Day: February 14, 2017

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Report: Pence first learned of DOJ's warning about Flynn last week


Vice President Pence was reportedly made aware of a warning by Justice Department officials about ousted White House national security adviser Michael Flynn last week, more than 10 days after President Trump received the alert himself. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Vice President Pence was reportedly made aware of a warning by Justice Department officials about ousted White House national security adviser Michael Flynn last week, 15 days after President Trump received the alert himself.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday that the Justice Department had informed Trump on Jan. 26 that Flynn had misled the White House about his conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the previous administration announced new sanctions against Moscow.

Trump had asked White House counsel Doug McGahn to investigate the situation the day he received the agency’s warning, while sources told NBC News that Pence remained in the dark.

Flynn resigned on Monday amid the growing controversy about whether he discussed the Obama-era sanctions with Kislyak and subsequently lied to Pence.

The retired four-star general served in the position for less than four weeks and said in his resignation letter Monday that the “fast pace of events” led him to “inadvertently” brief Pence and other White House aides with “incomplete information regarding [his] phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”

Obamacare takes a big hit as a major insurer pulls out

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Insurer cites steep financial losses from patients in the individual market.

02/14/17 5:36 PM

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Smelling blood, Left ups pressure on Puzder


In the wake of Monday night’s resignation by national security adviser Mike Flynn, liberal groups are focusing their energies on taking down Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s controversial nominee to head the Labor Department.

Puzder is scheduled to have his first Senate hearing Thursday morning, and groups are planning protests against him. One group is even attempting to unseal the nominee’s divorce records.

“Here’s our next target,” said Robert Cruickshank, senior campaign manager for the Howard Dean-founded group Democracy for America. “The resignation of Islamophobe and Putin ally Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser is the first defeat of a member of Trump’s Cabinet. But it won’t be the last. Andrew Puzder is the wealthy CEO who Trump picked for labor secretary … Puzder’s nomination is in trouble. Democrats are lining up to oppose him. And even some Republicans are considering opposing him. If so, he’ll go down to defeat.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and a Puzder ally, said the effort was “an indication of how frightened the Left is of a person like Puzder… They’d like to claim a scalp, so I think the intensity will get worse.”

No Senate Republicans have come out against Puzder’s nomination, though Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Maine’s Susan Collins, South Carolina’s Tim Scott and Georgia’s Johnny Isakson have been non-committal about supporting him. The liberal National Employment Law Project released a poll Tuesday claiming that voters in Alaska and Maine want Puzder rejected. Puzder spokesman George Thompson called it “union-sponsored junk data.”

A coalition of unions and advocacy organizations said Tuesday that federal contract workers will go on strike Thursday and appear at the Senate to protest the nomination. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., chairman of the House progressive caucus, is scheduled to speak at an event featuring them.

The liberal nonprofit group Campaign for Accountability appeared in a Missouri Court Tuesday to argue for a petition to unseal records from Puzder’s 1989 divorce in the hopes of finding damaging information in them. Puzder’s then-wife, Lisa Fierstein, said at the time that she had been the victim of domestic violence but has since retracted the claim on numerous occasions, saying she did it to gain leverage in the divorce.

“My privacy has been invaded, my family has been hurt, my children are suffering and I have become the victim of the media’s malice and determination to find ugliness where only kindness and love exists. And now, I have learned of an official request to unseal our divorce court documents. I am disgusted, hurt, angry and vehemently opposed to this unfair invasion of my personal life,” Fierstein said in a statement earlier this month.

Another liberal group called Allied Progress called on Oprah Winfrey to release a tape of Fierstein appearing on her program in a late 1980s episode devoted to domestic violence in the late 1980s. Fierstein has said that she appeared anonymously on the show, stating that she was “caught up in the notion of a free trip to Chicago and being a champion of women’s issues.”

Dan Rather: 'Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather lambasted the Trump administration on Tuesday evening for its association with former national security adviser Mike Flynn, claiming “this Russia scandal” might end up being as “big as Watergate.”

“Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9,” Rather wrote on Facebook. “This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the

02/14/17 6:08 PM

“For the good of our country and to assure an open and deliberative confirmation process, Oprah Winfrey must release this tape that only senators have been allowed to view in private since its existence was first reported on last month. Time is of the essence,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.

Puzder is chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. franchises. He was an outspoken supporter of Trump during the campaign and a staunch critic of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to extend the regulatory powers of the Labor Department and other federal agencies. Liberal groups, particularly organized labor, have made stopping his nomination a crusade.

Puzder’s first Senate hearing was delayed at least four times due to committee Democrats raising questions about how he has divested his personal investments. His nomination took another hit when he acknowledged hiring an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper although he said he fired her and paid back taxes when he learned of her status. The delays have sparked rumors that Puzder was reconsidering joining Trump’s Cabinet. Sources close to the nominee, however, have told the Washingtion Examiner that Puzder never requested any of the delays and remains eager to be secretary.

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a 28-page questionnaire for Puzder, illustrating much of the Democrats’ case against the nominee. Critics have argued that workers at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants regularly encounter abusive conditions. But an examination of data from the Labor Department’s Wage & Hour Division shows that those two franchises have some of the lowest rates of investigations and fines for labor violations in the fast-food industry.

Trump meets with pilot unions on permit for Norwegian Air

Also from the Washington Examiner

Unions want the new administration to withdraw the permit, saying it gives Norwegian Air an unfair advantage.

02/14/17 6:02 PM

Obamacare takes a big hit as a major insurer pulls out

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Insurer cites steep financial losses from patients in the individual market.

02/14/17 5:36 PM



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Mike Flynn defends talks with Russia: 'It wasn't about sanctions'


Mike Flynn, President Trump’s ousted national security adviser, said hours before his resignation on Monday that he discussed a review of the Obama administration’s eleventh-hour rejection of dozens of Russian diplomats with the Russian ambassador in December, but said he did not discuss sanctions relief during the now-infamous phone call.

“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said in an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation, his last before stepping down. “So that’s what it turned out to be. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”

Former President Barack Obama forced 35 Russian diplomats to leave the U.S. as part of a round of sanctions levied against Russia in response to the alleged Russian hacking of Democrats and the release of their emails during the presidential election.

Flynn had been accused of discussing those sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a pre-inaugural conversation, an allegation Flynn denied in public and private at the time.

Vice President Mike Pence later repeated Flynn’s denial as fact in a televised interview.

“For the vice president, I feel terrible. I put him in a position. He’s a man of incredible integrity. I think the world of him. He is so good for our country,” Flynn said during his final interview in office. “I should have said, ‘I don’t know. I can’t recall,’ which is the truth. Looking back, that’s what I should have done.”

Flynn stressed that his conversation with Kislyak “was not to relieve sanctions. It was basically to say, ‘Look, we’re coming into office in a couple of weeks. Give us some time to take a look at everything.'”

The former national security adviser said on Monday that Trump had invited him to address the allegations against him directly with the press, contrary to reports that the White House had ordered Flynn to avoid reporters over the weekend.

“I haven’t been fighting back because I’m not that kind of guy. I’m behind the scenes. I’ve always been behind the scenes,” Flynn said. “But this is ridiculous. It’s so out of control. I’ve become an international celebrity for all the wrong reasons.”

House Republicans resist calls for independent commission on Russian meddling

Also from the Washington Examiner

House Republicans are resisting the renewed calls from Democrats to create an independent commission to investigate Russian meddling in U.S. affairs in the wake of national security adviser Mike Flynn’s resignation.

“Right now when you have no legislative agenda, when you have no hope for the American people, when you just got beat badly in an election in November, which you thought you were gonna win, what else are you going to do? Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., asked. “We’re investigating through the proper committees. We’re going to continue to do that.”

Democrats, Collins said, should “help us replace a broken healthcare system. Why don’t they come on board and have ideas instead of those kinds of things? Let’s look forward

02/14/17 4:27 PM

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House in late January that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions before Trump took office, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Trump spent the intervening weeks weighing Flynn’s future.

Spicer said Trump ultimately decided to ask Flynn for his resignation due to a “trust issue.” The White House stood behind the substance of Flynn’s talks with Kislyak, arguing the sanctions discussion was “not a legal issue” and was permitted by law.

Ethics office tells White House to investigate Conway for Ivanka plug

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The ethics office hasn’t seen evidence of any reprimand.

02/14/17 2:25 PM



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Kellyanne Conway tweets, deletes 'love you back' to white nationalist


White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told a white nationalist on Twitter “love you back” after the anti-communist tweeter sent her a message of support.

The Twitter user @TrumpTrainNoBrk, who goes by the name “Lib Hypocrisy” and includes a frog emoji that generally signifies an appreciation for an Internet meme associated with white nationalists, told Conway she was a “daily inspiration” and added, “love you.”

“Love you back. Happy (heart signs) Day to the Hapless Haters,” Conway replied.

It turns out “Lib Hypocrisy” has some pretty extreme views.

The description for the account states “Hate Anti-American Liberals, Marxists, & Commies ((heart sign) Synonyms).”

It then includes the hashtags #MolonLabe — an ancient Greek saying meaning “come and get them” used by gun owners — and #WhiteIdentity and #Nationalist.

The account gives shouts out to Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic Dutch politician, and Steve Bannon, the former leader of Breitbart who now serves as Trump’s chief strategist.

Senate intelligence probe of Flynn is 'highly likely'

Also from the Washington Examiner

“We are well on the way to looking at those issues and [Flynn] will easily fit into that investigation.”

02/14/17 3:05 PM

Conway told Buzzfeed she did not know who tweeted the message from her account or how they got access to it.

“I’ve never heard of Lib Hypocrisy obviously. I denounce whoever it is,” she said. “I’m going to find out who’s tweeting it. It will be immediately deleted. Everybody makes mistakes.”

Ethics office tells White House to investigate Conway for Ivanka plug

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The ethics office hasn’t seen evidence of any reprimand.

02/14/17 2:25 PM



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Conway to white nationalist: 'Love you back'


White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told a white nationalist on Twitter “love you back” after the anti-communist tweeter sent her a message of support.

The Twitter user @TrumpTrainNoBrk, whose who goes by the name “Lib Hypocrisy” and includes a frog emoji that generally signifies an appreciation for an Internet meme associated with white nationalists, told Conway she was a “daily inspiration” and added, “love you.”

“Love you back. Happy (heart signs) Day to the Hapless Haters,” Conway replied.

It turns out “Lib Hypocrisy” has some pretty extreme views.

The description for the account states “Hate Anti-American Liberals, Marxists, & Commies ((heart sign) Synonyms).”

It then includes the hashtags #MolonLabe — an ancient Greek saying meaning “come and get them” used by gun owners — and #WhiteIdentity and #Nationalist.

The account gives shouts out to Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic Dutch politician, and Steve Bannon, the former leader of Breitbart who now serves as Trump’s chief strategist.

Conway told Buzzfeed she did not know who tweeted the message from her account or how they got access to it.

Trump signs bill squashing Obama-era financial rule for fossil fuels

Also from the Washington Examiner

Measure repeals an Obama-era rule requiring the energy industry to report foreign dealings.

02/14/17 3:09 PM

“I’ve never heard of Lib Hypocrisy obviously. I denounce whoever it is,” she said. “I’m going to find out who’s tweeting it. It will be immediately deleted. Everybody makes mistakes.”

Ethics office tells White House to investigate Conway for Ivanka plug

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The ethics office hasn’t seen evidence of any reprimand.

02/14/17 2:25 PM



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Ethics office tells White House to investigate Conway for Ivanka plug


The White House should investigate Kellyanne Conway for her statements on Fox News last week recommending people go out and buy Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, an Office of Government Ethics official wrote Monday.

In a letter released by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Walter Shaub, director of the office, wrote that Conway’s comments on the show should be investigated thoroughly. While White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said Conway was counseled for giving a “free commercial” telling people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” the ethics office hasn’t seen evidence of any reprimand.

Shaub wrote Conway was appearing in her official capacity and used the appearance on Fox News “as an opportunity to market Ms. Trump’s products.”

The statements “would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position,” Shaub wrote. “I note that OGE’s regulation on misuse of position offers as an example the hypothetical case of a presidential appointee appearing in a television commercial to promote a product. Ms. Conway’s actions track that example almost exactly.”

“Therefore, I recommend that the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her,” he said.

Conway appeared on Fox and Friends Thursday and was asked about President Trump’s angry tweets at Nordstrom for pulling Ivanka Trump’s clothes due to poor sales.

In the course of that interview, Conway echoed Trump’s statements that Nordstrom was being unfair to his daughter and added that people should buy her clothes.

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you … I hate shopping, I’m going to go get some myself today,” Conway said. “This is just a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

That immediately caused an uproar, with even House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz chastising the comments. Chaffetz, who has been loathe to criticize the Trump administration and its ties to the Trump Organization, requested the Office of Government Ethics to look into Conway’s statement and report back to the committee.

House Dems torch Trump for delayed Flynn decision

Also from the Washington Examiner

“He was not fired because he lied. He was fired because he just wasn’t a good enough liar.”

02/14/17 1:33 PM

The ethics office is authorized to recommend disciplinary action against executive branch employees who violate ethics laws, Shaub wrote.

“There is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted,” he wrote.

Shaub said the White House must turn over the results of its investigation to the ethics office by Feb. 28, along with any disciplinary or corrective action taken toward Conway.

New York Times reporter apologizes for referring to Melania Trump as a 'hooker'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Bernstein said that he made the reference in what he believed to be a private conversation at a party.

02/14/17 1:26 PM

White House: Trump asked for Flynn resignation after loss of trust

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“The president was very concerned that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”

02/14/17 1:40 PM



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Spicer: Trump did not instruct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Russian ambassador


President Trump did not direct his former national security adviser, Gen. Mike Flynn, to discuss possible sanctions relief with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. prior to the inauguration, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday.

“No, absolutely not. No, no, no,” Spicer said when asked whether Trump instructed Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

After his phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, Flynn told the vice president and other senior officials that the issue of sanctions had not come up during the conversation. Vice President Pence later repeated Flynn’s denial as fact in a televised interview.

Spicer said Trump asked Flynn for his resignation on Monday evening after weeks of review, deciding ultimately that his trust in Flynn had “eroded” to the point where his continued employment in the administration was “unsustainable.”

The White House press secretary said the president had not taken issue with the fact that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but rather that he had misrepresented his discussions to senior members of the administration.

White House: Trump asked for Flynn resignation after loss of trust

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“The president was very concerned that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”

02/14/17 1:40 PM

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Yellen: Slowing immigration would slow growth


After several hours of dodging lawmakers’ attempts to get her to weigh in on the political issues of the day, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen did comment Tuesday on the hottest hot-button issue of all: immigration.

“Slowing the pace of immigration probably would slow the growth rate of the economy,” Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee.

Yellen’s statement came in response to a question from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who tried to get her to address President Trump’s immigration policies, including his controversial immigration ban.

Yellen said she would leave immigration policy to Congress, but noted that population growth increases the size of the economy and that immigration increases population growth.

Asked about Trump’s calls for taxes on companies that move operations to Mexico, Yellen warned that the U.S. is “in many ways synchronous with the Mexican economy.”

Cortez Masto’s question came late in the hearing, after Yellen had already deflected inquiries from other senators about border taxes and immigration.

Yellen also studiously avoided talking about the possibility for major changes in taxing and spending under Trump or the possible reaction from Fed members to such moves.

Asked dirctly by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., the author of legislation to reduce low-skilled legal immigration, if increased low-skilled immigration might play a role in suppressing low-income families’ wage growth, Yellen simply responded, “I’m not certain.”

Ways and Means Committee chairman says 'oh s—t' after Democrats bring up Trump's tax returns

Also from the Washington Examiner

The committee’s meeting turned into an examination of the links between Trump administration and Russia.

02/14/17 1:03 PM

Top Senate Republican demands investigation into Russia's activities

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Corker said the need for such a probe is “heightened” in the wake of Mike Flynn’s resignation.

By Susan Crabtree

02/14/17 12:12 PM



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Secret Service director Joseph Clancy stepping down


The leader of the Secret Service will step down early next month after more than two years on the job, The Washington Examiner has confirmed.

Director Joseph Clancy was hired by President Obama to shore up the agency after a series of high-profile scandals back in 2014. He was the former leader of Obama’s protective detail and had retired into the private sector before being summoned back to the public arena.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday thanked Clancy for his service and said he did a good job turning the agency around.

“I appreciate Director Clancy’s dedicated service to this country. He took on the difficult task of returning to and taking over an agency plagued with mismanagement, misconduct, and security lapses,” Chaffetz said.

“Under his leadership, the Secret Service has worked with this committee to implement detailed recommendations put forth in our bipartisan staff report,” he said. “I wish him and his family the best as they begin a new chapter.”

He added: “Moving forward, I encourage President Trump to appoint a director from outside the agency. A fresh set of eyes and new perspective is needed to restore the prestige and status expected of such an elite agency.”

Clancy will officially leave his post on March 4. He told the White House he would be leaving his post last week.

Susan Crabtree contributed

Durbin: Flynn's resignation 'a powder keg' moment

Also from the Washington Examiner

The Illinois Democrat said Flynn’s forced resignation is “not business as usual in Washington.”

02/14/17 11:26 AM

Trump: Why are so many 'illegal leaks' coming out of Washington?

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Flynn resigned after admitting he hadn’t been truthful to Vice President Mike Pence.

02/14/17 9:46 AM

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House GOP advances Obamacare repeal efforts this week


House Republicans are advancing Obamacare repeal efforts this week with multiple member meetings to discuss key elements of a replacement plan, even as conservatives increasingly demand a quick vote on repealing the law.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise is holding three meetings with rank-and-file members this week, two on Tuesday afternoon and one on Thursday afternoon, to discuss elements they want to include in a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Among the topics discussed will be tax-free savings accounts, Medicaid reforms and tax credits to buy private coverage.

A Republican conference meeting will be held Thursday morning to detail what will be in a replacement plan, led by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden.

House Republican leaders insisted Tuesday they won’t unduly rush Obamacare repeal and replace, but that they will craft a bill through the markup committee process as they have promised.

“We’re on track,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers told reporters. “Our committees are going to work on tax credits, Medicaid.”

“This bill is actually being worked on by all our committees of jurisdiction, in public view,” Scalise said. “Committees will be taking legislation and having votes and marking it up.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted Tuesday that he remains committed to crafting the legislation through markups in two key House committees. But he is getting increasing pushback from the Freedom Caucus, a group of 40-plus conservative members who are frustrated at the delays in voting to repeal the healthcare law they have opposed for so long.

The Freedom Caucus issued a statement Tuesday morning asking leadership to hold an immediate vote on a repeal measure the House passed last year. But Ryan wants to hold a vote by the end of March or so on a plan that also replaces parts of the law.

Ryan said Obamacare repeal is about more than just getting rid of the law. It’s also about “building a stronger healthcare system for the country,” he said.

McCain cites White House 'dysfunction' amid Flynn resignation

Also from the Washington Examiner

The senator argued that Flynn’s resignation is a sign of how chaotic the National Security Council has become.

02/14/17 10:48 AM

Ryan and other Republican congressional leaders are caught amid competing demands and priorities from the rank and file. While House conservatives want a fast repeal vote, many Senate Republicans have insisted on replacing the law at the same time.

Trump: Why are so many 'illegal leaks' coming out of Washington?

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Flynn resigned after admitting he hadn’t been truthful to Vice President Mike Pence.

02/14/17 9:46 AM



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