The ongoing probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign has reportedly identified a current White House official as "a significant person of interest," The Washington Post reports. The individual was described by people familiar with the matter as being "someone close to the president," although the sources declined to name names.
So far, President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, have been the public centers of the investigation. Neither is a part of the current administration. "Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Cabinet members Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson," the Post writes.
Kushner, for one, was a "prominent voice advocating Comey's firing," CBS writes. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials he had fired Comey in order to ease the pressure of the ongoing probe.
The White House also has acknowledged that Kushner met with [Sergey] Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., in late November. Kushner also has acknowledged that he met with the head of a Russian development bank, Vnesheconombank, which has been under U.S. sanctions since July 2014. The president's son-in-law initially omitted contacts with foreign leaders from a national security questionnaire, though his lawyer has said publicly he submitted the form prematurely and informed the FBI soon after he would provide an update.
Vnesheconombank handles development for the state, and in early 2015, a man purporting to be one of its New York-based employees was arrested and accused of being an unregistered spy. [The Washington Post]
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Post that "as the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."
The Washington Post adds that "people familiar with the matter said investigators on the case are more focused on Russian influence operations and possible financial crimes" and that "the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI, and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take." Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) isn't bothered by some members of her party criticizing her, following Jon Ossoff's loss Tuesday in Georgia's 6th Congressional district special election.
His opponent, Karen Handel, ran more of an anti-Ossoff campaign than pro-Handel, and ran ads linking Ossoff to Pelosi, a liberal from California. This isn't a new GOP tactic, Pelosi said during a press conference Thursday, "and usually, they go after the most effective leader." Two-thirds of the caucus backed Pelosi last year when she was challenged by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and she feels "very confident" about the support she has. "I think I'm worth the trouble, quite frankly," she said. "I love the fray." She didn't hesitate to stand up for herself, saying, "You want me to sing my praises? Well, I'm a master legislator. I am a strategic, politically astute leader. My leadership is recognized by many around the country, and that is why I'm able to attract the support that I do."
Pelosi said the party is "paving a way for a new generation of leadership, and I respect any opinion that my my members have," but the "decision about how long I stay is not up to them." Looking ahead to 2018, "history is on our side," she added, as the president typically loses House seats during their first midterm election. Catherine Garcia
Senate Republicans unveiled their health-care proposal Thursday, the upper chamber's version of the GOP-backed American Health Care Act that passed the House early last month. The Senate bill, titled the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017," allows states to apply for waivers to certain insurance regulations intended to protect the sick and the poor, proposes steep and lasting cuts to Medicaid, and rolls back taxes and subsidies levied under the Affordable Care Act.
Former President Barack Obama, of course, signed the Affordable Care Act a.k.a. ObamaCare into law just over seven years ago. On Thursday, he took to his Facebook page to offer his thoughts on the Senate's proposed replacement for his signature legislative achievement, slamming the bill's "fundamental meanness":
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health-care bill. It's a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. [...]
Simply put, if there's a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family — this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation. [Barack Obama]
An unintentional loophole in a New Hampshire law would have allowed pregnant women to murder people without consequence
An awkward linguistic loophole in a Republican bill in the New Hampshire state Senate would have, in theory, allowed pregnant women to legally get away with committing murder, Slate reports. Senate Bill 66 defined fetuses past 20 weeks old as "people" for cases of murder or manslaughter, such as when unborn babies are killed in reckless driving accidents. But in order to avoid convicting pregnant mothers of murder if they sought abortions, the bill included an unintentionally hilarious work-around:
The bill's original language stated that "any act committed by the pregnant woman" or a doctor acting in his professional capacity wouldn't apply in cases of second-degree murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide. Unfortunately, "any act" implied, well, any act. The bill "allows a pregnant woman to commit homicide without consequences," Republican representative J.R. Hoell told the Concord Monitor. "Although that was never the intent, that is the clear reading of the language." *blooper sound effect* [Slate]
The bill initalliy passed both the state's House and Senate without lawmakers realizing the loophole, Slate adds. But unfortunately for anyone with Purge-esque visions of bloodthirty mothers-to-be, the House passed an amendment Thursday "to make sure pregnant women don't go around killing people." Read the full details of the case at Slate. Jeva Lange
Carrier braces for 600-person layoff just 6 months after Trump touted the company as a job policy victory
From the get-go, President Trump's so-called "Carrier deal" has not lived up to its expectations. In December, the then-president-elect promised to save 1,100 jobs at the air conditioner and furnace manufacturing plant that had been slated to go to Mexico in return for $7 million in state financial incentives.
In reality, only 730 union jobs were preserved. Fast-forward a few months, and now more than 600 employees at the Carrier plant are anticipating being laid off next month. "The jobs are still leaving," the president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, Robert James, told CNBC. "Nothing has stopped."
"To me this was just political, to make it a victory within Trump's campaign, in his eyes, that he did something great," added T.J. Bray, who has worked at Carrier for 15 years and whose seniority saved him from layoffs. "I'm very grateful that I get to keep my job, and many others, but I'm still disappointed that we're losing a lot."
In addition to the $7 million in incentives Carrier received for agreeing to employ at least 1,069 people at the plant for the next 10 years, the company vowed to invest $16 million into the Indiana-based facility. But "as for Trump's claim that the $16 million investment in the plant would add jobs, United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told CNBC in December that the money would go toward more automation in the factory and ultimately would result in fewer jobs," CNBC reports.
Indiana Economic Development Corp. president Elaine Bedel added that all of Trump's promises "really [haven't] changed anything."
"We have been doing this since 2005," she said. Jeva Lange
Conservative health-care wonk Avik Roy says the Senate health-care bill could be 'the greatest policy achievement' by a GOP Congress in his lifetime
As the Senate Republicans' ObamaCare replacement was sending ripples of alarm and anger through the Democratic ranks — and some of the GOP ones, too — conservative health-care wonk Avik Roy was reading. And reading. And reading.
After finishing the 142 pages of the "Better Care" act, Roy — who served as Mitt Romney's health-care policy adviser during his 2012 campaign — reached this conclusion:
Finished reading the Senate HC bill. Put simply: If it passes, it’ll be the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.
— Avik Roy (@Avik) June 22, 2017
Elizabeth Warren rips apart Senate Republicans' health-care bill, blasting tax cuts as 'blood money'
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) took to the floor Thursday to passionately attack the Republican Senate's ObamaCare replacement, the "Better Care" act. "Senate Republicans wrung some extra dollars out of kicking people off tax credits that help them afford health insurance," Warren said. "They raked in extra cash by letting states drop even more protections and benefits, like maternity care or prescription drug coverage or mental health coverage."
"And then they got to the real piggy bank," Warren added. "Medicaid. And here, they just went wild."
Warren noted that 1 in 5 Americans is on Medicaid, and that the program serves 30 million children. "These cuts are blood money," she said. "People will die. Let's be very clear. Senate Republicans are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives." Watch below. Jeva Lange
Warren: “These cuts are blood money… Senate Republicans are paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives” https://t.co/ltA2Ma68jp
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 22, 2017
Hours after Republican Senate leadership released a proposal for replacing ObamaCare, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced they would not support their party's bill.
"Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation," the senators wrote. They added, though, that "it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise made to Americans: to repeal ObamaCare and lower their health-care costs."
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 22, 2017
The GOP cannot lose the support of more than three senators for the bill to pass, as no Democrats or independents are expected to back the plan. A vote is expected next week. Jeva Lange