Unreleased White House report shows coronavirus rates spiking in heartland communities : NBC News


Trump’s claim that cases are falling everywhere is contradicted by his own task force’s report, obtained by NBC News, showing the virus spreading far from the coasts.

Source: Unreleased White House report shows coronavirus rates spiking in heartland communities : NBC News

Trump’s acquittal has unleashed the most ‘corrupt, unfit, demented and malevolent president’ ever: columnist – Alternet.org


In a scorching column for the Daily Beast, David Rothkopf accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Attorney General Bill Barr of standing by while President Donald Trump purges anyone who crossed him with their testimony during his impeachment trial, with the columnist saving most of his vitriol for Republicans who are letting the president continue to break the law.

Source: Trump’s acquittal has unleashed the most ‘corrupt, unfit, demented and malevolent president’ ever: columnist – Alternet.org

House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | TheHill


The House on Thursday passed a sweeping bill aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, a step toward a long-held Democratic goal that was met with sharp Republican resistance.

Source: House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | TheHill

Senate Democrats block defense spending bill over Trump wall | TheHill


Senate Democrats blocked a defense spending bill for the second time on Thursday, underscoring the hurdles ahead of next month’s government funding deadline.

Senators voted 51-41 on whether to advance a spending package that was expected to include the defense funding. The bill needed 60 votes to advance.

Democrats warned ahead of time that they would oppose taking up the bill until lawmakers get a deal on top-line spending figures known as 302(b)s. They previously blocked the defense spending bill in September.

“The Republican leader has been accusing Democrats of threatening to block military funding. Now, that is an absurd statement if there ever was one. We’re simply trying to stop Republicans from stealing money from our military and putting it into the wall,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sent a letter this week to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking that they “take a meaningful step forward and work together with us to reach bipartisan agreement on 302(b) allocations for all twelve appropriations bills.”

“Such an agreement is necessary for appropriators and all of our Members to do their jobs and fund our national priorities,” he wrote.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its defense spending bill along party lines after Republicans rejected an amendment that would have prevented President Trump from redirecting money toward the border wall without congressional signoff.

 

Source: Senate Democrats block defense spending bill over Trump wall | TheHill

McConnell indicates he won’t call Senate back early for gun debate | TheHill


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated Thursday that he will not bring the Senate back early from its five-week August recess to debate gun legislation, despite pressure from Democrats.
“We’re going to have these bipartisan discussions and when we get back hopefully be able to come together and actually pass something. I want to make a law,” McConnell said during an interview with Kentucky radio station WHAS.
Pressed if he was saying he would not call the Senate back before their currently scheduled Sept. 9 return date, McConnell added: “If we did that, we would just have people scoring points and nothing would happen. There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on.”
The interview marks the first time McConnell has publicly weighed in on the growing calls from Democrats and activists for him to bring the Senate back into session after they left last week for the August break.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have homed in on McConnell this week as they try to pressure him and Republicans to bring the chamber back into session as soon as this week to vote on House legislation.
“Today, as Speaker of the House, I am writing in good faith to request that you call the United States Senate back into session immediately under your powers in Article II Section 3 of the Constitution to consider House-passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to President Trump on Thursday.
The House passed universal background check legislation earlier this year with the support of eight Republicans. The Senate’s companion bill has 42 sponsors, none of whom are Republicans.

 

Source: McConnell indicates he won’t call Senate back early for gun debate | TheHill

Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting ‘thank you’ for funeral | TheHill


President TrumpDONALD JOHN TRUMPDem lawmaker says Electoral College was ‘conceived’ as way to perpetuate slaveryStanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on MondayTransportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certificationMORE on Wednesday unleashed fresh criticism of John McCain, attacking the late GOP senator for his connection to a dossier of claims about the president and Russia, his vote against a Republican effort to repeal ObamaCare and his support for the Iraq War.

Trump spent five full minutes jabbing at McCain during an official White House event intended to highlight manufacturing in Ohio. The barbs marked the fourth time in the last five days that Trump has criticized McCain, who succumbed to brain cancer last August.

“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this, I didn’t get a thank you. That’s OK,” Trump told workers at a tank factory in Lima, Ohio.

“We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

The president stoked controversy in the days after McCain’s death last year when he waited to lower flags to half-staff and offer an official statement. He later did not attend McCain’s funeral at the family’s request.

The latest criticisms of McCain briefly turned Wednesday’s official White House event into a de facto campaign rally, where the president regularly excoriates his critics and rehashes his administration’s accomplishments.

 

Source: Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting ‘thank you’ for funeral | TheHill

Senate admonishes Trump on Syria | TheHill


Senate Republicans joined Democrats in offering a direct rebuke Thursday of the administration’s Syria policy, marking the first time during the new Congress that the GOP caucus has formally broken with President Trump.

Senators voted 68-23 to end debate on an amendment that warns Trump against drawing down troops in Syria and Afghanistan. Senators still need to hold a second vote to add the amendment to the foreign policy bill, which will likely take place next week.

The vote is the latest sign of fracture between congressional Republicans and Trump on foreign policy. The president caught lawmakers off guard when he announced last month that he would yank troops from Syria. He further rankled Republicans this week when he lashed out at top administration intelligence officials after they publicly contradicted him on Iran.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who argued that the Senate vote was not a “political issue,” said he opposed the administration’s policy because “it directly undermines one of the two pillars of our strategy and our policy in the region.”

“What I’ll say here today is what I said initially about it, my position that I thought it was a bad idea. I said it then. I said it to the president in a subsequent meeting, and I thought it was important to restate it here,” Rubio said.

Asked what message the vote Thursday sent, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that it showed Congress is a “co-equal branch of government.”

The non-binding amendment, spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), warns the administration against a “precipitous” withdrawal of the U.S. forces in Syria and Afghanistan.

It also urges the administration to certify that certain conditions have been met “for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from Syria or Afghanistan.”

 

Source: Senate admonishes Trump on Syria | TheHill

Mitch McConnell could end the shutdown. But he’s sitting this one out. – The Washington Post


President Trump is not the only person in Washington who could end this government shutdown now.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could bring a “clean” funding bill to the floor, free up his GOP caucus to support it and could quite possibly secure enough votes to override a presidential veto.

McConnell already did it once, when he believed he had Trump’s blessing. Before the holidays he allowed a vote to keep the government running until Feb. 8, to avoid a shutdown and buy more time to negotiate Trump’s demand for border wall funding. It passed easily.

But then Trump bowed to pressure from his base, House Republicans dared not challenge him, and the parts of the government that had not yet been funded were shut down.

Now it’s 21 days later and we’re teetering toward the longest government shutdown in American history, with no sense of how it will end. Many federal workers are missing their first paycheck Friday and are resorting to crowdfunding, side jobs and even selling their belongings to pay their bills. A advocate for veterans sounded a dire warning that financial insecurity is a leading cause of suicide. The FBI agents union said not paying agents amounts to a national security threat.

When Senate Democrats tried this week to bring up a House-passed bill to open parts of the government unrelated to border security, like the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Agriculture, McConnell batted it down, saying, “The last thing we need to do right now is to trade absolutely pointless show votes back and forth across the aisle.”

That from a politician who in December was saying confidently that Congress was going to avoid a shutdown.

Meanwhile, McConnell has left the shutdown public relations to other Republicans, skipping news conferences and keeping a low profile. He maintains the position that he won’t fracture the party and bring up a bill that Trump won’t sign, so he can argue this is a problem for Trump and House Democrats to figure out.

Public polling shows 51 percent of American adults blame Trump for the shutdown, 41 percent blame Democrats and 35 percent blame congressional Republicans, according to a HuffPost-YouGov poll released this week. But while Republicans may not be blamed for the shutdown, Americans are unimpressed with how they’ve handled it.

Congressional Republicans are also starting to grow weary of this drawn-out fight. Already some GOP senators up for election in 2020, such as Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Susan Collins (Maine), are deflecting, calling for an end to the shutdown regardless of the border wall money.

 

Source: Mitch McConnell could end the shutdown. But he’s sitting this one out. – The Washington Post

Trump’s national security team is constant source of turnover | TheHill


Defense Secretary James Mattis‘s decision to quit the Trump administration is the latest indication of a Cabinet constantly being shaken up.

Mattis, who President Trump announced Sunday will leave office at the end of this year — ahead of the secretary’s preferred exit — is just the latest person with a high-level national security or foreign policy position to be headed out of the president’s orbit.

Some have resigned, others have been ousted, and a few have moved to other posts within the administration.

It will leave Trump with a different team in 2019.

Here’s a look at the top national security-related posts that have seen turnover under Trump.

National security adviser

Three people have served as Trump’s principal adviser on national security and foreign policy issues in the White House.

The president tapped Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general turned vociferous campaign surrogate, to serve as his national security adviser shortly after the 2016 election.

Flynn’s tenure was extremely brief. He was forced to resign less than a month into the post over revelations that he misled Vice President Pence about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition. Since then Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts, and he cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.

Trump then appointed H.R. McMaster, another army lieutenant general. McMaster was widely viewed as one of the more moderate voices in the administration and was said to have clashed with Trump on various issues, including the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump consistently disparaged on the campaign trail.

But McMaster didn’t last long, either. In April of this year, Trump moved to replace him with John Bolton, a George W. Bush-era official known for his hawkish views on China and Iran.

FBI director

Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 is viewed as one of the most controversial moments of his presidency.

The move came just months after Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the FBI’s investigation into whether associates of the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow to interfere in the 2016 election.

And while the firing was predicated on a recommendation from the Justice Department that Comey be removed for his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Trump later told NBC News that the “Russia thing” factored into his decision. Mueller is said to be reviewing Comey’s firing in his probe into whether the president obstructed justice.

Comey, who has since become a frequent critic of Trump, later testified before the Senate that the president had asked him to abandon the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.

The Senate later confirmed Christopher Wray, another veteran of the George W. Bush administration, as FBI director.

Attorney general

Now-former Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined the administration as a trusted confidant with whom Trump had built a strong rapport during the campaign.

 

Source: Trump’s national security team is constant source of turnover | TheHill

Dems race to protect Mueller probe | TheHill


House Democrats are racing to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, and they’re not waiting until they assume the majority to do so.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) organized an emergency conference call on Thursday between rank-and-file Democrats and the top members on investigative committees to discuss President Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with an official who has repeatedly criticized the Mueller probe.

On the call, Democrats contemplated their next steps, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) warned members they are facing a “crisis moment.”

After the call, Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, announced on CNN that Democrats may insist on including protections for the Russia probe in the next government funding bill, though such a demand could trigger a shutdown fight if they follow through.

“We can urge — and we will — that the bill I introduced that would protect the independence of the special counsel, saying he can only be dismissed for [due] cause … We can insist that that be a condition of passage of the remaining legislation to fund the government,” Nadler said.

Calls for the GOP to hold emergency hearings and demands for the acting attorney general to recuse himself have so far gone unanswered, underscoring a harsh reality for Democrats: they are still in the minority for another two months and have little power.

Still, their efforts send a clear signal that Democrats are gearing up to make the issue a top investigative priority starting in January.

In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the Democrat likely to lead the House Intelligence Committee during the next Congress, is already signaling an interest in interviewing Sessions about his firing.

“On this particular question of what led up to his firing or what information he may have in terms of obstruction to justice, I think that will be of interest to not only our committee but the Judiciary Committee and others as well,” Schiff said.

Democrats are vowing to conduct rigorous oversight and hold the administration accountable, something they say the GOP failed to do.

“We have watched the Republican Majority abdicate it’s role of providing a check to abuses of power, and we must start holding people accountable for their actions,” a Judiciary Committee spokesman told The Hill in a statement when asked about Trump’s firing of Sessions.

Trump has repeatedly bashed Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” and his appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general has renewed fears that he wants to quash the investigation.

Trump has denied this, and called a question Friday about whether he wanted to rein in the probe a “stupid question.”

 

Source: Dems race to protect Mueller probe | TheHill