Poisoned Russian activist delivers rebuke of Putin regime in Senate testimony

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

vchal/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A Russian opposition activist who has been hospitalized twice in the last year in alleged poisonings by the Putin regime testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, in a Senate hearing aimed at establishing counter-Russia funding.

Vladimir Kara-Murza was active in working for a U.S. law passed in 2012 that bans visas and freezes assets of Russian officials involved in repression and corruption. He splits his time between Moscow and Washington as Vice Chairman for Open Russia, an organization that advocates democracy and human rights inside Russia.

In his testimony before the Senate committee on Wednesday, Kara-Murza said the U.S. needs to take a harsher stance against Russia and Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs was to make the case for a counter-Russia financial account that would help states and organizations fighting back against the Putin regime.

Kara-Murza opened his testimony by listing current issues of oppression in Russia including lack of free and fair elections, silencing independent media outlets and designating some non-profits doing work there as foreign agents or spies.

He said there are currently 100 political prisoners in Russia and, after tens of thousands of people marched through the streets in different cities across Russia over the weekend, more than 1,500 people were arrested.

Kara-Murza said he thinks the U.S. should be honest about what’s happening in Russia and not “enable corrupt or abusive behavior” and “continue to engage with Russia’s civil society.”

He said he believes Western democracies have given Putin a pass to interfere in elections because they “have not taken a principled, firm stand against Russia’s actions.”

The size of protests in Russia last week show that young people the country no longer trust Putin’s regime, he said, calling his regime “a dead end for Russia.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Russia in a few weeks and Kara-Murza noted that it will be interesting to see if Tillerson meets with opposition activists, saying it is vital to maintain lines of communication outside the Kremlin and that the U.S. has to play a role in countering propaganda.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Poisoned Russian activist delivers rebuke of Putin regime in Senate testimony

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

vchal/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A Russian opposition activist who has been hospitalized twice in the last year in alleged poisonings by the Putin regime testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, in a Senate hearing aimed at establishing counter-Russia funding.

Vladimir Kara-Murza was active in working for a U.S. law passed in 2012 that bans visas and freezes assets of Russian officials involved in repression and corruption. He splits his time between Moscow and Washington as Vice Chairman for Open Russia, an organization that advocates democracy and human rights inside Russia.

In his testimony before the Senate committee on Wednesday, Kara-Murza said the U.S. needs to take a harsher stance against Russia and Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs was to make the case for a counter-Russia financial account that would help states and organizations fighting back against the Putin regime.

Kara-Murza opened his testimony by listing current issues of oppression in Russia including lack of free and fair elections, silencing independent media outlets and designating some non-profits doing work there as foreign agents or spies.

He said there are currently 100 political prisoners in Russia and, after tens of thousands of people marched through the streets in different cities across Russia over the weekend, more than 1,500 people were arrested.

Kara-Murza said he thinks the U.S. should be honest about what’s happening in Russia and not “enable corrupt or abusive behavior” and “continue to engage with Russia’s civil society.”

He said he believes Western democracies have given Putin a pass to interfere in elections because they “have not taken a principled, firm stand against Russia’s actions.”

The size of protests in Russia last week show that young people the country no longer trust Putin’s regime, he said, calling his regime “a dead end for Russia.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Russia in a few weeks and Kara-Murza noted that it will be interesting to see if Tillerson meets with opposition activists, saying it is vital to maintain lines of communication outside the Kremlin and that the U.S. has to play a role in countering propaganda.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on 2020: ‘Go big or go home’

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Asked about the possibility of a presidential bid in 2020, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he isn’t ruling it out.

“You know my personality, go big or go home,” McAuliffe told ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on the Powerhouse Politics podcast. “I’m not thinking about it, but I never take anything off the table.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has resurfaced from a period of post-election privacy, giving speeches at events in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. this week.

But does that mean Clinton’s considering throwing her hat in the ring again in 2020? McAuliffe, who was Clinton’s campaign chair when she ran in 2008, says “Hillary’s done with elected politics.”

“She has never been quiet about the issues, nor should she be,” he said, adding that people shouldn’t “read too much into it.”

He said she is an “important voice,” but that she will join the chorus of other progressives calling for change: “There is a choir going on out there and we need all those voices.”

McAuliffe also spoke out about the prospect for bipartisan cooperation on changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare imploded in a last-minute failure to secure conservative votes. To those who wonder if Democrats might be willing to work with Trump on the second iteration, McAuliffe says, “it’s just not going to happen.”

“Let’s be clear, there is zero chance that one Democrat will work with this administration if it’s going to do anything to undermine or eliminate Obamacare,” McAuliffe said.

While there are areas where McAuliffe sees Democrats being willing to join hands with the new president — particularly on infrastructure — he says Trump has been uninterested in collaborating with Democratic governors on his policy initiatives, and that Virginia has suffered under the federal hiring freeze and the travel ban already.

“The president talks a great game on all these big issues, but then he takes the exact opposite approach,” McAuliffe said. “This man has been a one-man wrecking crew … I’m facing very steep headwinds out of Washington. Get your act together and start doing things to help people.”

Now that the GOP health care bill is off the table, McAuliffe said he hopes to pass Medicaid expansion in his state and that “there are no more excuses” for the Republican-led state legislature.

While he’s not happy with the current administration, McAuliffe sees a light at the end of the tunnel in 2018 and possibly in 2020.

On whether Democrats can take back the House, he said “yes they can.” He pointed to the activism that has been happening at the grassroots level around the country in the wake of Trump’s election as a potential driving force for votes swinging back in Democrats’ favor.

“I’ve never seen such energy of people coming out to say I’m going to run,” McAuliffe said. “And I’ll tell you it was the activists more than anybody — forget elected officials — who turned the course on this health care debate. These town halls that are going on across the country. Spectacular.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on 2020: ‘Go big or go home’

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Asked about the possibility of a presidential bid in 2020, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he isn’t ruling it out.

“You know my personality, go big or go home,” McAuliffe told ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on the Powerhouse Politics podcast. “I’m not thinking about it, but I never take anything off the table.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has resurfaced from a period of post-election privacy, giving speeches at events in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. this week.

But does that mean Clinton’s considering throwing her hat in the ring again in 2020? McAuliffe, who was Clinton’s campaign chair when she ran in 2008, says “Hillary’s done with elected politics.”

“She has never been quiet about the issues, nor should she be,” he said, adding that people shouldn’t “read too much into it.”

He said she is an “important voice,” but that she will join the chorus of other progressives calling for change: “There is a choir going on out there and we need all those voices.”

McAuliffe also spoke out about the prospect for bipartisan cooperation on changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare imploded in a last-minute failure to secure conservative votes. To those who wonder if Democrats might be willing to work with Trump on the second iteration, McAuliffe says, “it’s just not going to happen.”

“Let’s be clear, there is zero chance that one Democrat will work with this administration if it’s going to do anything to undermine or eliminate Obamacare,” McAuliffe said.

While there are areas where McAuliffe sees Democrats being willing to join hands with the new president — particularly on infrastructure — he says Trump has been uninterested in collaborating with Democratic governors on his policy initiatives, and that Virginia has suffered under the federal hiring freeze and the travel ban already.

“The president talks a great game on all these big issues, but then he takes the exact opposite approach,” McAuliffe said. “This man has been a one-man wrecking crew … I’m facing very steep headwinds out of Washington. Get your act together and start doing things to help people.”

Now that the GOP health care bill is off the table, McAuliffe said he hopes to pass Medicaid expansion in his state and that “there are no more excuses” for the Republican-led state legislature.

While he’s not happy with the current administration, McAuliffe sees a light at the end of the tunnel in 2018 and possibly in 2020.

On whether Democrats can take back the House, he said “yes they can.” He pointed to the activism that has been happening at the grassroots level around the country in the wake of Trump’s election as a potential driving force for votes swinging back in Democrats’ favor.

“I’ve never seen such energy of people coming out to say I’m going to run,” McAuliffe said. “And I’ll tell you it was the activists more than anybody — forget elected officials — who turned the course on this health care debate. These town halls that are going on across the country. Spectacular.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

State Department employee concealed ‘extensive’ contacts with Chinese intelligence agents, officials say

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

InterestingLight/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A State Department employee with Top Secret clearance allegedly made unreported contacts with Chinese intelligence officials and accepted thousands of dollars in “gifts and benefits,” the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, was arrested Tuesday and charged with “obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements in connection with her alleged concealment and failure to report her improper connections to foreign contacts along with the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits they provided,” according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, of the District of Columbia.

“Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord in a statement.

Claiborne, who has been working for the agency since 1999, was arrested on March 28. She pleaded not guilty at a court appearance this afternoon.

Another court hearing was set for April 18.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

State Department employee concealed ‘extensive’ contacts with Chinese intelligence agents, officials say

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

InterestingLight/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A State Department employee with Top Secret clearance allegedly made unreported contacts with Chinese intelligence officials and accepted thousands of dollars in “gifts and benefits,” the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, was arrested Tuesday and charged with “obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements in connection with her alleged concealment and failure to report her improper connections to foreign contacts along with the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits they provided,” according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, of the District of Columbia.

“Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord in a statement.

Claiborne, who has been working for the agency since 1999, was arrested on March 28. She pleaded not guilty at a court appearance this afternoon.

Another court hearing was set for April 18.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ivanka Trump taking formal role in administration amid ethics concerns

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, announced today that she will take an official position in her father’s administration, according to a statement.

This comes as her unofficial role has grown in recent weeks, and she was granted security clearance and a West Wing office, drawing scrutiny from some.

Ivanka Trump will be a special assistant to the president but will not take a salary, she said in a statement first reported by The New York Times.

How first daughter Ivanka Trump’s role at the White House has grown

“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” she said in a statement today.

“Throughout this process, I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role.”

She is not the only family member in her household to have a title — Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president.

The White House released its own statement about the title bump, saying that it is “pleased” by the move.

“Ivanka’s service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency, and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously,” the White House statement reads.

When her increased security clearance and West Wing office were announced, Ivanka Trump acknowledged that “there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president.”

The official title makes her existing role more formalized, though she has been no stranger to the White House. She has been present for family events — like the various inauguration celebrations — as well as closed-door meetings and sit-downs with foreign leaders.

In February, she met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, where they were part of a roundtable discussion on female entrepreneurs, and she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House earlier this month, Ivanka Trump was seated right beside her.

Ivanka Trump’s involvement in business roundtable discussions could be attributed to her business background at her namesake fashion label and her father’s real estate empire, but she has also had a say in other causes that she is passionate about. When Donald Trump held a listening session about domestic and international human trafficking on Feb. 23, he started his remarks by thanking Ivanka Trump and then–senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell “for working so hard to set this up.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ivanka Trump taking formal role in administration amid ethics concerns

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, announced today that she will take an official position in her father’s administration, according to a statement.

This comes as her unofficial role has grown in recent weeks, and she was granted security clearance and a West Wing office, drawing scrutiny from some.

Ivanka Trump will be a special assistant to the president but will not take a salary, she said in a statement first reported by The New York Times.

How first daughter Ivanka Trump’s role at the White House has grown

“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” she said in a statement today.

“Throughout this process, I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role.”

She is not the only family member in her household to have a title — Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president.

The White House released its own statement about the title bump, saying that it is “pleased” by the move.

“Ivanka’s service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency, and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously,” the White House statement reads.

When her increased security clearance and West Wing office were announced, Ivanka Trump acknowledged that “there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president.”

The official title makes her existing role more formalized, though she has been no stranger to the White House. She has been present for family events — like the various inauguration celebrations — as well as closed-door meetings and sit-downs with foreign leaders.

In February, she met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, where they were part of a roundtable discussion on female entrepreneurs, and she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House earlier this month, Ivanka Trump was seated right beside her.

Ivanka Trump’s involvement in business roundtable discussions could be attributed to her business background at her namesake fashion label and her father’s real estate empire, but she has also had a say in other causes that she is passionate about. When Donald Trump held a listening session about domestic and international human trafficking on Feb. 23, he started his remarks by thanking Ivanka Trump and then–senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell “for working so hard to set this up.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Everything you need to know about former acting Attorney General Sally Yates

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by President Donald Trump back in January after a career spanning more than 27 years with the Justice Department.

Now it appears that she’s come back to haunt the Trump administration.

Yates was expected to testify on March 28 at a House Intelligence Committee open hearing as part of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Last week, committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-California, postponed the opening hearing, the same day Yates’ attorney advised the Trump administration that she would testify about internal discussions had about communications between Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Since then, reports have emerged that the Trump administration sought to block Yates’ testimony. The White House has pushed back against those reports, maintaining that it took no such action.

Here’s a look at Yates:

Name: Sally Quillian Yates (née Sally Caroline Quillian)

Family: She and her husband, Comer Yates, have a daughter, Kelley, and a son, James “Quill.” Comer Yates is the executive director of Atlanta Speech School, a school for children with hearing and learning disabilities, and is a lawyer by training. Comer Yates also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994 and 1996.

Sally Yates comes from a family of lawyers. Her father, Kelley Quillian, was a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and his father and brother were also lawyers. Her grandmother was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia, but because of the times, she did not become a lawyer.

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Age: 56 (Born Aug. 20, 1960)

Education: Sally Yates graduated from the University of Georgia in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She went on to get her law degree at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Her legal career: Sally Yates passed the State Bar of Georgia in 1986 and went to work for three years at the Atlanta office of King & Spalding, as a commercial litigation associate.

She joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta in 1989. She started as assistant U.S. attorney, working her way up to chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section from 1994 to 2002 and then first assistant U.S. attorney from 2002 to 2010.

She was the lead prosecutor in the 1996 trial of Eric Rudolph, the man convicted of the bombing at the Centennial Park during the ‘96 Olympics.

“The Rudolph case was one of the most interesting cases I’ve ever done,” she said in a 2013 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Of all the cases I’ve done, that’s the greatest example of the power of a team.”

Sally Yates became the first woman U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia when she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and held the position for almost five years.

On Jan. 8, 2015, Obama nominated Sally Yates as deputy attorney general and she was confirmed to the position on May 13, 2015.

Her high-profile firing in January

When Loretta Lynch, who become U.S. attorney general when Sally Yates became deputy, left the DOJ on Inauguration Day, Sally Yates stepped in as acting attorney general until then-Sen. Jeff Sessions would be confirmed to lead the DOJ.

Under Trump, Sally Yates’ stint as acting attorney general lasted a total of 10 days.

Sally Yates was fired on Jan. 30 after she instructed the DOJ not to defend Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order was later blocked in court.

The White House said in a statement that Sally Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement read.

In a letter to top DOJ lawyers handling the cases related to Trump’s executive order on immigration, Yates directed them to hold off from defending it.

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Sally Yates wrote.

She continued, “Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Dana Boente took over for Sally Yates after she was fired, and Sessions was confirmed on Feb. 8 as attorney general.

When she warned the White House about Flynn

When she was still acting attorney general, Sally Yates had informed White House Counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 26 that they were misled by Flynn about the nature of his calls with Kislyak before Trump took office.

Sally Yates also conveyed concerns that Russia might try to blackmail Flynn.

Flynn resigned from his position on Feb. 13.

Her exchange with then-Sen. Sessions

During her Senate confirmation hearing on March 24, 2015, Sally Yates had an interesting exchange with then-Sen. Sessions, who is now attorney general.

“Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper?” Sessions asked Sally Yates.

She replied, “Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Everything you need to know about former acting Attorney General Sally Yates

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by President Donald Trump back in January after a career spanning more than 27 years with the Justice Department.

Now it appears that she’s come back to haunt the Trump administration.

Yates was expected to testify on March 28 at a House Intelligence Committee open hearing as part of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Last week, committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-California, postponed the opening hearing, the same day Yates’ attorney advised the Trump administration that she would testify about internal discussions had about communications between Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Since then, reports have emerged that the Trump administration sought to block Yates’ testimony. The White House has pushed back against those reports, maintaining that it took no such action.

Here’s a look at Yates:

Name: Sally Quillian Yates (née Sally Caroline Quillian)

Family: She and her husband, Comer Yates, have a daughter, Kelley, and a son, James “Quill.” Comer Yates is the executive director of Atlanta Speech School, a school for children with hearing and learning disabilities, and is a lawyer by training. Comer Yates also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994 and 1996.

Sally Yates comes from a family of lawyers. Her father, Kelley Quillian, was a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and his father and brother were also lawyers. Her grandmother was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia, but because of the times, she did not become a lawyer.

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Age: 56 (Born Aug. 20, 1960)

Education: Sally Yates graduated from the University of Georgia in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She went on to get her law degree at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Her legal career: Sally Yates passed the State Bar of Georgia in 1986 and went to work for three years at the Atlanta office of King & Spalding, as a commercial litigation associate.

She joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta in 1989. She started as assistant U.S. attorney, working her way up to chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section from 1994 to 2002 and then first assistant U.S. attorney from 2002 to 2010.

She was the lead prosecutor in the 1996 trial of Eric Rudolph, the man convicted of the bombing at the Centennial Park during the ‘96 Olympics.

“The Rudolph case was one of the most interesting cases I’ve ever done,” she said in a 2013 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Of all the cases I’ve done, that’s the greatest example of the power of a team.”

Sally Yates became the first woman U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia when she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and held the position for almost five years.

On Jan. 8, 2015, Obama nominated Sally Yates as deputy attorney general and she was confirmed to the position on May 13, 2015.

Her high-profile firing in January

When Loretta Lynch, who become U.S. attorney general when Sally Yates became deputy, left the DOJ on Inauguration Day, Sally Yates stepped in as acting attorney general until then-Sen. Jeff Sessions would be confirmed to lead the DOJ.

Under Trump, Sally Yates’ stint as acting attorney general lasted a total of 10 days.

Sally Yates was fired on Jan. 30 after she instructed the DOJ not to defend Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order was later blocked in court.

The White House said in a statement that Sally Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement read.

In a letter to top DOJ lawyers handling the cases related to Trump’s executive order on immigration, Yates directed them to hold off from defending it.

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Sally Yates wrote.

She continued, “Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Dana Boente took over for Sally Yates after she was fired, and Sessions was confirmed on Feb. 8 as attorney general.

When she warned the White House about Flynn

When she was still acting attorney general, Sally Yates had informed White House Counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 26 that they were misled by Flynn about the nature of his calls with Kislyak before Trump took office.

Sally Yates also conveyed concerns that Russia might try to blackmail Flynn.

Flynn resigned from his position on Feb. 13.

Her exchange with then-Sen. Sessions

During her Senate confirmation hearing on March 24, 2015, Sally Yates had an interesting exchange with then-Sen. Sessions, who is now attorney general.

“Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper?” Sessions asked Sally Yates.

She replied, “Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Chris Christie on Nunes’ White House grounds visit: ‘Wouldn’t have been the way I would’ve done things’

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes faces growing calls to step aside from the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie admitted he didn’t agree with Nunes’ actions but said recusal is a “personal decision.”

The calls for Nunes to recuse himself began after it was revealed that he had visited the White House grounds last week to meet an unnamed source the day before publicly sharing details about surveillance that “incidentally collected” information on associates of President Donald Trump. Nunes’ prior role in Trump’s transition team has added to concerns that he can’t conduct an impartial investigation.

“Wouldn’t have been the way I would’ve done things, but I don’t know whether that means he has to recuse himself,” Christie said on Good Morning America Wednesday. “That’s a personal decision the congressman has to make on his own.”

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi as well as the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, Adam Schiff, all called for Nunes’ removal from the House investigation on Monday. Even some Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, questioned Nunes’ actions.

“That’s a very, very personal decision about what congressman Nunes thinks is best to do for him, his constituents and the good of the investigation,” Christie told GMA.

“I think we’re over blowing how much personal recusal matters,” he added. “Congressman Nunes will make his own judgment in his own time.”

Nunes said on Tuesday he has “no idea” why Democrats would call for him to step aside from the investigation.

Nunes raised eyebrows when he held an unexpected press conference on March 22 and then briefed the president — before making members of his committee aware — that information about Trump’s transition team, and possibly the president himself, had been “incidentally collected” after the election in November. Alhough Nunes maintained that the intelligence gathering was conducted legally, it prompted Trump — who claimed his predecessor, President Barack Obama, “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” — to say he felt “somewhat” vindicated.

Nunes defended himself in an interview on CNN’s The Situation Room on Monday, arguing that his visit to the White House grounds on March 21 was commonplace and part of an investigation into the unmasking of Americans in intelligence reports that began before Trump’s wiretapping claims.

“I had been working this for a long time with many different sources and needed a place that I could actually finally go because I knew what I was looking for and I could actually get access to what I needed to see,” said Nunes, adding, “It wasn’t at night … nobody was sneaking around, all it was was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information.”

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting separate investigations on any possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign, while FBI Director James Comey said his agency is leading its own inquiry into the matter.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gov. Chris Christie to work with Jared Kushner to combat opioid epidemic

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denied there was tension between him and Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Trump, as the two prepare to team up in a new White House initiative to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic, saying on Good Morning America Wednesday that they “get along just great.”

When he was the U.S. attorney of New Jersey, Christie prosecuted Kushner’s father, real estate mogul Charles Kushner, who was sentenced to prison in 2005 on 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign contributions.

Now, Christie is set to lead a new White House commission tasked with tackling opioid abuse nationwide. The commission will fall under the new White House Office of American Innovation, which President Donald Trump announced Monday. Trump appointed Kushner, his son-in-law and a senior aide, to lead the office.

When asked on GMA Wednesday morning whether things were tense with Kushner given their history, Christie replied, “not at all.”

“That stuff is ancient history,” he added. “Jared and I have worked incredibly well on this issue and, by the way, on a whole bunch of other issues during the campaign. Jared and I get along just great.”

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Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gov. Chris Christie to work with Jared Kushner to combat opioid epidemic

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denied there was tension between him and Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Trump, as the two prepare to team up in a new White House initiative to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic, saying on Good Morning America Wednesday that they “get along just great.”

When he was the U.S. attorney of New Jersey, Christie prosecuted Kushner’s father, real estate mogul Charles Kushner, who was sentenced to prison in 2005 on 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign contributions.

Now, Christie is set to lead a new White House commission tasked with tackling opioid abuse nationwide. The commission will fall under the new White House Office of American Innovation, which President Donald Trump announced Monday. Trump appointed Kushner, his son-in-law and a senior aide, to lead the office.

When asked on GMA Wednesday morning whether things were tense with Kushner given their history, Christie replied, “not at all.”

“That stuff is ancient history,” he added. “Jared and I have worked incredibly well on this issue and, by the way, on a whole bunch of other issues during the campaign. Jared and I get along just great.”

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Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What we don’t know about Nunes’ White House grounds visit

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes confirmed that he traveled to the White House last week in order to meet a source and view information related to surveillance that “incidentally collected” information about associates of President Donald Trump.

Nunes’ visit to the White House last Tuesday, his move to personally brief President Trump on the matter on Wednesday — before sharing the information with members of his committee — and his prior position as a member of Trump’s transition team have led to calls for his recusal from his post leading the House investigation into Russian interference into the presidential election.

The top Democrats on Capitol Hill: Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as the House Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Member, Adam Schiff, all called for Nunes’ removal from the probe Monday. Even some Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain questioned Nunes’ actions.

Both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Nunes himself said there would be no recusal, with Nunes saying Tuesday he has “no idea” why Democrats would call for his removal from the investigation.

Nunes has not provided the answers to a few outstanding questions about his activities:

What is in the documents Nunes viewed?

Nunes has provided limited details about the information he obtained over the course of his investigation, but said there are “dozens of reports” showing that “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition” was gathered during the course of “normal foreign surveillance.”

Last week, it was revealed that Nunes was unsure whether associates of Trump participated in the intercepted communications or whether those persons were simply mentioned or referred to by others.

The information seen by Nunes has not yet been shared with others, though the congressman said Tuesday that he hopes to share it with other members of the intelligence committee.

Who cleared Nunes into the White House?

All visitors to the White House, even members of Congress, must be cleared into the complex by someone with access to the area, such as a White House staffer. This process includes submitting personal information to Secret Service to ensure there is no security threat and to keep a record of visitors.

Nunes insisted that a secure location at the White House complex was used because the information he went to view was already available to the executive branch and not to Congress. However, this would not preclude Nunes from using a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in another location to prevent his conversations or classified information from being breached by those without access.

Who is his source?

Nunes has declined to name the person he met with at the White House complex, but told Bloomberg that it was a member of the intelligence community, not a White House staffer. This information further raises the question of why the meeting was held on the White House grounds. SCIFs are located in the offices of each intelligence agency.

Unless Nunes’ source works out of the White House complex, they too would require to be cleared to enter the grounds. However, Nunes later briefed Trump on the information provided by the source, a move that press secretary Sean Spicer said wouldn’t make sense if the information originated from the White House — seemingly indicating that the source works elsewhere.

Given that the source was not someone employed by the White House, it is possible that an additional person was involved in securing Nunes’ access to the grounds and to a SCIF. Nunes told CNN Monday that “nobody was sneaking around” and that he wasn’t hiding his presence at the White House. Spicer pushed back against suggestions at Monday’s press briefing that the administration cooperated with the representative’s actions.

What does the White House know?

On Friday, before it was publicly known that Nunes visited the grounds earlier in the week, Spicer was asked if the chairman received the documents showing “incidental collection” from the White House.

“I don’t know where he got them from,” said Spicer, who didn’t mention Nunes’ visit.

Asked again about the source of Nunes’ information on Monday, Spicer said he was unaware, adding, “I know in his public statements he’s talked about having multiple sources. And so I don’t know how he derived the conclusion that he did.”

Pressed on whether the details could have come from the White House, Spicer said “anything is possible” despite his earlier claim that the circulation of information from a White House staffer to Nunes and back to Trump wouldn’t be logical.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What we don’t know about Nunes’ White House grounds visit

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes confirmed that he traveled to the White House last week in order to meet a source and view information related to surveillance that “incidentally collected” information about associates of President Donald Trump.

Nunes’ visit to the White House last Tuesday, his move to personally brief President Trump on the matter on Wednesday — before sharing the information with members of his committee — and his prior position as a member of Trump’s transition team have led to calls for his recusal from his post leading the House investigation into Russian interference into the presidential election.

The top Democrats on Capitol Hill: Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as the House Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Member, Adam Schiff, all called for Nunes’ removal from the probe Monday. Even some Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain questioned Nunes’ actions.

Both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Nunes himself said there would be no recusal, with Nunes saying Tuesday he has “no idea” why Democrats would call for his removal from the investigation.

Nunes has not provided the answers to a few outstanding questions about his activities:

What is in the documents Nunes viewed?

Nunes has provided limited details about the information he obtained over the course of his investigation, but said there are “dozens of reports” showing that “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition” was gathered during the course of “normal foreign surveillance.”

Last week, it was revealed that Nunes was unsure whether associates of Trump participated in the intercepted communications or whether those persons were simply mentioned or referred to by others.

The information seen by Nunes has not yet been shared with others, though the congressman said Tuesday that he hopes to share it with other members of the intelligence committee.

Who cleared Nunes into the White House?

All visitors to the White House, even members of Congress, must be cleared into the complex by someone with access to the area, such as a White House staffer. This process includes submitting personal information to Secret Service to ensure there is no security threat and to keep a record of visitors.

Nunes insisted that a secure location at the White House complex was used because the information he went to view was already available to the executive branch and not to Congress. However, this would not preclude Nunes from using a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in another location to prevent his conversations or classified information from being breached by those without access.

Who is his source?

Nunes has declined to name the person he met with at the White House complex, but told Bloomberg that it was a member of the intelligence community, not a White House staffer. This information further raises the question of why the meeting was held on the White House grounds. SCIFs are located in the offices of each intelligence agency.

Unless Nunes’ source works out of the White House complex, they too would require to be cleared to enter the grounds. However, Nunes later briefed Trump on the information provided by the source, a move that press secretary Sean Spicer said wouldn’t make sense if the information originated from the White House — seemingly indicating that the source works elsewhere.

Given that the source was not someone employed by the White House, it is possible that an additional person was involved in securing Nunes’ access to the grounds and to a SCIF. Nunes told CNN Monday that “nobody was sneaking around” and that he wasn’t hiding his presence at the White House. Spicer pushed back against suggestions at Monday’s press briefing that the administration cooperated with the representative’s actions.

What does the White House know?

On Friday, before it was publicly known that Nunes visited the grounds earlier in the week, Spicer was asked if the chairman received the documents showing “incidental collection” from the White House.

“I don’t know where he got them from,” said Spicer, who didn’t mention Nunes’ visit.

Asked again about the source of Nunes’ information on Monday, Spicer said he was unaware, adding, “I know in his public statements he’s talked about having multiple sources. And so I don’t know how he derived the conclusion that he did.”

Pressed on whether the details could have come from the White House, Spicer said “anything is possible” despite his earlier claim that the circulation of information from a White House staffer to Nunes and back to Trump wouldn’t be logical.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Everything you need to know about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Over the last week, California Rep. Devin Nunes has been in the national spotlight for his actions as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

It was revealed Monday that Nunes was on White House grounds March 21 reviewing information pertaining to what he said was the legal, “incidental” collection of surveillance on President Donald Trump’s associates, and possibly Trump himself, one day before he held an impromptu news conference announcing his findings and then briefed the president.

Now, Democrats — including the ranking member on the intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California — are calling for Nunes’ recusal from the committee’s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Nunes said Tuesday he won’t step aside.

Here a look at the man leading the House Intelligence Committee:

Age: 43 (Born Oct. 1, 1973)

Family: Nunes and his wife, Elizabeth, have three daughters — Margaret, Evelyn and Julia. He and his family live in Tulare, California.

Education: Nunes holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and a master’s degree in agriculture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Life before Congress: Born and raised in California, Nunes worked on his family’s farm and raised cattle as a teen.

Before running for Congress, Nunes was appointed the California state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section by President George W. Bush in 2001.

What he does now:

Nunes currently represents California’s 22nd congressional district, which includes part of Tulare and Fresno counties.

First elected in 2002, Nunes has been serving in the House of Representatives for over 14 years.

Besides chairing the House Intelligence Committee, he also sits on the Committee on Ways and Means.

He also made headlines two years for taking on the Department of Defense regarding the building of an intelligence base in Azores, Portugal. He accused the department of misleading Congress members about the cost of building the intelligence center on the island, and the department fired back, accusing Nunes of being motivated by his ties to the Azores, a group of islands that are part of Portugal, and the Portuguese government. Nunes’ family is from the Azores, according to his biography on his website.

Chairing the House Intelligence Committee:

Nunes joined the House Intelligence Committee in 2011 and was appointed chairman by then-House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

As one of the “Gang of Eight,” Nunes is privy to top secret intelligence reports and classified information.

The committee announced on Jan. 25 that it would launch a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s cyberattacks against the U.S., any intelligence regarding links between the Russian government and campaign individuals, and any possible leaks of classified information.

His relationship with Trump:

During the 2016 primaries, Nunes withheld his endorsement of any particular candidate because he said as House Intelligence Committee chair, he wanted to remain neutral and brief all the candidates.

After Trump clinched the GOP nomination, Nunes came out in support of Trump and organized a fundraiser for the Republican nominee in August 2016.

Nunes was named to the executive committee of Trump’s transition team on Nov. 11, 2016. During the transition phase, he advised Trump on his Cabinet nominees and other top positions within the incoming administration. According to McClatchy, Nunes suggested Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary.

Nunes has been largely supportive of Trump.

However, on Dec. 9, 2015, then-candidate Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of all Muslim entry into the U.S., and the day after, Nunes told reporters that he wasn’t going to involve himself in the presidential race, but added, “I don’t think that ISIS has any trouble recruiting, but the comments clearly are not helpful.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Everything you need to know about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Over the last week, California Rep. Devin Nunes has been in the national spotlight for his actions as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

It was revealed Monday that Nunes was on White House grounds March 21 reviewing information pertaining to what he said was the legal, “incidental” collection of surveillance on President Donald Trump’s associates, and possibly Trump himself, one day before he held an impromptu news conference announcing his findings and then briefed the president.

Now, Democrats — including the ranking member on the intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California — are calling for Nunes’ recusal from the committee’s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Nunes said Tuesday he won’t step aside.

Here a look at the man leading the House Intelligence Committee:

Age: 43 (Born Oct. 1, 1973)

Family: Nunes and his wife, Elizabeth, have three daughters — Margaret, Evelyn and Julia. He and his family live in Tulare, California.

Education: Nunes holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and a master’s degree in agriculture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Life before Congress: Born and raised in California, Nunes worked on his family’s farm and raised cattle as a teen.

Before running for Congress, Nunes was appointed the California state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section by President George W. Bush in 2001.

What he does now:

Nunes currently represents California’s 22nd congressional district, which includes part of Tulare and Fresno counties.

First elected in 2002, Nunes has been serving in the House of Representatives for over 14 years.

Besides chairing the House Intelligence Committee, he also sits on the Committee on Ways and Means.

He also made headlines two years for taking on the Department of Defense regarding the building of an intelligence base in Azores, Portugal. He accused the department of misleading Congress members about the cost of building the intelligence center on the island, and the department fired back, accusing Nunes of being motivated by his ties to the Azores, a group of islands that are part of Portugal, and the Portuguese government. Nunes’ family is from the Azores, according to his biography on his website.

Chairing the House Intelligence Committee:

Nunes joined the House Intelligence Committee in 2011 and was appointed chairman by then-House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

As one of the “Gang of Eight,” Nunes is privy to top secret intelligence reports and classified information.

The committee announced on Jan. 25 that it would launch a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s cyberattacks against the U.S., any intelligence regarding links between the Russian government and campaign individuals, and any possible leaks of classified information.

His relationship with Trump:

During the 2016 primaries, Nunes withheld his endorsement of any particular candidate because he said as House Intelligence Committee chair, he wanted to remain neutral and brief all the candidates.

After Trump clinched the GOP nomination, Nunes came out in support of Trump and organized a fundraiser for the Republican nominee in August 2016.

Nunes was named to the executive committee of Trump’s transition team on Nov. 11, 2016. During the transition phase, he advised Trump on his Cabinet nominees and other top positions within the incoming administration. According to McClatchy, Nunes suggested Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary.

Nunes has been largely supportive of Trump.

However, on Dec. 9, 2015, then-candidate Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of all Muslim entry into the U.S., and the day after, Nunes told reporters that he wasn’t going to involve himself in the presidential race, but added, “I don’t think that ISIS has any trouble recruiting, but the comments clearly are not helpful.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump admin wanted to curtail former AG’s Russia testimony, lawyer alleges

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee postponed a hearing featuring former acting Attorney General Sally Yates after her lawyer advised the Trump administration that she was planning to testify about internal discussions about Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and his communications with a Russian diplomat, ABC News has learned.

Any claim that those internal discussions are still confidential “has been waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials,” David O’Neil, an attorney for Yates, wrote in a letter to the White House on Friday — the same day that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced that his committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, would no longer hear planned testimony this week from Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The White House has denied taking any action to prevent that testimony.

“I hope she testifies. I look forward to it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. “We had no objection to her going forward … To suggest in any way, shape or form that we stood in the way of that is 100 percent false.”

Flynn resigned from the Trump administration last month after acknowledging that he gave “incomplete information” to Vice President Mike Pence and others about multiple calls with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the days before Trump took office.

Pence repeated the false information when asked about the situation in January, prompting Yates to inform the White House that Flynn may have misled Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Kislyak.

In her testimony slated for Tuesday, Yates was expected to offer a firsthand account of her discussions with the White House in January.

On Thursday, O’Neil met with attorneys at the Justice Department to discuss — among other things — whether Yates was barred from testifying about certain details of those discussions. But the next morning, the Justice Department sent a letter to O’Neil, telling him any final determination rests with the White House.

“Such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The president owns those privileges. Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence], she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department,” a Justice Department official wrote to O’Neil on Friday.

O’Neil then wrote his letter to the White House, insisting any claim of executive privilege had been waived “as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications. Nevertheless, I am advising the White House of Ms. Yates’ intention to provide information.”

The White House never responded to his letter — which he wrote would be taken as a green light for Yates to move forward.

“We didn’t respond. We encouraged them to go ahead,” Spicer said, adding that the White House never considered invoking executive privilege to block her testimony.

Spicer also insisted that Nunes’ decision to call off Tuesday’s hearing had nothing to do with any pressure from the White House. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, similarly denied any coordination between the committee and White House over Yates’ testimony.

“Neither Chairman Nunes nor any Intelligence Committee staff members had any communication with the White House whatsoever about Sally Yates’ testifying to the committee,” Langer said in a statement. “The only person the committee has spoken to about her appearing before the committee has been her lawyer. The committee asked her to testify on our own accord, and we still intend to have her speak to us.”

The Washington Post first reported on the letters between O’Neil and the Trump administration.

Yates, an Obama administration appointee, was fired by Trump on Jan. 30 after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend his controversial executive order limiting travel and immigration from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Nunes and the congressional inquiry he’s leading into alleged Russian interference have come under increasing criticism in recent days, after he first claimed he had discovered “concerning” evidence that the Trump campaign was monitored after the election.

Last week, Nunes announced he obtained “dozens of reports” showing the U.S. intelligence community — through its “normal foreign surveillance” — “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

But Nunes cannot say whether Trump or any of the president’s associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted, meaning it’s possible that the information he’s citing merely refers to foreign officials talking about Trump transition team members. Nunes has yet to share the information with other members of the House Intelligence Committee or further explain what it shows.

On Monday, without identifying his source, Nunes acknowledged he obtained the information while on White House grounds, an admission Democrats said should force him to at least recuse himself from the committee probe tied to Russia.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump admin wanted to curtail former AG’s Russia testimony, lawyer alleges

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee postponed a hearing featuring former acting Attorney General Sally Yates after her lawyer advised the Trump administration that she was planning to testify about internal discussions about Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and his communications with a Russian diplomat, ABC News has learned.

Any claim that those internal discussions are still confidential “has been waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials,” David O’Neil, an attorney for Yates, wrote in a letter to the White House on Friday — the same day that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced that his committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, would no longer hear planned testimony this week from Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The White House has denied taking any action to prevent that testimony.

“I hope she testifies. I look forward to it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. “We had no objection to her going forward … To suggest in any way, shape or form that we stood in the way of that is 100 percent false.”

Flynn resigned from the Trump administration last month after acknowledging that he gave “incomplete information” to Vice President Mike Pence and others about multiple calls with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the days before Trump took office.

Pence repeated the false information when asked about the situation in January, prompting Yates to inform the White House that Flynn may have misled Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Kislyak.

In her testimony slated for Tuesday, Yates was expected to offer a firsthand account of her discussions with the White House in January.

On Thursday, O’Neil met with attorneys at the Justice Department to discuss — among other things — whether Yates was barred from testifying about certain details of those discussions. But the next morning, the Justice Department sent a letter to O’Neil, telling him any final determination rests with the White House.

“Such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The president owns those privileges. Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence], she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department,” a Justice Department official wrote to O’Neil on Friday.

O’Neil then wrote his letter to the White House, insisting any claim of executive privilege had been waived “as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications. Nevertheless, I am advising the White House of Ms. Yates’ intention to provide information.”

The White House never responded to his letter — which he wrote would be taken as a green light for Yates to move forward.

“We didn’t respond. We encouraged them to go ahead,” Spicer said, adding that the White House never considered invoking executive privilege to block her testimony.

Spicer also insisted that Nunes’ decision to call off Tuesday’s hearing had nothing to do with any pressure from the White House. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, similarly denied any coordination between the committee and White House over Yates’ testimony.

“Neither Chairman Nunes nor any Intelligence Committee staff members had any communication with the White House whatsoever about Sally Yates’ testifying to the committee,” Langer said in a statement. “The only person the committee has spoken to about her appearing before the committee has been her lawyer. The committee asked her to testify on our own accord, and we still intend to have her speak to us.”

The Washington Post first reported on the letters between O’Neil and the Trump administration.

Yates, an Obama administration appointee, was fired by Trump on Jan. 30 after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend his controversial executive order limiting travel and immigration from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Nunes and the congressional inquiry he’s leading into alleged Russian interference have come under increasing criticism in recent days, after he first claimed he had discovered “concerning” evidence that the Trump campaign was monitored after the election.

Last week, Nunes announced he obtained “dozens of reports” showing the U.S. intelligence community — through its “normal foreign surveillance” — “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

But Nunes cannot say whether Trump or any of the president’s associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted, meaning it’s possible that the information he’s citing merely refers to foreign officials talking about Trump transition team members. Nunes has yet to share the information with other members of the House Intelligence Committee or further explain what it shows.

On Monday, without identifying his source, Nunes acknowledged he obtained the information while on White House grounds, an admission Democrats said should force him to at least recuse himself from the committee probe tied to Russia.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Trump signs executive order rescinding Obama’s clean energy plans

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Trump made a trip to the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to sign an executive order that initiates a review of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and unravels a handful of other energy orders and memorandums instituted by his predecessor.

Flanked by coal miners, Vice President Mike Pence and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Trump signed the “Energy Independence Executive Order,” declaring the effort is “all about bringing back our jobs.”

The Clean Power Plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted from power plants. The White House argues that the regulation, and others sanctioned by former President Barack Obama, are burdensome to the American economy.

“The president’s been very clear, he’s not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the American economy at risk,” said a senior Trump administration official Monday evening. Asked whether climate change poses its own long-term threat to the economy, the official said he was not familiar with research drawing such a conclusion.

A widely-cited 2006 study on the economics of climate change by Nicholas Brown, the former Chief Economist at the World Bank, surmises that inaction on the issue and its effect on “access to water, food production, health, and the environment” could result in the “equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever.” Brown notes that “estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more.”

The White House official made the case that the previous administration “devalued American workers” with its energy policies and that the Trump administration seeks to put the interests of American worker front and center.

“[The president] believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment — providing clean air, clean water, getting EPA back to its core mission, while at the same time … [protecting] energy production in the U.S.,” the official said.

Upon the Clean Power Plan’s signing in 2015, President Obama called it “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change,” but the law isn’t currently enforced. In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the law pending judicial review.

Attorneys general from 28 states — led by EPA Administrator Pruitt, then Oklahoma’s attorney general — claimed in a joint complaint that the plan presents too broad an interpretation of the 1963 Clean Air Act, originally designed to restrain air pollution across the country.

One group in particular that stands to benefit from the relaxing of power plant emissions limits: coal miners.

“We love our coal miners, great people,” the president said at the signing of the executive order Tuesday. “I made them this promise: we will put our miners back to work.”

“Today, I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said.

Trump added, “We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”

The new order specifically rescinds an Obama-era coal moratorium and orders a review of regulations affecting methane.

But some in the coal industry are uncertain that scrapping the Clean Power Plan will have any positive effect on coal industry jobs, which have steadily declined over the last three decades — cut in half from more than 186,000 to more than 98,000 between 1985 and 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I think to err on the side of caution is always very worthy and for [President Trump] not to over promise,” Bill Raney, president of West Virginia Friends of Coal told ABC News. Raney was encouraged by Trump’s embrace of the coal industry but cautioned, “No one has a feel for what the numbers are going to be.”

Tuesday’s executive order does not address the Paris Agreement, a 2015 United Nations plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2020, which the U.S. signed.

The official who commented upon the order said the administration’s stance on the Paris Agreement is still under discussion.

Exactly how the Clean Power Plan will affect the Paris Climate Agreement is “unknowable,” Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard University told ABC News.

“As a formal matter, we cannot really withdraw from Paris for about two years,” said Lazarus.

He said that rolling back the Clean Power Plan “affects our standing in the world as a leader in climate change issues and we’ll have to see what the other countries do,” adding that China might welcome the United States’ withdrawal since it would provide them an opportunity to lead the global issue and take the charge on clean technology innovations.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Trump signs executive order rescinding Obama’s clean energy plans

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Trump made a trip to the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to sign an executive order that initiates a review of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and unravels a handful of other energy orders and memorandums instituted by his predecessor.

Flanked by coal miners, Vice President Mike Pence and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Trump signed the “Energy Independence Executive Order,” declaring the effort is “all about bringing back our jobs.”

The Clean Power Plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted from power plants. The White House argues that the regulation, and others sanctioned by former President Barack Obama, are burdensome to the American economy.

“The president’s been very clear, he’s not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the American economy at risk,” said a senior Trump administration official Monday evening. Asked whether climate change poses its own long-term threat to the economy, the official said he was not familiar with research drawing such a conclusion.

A widely-cited 2006 study on the economics of climate change by Nicholas Brown, the former Chief Economist at the World Bank, surmises that inaction on the issue and its effect on “access to water, food production, health, and the environment” could result in the “equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever.” Brown notes that “estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more.”

The White House official made the case that the previous administration “devalued American workers” with its energy policies and that the Trump administration seeks to put the interests of American worker front and center.

“[The president] believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment — providing clean air, clean water, getting EPA back to its core mission, while at the same time … [protecting] energy production in the U.S.,” the official said.

Upon the Clean Power Plan’s signing in 2015, President Obama called it “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change,” but the law isn’t currently enforced. In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the law pending judicial review.

Attorneys general from 28 states — led by EPA Administrator Pruitt, then Oklahoma’s attorney general — claimed in a joint complaint that the plan presents too broad an interpretation of the 1963 Clean Air Act, originally designed to restrain air pollution across the country.

One group in particular that stands to benefit from the relaxing of power plant emissions limits: coal miners.

“We love our coal miners, great people,” the president said at the signing of the executive order Tuesday. “I made them this promise: we will put our miners back to work.”

“Today, I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said.

Trump added, “We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”

The new order specifically rescinds an Obama-era coal moratorium and orders a review of regulations affecting methane.

But some in the coal industry are uncertain that scrapping the Clean Power Plan will have any positive effect on coal industry jobs, which have steadily declined over the last three decades — cut in half from more than 186,000 to more than 98,000 between 1985 and 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I think to err on the side of caution is always very worthy and for [President Trump] not to over promise,” Bill Raney, president of West Virginia Friends of Coal told ABC News. Raney was encouraged by Trump’s embrace of the coal industry but cautioned, “No one has a feel for what the numbers are going to be.”

Tuesday’s executive order does not address the Paris Agreement, a 2015 United Nations plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2020, which the U.S. signed.

The official who commented upon the order said the administration’s stance on the Paris Agreement is still under discussion.

Exactly how the Clean Power Plan will affect the Paris Climate Agreement is “unknowable,” Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard University told ABC News.

“As a formal matter, we cannot really withdraw from Paris for about two years,” said Lazarus.

He said that rolling back the Clean Power Plan “affects our standing in the world as a leader in climate change issues and we’ll have to see what the other countries do,” adding that China might welcome the United States’ withdrawal since it would provide them an opportunity to lead the global issue and take the charge on clean technology innovations.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

House Intel Hearing Canceled After Trump Admin Advised of Planned Testimony

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee canceled a hearing featuring former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after her lawyer advised the Trump administration that she was planning to testify about internal discussions about Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and his communications with a Russian diplomat, ABC News has learned.

Any claim that those internal discussions are still confidential “has been waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials,” an attorney for Yates, David O’Neill, wrote in a letter to the White House on Friday — the same day that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced that his committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, would no longer hear planned testimony this week from Yates, former CIA director John Brennan or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The White House has denied taking any action to prevent that testimony.

Flynn resigned from the Trump administration last month, after acknowledging that he gave “incomplete information” to Vice President Mike Pence and others about multiple calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the days before President Trump took office.

Pence unknowingly repeated the false information when asked about the situation in January, prompting Yates to inform the White House that Flynn may have misled Pence and other senior officials about his communications with the ambassador.

In her testimony slated for Tuesday, Yates was expected to offer a first-hand account of her discussions with the White House in January.

On Thursday, O’Neil met with attorneys at the Justice Department to discuss — among other things — whether Yates was barred from testifying about certain details of those discussion. But the next morning, the Justice Department sent a letter to O’Neil, telling him any final determination rests with the White House.

“Such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The President owns those privileges. Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to HPSCI, she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department,” a Justice Department official wrote O’Neil on Friday.

O’Neil then wrote the letter to the White House, insisting any claim of executive privilege had been waived “as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications. Nevertheless, I am advising the White House of Ms. Yates’ intention to provide information.”

It’s unclear whether the White House ever responded to O’Neil’s letter, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

But in a statement to ABC News, the White House insisted it “has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible.”

And a spokesman for Nunes denied any coordination between the committee and White House over Yates’ testimony.

“Neither Chairman Nunes nor any Intelligence Committee staff members had any communication with the White House whatsoever about Sally Yates testifying to the Committee,” spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement. “The only person the Committee has spoken to about her appearing before the Committee has been her lawyer. The Committee asked her to testify on our own accord and we still intend to have her speak to us.”

Yates, an Obama administration appointee, was fired by President Trump on Jan. 30 after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend his controversial executive order limiting travel and immigration from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Nunes and the congressional inquiry he’s leading into alleged Russian interference have come under increasing criticism in recent days, after Nunes first claimed he had discovered “concerning” evidence that the Trump campaign was monitored after the election but then backtracked.

Last week, Nunes announced he obtained “dozens of reports” showing the U.S. intelligence community — through its “normal foreign surveillance” — “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

But Nunes cannot say whether Trump or any of the president’s associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted, meaning it’s possible that the information he’s citing merely refers to foreign officials talking about Trump transition team members. Nunes has yet to share the information with other members of the House Intelligence Committee or further explain what it shows.

On Monday, without identifying his source, Nunes acknowledged he obtained the information while on White House grounds, an admission Democrats said should force Nunes to at least recuse himself from the committee probe tied to Russia.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

House Intel Hearing Canceled After Trump Admin Advised of Planned Testimony

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee canceled a hearing featuring former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after her lawyer advised the Trump administration that she was planning to testify about internal discussions about Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and his communications with a Russian diplomat, ABC News has learned.

Any claim that those internal discussions are still confidential “has been waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials,” an attorney for Yates, David O’Neill, wrote in a letter to the White House on Friday — the same day that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced that his committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, would no longer hear planned testimony this week from Yates, former CIA director John Brennan or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The White House has denied taking any action to prevent that testimony.

Flynn resigned from the Trump administration last month, after acknowledging that he gave “incomplete information” to Vice President Mike Pence and others about multiple calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the days before President Trump took office.

Pence unknowingly repeated the false information when asked about the situation in January, prompting Yates to inform the White House that Flynn may have misled Pence and other senior officials about his communications with the ambassador.

In her testimony slated for Tuesday, Yates was expected to offer a first-hand account of her discussions with the White House in January.

On Thursday, O’Neil met with attorneys at the Justice Department to discuss — among other things — whether Yates was barred from testifying about certain details of those discussion. But the next morning, the Justice Department sent a letter to O’Neil, telling him any final determination rests with the White House.

“Such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The President owns those privileges. Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to HPSCI, she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department,” a Justice Department official wrote O’Neil on Friday.

O’Neil then wrote the letter to the White House, insisting any claim of executive privilege had been waived “as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications. Nevertheless, I am advising the White House of Ms. Yates’ intention to provide information.”

It’s unclear whether the White House ever responded to O’Neil’s letter, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

But in a statement to ABC News, the White House insisted it “has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible.”

And a spokesman for Nunes denied any coordination between the committee and White House over Yates’ testimony.

“Neither Chairman Nunes nor any Intelligence Committee staff members had any communication with the White House whatsoever about Sally Yates testifying to the Committee,” spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement. “The only person the Committee has spoken to about her appearing before the Committee has been her lawyer. The Committee asked her to testify on our own accord and we still intend to have her speak to us.”

Yates, an Obama administration appointee, was fired by President Trump on Jan. 30 after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend his controversial executive order limiting travel and immigration from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Nunes and the congressional inquiry he’s leading into alleged Russian interference have come under increasing criticism in recent days, after Nunes first claimed he had discovered “concerning” evidence that the Trump campaign was monitored after the election but then backtracked.

Last week, Nunes announced he obtained “dozens of reports” showing the U.S. intelligence community — through its “normal foreign surveillance” — “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

But Nunes cannot say whether Trump or any of the president’s associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted, meaning it’s possible that the information he’s citing merely refers to foreign officials talking about Trump transition team members. Nunes has yet to share the information with other members of the House Intelligence Committee or further explain what it shows.

On Monday, without identifying his source, Nunes acknowledged he obtained the information while on White House grounds, an admission Democrats said should force Nunes to at least recuse himself from the committee probe tied to Russia.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Paul Ryan: Devin Nunes shouldn’t recuse himself from Russia investigation

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday reiterated his solidarity with Rep. Devin Nunes, saying he should not recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

When asked Tuesday whether he thought Nunes should recuse himself and whether he knows the source of Nunes’ information on alleged incidental collection of information from the Trump presidential campaign, Ryan said simply, “No and no.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Paul Ryan: Devin Nunes shouldn’t recuse himself from Russia investigation

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday reiterated his solidarity with Rep. Devin Nunes, saying he should not recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

When asked Tuesday whether he thought Nunes should recuse himself and whether he knows the source of Nunes’ information on alleged incidental collection of information from the Trump presidential campaign, Ryan said simply, “No and no.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Trump to order review of Clean Power Plan

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Trump is set to make a trip to the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to sign an executive order that will “initiate a review” of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and unravel a handful of other energy orders and memorandums instituted by his predecessor.

The Clean Power Plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted from power plants. The White House argues that the regulation, and others sanctioned by former President Barack Obama, are burdensome to the American economy.

“The president’s been very clear, he’s not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the American economy at risk,” said a senior Trump administration official Monday evening. Asked whether climate change poses its own long-term threat to the economy, the official said he was not familiar with research drawing such a conclusion.

A widely-cited 2006 study on the economics of climate change by Nicholas Brown, the former Chief Economist at the World Bank, surmises that inaction on the issue and its effect on “access to water, food production, health, and the environment” could result in the “equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever.” Brown notes that “estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more.”

The White House official made the case that the previous administration “devalued American workers” with its energy policies and that the Trump administration seeks to put the interests of American worker front and center.

“[The president] believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment — providing clean air, clean water, getting EPA back to its core mission, while at the same time… [protecting] energy production in the U.S.,” the official said.

Upon the Clean Power Plan’s signing in 2015, President Obama called it “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change,” but the law isn’t currently being enforced. In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the law pending judicial review.

Attorneys general from 28 states — led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, then Oklahoma’s attorney general — joined together to claim that the plan presents too broad an interpretation of the 1963 Clean Air Act, originally designed to restrain air pollution across the country.

One group in particular that stands to benefit from the relaxing of power plant emissions limits: coal miners.

“[President Trump] made a pledge to the coal industry and he’s going to do whatever he can to help those workers,” said the White House official. The order will specifically rescind an Obama-era coal moratorium and will order a review of regulations affecting methane.

On Saturday at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, Vice President Mike Pence promised to bring back jobs to the region, saying, “We’re going to get Washington out of the way of energy producers and coal miners, because energy means growth for America, and President Trump digs coal.”

But some in the coal industry are uncertain that scrapping the Clean Power Plan will have any positive effect on coal industry jobs, which have steadily declined over the last three decades — having halved from over 186,000 to over 98,000 from 1985 to 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I think to err on the side of caution is always very worthy and for [President Trump] not to over promise,” Bill Raney, president of West Virginia Friends of Coal told ABC News. Raney was encouraged about Trump’s embrace of the coal industry but cautioned, “No one has a feel for what the numbers are going to be.”

Tuesday’s executive order will not address the Paris Agreement, a 2015 United Nations plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2020, of which the U.S. is a signatory. The official who commented upon the order said the administration’s stance on the Paris Agreement is still under discussion.

Exactly how the Clean Power Plan will affect the Paris Climate Agreement is “unknowable,” Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard University told ABC News.

“As a formal matter, we cannot really withdraw from Paris for about two years,” said Lazarus. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan “affects our standing in the world as a leader in climate change issues and we’ll have to see what the other countries do,” he said, adding that China might welcome the United States’ withdrawal as it would provide the country with an opportunity to take leadership on a global issue and take the charge on clean technology innovations.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Trump to order review of Clean Power Plan

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Trump is set to make a trip to the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to sign an executive order that will “initiate a review” of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and unravel a handful of other energy orders and memorandums instituted by his predecessor.

The Clean Power Plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted from power plants. The White House argues that the regulation, and others sanctioned by former President Barack Obama, are burdensome to the American economy.

“The president’s been very clear, he’s not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the American economy at risk,” said a senior Trump administration official Monday evening. Asked whether climate change poses its own long-term threat to the economy, the official said he was not familiar with research drawing such a conclusion.

A widely-cited 2006 study on the economics of climate change by Nicholas Brown, the former Chief Economist at the World Bank, surmises that inaction on the issue and its effect on “access to water, food production, health, and the environment” could result in the “equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever.” Brown notes that “estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more.”

The White House official made the case that the previous administration “devalued American workers” with its energy policies and that the Trump administration seeks to put the interests of American worker front and center.

“[The president] believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment — providing clean air, clean water, getting EPA back to its core mission, while at the same time… [protecting] energy production in the U.S.,” the official said.

Upon the Clean Power Plan’s signing in 2015, President Obama called it “the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change,” but the law isn’t currently being enforced. In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the law pending judicial review.

Attorneys general from 28 states — led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, then Oklahoma’s attorney general — joined together to claim that the plan presents too broad an interpretation of the 1963 Clean Air Act, originally designed to restrain air pollution across the country.

One group in particular that stands to benefit from the relaxing of power plant emissions limits: coal miners.

“[President Trump] made a pledge to the coal industry and he’s going to do whatever he can to help those workers,” said the White House official. The order will specifically rescind an Obama-era coal moratorium and will order a review of regulations affecting methane.

On Saturday at a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, Vice President Mike Pence promised to bring back jobs to the region, saying, “We’re going to get Washington out of the way of energy producers and coal miners, because energy means growth for America, and President Trump digs coal.”

But some in the coal industry are uncertain that scrapping the Clean Power Plan will have any positive effect on coal industry jobs, which have steadily declined over the last three decades — having halved from over 186,000 to over 98,000 from 1985 to 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I think to err on the side of caution is always very worthy and for [President Trump] not to over promise,” Bill Raney, president of West Virginia Friends of Coal told ABC News. Raney was encouraged about Trump’s embrace of the coal industry but cautioned, “No one has a feel for what the numbers are going to be.”

Tuesday’s executive order will not address the Paris Agreement, a 2015 United Nations plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2020, of which the U.S. is a signatory. The official who commented upon the order said the administration’s stance on the Paris Agreement is still under discussion.

Exactly how the Clean Power Plan will affect the Paris Climate Agreement is “unknowable,” Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard University told ABC News.

“As a formal matter, we cannot really withdraw from Paris for about two years,” said Lazarus. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan “affects our standing in the world as a leader in climate change issues and we’ll have to see what the other countries do,” he said, adding that China might welcome the United States’ withdrawal as it would provide the country with an opportunity to take leadership on a global issue and take the charge on clean technology innovations.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

House intel chair won’t step aside in Russia investigation, despite growing calls

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will not step aside from his committee’s Russia investigation, according to a spokesman, despite a growing chorus of lawmakers calling on him to do so.

The calls for recusal come after it surfaced that Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team executive committee, visited the White House grounds last week to meet a source the day before publicly sharing details about surveillance that “inadvertently collected” information on associates of President Donald Trump.

Leading the calls for Nunes to step aside in the probe was his Democratic counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“I believe that the chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation, as well as any involvement in oversight of matters pertaining to any incidental collection of the Trump transition, as he was also a key member of the transition team,” said Schiff in a statement Monday.

“This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the chairman and I have worked together well for several years; and I take this step with the knowledge of the solemn responsibility we have on the Intelligence Committee to provide oversight on all intelligence matters, not just to conduct the investigation.”

Pelosi said Nunes “has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the Country. Chairman Nunes’ discredited behavior has tarnished that office.” Last week, she called Nunes a “stooge of the president” and said he was “deeply compromised and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation.”

And earlier in the day, Schumer became the highest-profile Democrat to call for Nunes’ resignation while speaking on the Senate floor.

“If Speaker [Paul] Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes,” said Schumer.

Nunes raised eyebrows when he held a press conference and then briefed the president, without making members of his committee aware, that members of the Trump transition team, and possibly the president himself, had been “incidentally” after the election. Though he maintained that the intelligence gathering was conducted legally, it prompted Trump, who claimed President Barack Obama ‘”had my ‘wires tapped'” Trump Tower, to say he felt “somewhat” vindicated.

In an interview on CNN’s The Situation Room, Nunes argued that the visit to the White House grounds was commonplace and part of an investigation into the unmasking of Americans in intelligence reports that began before Trump’s wiretapping claims.

“I had been working this for a long time with many different sources and needed a place that I could actually finally go because I knew what I was looking for and I could actually get access to what I needed to see,” said Nunes, adding later, “It wasn’t at night … nobody was sneaking around, all it was was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information.”

Asked whether he could’ve used a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at a different location to view the materials and avoid the appearance of impropriety that accompanied his White House trip, Nunes said he could not because Congress had “not been given this information.” SCIFs are specifically used to view or discuss classified information in surroundings that are otherwise unsecured.

On the Republican side, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., had questions of their own.

“I just think he needs to explain what he did, who he talked to,” said Graham. “Schiff to me is talking more like a prosecutor and Nunes has been acting like a defense attorney. The bottom line is, we’re hoping they can put it together in the House. We hope they can get back on track.”

McCain said he “honestly [doesn’t] know what to make of” the situation with Nunes, but said he wants to know, “What brought him to the White House? Who did he see? What was the information? Just a few complicated questions like that.”

After first noting the incidental collection of information about Trump associates last week to the press, and then briefing the president on the matter, Nunes apologized for not consulting the Intelligence Committee first. Nunes said he made the decision to go public first in the midst of a busy day and that it was a “judgment call.”

On Friday, a spokesman for Nunes walked back some of his comments, telling ABC News that the congressman doesn’t know “for sure” if the Trump associates cited were directly surveilled.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

House intel chair won’t step aside in Russia investigation, despite growing calls

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will not step aside from his committee’s Russia investigation, according to a spokesman, despite a growing chorus of lawmakers calling on him to do so.

The calls for recusal come after it surfaced that Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team executive committee, visited the White House grounds last week to meet a source the day before publicly sharing details about surveillance that “inadvertently collected” information on associates of President Donald Trump.

Leading the calls for Nunes to step aside in the probe was his Democratic counterpart on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“I believe that the chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation, as well as any involvement in oversight of matters pertaining to any incidental collection of the Trump transition, as he was also a key member of the transition team,” said Schiff in a statement Monday.

“This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the chairman and I have worked together well for several years; and I take this step with the knowledge of the solemn responsibility we have on the Intelligence Committee to provide oversight on all intelligence matters, not just to conduct the investigation.”

Pelosi said Nunes “has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the Country. Chairman Nunes’ discredited behavior has tarnished that office.” Last week, she called Nunes a “stooge of the president” and said he was “deeply compromised and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation.”

And earlier in the day, Schumer became the highest-profile Democrat to call for Nunes’ resignation while speaking on the Senate floor.

“If Speaker [Paul] Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes,” said Schumer.

Nunes raised eyebrows when he held a press conference and then briefed the president, without making members of his committee aware, that members of the Trump transition team, and possibly the president himself, had been “incidentally” after the election. Though he maintained that the intelligence gathering was conducted legally, it prompted Trump, who claimed President Barack Obama ‘”had my ‘wires tapped'” Trump Tower, to say he felt “somewhat” vindicated.

In an interview on CNN’s The Situation Room, Nunes argued that the visit to the White House grounds was commonplace and part of an investigation into the unmasking of Americans in intelligence reports that began before Trump’s wiretapping claims.

“I had been working this for a long time with many different sources and needed a place that I could actually finally go because I knew what I was looking for and I could actually get access to what I needed to see,” said Nunes, adding later, “It wasn’t at night … nobody was sneaking around, all it was was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information.”

Asked whether he could’ve used a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at a different location to view the materials and avoid the appearance of impropriety that accompanied his White House trip, Nunes said he could not because Congress had “not been given this information.” SCIFs are specifically used to view or discuss classified information in surroundings that are otherwise unsecured.

On the Republican side, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., had questions of their own.

“I just think he needs to explain what he did, who he talked to,” said Graham. “Schiff to me is talking more like a prosecutor and Nunes has been acting like a defense attorney. The bottom line is, we’re hoping they can put it together in the House. We hope they can get back on track.”

McCain said he “honestly [doesn’t] know what to make of” the situation with Nunes, but said he wants to know, “What brought him to the White House? Who did he see? What was the information? Just a few complicated questions like that.”

After first noting the incidental collection of information about Trump associates last week to the press, and then briefing the president on the matter, Nunes apologized for not consulting the Intelligence Committee first. Nunes said he made the decision to go public first in the midst of a busy day and that it was a “judgment call.”

On Friday, a spokesman for Nunes walked back some of his comments, telling ABC News that the congressman doesn’t know “for sure” if the Trump associates cited were directly surveilled.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump tweets Russia probe ‘hoax,’ rails against Clintons

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Amid ongoing questions about the involvement of his associates with Russian officials during the campaign and about the impartiality of the Republican congressman leading one of the probes into the matter, Donald Trump went on a twitter rant Monday night, calling out an old foe — the Clintons — and blaming conservative Republicans for his health care defeat.

In a series of tweets, Trump questioned the actions of the House Intelligence Committee, asking why it isn’t conducting a probe into the former Democratic presidential nominee and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech money to Bill, the Hillary Russian “reset,” praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!” wrote Trump in two consecutive posts.

Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017

…money to Bill, the Hillary Russian "reset," praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017

The tweets were not the first instance in which Trump sought to blame Hillary Clinton for a deal between Russia’s nuclear power agency and a Canadian company. The non-partisan fact-checking organization Politifact has rated the claim “Mostly False,” citing Hillary Clinton’s “lack of power to approve or reject the deal.”

Investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election are being conducted in both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The FBI is also investigating any potential ties between Russian officials and Trump associates, a story line Trump has called “fake news.”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who worked on Trump’s transition team, is under fire for briefing the president on findings that left Trump feeling “somewhat” vindicated before mentioning that information to the committee. There were also calls for Nunes to step aside from the Russia investigation after it emerged that he met a source on the White House grounds a day before briefing Trump.

In a later tweet, Trump criticized the conservative House Freedom Caucus for its efforts preventing the passage of the American Health Care Act last week, his first major legislative test.

“The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After so many bad years they were ready for a win!” wrote Trump, running counter to his declaration Friday that he would not “speak badly about anybody within the party” and his claim that he preferred for the Affordable Care Act to remain law so that it could “implode” and “explode.”

The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After so many bad years they were ready for a win!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017

He referred to that position again Monday in an additional tweet, saying, “The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds — not long. Do not worry, we are in very good shape!”

The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds – not long. Do not worry, we are in very good shape!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2017

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.