Articles on this Page
- 05/10/17--19:19: _WATCH LIVE: McCabe ...
- 05/11/17--05:38: _Betsy DeVos booed a...
- 05/11/17--05:49: _Read James Comey’s ...
- 05/11/17--07:03: _FDA proposes that d...
- 05/11/17--07:15: _Trump’s boiling fru...
- 05/11/17--07:35: _Senate panel subpoe...
- 05/11/17--07:45: _Lawmakers reach agr...
- 05/11/17--08:09: _North Carolina deni...
- 05/11/17--08:26: _The Republican who ...
- 05/11/17--09:38: _Acting FBI chief Mc...
- 05/11/17--10:06: _Former Trump advise...
- 05/11/17--10:16: _Alynda Segarra’s ad...
- 05/11/17--10:18: _Trump details calls...
- 05/11/17--10:29: _WATCH LIVE: White H...
- 05/11/17--11:29: _North Korea poses ‘...
- 05/11/17--15:40: _TIME magazine offer...
- 05/11/17--15:45: _Panetta: Comey firi...
- 05/11/17--15:50: _How the White House...
- 05/12/17--04:38: _New museum pays hom...
- 05/12/17--05:42: _Explaining Comey’s ...
- 05/10/17--19:19: WATCH LIVE: McCabe to testify in place of Comey at Senate hearing
- 05/11/17--05:38: Betsy DeVos booed at graduation for historically black college
- 05/11/17--05:49: Read James Comey’s full farewell letter
- 05/11/17--07:15: Trump’s boiling frustration with Comey led to his removal
- 05/11/17--07:35: Senate panel subpoenas Michael Flynn for documents in Russia probe
- 05/11/17--10:16: Alynda Segarra’s advice for making it as a vagabond musician
- 05/11/17--11:29: North Korea poses ‘existential’ threat, U.S. intel chief warns
- 05/11/17--15:45: Panetta: Comey firing undermines investigation credibility
- 05/11/17--15:50: How the White House’s explanation of Comey firing has changed
- 05/12/17--04:38: New museum pays homage to the best of communist-era kitsch
- 05/12/17--05:42: Explaining Comey’s firing challenges White House advisers
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe will testify Thursday before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on U.S. security, taking the place of ousted FBI director James Comey.
The hearing is expected to begin around 10 a.m. Watch live in the player above.
Comey was scheduled to testify at the Thursday panel before his firing Tuesday by President Donald Trump.
McCabe will speak in his place at the panel, which will also include testimony from Director of National Intelligence Daniel R.Coats and Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.
The hearing is not necessarily related to the Senate’s ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and possible ties to Trump’s campaign. On Wednesday, the committee issued a separate request for Comey to testify — as a private citizen — in a closed hearing next Tuesday. As of Wednesday night, Comey had not responded to that request.
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.
The post WATCH LIVE: McCabe to testify in place of Comey at Senate hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Education Secretary Betsy Devos vowed support for the students at a historically black university at their graduation ceremony, but was nearly drowned out by booing and shouts of “Liar!” Many graduating students turned their back to her in protest.
DeVos sought common ground with her audience at Bethune-Cookman University on Wednesday by praising the school’s founder and mission, delivering a plea to avoid the “chorus of conflict” and asking that people listen to those they may instinctively perceive as opponents.
“Let’s choose to hear one another out,” DeVos said, reading her prepared text in a measured tone despite continuing waves of boos, catcalls and only scattered applause.
DeVos alienated many African-Americans in February when she described historically black colleges as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” After a storm of criticism, she acknowledged that these colleges were “born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism.”
In her keynote at the Daytona Beach university, DeVos repeatedly praised the school’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, as someone who “refused to accept systemic and repulsive racism,” and had “the courage to change old ideas.”
“I am here to demonstrate in the most direct way possible that I and the administration are fully committed to your success and to the success of every student across this great country,” she said.
As the crowd kept trying to shout her down, university president Edison Jackson briefly took over the microphone to sternly lecture the class of 2017.
“If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go,” Jackson warned.
President Donald Trump’s nomination of DeVos, a Republican fundraiser with no classroom experience, was so controversial that Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote for her Senate confirmation.
Some leaders of historically black colleges and universities later expressed dismay when Trump invited them to the Oval Office for a “listening session” that became an apparent photo-op for Black History Month.
DeVos has continued since then to cite historically black colleges as examples of alternative options for quality education, her stated goal for promoting the diversion of tax money from public schools to private companies and charters.
In her speech, DeVos praised Bethune-Cookman for providing the means to help its students overcome adversity and serve others.
“We should aspire to make all of America’s institutions mirror that model — a singular focus on the unique needs of students,” she said.
The booing became an uproar again mid-speech, when DeVos said she would be visiting the grave of the school’s founder.
Shakindra Johnson, a 2008 graduate, said it should have been a proud day for the students and their families, but instead, DeVos seemed to be trying to appropriate the legacy of the school’s founder.
“I think Betsy forgot her name was Betsy and not Mary McLeod Bethune,” she said.
Some alumni and African-American leaders called the invitation a misguided effort to secure more funding. Students gathered petitions demanding she not be allowed to speak. Activists gathered outside, one carrying a sign that said “DeVos is not worthy.”
Jackson gave DeVos a hug after her speech, then took the podium when she left the stage.
“As we have said repeatedly, be careful of the people you let in your place,” Jackson said, seeming to acknowledge the criticism and drawing an eruption of laughter. But he said “Bethune-Cookman University can’t do it alone. We need everyone to be a part of this continuation of our institution.”
Some students agreed, saying the school needs help from anyone offering it, no matter their party affiliation.
“DeVos was here to hear our differences and at the end of the day I think that’s what happened,” added Keith Holt, who received a master’s degree in transformative leadership.
In a statement afterward, DeVos said she respected the attendees, “including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me. While we may share differing points of view, my visit and dialogue with students leaves me encouraged and committed to supporting HBCUs.”
The post Betsy DeVos booed at graduation for historically black college appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
“I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply,” he wrote.
Read the full letter below:
I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all. I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.
I have said to you before that, in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence. What makes leaving the FBI hard is the nature and quality of its people, who together make it that rock for America.
It is very hard to leave a group of people who are committed only to doing the right thing. My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution. If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.
Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.
Chiropractors and acupuncturists who have lobbied for a bigger role in treating pain have won a preliminary endorsement from federal health officials.
The Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes Wednesday to its blueprint on educating health care providers about treating pain. The guidelines now recommend that doctors get information about chiropractic care and acupuncture as therapies that might help patients avoid prescription opioids.
“[Health care providers] should be knowledgeable about the range of available therapies, when they may be helpful, and when they should be used as part of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management,” the agency wrote in the proposal.
The suggested changes come as chiropractors and other alternative medicine providers have stepped up lobbying Congress and state legislatures to elevate their role in treating chronic pain. They’ve scored several big victories in recent years.
In Oregon, the state Medicaid program decided to cover chiropractic care for lower back pain starting in 2016. Other states are considering similar moves. And earlier this year, the chiropractic industry cheered when the American College of Physicians recommended non-surgical treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, and chiropractic care as the first options for treating lower back pain.
The FDA’s draft blueprint isn’t final — and drug makers, doctors, and alternative medicine providers will all have a chance to weigh in. The FDA will take public comments through July 10.
The blueprint released this week is part of a strategy the FDA rolled out in 2011 to address a crisis of prescription drug abuse. The FDA required opioid manufacturers to provide education for health providers who prescribe their pain medications — but didn’t mention chiropractic care or acupuncture in its initial blueprint for what that education ought to look like.
Now, the agency is seeking to give prescribers more information on a broader range of approaches to manage pain, including non-pharmacologic therapies, said Sarah Peddicord, a spokesperon for the FDA.
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 10, 2017. Find the original story here.
The post FDA proposes that doctors learn about acupuncture for pain management appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — For weeks, President Donald Trump had been seething.
The swirling questions about possible contacts between his presidential campaign team and Russia just wouldn’t stop, and he felt it was overshadowing his early achievements.
Who was to blame? In Trump’s view, FBI Director James Comey.
Comey had allowed the bureau’s investigation to play out in the press, the president told those close to him, and hadn’t done enough to stop leaks about it.
Those simmering frustrations, described by people with knowledge of the president’s conversations, culminated with Trump’s surprise announcement late Tuesday that he was firing Comey. The people recounting the behind-the-scenes activity spoke only on condition of anonymity to disclose private discussions.
White House officials offered a somewhat different version Wednesday of how Trump came to fire Comey, casting his decision as one that reflected an “erosion of confidence” that had long been in the making.
“Frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. She also expressed the White House hope that the Russia investigation would wrap soon. “We’d love for that to be completed so that we can all move on.”
But for weeks, the Russia investigation has not appeared to be going away.
Comey confirmed in March that the FBI was looking into possible coordination between the Russians and Trump associates. As Trump’s presidency hit its 100-day mark, reporters were still asking questions.
Just last week, Comey answered more questions about it at hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That testimony — during which Comey noted he felt “mildly nauseous” at the thought that his actions in the Hillary Clinton email case influenced the election — made Trump increasingly convinced he wanted Comey gone, according to a White House official.
That’s around the time Comey was asking the Justice Department for more resources to pour into the Russia investigation — an indication the questions will be continuing.
The embattled top lawman told lawmakers he made the request for more help in a meeting with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Russia probe, according to three U.S. officials. The Justice Department denies there was such a request.
The White House would not say whether Trump knew.
Some allies had been warning Trump since before his inauguration to get rid of Comey, describing him as a Republican who would criticize and do in fellow Republicans, according to one Trump associate.
But a final straw, said Sanders, landed in a Monday meeting among the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein, in which the two Justice officials expressed deep concern about Comey’s leadership.
They had been at the White House on other business when Trump called them in to talk about Comey and asked, “So what do you think?” according to a senior White House official.
The president got an earful, according to Sanders, and told them to put their concerns in writing.
Rosenstein answered with a three-page memo that amounted to a scathing takedown of the FBI director, calling his 2016 disclosures about the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”
President Donald Trump met with Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the White House on Wednesday, where he answered press questions concerning his Tuesday firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, Trump called a number of legislators, including Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, a fellow New Yorker, to relay the stunning news that he was firing Comey.
“With all due respect, you’re making a big mistake,” Schumer told Trump.
The president was taken aback, according to a person with knowledge of the call. Apparently the White House had expected Democrats to largely welcome the decision, given their outrage over Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
Democrats, though, and even some Republicans are openly skeptical of the notion that Trump decided to fire Comey because of how he’d treated Clinton. They note that Trump last October had publicly praised Comey for having the “guts” to raise new questions late in the campaign about Clinton’s email situation.
As recently as last week, the White House had said Comey had Trump’s confidence.
As for Comey, he was speaking to agents at the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles when news of his firing broke.
The White House had a Trump bodyguard deliver a copy of Trump’s dismissal letter to the Justice Department and sent Comey an email as well, according to a senior administration official. But it’s unclear whether Comey got the word before his ouster was publicly announced.
Television screens in the Los Angeles field office began flashing the news as he spoke, and he initially chuckled. He continued his speech to the agents, finished and headed into an office, according to a law enforcement official who was present.
Before the firing of FBI Director James Comey, morale among agents had already taken a beating. How does this surprise turn affect the bureau and its work going forward? Judy Woodruff learns more from Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times about reports that Comey wanted more resources to expand the Russia investigation and more.
As commentators on cable TV called Trump’s move an abuse of power, the president was startled and infuriated by how his action was being received, according to a person with knowledge of his reaction.
The White House also did not appear to be prepared for the firestorm. Aides scrambled to rush out a statement on Comey’s firing. But the White House’s email system was running slowly. Journalists raced to Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s office to confirm the news, prompting him to read the statement out loud before disappearing into his office.
Initial reaction from lawmakers was muted, and the White House appeared inclined to let the day finish without sending the president or top aides on television.
But as the response grew more critical, Trump ordered his press staff to get out and defend him.
A trio of senior aides, including Spicer, hastily headed out for TV interviews on the North Lawn of the White House.
That chore completed, Spicer still had to deal with a horde of other reporters. He took a step out of the White House hedges, where he had been waiting after finishing a TV interview, and demanded that the cameras and their lights be turned off.
At the end of a long day, only the dim lights from reporters’ cellphones lit the scene as the White House press secretary spoke, largely in the dark.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Vivian Salama, Ken Thomas, Eric Tucker and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.
The post Trump’s boiling frustration with Comey led to his removal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday subpoenaed former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for documents related to the panel’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling.
Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s Democratic vice chairman, issued a joint statement saying the panel decided to issue the subpoena after Flynn, through his lawyer, declined to cooperate with an April 28 request to turn over the documents.
Flynn and other associates of President Donald Trump have received similar requests from the committee for information and documents over the past few weeks.
Copies of request letters sent to longtime Trump associate Roger Stone and former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page were shared with The Associated Press. Those letters, which were nearly identical, sought emails, text messages, letters, phone records or any other relevant information they have about meetings or contacts that they or any other individual affiliated with the Trump campaign had with Russian officials or representatives of Russian business interests. They also ask for information about any financial or real estate holdings related to Russia, including any since divested or sold.
Stone, Page, Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort all received similar requests for information, a person familiar with the Senate investigation said. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the details of the committee’s investigation.
The requests sent to Stone and Page covered documents and information from June 2015 through Jan. 20 of this year. During that period, Flynn accepted tens of thousands of dollars from a Russian state-sponsored television network. He later worked as a foreign agent on behalf of a Turkish businessman, while serving as a top Trump campaign adviser. It also covers the postelection time period in which Trump and his transition team decided to appoint Flynn as national security adviser.
Stone said Thursday that he will “fully comply” with the Senate intelligence committee’s request for information and documents relating to its Russia investigation. Stone told NBC’s “Today” he wants to testify, since members of congressional panels involved in the Russia probe “have disparaged me publicly.”
Flynn was fired by Trump after less than one month on the job. The White House said Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials about his communications during the presidential transition with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
The subpoena comes as both the Senate committee and its counterpart in the House are investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump associates colluded with those attempts to sway the election. Flynn’s Russia ties are also being scrutinized by the FBI as it conducts a similar investigation.
Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss congressional testimonies by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in November’s presidential election.
Flynn attorney Robert Kelner declined to comment on the newly issued subpoena or say why Flynn declined to provide the information earlier. Flynn had previously been in talks with the committee about agreeing to be interviewed as long as he was granted immunity.
In March, Kelner said in a statement that Flynn had a “story to tell,” but said no reasonable person would agree to be questioned by the committee without “assurances against unfair prosecution.”
Other congressional committees and the Pentagon’s inspector general are also separately examining whether Flynn was fully forthcoming about his foreign contacts and earnings from organizations linked to the governments of Russia and Turkey.
The top Democrat and Republican on a House oversight committee have said Flynn likely broke federal law by failing to get approval from the U.S. government to accept foreign payments and not disclosing them after accepting them.
Among the payments they cited were more than $33,000 from RT, a Russian state-sponsored television network that U.S. intelligence officials have branded as a propaganda front for Russia’s government. The network paid Flynn for attending a December 2015 gala in Moscow during which Flynn was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Turkish payments under scrutiny are part of $530,000 worth of lobbying and investigative work that Flynn’s company, Flynn Intel Group, performed for a Turkish businessman. In March, Flynn and his firm belatedly registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department for the work, acknowledging it could have benefited the Turkish government.
On Wednesday, the AP reported that Flynn is at odds with his former Turkish client over two unusual payments totaling $80,000 that Flynn’s firm sent back last year to the client.
Flynn’s company, Flynn Intel Group, told the Justice Department in March that the two $40,000 payments were consulting fees for unspecified work. But Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin has told the AP that the payments from Flynn’s firm were refunds for unperformed lobbying. The difference matters because Flynn’s foreign business relationships and the veracity of his disclosures are under scrutiny by congressional, military and intelligence inquiries.
Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and Julie Pace contributed to this report.
The post Senate panel subpoenas Michael Flynn for documents in Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.
The deal announced early Thursday could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.
The deal on Capitol Hill followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After uncovering serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found at least two new instances in which patients were “placed at unnecessary risk.”
In one case, they found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.” The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent to the VA. The inspector general again urged the department to take immediate action to correct problems.
The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, worked to make modifications that in part would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.
House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.
“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.
It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.
The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.
The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.
Conservative groups praised the bill.
“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.
The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.
Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.
“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”
Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.
Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.
The post Lawmakers reach agreement on stalled Veterans Affairs accountability bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
North Carolina will receive less than 1 percent of the federal funds it requested to cover damages associated with Hurricane Matthew, which hit the East Coast in October.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday the federal government authorized just $6.1 million of the more than $900 million the state had requested. Cooper said the funds were meant for housing and business repairs, housing elevation, agriculture, public facilities repairs, and health and mental services.
In a letter addressed to President Trump, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and congressional leaders, Cooper called on the federal government to support Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts, especially in the form of housing block grants from HUD.
“I write to express shock and disappointment in the lack of federal funding for Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts in North Carolina, and encourage you to prioritize North Carolina’s urgent request for help,” Cooper wrote.
At least 28 people died as a result of Hurricane Matthew, according to former state Gov. Pat McCrory. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that the storm cost the state $1.5 billion. More than 80,000 households in North Carolina have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help. Thus far, FEMA has granted nearly $100 million in federal and state assistance for flood survivors.
Cooper is encouraging President Trump to visit affected communities to get a better sense of the challenges the state still faces. The governor said the state has been steadily recovering, but many people remain in hotels and can’t return to their homes and businesses because of the water damages, debris and road closures created by the storm.
“Families across eastern North Carolina need help to rebuild and recover, and it is an incredible failure by the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders to turn their backs,” Cooper said in a statement. “Matthew was a historic storm and we are still working every day to help families return home and rebuild their communities.”
The post North Carolina denied 99 percent of federal recovery funds for Hurricane Matthew appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLINGBORO, N.J. — A Republican who headed the effort to revive the health care overhaul passed by the GOP-led U.S. House faced jeers and insults Wednesday as anger boiled over among voters at a town hall in a heavily Democratic part of his district.
Rep. Tom MacArthur faced hundreds of angry voters for nearly five hours, seeking to both sell and defend the health plan that has drawn widespread outrage and fears among those worried they may be at risk of not being able to afford coverage.
A group of protesters outside lay on the ground with tombstones during a die-in, while inside MacArthur answered heated questions about the health bill and President Donald Trump. Some voters chanted “goodbye” to MacArthur, who’s being targeted by Democrats ahead of 2018 midterm elections.
“I hear people calling their congressman an idiot,” he said. “I wonder, really wonder, how any one of you would perform in Congress.”
MacArthur said he came to the Democratic part of the district for his first town hall since the health care bill passed because he wants to represent both sides and he’s aware of the “anxiety” over health care.
“Whether it’s fun or not, I owe you that,” he said.
One member of the audience called out “Shame!” when MacArthur began discussing his daughter Gracie, who was born with special needs and died at age 11 in 1996. MacArthur, who has cited his daughter’s death as a reason he got involved in the health care debate, responded, “Shame on you.”
Heckles erupted when the former insurance executive said he’s “watching an insurance market that is collapsing,” which was followed by a shout of “Because you drilled holes in it!” from a member of the crowd.
MacArthur also faced angry questions about Trump, with one person asking him how long he was “going to defend this American nightmare.”
“I didn’t come here to defend the president,” said MacArthur, who added that he thinks the House and Senate should continue investigating Russian interference in last year’s election.
MacArthur joined Trump and other Republican congressmen in the Rose Garden at the White House last week after the health overhaul bill passed. He said then he was proud to “stand with a president” who was handling health care differently than Democratic President Barack Obama.
MacArthur was one of only two Republicans among five from the state to back the House legislation, which would dismantle Obama’s signature law, sometimes called “Obamacare.” The Republican-led Senate is expected to write its own version.
He helped the measure gain support from conservative colleagues by writing an amendment that would allow states to get federal waivers to the requirement that insurers charge healthy and sick customers the same premiums. The change would be for people who let their coverage lapse. MacArthur said those people would be covered by high-risk pools.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that under initial versions of the House bill 24 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026. The bill that was narrowly passed by the House this month hadn’t received a CBO score.
Among other changes in the bill are elimination of tax penalties under Obama’s law and erasure of tax increases on higher-earning people and the health industry.
MacArthur, responding to a question from a constituent concerned about Medicaid rollbacks, said, “This isn’t tax cuts for the rich. This is tax cuts for everybody.”
The bill includes nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, much of that for the very wealthy. Families making more than $1 million a year would receive tax cuts averaging $51,000, an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center shows. The bill would raise taxes for some low-income families.
New Jersey was among dozens of states that opted to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Republican Gov. Chris Christie estimates 500,000 residents have gained coverage under the expansion, which he has touted as part of his efforts to fight the state’s opioid addiction epidemic.
Vicky VanWright, a 69-year-old retired second-grade teacher from Willingboro, said the debate over health care and concern over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act motivated her to come out Wednesday.
“As far as health care, it should be for everyone,” said VanWright, a Democrat. “I think it should be universal coverage.”
She was among the few who stayed into the town hall’s final minutes, telling MacArthur she was concerned about the Medicaid population and cuts in the GOP legislation.
“We’re not cutting. We’re capping,” MacArthur responded.
VanWright, who said she has a 35-year-old son with Down’s syndrome who benefits from Medicaid programs, said after the meeting that MacArthur hadn’t changed her mind or persuaded her to support the bill.
“I don’t think he understands what the states will do,” she said.
The post The Republican who revived the health care bill faces angry voters at town hall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Piece by piece, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe undermined recent White House explanations about the firing of FBI Director James Comey during testimony before a Senate committee Thursday.
Since President Donald Trump’s surprise ouster of Comey on Tuesday, the White House has justified his decision, in part, by saying that the director had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI as well as the public in general.
“That is not accurate,” McCabe said in a response to a senator’s question about the White House assertions. “I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”
The firing of Comey left the fate of the FBI’s probe into Russia’s election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign deeply uncertain. The investigation has shadowed Trump from the outset of his presidency, though he’s denied any ties to Russia or knowledge of any campaign coordination with Moscow.
McCabe called the investigation “highly significant” — another contradiction of the White House portrayal — and assured senators Comey’s firing will not hinder it. He promised senators he would tolerate no interference from the White House and would not provide the administration with updates on its progress.
“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he declared. He said there has been no interference so far.
Trump, in a letter to Comey dated Tuesday, contended that the director had told him “three times” that he was not personally under investigation. McCabe said it is not standard FBI practice to tell someone he or she is or isn’t under investigation.
The White House refused Wednesday to provide any evidence or greater detail. Former FBI agents said such a statement by the director would be all but unthinkable. McCabe told senators he could not comment on conversations between Comey and the president.
Days before he was fired, Comey requested more resources to pursue his investigation, U.S. officials have said, fueling concerns that Trump was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency. McCabe said he was not aware of any such request and said the Russia investigation is adequately resourced.
It was unclear whether word of the Comey request, put to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, ever made its way to Trump. But the revelation intensified the pressure on the White House from both political parties to explain the motives behind Comey’s stunning ouster.
Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon to fire a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation with ties to the White House. Democrats quickly accused Trump of using Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a pretext and called for a special prosecutor into the Russia probe. Republican leaders brushed off the idea as unnecessary.
Defending the firing, White House officials said Trump’s confidence in Comey had been eroding for months. They suggested Trump was persuaded to take the step by Justice Department officials and a scathing memo, written by Rosenstein, criticizing the director’s role in the Clinton investigation.
“Frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, a sharply different explanation from the day before, when officials put the emphasis on new Justice complaints about Comey.
Sanders, speaking Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” said, “I have heard that directly from him (Trump), that that information was relayed directly to him from Director Comey.” On NBC’s “Today,” Sanders said she would defer to the president himself for any additional details.
Outraged Democrats called for an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia’s election interference, and a handful of prominent Republican senators left open that possibility. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the support of the White House, brushed aside those calls, saying a new investigation would only “impede the current work being done.”
The Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday subpoenaed former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for documents related to its investigation into Russia’s election meddling. Flynn’s Russia ties are also being scrutinized by the FBI.
The White House appeared caught off guard by the intense response to Comey’s firing, given that the FBI director had become a pariah among Democrats for his role in the Clinton investigation. In defending the decision, officials leaned heavily on a memo from Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation.
But Rosenstein’s own role in Comey’s firing became increasingly murky Wednesday.
Three U.S. officials said Comey recently asked Rosenstein for more manpower to help with the Russia investigation. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that while he couldn’t be certain the request triggered Comey’s dismissal, he said he believed the FBI “was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores denied that Comey had asked Rosenstein for more resources for the Russia investigation.
Trump advisers said the president met with Rosenstein, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on Monday after learning that they were at the White House for other meetings. One official said Trump asked Rosenstein and Sessions for their views on Comey, then asked the deputy attorney general to synthesize his thoughts in a memo.
The president fired Comey the following day. The White House informed Comey by sending him an email with several documents, including Rosenstein’s memo.
It’s unclear whether Rosenstein was aware his report would be used to justify the director’s ouster.
White House and other U.S. officials insisted on anonymity to disclose private conversations.
A farewell letter from Comey that circulated among friends and colleagues said he does not plan to dwell on the decision to fire him or on “the way it was executed.”
AP writers Darlene Superville, Ken Thomas, Vivian Salama, Catherine Lucey and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
The post Acting FBI chief McCabe contradicts White House explanations on Comey firing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Former Trump adviser Roger Stone says he will “fully comply” with the Senate intelligence committee’s request for information and documents relating to its Russia investigation.
But at the same time, Stone says he wants to testify, since members of Congress’ panels involved in the Russia probe “have disparaged me publicly.”
He also says in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show that he favored the firing of FBI Director James Comey and thought that Trump “made the right decision.”
Stone also said Comey had “become a law onto himself” and argued that likening his ouster to the Nixon era “Saturday Night Massacre” was like comparing “apples and oranges.” He said “the Russian collusion scandal is without any evidence to this day.”
The longtime Trump confidant also said that Comey’s firing “had nothing to do with Russia.”
The post Former Trump adviser Roger Stone vows to cooperate with Senate committee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
When she was 17 years old, Alynda Segarra ran away from her home in the Bronx, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains — because that’s what her role model Woody Guthrie did — before settling on New Orleans as her adopted city.
To make money she played on the streets, which also helped her push past teenage anxieties about performing in public. The rhythm of the washboard gave way to the guitar, the banjo and eventually to the band Hurray for the Riff Raff — which mixes folk, bluegrass, rock and Latin influences into powerful stories about life on the road and in forgotten corners of America.
“Hurray for the Riff Raff is me saying to everybody who feels like an outsider that they are welcome at our shows, that we need to celebrate each other,” Segarra told the NewsHour before a recent concert in Washington, D.C. “And that the people who have gotten me through my life are the weirdos and the poets, the rebellious women and the activists. Those are the people — they were considered the riff raff by people in power and they’re the ones that make history.”
After years touring and recording in New Orleans and Nashville, Segarra returned to her native New York. Her new album, The Navigator, reflects an artist who’s gone home to embrace her Puerto Rican heritage.
“I think when you’re younger it’s really good to emulate your heroes,” she said.“But now I feel like … Alynda.”
Segarra, now 30, is grateful she’s been able to make a life for herself as a musician, but says she knows things could have turned out differently.
“My path of running away — I look back on it now and I’m like, I could have been killed. It’s incredible that I’m here,” she said. “It’s based on luck, sadly, for people who would like to emulate the path.”
And she says she had to redefine what success would mean to her, accepting that she would have to play in coffee shops and for other small audiences for years — and, even playing bigger venues, that she might never be rich.
“A lot of the journey was me realizing that,” she said. “ “Saying … I’m going to do it because I believe in art and I believe in what I’m doing.”
The post Alynda Segarra’s advice for making it as a vagabond musician appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says “I know that I’m not under investigation” for collusion with Russia.
Trump detailed his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, who he fired this week, in an interview with NBC News Thursday.
Trump said that he spoke with Comey once during dinner and twice in phone calls, during which time he says Comey told him “you are not under investigation.”
He says he initiated one phone call, and Comey initiated the other.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 11, 2017
In his termination letter to Comey, sent to reporters on Tuesday, Trump thanked him for informing him “three times” that he is not under investigation.
Trump says, “I know that I’m not under investigation. Me personally. I’m not talking about campaigns or anything else. I am not under investigation.”
The post Trump details calls with Comey: ‘I know that I’m not under investigation’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to speak at the daily news briefing at 1:30 p.m. ET. PBS NewsHour will live stream her remarks.
The White House is expected to address this morning’s testimony from acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe over President Donald Trump’s recent firing of James Comey.
The president, along with his surrogates, have said that Comey lost the confidence of the public and his bureau staff. However, McCabe’s statements before a Senate committee Thursday raised questions about the White House’s framing of the ouster.
“I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe said today as part of his testimony.
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.
The post WATCH LIVE: White House expected to address acting FBI director testimony over Comey firing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — North Korea’s nuclear weapons program poses a potentially “existential” threat to the United States, the national intelligence director said in a bleak appraisal to Congress on Thursday. He wouldn’t say how close Pyongyang is to being able to strike the U.S. mainland.
Dan Coats said the unprecedented nuclear and missile testing last year indicates leader Kim Jong Un is intent on proving North Korea’s capability. The North’s public claims suggest it could conduct its first flight of an intercontinental ballistic missile this year.
And Pyongyang’s statements that it needs nuclear weapons to survive suggest Kim “does not intend to negotiate them away at any price,” Coats added at a Senate intelligence hearing on worldwide threats.
The heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies reviewed a slew of national security challenges facing the United States, warning about deteriorating security in Afghanistan, China’s rising challenge, and Russian and other countries’ use of cyberspace to target the U.S. and its allies.
Senators sought an assessment of when North Korea would be able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. Coats declined to provide such details in an open hearing. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein countered, “It’s time for the American people to understand.”
Coats, however, described the threat as potentially “existential.”
North Korea’s missile tests in 2016, including a space launch that put a satellite into orbit, have shortened its pathway toward a reliable intercontinental missile that could strike America, he said, and the North has expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces.
Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s director, said North Korea was at the same time developing a nuclear device and processing fissile material, aiming to miniaturize a device for a warhead to mount on such missiles.
“They are on that path and they are committed to doing that,” he said.
On Iran, whose nuclear ambitions preoccupied Washington under President Barack Obama, Coats said the U.S. sees Tehran maintaining last year’s agreement that contains its program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The deal has enhanced transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, Coats said, and he cited Obama administration estimates that the time it would take Iran to produce enough material for a nuclear weapon has been extended from a few months to about a year.
But he said the U.S. doesn’t know if Iran will eventually decide to try to build nuclear weapons.
Intelligence chiefs gave a somber appraisal of security in Afghanistan, scene of America’s longest-running war. U.S. forces invaded after 9/11 to defeat al-Qaida and their Taliban hosts, and the Trump administration is currently reviewing strategy and considering an augmentation of the current 8,500-strong U.S. force.
Coats said the situation will deteriorate and the Taliban will make gains, especially in rural areas. The performance of Afghan national security forces will worsen due to weak military leadership, desertions and combat casualties, he predicted.
If left unchecked, Stewart added, the “stalemate” will deteriorate in the Taliban’s favor, risking “all the gains” from U.S.-backed efforts there.
Coats said Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are using cyberspace to target U.S. and its allies and will do so in the future. He described Russia as a threat to U.S. government, military, diplomatic, business and critical infrastructure. China is also targeting the U.S. government and American businesses, Coats said, though he said such activity has diminished since a 2015 U.S.-Chinese agreement addressing cybertheft.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
The post North Korea poses ‘existential’ threat, U.S. intel chief warns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s decision to fire FBI Director Comey, the various rationales that are being given, and the interview the president gave today to NBC are again prompting many questions about the way Mr. Trump makes decisions and carries out his job as chief executive.
A TIME magazine team had a chance earlier this week to get a look at what life is like inside the Trump White House.
Michael Scherer, TIME’s Washington bureau chief, was part of the group that met with the president, as it turned out, before the Comey firing. And he joins me now.
Michael Scherer, welcome back to the NewsHour.
You and the TIME magazine folks had an unusual access at the White House. Tell us about what it was like.
MICHAEL SCHERER, TIME: We got there about 6:30. And we were invited into the Oval Office, where he was meeting with a number of senior staff, signing the final orders of the day, and from there began an almost three-hour, two-and-a-half-hour evening, in which he took us to many parts of the White House that most presidents never take the press.
That includes starting in his private dining room, which is just down the hallway from the Oval Office in the West Wing, where he played us some DVRed clips of that day’s Senate hearings with color commentary attached.
And then we walked down the Colonnade. And he took us in his elevator up to the residence on the second floor of the executive mansion and toured us through the rooms there. That was followed by dinner in the Blue Room, which is the big oval room on the first floor of the residence.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you take away from this? I read the piece today. And you had, as you said, an extraordinary two-and-a-half-hours with him.
From the outside, this is a presidency that’s almost bathed in controversy. Did you sense that kind of tension inside?
MICHAEL SCHERER: There’s an enormous amount of grievance he feels to the way he’s been treated. And that was evident almost from the moment we got there.
He was talking about how the press has mistreated him. Sometimes, he included us in that, although he was also very gracious and hospitable, and talking about how his message had not gotten out, how the good things he had been doing were not being recognized.
And he returned to that time and again. So, there was a clear frustration. And, at times, he was very emotional. Even when he was watching the day’s hearing, he was sort of mocking the witnesses — and these are former federal officials testifying before the Senate — because I think he’s angry at the way the American people have been presented the story of his presidency.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think he wanted to get across most to you?
MICHAEL SCHERER: I think he wanted to get that across. He wanted to make the case that his presidency is far more successful than has been recognized.
There was an interesting moment where I asked him, do you think there has been too much conflict at the White House at some points? And he actually answered by saying, I think that may be true, and then he said, but you have to understand there’s so much meanness out there.
And then he reverted back to name-calling of various other television correspondents and things like that. But I feel like he is someone who is trying to adjust his own personality, his own history, his own instincts to an office that is a very different structure around him.
And I think he’s waffling back and forth between the desire to lash out, to come back over the top, to confront, which has been actually very successful for him through his career, and the realities of the White House, which are that the president has enormous power, but he also is enormously limited in his power, that there are lots of institutions, the press, the courts, the Congress, that can constrain him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s interesting. I think you were telling us earlier today that it was almost like there were two operations going on at the same time. He has one operation around him to sort of protect him, make sure he’s all right, protect his brand, you said, and then, on the other hand, the operation to keep the business of the presidency going.
MICHAEL SCHERER: Yes, he is enormously focused on his personal reputation and experience in office.
And I think he spends a lot of time watching TV at night, seeing how things are being digested. He’s an incredibly erudite media critic, which we saw during the campaign. And that is really separate, I think, from what the business of the presidency is, which is running a very large and complicated government.
Now, he’s involved in those issues, too. It’s not as if he’s not engaged in the details of, you know, getting Obamacare repeal through Congress or something like that. It’s just that I think, more than other presidents, he’s spending a lot of time focused on this other thing.
And he does have staff around him who are essentially personal staff. They’re not staff that are plugged into the hierarchy of a traditional White House. They’re not reporting directly to the chief of staff, and they help him with that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And any inkling — of course, this was Monday, before we knew about the firing of FBI director — any inkling something like that was coming down?
MICHAEL SCHERER: There was no discussion of the FBI director, Comey.
The only inkling was, he returned several times to his frustration about the press not reporting that his wiretapping tweet of a few weeks ago saying that Barack Obama wiretapped me in Trump Tower, he still believes, he still argues, was true, even though Director Comey testified that there was no evidence …
JUDY WOODRUFF: That he was wiretapped. He argues that that …
MICHAEL SCHERER: And his argument is a little complicated. He is saying wiretapping is in quotes. It includes any unmasking by any officials of anyone in my campaign, which may have happened.
And he said he believes that, if an official was unmasked in a foreign intelligence tap, that would count as wiretapping. It’s a stretch, but his anger at — his feeling of being wronged by the way that’s been discussed, and I think that includes what the FBI director said before Congress, was very apparent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Scherer, TIME magazine, fascinating.
MICHAEL SCHERER: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
The post TIME magazine offers portrait of Trump facing realities of the White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to what all this means for the functioning and the stability of the Trump presidency.
We turn to man who has had a front-row in the White House. Leon Panetta was chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. He then went on to serve as director of the CIA and secretary of defense in the Obama administration.
Secretary Panetta, thank you for talking with us.
So, as somebody who has had a top job, the top job at the White House as chief of staff, as we said, at the Pentagon and the CIA, how do you read how this Comey episode has unfolded?
LEON PANETTA, Former White House Chief of Staff: Well, it’s a very confusing picture, obviously, because a number of reasons have been presented as to why it’s happened.
But, you know, deep down, there’s no question that, however it happened, and for whatever reasons it happened, that this has undermined the credibility of a very vital national security investigation, and somehow that credibility has to be restored.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How has it undermined that credibility?
LEON PANETTA: It’s undermined the credibility because, obviously, the FBI was investigating the whole issue of Russian interference in our election.
And despite the various reasons that have been presented, there’s no question that the president remains concerned about that Russian investigation. And tying that concern with the fact that he fired the FBI director, and in the way he fired the FBI director, clearly undermines the credibility of the investigation.
Is the White House going to continue to try to influence the direction of that investigation? The key right now is for the Congress, for the Justice Department, for the president to make sure they take steps to restore the credibility of that investigation by appointing a new director of the FBI who is fair and objective and credible.
And I think they should also, frankly, give consideration to the appointment of a special prosecutor, because the very fact that this president continued to ask the FBI director as to whether or not he was the subject of an investigation, when a president does that, it clearly is sending a signal that the White House is concerned about that investigation.
Frankly, it has to be an independent investigation, and it cannot have or be influenced by the White House.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you saying, Secretary Panetta, that there’s no way the American people can have confidence in this investigation unless there is an outside, independent special counsel?
LEON PANETTA: Well, my concern is that, when the president himself has asked the question about whether or not he’s the target of an investigation, something, frankly, that, at least in my time, is unheard of, that a president would, in fact, ask if he is the target of an investigation, when the president does that, he clearly is sending a signal to what should be a very independent, fair, and objective investigation by the FBI.
And the fact that he’s raised that question tells me that whoever is going to be the next FBI director, whoever that is, will probably get the same question from the president at some point in time.
And just because of that fact alone, I just think some kind of independent prosecutor, committee, commission, whatever it would be, but something that is independent of the White House and independent of political influence, needs to take place in this matter.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much does it matter that the president, that the White House is giving a different explanation for why this happened?
They’re saying it has to do with a fact that they say Director Comey wasn’t running the FBI well, he was — and the way they say he mishandled Hillary Clinton e-mail situation.
LEON PANETTA: Well, again — and I look back on my days as chief of staff to the president.
I think that, when a major step like that is going to be taken — and, clearly, somebody should have informed the president that, once you fire the FBI director, that there’s going to be a huge backlash because of the investigation that’s going on — that, in the very least, the reasons for why he’s firing him should have been set down, so that everybody had the same talking points.
And, clearly, that didn’t happen here. And the president again today said he had been thinking about firing Director Comey for a long period of time. So, whatever reasons have been given in these last few days has only created greater confusion about just exactly why this happened.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Panetta, finally, in just a few seconds, obviously, you’re a Democrat, but I know you talk to a lot of Republicans.
How much difficulty do you think this president is facing in his own party?
LEON PANETTA: Well, you know, I think, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, there is an interest in conducting an investigation into this national security issue.
We have had a foreign adversary try to interfere in our election. That’s a serious matter, and it needs to be investigated. So I think the Republicans, as well as the Democrats, are interested in putting this back on a track where you have a fair and independent and objective investigation that determines what happened here, whether there was any collusion or not with the campaign, the Trump campaign, and what should be done to make sure it never happens again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Secretary of Defense, former CIA Director, former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, thank you very much.
LEON PANETTA: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will get the perspective of two conservatives on how Mr. Trump’s recent moves have divided the Republican Party a little later in the program.
The post Panetta: Comey firing undermines investigation credibility appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It was another day in Washington that generated more questions than answers, with apparently conflicting statements coming from the White House, fueling the firestorm surrounding the dismissal of the former FBI director.
And our William Brangham begins.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump came out swinging today.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, the president laid into James Comey, the man he fired just two days ago.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, he’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that.
You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Those remarks came as the man who’s now filling in for Comey, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, painted a starkly different picture of his former boss.
ANDREW MCCABE, Acting FBI Director: I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity. And it has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work with him. I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: McCabe spoke at a Senate hearing today to discuss various global threats, but Democrats spared little time blasting the president for his dismissal of Comey, who had been scheduled for this same hearing.
SEN. MARK WARNER, D-Va.: President Trump’s actions this week cost us an opportunity to get at truth, at least for today.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For his part, McCabe pledged that the ongoing FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the election, and whether Trump’s team colluded in that meddling, will continue no matter what.
ANDREW MCCABE: The work of the men and women of FBI continues, despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions. So there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of FBI from doing right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: McCabe added he won’t be updating the president on that Russia investigation.
Senators pressed him about Mr. Trump’s claim that Comey had told the president he wasn’t personally under investigation. McCabe said he couldn’t comment on the specific conversations between the two.
Republican Susan Collins of Maine followed up.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: Is it standard practice for the FBI to inform someone that they are not a target of an investigation?
ANDREW MCCABE: It is not.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Meanwhile, in that same NBC interview, the president doubled down on that claim, saying Comey told him three times that he wasn’t a target.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He said it once at dinner, and then he said it twice during phone calls.
LESTER HOLT, NBC News: Did you call him?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In one case, I called him. In one case, he called me.
LESTER HOLT: And did you ask, am I under investigation?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it’s possible, will you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, you are not under investigation.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Mr. Trump also said he had decided to fire Comey long before meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Monday.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey, my decision. It was not …
LESTER HOLT: You had made the decision before they came …
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way. They …
LESTER HOLT: Because, in your letter, you said, “I accepted their recommendation.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yes, well, they …
LESTER HOLT: So, you had already made the decision?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But that seemed to contradict what senior White House officials had been saying all week.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Vice President Mike Pence, and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had all indicated that the firing was driven largely by concerns from the Justice Department. But news reports had suggested otherwise.
And The Washington Post reported last night Rosenstein threatened to resign after the White House cast him as the prime mover of the decision to fire Comey.
At today’s press briefing, Sanders offered a justification for the seeming inconsistencies.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, Deputy White House Press Secretary: I think it’s pretty simple. I haven’t had a chance to have the conversation directly the president. I have since had the conversation with him right before I walked on today. And he laid it out very clearly. He had already made that decision. And the recommendation that he got from the deputy attorney general just further solidified his decision.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Meanwhile, outrage over Comey’s ouster stretched beyond Washington. Lawmakers, including New Jersey’s Tom MacArthur, have seen vocal opposition at town hall meetings to the president’s action.
MAN: We need an independent prosecutor. We need a bipartisan select committee to investigate this. When are you going to open your eyes? We all see this.
REP. TOM MACARTHUR, R-N.J.: And I hear you, but there are loads of other people who don’t see it that way.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Despite those calls, there have been few signs so far that a special counsel will be named.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we get more now from the White House and from Capitol Hill from our own John Yang and Lisa Desjardins.
Lisa, I’m going to start with you.
You were at the hearing today where James Comey’s successor, at least for the time being, Andrew McCabe — we just heard a little bit from him, his first public appearance, I guess, what, in less than 48 hours after this whole thing came down. What stood out to you from this hearing?
LISA DESJARDINS: Quite a day, huh? On his third day on the job, Andrew McCabe was in front of Senate Intelligence Committee members, and for the most part, Judy, he was noncontroversial.
But when asked about his former boss, FBI — James Comey, McCabe said this. He defended him as man of integrity who McCabe said enjoys broad support in the FBI to this day. That’s important because it directly counters what the White House has said. They said that Comey was undermining morale at the agency.
Minutes after McCabe said that, the Senate intelligence chairman, Republican Richard Burr, came out, also defended Comey. That became a theme, Judy. I spoke to several Republican senators who today felt they had to defend Comey’s reputation against attacks from the White House.
Meanwhile, as Republicans were doing that, one Democratic senator on the Intelligence Committee, Kamala Harris of California, came out and said she thinks Jeff Sessions should resign over his role in the Comey firing.
Now, all of this, what does it mean? Basically, Judy, I saw the dial move away from the president’s position for both Republicans and Democrats today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meantime, John, from the White House, the timeline on exactly what happened seemed to be shifting, and the explanation seemed to be shifting a little bit. Tell us about that.
JOHN YANG: It didn’t just seem to shift, Judy. It shifted. They first said that this all happened on Tuesday, that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general came to the president with this recommendation, which he accepted on the spot.
Then we learned that actually there was a meeting on Monday at which this was discussed. And then it turns out, as the president said in the interview and as Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the briefing today, this was actually something on the president’s mind from since last week, when he watched the — James Comey’s testimony on the Hill.
Also shifting where it came from. They originally said this was all Rod Rosenstein — Rosenstein’s idea. Now the president and his advisers acknowledge he had made this decision before that meeting on Monday.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, just quickly, interesting, there was a Republican at the Capitol today saying the president himself may not be under investigation.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, not just any Republican, Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley. He says he met — he wrote a letter saying he met with FBI Director Comey and that Comey shared with him who the targets were of the investigation, as per his ranking on Judiciary Committee.
Now, Grassley said he can’t divulge who the targets are, but, in a carefully worded statement, Judy, Grassley said, nothing that Comey told him contradicts President Trump’s statement that he is not under investigation.
That’s a double or triple negative, but, essentially, Grassley is indicating here that, to his knowledge, the president is not under investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, John, what are you hearing from the White House about whether what has happened is going to affect the pace of this Russia investigation?
JOHN YANG: Well, that’s another thing that’s evolved over the last couple of days, Judy.
On Tuesday night, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there is no there there of the Russian investigation. She said, it’s time to move on, clearly indicating that the White House wanted it closed.
But since then and again today, she said any investigation that was going on, on Monday before Comey was fired is still going on today. They want the FBI to do what they think is proper and fit, and they say they want this investigation to continue, but to end as quickly as possible.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I guess it doesn’t get any more active at either place, at the Capitol or the White House.
Thank you both, John Yang, Lisa Desjardins.
The post How the White House’s explanation of Comey firing has changed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Say what you will about the garish porcelain and misguided use of velvet that epitomize kitsch, but it certainly is versatile.
Visitors to the new Kitsch Museum in Bucharest, Romania, can see a crucifix nightlight and “Last Supper” clock, among dozens of other gilded baubles and plaster statues of the pre-1989 communist era.
The displays include walls lined with tabloid front pages and a reconstructed apartment interior, complete with rug wallcoverings and plain cotton underwear hanging up to dry.
Cristian Lica, owner of the museum that opened May 5, gathered the artifacts over the past 20 years. “My favorite kitsch, which has unfortunately been damaged, is a statue of Christ with an incorporated room thermometer,” he said.
See more photos below of the museum in Romania’s capital.
The post New museum pays homage to the best of communist-era kitsch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The White House’s explanation of President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has been a moving target.
Since the explosive decision was announced Tuesday, the president’s advisers have struggled to come up with a consistent timeline and rationale. They said Trump was prompted by a scathing memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, only to acknowledge Trump had been planning to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation. They’ve distanced the decision from the FBI probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign, only to later suggest Comey’s firing would aid the investigation.
Trump defended the inconsistency, tweeting Friday that “as a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!”
He added, “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted the information she and her colleagues offered was consistent. “It was a quick-moving process,” she said. “We took the information we had as best we have it and got it out to the American people as quickly as we could.”
Here’s a look at some of the contradictions uttered over the last several days:
WHOSE IDEA WAS THE MEMO?
Tuesday: “It was all him. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, laying the impetus for the memo building the case for Comey’s firing on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Wednesday: “He did have a conversation with the deputy attorney general on Monday where they had come to him to express their concerns. The president asked that they put those concerns and their recommendation in writing, which is the letter that you guys have received,” Sanders said, describing the president’s instructions to Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
WHAT ROLE DID IT PLAY IN TRUMP’S DECISION?
Wednesday: “People in the Justice Department made a very strong recommendation, the president followed it and he made a quick and decisive action to fire James Comey. He took the recommendation seriously. And he made a decision based on that,” Sanders said in an interview with MSNBC.
Thursday: “Oh, I was going fire regardless of recommendation … he made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him, he made a recommendation but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
WHEN DID TRUMP DECIDE?
Wednesday: “No,” Sanders said, when asked if the president had already decided to fire Comey on Monday when he asked Rosenstein for the memo.
Thursday: “He had already made that decision. He’d been thinking about it for months, which I did say yesterday and have said many times since. … the recommendation I guess he got from the deputy attorney general just further solidified his decision and, again, I think, reaffirmed that he made the right one,” Sanders said in the White House briefing.
WAS THIS ABOUT THE FBI’S RUSSIA INVESTIGATION?
Tuesday: “This has nothing to do with Russia,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN.
Thursday: “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” Sanders said of the Russia probe. “And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.”
Associated Press writer Vivian Salama contributed to this report.
The post Explaining Comey’s firing challenges White House advisers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.