SEARCH

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.

Friday
Dec142018

One day before enrollment deadline, Texas judge rules Affordable Care Act unconstitutional

simpson33/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A federal district judge in Texas dealt a blow to the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, deeming the entire legislation unconstitutional without the individual mandate -- which was eliminated in the GOP-passed tax bill last year.

The decision comes in a case brought by 20 Republican state attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of the ACA. The ruling will likely be appealed, and could eventually reach the United States Supreme Court.

President Donald Trump tweeted about the ruling Friday night, calling on Congress to "pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions."

The ruling comes just one day before the deadline to enroll at healthcare.gov.

House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, released a statement Friday night calling the ruling "absurd."

"Tonight's district court ruling exposes the monstrous endgame of Republicans' all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans' access to affordable health care," Pelosi said.

"While the district court's absurd ruling will be immediately appealed, Republicans are fully responsible for this cruel decision and for the fear they have struck into millions of families across America who are now in danger of losing their health coverage," she said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, echoed that sentiment, criticizing the ruling that he said is "based on faulty legal reasoning."

"If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts," Schumer said on Twitter, "it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Dec142018

Trump picks Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget,as new acting White House chief of staff

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has tapped Mich Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget as acting White House chief of staff.

"I am pleased to announce that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction. Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration," Trump tweeted. "I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!"

Mulvaney, one of the original founders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus and an early backer of Trump during his candidacy for the presidency, was named as the director of the Office of Management and Budget in December of 2016.

Through his tenure, Mulvaney fortified a close alliance with the president as he proposed steep cuts to the federal budget and gained notoriety for his sparring sessions with reporters in the White House briefing room making the case for his fiscal hawk approach to gutting the country’s entitlement programs.

In November of last year, President Trump appointed Mulvaney to the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government oversight agency born out of the 2008 financial crisis that Mulvaney had once advocated for eliminating entirely.

As Mulvaney has sought to reign in many of the CFPB’s previously announced enforcement activities against financial institutions which he has described as government overreach, Democrats have cast him as a symbol of the Trump Administration’s efforts working to benefit big business over American consumers.

But those attacks if anything have further endeared the president to Mulvaney. Just last week Mulvaney was tasked with announcing the president’s 120-page plan to reform and reorganize the entire federal government.

Mulvaney’s six years serving as a congressman from South Carolina could provide him a skill set that will mark a significant departure from his predecessor. While John Kelly’s arrival was initially framed as a turning point in restoring order and discipline to a chaotic West Wing, Republican lawmakers will likely see an opportunity in Mulvaney’s ascension to achieve closer coordination and direct access to the president in a way that benefits their legislative agenda.

John Kelly will remain chief of staff until the end of the year. Until then, Mulvaney will work with Kelly.

Mulvaney will be replaced as OMB director by Russell Vought, who is currently the agency's deputy director.

Vought is a former vice president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, served as executive director of the Republican Study Committee -- the largest GOP caucus on Hill -- and served with Mike Pence at the House GOP Conference when Pence chaired the conference. His wife Mary is a former Pence communications director at the GOP conference as well.

It took almost a year for successful Senate confirmation of Vought’s nomination, and Pence was there in the Senate chamber to break a 50-50 tie on Feb. 28, 2018.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Dec142018

Mueller investigation has cost more than $25 million so far: DOJ report 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Over the course of his 18-months as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Robert Mueller and his team have racked up more than $25 million in expenditures, according to the latest Justice Department filing, including $8.5 million over the past six months.

The numbers reflect spending as of Sept. 30.

In recent tweets, President Donald Trump has accused Mueller of spending more than $30 million on an "illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt" that has "shattered so many innocent lives."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Dec142018

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team: FBI interview did not lead Michael Flynn to make false statements

Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The special counsel’s office has filed court documents in response to retired Army Lt. Gen Michael Flynn’s sentencing memorandum, in which attorneys for the former national security adviser suggested he was “unguarded” during an FBI interview in 2017.

“Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI,” the special counsel retorted in court documents on Friday.

The special counsel's team underscored that it felt Flynn's actions were his own.

“The defendant chose to make false statements about his communications with the Russian ambassador weeks before the FBI interview when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming Vice President, and other members of the Presidential Transition Team.”

The special counsel's comments come in response to a filing by Flynn's defense team on Tuesday in which they gave more information on the January 2017 interview between Flynn and two FBI agents.

In December of that year, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the interview about contacts he had with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, during the presidential transition -- from election day 2016 until President Donald Trump's inauguration.

Earlier this week, the judge set Friday as a deadline for the government to turn over documents related to the January 2017 meeting for review. Heavily redacted versions of those documents were submitted alongside the filing Friday.

Flynn, who served as Trump’s national security adviser before he left the White House in February 2017, has been cooperating with investigators since, though most of his 19 interviews with the special counsel team occurred early this year, a source close to Flynn has told ABC News.

In the filing earlier this week, Flynn's defense team maintained his guilty plea but suggested that additional context was needed to understand his lies during the FBI interview in January 2017.

Flynn's defense team said that he was not warned of the consequences of lying to the agents before his interview.

The filing said that the agents were concerned that warning Flynn "might adversely affect the rapport."

The office of the special counsel recommended in a filing last week that Flynn receive no jail time in exchange for what they called his "significant" cooperation with the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Flynn's legal team echoed calls for leniency in his sentencing.

President Trump tweeted about Flynn on Thursday, alleging that the special counsel had recommended a lighter sentence because prosecutors were "embarrassed" by the way Flynn was treated and suggesting in interviews throughout the day on Thursday that Flynn had not actually lied to investigators.

"The FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI," Trump tweeted. "They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!......"

The White House did not clarify what FBI statements the president was referring to when asked by ABC News.

Last year, however, Flynn departed the White House in a move Trump explained in a tweet at the time.

"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," Trump wrote in the 2017 tweet. "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"

Flynn's supporters have long insisted he didn't lie to the FBI agents, who included Peter Strozk, a senior agent later dismissed because of embarrassing texts he exchanged with now-former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

The meeting with Flynn in the White House was set up by then-FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, who served as the agency’s acting director after James Comey was fired by Trump as FBI director in May 2017.

McCabe was fired himself this year by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after Trump repeatedly complained about McCabe. Flynn's lawyer noted the firings in his sentencing memo.

Sessions, in turn, was fired last month.

Flynn is set to be sentenced on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Dec142018

Gov. Scott Walker signs legislation weakening incoming Democratic governor's power in Wisconsin

Credit: Office of the Governor(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Wisconsin's outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed into law Friday legislation that weakens the authority of his incoming Democratic successor amid national consternation among Democrats, who decried the legislation as a blatant power grab that disrespects the will of the state's voters.

When asked Friday whether or not the legislation, which limits the governor's power over several state agencies and prevents the state's newly elected Democratic attorney general from pulling out of a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, undermines the will of the voters that elected a Democrat, Tony Evers, to succeed him, Walker said no.

"The will of the voters four years ago was to elect me to a term that ends January 7th," Walker said at a bill signing ceremony in Green Bay, "So I don't stop, just because the media treats an election as though that's the end of a term, it's not."

Walker said the outrage over the legislation was nothing more than "hype and hysteria" generated by the national media, and that Evers will remain on of the strongest chief executives in the country following his decision to sign the bills into law.

"I will be signing each of these three bills in their entirety. We believe they fulfill the criteria that we set going forward," Walker said flanked by the Republican leaders of the Wisconsin State legislature.

Evers had been trying to make a personal appeal to Walker in the past week to veto the bills, but ultimately his attempts were unsuccessful.

The Democrat immediately slammed Walker's decision, saying it "overrides" the will of Wisconsin voters.

"Today, Governor Walker chose to ignore and override the will of the people of Wisconsin. This will no doubt be his legacy," Evers wrote in a statement released Friday, "The people demanded a change on November 6th, and they asked us to solve problems, not pick petty, political fights. The people of Wisconsin expect more from our government than what has happened in our state over the past few weeks."

Some in the state worry that the legislation sets a dangerous precedent and encourages both parties to take similar steps to curb their opponent's power in the wake of an electoral defeat.

"You don’t want to bring a Nerf gun to a knife fight. If one player is violating norms and the other player says well I’m still going to behave as if they still exist, then you’re at a real disadvantage," University of Wisconsin political science professor Kenneth Mayer told ABC News in an interview, "Over time, if voters are okay with that, or in a position where they can’t respond, then you have serious questions about the meaning of democratic rule."



The episode continues to raise questions about the acceptability of partisan responses to election losses, and a potentially destabilizing precedent set by this and a similar situation playing out across the lake in the state of Michigan, where the Republican-controlled House and Senate are seeking to limit the power of incoming Democratic state officials, including Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer.

The situations in Michigan and Wisconsin are reminiscent of a 2016 attempt by the GOP-led state legislature in North Carolina to limit the powers of an incoming Democratic governor.

The courts eventually ruled that the legislation violated the state's constitution.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Dec142018

Tennessee Rep.-elect Mark Green, a physician, backtracks on controversial vaccine comments

Tennessee State Capitol - Credit: Ron_Thomas/iStock(NASHVILLE) -- After drawing a link between vaccines and autism earlier this week during a town hall with constituents, incoming Republican congressman Mark Green of Tennessee partially walked back those comments Wednesday following an uproar over the scientifically inaccurate statements.

“Recent comments I made at a town hall regarding vaccines have been misconstrued,” Green said in a statement obtained by HuffPost. “I want to reiterate my wife and I vaccinated our children, and we believe, and advise others they should have their children vaccinated.”

On Tuesday, the congressman-elect, a medical doctor, told the group assembled in Franklin, Tennessee, that "there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines."

"As a physician, I can make that argument and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the [Centers for Disease Control], if they really want to engage me on it," Green added, in video obtained by The Tennessean, after he had pledged to "to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines."

Green, who was elected last month to represent Tennessee's 7th Congressional District, was referring to a belief that has grown in recent years stemming from a debunked 1998 study that drew a link between vaccines and autism. The study was eventually retracted and the doctor who conducted it lost his medical license. Despite this, the CDC has recorded a steady rise in the number of children who are not receiving vaccines or exempt from school vaccination requirements.

Even after the congressman-elect's follow-up statement became public, he continued to face backlash, including from members of his own political party.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., tweeted Thursday: "Vaccines take deadly, awful, ravaging diseases from horror to history."

"Vaccines save lives," he added, attaching video of himself speaking about the topic in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Alexander made no specific reference to Green in the post, however.

Later Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health released a terse statement on the subject.

"Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines save lives," it read. "The Tennessee Department of Health welcomes discussion with Tennessee clinicians and scientists who would like to examine the evidence on this topic."

Green, who received his medical degree while in the U.S. Army, served as a flight surgeon and later founded a health care company. After a stint in the Tennessee State Senate, he was nominated to be Secretary of the Army by President Donald Trump in April 2017, but withdrew his nomination amid controversy surrounding past comments in which he likened being transgender to having a disease.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Dec142018

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hails immigrants as debate rages over asylum seekers

iStock/JPecha(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her first public remarks following a health scare last month, hailed immigrants as the “vanguard” of an effort to remove “stains” of discrimination from American society.

“The Constitution sets out the aspiration to form a more perfect union,” Ginsburg said, addressing 31 newly naturalized American citizens who had just taken the oath of allegiance. “While we have made huge progress, the work of perfection is far from done. Many stains remain."

“As well informed citizens you will play a vital part in that endeavor,” she said. “First by voting in elections, serving on juries and participating in civil discourse.”

Ginsburg spoke in near darkness at the National Archives, standing before the delicate original documents of the U.S. Constitution.

Saturday marks the official 227th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

As much of Washington remains embroiled in a heated debate over immigration and border security, Ginsburg pointed out that more than 20 million current citizens were born in other countries, coming to America “to provide a better life for themselves and their families.”

She argued, in a striking contrast to the rhetoric coming from the White House, that “the founders of the US proclaimed that the heart of America would be its citizens, not its rulers.”

“May the spirit of liberty … be your beacon,” she told America’s newest citizens, who came from 26 different countries, “as you play your part in helping to achieve a more perfect union.”



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio