President Trump told reporters on Thursday that he was "very, very surprised" to learn that FBI agents conducted a pre-dawn raid in July at the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, who served as his campaign chairman for six months last year.
"You know, they do that very seldom, so I was surprised to see it," he said. "I was very, very surprised to see it. I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever." Manafort's home was raided as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and Manafort's spokesman, Jason Maloni, told CNN Manafort has "consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well."
Trump said he hasn't discussed the raid with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and it's been a "long time" since he last spoke with Manafort. "I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man," he said. "He's like a lot of other people — probably makes consultant fees from all over the place. Who knows? I don't know, but I thought it was pretty tough stuff to wake him up, perhaps his family was there." Catherine Garcia
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
President-elect Donald Trump's transition team announced in a briefing on Thursday that Trump wants to see the Dakota Access Pipeline completed. Trump owns a stake in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, which includes a section near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.
Thousands of protesters have spent months demonstrating against the $3.8 billion pipeline, which is supposed to go under a lake near the reservation. There are concerns that the project poses a threat to water in the area and sites that are sacred to Native Americans. The protesters are facing snow and freezing temperatures, and a large group of military veterans are on their way to join the camp to offer protection, Reuters reports.
In the briefing, sent to campaign supporters and congressional staff, the team said that Trump's support of the pipeline "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans." In fact, the team continued, anyone who believes otherwise "is only attempting to distract" from Trump's "serious policy proposals." Catherine Garcia
Surprising exactly no one, the New York Observer, published by Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, has endorsed Trump in the state's Republican primary.
The editorial doesn't tiptoe around the fact that the two are related — the very first sentence is, "Donald Trump is the father-in-law of the Observer's publisher." However, the editors contend that this is not "a reason to endorse him. Giving millions of disillusioned Americans a renewed sense of purpose and opportunity is."
Much of the screed rips the media and "elites" of all stripes, accusing them of thinking Trump's supporters are "unwashed mongrels" backing a "buffoon." Anti-Trump opinions are becoming "increasingly irrelevant," the editorial maintains, and Trump is successful because his "optimism" is "tapping into the pent-up desire of millions of voters to make America great again." For that to occur, people need to depend on "faith and leadership" and not on an "SAT-like cramming of policy details."
The paper claims it made a "full and fair assessment" of the other candidates, and found Cruz to be potentially "the most disliked person ever to sit in the United States Senate" and Kasich a "decent enough fellow." The editorial concludes by comparing Trump to Ronald Reagan, who was "derided for being 'just an actor,'" and calls on Republicans who "care about the future of the party" to "reach out to Mr. Trump and help him grow as a candidate and a leader." Catherine Garcia
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is no longer feeling the Bern, after the Democratic presidential candidate declined his offer for endorsement.
Ventura told KSTP's Tom Hauser on Monday that he had a "nice meeting" with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after a rally in Minneapolis, but also said Sanders "kind of blew me off" and rejected his endorsement. Ventura previously announced that he was split between throwing his support behind Sanders or Donald Trump, saying he liked their stances on money in politics (he admitted to disagreeing with Trump's foreign policy and immigration ideas, KSTP reports).
Now, Ventura says he's not going to endorse anyone, except possibly himself — the former wrestler is contemplating running as a Libertarian. Catherine Garcia
In a move that should surprise no one, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin missed the Dec. 31 deadline for the sixth novel in his series, he confirmed in a blog post Saturday. That was likely the last chance for Martin to get The Winds of Winter published before April, when HBO premieres its sixth season of Game of Thrones, the TV show based on his fantasy series.
"The book's not done," Martin wrote. "Nor is it likely to be finished tomorrow, or next week. Yes, there's a lot written. Hundreds of pages. Dozens of chapters."
Martin had already blown past the original deadline with his publisher, which was Halloween. He wrote that he hasn't set a new date to shoot for, and that deadlines stress him out.
"But I won't make excuses. There are no excuses," Martin wrote. "No one else is to blame. Not my editors and publishers, not HBO, not David and Dan. It's on me. I tried, and I am still trying." Julie Kliegman
The Chris Christie comeback tour is in full swing. The New Jersey governor will sit down with ABC News' Diane Sawyer today to discuss, among other things, the Bridgegate scandal that has consumed his administration and threatened his presidential aspirations. The interview comes on the same day that Christie's lawyers released a report on the scandal, which concluded that — surprise! — Christie wasn't involved and had no idea it was even going on at the time.
"Governor Christie's account of these events rings true," the report says. "It is corroborated by many witnesses, and he has conducted himself at every turn as someone who has nothing to hide."
Case closed, right? Well, the report also notes that Christie was informed of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge while they were happening — the governor just conveniently forgot that conversation ever took place. So with Christie off the hook, the report mostly faults Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and the Port Authority official who carried out the scheme, David Wildstein. Let the 2016 race begin. Jon Terbush
College athletes: 1. NCAA: 0.
In a potentially precedent-setting ruling, the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday sided with the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) in ruling that Northwestern football players are school employees and can unionize. The CAPA — led by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter — argued earlier this year that student athletes should be treated as employees because they earn money for their colleges and are contractually tied, via scholarships, to them. And NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr agreed, writing that players who receive scholarships "are subject to the employer's control and are therefore employees."
The ruling only applies to Northwestern, though it could pave the way for athletes at other colleges to follow suit and ultimately crumble the NCAA's bogus student-athlete model. However, Northwestern has already said it will appeal the decision, which is no surprise. As we and many others have written before, colleges and the NCAA make a humongous pile of cash off collegiate athletics while players get zilch; the NCAA, ostensibly a non-profit, earned an incredible $872 million in revenue in 2012. Allowing players to unionize would be a direct threat to the cartel of college sports that exploits students and gives them no say. Jon Terbush