

Republicans gained plenty of governorships in states Trump lost, too. This includes Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and New Mexico. Some of these governors are quite popular. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan both have job approval ratings above 70 percent. Clinton broke 60 percent of the vote in each state.

Mike Leavitt, a political adviser to Hogan, pointed to several of Hogan’s accomplishments: three balanced budgets without tax increases, moving Maryland from last to first in Mid-Atlantic job creation and record education funding. “Job creation is something everyone can agree on,” he said.

“I think the reason why Gov. Hogan has been and remains popular in Maryland is a relatively simple formula,” Leavitt added. “He says what he’s going to do and does what he says he’s going to do. He’s a straight shooter.”

One test will come in a state that is divided on Trump. Virginia will elect a new governor this year. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe can’t run again because the state doesn’t allow governors to serve consecutive terms, creating a GOP pickup opportunity.

Trump is popular in the southern and western parts of the state, but lost Virginia by 5 points because of a huge Democratic vote in the northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. To illustrate: Trump won 79.1 percent in Buchanan County but just 29.1 percent in Fairfax County. A successful Republican candidate for governor must always thread this needle, but perhaps more so with Trump in the White House.

The supermajority of Republican governors faces political challenges, but few of them would want to trade places with the Democrats.

Could Trump save the media?

Top Story

The president’s Twitter barbs, and a public hungry for news, means a better forecast for 2017.

02/13/17 12:01 AM



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