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Thursday
Oct192017

Tax-writing panel primes lawmakers for powerful, lucrative lives after Congress

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi is the latest seasoned House Republican to call it quits, announcing he’ll resign by Jan. 31 to accept a lucrative position in the Buckeye State rather than finish his ninth term on Capitol Hill.

Suddenly, there’s less hyperbole when House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., identifies this moment as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the tax code, with decades of GOP experience heading for greener pastures.

Since the dawn of Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee has been the most powerful, coveted committee post a lawmaker can seek, as members of the panel have constitutional jurisdiction over the power of the purse.

That makes them popular candidates for higher political office, and deeply attractive recruits at lobbying firms on K Street, who can offer salaries far above the $174,000 members of the House are paid each year.

After seizing majority control in 2011, the initial GOP chairman, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, led the committee for four years before retiring and cashing in at PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm. Ryan handed off the chairman’s gavel for Ways and Means after less than a year when he was elected speaker in 2015.

There is not even legislative text of a tax bill yet, but Tiberi’s decision represents the sixth Ways and Means Republican, out of 24 GOPers on the panel, to decide to leave the House.

Republican Reps. Sam Johnson of Texas, Dave Reichert of Washington and Lynn Jenkins of Kansas are leaving public office while Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and Jim Renacci of Ohio are mounting campaigns for governor.

“I have been presented with an opportunity to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable that will allow me to continue to work on public policy issues impacting Ohioans while also spending more time with my family,” Tiberi wrote in a statement announcing his intent to resign. “Leaving Congress is not a decision I take lightly but after a lot of consideration, it is the best one for me, my wife, Denice, and our four wonderful daughters.”

Tiberi’s announcement signals he intends to serve until the ongoing attempt at tax reform reaches a conclusion.

The number of House Republicans not seeking re-election (24) is not trending higher than previous election cycles, and is not far out of tune with the number of Democrats (11) moving on from the House.

Beyond Tiberi's looming resignation, four Republicans took appointments in the Trump administration, one resigned in disgrace, another resigned on fair terms in favor of a gig at Fox News, seven more are retiring and 10 are seeking higher office.

No matter how safe GOP leaders insist those Republican districts are, the 13-seat split between GOP and Democratic retirements puts the Republicans at a slight disadvantage heading into next year’s midterm elections, though their 46-seat overall majority helps create a cushion.

The bottom line: If Ryan is going to hand President Donald Trump a major legislative victory in his first year in office, tax overhaul might be the last best chance before the GOP’s grip on majority control is potentially dissolved.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct192017

Bush blasts bigotry and white supremacy, says US politics 'vulnerable' to 'outright fabrication'

The White House/Eric Draper(NEW YORK) -- In a rare public speech today, former President George W. Bush blasted the divisive state of American politics, rejecting nativism and warning of a “crisis of confidence.”

“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,” the president said at an event hosted by the George W. Bush Institute in New York City today. “We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.

“We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism. Forgotten the dynamism immigration has always brought to America. The fading value of trade,” he continued. “We've seen the return of isolationist sentiments forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity.”

He added, "People are hurting. They are angry. And they are frustrated. We must hear and help them but we cannot wish globalization away any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution."

The former president directly challenged those who embrace bigotry and white supremacy -- a nod at the recent violence in Charlottesville.

“Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” the president said to applause.

Bush has largely refrained from weighing in on the state of politics since leaving office. In New York Thursday, he warned of the tone used in political discourse.

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone. [It] provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

The president also directly weighed in on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election -- saying there were clearly attempts to subvert our political process.

“According to intelligence services the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systemic and stealthy. It is conducted across a range of social media platforms,” he said. “Ultimately this assault won't succeed.

“Foreign aggressions including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated,” he said. “It's a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct192017

Puerto Rico governor airs grievances before meeting with Trump

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who will be meeting with President Trump later today, revealed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to restore power to his besieged island’s electricity grid.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sat down with Rossello this morning, and recounted his conversation to reporters.

“Apparently, according to the government of Puerto Rico, they have yet to execute on a power restoration contract to begin the restoration work, even the immediate work. So we need to see what are the impediments to that happening,” Rubio said after the nearly hour-long meeting.

He added, “Four weeks after the storm, they are where Florida was 48 hours after the storm.”

Rubio also said the $36.5 billion disaster relief package, which the Senate is likely to vote on late Thursday night, is too wrapped up in red tape to provide immediate relief to the U.S. territory.

He said that in order for the Puerto Rican government to access some of the funds, it will first need to conduct time-consuming damage assessments, preventing the government from being able to immediately allocate the money.

“It's great that there's a bunch of money sitting there, that there's a pile of money ready to help with assistance, but if their ability to get a hold of that money and use it is going to require a three-month process, then it's not going to do a lot of good,” he said.

Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure was facing a "crisis" prior to Hurricane Maria, according to a report commissioned by the Puerto Rican Electrical Power Authority in November 2016. The analysis noted that the island's power grid was "literally falling apart" due to poor maintenance and planning.

As of Wednesday, 19.1 percent of customers on the island have electricity, according to the Puerto Rico governor's office.

Rossello is meeting with Trump at the White House and he said he will be asking for the administration to focus not just on Puerto Rico’s short-term needs but also the medium and long-term goals to stabilize and rebuild.

“We need equal treatment, we need all of the resources so that we can get out of the emergency and of course the resources to rebuild stronger than before,” he said.

ABC News' Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct192017

Obama hitting the campaign trail for 1st time under Trump presidency 

The White House(NEW YORK) -- Former President Obama is set to make his much-anticipated, first post-presidential appearance on the campaign trail today, speaking at events for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia before elections there next month.

Obama’s re-emergence comes as President Trump has taken aim at various parts of his legacy, including the Iran Deal and the Affordable Care Act, and as the controversy around Trump’s interactions with families of fallen U.S. soldiers persists.

It is unlikely that Obama will directly call out President Trump and will probably speak in general terms about the importance of honoring veterans, aides to the former president told ABC News.

He will instead put a major emphasis on the economy and the state of politics, they said.

“It’s in no one’s interest – including the former president’s, the Democratic Party’s, or the country’s – for President Obama to become the face of any resistance or the party,” a senior adviser to the former president wrote in a statement to ABC News, “Instead, he is creating the space for leaders in the party to craft the best path forward that will make our country better.

“He is acutely aware that when he consumes political oxygen, it can stifle the attention that should be on current and emerging leaders in the party.”

In New Jersey, Obama will attend a “canvass kickoff” event in Newark, New Jersey, with Democratic candidate Phil Murphy, who has held a sizable lead in most polls over his opponent, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

Obama will then head to Richmond, Virginia, in the evening for a rally with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is locked in a tight race with former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.

Virginia is largely considered the only competitive statewide race in the nation this year, and a recent poll from Monmouth University gave Gillespie a 1 point edge over Northam, highlighting the importance of Obama’s visit to the state with the election less than three weeks away.

Obama is still popular in Virginia, a state he won twice as a presidential candidate. A poll released Wednesday by Fox News had his favorability rating at 57 percent among likely voters in the state.

The elections in New Jersey and Virginia will take place Nov. 7.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct192017

A timeline of Trump's battle with the courts to keep his travel ban alive

Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since his first week in office, President Donald Trump has tried to put in place extensive restrictions on who can come into the country, fulfilling a campaign promise to implement "extreme vetting" or a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

"I got elected on defense of our country. I keep my campaign promises, and our citizens will be very happy when they see the result," Trump said in February.

But through three executive orders now, that promise has been slapped down and tied up by federal courts -- with the latest version put on hold by a federal judge in Hawaii on Tuesday.

The Justice Department has said it will appeal the decision, but the judge who issued the temporary restraining order cited the same arguments previous courts have had with the first two bans. It's unclear if the Trump administration has done enough legal maneuvering this time to avoid those, but it's worth looking back on the judicial road that led here.

Trump's first travel ban -- Jan. 27

One week into his term, Trump visited the Pentagon and, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis, signed an executive order titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." Its implementation was effective immediately because the threat was so urgent, according to administration officials. But so few people outside the White House even knew the contents of it.

The result was chaos at airports across the country, where confused Customs and Border Protection agents were detaining folks with legal immigration papers and angry protesters chanted for their release -- a tumultuous scene that delighted then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to Bloomberg.

The order itself banned all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan -- for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, while ordering the departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security to review the vetting procedures for all immigration and refugee admissions. When refugee admissions would resume, it called for the State Department to prioritize religious minorities such as Christians in the Middle East and indefinitely ban all Syrian refugees.

As swiftly as the executive order came, there were court decisions in New York and Boston blocking all or parts of it. Shortly after that, several states sued to block the executive order as well, including Virginia, Hawaii, Washington and Minnesota.

Nationwide block on first travel ban -- Feb. 3

The real halt came one week after Trump's Pentagon signing ceremony when a district court judge in Seattle froze the ban nationwide with what's known as a temporary restraining order. Judge James Robart was ruling on one of those lawsuits -- this one by Washington and Minnesota -- and Trump began lashing out at him on Twitter, writing, "If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

In addition to the president's dire rhetoric, the ruling was appealed by his administration and sent to the next highest court: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the western United States. Sixteen states joined Washington and Minnesota, filing what's called an amicus brief in support of their suit.

In dramatic fashion, audio of the case's oral arguments were broadcast live on cable television on Feb. 7, and two days later, the Ninth Circuit ruled unanimously in favor of the plaintiffs and kept the block of Trump's travel ban in place.

Trump's second travel ban -- March 6

There was some back-and-forth in the courts about how the case would proceed -- until the Trump administration voluntarily withdrew after signing a new travel ban.

This second ban was limited to six Muslim-majority countries, taking Iraq off the list. It also exempted legal permanent residents and anyone who already had a valid visa, which the original didn't do initially. And it excised the permanent ban on Syrian refugees, but kept in place the 120-day suspension of all refugee admissions.

Two days after its unveiling, another state -- this time, Hawaii -- sued to bar its implementation, arguing that the executive order "began life as a Muslim ban," was "infected with the same legal problems as the first order -- undermining bedrock constitutional and statutory guarantees," and was "motivated by animus and a desire to discriminate on the basis of religion and/or national origin, nationality or alienage."

Nationwide halt on second travel ban -- March 15


A district court judge agreed with that argument, granting another temporary restraining order one week later, this time before the ban could be implemented. Speaking at a rally in Nashville the same day, Trump called the ruling an "unprecedented judicial overreach," although he referred to the second ban as "a watered-down version of the first one" -- bolstering the argument of his opponents who said the ban was illegal because it was essentially the same as the first one.

Fifteen days after that, the Trump administration appealed again to the Ninth Circuit, but other federal courts across the country had also ruled against the ban. One of those other cases went up to the Court of Appeals, this time in the Fourth Circuit that covers the mid-Atlantic from South Carolina to Maryland.

Nationwide block on second travel ban -- May 25

The Fourth Circuit, by a vote of 10-3, blocked the travel restrictions for the six Muslim-majority countries, but left in place the 120-day refugee ban. Citing comments by candidate-Trump and his political surrogates about Muslims and Islam, the court ruled the new ban still "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination" and was an expression of "President Trump’s desire to exclude Muslims from the United States."

In the days afterward, as his administration tried to paint the order as a limited pause for national security, Trump again undercut the message by tweeting, "People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!" and bashing the judiciary branch as "slow and political."

Meanwhile, his administration asked the highest court in the U.S., the Supreme Court, to weigh in.

Supreme Court rules -- June 26


The Supreme Court agreed to take the case up in full in October -- and in the meantime, overruled lower courts by allowing a limited travel ban to go into effect. The Trump administration hailed it as a victory, but the ruling ended up causing more headaches.

Instead of full implementation, the Supreme Court ruled that the 90-day ban on citizens from Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Syria and the 120-day ban on all refugees could begin -- except for those who could prove a "bona fide" relationship to a person or entity in the U.S. The Court provided a vague description of what "bona fide" meant, setting off a new legal war.

Days later, the administration said its lawyers determined a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half, and including step relationships, qualified -- and the ban went into effect on June 29. Once again, a state sued to challenge -- with Hawaii claiming the categories were arbitrary and asking why grandparents or grandchildren, for example, weren't included -- and won.

On July 19, the Supreme Court ruled in Hawaii's favor and expanded the definition to include grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

In September, the Ninth Circuit ruled that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement organization in the U.S. counted as a bona fide relationship, but on Sept. 12, the Supreme Court overruled them again and allowed the stricter ban on refugees to remain in place.

After the second ban expired on Sept. 24, the Supreme Court dismissed the case, ruling on Oct. 10 that it no longer needed to issue a decision because "the appeal no longer presents a 'live case or controversy.' "

Trump's third travel ban -- Sept. 24

While the drama of the second travel ban was working its way through the court system, the Trump administration filed a little-noticed order that led to what's been called the third travel ban.

On July 12, the State Department issued a cable to posts around the world obtained by ABC News, notifying them that the administration had set new standards on information sharing for all countries in order to obtain U.S. visas or other entry to the U.S., and asking countries to meet them, create a plan to meet them or face travel sanctions if they don’t.

That exchange between U.S. diplomats and foreign countries played out, and the administration came up with a list of 47 countries that had insufficient systems. After informing them, that list was narrowed down to just seven, and on Sept. 24 -- just as the second ban was about to expire -- the administration issued a new proclamation that barred travel from them indefinitely.

Iran, Syria, Somalia and Libya -- all part of the original bans -- were listed, and the administration added Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

These new conditions-based restrictions meant that countries could be added or removed, depending upon whether they complied with the new U.S. standards, and allowed for case-by-case waivers for individuals -- steps meant to inoculate the administration from legal challenges.

A key counterterror ally who has been cooperating with the U.S. against ISIS, Boko Haram, and others, Chad's addition was seen by many foreign policy experts as a grave error. Since then, the White House said national security advisor H.R. McMaster has spoken to Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno about how to work together to "address the deficiencies, toward the goal of improving vetting capabilities and lifting visa restrictions."

Nationwide halt on third travel ban -- Oct. 17


So far, that hasn't worked.

One day before new restrictions were to take effect, a district court judge in Hawaii issued a new temporary restraining order, arguing that the proclamation "plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit" previously found unconstitutional.

It also "suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: It lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States,' " the judge wrote.

The plaintiff in this latest case -- the state of Hawaii -- didn't seek to block the bans on North Korea or Venezuela, so those restrictions have gone into effect. But the State Department said Tuesday that diplomatic posts in the other five Muslim-majority nations will resume visa issuances.

On the same day, a district court in Maryland also enjoined, or blocked, the third travel ban, calling it "the latest incarnation of the 'Muslim ban' originally promised by Trump as a candidate for the presidency" and calling it a violation of the U.S. constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the White House will fight the ruling, telling Congress on Oct. 18, "We’re confident that we’ll prevail as time goes by in the Supreme Court." The next step would be to once again file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit, where the administration has lost twice before.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Oct192017

How Obama held the mother of a fallen soldier as she cried on his suit

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump faces criticism over his comments to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, the families of the fallen said their conversations with past American presidents attempting to offer condolences sometimes drew their grief into sharp relief.

Trump called Myeshia Johnson on Tuesday in an effort to console her. According to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., Trump told the widow that her husband, who died in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger, “knew what he signed up for," but "I guess it still hurt.”

Trump denied making those comments.

Trump also claimed Monday that his predecessors often failed to call families of the deceased. “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know,” Trump said. “Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters, and some presidents didn’t do anything.”

Some families who received presidential condolences in the past told ABC News that they found some comfort in those calls.

When he lost his son, Army Sgt. James “Jimmy” J. Regan in 2007, James P. Regan received a phone call from President George W. Bush. The president reportedly met in private with the families of the soldiers killed in action and sent thousands of personal letters during his time in office.

Jimmy had been killed in action on Feb. 9, 2007, in northern Iraq and died of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by an explosive.

Over a year later, at the rededication of the USS Intrepid, Bush and first lady Laura Bush spent an hour with the Regan family. The Regans also received a flag from the Bush administration in remembrance of Jimmy.

"To take the effort and time to see where we are coming from really means a lot. I have nothing but great things to say about Bush,” said Regan, who is the chairman and CEO at Lead the Way Fund Inc., a nonprofit organization established to raise funds in support of disabled U.S. Army Rangers and the families of Rangers who died in action.

Paul T. Monti received a phone call from President Barack Obama after his son, Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, was posthumously approved for the Medal of Honor in 2009.

Jared was killed in 2006 in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, while trying to repeatedly rescue his wounded comrade under enemy fire.

Monti said he will never forget his conversation with Obama.

“He told me that the nation was proud of my son, and he was proud of my son, and that he knew that I was very proud of my son. That, I remember distinctly,” Monti told ABC News.

Monti also previously received a letter from Bush, who was president when his son was killed.

Like Bush, Obama also sought to comfort and offer condolences to the families in person and through letters.

On Oct. 29, 2009, Obama made an unscheduled trip to Dover Air Force Base to observe a dignified transfer -- the first time he had participated in the solemn military tradition. Obama met with the families of the soldiers after he paid his respects to the fallen.

He also attended another dignified transfer in 2011 after 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs, lost their lives when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. Similarly, he met with the families of the fallen in private for an hour.

Sharon Belkofer, who is the mother of Army Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, told ABC News that Obama was “unbelievably warm and compassionate” the two times she met him in person. Her son Thomas had served in Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division when he was killed by a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on May 18, 2010.

The first time she met President Obama was in 2011 at Fort Drum. According to Belkofer, Obama had changed his schedule the day he visited the New York military base and told his staff he wanted to meet with the Gold Star families that were in attendance.

Belkofer and her daughter-in-law were one of the last families to meet with Obama, but when they finally met, Obama embraced her and Belkofer began to cry.

Belkofer said Obama said, "Hi," and asked how she was doing.

She then lamented to Obama that she thought her son would be embarrassed “because I’m crying all over your suit.”

Obama assured her that her son would not be embarrassed, as he held and comforted her.

However, some families eschew presidential efforts to reach out.

Gold Star mother Nadia McCaffrey had a chance to meet President Bush after her son, Sgt. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., was killed in 2004, but refused the offer.

“I said 'No. If I am in his presence, I’m going to turn my back on him.’ And I would have done it,” McCaffrey said.

Patrick enlisted in the National Guard just after 9/11, choosing the Guard because of its domestic focus, according to McCaffrey. She blames Bush for her son being deployed overseas to a war she never supported.

“My son was very patriotic, and so am I,” she said. “And if I could have given my life for him, I would have done it without hesitation -- not a moment -- but I feel like he was sort of betrayed being a Guard.”

Kim Smith of East Peoria, Illinois, told ABC News that she’s speaking out because she is mad that Trump is being called a liar over his claims about other presidents calling families.

Eighteen members of her husband’s unit -- the 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard from Obama’s home state of Illinois -- were killed over the course of a couple of years. Her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Paul G. Smith, was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 19, 2009.

She said she never received a call.

Smith said she received what seemed to be a formal letter from President Obama about a month after her husband’s death on July 17. She said the typed letter was not personalized, referred to her as only Mrs. Smith, and seemed to be signed with a machine-generated signature.

“I have a general’s handwritten letter, and that means more to me than Obama’s, so I’m upset that they’re calling [Trump] a liar and he’s not a liar,” Smith said.

Debra Booth -- the mother of Marine 2nd Lt. Joshua Booth, who died 11 years ago on Wednesday -- told ABC News that though she did not receive a call, she mentioned receiving several letters from Bush, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Gov. Mitt Romney and members of the Department of Defense.

As a member of the Massachusetts Gold Star families, she visited the White House on several occasions -- right before the end of Bush's second term and during the Obama administration -- to celebrate the holidays.

Joshua Booth's daughter got to put an ornament on the tree in honor of her father.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct182017

Government lawyers ask judge to toss lawsuit over Trump's businesses

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Government attorneys on Wednesday asked a New York federal judge to throw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution every time a foreign government patronizes a Trump property.

The government attorneys were responding to a lawsuit filed this year by representatives of hotels and restaurants who say they have suffered damages, along with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington (CREW).

The suit charges that Trump's ongoing ties to Trump-branded businesses worldwide is in violation of the so-called emoluments clause, which prohibits federal employees from accepting "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” An emolument is usually defined as compensation of some kind or an item of value.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson pursued private business interests when they were president, Justice Department attorneys argued before Judge George B. Daniels, saying that Trump is no different. When foreign governments book rooms in Trump hotels, they said, it is not an emolument.

Daniels challenged the Justice Department’s narrow definition of “emolument” and said that if a foreign entity “expects something” in exchange for a payment, that would be an emolument, not a gift, even if the president did not follow through on a presumed quid pro quo. The judge asked the parties if the president is automatically prohibited from selling goods and services at fair market value to a foreign government, a seemingly open legal question.

He then pressed the plaintiffs over their arguments for what's known in the legal world as standing, or their right to sue.

The plaintiffs argued, for example, that there are four midtown Manhattan restaurants with two Michelin stars, excluding sushi restaurants. One is Trump’s Jean Georges, and that’s where foreign delegations want to host their parties. The “universe is small” and Trump properties “are in direct competition with plaintiffs,” they claimed.

Daniels shot back that the emoluments clause “is an anti-corruption provision” and “is not intended to protect you from unfair competition.” The judge also suggested that the plaintiffs haven’t shown specific harm, and that the "injury would have to be more accurately characterized."

Lawyers for CREW said their right to sue rests on the “impairment of their resources” in fighting for good governance.

Daniels said he expects to rule on the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss in the next 30 to 60 days. If the case moves forward, the plaintiffs said they will want four to five months for discovery, which could potentially result in the unveiling of some of Trump's unreleased tax returns, before a one week trial. The plaintiffs' attorneys also said they are open to a settlement arrangement with the president if, for example, he agreed to divest or segregate some of his profits.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct182017

'Worst people in the world’ becoming face of GOP: Conservative commentator

Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Author Charlie Sykes was best-known as a top Wisconsin conservative talk show host who frequently interviewed fellow cheeseheads and GOP favorites Paul Ryan and Reince Preibus. But when candidate Donald Trump appeared on the political scene, Sykes became a vocal member of #NeverTrump, warning his listeners about this “dangerous” candidate.

His newest book is called How the Right Lost Its Mind. On the Powerhouse Politics podcast, he explained how conservatives have strayed from their core values. He points a finger at the Trump campaign’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and what he describes as “revenge of crazy town.”

“Steve Bannon is so much a part of this Trump story. Here’s a guy who flirted with the alt-right. Don’t pass this point -- he was in the White House. He had the ear of the President of the United States. Here’s basically one of the gods of dysfunction and he was sitting in the White House.”

Now that Bannon has left the White House and returned to the right-wing Breitbart News website, Sykes says the “worst people in the world” are becoming the faces of the GOP.

“It doesn’t look like a strategy to me as much as an unfocused, vindictive rage. It doesn’t even appear to be ideological principled as much as it seems to be, let's burn it all down, let's tear it all down, and let’s see what happens.”

Sykes highlights several tumultuous races including the Alabama Senate race in which Bannon has backed controversial former Alabama state chief justice Roy Moore, and the Arizona Senate race where Bannon-backed candidate Kelli Ward is challenging incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake.

“Look at this from Donald Trump’s point of view. Part of the fact of Trump’s success is that he empowered the fringes. This is his base, and I think Trump was rattled a lot by what happened in Alabama because he cannot afford to let someone get to the more populist right than him. You see this back and forth, this tug of wanting to get things done, but recognizing that these folks from crazy town are the ones that got you the nomination and got you elected. I think he’s going to ping-pong between the two of them.”

Sykes goes on to say Democrats should like what they see in those two states.

“If I am a Democrat, I am delighted to see Steve Bannon burning down, trying to destroy incumbent Republicans, and replace them with rather eccentric folks out there.”

Sykes says he “cringes” when he talks about one of his former favorite radio guests, Speaker Paul Ryan, and mentioned his “really profound disappointment.”

“I have known him for many years, and really did see him as the intellectual leader of the conservative movement, and very much the alternative path the conservatives and Republicans could have taken. He had no illusions about who and what Donald Trump was, but he’s made a Faustian bargain.” Sykes said that Speaker Ryan is “all-in” on Trump.

In his book, Sykes describes what he believes is the damage Trump has done to the conservative wing of the Republican party.

“The reality of Donald Trump is that even though for the moment, he will occasionally adopt conservative values, Donald Trump is not a deeply principled, deep-thinking individual. He is not a life-long “ movement conservative”. He will throw them under the bus whenever it becomes convenient. And much of his base will go along with him.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct182017

President Trump gives $25,000 to father of fallen soldier, months after promising to on personal call

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has sent a $25,000 gift to the father of a 22-year-old U.S. Army corporal killed in Afghanistan in June, several months after first making the pledge during a personal phone call with the family, the White House confirmed to ABC News.

The father, Chris Baldridge of Zebulon, North Carolina, told The Washington Post he appreciated the president's call and was stunned by his generosity. "I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this," Baldridge told the paper. "He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.'"

But then, Baldridge told the Post, the only thing he subsequently received from the White House was a letter of condolence; no check.

“I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest,” Baldridge said. “I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying, ‘I’m sorry.’"

Cpl. Dillon Baldridge was killed in June when an Afghan security officer opened fire on his American counterparts in an insider attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

ABC News has been unable to reach Chris Baldridge. The White House confirmed the president's call and gift, telling ABC News "the check has been sent."

Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said any suggestion the president didn't intend to follow through on his pledge, despite the months that have passed, is unfair.

"It's disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," Walters said.

"There is a substantial process that can involve multiple agencies anytime the president interacts with the public, especially when transmitting personal funds," a White House official told ABC News. "The check has been in the pipeline since the president's initial call with the father. The president has personally followed up several times to ensure that the check was being sent. As stated earlier the check has been sent."

The donation was first reported by the Post.

Word of the pledge to Chris Baldridge comes as Trump faces growing scrutiny of his handling of "Gold Star families" as president.

On Tuesday, Trump boasted that he has called "virtually" all the families of fallen service members since he’s been president and claimed, erroneously, that "most" other presidents have not placed calls.

“The president has made contact with all of the families that have been presented to him through the White House Military Office,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. “All of the individuals that the president has been presented with through the proper protocol have been contacted through that process.

Still, Sanders acknowledged that no action taken by a president to console the family of a killed service member can be adequate to make up for the family's loss and blamed the media for taking the president's comments out of context.

“There’s never going to be enough that a president can do for the families of those that are killed in action. The point the president was making is that there’s a different process. Sometimes they call. Sometimes they write letters. Sometimes they engage directly. The comments were certainly, I think, taken very far out of context by the media," she said.

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Wednesday
Oct182017

Senate Republican leaders scramble to get Trump on board with health care compromise

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump now says he does not support a bipartisan agreement to stabilize insurance markets in its current form, leaving members of Congress questioning how exactly he wants to change the bill before he endorses it.

On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president did not support the bill in its current form, reiterating a tweet from the president Wednesday morning in which he said that the deal, which would subsidize insurance plans for low-income Americans for two full years, equates to a bailout for insurance companies.

“We’ve said all along that we want something that doesn't just bail out the insurance companies but actually provides relief for all Americans. This bill doesn't address that fact, so we want to make sure that that's taken care of,” Sanders said.

The bill was based on an agreement between Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, which they introduced Tuesday at their parties’ respective weekly policy luncheons. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short attended the Republicans’ lunch.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Alexander insisted that the president supported his and Murray’s efforts but wants to strengthen provisions to ensure that the payments, known as cost-sharing reductions or CSRs, end up helping consumers, not lining insurers’ coffers.

But at the same time, Alexander also insisted that the bill’s provisions already contain strong safeguards, so it was not clear what language Trump wants inserted into the bill to satisfy him.

“It has very strong language to [protect consumers],” Alexander told reporters. “The president, we’ve talked about that, and the president is in the process of reviewing it and we welcome his suggestions about how to improve it.”

Alexander’s remarks were the latest volley in a ping-pong game between the White House and congressional negotiators, in which Trump has at times sent mixed messages about whether or not he would support the bill.

Shortly before Alexander spoke Wednesday morning at an event with reporters about the health deal, he talked with Trump to thank him for his leadership on the deal, he said.

“I said ‘Mr. President, I’ve done exactly what you asked me to do when you called ten days ago and I’m going in to talk to this large group of reporters and tell them they’re underestimating your leadership on health care,’” Alexander said.

But at the event itself, Alexander did hedge Trump’s support, saying Trump wants to be “encouraging” of the efforts but still wants to review the language of the agreement.

A day earlier, Trump had struck a much more optimistic tone, just as Murray and Alexander were making their deal public.

“The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it'll get us over this intermediate hump,” he said, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, adding that Republicans have or "are very close to having" the votes to pass a comprehensive bill to overhaul the ACA — a long-held party goal.

Trump signed an executive order last week canceling the monthly cost-sharing reduction funds to insurers because, his administration argued, the funds were taken from the Health and Human Services budget and not specifically appropriated by Congress, making them illegal. The House Republican conference had previously sued the Obama administration making this same point as well, which the Obama administration appealed.

Republicans had justified the president’s sudden announcement, which experts warned would roil insurance markets, by saying he was simply pressuring Congress to act.

“His argument is he doesn’t have, legally, the authority to make the payments, but secondly I think he wanted to create a forcing action to get Congress to do something,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters Tuesday.

But by Wednesday morning, as Trump moved away from that position, senators seemed unsure of what his end game was.

“I think, uh, he's evolving,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters before walking away without further explanation.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona seemed willing to give the president time to figure out whether or not he liked the agreement, the text of which was released Wednesday.

“We're all still studying it ourselves,” he said.

On Tuesday Trump called a possible time without the subsidies as a "dangerous little period." Experts, including the Congressional Budget Office, projected that halting the government contributions would raise premiums, increase the federal deficit and destabilize the insurance marketplace.

The cost to continue the cost-sharing-reduction payments (CSRs), which are distributed in monthly installments, was estimated at $7 billion this year.

While Republicans scramble to determine whether or not they have the votes for the bill, Murray said she was open to making changes to the bill but not in order to get Trump on board.

“I’m not doing this for the president. I’m doing it for the people of the country and so is Lamar,” she said.

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