The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday proposed to remove gender identity from the class of protected persons in federal nondiscrimination protections in healthcare, rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender patients.
The agency said that new regulations would uphold protections against healthcare discrimination on the basis of sex, race, disability, and age.
Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the department, said the agency’s tradition of protecting all groups against discrimination and substandard healthcare was “unwavering.”
Severino declined to say directly whether the new proposed rule would allow providers to deny care to transgender patients.
“We haven’t seen that happen in real life,” he said when asked by reporters whether emergency medical providers would be allowed to deny care to people who are transgender.
Severino said certain emergency rooms are covered by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which ensures public access to emergency care. The law mandates that every patient who enters the ER will be stabilized, and the proposed rule does not preempt the federal law, “so I really would not see a conflict,” he said.
A portion of Obamacare, Section 1557, protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, and age. The Obama-era rules added protections based on pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping.
The Obama administration stopped short of specifying whether the rule would force health insurers to pick up the tab for gender transition surgery, or whether doctors would be required to provide it. Instead, the rule allowed people to file civil rights complaints if they believe that they have been treated unfairly, though it doesn’t specify whether or not covering specific treatments or procedures would qualify as discrimination.
The rule stipulated that doctors weren’t allowed to deny care to someone on the grounds that the way they act or dress differed from what would be expected. It said that if insurers who receive government funding covered a procedure or treatment for one patient, then they had to cover it for another. If an insurer were to cover a hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, to treat ovarian cancer for a female patient, then they would need to do the same for a transgender man.
Soon after the rule came out, Christian healthcare groups who said they would be forced to provide gender transition care filed lawsuits. Federal Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush nominee, agreed with the plaintiffs, and the Trump administration has said it has to revisit the Obama-era rules because of that decision.
“We are announcing with this proposal that [gender identity] is not included in the definition of ‘on the basis of sex,’” Severino said Friday. “That is the position of HHS, that is the position of the Department of Justice.”
Critics blasted Department of Health and Human Services officials in response to the announcement.
“Transgender and non-binary people experience staggering rates of discrimination from healthcare institutions and providers,” Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “They face the denial of medically necessary health care related to gender transition, harassment from medical providers, negligent care, and the refusal of medical service altogether.”
Kimberly Leonard contributed.
Chicago attorney Tina Tchen reportedly dodged a subpoena requesting documents of her conversations with the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx surrounding the investigation of Empire actor Jussie Smollett.
Tchen, who was formerly chief of staff to Michelle Obama, refused to to meet with a process server that was trying to serve her the subpoena at her office, according to reporting from the Chicago Sun-Times. The guard told the process server that Tchen “knew about” the subpoena, but that she refused to come down and accept it.
The subpoena was issued by former Illinois Appellate Judge Sheila O’Brien, who is advocating for a special prosecutor to look into how the Foxx’s office handled the dismissal of charges against Smollett. The subpoena issued to Tchen was for “any and all documents, notes, phone records, texts, tape recordings made or received at any time, concerning [Tchen’s] conversations with Kim Foxx in re: Jussie Smollett.”
Some of Tchen’s correspondence with Foxx was previously leaked. In one exchange, Foxx told Tchen that she “spoke to Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation. He is reaching out now and will get back to me shortly.”
Source: The Washington Pundit
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusation that President Trump “is engaged in a cover-up” provoked backlash among conservatives and prompted President Trump to abruptly abandon key infrastructure negotiations with Democrats who came to meet with him at the White House.
Trump left the Wednesday meeting and promptly appeared in the Rose Garden to declare, “I don’t do cover-ups.” Back on Capitol Hill, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., called the various Democrat-led investigations into the president “witch hunts and ridiculous foolishness.”
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., compared Pelosi’s cover-up accusation to dropping “a nuclear bomb.”
But Democrats are convinced Trump is attempting to cover up some kind of criminal behavior and maybe even ties to Russia, which can be found only by obtaining his tax returns, financial documents, and other material they are seeking from the president and that Trump is trying to block.
Some lawmakers aren’t sure what Trump may be covering up but they are determined to find out.
“My belief is he is trying to cover up the impeachable truth,” Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, told the Washington Examiner.
Green introduced articles of impeachment against the president on the opening day of Congress. He’s not certain what Trump is hiding but believes it must be important.
“That might be what we will find and I’m not sure what it will be,” Green explained. “But I don’t believe he has gone through these great lengths to cover this up for no reason at all.”
Many Democrats agree with Green. They believe the president’s decision not to release his tax returns, which has become a tradition for presidential candidates but is not required by law, signals he may be covering up crimes. His financial records, which Trump is also trying to block from Democrats, may also reveal illegal activity, they reason.
Democrats have also become increasingly convinced Trump has something to hide because he has refused to allow top aides to testify at oversight hearings and he has not ordered the release of the underacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference into the 2016 election.
Some Democrats believe the cover-up alone is proof of a crime.
“When somebody covers up, it means there is something to cover up that is detrimental to their position and the American people,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told the Washington Examiner.
While the Mueller report redactions are legally required, Democrats view the president’s unwillingness to release them as evidence he’s trying to conceal actions he may have taken to obstruct the Mueller probe.
“He has refused to release the full Mueller report with the underlying information, he’s refused to release his tax returns, he’s refused to provide information on any number of things that committees have been asking for, he’s consistently continued to lie and obstruct justice, as outlined in the Mueller report, around his attempts to get people to fire the special counsel,” Jayapal said.
“He clearly doesn’t want an investigation into any of his actions. So it’s a giant cover-up,” she said.
Jayapal said Trump may be trying to cover up obstruction of justice or violations of the obscure Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits federal officeholders from accepting gifts from foreign governments.
“There’s a whole series of constitutional violations when somebody covers up,” Jayapal added.
Several House committees are pursuing investigations into the president and have issued subpoenas and filed court cases to obtain documents.
Democrats outline the rational for the probes in the accompanying legal documents.
The Ways and Means Committee subpoenaed six years of Trump’s tax returns, informing the Treasury Department and IRS, “it is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who has been successfully battling Trump in court to obtain his private financial records, told the Examiner he is trying to find out whether Trump is hiding a conflict of interest or violations of the Emoluments Clause.
“That’s what I’m concerned about,” Cummings told the Examiner.
A federal court upheld Cummings’ subpoena of Trump’s financial statements, which Cummings believes may falsely portray his assets and liabilities.
Democrats base their suspicions on testimony and documents provided by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is now in prison and has lied to Congress.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., a member of the Judiciary Committee who advocates for an impeachment inquiry, said the probes into Trump aim to determine “if there is foreign influence in his actions.”
Many Democrats say Trump’s moves to block congressional oversight are worrisome enough, even if nobody is sure what will be revealed.
“The simple answer is we don’t know,” Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a Democratic presidential candidate, said. “We don’t know exactly what he’s covering up.”
Moulton pointed to the Mueller report, which concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin favored Trump in the 2016 election.
Mueller concluded the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians, rejecting an accusation Democrats have been making since Trump won the White House.
But Moulton, like many Democrats, continues to suspect Russia is influencing the president and that their investigation can end the cover-up.
“That’s a national security concern that should be on the minds of every American whether you are a Trump supporter or a Trump hater,” Moulton said.
“Maybe his tax returns will reveal a little bit more about his connections to Russia.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — She’s calling for an “intervention” to save the nation from him. He says she’s “crazy.”
The enmity between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deteriorated Thursday into rude-and-then-some questioning of his fitness for office and her sanity, with personal attacks flowing from both the nation’s top elected officials after a dramatic blow-up at the White House.
However intended, the exchanges left uncertain ahead of the 2020 election whether Trump and the Democrats will be able to work together on serious, must-pass tasks, such as funding the government and raising the federal borrowing limit, let alone thornier issues such as immigration, national security and more.
Pelosi went first, with demure shrugs and practiced sass. Then, as a tornado warning blared across Washington, Trump followed with a derisive nickname — something he had declined to give her, up to now.
“She’s a mess,” Trump told reporters at an afternoon news conference in which he lined up White House staff to testify to his calmness the day before when he walked out after three minutes at a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer.
“Crazy Nancy. … I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday.”
As for himself, he declared, “I’m an extremely stable genius.”
Tap to unmute
Pelosi scolded back:
“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues,” she tweeted.
There was more, before and after that exchange, for political enthusiasts with the time and interest to follow along.
For those who don’t: The theater came a day after Trump stalked out of the Cabinet Room demanding an end to all congressional investigations before he would work with Congress on repairing U.S. infrastructure or other matters. He apparently was wound up generally over the ongoing congressional Trump-Russia probes into whether he obstructed justice, and specifically by Pelosi’s jab a few minutes earlier at the Capitol that he “is engaged in a cover-up.”
“I don’t do cover-ups,” fumed Trump, who is fighting subpoenas for testimony by current and former White House officials.
Hanging over the increasingly personal exchanges is a drumbeat among about two dozen Democrats and one Republican to launch impeachment hearings against Trump based on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which described Trump’s efforts to block his federal investigation. Pelosi has resisted that impeachment pressure, preferring a methodical process by which Congress investigates and lays out the facts on the question of obstruction of justice. She says the House is “not on a path to impeachment,” but she’s been clear this week that an impeachment inquiry is not off the table.
Short of that, she’s been happy to give Trump a hard time all year, including questioning his manhood and forcing him to re-open the government without the border wall money he demanded. On Thursday, she said the White House is “crying out” for impeachment — the idea being that a vindication by the Republican-controlled Senate would help assure his re-election.
On Thursday, subtlety went by the wayside. Pelosi said Trump has established a pattern of unpredictability, and at one point she even joked about the 25th Amendment, the Constitution’s provision laying out the procedure for replacing a president.
Tap to unmute
“I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, adding that she prays for him and the nation.
“Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence,” she said. Asked whether she’s concerned about Trump’s well-being, she replied, “I am.”
Trump denied he wanted the House to formally charge him.
“I don’t think anybody wants to be impeached,” he said.
Pelosi, the second in line to the presidency, said she thinks Trump’s actions Wednesday were part of his skill at distraction. But she also suggested what he does isn’t all strategic.
“Sometimes when we’re talking to him he agrees,” she said, only to change his mind. “He says he’s in charge and he may be.”
During questions, Pelosi said she thought a reporter had asked about “statutory” intervention, the 25th Amendment.
“That’s a good idea,” she said with a smile. “I am going to take it up with my caucus. Not that they haven’t been thinking about it.”
She has been insulting Trump since the meeting Wednesday that was supposed to be about bridges and other crumbling infrastructure.
“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part … he took a pass, and it just makes me wonder why he did that,” she told reporters back on Capitol Hill. “In any event I pray for the president of the United States.”
Trump tweeted back: “Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!”
Associated Press Writers Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump directed the U.S. intelligence community on Thursday to “quickly and fully cooperate” with Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of the origins of the multi-year probe of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia, granting a loyalist sweeping powers to review and potentially release highly classified information.
The move marked an escalation in Trump’s efforts to “investigate the investigators,” as he continues to try to undermine the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe amid mounting Democratic calls to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump is delegating to Barr the “full and complete authority” to declassify documents relating to the probe, which would ease his efforts to review the sensitive intelligence underpinnings of the investigation. Such an action could create fresh tensions within the FBI and other intelligence agencies, which have historically resisted such demands.
Barr has already asked John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Russia investigation to determine whether intelligence and surveillance methods used during the probe were lawful and appropriate. Still, Barr has been directly involved, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it publicly, and is also working with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Trump is giving Barr a new tool in his investigation, empowering his attorney general to unilaterally unseal documents that the Justice Department has historically regarded as among its most highly secret. Warrants obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, for instance, are not made public — not even to the person on whom the surveillance was authorized.
Trump explicitly delegated Barr with declassification power — noting it would not automatically extend to another attorney general — and only for use in the review of the Russia investigation. Before using the new authority, Barr should consult with intelligence officials “to the extent he deems it practicable,” Trump wrote in a memo formalizing the matter.
Trump has frequently claimed his campaign was the victim of “spying,” though the intelligence community has insisted it acted lawfully in following leads in the Russia investigation and conducted surveillance under court order.
Wray vocally opposed the release by Congress last year of details from a secret surveillance warrant obtained by the bureau on a former campaign adviser, Carter Page. The White House had eagerly encouraged Republicans on the House intelligence committee to disclose that classified information, believing it could help undermine the Russia investigation.
Wray, though cooperating with Barr in a review of the origins of the Russia probe, would presumably balk at declassifying classified information that could reveal sensitive sources or methods of investigators.
Despite Mueller finding no evidence to support criminal charges against Americans related to Russia’s actions, his report documented extensive Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 campaign and willingness on the part of some in Trump’s orbit to accept their aid.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff accused Trump and Barr of trying to “conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies.”
“The coverup has entered a new and dangerous phase,” Schiff said in a statement released late Thursday. “This is un-American.”
Typically, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence coordinates declassification work by contacting various agencies where classified material originated to get their input on what should be released or not disclosed based on legal exemptions. The president, however, has the authority to declassify anything he wants.
A former senior intelligence official who served in the Obama administration said their principle concern is that the attorney general, hand-picked by Trump, could declassify and release selective bits to make the previous administration and former senior officials look bad. The former official spoke on the condition that the official would not be named in order to describe the concerns of intelligence professionals.
Thursday’s move further solidifies Barr’s position in Trump’s eyes as a legal warrior on fighting on his behalf.
After Mueller submitted his report to Barr in March, the attorney general released a four-page summary to Congress. Barr’s letter framed the debate about the probe over the next few weeks and, White House officials believe, allowed Trump to declare victory before the release of the full report, the contents of which are far more ambiguous.
Trump also appreciated Barr’s combative stance with lawmakers and reporters as he defended the Justice Department’s handling of the report, and again when he declined to appear before Congress and defied a subpoena, drawing a possible contempt charge. Trump has told close confidants that he “finally” had “my attorney general,” according to two Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
“Today’s action will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken, during the last Presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions,” Sanders said.
Two of Trump’s congressional allies, Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, were seen by reporters earlier Thursday at the Justice Department.
Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo, Deb Riechmann and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
An Illinois judge on Thursday ordered “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s criminal case file unsealed, setting up the release of a wealth of information surrounding the controversial — and often confusing — case.
Cook County judge Steven G. Watkins’ decision came months after a dizzying set of events: First, Smollett alleged he’d been the victim of a hate crime; after an extensive investigation, Chicago cops arrested Smollett and accused him of faking the supposed attack; and then, Cook County prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges against Smollett and his case was sealed.
But not anymore — at least, soon.
When the state attorney asked whether the office could have more time to redact personal information from the files, Watkins advised prosecutors to “act as if the documents were never sealed in the first place.”
In January, Smollett made national headlines when he filed a police report alleging two masked men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him as he was walking home from a fast food eatery. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, said the masked men beat him, made racist and homophobic comments and yelled, “This is MAGA country” — a reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — before fleeing the scene.
Source: The Washington Pundit
Julian Assange was charged Thursday in an 18-count superseding indictment for his role in orchestrating the 2010 WikiLeaks disclosures, including charges that accuse him of violating the Espionage Act.
According to the Justice Department, the new charges from a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia allege that “Assange’s actions risked serious harm to United States national security to the benefit of our adversaries.”
The charges include an allegation of conspiracy between Manning and Assange to obtain, receive and disclose national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, a rare act by prosecutors against an individual who never served inside government.
Reacting to the indictment Thursday, Assange’s attorney in Washington Barry Pollack said Assange was being charged “for encouraging sources to provide him truthful information and for publishing that information.”
“The fig leaf that this is merely about alleged computer hacking has been removed,” Pollack said. “These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have taken by the U.S. government.”
Image Credit: Daniel Leal-olivas/AFP/Getty Images
Source: The Washington Pundit
Since the release of the Mueller report, Democrats have been toying with the idea of impeaching President Trump, moving the goal posts from collusion with the Russian government to committing obstruction of justice. However, a new talking point has emerged: Trump is involved in a “cover-up.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D.Calif., said, “We do believe that it’s important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
The media has been having a free-for-all, taking this shiny new term and milking it for all its worth.
MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace likened this episode to former President Richard Nixon. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer trotted out House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to agree with the House speaker. And MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell shed light on how Trump is engaged in the cover-up by not turning over documents (including his tax returns), letting aides testify before Congress, and asserting executive privilege on the Mueller report.
Of course, Trump denies this charge.
“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up,” Trump told reporters at the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday. “I don’t do cover-ups.”
Pelosi’s use of the term “cover-up” seems to be a calculated move. It’s almost a blanket term that all Democrats can use instead of a term such as “obstruction.” If Democrats can’t move anywhere on a particular investigation, they can say it’s a cover-up. And if they don’t get the desired result out of an investigation, they can hammer home that it’s because it’s a cover-up.
Democrats haven’t been shy about using subpoena power since gaining control of the House. According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration is blocking 20 separate investigations led by House Democrats, including Trump’s tax returns, the Mueller report, and his financial dealings. Trump is blocking aides from testifying before Congress, he asserted executive privilege over the Mueller report, and he even sued both Deutsche Bank and Capital One to get them to not comply with congressional subpoenas.
The goal is to let the courts decide whether the Trump administration has to comply with these subpoenas. But the courts have been a mixed bag for Trump so far.
On issues such as Trump’s watered-down travel ban or his “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers, the courts have ruled in Trump’s favor. However, the dam is beginning to break on some of these investigations as a federal judge said that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can turn over Trump’s financial records to House Democrats.
Looking at the bigger picture, Democrats are making it clear what their central messaging will be for the 2020 election, regardless of where these investigations lead. They’re pinning their hopes that voters will catch wind of this idea that Trump is spearheading a cover-up, believe he hasn’t been more forthcoming and transparent, and side with Democrats at the ballot box.
FILE PHOTO – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony of consecration of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado
May 23, 2019
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s lower house of Congress has rebuffed President Jair Bolsonaro’s move to put decisions on indigenous land claims in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The chamber voted late on Wednesday to restore land delineation decisions to the National Indigenous Affairs agency Funai, which will also be placed under the Ministry of Justice again. The reversal still must be voted on by the Senate.
The right-wing president had alarmed anthropologists and environmentalists by planning to assimilate Brazil’s 800,000 indigenous people into Brazilian society and open reservation lands to commercial agriculture and mining, even in the Amazon rainforest.
Bolsonaro’s first decree reorganizing the executive branch the day he took office in January put Funai under a newly created Women, Family and Human Rights Ministry headed by an evangelical pastor who wants to Christianize indigenous people.
Land decisions were moved to the Agriculture Ministry, led by farm representatives that believe Brazilian tribes have too much land, with indigenous people who account for less than 1% of the country’s population living on 13% of its territory.
Brazil’s main indigenous organization APIB called Wednesday’s vote a historic victory against the government’s plan to open up tribal lands to agribusiness.
Bolsonaro has said the tribes live in poverty and should not be held inside reservations “like animals in a zoo” but be allowed to engage in commercial activity and charge royalties from mining companies.
Tribal leaders protested that without their ancestral lands, indigenous languages, cultures and ways of life would die.
“Our relation with the land is about sustainability and respect for Mother Nature,” APIB said in a statement.
Environmentalists have defended the reservations as the best way to stop deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, considered by many as nature’s best defense against global warming, with its trees absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish)