"I wish circumstances were different and I didn't feel the need to make public remarks today," said Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), to begin his address Wednesday at the Brookings Institute about government ethics and why President-elect Donald Trump should take them more seriously. "You don't hear about ethics when things are going well. You've been hearing a lot about ethics lately." Trump had laid out his plan to distance himself from his business interests to avoid conflicts earlier in the day, and Shaub said that plan is "wholly inadequate." "Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts," he explained.
The point of speaking publicly about the fixable ethics shortcomings of the incoming administration, Shaub said, is to defend the post-Watergate ethics structure built to safeguard the public good and to urge Trump to change course. "I've been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top," he said, and it is hard to persuade other officials to comply if the president does not.
And he's been trying to get his message to Trump, particularly. He started with some tweets, Shaub said, because "I was trying to use the vernacular of the president-elect's favorite social media platform to encourage him to divest." His speech on Wednesday included Biblical scripture, an appeal to patriotism, and the advice of Trump's favorite Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia:
Back when he was working for the Justice Department, the late Antonin Scalia also wrote an opinion declaring that a president should avoid engaging in conduct prohibited by the government's ethics regulations, even if they don't apply. Justice Scalia warned us that there would be consequences if a president ever failed to adhere to the same standards that apply to lower level officials. [Shaub, Brookings Institute]
At Trump's press conference, his conflicts-of-interest lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had noted that "the conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets." That's true. But as Shaub noted: "The sheer obviousness of Justice Scalia's words becomes apparent if you just ask yourself one question: Should a president hold himself to a lower standard than his own appointees?" The jury is still out. Watch below. Peter Weber
Tired of stumbling off curbs or bumping into other pedestrians while consulting a map on your smartphone? When you wear Lechal Insoles ($100), a gentle vibration in one shoe or the other will tell you when and in which direction to turn. Just enter your destination into Lechal's GPS app, and let your phone do the navigating. The batteries for the vibrating pads last about 15 days on a charge. Besides steering you from place to place, the insoles can also act as activity trackers, monitoring distances traveled, steps taken, calories burned, and more.
On Monday, the World Health Organization released a list of bacteria that it has identified as humans' biggest cause for concern. The list, which includes 12 "priority pathogens" that have "built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment," is intended as a nudge for researchers to develop new antibiotics — and fast.
"Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options," said Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO's assistant director-general for health systems and innovation. "If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time."
The list, which you can see here, divides the 12 bacteria into three categories of urgency: "critical," "high," and "medium." But all of the listed pathogens present "an enormous threat to human health," The New York Times noted. The "critical" group includes three "multidrug-resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities," Reuters reported.
"We're at a tipping point," said Jean Patel, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specialist who consulted with WHO on the list. "We can take action and turn the tide — or lose the drugs we have." Becca Stanek
President Trump on Monday told health care executives that "I haven't called Russia in 10 years," despite the fact that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone just 30 days ago. Trump visited Moscow as recently as 2013.
Trump's comment came in response to questions shouted to him by the press about whether there should be a special prosecutor to investigate the influence of Russia on the 2016 presidential election. The pool report claims that Trump "did not respond to the question immediately, but as the pool was mostly out, he mouthed the word 'no' to those at the table." Jeva Lange
The head of the NYPD sergeants union is in a very public tussle with the city's police commissioner over Trump
The head of the NYPD sergeants union and the New York police commissioner are locked in a very public debate about whether or not the city will follow President Trump's deportation policies, the New York Daily News reports.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has held a firm stance against the Trump administration's immigration policies, warning "the stroke of a pen in Washington does not change the people of New York City or our values. It does not change how this city government protects its people." Police Commissioner James O'Neill added in a memo last week that "it is critical that everyone who comes into contact with the NYPD, regardless of their immigration status, be able to identify themselves or seek assistance without hesitation, anxiety, or fear."
But Ed Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, told AM 970 on Sunday that "it's almost like the world is upside-down right now. The people who are committing crimes, they don't belong in the country."
"Make no mistake about it, the members of law enforcement in the NYPD want to cooperate with ICE," Mullins added. "I speak to cops every day — they want to cooperate with ICE, they want to work with fellow law enforcement agents."
A spokesperson for O'Neill hit back at Mullins, saying, "Police Commissioner O'Neill does not need a lesson on morality from Sgt. Ed Mullins, but rather Mullins could use some education about what really drives crime in New York City and how to best deal with it."
The spokesperson went on to say: "The Department has clearly established policies and practices relating to the processing of ICE detainer requests. With these fair and reasonable procedures in place, the NYPD has continued to keep New York the safest large city in America." Read the full details of the feud at the New York Daily News. Jeva Lange
President Donald Trump slammed the American military Monday, complaining the U.S. doesn't "fight to win."
"Win. We have to win. We have to start winning wars again," Trump said. "I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say that we never lost a war. 'We never lost a war.' You remember."
"And now we never win a war," Trump added. "We never win. And we don't fight to win."
Here's President Trump describing how we don't win wars anymore pic.twitter.com/2gwpaGDoq5
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 27, 2017
Trump added that the war in the Middle East has gone "nowhere. Actually, if you think about it, we're less than nowhere."
"Soldiers serving [abroad] and at home right now heard this," pointed out MTV News' Jamil Smith.
President Trump attended a military academy, but never served in the armed forces. He received a total of five draft deferments in the Vietnam War, including one for bone spurs in his heels, The New York Times reports. Trump has been previously criticized for being insensitive to the sacrifices made by service members and their families for the country: "You have sacrificed nothing and no one," said Khizr Khan, the father of an American soldier killed in Iraq, at the Democratic National Convention last year. Jeva Lange
President Trump admitted he was floored by how "complicated" the health-care system is when speaking Monday at the National Governors Association meeting at the White House. "It's an unbelievably complex subject," Trump said, while outlining the plans his administration has come up with to repeal and replace ObamaCare. "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."
Trump explained that his team has come up with a solution that gives states "the flexibility they need to make the end result really, really good for them." But "statutorily," Trump explained, and because lawmakers "have to know what the health care is going to cost," the president said health care has to get sorted out before he can go ahead with his tax cut plan — which he promised will be "major, it's going to be simple, and the whole tax plan is wonderful." "It's actually, tax cutting has never been that easy, but it's a tiny little ant compared to what we're talking about with ObamaCare," Trump said, deeming the Affordable Care Act a "failed disaster" that's "no longer affordable."
Watch Trump break down the complexities of health care below. Becca Stanek
TRUMP: “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” https://t.co/LFr422VHbq
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 27, 2017
George W. Bush emphasizes the importance of an 'independent media' because 'power can be very addictive'
As President Trump's relationship with the media grows increasingly combative, former President George W. Bush on Monday highlighted just how important media is to democracy. When asked during an interview on NBC's Today whether he ever considered the media the enemy of the American people — a label Trump recently assigned it — Bush was quick to point out the media's merits. "We need an independent media to hold people like me to account," Bush said. "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power."
In Trump's first month in office, he has repeatedly attacked the media, tweeting criticisms of the "failing" New York Times, deeming CNN "fake news," and accusing news outlets of making up sources. On Friday, several major media outlets were barred from entering an informal briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and on Saturday, Trump announced he would not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, becoming the first president to miss the dinner since former President Ronald Reagan was sidelined by an assassination attempt in 1981.
Bush, after recalling the time he tried to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin of the importance of a free press, noted the U.S. needs to take the advice it doles out. "It's kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves," Bush said.
Catch the interview below. Becca Stanek