Scott Pruitt reportedly enjoys the inexpensive fine dining at the White House mess to a problematic extent
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is apparently very fond of the heavily discounted midday meal at the swanky White House mess, open only to senior White House officials, Cabinet members, and a small group of other guests. He likes it so much, Politico reports, the White House asked him to lunch elsewhere every once in a while. (Like, say, Chick-fil-A?)
The White House told departmental chiefs of staff in a meeting last year that Cabinet members should avoid treating the mess as their personal dining hall, Politico says, and the obvious target of the gentle rebuke was Pruitt, a person close to the EPA chief said, paraphrasing the message: "We love having Mr. Pruitt, but it's not meant for everyday use." Washington, D.C., has lots of restaurants, and Pruitt's salary as EPA administrator is $210,700 a year — though, obviously, he likes a bargain.
"Pruitt's allies privately disputed that the warning about overuse of the mess was aimed squarely at him, but nobody contests that he's a frequent presence at the White House for lunch," Politico says. Pruitt complains that the EPA headquarters doesn't have a cafeteria and he doesn't have a private dining area, multiple sources tell Politico, and the White House is only a few blocks from his office (not that Pruitt walks, of course). Pruitt also apparently likes to bring guests with him, though those lunch dates do not appear on his public schedule. You can read more at Politico. Peter Weber
As support for elements of the Affordable Care Act has increased, political attacks against the bill have quietly retreated. The Daily Beast reported Friday that Republican lawmakers have slowly scrubbed ACA criticism from their websites in recent years, opting instead to promise constituents extended protections on health care.
Republicans, especially ones who are in danger of losing their seats, have further altered their messaging to support some aspects of the ACA, often called ObamaCare. The Daily Beast found 20 instances of GOP House members eliminating ObamaCare criticism from their websites between 2014 and 2018.
But just because lawmakers like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have softened their anti-ObamaCare rhetoric, HuffPost notes, it doesn't mean that they're suddenly fans of former President Barack Obama's signature health-care bill. Just three of the 20 lawmakers who changed their websites voted against a 2017 GOP replacement bill that would have unraveled ObamaCare; the repeal bill passed in the House but faltered in the Senate. But their continued opposition to ObamaCare is now obscured as they face close midterm races, their websites show.
Democratic analyst Jesse Ferguson suggested that Republicans were more willing to openly attack the ACA when there was a lower chance of Obama's health-care bill actually being rolled back. Now, GOP lawmakers are going on the defense to assure constituents that they don't want to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions — a provision of the ACA that Americans have increasingly come to value. "If you ask a Republican why they voted for health-care repeal, they'll change the topic faster than you can blink your eyes," Ferguson told The Daily Beast.
A new bombshell report from The New York Times further fuels the narrative that even senior Trump administration officials feel the president is unfit for office.
The Times reported Friday that in 2017, not long into his tenure in the Trump administration, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed in meetings the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to declare President Trump unfit to serve and remove him from office. Further, he reportedly told Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe that he might be able to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on his side in this effort. Earlier this month, a senior administration official said in an anonymous Times op-ed that there had been discussions within the White House of invoking the 25th Amendment.
Additionally, the Times reports that Rosenstein proposed he wear a wire to secretly record Trump, as documentation of a White House in disarray. Officials say this plan did not end up moving forward, and an unnamed Justice Department spokeswoman told the Times that Rosenstein made the suggestion "sarcastically." Rosenstein has already denied the report, telling the Times that their story is "inaccurate and factually incorrect" and that "there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."
This report will no doubt raise Trump's ire, sparking speculation that the story was leaked with the express purpose of ousting Rosenstein, as Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein observed. Already, the president's son — who has said that the "failing New York Times" lives in an "alternate universe" — has weighed in on the story, suggesting that he is not at all surprised that "these guys would do anything in their power to undermine" his father. Read the full report at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of "all those involved in the management of the ferry," South Africa's The Sunday Times says. The ferry was reportedly holding up to 300 people at the time, despite its maximum capacity being around 100, per The New York Times. Isack Kamwelwe, Tanzania's minister for communication, transport, and infrastructure, said the government is no longer searching for survivors and that the death toll could continue to rise.
The ferry — which is managed by Tanzania's Electrical, Mechanical, and Electronics Services Agency — was traveling on an hour-long journey between two islands when it capsized, The New York Times reports. Marianne Dodson
The world's largest retailer is being accused of discriminating against its pregnant employees, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Reuters reports.
The lawsuit alleges Walmart Inc.'s Wisconsin distribution center has discriminated against its pregnant employees since 2014 by forcing them to take unpaid leave and denying their requests for easier tasks, per Reuters. The lawsuit stems from a complaint filed by formerly pregnant Walmart employee Alyssa Gilliam, who says Walmart would not give her additional breaks or a chair to sit on while working and alleges Walmart denied requests for restrictions on heavy lifting, Reuters says.
The EEOC said Walmart granted these requests for workers with disabilities or injuries but failed to grant them to pregnant workers. Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers are required to treat pregnant employees the same as temporarily disabled employees by providing modified tasks.
Mitch McConnell: 'Don't get rattled' by Kavanaugh allegations, 'we're going to plow right through it'
Despite President Trump's focus on the matter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn't think the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are ultimately consequential.
McConnell on Friday spoke at the Values Voter Summit, sounding very confident that allegations from Christine Blasey Ford are a mere hiccup in Kavanaugh's confirmation process, as his GOP colleague said. He reassured the audience that "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court," receiving a standing ovation.
"Don't get rattled by all of this," he said. "We're going to plow right through it, and do our job." Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her when they were in high school, an accusation Kavanaugh strongly denies. McConnell called the allegations, and subsequent call for a delay in Kavanaugh's confirmation, obstructive "tactics" that Republicans would overcome. And if "plowing through" angered his Democratic colleagues, all the better.
Bloomberg reports that McConnell also riled up the crowd by reveling in the discontent. "Look how angry the left is," he said. "The angrier they get, the better we're doing." Watch the moment below, via C-SPAN. Summer Meza
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 21, 2018
Netflix loves to revive shows that are struggling to attract audiences on traditional television. Its latest target may be the most needy yet.
Vanity Fair reported Friday that "key people" at the Academy are beginning to discuss whether the Oscars should move to a streaming service in the future, rather than continue languishing on television. The show has been losing viewers on TV year after year, with fewer people watching in 2018 than ever before, per Variety. One anonymous board member told Vanity Fair that "TV is going nowhere. So why don’t we just get our money [from a streaming deal], not worry about ratings, and call it a day?”
The report also states that Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, approached the Academy last year to express interest in streaming the Oscars. The Academy's options are limited for now, as it has a deal with ABC that lasts until 2028. Academy governor Sid Ganis told Vanity Fair that the organization and ABC are "happily partners."
Clearly, though, the powers that be have recognized the need to shake things up. The Academy has delayed plans to introduce a "best popular film" award after the idea received swift blowback, but it stills intend to cut down the length of the show in 2019, hoping a shorter runtime will keep more people engaged. But if these tweaks don't stanch the ratings bleed, it seems like the Oscars could celebrate their 100-year anniversary in 2029 by making their streaming debut. Brendan Morrow
President Trump began the week by ordering that certain documents related to the Russia investigation be declassified. He's ending the week by walking that demand back.
On Monday, Trump ordered the Justice Department to declassify some materials related to the Russia investigation, including pages of the warrant the FBI obtained to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016, The New York Times reports. He also called for the release of text messages between DOJ and FBI officials who the president has accused of being biased against him. Trump faced criticism for pushing the release of documents related to an ongoing investigation that his campaign is the subject of, and Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the Justice Department would still heavily redact the documents before releasing them.
Now, Trump is walking the order back entirely, saying on Twitter that the Justice Department feels releasing the documents "may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe." Trump also said that "key Allies" have asked him not to release the documents, echoing his statement in an interview on Thursday that he's "dealing with foreign countries that might have a problem" with the declassification order. Therefore, Trump has instead asked the inspector general to "review these documents on an expedited basis." But the president concluded by teasing he may change course yet again, writing, "In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary." Brendan Morrow