Month: January 2017

White House Spanish account sends out inaugural tweet: 'Hola'

The White House’s Spanish Twitter profile sent out its inaugural tweet under the Trump administration on Tuesday evening.

“¡Hola! ¡Bienvenidos a @LaCasaBlanca! Sígannos para mantenerse al tanto de las últimas noticias sobre @POTUS Trump y de su administración!” La Casa Blanca, or the White House, wrote.

The post translates to: “Hello! Welcome to @LaCasaBlanca! Follow us to keep abreast of the latest news on @POTUS Trump and his administration!”

Although the Spanish White House Twitter page is up and running, the page for Spanish readers has not been created yet.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier this month that the site was still being created.

“We are continuing to build out the website, both in the issue areas and then that area, but we’ve got the IT folks working overtime right now to continue to get all of that up to speed,” Spicer told reporters. “Trust me, it’s just going to take a little bit more time, but we’re working piece by piece to get that done.”

Schumer defends requiring 60 votes for Trump's Supreme Court pick

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The New York Democrat said Senate Democrats don’t regret changing Senate rules in 2013.

01/31/17 4:35 PM

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Tom Cotton suggests ordering sergeant at arms to force Dems to vote on nominations

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton on Tuesday suggested ordering the sergeant at arms to force Democrats to vote for President Trump’s nominees at the committee level, ratcheting up the rhetoric after Democrats delayed the votes with a boycott Tuesday morning.

“I don’t know how long they plan to do this,” the Republican said from the Senate floor. “I don’t know if they intend to abscond out of the District, if we’re going to have to vote to have the sergeant at arms track them down, haul them to work to do their business.”

Gesturing toward the sergeant at arms, Cotton remarked that “he has a distinguished record in military and law enforcement. He could probably do that effectively.”

Cotton is not a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which tried Tuesday morning to hold votes on the nominations of Steven Mnuchin to be treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, to be secretary of health and human services. Democrats stopped the vote by refusing to show up and denying a quorum. At least one Democrat has to be present for a quorum.

Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, of Utah, has said that he hopes to reschedule a vote quickly but hasn’t suggested any extraordinary measures to get Democrats to show up.

Cotton weighed in not just on the committee’s affairs, but more generally on Democrats’ increasingly aggressive opposition to the Trump administration, including Democratic senators’ protestations of Trump’s decision Monday night to fire the acting attorney general after she refused to defend Trump’s immigration and refugee ban from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Democrats deploy delay tactics to stall Trump's Cabinet picks

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Democratic senators gave lengthy speeches causing Grassley to delay the vote until Wednesday.

01/31/17 1:54 PM

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Report: Iran test-launched a second missile in early December

Tehran fired a Shahab-3 on Dec. 6 at Semnan, though the missile's destination is unknown. (AP Photo/ISNA, Ruhollah Vahdati, File)

As the United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday to discuss Iran’s Sunday test-launching of a medium-range ballistic missile in early December, military officials confirmed that the country also secretly tested another missile in early December.

Tehran fired a Shahab-3 on Dec. 6 at Semnan, though the missile’s destination is unknown. The intermediate range ballistic missile is modeled off a North Korean design and has a range of 800 miles, according to a report. Officials said the test was likely in breach of UN Resolution 2231, which was signed after the Iran nuclear deal. It called for a stop to “any activity” related to ballistic missiles’ carrying nuclear weapons.

On Monday, the U.S. learned Iran had fired a ballistic missile approximately 140 miles east of Tehran on Sunday, the first apparent breach of the UN resolution.

Iran has carried out six known ballistic missile tests since the nuclear agreement and UN resolution took effect in 2015.

Democrats deploy delay tactics to stall Trump's Cabinet picks

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Democratic senators gave lengthy speeches causing Grassley to delay the vote until Wednesday.

01/31/17 1:54 PM

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Democrats roll out 'Statute of Liberty' act to fight Trump

Dozens of House Democrats this week introduced legislation aimed at shutting down President Trump’s executive order on immigration, and named it after the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty Values Act, from Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., would make Trump’s immigration order “null and void,” with “no force and effect.” It would also strip funding for Trump’s order, which has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The bill has almost no chance of becoming law, since it’s up to Republicans in the House and Senate to advance it. But Democrats say Trump’s order needs a response in light of the “profound confusion and fear” it has caused.

“As a nation of immigrants that has been a refuge for people from around the world, these actions are contrary to who we are as a nation,” Lofgren said Wednesday. “Trump’s order not only harms our families and our economy, it betrays our core values and it makes us less safe.”

Democrats have leaned on the Statue of Liberty for inspiration as they try to fight Trump’s order. Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the famous statue was crying over Trump’s decision.

“Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded, has been stomped upon,” Schumer said in a statement.

Spicer blames media for immigration confusion: 'You have helped cause this'

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“With all due respect, I think you have been part of the confusion,” Spicer told NBC News’ Kristen Welker.

01/31/17 1:55 PM

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Conservative group to launch ads minutes after Trump names Supreme Court pick

The first slate of ads will run in the Washington area and Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Minutes after President Trump makes his Supreme Court pick Tuesday night, the right-leaning Judicial Crisis Network will launch a $2 million television and digital ad buy to boost the high court nominee.

The first slate of ads will run in the Washington area and four states Trump won in 2016 where Democratic senators will be up for re-election in 2018: Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota. The Judicial Crisis Network has plans to spend $10 million on the Supreme Court confirmation fight, and the Tuesday campaign marks phase one.

“Some Senate Democrats are already pushing an obstructionist strategy even before the nominee is announced. This is the type of partisan politics the American people just rejected in November,” said Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel and policy director. “Our campaign will be holding the Senate Democrats up in 2018 accountable for their choice whether to lock arms with Chuck Schumer in his plan to block a nominee for four to eight years, or to represent their constituents who voted for President Trump and want to see his nominee get a fair shake.”

The Judicial Crisis Network’s ad campaign is part of a coordinated push among conservative groups, which they have dubbed “the most robust operation in the history of confirmation battles,” to promote Trump’s nominee. Other groups involved in the conservative coalition include the Tea Party Patriots and America Rising Squared.

Spicer blames media for immigration confusion: 'You have helped cause this'

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“With all due respect, I think you have been part of the confusion,” Spicer told NBC News’ Kristen Welker.

01/31/17 1:55 PM

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Senate confirms Chao as Trump's transportation secretary

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Elaine Chao’s nomination to be the next secretary of transportation, installing one of the least controversial members of President Trump’s Cabinet.

Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, sailed through her confirmation hearings with warm wishes from both sides of the aisle, after winning approval in committee by voice vote.

After serving as labor secretary during George W. Bush’s administration and deputy secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush, Chao was viewed as perhaps the most thoroughly vetted nominee Trump has chosen.

She will lead the push on Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, help move the bill through Congress, and oversee implementation if it becomes law.

Fiscal conservatives have said they worry about how the infrastructure plan will be paid for, but will likely work with Trump on what may be one of few areas of bipartisan compromise on one of his top agenda items.

During her hearings, Democrats pressed her about railroad safety and whether the Transportation Department would meet a deadline to install systems to monitor trains and prevent them from colliding, derailing or speeding.

Chao said she wasn’t aware of the deadline but if there is one, would “look at it seriously.”

Democrats also asked her whether she would work to curb greenhouse emissions as transportation secretary. She said only that she is “not familiar with what the department is doing right now.”

Homeland Security: Dual nationals from allies exempt from Trump's order

Also from the Washington Examiner

“Travelers will be assessed at our border based on the passport they present, not any dual national status.”

01/31/17 1:13 PM

Democrats boycott vote on Donald Trump's Treasury, HHS nominees

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I’m very disappointed in this type of crap,” committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said.

01/31/17 10:38 AM

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A guide to Trump's first 18 executive orders

From reauthorizing the construction of contentious pipeline projects to halting the progression of former President Barack Obama’s pending regulations, some of President Trump’s executive actions have sparked immediate action in the federal government.

Others, such as his memorandum to the Department of Commerce asking for a review about how to require the use of U.S. steel when building pipelines, merely paved the way for potential future actions.

“The whole point of an executive order is that it can be implemented immediately,” said Tommy Binion, director of policy outreach at the Heritage Foundation. “There are broader policies that some of the executive orders indicate are coming, but as far as what’s actually contained in the executive orders themselves, we should expect that to be immediate.”

While Trump’s sweeping policy changes are consistent with his campaign promises, they won’t all lead to immediate shifts and they don’t all carry the same significance.

Here’s what we can actually expect to see from the president’s executive actions.

1. Obamacare

Within hours of taking the oath of office, Trump put his signature on a pair of executive actions designed to go after policies his predecessor had put in place. One was an order instructing federal agencies to stop enforcing aspects of Obamacare.

The order implored federal agencies to delay the implementation of pending provisions and exempt fees or penalties wherever possible while awaiting full repeal of the law.

Pelosi staffer circulates bogus 'hot mic' tape starring Paul Ryan

Also from the Washington Examiner

The tweet accusing Paul Ryan of swearing has since been deleted.

01/31/17 11:54 AM

Marshall Kapp, an expert on healthcare policy at Florida State University, said the order was more symbolic than substantive.

Because Congress must pass legislation to enact any real changes to the Affordable Care Act, Kapp said the executive order Trump signed on Jan. 20 was “more for public consumption.”

Kapp said Trump could have just as easily asked his appointees to use their existing discretion to thwart Obamacare in a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting.

The executive order, however, sends voters a message about the president’s commitment to dismantling Obamacare.

2. Pipes made with U.S. steel

Republicans lay foundation for Medicaid overhaul

Also from the Washington Examiner

Lawmakers said reforms to the healthcare program for the poor are needed as spending has grown out of control.

01/31/17 11:49 AM

Trump signed an executive action on Tuesday that the White House said would pave the way for builders to use only American steel in pipeline construction projects.

But that action was merely a presidential memo instructing his commerce secretary to review ways such a policy could be feasible in the future.

Wilbur Ross, who has not yet been confirmed to the commerce secretary post to which he was nominated, will have 180 days to put together a plan to require new, updated or expanded pipeline projects to use American steel and equipment “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law.”

3. Streamlining permits

Similarly, Trump’s executive action on manufacturing permits came in the form of a memo to Ross.

This presidential memorandum was aimed at “reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing,” but it didn’t totally clear the way for businesses to obtain permits with no strings attached.

Instead, Trump requested a report from Ross that would “identify priority actions as well as recommended deadlines for completing actions.” The memo did not recommend deadlines for those actions, which the White House said would make it easier for factories to get up and running.

According to the memo, “the report also may include recommendations for any necessary changes to existing regulations or statutes, as well as actions to change policies, practices, or procedures that can be taken immediately under existing authority.”

Changes to regulations, however, can take months and are subject to legal challenges that can delay the process even further.

4. Dakota Access Pipeline

Trump signed a pair of presidential memos that cleared the way for two controversial pipeline projects to move forward.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, most of which has already been built, had sparked intense protests from the Stand Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota due to the Native American group’s proximity to a planned portion of the pipeline.

Under Obama, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline amid increasingly visible and fierce protests against it.

Trump’s memo instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner” requests to build and operate the remaining sections of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Although he ordered the project to move forward, that review process still has to occur before builders can get back on the job.

5. Keystone XL Pipeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline was another highly symbolic project that withered under the Obama administration.

Trump revived it on Tuesday by inviting TransCanada, the Canadian company that had sought permission to build Keystone XL, to reapply for a permit to construct the contested section of the pipeline.

TransCanada did so on Thursday.

6. Military rebuild

Trump signed a presidential memo on Friday that asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to prepare a report within 60 days that would map out ways the military could hit increased levels of readiness by 2019.

The president has frequently promised to rebuild the armed forces, which he said his predecessor depleted.

But the memo outlined few specifics about what form the military rebuild could take, and it doesn’t ask the Pentagon to achieve those changes for two years. Such an effort will likely be slow and costly as branches of the military recruit additional personnel and build new planes, ships and equipment.

Trump also instructed Mattis to initiate a review of the country’s nuclear posture to ensure that the nuclear arsenal is “modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st century threats and deter our allies.”

7. Plan to defeat the Islamic State

Trump issued a presidential memo on Friday that called on members of his administration to put together a plan for defeating the Islamic State.

Rather than instructing his agencies to take action related to the terrorist group, Trump merely asked them to compile a list of actions they could take in the future.

8. Lobbying ban

Trump’s five-year lobbying ban on officials who leave his administration will take effect retroactively, applying only to those who decamp for other jobs in the future.

It is meant to prevent his staff from cashing in on their administration jobs for five years after their departures. The executive order, which Trump signed on Saturday, also permanently restricts staffers’ ability to lobby for a foreign government.

The precise effect of the order remains to be seen. Lobbying can often be accomplished in hard-to-detect ways, and the potency of the order may not be tested for years.

9. Extreme vetting

Trump delivered on one of his most contentious campaign promises on Friday when he signed an executive order temporarily suspending refugee programs for 120 days and immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries from 90 days.

Those countries — Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria — may have to start providing additional information about citizens who wish to enter the U.S. under the stricter vetting standards Trump requested in his executive order.

The president also indefinitely halted the flow of refugees from Syria.

The suspensions outlined in Trump’s controversial order will take effect immediately.

10. Speeding up environmental reviews for high priority projects

Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that would give his White House the authority to identify, at the request of governors or agency heads, which infrastructure projects would be considered “high priority.”

His administration would then use “expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals for such projects,” according to the order.

Unlike the presidential memo on permitting processes that Trump signed Tuesday, the environmental review action came in the form of an executive order and will spark changes more quickly.

11. Border wall

Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday calling for “the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.”

The order also instructed the Department of Homeland Security to direct resources toward the expansion of detention facilities near the border for illegal immigrants.

Although it will take effect right away, Republican lawmakers have suggested they could look at ways to appropriate additional funds toward building the border wall.

12. Sanctuary cities

Another immigration-related executive order involved the enforcement of laws already on the books.

Trump ordered border patrol agents and immigration officials to begin deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes, regardless of whether they reside in areas known as “sanctuary cities,” where immigration laws are not typically enforced.

In order to pressure sanctuary cities into complying with the order, Trump threatened to suspend federal grants to those areas until the law is enforced.

The new marching orders for the Department of Homeland Security, which houses border patrol, should take effect immediately.

13. TPP withdrawal

Trump’s move to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deeply unpopular trade agreement, will effectively end the deal’s chances of becoming reality in Congress.

TPP had already become a toxic agreement, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle under pressure from voters to ditch the deal.

14. National Security Council tweaks

Trump signed on Saturday what appeared to be a routine restructuring of his National Security Council.

Trump’s reshuffling of the National Security Council on Saturday ruffled some feathers in the security community because it removed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence from those who regularly attend its meetings. Those officials are welcome to attend any meeting they want, White House press secretary Sean Spicer clarified on Monday.

The controversial memo also added White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon as a regular member.

The moves continued Trump’s efforts to remake the way the United States approaches national security and foreign policy.

15. Hiring freeze

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush instituted federal hiring freezes during their presidencies, so Trump’s move to do so is not unprecedented.

The president has signaled his intention to cut the federal workforce, and could potentially accomplish that by maintaining the freeze and allowing attrition to reduce its size.

The hiring freeze does not apply to the military or public health positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

16. Regulatory freeze

A regulatory freeze is a routine way for new administrations to halt the progression of rules commissioned by previous presidents.

Obama issued a temporary regulatory freeze when he came into office, and Trump signed one as well.

In fact, he made the move a top priority, tackling the freeze shortly after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20. Trump has frequently focused on deregulation as a key step toward creating a more business-friendly climate in the U.S.

17. Mexico City policy

Trump continued a tradition, begun by Reagan and continued by Bush, of reinstituting a practice known as the Mexico City policy.

According to the Mexico City policy, groups that perform or promote abortions overseas do not receive federal funds.

18. Regulation limits

An order Trump signed Monday will force the administration to roll back two regulations for every new one his agencies enact.

Trump had promised to implement such a policy shortly after getting elected. The president has repeatedly vowed to cut regulations across the board, from enrvironmental restrictions to labor rules.

During a meeting with manufacturers shortly after taking office, Trump said he would consider taking as much as 75 percent of existing regulations off the books.

Democrats boycott vote on Donald Trump's Treasury, HHS nominees

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I’m very disappointed in this type of crap,” committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said.

01/31/17 10:38 AM

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Trump meets with pharmaceutical execs, vows to cut drug prices

President Trump vowed to lower the cost of prescription drugs on Tuesday, in part by slashing regulations that put restrictions on how pharmaceutical companies do business.

“You folks have done a tremendous job, but we have to get prices down,” Trump said during a meeting with pharmaceutical executives at the White House.

Executives from Merck and Johnson & Johnson were among the attendees at Tuesday’s meetings. Many of the executives asked Trump to address high taxes and burdensome regulations in the hopes that doing so could lower costs for patients.

“We have to lower the drug prices,” Trump said.

He has previously floated a policy that would allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices as a way to pressure pharmaceutical companies into offering cheaper medications.

The president also lamented the slow pace of Food and Drug Administration approvals, which he said can delay the use of potentially life-saving drugs by dragging out the review process.

“We’re going to get the approval process much faster,” Trump said.

Trump said future trade policies would “prioritize that foreign countries pay their fair share for U.S. manufactured drugs so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate the development of new cures.”

“Right now, it’s very unfair what other countries are doing to us,” Trump said. “And one thing really I want you to do: I’ve seen this over the years, but a lot of the companies have moved out, they don’t make the drugs in our country anymore. A lot of that has to do with regulation, a lot of it has to do with the fact that other countries take advantage of ours with their money and their money supply and devaluation. Because our country has been run so badly, we know nothing about devaluation. You look at Japan. They play the money market, they play the devaluation market, while we sit here like a bunch of dummies.”

Ryan seeks assurances from Kelly on botched immigration order rollout

Also from the Washington Examiner

Asks DHS secretary make sure the confusion gets cleared up quickly

01/31/17 11:42 AM

Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, attended the meeting, as did executives from Novartis, Eli Lilly and Celgene.

Democrats boycott vote on Donald Trump's Treasury, HHS nominees

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I’m very disappointed in this type of crap,” committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said.

01/31/17 10:38 AM

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Mnuchin, Price nominations stalled after Democrats boycott vote

Democrats “boycotted” a scheduled Senate Finance Committee vote on Tuesday to advance the nominations of President Trump’s picks for the treasury and health and human services departments.

“I’m very disappointed in this type of crap,” committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said to the half-empty hearing room. “I mean, my gosh, there’s no excuse for it.”

The committee was supposed to vote on the nominations of Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for secretary of health and human services. But the panel needed at least one Democrat present to conduct the vote.

“This is the most pathetic thing I’ve seen in my whole time in the U.S. Senate,” said Hatch, who has been in office since 1977. Hatch said that he hoped the committee could meet again later in the day to vote. Democrats know, he said, that the nominations will advance, and are only prolonging the delay.

An aide to Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said that Democrats are postponing the vote until “all questions are answered.”

Democrats had already delayed the vote on Mnuchin, which was originally scheduled for Monday night. Democrats used a procedural objection to stall the hearing so they could attend a protest of Trump’s executive order on immigration.

In contention are claims that Mnuchin made regarding foreclosures undertaken by the bank he formerly managed, OneWest. Democrats have claimed that Mnuchin evaded or lied in response to their questions about the bank’s foreclosure practices. Democrats have also faulted Price for his responses to questions about investments he made in health care-related businesses.

Speaking outside the committee hearing room, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said that Democrats were delaying the voted until the candidates “clarify what they lied about.”

“I’d hope they’d apologize for that, and then give us the information that we all need for our states,” he said.

Perry, Zinke nominations advance in the Senate

Also from the Washington Examiner

With those votes, the two confirmations will soon move to the Senate floor.

01/31/17 10:52 AM

Republicans closing in on identifying GOP retreat leaker

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“They have somebody,” Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner.

01/31/17 10:22 AM

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USS Cole aided Iranian boat two days before missile test

The operation took place two days before Iran launched a ballistic missile 140 miles east of Tehran. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The U.S. Navy destroyer Cole responded to a distress call from an Iranian-flagged boat in the Gulf of Oman on Friday, the Navy said Monday.

The approach and assistance operation took place two days before Iran launched a ballistic missile approximately 140 miles east of Tehran on Sunday.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer provided assistance, including 17 gallons of diesel fuel, to the 75-foot stranded dhow, a sailing vessel often used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region.

“We have an important role and responsibility to aid our fellow mariners in distress,” Cmdr. David Wroe, Cole’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “It was a pleasure to use our training to support the sailors with something even as little as a few cans of fuel.”

The Iranian missile test was the second of its kind in recent history, a breach of a United Nations resolution that was signed two days after the Iran nuclear deal was reached. It calls for a stop to “any activity” related to ballistic missiles’ carrying nuclear weapons.

Trump fires acting attorney general: She 'betrayed' the DOJ

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President Trump replaced acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates after she criticized his executive order on immigration.

01/30/17 9:32 PM

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