February 17, 2017

In a last-ditch effort to block the confirmation of President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency director nominee Scott Pruitt, EPA employees have resorted to calling their senators. Pruitt's confirmation vote is slated for Friday, and employees at the agency are growing increasingly worried about the possibility of a new boss who has vowed to "get rid of" the EPA and who sued the EPA "at least 14 times" while he was Oklahoma's attorney general, The New York Times reported. "It seems like Trump and Pruitt want a complete reversal of what EPA has done. I don't know if there's any other agency that’s been so reviled," said EPA lawyer Nicole Cantello. "So it's in our interests to do this."

The bold and blatant effort is out of the ordinary, and perhaps unprecedented. "I've been here for 30 years, and I've never called my senator about a nominee before," an EPA employee in North Carolina told The New York Times. Former EPA employee Judith Enck said the rebellion reveals how desperate EPA employees are to block Pruitt. "EPA staff are pretty careful. They're risk-averse," Enck said. "If people are saying and doing things like this, it's because they're really concerned."

But the chances of Pruitt's confirmation being blocked are low, meaning things might be pretty awkward once Pruitt becomes these rebellious employees' new boss. A former EPA administrator under former President George W. Bush predicted "a blood bath when Pruitt gets in there." The New York Times noted that "within days" of Pruitt being sworn in, Trump will reportedly sign "one or more executive orders aimed at undoing" climate regulations imposed under the Obama administration.

However, Jeffrey Holmstead, a potential candidate for Pruitt's deputy, said concerns are overblown and the "organized effort to demonize Pruitt" is both "unfair and unfortunate." "We know that he'll dismantle Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule," Holmstead said, referring to two Obama-era regulations, "but he's not going to go in there and start firing people."

Read the full story over at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

5:29 p.m.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has uh... something to say.

In a Thursday interview with the Campaign HQ podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested Russia was "grooming" a current 2020 candidate "to be the third party candidate," clearly implying that the outsider Democrat Gabbard is a "favorite of the Russians." So with a very absurd and slightly unhinged tweet storm, Gabbard fired back.

Reports have indicated Gabbard's campaign has become a target of foreign bots and Russian media — something Gabbard didn't address in her Friday tweets. She instead labeled Clinton "the queen of warmongers" and "embodiment of corruption," and taunted her by declaring "this primary is between you and me."

Clinton's spokesperson responded with a sly zinger...

... while Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) just tried to figure out exactly what went down.

And 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who Clinton also declared a Russian asset in her Thursday interview, challenged the former secretary of state to a debate. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:35 p.m.

Having spent much of his career living in Maine (and writing about scary stuff happening in it), Stephen King is moving to the second spookiest state in America: Flooooooridaaaaa.

In preparation for the move, the author has received approval to re-zone his famous home in Maine as a nonprofit, which will serve as both a museum for King's archive and a retreat for up to five writers. And if you're thinking "five writers staying at Stephen King's mansion" sounds like a great setup for a horror novel, you should probably apply for a residency. Read more at People. Scott Meslow

4:35 p.m.

The '90s teen movie Clueless became a breakout hit due, in large part, to Alicia Silverstone's star-making performance as the fashion-obsessed Cher Horowitz. So what is Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, planning next? A Clueless reboot without Cher Horowitz.

The proposed Clueless TV series would follow Cher's best friend Dionne as she does her best to solve the mystery of Cher's disappearance — so let's hope they won't be taking the title Clueless too literally this time. Read more at The Hollywood Reporter. Scott Meslow

4:13 p.m.

The President Trump x Mick Mulvaney collaboration is here.

In a Thursday press conference, the acting White House chief of staff unexpectedly admitted that yes, Trump had engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine, that it "happens all the time in foreign policy," and that reporters should "get over it." Mulvaney eventually walked back the entire statement, but for some reason, the latter phrase still became the subject of a Trump campaign T-shirt less than 24 hours later.

This shirt is best worn while sipping a Coke through a Trump disposable straw, preferably kept cold in a Witch Hunt tweet coozie. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:33 p.m.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich has officially backed President Trump's impeachment.

Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, announced his support for the president's impeachment Friday in a CNN interview after White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted Trump withheld aid to Ukraine partly to secure an investigation into the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hack. Mulvaney backtracked on this hours later.

"When I heard what Mulvaney said ... it pushed me really across the Rubicon," Kasich told CNN, going on to say that Trump withholding aid so that "a political operation can't take place" is "totally inappropriate" and an "abuse of power." This does "rise to the level of impeachment," Kasich concluded.

"I say it with great sadness," Kasich said. "This is not something I really wanted to do ... But this behavior, in my opinion, cannot be tolerated, and action is going to have to be taken."

Kasich was hesitant last month to back impeachment, saying after the release of the rough transcript of Trump's conversation with Ukraine showing he pushed for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the DNC hack, "Does this process move to a place where Republicans can grudgingly say this is a problem. And right now, I don't see it."

The former Ohio governor has often been critical of Trump throughout his presidency, and his name was floated as a possible 2020 primary contender. In August, Kasich said he doesn't see a path to victory against Trump "right now" while adding, "that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a path down the road." Brendan Morrow

3:26 p.m.

Joe Biden's ice cream problem is costing his campaign — $3,800, to be exact.

That's how much Biden spent in one go at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio, during the 2020 campaign to purchase "donor gifts," Politico reports via public campaign finance reports. But it's far from a surprising purchase for the ice cream-loving former vice president. Well, at least not as surprising as how much Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) spent on shoelaces.

Campaign finance reports are often used to scrutinize how much candidates spend on private flights and other luxury-adjacent services. The charter flight crown has so far gone to Biden, who spent $924,000 on the service and also carbon offsets for the flights, his campaign says. But Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tops the Uber pool, racking up nearly $23,000 on ride-hailing services of a combined $136,000 among candidates, Politico reports.

In more unusual purchases, candidates have so far spent more than $7,000 on flowers, with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg spending the most at $3,100. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang meanwhile bought $3,100 worth of "campaign attire," which is a Federal Election Commission violation Yang's campaign said it'd rectify.

Perhaps the most absurd purchase comes from Swalwell, who was one of the first candidates to drop out of the race. He later transferred his 2020 funds to his congressional re-election campaign, and used $7,000 of it to buy shoelaces printed with "#Swalwelling." Find more campaign spending highlights at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:29 p.m.

Peggy Noonan, who served as a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan, is forecasting possible trouble ahead in President Trump's impeachment trial.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed observes that Trump's acquittal in the Senate "is likely but not fated," seeing a "mood shift" on impeachment and writing that there are reasons to believe "the situation is more fluid than we realize."

She cites as one reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently saying the Senate's probable impeachment trial could be fairly lengthy at between six and eight weeks; for comparison, the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton was five weeks.

"His decision also gives room for the unexpected — big and serious charges that sweep public opinion and change senators' votes," Noonan says. "...Serious and dramatic hearings would move the needle on public opinion, tripping it into seriously negative territory for the president. And if the needle moves, the Senate will move in the same direction."

Noonan does think that Trump pushing for Ukraine to conduct investigations that might benefit him politically "probably isn't enough," but what may be is "serious and sincere professionals who testify believably that the administration is corrupt and its corruption has harmed the country." And, she notes, it doesn't help that Trump continues to "let his inner crazy flourish daily and dramatically." Read the full op-ed at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

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