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Sunday
Dec162018

Republicans treading cautiously on Trump's potential legal trouble

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A number of Republicans on Capitol Hill are treading cautiously in the wake of Michael Cohen's allegations that President Trump directed him to arrange hush-money payments with two women because the then-candidate Trump "was very concerned about how this would affect the election" if their allegations of affairs became public.

The allegations about Trump's motives, leveled during an exclusive interview with ABC News, by the president's former personal attorney and fixer, came on the heels of Cohen being sentenced to three years in prison for various crimes, including campaign finance violation, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Cohen violated campaign finance laws by paying off two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump acting "in coordination with and at the direction of" the then-candidate.

Trump has argued the payments amount to nothing more than a "simple private transaction," and do not qualify as campaign finance violations.

"'Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun...No Collusion.' @FoxNews That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution," Trump tweeted Dec. 10. "....which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s - but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!"

The response among Republicans has been reserved.

"I don't think any of us can predict the future," GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told reporters on Thursday.

"And I certainly can't read these tea leaves. The U.S. attorney and Mr. Mueller ... they have evidence that I'm not aware of, so I don't want to pre-judge it," Kennedy said.

The president's top ally in the Senate -- and the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Sen. Lindsey Graham demurred when asked if Cohen’s misdeeds could implicate the president.

"Well, I mean, all I can tell you is what I see on the television," Graham said.

Regarding Cohen, Graham said last week: "He plead guilty to some business misdeeds, and they're claiming a campaign finance violation and...I think that would be a difficult case for somebody to prove, but we'll see where it goes."

Another top ally, retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, initially pinned the blame squarely on Democrats.

Asked if he had any concerns that Trump was implicated, Hatch told CNN on Wednesday: "The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president."

When he was informed it was alleged by federal prosecutors in New York, Hatch said: "OK, but I don't care, all I can say is he's doing a good job as president."

But on Friday, Hatch’s office released a lengthy statement apologizing for what he called his "irresponsible" remarks.

"I don’t believe the President broke the law, but one of the core principles of our country is that no one is above the law. That means anyone who does break the law should face appropriate consequences," Hatch said.

At ABC News' latest count, only one other GOP senator -- Marco Rubio -- has gone as far saying that no one, including the president, is above the law.

"If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country, and obviously if you're in a position of great authority like the presidency, that would be the case,” Rubio said Sunday on CNN when asked about Trump’s possible involvement in the violation of campaign finance laws.

Rubio said his decision on how Congress should respond to federal investigators' final findings on the payments "will not be a political decision, it'll be the fact that we are a nation of laws and no one in this country no matter who you are is above it."

Meanwhile, Democrats say Trump should be worried.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy compared the current situation to that of the special counsel investigation that ultimately led to former President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.

"The president has now stepped into the same territory that ultimately led to President Nixon resigning the office. President Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator. Was certainly a different set of facts, but this investigation is now starting to put the president in serious legal crosshairs and he should be worried and the whole country should be worried,” Murphy said on ABC’s "This Week."

Trump has not been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cohen case.

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Sunday
Dec162018

Giuliani says 'parking tickets and jaywalking' all that's left for investigators

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, classified the investigations into the 2016 presidential campaign as done and said that the only things they have left to look into are petty crimes.

 "I’m telling you, George, they’re going to go try to look for unpaid parking tickets and see if they can nail him for unpaid parking tickets," he told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, referring to the investigation in the Southern District of New York.

"As you know, the Southern District said this is far more serious than an unpaid parking ticket," Stephanopoulos pressed during the interview on “This Week,” Sunday. "They said this strikes at the heart of our democratic system."

Giuliani responded, "Oh – oh, right. A campaign finance violation? Give me a break."

Stephanopoulos also asked Giuliani if special counsel Robert Mueller was "almost done" with his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump campaign members directly coordinated with the Russian government.

Giuliani said, "He is done. I don't know what else -- I told you. No, the only thing left are the parking tickets and jaywalking."

ABC News has previously reported that investigations like Mueller's can take years to completely finish. Mueller was appointed in May 2017.

Stephanopoulos went on to ask more specific questions about the investigations surrounding the president.

He asked Giuliani if Roger Stone, Trump's former longtime political adviser, ever gave the president a heads up concerning Wikileaks planning to release information concerning former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democractic National Committee.

“No, he didn’t. No,” Giuliani said.

But when Stephanopoulos asked again, Giuliani said, “I don't believe so.”

“If Roger Stone gave anybody a heads up about WikiLeaks leaks, that's not a crime,” he added. “It would be like giving him a heads up that the [New York] Times is going to print something.”

In an exclusive interview on “This Week” earlier this month, Stephanopoulos asked Stone whether he had any contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Wikileaks or if he ever had spoken to Trump about alleged contacts.

“You are saying you never spoke to Julian Assange, never contacted WikiLeaks, never spoke to any of that to President Trump?” Stephanopoulos said.

“That is absolutely correct,” Stone said on Dec. 2. “No, I had no contact with Assange.”

ABC News has previously reported on emails that special counsel Robert Mueller seems to be zeroing in on between Stone and one of his associates, former InfoWars bureau chief Jerome Corsi. According to the emails, Stone directs Corsi to contact Assange and Corsi appears to successfully do so, with emails from Corsi to Stone suggesting Corsi knew about planned releases from WikiLeaks of material meant to be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. In his interview on “This Week,” Stone said those emails were being “mischaracterized.”

On “This Week” Sunday, Stephanopoulos also asked Giuliani about a June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. The Trump campaign attendees, which included the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, expected to get compromising information on Clinton from the Russians.

“Did the president know about Don Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with the Russians at the time?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“No,” Giuliani said. “Definitely, he didn’t know about it.”

The president has also previously denied knowing about the meeting before it occurred.

Stephanopoulos asked if there was still the potential for the president to sit down with Mueller for an interview, in addition to the written answers he submitted to the special counsel.

In an interview on Fox Sunday, Giuliani called the special counsel a “joke” and said Trump would be interviewed by the special counsel “over [his] dead body.”

On “This Week,” he had a more measured response.

“The agreement we had [with the special counsel] did contemplate that there’d be a period of time after the questions that we would have a discussion about whether there should be any further questions,” Giuliani said. “So I’m not saying we are or we aren’t, but that’s in the agreement.”

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Sunday
Dec162018

Border Patrol head didn't tell Congress about Jakelin Caal Maquin to avoid 'politicizing' girl's death

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said he did not disclose the death of a 7-year-old girl at the border during his testimony to Congress because he wasn’t sure that the mother had been notified and because he didn’t want to “risk politicizing the death of a child.”

Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of the agency, testified Dec. 11 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, three days after the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin. The Guatemalan girl died while in CBP custody after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with her father, Nery Gilbert Caal Cruz.

An internal investigation by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General into Jakelin's death is ongoing. Her family on Saturday called for a "thorough investigation" into the circumstances of her death.

During McAleenan's testimony before Congress, he didn't notify lawmakers about Jakelin's death.

In a Dec. 14 letter to a House Kansans Rep. Kevin Yoder, McAleenan said the agency was “in the process of solidifying a privacy waiver” at the time of his testimony and that he “did not have confirmation that the mother had been notified in Guatemala.”

And, “most importantly, I did not want to risk politicizing the death of a child while I was imploring Senators to fix the laws that are inviting families to take this dangerous path,” he added.

McAleenan, who provided a detailed timeline of the events, called Jakelin's death a "tragedy."

He went on to defend his agents' actions.

“All of the available information indicates that our Border Patrol Agents did everything in the power to rescue this little girl, and fought for her life, alongside professional first responders from Hidalgo County, New Mexico,” he wrote. “While reasonable concerns on the timelines of notification have been raised, and will be addressed, I am proud of our agents in the field, their efforts to rescue this little girl, and the professionalism and dedication with which they carry out their mission every day.”

Late Saturday evening, Guatemalan Consul Tekandi Paniagua told ABC News that Caal Cruz -- Jakelin’s father -- was grateful to the border patrol and the doctors who tried to save his daughter's life.

"When I spoke to the father he actually said he was very grateful for the effort of both the Border Patrol agents that assisted his daughter at the station as well as the medical staff at the hospital," Paniagua said.

Caal Cruz' sentiments were first reported earlier Saturday by CNN.

Jakelin's death became public Thursday, five days after she died from cardiac arrest, and sparked out sparked outrage from Democrats and immigration advocates alike.

Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials on Friday defended their handling of the incident.

Jakelin's family said through attorneys that the little girl had been taken care of by her father, who made sure she had eaten and was hydrated.

Jakelin and her family also speak Q'eqchi -- a Mayan language used in Guatemala -- and Spanish as a second language, the attorneys said. They don't speak English, yet Caal Cruz filled out an English form during processing, the attorneys added.
 
"It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand," said Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a non-profit organization working with her family, during a press conference Saturday.

A document obtained by ABC News shows that Jakelin wasn’t alone. U.S. border authorities in 2018 counted 281 deaths of people trying to cross the border.

That number includes people not in U.S. custody with causes of death that range from heat exposure to drowning.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Dec162018

Sen. Susan Collins: Obamacare court decision 'far too sweeping,' health care law 'should be maintained'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is speaking out against a federal judge’s ruling overturning the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

She told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday that she believes the judge’s ruling overturning the entire law goes too far and that the court should instead remove the individual mandate to buy health insurance while keeping the rest of the law intact.

“The judge’s ruling was far too sweeping. He could have taken a much more surgical approach and just cut down the individual mandate and keep the rest of the law intact,” Collins said.

Collins criticized the individual mandate for being a tax disproportionately on lower and middle income taxpayers, but expressed support for parts of the Affordable Care Act.

“There are many good provisions of the law. Those should be retained,” Collins added.

Collins was responding to the ruling issued Friday by a federal district court judge in Texas on a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general from 20 states challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

Judge Reed O’Connor held that because last year’s tax reform bill set the individual mandate’s tax to zero, it no longer functioned as an instance of Congress’ constitutionally protected power to tax. In 2012, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts had cited that power in his decision to cast the deciding vote to uphold the law.

O’Connor concluded that striking down the individual mandate would necessitate throwing out the rest of the law. He did not, however, issue an injunction, meaning the law can continue to be applied as the appeal process continues. The case will likely head to the Supreme Court.

Collins found a middle ground, suggesting that while other key provisions of the law should be retained, the individual mandate should still be cut from the existing law.

“This disproportionately affected lower and middle income families. In addition, not one Democratic senator offered an amendment to strike the repeal of the individual mandate, although they had the opportunity to do so. And that’s because it was probably the most unpopular and unfair provision of the Affordable Care Act,” Collins said.

The Maine Republican said that she did not regret her support for the tax reform bill that zeroed out the individual mandate penalty and led to the federal court’s decision but said that access to affordable health care still needs to be improved.

“It's something we should still pursue because affordability is a real problem for so many Americans who do not receive the subsidies under the Affordable Care Act because they make just a little more than 400 percent of the poverty rate,” Collins said.

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Sunday
Dec162018

President Trump reviewing case of former US service member charged with murder of suspected bomb maker

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump tweeted Sunday morning that he will be reviewing the case of a former U.S. Army Green Beret who has been charged with the murder of a suspected Taliban bomb maker, suggesting that the president may be considering granting a pardon.

The charges against Major Matthew Golsteyn, announced last week by U.S. Army Special Operations Command, follow multiple investigations into his role in the 2010 death of an Afghan man whose killing he admitted to Fox News during a 2016 interview. The death occurred while Golsteyn was on deployment in with an Army Special Forces unit in Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan .

"Major Matthew Golsteyn's immediate commander has determined that sufficient evidence exists to warrant the preferral of charges against him," said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, in a statement last week.

Golsteyn has been charged with premeditated murder, a charge that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command's initial investigation of Golsteyn began after he admitted in a 2011 CIA job interview that he had killed the man he suspected of being a bomb maker. The investigators did not determine conclusively that Golsteyn had killed the man, but the admission resulted in Golsteyn losing a Silver Star for heroism he had earned during his deployment.

A later review of the alleged killing by an Army Review Board resulted in Golsteyn leaving the Army in 2015 with a general discharge.

The Army investigation into the alleged incident was triggered following Golsteyn's October 2016 appearance on Fox News, in which he said that he had killed the man during his deployment.

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Sunday
Dec162018

Sen. Dick Durbin: Obamacare ruling ‘once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot’

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Just days after a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the Senate minority whip said Sunday the ruling is bad news for Republicans in Congress.

"It once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. "If you're going to take away the Affordable Care Act, how will you protect the millions of people currently using it for health insurance for their family?"

Judge Reed O'Connor, appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in 2007 by former President George W. Bush, ruled that the individual mandate is illegal and therefore the entire law is unconstitutional. He did not issue an injunction, however, and the law remains in place pending appeal.

President Donald Trump tweeted twice late Friday that the ruling, which throws the health care of millions covered under the law into flux, is "Great news for America!" and said that “Mitch and Nancy” need to "get it done," suggesting that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi pass new health care legislation.

Former President Barack Obama posted messages on social media encouraging Americans to enroll by Sunday's open enrollment deadline, despite the ruling.

"You might have heard about a federal court decision on a Republican lawsuit trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety," Obama wrote on Facebook and then shared on Twitter. "That can be a scary thing to hear, particularly if you or someone you care about has a pre-existing condition. And that’s why it’s so important for you to know that last night’s ruling changes nothing for now. As this decision makes its way through the courts, which will take months, if not years, the law remains in place and will likely stay that way."

Durbin said that Democrats would be "happy" to sit down and talk about new health care legislation, but that "you have to look at the history," which is that the "president for two years has done everything in his power to put an end to the protections included."

Republicans in Congress are already facing a precarious political fight over government funding, which will expire on Dec. 21. Trump said last week that he would be "proud" to shut down the government over border wall funding.

Durbin said that the shutdown is "entirely in the hands of President Donald Trump, who bragged last week that this was his decision."

He added that Congress should be looking at other border issues and that a wall would do "virtually nothing" to stem drug trafficking, namely the influx of fentanyl. Durbin cited a Centers for Disease Control report released on Wednesday that said fentanyl has become the drug most associated with overdoses in the U.S.

"We could be scanning vehicles coming into the United States to see if they contain contraband, narcotics, firearms, even victims of human trafficking," he said.

He also said Democrats are trying to give the Department of Homeland Security what they need, including putting $1.3 billion on the table for "barriers," though he noted that the "barriers" are defined in such a way "so we aren’t building some medieval wall."

The Trump administration has asked for $5 billion in funding to construct a border wall, and Trump has continued threats to close the government just as investigations into his associates heated up.

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Sunday
Dec162018

President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani blasts former personal attorney Michael Cohen as pathetic

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani blasted the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as "pathetic" and a "serial liar" when questioned about Cohen's claim that as a candidate Trump directed him to arrange hush payments to women who claimed to have past affairs with Trump.

"The man is pathetic. That’s a lawyer you were interviewing," Giuliani told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday after watching a clip of Cohen's exclusive interview with Stephanopolous last week. “He's the guy you depend on to determine whether or not you should do it this way or that way.”

In his first interview since being sentenced to three years in prison, Cohen told ABC News that during the campaign Trump did direct him to pay off women with claims of past affairs and that the president knew what he was doing was wrong.

“Nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me, as I said in my allocution and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters,” Cohen told Stephanopolous in the exclusive interview.

Giuliani said the president maintains that he did not direct Cohen to make the hush payments, which Giuliani said were initiated by Cohen.

"Well, the president said that's false," Giuliani said on This Week when questioned about Cohen's claim that Trump directed his actions.

"And he said it was false under oath," Giuliani continued, referring to Cohen. "He said it was false in his tape recorded conversation with Chris Cuomo. He said it was false on five other tape recorded conversations. He said on those tape recorded conversations that he did it on his own to start and then he brought it to the president and then the president reimbursed him."

In addition to maintaining that the president was uninvolved in the payments initially, Giuliani went further in asserting that the hush payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels, whose actual name is Stephanie Clifford, were not illegal in the first place.

"It’s not a crime, it’s not a crime, George, paying $130,000 to Stormy whatever, and paying $100,000 to the other one, it’s not a crime,” Giuliani said, pointing to the legal case involving John Edwards, a former U.S. senator and former presidential contender.

When Stephanopoulos challenged that there are major differences with the Edwards case, Giuliani argued there were grounds for comparison and said that because the payments were not solely for the purpose of influencing the election, but also to protect the president's family from embarrassing media coverage, the payments do not meet the legal standard for illegal campaign contributions.

"I can produce an enormous number of witnesses that say the president was very concerned about how this was going to affect his children, his marriage, not just this one but similar -- all those women came forward at that point in time, that -- that tape with Billy Bush and all of that. It's all part of the same thing. And I know what he was concerned about and I can produce 20 witnesses to tell you what he was concerned about," Giuliani said.

Giuliani went on to characterize the seriousness of the charge of a campaign finance violation.

"Oh right, a campaign finance violation, give me a break," Giuliani said, and sought to draw a comparison to a reporting violation by the 2008 Obama campaign. In that case, the Obama campaign was fined for not properly filing on information regarding a collection of donations in the final days of the campaign.

Though Trump and his team say Cohen is lying, Cohen says it’s the president who is not telling the truth.

“He knows the truth, I know the truth, others know the truth, and here is the truth: The people of the United States of America, people of the world, don't believe what he is saying. The man doesn't tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.

Trump has maintained that he never directed Cohen to break the law, and if Cohen did, he says he is without fault.

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made,” Trump said in a tweet Thursday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Dec162018

Trump calls decision by federal judge to strike down Obamacare a 'great ruling'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his first on-camera comments since a federal court in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, President Trump called it a “great ruling for the country” and praised the judge who handed down the decision.

“It was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge, highly, highly respected in Texas,” President Trump said in response to a question from ABC News during a visit to Arlington Cemetery Saturday.

The ruling to strike down Obamacare, by Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District District Court for the Northern District of Texas, is expected to be challenged and will likely go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Once the legal battle plays out, the president said he wants to sit down with Democrats to work out a solution to secure “great healthcare” for Americans.

“On the assumption that the Supreme Court upholds, we will get great, great health care for our people, we’ll have to sit down with the Democrats to do it, but I’m sure they want to do it also,” the president said.

Shortly after the decision on Friday evening, Trump tweeted that "Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions."

"Mitch and Nancy," he wrote, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, "get it done!"

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders pointed to the court ruling as proof of the president’s conviction that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional but also made clear that Obama’s signature law remains intact until the legal process plays out.

"The judge’s decision vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with preexisting conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable healthcare,” Sanders said in a statement. “We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”

While the administration has praised the ruling, Democrats have vowed to fight it.

Pelosi called the ruling “cruel” and “absurd” and vowed that Democrats will take steps to try and bolster President Obama’s signature healthcare law in the new Democrat-controlled Congress in January.

“When House Democrats take the gavel, the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” she said in a statement.

The American Medical Association said Saturday in a statement that Connor's ruling "violates multiple precepts that guide and limit the exercise of the judicial power."

"And it sets a dangerous precedent that invites politicians to resort to the unelected, life-tenured judiciary when they cannot achieve their political goals through the democratic process," the statement continued. "Elected and accountable officials at the federal and state level continue to debate how best to ensure the provision of quality health care to the American people."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Dec152018

President Trump makes surprise announcement that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave administration

Shawn Thew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave his administration post at the end of the year, President Donald Trump announced early Saturday.

Zinke submitted his resignation to the White House Saturday, an administration source told ABC News.

The president, who made the sudden staffing announcement on Twitter, thanked Zinke for his service over the last two years.

"@RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years," the president tweeted. "Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation."

Zinke's replacement will be named next week, the president said.

 

 

 

The White House did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment about what prompted the sudden announcement of Zinke’s departure. The announcement came just a day after the president announced that his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, will step into the role of chief of staff on an acting basis in the new year when Chief of Staff John Kelly will depart.

Zinke has faced multiple inquiries by his department's inspector general and congressional investigators since he took office, including into his travel and whether he was improperly involved in a real estate development in his hometown. At least one of the investigations into Zinke's conduct was referred to Department of Justice, though it was unclear whether the department intended to act on the referral.

Zinke has maintained that he will be cleared in the investigations and has followed all department ethical rules.

In a statement Saturday, Zinke referenced inquiries into his conduct as one reason for his departure.

"I love working for the President and am incredibly proud of all the good work we’ve accomplished together," he said. "However, after 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations."

 

 

In a statement, Grijalva said he hopes Zinke's replacement will be more amenable to working with the committee.

"This is no kind of victory, but I’m hopeful that it is a genuine turning of the page," he said in the statement. "Secretary Zinke’s successor has a chance to move on from on an unfortunate Trump administration record of environmental mismanagement and decline. A well-managed Interior Department — one that puts the public good ahead of fossil fuel and mining industry demands — can be a boon to the entire country."

Sources tell ABC News Zinke had been asked to leave the administration by the end of the year, as it had been expected that he would come under greater scrutiny under the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress.

In November, Zinke publicly attacked top House Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva after he called for Zinke's resignation and promised intense oversight of Interior in the new Congress in January.

In a tweet, Zinke accused Grijalva of “drunken and hostile behavior,” in an apparent reference to the lawmaker's battle with alcohol addiction in the 1980s.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Dec152018

Trump calls decision by federal judge to strike down Obamacare a 'great ruling'

Yuri Gripas-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his first on-camera comments since a federal court in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, President Trump called it a “great ruling for the country” and praised the judge who handed down the decision.

“It was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge, highly, highly respected in Texas,” President Trump said in response to a question from ABC News during a visit to Arlington Cemetery Saturday.

The ruling to strike down Obamacare, by Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District District Court for the Northern District of Texas, is expected to be challenged and will likely go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Once the legal battle plays out, the president said he wants to sit down with Democrats to work out a solution to secure “great healthcare” for Americans.

“On the assumption that the Supreme Court upholds, we will get great, great health care for our people, we’ll have to sit down with the Democrats to do it, but I’m sure they want to do it also,” the president said.

Shortly after the decision on Friday evening, Trump tweeted that "Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions."

"Mitch and Nancy," he wrote, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, "get it done!"


White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders pointed to the court ruling as proof of the president’s conviction that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional but also made clear that Obama’s signature law remains intact until the legal process plays out.

“The judge’s decision vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with preexisting conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable healthcare,” Sanders said in a statement. “We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”

While the administration has praised the ruling, Democrats have vowed to fight it.

Pelosi called the ruling “cruel” and “absurd” and vowed that Democrats will take steps to try and bolster President Obama’s signature healthcare law in the new Democrat-controlled Congress in January.

“When House Democrats take the gavel, the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” she said in a statement.

The American Medical Association said Saturday in a statement that Connor's ruling "violates multiple precepts that guide and limit the exercise of the judicial power."

"And it sets a dangerous precedent that invites politicians to resort to the unelected, life-tenured judiciary when they cannot achieve their political goals through the democratic process," the statement continued. "Elected and accountable officials at the federal and state level continue to debate how best to ensure the provision of quality health care to the American people."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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