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Sunday
Mar262017

Schumer: Trump showed 'basic lack of competence' on health care bill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized President Donald Trump after the GOP-backed health care bill failed to garner enough support for a vote on the House floor Friday, saying the president showed two unhelpful traits during negotiations.

"The first is basic lack of competence," Schumer told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday. "You cannot run the presidency like you run a real estate deal. You can't tweet your way through it. You can't threaten and intimidate and say I'll walk away. It's more complicated."

Schumer said the other failure of the GOP’s health care bill was that it gave too much to the rich instead of Trump’s working-class base – and predicted that any efforts on Trump’s next agenda item of tax reform that do the same will also fail.

"The president campaigned as a populist against the Democratic and Republican establishments. But he's been captured by the hard right wealthy special interests,” Schumer said. "That's who loved his proposal on the Trumpcare, because it gave huge tax cuts to the rich. If they do the same thing on tax reform, and the overwhelming majority of the cuts go to the very wealthy, the special interests, corporate America, and the middle class and poor people are left out, they'll lose again."

"The hard right is great at opposition. Now they're in charge. America is not where the hard right is," Schumer added on health care and tax reform.

After the White House-backed American Health Care Act was pulled from an anticipated vote Friday, Trump blamed Democrats for its failure, and specifically called Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California "losers."

"We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Friday.

Schumer disagreed with Trump's assessment, telling Stephanopoulos the president "never called" Democrats about the bill.

"I would say this – we Democrats, provided our Republican colleagues drop replace and stop undermining the ACA, are willing to work with our Republican friends," the New York senator said, referring to Affordable Care Act. "We have ideas, they have ideas, to try to improve Obamacare. We never said it was perfect. We always said we'd work with them to improve it. We just said repeal was off the table."

Schumer added that Trump’s statement Friday that he would wait for Obamacare to "explode" rather than working to fix the law would backfire.

"For the president to say that he'll destroy it, or undermine it, that's not presidential. That's petulance," Schumer said. "The job of the president is to make Americans' lives better. And if he, out of anger or vengeance or whatever, starts undermining ACA, it's going backfire on him."

But the Democratic leader said he would be willing to work with the president on other issues if Trump changes his approach. "It's not me, it's him," Schumer said on "This Week." He ran as a defender of the middle class. The minute he got into office… he moved so far to the hard right that it's virtually impossible for us to work with him. If he changes, he could have a different presidency."

Schumer also defended his promise to filibuster the president's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, telling Stephanopoulos, "60 votes should be the standard."

Schumer's threat to filibuster has led to talk of Republicans using the so-called nuclear option to confirm Gorsuch’s nomination, which would require him to be confirmed with a simple majority instead of 60 votes.

"If the candidate can't get 60 votes, if the nominee can't get 60 votes, you don't change the rules, you change the candidate," Schumer said.

Schumer also stood by his statement that Gorsuch shouldn’t be confirmed while the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was ongoing, saying, “let's see where this investigation goes for a few months and delay it.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Mar262017

New EPA chief slams Paris climate pact as 'a bad deal'

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt slammed the 2015 Paris accord to combat climate change as "a bad deal."

Pruitt also revealed in an interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that President Trump will this week sign a new executive order that will eliminate a signature Obama-era policy for combating climate change, the Clean Power Plan.

The policy, which the Supreme Court put on hold pending judicial review, aims to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants.

But Pruitt said on ABC's "This Week" that the Obama administration had "a very anti-fossil fuel strategy, coal, natural gas and the rest" and that Trump aims to change that with the goal of producing jobs and lowering electricity rates for consumers.

The former Oklahoma attorney general also suggested the Paris climate accord is unfair to the U.S.

"China and India, the largest producers of [carbon dioxide] internationally, got away scot-free” in the climate pact, Pruitt said. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.”

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Sunday
Mar262017

White House official: Trump aide in charge of surrogate operations leaving post

ABC News.(WASHINGTON) -- Boris Epshteyn, the special assistant to the president in charge of surrogate operations is leaving his post, a senior Trump administration official told ABC News Saturday.

He may assume a different role in the White House, though. "We are exploring opportunities within the administration," the official said.

Epshteyn has served various roles, including senior adviser on the Trump-Pence transition team and director of communications for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

A lawyer who received his J.D. from Georgetown University, the Russian-born Epshteyn frequently appeared on TV: first as a surrogate during the campaign, then as a paid staffer.

Epshteyn has yet to publicly comment about departing his post.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar252017

Tax reform the next big ticket item on President Trump's legislative agenda

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The morning after President Donald Trump failed to deliver on his campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, he reassured the country a new plan would be on the way.

“ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!” Trump tweeted.

 

 

Vice President Mike Pence issued a similar response during a speech in Charleston, West Virginia, a state where Trump was very popular in the 2016 election but that has a population that is heavily dependent on Medicaid for health care coverage.

"We will end the Obamacare nightmare and give the American people the world class healthcare they deserve," Pence said.

But after weeks of high pressure negotiations and closed door deals, where do Republicans go from here? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan listed off the big ticket items on the Republican agenda during a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"Now we're going to move on with the rest of our agenda because we have big ambitious plans to improve people's lives in this country," Ryan said. "We want to secure the border. We want to rebuild our military. We want to get the deficit under control. We want infrastructure and we want tax reform."

In the Oval Office on Friday, Trump told reporters passing tax reform is his first legislative goal.

"I would say that we will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform. That will be next," he said.

At an event hosted by Axios, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the administration thinks tax reform is possible by the August recess.

"We’re going to do tax reform as absolute," Mnuchin said. "We are reforming both personal and the corporate side."

But overhauling the nation's complicated tax code by the end of the year is an ambitious goal.

"I think it's a goal, and I think it's an ambitious one and I think it's one that we're going to try to stick to," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Friday when asked about an August deadline. "But I think tax reform is something that the president is very committed to."

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Saturday
Mar252017

Pence: Congress wasn't ready to repeal, replace Obamacare

ABC News(CHARLESTON, W.V.) -- Vice President Mike Pence said Congress "just wasn't ready" to repeal and replace Obamacare, joking that supporters of the House Republican health care plan could have used some WWE superstars.

Speaking in Charleston, West Virginia, following a listening session with local small business owners, and joined by Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, the former CEO of the WWE, said Trump worked "tirelessly" to get Congress to pass the American Health Care Act.

"I got to tell you, I was inspired by President Trump's determination and commitment to keep his promise to the American people," Pence said. "And the president and I are grateful for Speaker Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who stood with us in this effort to begin the end of Obamacare, but as we all learned yesterday, Congress just wasn't ready."

He said the bill failed because every Democrat and a "handful" of Republicans opposed it.

"We're back to the drawing board," Pence said, referring to the president's tweet this morning that the Obamacare victory won't last long.

"Yesterday wasn't a victory for the American people. It was a victory for the status quo in Washington, D.C., and it was a victory for the disaster of Obamacare. But I promise you, that victory won't last very long. The American people want Obamacare gone and the president said today, don't worry, America," he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar252017

Alex Jones apologizes for propagating 'pizzagate' conspiracy theory

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Radio host Alex Jones, who helped propagate the fictitious "pizzagate" conspiracy theory that Washington, D.C., pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was a front for a child sex trafficking ring led by John Podesta, apologized to the restaurant owner, James Alefantis, Friday  night on "Info Wars."

"In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him. We were participating in a discussion that was being written about by scores of media outlets, in one of the most hotly contested and disputed political environments our country has ever seen," Jones said in a statement he posted to his website.

Jones said that "InfoWars" relied on third party accounts of activities at Comet Ping Pong, and relied on accounts from reporters who are no longer with his website.

In February, Alefantis sent Jones a letter asking for a retraction of statements made on air about him and his business. Alefantis' team considered taking legal action, which likely moved Jones to make a formal withdrawal of his claims.

The fake news story spread by far right commentators like Jones came to a dramatic climax when Edgar M. Welch drove from North Carolina to the restaurant with weapons and fired shots inside the establishment.

On Friday -- the same day Jones released his statement -- Welch, of Salisbury, North Carolina, said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington that he had agreed to plead guilty to interstate transportation of a firearm and assault with a dangerous weapon. As part of the guilty plea, prosecutors will drop a third charge, possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, which had carried a mandatory minimum prison term of five years.

He faces a sentencing hearing scheduled for June 22.

In a statement, Alefantis said he hoped those who had spread the falsehoods would be held accountable.

"I am pleased that Mr. Jones has apologized and admitted that he and his employees repeatedly spread falsehoods about me and my restaurant," Alefantis said. "I wish that he would have made this admission and apology months ago. And his apology, while welcome, does nothing to address the harm he and his company have done to me, my business, and my community."

Meanwhile, people who believed the "pizzagate" theories that grew in conspiratorial corners of the Internet, gathered Saturday in protest outside the White House.

On a small stage in Lafayette Park, surrounded by signs that read "We demand a criminal investigation now!" and "Fake news? Decide for yourself," organizers continued to make their baseless claims that the pizza restaurant was a front for a national pedophilia and sex trafficking ring. They also brought up conspiracy theories involving everything from the DC Metro to the television show "Shark Tank."

The "pizzagate" scandal spread by websites like "InfoWars" became a prime example of the potential dangers of spreading false information. The story was picked up in discussion panels on the Internet, and made it all the way to people involved with the Trump transition.

Michael Flynn Jr., the son of former White House adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, played a role in circulating the bogus story involving Hillary Clinton and Podesta to his thousands of followers online. He was dismissed from his role in the Trump administration transition for his tweets.

In February, following the ouster of the senior Flynn from the White House, Clinton noted the connection.

"Philippe's got his own way of saying things, but he has a point about the real consequences of fake news," she said, retweeting Philippe Reines, who had tweeted: "Dear Mike Flynn & Mike Flynn Jr., What goes around COMETS around. And given your pizza obsession... https://jobs.dominos.com/dominos-careers/ … xo."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar252017

Sen. Cory Booker asks Mindy Kaling out for dinner on Twitter; she says 'yes'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- What have we here? Senator Cory Booker just asked Mindy Kaling out for dinner on Twitter, and she happily accepted.

It all started when the New Jersey senator commented on Kaling's show, "The Mindy Project" in which the main character, Mindy Lahari, took a shot at the city of Newark, New Jersey, of which Booker was formerly mayor.

"Ouch! @MindyKaling, heard Dr. Lahiri dissed Newark last night... @VogueMagazine & I disagree," he wrote with a link to a Vogue magazine article raving about the New Jersey city. "(I still [heart] U!)"

Kaling, 37, replied minutes later, saying: "Senator, if Mindy Lahiri shades it, it means we know it's cool. Thanks for the [love]. It's mutual!"

Booker, 47, then said her response was "making my day! Thanks for the clarification."

Next, the senator made a bold request: "And If the [love] is really mutual... Come have dinner with me in Newark? #PleaseSayYes"

And she said...

It didn't take long for the official Twitter account for the PATH commuter train line between New Jersey and New York to help by offering the trains' schedules.

Still, Booker had a better plan.

"Thank you! PATH train is awesome when you are Jersey bound. But you are @Lyft worthy!" he wrote. "I will send one to you for the door to door."

There's no word on whether an actual date is set.

ABC News reached out to both camps, but mum is the word so far.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Mar252017

'Trump troubadour' loses trust in president over health care: 'I feel betrayed'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Once-staunch Donald Trump supporter Kraig Moss followed the Republican to more than 45 campaign rallies across the country and became known as the "Trump troubadour" for his guitar-playing at the candidate's events.

But now Moss, an upstate New York resident whose son died of a heroin overdose, says President Trump's push for the GOP health care bill caused him to lose trust. Moss said he was particularly upset by the bill’s weakening requirements for insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment.

"I feel betrayed," Moss told ABC News. "I feel like I've been lied to.”

Moss said he worked with other Trump supporters to bring many people into the GOP candidate’s camp.

"People that were on the right, in the middle, and didn't really have a thought of which way they were going to go, we swayed them to come over on Donald Trump's side," Moss said in an interview Friday.

Moss said he was drawn to Trump by the candidate's promise to end the opioid epidemic in the U.S. After his son, who struggled with addiction, died of an overdose in 2014, Moss said his work for Trump's candidacy got him "off the couch."

"I went all in with Donald Trump, and put everything that I had, including my heart and soul, into what he had to say because this was the one thing that got me off the couch and got me out into the world and gave me purpose to go talk to these kids I'd meet," he said.

But the president’s support of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act made Moss lose faith.

"It really was just recent when I just all of a sudden realized that I've been duped," he told ABC News. "I can't believe that the man would even consider trying to put something like this through."

Republican leadership on Friday pulled their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare after failing to garner enough support from GOP House members for it to pass.

Even with the bill now off the table, Moss says he still won’t support Trump.

"Trust is something that takes a lifetime to achieve and one day to lose, and you just don't flip a switch and get the trust back," he said. "There's no halfway, 'Well, I trust him on this, I don't trust him on that.' Once a man shows his true colors, once a man shows that he can't be trusted on one issue, it just, it goes right across the board."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar242017

Fact-checking Trump's 'repeal and replace' Obamacare timeline

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following the collapse of the Republican-backed American Health Care Act Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump appeared to backtrack on his long-held stance that President Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, should be repealed and replaced "immediately."

“I never said -- I guess I'm here, what, 64 days? I never said repeal and replace Obamacare -- you've all heard my speeches -- I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days," said Trump in the Oval Office Friday. "I have a long time.”

But his statement stood in stark opposition to the repeated pledge that a repeal would occur at the very start of his presidency.

Trump's campaign website noted the promise in clear terms, saying, "On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare."

At a speech in St. Augustine, Florida on Oct. 24, he vowed to repeal the current health care law as a part of his "contract with the American voter."

"It's a set of promises for what I'll do in my first 100 days. It includes getting rid of immediately Obamacare, which is a disaster," said Trump.

The line referencing an "immediate" "repeal and replace" was a staple of his stump speech, appearing regularly throughout an ABC News review of transcripts from Trump's primary and general election campaign events.

"My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability," said Trump on Oct. 25, a day after he St. Augustine speech, in Sanford, Florida. "You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it's going to be so easy."

Then, just a week before the election in early November, Trump tied the success of a health care effort to his party's ability to maintain the majority in the House and Senate, which the GOP was able to accomplish.

“When we win on November 8th and elect a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare -- have to do it," said Trump, who also added, "Obamacare has to be replaced and we will do it and we will do it very, very quickly."

A campaign press release on the speech doubled down on the promise in its title: "Donald J. Trump pledges to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare."

Trump additionally tweeted his intention to take action on health care at the start of his presidency as far back as February 2016 when he wrote, "We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare - and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!"

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Mar242017

Democrats react to collapse of GOP health care bill

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- “So much for 'The Art of the Deal.'”

Those were the words of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who, along with several of his Democratic colleagues on the Hill, declared victory Friday after the Republican-backed health care bill failed to come to a vote on the House floor.

“In my life, I’ve never seen an administration as incompetent as the one in the White House today," Schumer said on a conference call Friday afternoon. “They can’t get their story straight, and today we’ve learned they can’t count votes and they can’t close a deal.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) at the last minute Friday afternoon at the request of President Donald Trump, a GOP aide told ABC News. Ryan said they pulled the bill because they couldn't get enough "yes" votes for it to succeed on the floor.

Others in addition to Schumer rejoiced over the bill's collapse.

“Today is a great day for our country, it's a victory -- what happened on the floor is a victory for the American people, for our seniors, for people with disabilities, for our children, for our veterans,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said at a press conference.

“The defeat of the disastrous Trump-Ryan health care bill is a major victory for working families and everyone who stood up in opposition,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said in a statement.
Some Democrats, however, urged their colleagues and allies not to celebrate too heartily and to continue their work.

“Don't gloat; get ready for round 2. Organize!,” Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, tweeted.

“I'm not doing a touchdown dance today,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter.

“Not when the GOP is still hell-bent on rigging the system for the rich & powerful.”


Across the aisle, some Republican lawmakers also applauded the defeat of AHCA, which some believed did not go far enough in rolling back the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people and standing up against Obamacare Lite,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said in a statement. “I look forward to passing full repeal of Obamacare in the very near future.”

Conservative House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said he remained committed to working with Trump on a “full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a replacement with a market-driven approach.”

Although he ultimately called the bill “fundamentally flawed,” Ryan nonetheless expressed disappointment at the outcome.

“I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us,” he said. His regrets were echoed by several of his Republican colleagues.

“Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the efforts of the speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and replace it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement. “I share their disappointment that this effort came up short.”

For his part, Trump blamed Democrats for the bill's failure. "We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats," he said Friday afternoon, calling Schumer and Pelosi "the losers" in the situation.

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