December 3, 2017

On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted a response to Friday's news that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI:

The Washington Post later reported, citing unnamed sources, that the tweet was written by Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd. While Dowd told NBC News the post "simply paraphrases what [White House lawyer] Ty Cobb said" about Flynn's guilty plea, critics argue it says much more.

The timeline here is crucial: When Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, he only mentioned lies to Vice President Pence, ostensibly learning of the lies to the FBI three days later, on Feb. 16. If Trump knew about the FBI lies when Flynn was fired, his alleged Feb. 14 request that then-FBI Director James Comey let the Flynn investigation go could be obstruction of justice. Bonnie Kristian

September 22, 2017
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Public Policy Polling released the first survey on the Graham-Cassidy bill on Thursday, and the results don't bode well for Republicans' last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The poll revealed that a majority of voters — 54 percent — approve of the Affordable Care Act. A whopping 63 percent said they want to keep the parts of ObamaCare that work and fix the parts that don't.

Just 32 percent are interested in the prospect of totally starting over with a new health-care law, and a mere 24 percent approve of the Graham-Cassidy bill. Fifty percent disapprove of the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while 27 percent said they were unsure.

Meanwhile, Republicans are rallying to get 51 votes before Sept. 30, the deadline for passing an ObamaCare repeal with a simple majority vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced he's a definite 'no,' and other GOP senators are wavering. Three 'no' votes would kill the bill.

The Public Policy Polling survey was taken Sept. 20-21 among 638 registered voters. Becca Stanek

August 21, 2017
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The combination of President Trump's frequent travel, numerous properties, and large family is gobbling up the Secret Service's funds at an unprecedented rate. USA Today revealed Monday that roughly a third of America's Secret Service agents have "already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year," forcing Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles to turn to Congress for additional funding.

Alles is pushing to raise the salary and overtime cap for agents to ameliorate the situation. But even if that were to happen, 130 agents would still not be "fully compensated for hundreds of hours already amassed," USA Today reported.

With the rate of attrition already high and the demanding workload expected to continue, Democrats and Republicans are concerned. "We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are not being paid for these increases [in overtime hours]," a spokeswoman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said.

Read more on the burgeoning crisis at USA Today. Becca Stanek

July 19, 2017

The European Union may suspend Poland's voting rights because of its ruling right-wing Law and Justice party's recent reform efforts. The party is attempting to gain parliamentary approval to effectively "abolish" the judicial system's independence by giving politicians "power over the appointment of judges and members of the country's supreme court," The Guardian reported.

Protests have erupted in response to the Polish government's effort, and now the EU is considering taking action, as European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said it would "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law." Timmermans said the EU is "very close" to triggering Article 7 — the provision that allows for voting rights to be suspended as punishment for breaches of EU obligations — against Poland, which has never been done before. Becca Stanek

May 31, 2017

A day away from June, the White House has nominated just 117 people for the 559 "most important Senate-confirmed positions," Politico reports. Adding to the woes, the staff in charge of the hiring is running into an unanticipated roadblock: Potential staffers are choosing to stay away from an administration embroiled in an investigation into possible collusion with Russia.

"It's an additional factor that makes what was an already complicated process of staffing the government even harder," said one of Trump's transportation hiring advisers, Max Stier.

At least three potential hires in the past two weeks told one lawyer working for the administration that they are no longer interested due to the ongoing, and mounting, investigation into ties to Russia. "You're going to have a situation where [the Trump administration is] going to have trouble getting A-list or even B-list people to sign up," said the lawyer. The White House disputed such claims, with a spokeswoman saying the president is still getting people "of the highest quality" to join the administration.

In addition to the search for a new FBI director, there are vacancies in second-to-the-top spots at the departments of Agriculture, Education, Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and nominees for Commerce and Treasury deputy secretaries have both withdrawn. At this same point in Barack Obama and George W. Bush's first terms, both leaders had nominated approximately twice as many people as Trump has now.

"There's no doubt in my mind that people are being very cautious, to put it mildly," the lawyer said. Jeva Lange

February 13, 2017
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Four Republican senators are reportedly having serious doubts about Andy Puzder, President Trump's pick for labor secretary. CNN reported Monday that Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Tim Scott (S.C.), and Johnny Isakson (Ga.) have informed GOP leadership they are "withholding support" for the confirmation of the CKE Restaurants CEO. With Republicans holding a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, that could spell serious problems for Puzder's confirmation.

As was the case with now-confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Puzder is teetering on the edge of achieving the majority required to confirm a Cabinet nominee. Neither Collins nor Murkowski supported DeVos, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to step in as the tie-breaker. But if two of the four hesitant Republicans cannot be coaxed back into supporting Puzder, not even Pence could save the day.

In that case, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have to "face the unwelcome task of advising the White House to pull the nomination instead of facing an embarrassing Senate floor defeat," CNN reported. However, CNN noted, Republicans say McConnell is hell-bent on avoiding that scenario and will push hard to get the requisite votes. Several business groups have also joined the effort to get Puzder confirmed.

Puzder's Senate confirmation hearing is slated for Thursday, after being delayed several times amid pushback from labor rights activists and Puzder's admission he and his wife once employed an undocumented immigrant as a part-time housekeeper. Becca Stanek

January 8, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, Monica Crowley, has been accused of plagiarizing more than 50 passages of her 2012 book, What The (Bleep) Just Happened. A list published by CNN on Saturday compares sections from the conservative media personality's book with online content from sources including Wikipedia, Fox News, Investopedia, National Review, Politico, and more. The book does not have a bibliography.

The Trump team stood by Crowley, saying efforts to discredit her are "nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country." Bonnie Kristian

December 28, 2016

An error inside a medical center lab in the Netherlands could have startling repercussions for 26 families.

The Utrecht University Medical Center said due to a "procedural error" that occurred between April 2015 and November 2016, the eggs of 26 women may have been fertilized by sperm "other than that of the intended father." While the chance of this happening is small, the possibility "could not be excluded."

The center, which conducts 700 procedures a year, uses the Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection technique, when a pipette is used to inject a single sperm directly into a woman's egg. While the pipette was changed every time, the same rubber top was used, and when a lab technician found traces of sperm in the top, the tech alerted the higher ups. A top usually has a filter, but in this case, it did not, the BBC reports. Out of the 26 women, nine have had children and four are pregnant; the remaining women have frozen embryos. The center said doctors are meeting with the affected families, and it will offer DNA tests. Catherine Garcia

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