On Monday, the head of EPA chief Scott Pruitt's 24-hour security detail, Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, stepped down ahead of an interview with the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, saying that "all of this press is taking a toll on my family," ABC News reports. Former EPA Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Chmielewski claims Perrotta had hired a personal friend in Italy to provide protection for Pruitt, and that Perrotta tried to discredit his claims about Pruitt and threatened to take away his EPA parking pass.
Pruitt is embroiled in a spending and traveling scandal, which sparked the House Oversight Committee probe; Perrotta said he plans to "fully cooperate and answer any and all questions." In a statement, Pruitt thanked Perrotta for his service and wished him "the very best in retirement."
Separately, top toxic waste cleanup aide Albert "Kell" Kelly has resigned from the EPA, apparently having decided that "enough is enough," Axios reported Tuesday. A recent New York Times report revealed that Kelly was "barred from working in the finance industry because of a banking violation," and the bad press reportedly helped drive his departure.
Pruitt also praised Kelly, saying that "in just over a year, he has made a tremendous impact on EPA's Superfund program." Read The Week's Ryan Cooper on Scott Pruitt and the corruption at the EPA here. Jeva Lange
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signs Democratic-sponsored gun control bill hours before leaving office
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) left office Tuesday, but not before he signed a Democratic-sponsored bill that bans the sale or possession of "bump stocks" in his state, NJ.com reports. The divisive legislation comes in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last year, when the gun accessory was used to murder 58 people and wound some 489 others. Bump stock owners in New Jersey now have 90 days to turn over the items to authorities.
"These are simple, easy-to-use devices that increase the firepower and killing power of firearms," explained former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who retired last week. "There is no legitimate need for these devices." Residents of New Jersey were not previously allowed to use bump stocks — the accessories weren't even allowed in the "vicinity of a weapon," NJ.com writes — but Christie's law officially requires the devices be removed from the state altogether.
The legislation passed unanimously in the state Senate and Assembly, which are both controlled by Democrats. Democrat Phil Murphy was sworn in as Christie's replacement just before noon Tuesday. Jeva Lange
President Trump announced Tuesday that Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has withdrawn his name from consideration for the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Tom is a fine man and a great congressman," Trump tweeted while sharing the news.
Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes and The Washington Post reported that Marino had worked for two years to push through a bill promoted and apparently written by the pharmaceutical industry that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its biggest tool to fight prescription opioids entering the black market. Trump said Sunday that "we're going to look into the report" and that a long-delayed declaration of the opioid crisis as a national emergency could come next week. Jeva Lange
Lobbyists and party operatives around D.C. are reporting a startling amount of interest from White House staffers looking to move on to other jobs in early 2018, Politico reports. "There will be an exodus from this administration in January," predicted one lobbyist. "Everyone says, 'I just need to stay for one year.' If you leave before a year, it looks like you are acknowledging that you made a mistake."
Reports of infighting and generally unhappy staffers have plagued the Trump White House, although all administrations have some turnover in their first year. Usually, though, staff will try to hang on through the first two years, when a midterm presents an opportunity for a more elegant exit.
Complicating matters in 2016 is the fact that the White House is already struggling to fill its seats as departures — including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and chief strategist Stephen Bannon — mount. The administration has only nominated 345 appointees for Senate-confirmed positions, while at the same point in their administrations, President Barack Obama had nominated 459, President George W. Bush 588, and President Bill Clinton 407.
"There is no joy in Trumpworld right now," one adviser told Politico. "Working in the White House is supposed to be the peak of your career, but everyone is unhappy, and everyone is fighting everyone else." Read more at Politico. Jeva Lange
After threat of invasion from neighboring Senegal to enforce election results, former President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia agreed to peacefully relinquish his post. Jammeh lost the contest in December and initially conceded. Then, a week later, he announced he would not leave office but rather would continue his two-decade rule of the tiny West African nation.
Saturday morning, Jammeh gave a televised speech announcing he has "decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians." He insisted the decision "was not dictated by anything else but by the supreme interest of you, the Gambian people and our dear country," ignoring the arrival of Senegalese troops in his nation just 24 hours prior.
Jammeh first took power in 1994 after a military coup and once claimed he would rule Gambia for "a billion years." The new president, Adama Barrow, has been waiting in Senegal and will enter Gambia to take office as soon as a security sweep has been completed. Bonnie Kristian
The final monthly jobs report of Barack Obama's presidency was released Friday, giving a firm endpoint to the roller coaster of unemployment rates under his watch:
On Pres Obama's watch, unemployment rate went from 7.8% to 10% (Oct 09) to 4.7% last month. WH trumpets >15-million jobs during same period.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) January 6, 2017
Unemployment rate peaked at 10% at depth of recession early in Obama's first term. He will leave office with UE at just 4.7%. pic.twitter.com/H2sR9LK4Cr
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) January 6, 2017
Here's another look at what that means just for black Americans:
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 6, 2017
in the 8 years of George W. Bush's presidency, there were only 24 months in which the economy created > 150,000 jobs.
In Obama's, 56.
— Daniel Gross (@grossdm) January 6, 2017
But even while the White House added an average of 2.4 million jobs over the past six years of Obama's presidency, the growth rate is showing signs that it is skidding:
1. U.S. has added, on avg, +2.4M jobs over the past six years
2. But growth rate is slowing:
— West Wing Reports (@WestWingReport) January 6, 2017
London police are ending their 24-hour watch of the Ecuadorean Embassy, where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been living in asylum since 2012. Assange was accused of rape in Sweden but was never formally charged; were he to be extradited, however, Sweden could send him on to the United States to face charges for the publishing of thousands of classified documents. While Assange's sexual assault charges were dropped by Swedish prosecutors over the summer, rape charges could still be pursued through August 2020.
The 24-hour surveillance of the Ecuadorean Embassy cost British taxpayers $17 million, The New York Times reports. The Ecuadorean embassy, which granted Assange — an Australian national — political asylum, reportedly considered multiple plans for smuggling him to Ecuador, including having him leap across rooftops to escape via helipad or disguising him in a busy crowd. Another alleged plot would have had Assange appointed as an official representative to the United Nations, so he could have traveled to Ecuador using diplomatic immunity.
"A significant amount of time has passed since Julian Assange entered the embassy, and despite the efforts of many people there is no imminent prospect of a diplomatic or legal resolution to this issue," the London police service said in a statement. Jeva Lange
With prisons overcrowded and drug offenders facing long sentences, the Justice Department is now set to release 6,000 inmates early from prison, The Washington Post reports. The move, which marks the largest ever one-time release of federal prisoners, follows a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that reduced the punishment for drug offenders both in the future and retroactively. While President Obama has made headlines for granting clemency to large numbers of nonviolent drug offenders, the Justice Department's mass release is a separate initiative.
Approximately 100,000 drug offenders are serving time in prisons across the United States; sentencing guidelines could result in the early release of 46,000 of that number. While the first wave of 6,000 will be released between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 — primarily into halfway houses or home confinement — another 8,550 will be eligible between November 2015 and 2016, The Washington Post reports. The program eases sentences by an average of two years; the average sentence is 10.5 years. Jeva Lange