Kellyanne Conway says there's an 'exception' to anti-nepotism laws that would open a 'realm of possibilities'
When Donald Trump showed up to huddle with America's top tech executives on Wednesday, his three adult children flanked him. The presence of Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric Trump at the meeting sparked outcry as well as finger-pointing from critics about the threat of nepotism: "I looked at this seating map published by Quartz and notice that there are 25 people in attendance. This is a group of our most-senior technology leaders and our new government-elect," Mark Suster wrote for Both Sides of the Table. "Twenty-five people. Four of them — FOUR — are the president-elect's children. That is 16 percent of everybody in the room ... This is the definition of nepotism that we would condemn from the least democratic nations in the world."
But Kellyanne Conway defended the inclusion of the young Trumps on Morning Joe on Thursday, explaining that, legally speaking, they could even be included in the White House. "The anti-nepotism law apparently has an exception if you want to work in the West Wing because the president is able to appoint his own staff," Conway said. "Of course, this came about to stop maybe family members from serving on the Cabinet, but the president does have discretion to choose a staff of his liking."
"So if that is true and that legal advice holds," Conway added, "then that will open up a realm of possibilities." Watch her explain the loophole, and what it could mean, below. Jeva Lange
Looks like this will be Trump's legal strategy re: his kids/WH. Kellyanne notes anti-nepotism law apparently has an exception for West Wing. pic.twitter.com/yidL9su4EG
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) December 15, 2016
A federal judge in Austin issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday that keeps Texas from cutting off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood over videos released by anti-abortion activists.
In his ruling, Judge Sam Sparks said state health officials did not present any evidence of any violations by the program and "such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider." There are 34 Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas, serving more than 120,000 patients, including 11,000 on Medicaid. Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state received $4.2 million in Medicaid funding in the 2015 fiscal year, and Planned Parenthood estimates it received about $3 million in 2016. The organization says that none of that money went to abortions, but rather services like HIV and cancer screenings.
In 2016, following the release by an anti-abortion group of heavily edited videos it claimed showed Planned Parenthood representatives discussing prices for fetal tissue collected from abortion, a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing and indicted two anti-abortion activists involved in the video for document fraud, with those charges later dismissed, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia
Months after it came to light that Wells Fargo employees created as many as 2 million accounts in the names of their customers without permission, the company announced Tuesday that it has fired four senior managers, who will not receive a bonus for 2016 and will forfeit their unvested equity awards and vested outstanding options.
The board unanimously agreed to terminate Shelley Freeman, former Los Angeles regional president and current head of consumer credit solutions; Pamela Conboy, Arizona lead regional president; Matthew Raphaelson, head of community bank strategy and initiatives; and Claudia Russ Anderson, former community bank chief risk officer. Wells Fargo did not explain how the fired executives were connected to the unauthorized accounts scandal.
The bank agreed in September to pay an $185-million settlement with several agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and said it fired around 5,300 workers in connection with the scandal. Last month, Wells Fargo said 200,000 fewer checking accounts were opened and new customer credit card applications dropped 47 percent compared to the same month a year earlier. Catherine Garcia
Two Muslim-Americans activists launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday to raise money to repair a historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis that was vandalized over the weekend. Within two hours, the fundraising campaign started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi had already surpassed its goal of $20,000. "Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America," the crowdfunding webpage read.
More than 100 headstones were toppled or damaged in the attacks, believed to have happened late Sunday night or early Monday. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage to help identify suspects.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who is Jewish, has condemned the attacks as "despicable" and "cowardly" and requested volunteers to help him clean up the cemetery Wednesday afternoon. The Missouri House of Representatives in Jefferson City held a moment of silence Tuesday for the cemetery, which opened in 1893. "Anxiety is high. Your loved ones are there. Your memories are there," said Karen Aroesty, the St. Louis regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The cemetery attack marks the second instance of anti-Semitic violence this week alone, after a bomb threat was called into a Jewish community center in Wisconsin on Monday. Since early January, 54 Jewish community centers across 27 states have faced threats. Becca Stanek
Three-year-old giant panda Bao Bao took off from Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for a 16-hour flight to Chengdu, China. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo on Aug. 23, 2013, and is moving to China as part of a cooperative breeding program. Her older brother, Tai Shan, was the first panda to make the journey in 2010. "Today marks another milestone in our fight to save endangered species," said National Zoo director Dennis Kelly. "Our team has worked so hard for so many years to make sure giant pandas stay on the Earth."
— CNN International (@cnni) February 21, 2017
Bao Bao is traveling on the FedEx Panda Express, a customized Boeing 777F with her picture emblazoned on the side. The 205-pound panda will be seated in an 800-pound crate, and she is being accompanied on her journey by two zoo staffers — as well as plenty of bamboo, sweet potatoes, and apples to snack on.
"Pandas are very good at entertaining themselves," said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care at the National Zoo. "You give a panda a stock of bamboo and they can entertain themselves for a very long time." Becca Stanek
On Tuesday, Milo Yiannopoulos announced his resignation from Breitbart News, where he was a senior editor. Yiannopoulos' departure follows the release of two video clips in which he made comments seemingly condoning pedophilia. In one of the clips he joked about his childhood sexual encounter with a Catholic priest, and in the other he seemed to "speak sympathetically of certain relationships between adult men and 13-year-old boys," CNN reported.
Earlier Tuesday, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow deemed the remarks "indefensible" and "troubling," though he said "the left" has done worse. "I would be wrong to allow my poor choice of words to detract from my colleagues' important reporting, so today I am resigning from Breitbart effective immediately," Yiannopoulos said in a statement. "This decision is mine alone."
On Monday, Yiannopoulos lost a $250,000 book deal with Simon & Schuster and was disinvited from speaking at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference due to his comments.
Yiannopoulos wrote on Facebook after the video clips were released that he does "not support pedophilia," which he called a "vile and disgusting crime." "I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim," he wrote. "My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous."
Read Yiannopoulos' statement of resignation in full below. Becca Stanek
Break: MILO resigns from Breitbart pic.twitter.com/pSQnJ0b9vA
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) February 21, 2017
Actor Tom Hanks will make his debut as an author on Oct. 24. Publishing company Alfred A. Knopf first announced the book in 2014 — shortly after Hanks published a story in The New Yorker — but it wasn't until Tuesday that the short-story collection's title was revealed.
Uncommon Type: Some Stories will revolve around typewriters, and each of its 17 stories will involve the increasingly obsolete machines that Hanks collects. The Hollywood Reporter noted the book ranges from stories "about an immigrant just arriving in New York City after leaving his civil war-torn country to a man who bowls a perfect game to an eccentric billionaire."
Hanks has been working on the collection since 2015, and he said in a statement he's taken his work with him as he's "made movies in New York, Berlin, Budapest, and Atlanta." "I wrote in hotels during press tours. I wrote on vacation. I wrote on planes, at home, and in the office," Hanks said. "When I could actually make a schedule, and keep to it, I wrote in the mornings from nine to one."
Alfred A. Knopf's editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta praised the book as an "accomplished debut." "I am thrilled by the narrative range on display in this collection, and by the humor and humanity Tom brings to his work," Mehta said. Becca Stanek
Tennessee lawmakers have proposed making it legal for drivers to run over protesters who block public streets. The Republican-sponsored legislation would protect motorists from civil liability if a protester were injured, provided the driver exercised "due care," The Huffington Post reports. The bill was introduced 10 days after a car ran into people at a Nashville protest against President Trump's travel ban. Similar driving laws have been proposed in at least four other states with Republican-led statehouses, including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota.