August 18, 2020

The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Russian interference in the 2016 hinted pretty strongly at the possibility that President Trump lied to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his own investigation, which ended last year.

The bipartisan Senate investigation did not find any evidence that Trump or his presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election, but there is some language in the report implying the president may have twisted the truth.

In a written response to questions from Mueller, Trump said he didn't "recall discussing WikiLeaks" — which published Democratic emails hacked by Russian intelligence — with his adviser Roger Stone. Stone was convicted for lying to Congress (only to have his sentence commuted by Trump). Trump also said he did not "recall being aware" that Stone discussed WikiLeaks with members of his campaign.

The committee, however, came away with a different view, saying its investigation assessed that Trump actually spoke with Stone and other campaign staffers about Stone's access to WikiLeaks "on multiple occasions." Trump, for what it's worth, did not technically say he didn't speak with Stone or others about WikiLeaks, just that he didn't recall, but some observers are already wondering if this could come back to haunt him. Tim O'Donnell

April 20, 2020

Adm. Brett Giroir is leading the U.S. government's charge to ramp up COVID-19 testing. He didn't have much luck at a similar job just a few years ago.

Before President Trump tapped Giroir to be the nation's "coronavirus testing czar," he was the head of vaccine development at Texas A&M University. And in 2015, he was given the choice of either resigning or being fired from that job because he wasn't acting like a "team player," The Washington Post reports.

Giroir spent eight years working on a variety of vaccination projects at Texas A&M before an annual performance review changed his fate. The review said Giroir was "more interested in promoting yourself" than his health science center, a local newspaper reported at the time, and he apparently struggled with being a "team player." Because of that, Giroir was told he "had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired," the Post reports.

Giroir credited his ouster to academic politics, which "makes politics in Washington look like a minor league scrimmage," he told the Post. "I'm a team player. But not to people who act inappropriately, who are misogynistic and who are abusive to other people," he added. Giroir said he was "heartbroken" to leave the job, but said his work there could help inform efforts to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Giroir's former coworkers expressed confidence in his ability to lead the country's coronavirus testing effort. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 19, 2019

It's still a little unclear exactly where Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) stands on Medicare-for-all.

At a fundraiser in the Hamptons this weekend, Harris told a crowd of wealthy donors that she isn't "comfortable" with the health care plan espoused by her Democratic presidential primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), which Harris once co-sponsored. She did maintain, however, that she is still supportive of Medicare-for-all at large, adding a little more confusion to her policy position.

"I think almost every member of the United States Senate who's running for president and many others, have signed on to a variety of plans in the Senate," she reportedly said at the fundraiser. "And I have done the same. [A]ll of them are good ideas, which is why I support them. And I support for Medicare-for-all. But as you may have noticed, over the course, I've not been comfortable with Bernie's plan, the Medicare-for-all plan."

As recently as April of this year, Harris' office sent a press release saying she had joined Sanders in introducing the Medicare-for-All Act of 2019. So, considering the audience Harris had over the weekend, it might have seemed as if she was backtracking as a result of "political convenience," but her campaign assured The Daily Beast that she reached her current conclusion after having worked on the issue more. Harris does have her own formal health care plan now which aims to phase in Medicare-for-all over the course of a decade and seeks to avoid middle-class tax hikes as a method for funding.

Sanders, though, doesn't seem to be taking too kindly to reports of Harris' remarks. Tim O'Donnell

May 14, 2019

The portion of Americans who favor allowing same-sex couples to marry seems to have stalled out.

A new survey from Pew Research Center shows that 61 percent of Americans now say they favor letting gays and lesbians marry legally. That's a big shift from 2004, when 60 percent said they opposed same-sex marriage, but actually a downgrade from the 62 percent measured two years ago.

Same-sex marriage approval has generally pulled a 180 in America over the past 15 years, with its approval soaring in both political parties and among "nearly all demographic groups," Pew says. That includes Catholics and Gen Xers, which both reported majority support for same-sex marriage, while 51 percent of Baby Boomers said the same. Approval is highest in the youngest Millennial generation and among liberal Democrats, the survey shows.

Overall, same-sex marriage approval peaked in 2017, a few years after the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Yet since then, things haven't changed, with approval actually falling from 47 to 44 percent among Republicans in the past two years.

(Pew Research Center)

Pew Research Center surveyed 1,503 adults from March 20-25, with 300 interviewed via landline and the rest surveyed by cell phone. The survey had a 3 percent margin of error. Find the whole poll here. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 23, 2018

President Trump has repeatedly asked his advisers whether he has the legal authority to fire Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg and CNN reported over the weekend, citing sources close to the administration. Trump has publicly expressed displeasure with Powell's performance in the past, especially his decision to raise interest rates.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied the report Saturday night on Twitter:

Trump appointed Powell to his the chair position in 2017. He reportedly considered renominating Powell's predecessor, Janet Yellen, but elected not to do so in part because he felt she was too short. Bonnie Kristian

November 20, 2018

President Trump's daughter and senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, reportedly used her personal email account for government business last year — which wouldn't be such a big deal had her father not made endless political hay out of his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, doing the same thing.

But former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) argued on CNN Tuesday it's not the same at all.

"To ignore the obvious differences here is, I think, a little hypocritical," Santorum told host Chris Cuomo. "Hillary Clinton went out and established her own server in full knowledge that what she was doing was wrong." Trump used her personal email account after Clinton's actions had been analyzed and debated in detail for months on end.

Furthermore, Santorum continued, Clinton "was a political person who had political aspirations, who was doing things in her own interest as a political figure, as opposed to Ivanka, who is not a political figure, who is the daughter of the president, yet she was not the secretary of state dealing with a variety of very sensitive and classified information."

Trump is not paid for her White House work and does often on domestic policy, like the family leave Santorum mentioned, but she has accompanied her father on state visits abroad, held his seat at a G20 summit, and met with the United Nations secretary-general.

Watch Santorum's comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

October 30, 2018

Much of the conversation surrounding Saturday's deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue has examined the question of whether and how President Trump's rhetoric encourages extremism. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley thinks that's not fair.

In a Monday night tweet, she argued that just as then-President Barack Obama was not blamed for a white supremacist's murderous attack on a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, so Trump should not be linked to what happened in Pittsburgh:

Trump himself made a similar claim Monday about Cesar Sayoc, the man accused of mailing pipe bombs to prominent Democratic and media figures last week. Sayoc is an avid Trump supporter — his van is plastered with pro-Trump stickers — but Trump believes reporting that fact is unfair.

"I was in the headline of The Washington Post, my name associated with this crazy bomber," he said. "They didn't do that with President Obama with the church, the horrible situation with the church — they didn't do that."

Three things here: First, Obama wasn't linked to the shooting in Charleston in this manner because the racist shooter was not a devoted supporter of the country's first black president. Second, Obama was criticized by some on the right for allegedly exacerbating race relations with his response to Charleston. And third, Haley herself, then governor of South Carolina, laid blame for Charleston on Trump's rhetoric. "I know what that rhetoric can do," she said. "I saw it happen." Bonnie Kristian

September 22, 2018

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long will not be fired for his inappropriate use of cars owned by the government, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Friday.

Long used federal vehicles and personnel for his weekend commutes from Washington, D.C., to North Carolina. He had a driver take him home, and reportedly brought aides with him, housing them in hotels using taxpayer money. He was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

Nielsen said Long, who will repay the government an undisclosed amount, was acting in line with a longstanding but unofficial FEMA practice intended to keep the administrator accessible in case of crisis. That practice has now been discontinued.

"We had a productive conversation where we discussed my expectations regarding the agency's use of government vehicles going forward," Nielsen's statement said. "The administrator acknowledged that mistakes were made, and he took personal responsibility." Bonnie Kristian

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