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April 25, 2018
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt isn't going down without a fight.

The EPA chief has had a fraught couple of weeks, plagued by numerous ethics scandals that are sure to be a focus when he testifies before Congress on Thursday. But he's ready to tell lawmakers that there's plenty of blame to go around, according to talking points obtained by The New York Times on Wednesday.

Pruitt and his staff have reportedly prepared a list of responses to "hot topics" that may come up during his hearings with a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee and the House Appropriations Committee. If lawmakers ask about his taking lavish first-class flights that racked up massive taxpayer-funded travel bills, for example, Pruitt plans to say that his security team advised him to do so, and point out that he has "been flying coach" more recently. In response to questions about controversial raises to his favorite aides, he'll say that someone else handled staffing logistics, reports the Times.

Pruitt's opening statement focuses on his work on environmental policy and makes no mention of his ethics issues, but he is apparently expecting quite a grilling regarding the 10 investigations he is currently facing by government watchdog groups.

The document's veracity was not disputed by the EPA, the Times reports, but it's possible that Pruitt's answers will change between the time of creating the talking points and his hearing Thursday. Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

October 17, 2017
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Portugal began three days of national mourning Tuesday for the victims of the wildfires that have spread across the Iberian Peninsula. At least 37 have died in Portugal, as well as four across the border in Spain.

Monday night rain and cooler temperatures helped to bring fires under control, but officials are blaming more than just the weather for igniting the blazes. Iberian officials said investigators are looking into suspected arson to explain the strength of the fires.

"We are ready to extinguish fires, but we are not ready for arsonists," said Spanish Environment and Agriculture Minister Isabel Garcia Tejerina.

Frustration is mounting as the last of the wildfires are extinguished, as many question why the Portuguese government was unprepared for such an event. Portugal has had a rough year; another set of wildfires killed more than 60 people just months ago.

CBS reported that Portugal reduces its firefighting force by half in October, when peak wildfire season comes to an end. Now government officials are hearing sharp criticism from opposition parties, who say the country should have been prepared for the late-season heat wave and high winds that spread fires over the nation's landmass.

Spain's Alberto Nunez Feijoo, the regional president of Galicia, echoed the sentiment, referring to the fires as "terrorist acts" in a tweet Monday. "A day like yesterday is not the result of chance," he wrote. Summer Meza

July 18, 2017

President Trump is pointing fingers. Following the collapse of the GOP health-care bill Monday night, the president took to casting blame on both his own party and the Democrats, despite their minority in the Senate. Here is a look at the last 24 hours in Trumpland. Jeva Lange

Blame the Republicans

To start things off, Trump suggested that Senate Republicans had bitten off more than they could chew with the proposed bill. He advised his party to instead "start from a clean slate" and win over Democrats, despite Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) having already ruled out a bipartisan option. Trump also previously called House Republicans' health-care proposal "mean."

Blame the Democrats and "a few Republicans"

Trump followed up his initial tweet with a pep talk for Republicans, although he refused to let "a few" of them off the hook. Wonder who they might be?

Blame the Democrats

A majority is a majority, however "small."

Blame the system

As The New York Times' Shane Goldmacher points out, "They were using 51-seat majority (50 with [Vice President Mike] Pence) and couldn't muster the votes."

May 4, 2017
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Adjusted for inflation, the average American construction worker makes $5 an hour less today than in 1972, when builders earned the equivalent of $32 an hour. Though some blame the influx of immigrant workers for the decrease in wages, the decline actually started more than a decade before immigrant laborers flooded the market.

During that decade, contractors and clients shunned unionized labor in favor of undercutting wages to boost their own profits. In the 1970s, 4 in 10 construction workers were union members; today, it's slightly more than 1 in 10.

"Immigrants are not the cause of this, they are the effect," sociologist Ruth Milkman told the Los Angeles Times. "The sequence of events is that the de-unionization and the accompanying deterioration of the jobs come first, before immigrants." Shivani Ishwar

December 14, 2016
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Huma Abedin has found herself at the center of a blame game over who lost Hillary Clinton the election, Vanity Fair reports. "[Abedin] was enjoying the red carpet and enjoying the photo spreads much too much in my opinion," one campaign insider reflected. "She enjoyed being a celebrity too much."

Abedin has spent most of her life as one of Clinton's closest aides and was largely blamed after new Clinton emails were discovered on her estranged husband Anthony Weiner's computer, prompting a fateful letter to Congress from FBI Director James Comey in late October. But Abedin is also being blamed by Clinton insiders for "reinforc[ing] all the bad habits" throughout the campaign. "Where in most presidential campaigns the circle grows broader and broader, [Clinton's] grew smaller and smaller," one insider source explained to Vanity Fair.

Abedin has been missing from most public appearances of Clinton's team since the election. Vanity Fair notes that she was spotted shopping in Lululemon on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan recently, but it isn't clear if she'll make an appearance at a donor party Clinton is throwing Thursday in Manhattan.

Yet despite Abedin's fate appearing to be intimately tied to Clinton's, another insider noted "she's someone that will be sought after either personally or through business from many rich, very rich connected people ... She'll do very well for herself." Jeva Lange

October 14, 2016
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In a speech Friday, Donald Trump denied mounting allegations of sexual assault by suggesting the women who accused him are "doing it probably for a little fame." "It's a total setup," Trump said, insisting he has "no idea who these women are." However, while Trump was delivering his speech, a former Apprentice contestant came forward with new allegations against the Republican presidential nominee.

To further emphasize his argument that this is a "phony deal," Trump also pointed to his accusers' appearances. About one woman, he said, "Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you." In regards to the People magazine writer who accused him, he urged people to "check out her Facebook page, you'll understand." "These people are sick," Trump said.

Trump also blamed the "lies" on the media and Hillary Clinton's campaign, as they "try to keep their grip on the country." He suggested the story detailing two women's allegations published this week in The New York Times was done at the behest of Mexican magnate and New York Times investor Carlos Slim, who Trump said is trying to help Clinton win the presidential election. "The largest shareholder in the Times is Carlos Slim. As you know, he comes from Mexico," Trump said, urging voters not to let "foreign corporations" and their executives "decide the outcome of our elections." Becca Stanek

August 22, 2016
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George W. Bush's former secretary of state, Colin Powell, is tired of Hillary Clinton blaming him for her email scandal. Clinton allegedly told the FBI that her use of a private email server came as a suggestion from Powell, a moment that is documented in a new biography of Bill Clinton:

Toward the end of the evening, over dessert, [Madeleine] Albright asked all of the former secretaries to offer one salient bit of counsel to the nation's next top diplomat. Powell told her to use her own email, as he had done, except for classified communications, which he had sent and received via a State Department computer ... [Powell] confirmed a decision she had made months earlier — to keep her personal account and use it for most messages. [Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton]

Powell himself said that he told Clinton in a memo that "his personal AOL email account…vastly improved communications within the State Department" when used for unclassified messages. But Powell told People in an interview published Sunday that Clinton's people "have been trying to pin it on me."

He clarified for the magazine that "the truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did." Jeva Lange

July 18, 2016

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blamed President Obama for having "allowed" the Nice attack that left 84 people dead just hours after the terrorist's deadly rampage, BuzzFeed reports.

"As far as the tragedy in France is concerned, obviously this is an act of mayhem and despicable. I also have to tell you — our prayers are with the families, obviously, and the French people — but I also have to tell you, that as long as we have a leadership in this country — the president of the United States — who allowed this to happen, his policies are directly responsible for ISIS and ISIS is responsible for these attacks," McCain told KTAR 92.3 FM's Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes show on Friday.

McCain had previously blasted Obama for being "directly responsible" for the Orlando shooting.

"This president has failed miserably and all this stuff didn't have to happen. I'm sorry to say that I predicted everything that has happened, and I predict more attacks just as the director of National Intelligence and the head of the CIA have predicted. This president has failed America and the world," McCain continued on KTAR 92.3 FM. You can listen to his full response below, from BuzzFeed. Jeva Lange

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