President Donald Trump on Thursday called the Mueller probe a “coup,” and said Hillary Clinton destroyed the lives of people on his presidential campaign.
“We had people coming out to vote from all over this country that are in love with what we’re doing. It’s called Make America Great Again, and that’s what we’ve done and what we’re doing. This was an overthrow, and it’s a disgraceful thing. I think it’s far bigger than Watergate. I think it’s possibly the biggest scandal in political history in this country.”
“This was a coup. This wasn’t stealing information from an office in the Watergate apartments,” he added, referring to the scandal that led to former President Richard Nixon’s resignation. “This was an attempted coup. Like a third world country. Inconceivable. I think a lot of information is coming out, and it’s coming out fast, much faster than anybody would have thought, and there are a lot of people very nervous about things that are going on.”
Trump’s phone call into the show came a day after Clinton published a column in The Washington Post calling for Congress to be “deliberate, fair, and fearless,” in continuing Mueller’s work by holding substantive hearings that build on the report “and fill in its gaps.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
A U.S. judge in Washington state Thursday blocked new Trump administration rules that would provide additional hurdles for women seeking abortions, including by banning taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals.
Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima granted the preliminary injunction in cases brought by the state and abortion rights groups, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. The new rules were due to take effect May 3.
“Today’s ruling ensures that clinics across the nation can remain open and continue to provide quality, unbiased healthcare to women,” Ferguson, a Democrat, said in an emailed statement.
The ruling came two days after a federal judge in Oregon, hearing a separate challenge by 20 states, said he intended to at least partially block the rules. That judge, Michael McShane, suggested he was reluctant to issue a nationwide injunction, but said the administration’s new policy was motivated by “an arrogant assumption that the government is better suited to direct women’s health care than their providers.”
Title X is a 1970 law designed to improve access to family planning services, especially for low-income women and those in rural areas, but abortion opponents and religious conservatives say it has long been used to indirectly subsidize abortion providers.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of Title X or other taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
Clinics that receive money under Title X provide a wide array of services, including birth control and screening for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. The program serves 4 million patients, about 1.6 million of whom obtain services through Planned Parenthood.
In addition to banning abortion referrals by taxpayer-funded clinics, the changes would prohibit clinics that receive federal money from sharing office space with abortion providers — a rule critics said would force many to find new locations, undergo expensive remodels or shut down.
“All over the country, there are Title X providers looking at their patient schedules and wondering what they were going to do,” said Clare Coleman, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which sued. “Now we know that everyone can continue to do their care as they have been doing for the past 50 years.”
The judge made his ruling from the bench and said he would issue a written opinion early next week, Coleman said.
The Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on litigation.
While the new rules would permit clinic staff to discuss abortion with clients, they would no longer be required to do so. If patients ask for an abortion referral, staff would be required to give a list of primary care providers with no indication as to which provide abortions.
The list would have to include providers who do not offer abortions, and it could not include clinics or organizations that aren’t primary care providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
Supporters of the changes say they return Title X’s regulations back to their original legislative intent that “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
“We’re extremely disappointed that a district judge made a ruling — a wrong ruling — that affects the entire nation,” said Mark Miloscia, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, which was not involved in the case. “We support family planning, but not giving it through agencies that kill the unborn.”
The legal challenges argue that the changes violate a requirement that patients receive pregnancy counseling that is not weighted for or against abortion, and that it violates the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on regulations that impose “unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care.”
Some 98,000 patients in Washington were expected to receive care through Title X this year, Ferguson said.
Source: NewsMax America
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
April 26, 2019
(Reuters) – President Donald Trump is flatly refusing to cooperate in numerous U.S. congressional probes of himself and his administration, taking a defiant stance that could trigger protracted court fights with House of Representatives Democrats.
In an unprecedented step, the Trump administration has filed a lawsuit to try to block one congressional subpoena; some Trump advisers have been told to ignore other subpoenas; and a request for Trump’s tax returns has not been fulfilled.
In most instances, Trump risks trouble with Congress over subpoenas, “contempt of Congress” citations and civil enforcement actions in court.
Trump’s stonewalling has hardened since the release last week of a redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump viewed the report as an exoneration because the special counsel did not charge him with conspiring with Russia or with obstruction of justice. However, the report detailed the Trump campaign’s welcoming of help from the Russians and his later efforts to thwart Mueller’s inquiry.
Like other senior Democrats who are treating the Mueller report as a road map for further investigations by Congress, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings accused the Trump administration on Wednesday of a “massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction.”
The following are ways Trump has defied Congress in recent days:
Don McGahn, former White House counsel, was a key witness in the Mueller probe and House Democrats want to hear from him. But the White House plans to assert executive privilege to prevent McGahn and other current and former administration officials from testifying to Congress, the Washington Post has reported.
UNREDACTED MUELLER REPORT
Parts of the Mueller report were redacted, leaving some questions unanswered. Democrats have issued a subpoena in an attempt to obtain the full report without redactions and evidence Mueller relied on. Attorney General William Barr must decide by May 1 whether to comply.
Barr has said he has a legal obligation to keep secret information obtained from grand jury proceedings, and that other redactions were necessary to protect U.S. intelligence sources and avoid harm to ongoing law enforcement matters.
Unlike past presidents in recent decades, Trump has refused to make public his tax returns, raising questions about what is in them. Democrats are probing Trump’s past business dealings and possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet a congressional deadline on Tuesday for turning over Trump’s tax returns to the House tax committee, setting the stage for a possible court battle between Congress and the administration.
Mnuchin said he planned to make “a final decision” on whether to provide Trump’s tax records by May 6.
Legal experts said House Democrats could vote to hold Mnuchin or IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in contempt of Congress if they ignore a subpoena, as a step toward suing in federal court to obtain the returns.
Trump on Monday filed a lawsuit attempting to keep U.S. lawmakers from obtaining his financial records. The unprecedented suit seeks to block a subpoena issued by Cummings, whose panel is looking into Trump’s financial record.
The subpoena sought eight years of documents from Mazars USA, an accounting firm long used by Trump to prepare financial statements. Cummings issued the subpoena after Michael Cohen, formerly Trump’s personal lawyer, testified to Congress in February that Trump had misrepresented his net worth.
Cummings said on Tuesday that his panel will soon vote on whether to cite a former White House official with contempt for failing to appear for questioning on allegations that the Trump administration inappropriately granted security clearances to some of the president’s advisers.
The White House told the Oversight Committee that it had directed Carl Kline, who was White House personnel security chief for the first two years of Trump’s presidency, to ignore the committee’s subpoena to appear.
CENSUS AND CITIZENSHIP
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) rebuffed the Oversight Committee’s request for an interview with John Gore, an official who was involved in the administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.
The Justice Department said Gore, a lawyer in its Civil Rights Division, would not participate in a deposition set for Thursday if he could not have a department lawyer at his side. The committee had offered to let a lawyer sit in a different room.
A DOJ official said the committee had provided “no legitimate or constitutional basis for excluding a DOJ lawyer from assisting at the deposition.”
Trump on Wednesday vowed to fight any effort by congressional Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings against him, promising to go to the Supreme Court, even though it plays no role in the constitutional impeachment process.
Congressional Democrats said in March that a U.S. government agency was responding too slowly to their requests for documents about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a plan to move the FBI.
Before he became president in January 2017, Trump supported moving the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters to the suburbs of Washington, Democrats looking into the matter said.
They said that after Trump was elected and disqualified from bidding to acquire the site for commercial development, he switched his position. Democrats have subsequently raised questions about a possible Trump conflict of interest.
The White House refused a request for Trump’s top immigration aide Stephen Miller to testify to Congress in a letter on Wednesday to the House Oversight Committee.
Miller, a former Senate aide, has helped shape some of Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, from the first Muslim travel ban shortly after he took office in 2017 to the child separation policy for migrants who illegally crossed the U.S.- Mexico border, both of which were rejected by courts.
(Compiled by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
April 26, 2019
By Steve Gorman and Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday blocked a Trump administration rule that would prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers, according to the state attorney general.
The preliminary injunction bars enforcement nationwide of a policy that was due to go into effect on May 3 over the vehement objections of abortion supporters who have decried it as a “gag rule” designed to silence doctor-patient communications about abortion options.
“Today’s ruling ensures that clinics across the nation can remain open and continue to provide quality, unbiased healthcare to women,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement announcing the decision.
Washington state was a named plaintiff in the case challenging restrictions proposed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to its Title X program subsidizing reproductive healthcare and family planning costs for low-income women.
Neither the White House nor HHS immediately responded to requests from Reuters for comment.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima in eastern Washington capped a hearing in which oral arguments were presented by both sides.
Ferguson’s statement quoted the judge, in ruling from the bench, as saying, “There is no public interest in perpetuating unlawful agency action.”
A federal judge in Oregon earlier this week said he intended to grant a preliminary injunction in a similar but separate lawsuit brought by 20 states and the District of Columbia. Two more lawsuits challenging the Title X restrictions are pending in California and Maine.
The restrictions are aimed at fulfilling Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to end federal support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other health services for women under Title X.
Congress appropriated $286 million in Title X grants in 2017 to Planned Parenthood and other health centers to provide birth control, screening for diseases and other reproductive health and counseling to low-income women.
The funding is already prohibited from being used for abortions, but abortion opponents have long complained that the money in effect subsidizes Planned Parenthood as a whole.
Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services to about 40 percent of the 4 million people who rely on Title X funding annually, and the organization has argued that community health centers would be unable to absorb its patients.
Under the new rule, clinics that receive Title X funding would be barred from referring patients for abortion as a method of family planning. The new regulation also would require financial and physical separation between facilities funded by Title X and those providing abortions.
Abortion opponents have argued the plan would not ban abortion counseling but would ensure that taxpayer funding does not support clinics that also perform the procedure.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)
FILE PHOTO: View of the U.S. Embassy (front buildings) in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo/File Photo
April 25, 2019
By Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is accelerating a plan to cut up to half of the workforce at the U.S. embassy in Kabul starting at the end of next month, sparking concern it will undermine the fragile Afghan peace process, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.
Pompeo’s order for the largest U.S. diplomatic mission comes about a year earlier than expected, a surprise development given the meager progress in U.S. talks with Taliban militants on an agreement that would pave the way for a U.S. troop withdrawal and an end to America’s longest war.
The Taliban, their negotiating leverage bolstered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s public impatience to end the war, could dig in further because they would regard a large embassy drawdown as more confirmation of his eagerness to reduce the U.S. role in Afghanistan.
The Kabul embassy is a testament to the size of America’s investment in Afghanistan since it went to war there in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. With a workforce of about 1,500, the heavily fortified compound underwent an $800 million expansion four years ago and now includes 700 beds for staff.
One U.S. official said the reduction should be seen as part of a global redistribution of U.S. diplomats required by the Trump administration’s national security strategy shift from emphasizing counter-terrorism to confronting renewed “great power” rivalry with Russia and China.
But a drastic embassy workforce cut – which State Department officials briefed key congressional committees about last week in advance of a formal notification – will likely reverberate throughout Afghanistan.
It could erode a strained U.S. relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government a month after the allies publicly clashed over Kabul’s exclusion from the negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
Ghani “would see this as another step in a betrayal,” said Thomas Lynch, a U.S. National Defense University fellow focused on Afghanistan and former adviser to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. officials and congressional aides said that among the concerns about a major drawdown was the risk that it could alarm NATO allies, already at odds with Trump over a host of issues, and ordinary Afghans.
A State Department spokeswoman said in an email when asked about the planned embassy cuts that the department “regularly reviews our presence at our overseas missions to reflect changing circumstances and our policy goals.”
Trump’s priorities are “ending the war in Afghanistan through a sustainable peace settlement and focusing on counterterrorism,” she said, adding that Washington will maintain “a robust” presence in Afghanistan.
She did not explain why Pompeo moved up the embassy staff reduction plan.
‘SHOCK AND STUPEFACTION’
U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, has reported some progress toward an accord on a U.S. troop withdrawal and on how the Taliban would prevent extremists from using Afghanistan to launch attacks as al Qaeda did on Sept. 11, 2001.
The insurgents, however, so far have rejected U.S. demands for a ceasefire and talks on the country’s political future that would include Afghan government officials.
News that Washington was examining a workforce cut in Kabul first was reported by National Public Radio in February. Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier this month that the State Department was preparing to reduce personnel by half in 2020.
Now, the reduction “is starting as soon as May 31 and they want to have it done by September,” said one congressional aide.
Four other sources, including three U.S. officials, confirmed the plan to reduce the embassy staff by up to half. One said it would be achieved by not filling posts that regularly go vacant.
Pompeo’s order was not accompanied by a justification, such as cost-cutting, said a U.S. official and a congressional aide.
“You have to have some parameters, some guidelines, and there weren’t any,” said the U.S. official, adding that Pompeo’s directive triggered “shock and stupefaction” in the State Department when it was issued about two weeks ago.
The congressional aide said that when asked to justify the drawdown in congressional briefings last week, State Department officials said,
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump departs after delivering remarks at the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
April 25, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would soon host Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the White House, setting the stage for a possible agreement on trade between the world’s two largest economies.
The White House said on Tuesday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would travel to Beijing for additional talks on a trade dispute that has led to tit-for-tat tariffs between the two countries.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who will lead the Beijing talks for China, will also travel to Washington for more discussions starting on May 8, it said.
“The subjects of next week’s discussions will cover trade issues including intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, purchases, and enforcement,” the White House said.
Beijing and Washington are seeking a deal to end a bitter trade war that has cost them billions of dollars, disrupted supply chains and rattled financial markets.
Trump has said he expects to finalize the deal in a meeting with Xi.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Peter Cooney)
FILE PHOTO: Colin Huang, founder and CEO of the online group discounter Pinduoduo, speaks during the company’s stock trading debut at the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York, during an event in Shanghai, China July 26, 2018. Picture taken July 26, 2018. Yin Liqin/CNS via REUTERS
April 25, 2019
(Reuters) – The United States on Thursday added China’s third-largest e-commerce platform to its list of “notorious markets” for violations of intellectual property rights and kept China on its priority watch list for piracy and counterfeiting concerns.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office placed Pinduoduo.com, which USTR described as third largest by number of users, on its blacklist of commercial marketplaces that fail to curb the sale of counterfeit products. It also kept Alibaba Group’s taobao.com, China’s largest e-commerce platform, on the list.
USTR’s annual review of trading partners’ protection of intellectual properties rights and so-called “notorious markets” comes as the United States and China are embroiled in negotiations to end a tit-for-tat tariff battle that has roiled supply chains and cost both countries billions of dollars. The two countries are due to resume talks in Beijing next week.
China’s inclusion on the list “reflects the urgent need to remediate a range of intellectual property-related concerns,” a USTR official told reporters on a call to discuss the report.
He noted longstanding concerns that have been voiced by the Trump administration in the trade talks, including “coercive” technology transfer requirements, widespread copyright infringement and “rampant” piracy and counterfeiting.
The official declined to discuss how the talks with China were going, but said that additional actions using Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 were possible. The United States has levied tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods under the act.
Of Pinduoduo.com, USTR said in the report: “Many of (the site’s) price-conscious shoppers are reportedly aware of the proliferation of counterfeit products on pinduoduo.com but are nevertheless attracted to the low-priced goods on the platform.”
While Alibaba has taken steps to address counterfeit products offered and sold on the Taobao marketplace, companies continue to see widespread infringement, USTR said.
A spokesperson for Alibaba said the company disagreed with USTR’s decision to keep it on the list, adding the company’s practices are considered “best-in-class” by industry members.
“In fact, zero industry associations called for our inclusion in the report this year. We will continue to wage this fight against counterfeiters,” Brion Tingler, head of external affairs, said in an emailed statement.
A total of 36 countries were on this year’s overall watch list of trade partners warranting additional bilateral engagement over these issues, including Russia and India.
In addition, USTR raised Saudi Arabia to include it among 11 countries on the priority list. The bump-up in Saudi Arabia’s status as a concern was in part due to an illicit service for pirated content called BeoutQ, the report said.
Despite “extensive engagement” in Saudi Arabia by both U.S. government and private stakeholders, treatment of intellectual property rights “continued to deteriorate,” USTR said.
Canada was removed as a priority because of commitments made in the U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade pact agreed in 2018. It remained on the overall watch list, however. Tajikistan was removed from the list due to “concrete steps” to improve its intellectual property regime, the agency said.
USTR also called out free trade zones as places where counterfeiting can be rampant. In thousands of such zones across 130 economies, including in Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore, manufacturers and logistics companies are subject to different customs regulations and duties than they are elsewhere, it said.
The more “barrier-free” environment can draw illegal activity like the trade and manufacture of counterfeit and pirated goods without proper oversight, USTR said.
(Reporting by Chris Prentice in New York and David Lawder in Washington; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)
FILE PHOTO: Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera attends a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, April 24, 2019. Parker Song/Pool via REUTERS
April 25, 2019
(Reuters) – Chilean President Sebastian Pinera kicked off an investment forum in China on Thursday with an invitation for the Asian giant to use Chile as a jumping off point to do business in Latin America, even as Washington has warned Chile to proceed with caution.
Pinera told the forum that Chile’s objective was to attract more investment from Chinese companies in technology, electric vehicles, telecommunications, and e-commerce.
“We want to transform Chile into a business center for Chinese companies, so that you can, from Chile, reach out to all of Latin America,” Pinera told Chinese investors at an investment and innovation forum in Beijing, according to a Chilean government statement.
The Chilean president’s visit to China, the Andean nation’s top trading partner, comes just weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Chile and slammed China’s “nefarious” actions and “predatory” lending practices, which critics say leave borrowers beholden to Beijing.
China rejected Pompeo’s criticisms, calling them “slanderous” and “irresponsible.”
Pinera has met with several Chinese electric vehicle makers during his week-long visit to Asia, including BYD and Yutong. Chile is one of the world’s largest producers of lithium, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries.
He also met executives from ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, which is planning to take on U.S. rival Uber in some of Latin America’s fastest-growing markets, including Chile.
It was not immediately clear whether Pinera would meet with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei during the visit. Chile has been in talks with Huawei since at least 2017 regarding a possible trans-Pacific fiber optic cable, and other projects.
Pompeo earlier this month warned Chile that Chinese technology, including equipment made by Huawei, poses a security risk that could affect information sharing by the United States.
U.S. influence in Latin America has been increasingly challenged by China, whose booming economy over the past two decades has driven up demand for South America’s raw materials.
Chile, among Latin America’s most open economies and the world’s top copper exporter, has sought to remain neutral amid the growing tensions, promoting instead the need for open markets and trade.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Natalia Ramos in Santiago, writing by Dave Sherwood, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday he asked former President Barack Obama “not to endorse” his White House campaign, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
“I asked President Obama not to endorse,” Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware. “And he doesn’t want to — whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.”
Biden spokesperson Kate Bedingfield told MSNBC earlier Thursday that Biden asked Obama “not” to endorse him.
“The vice president actually asked the president not to endorse,” Bedingfield told MSNBC. “He wanted to make the case. He is running in this race because he believes we need to restore the soul of this nation. We need to rebuild the backbone of America and that we need to unify and come together. Voters know Joe Biden.”
Source: NewsMax America