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- 02/03/17--15:30: _Shields and Brooks ...
- 02/03/17--15:35: _Areas of Mosul are ...
- 02/03/17--15:40: _Trump and the GOP t...
- 02/03/17--15:45: _Will new sanctions ...
- 02/03/17--15:50: _News Wrap: Trump se...
- 02/03/17--20:08: _US judge temporaril...
- 02/04/17--06:38: _Trump’s Supreme Cou...
- 02/04/17--07:53: _Trump lashes out at...
- 02/04/17--09:01: _Trump’s nominee for...
- 02/04/17--10:09: _Women fear drug the...
- 02/04/17--10:46: _Armed citizens patr...
- 02/04/17--10:47: _140 Somali refugees...
- 02/04/17--12:26: _Photos: From Indone...
- 02/04/17--13:33: _Louvre museum reope...
- 02/04/17--14:14: _Reassessing U.S. re...
- 02/04/17--14:59: _Awaiting Senate con...
- 02/05/17--05:40: _Court denies Trump ...
- 02/05/17--07:59: _Unpredictable Trump...
- 02/05/17--08:55: _To keep their artis...
- 02/05/17--09:31: _Asked about Putin, ...
- 02/03/17--15:35: Areas of Mosul are still under siege, but signs of life return
- 02/03/17--15:45: Will new sanctions and statements escalate tensions with Iran?
- 02/03/17--20:08: US judge temporarily blocks Trump’s travel ban nationwide
- 02/04/17--06:38: Trump’s Supreme Court pick is deeply opposed to assisted suicide
- 02/04/17--07:53: Trump lashes out at travel ban ruling by ‘so-called judge’
- 02/04/17--09:01: Trump’s nominee for Army Secretary withdraws his name
- 02/04/17--10:09: Women fear drug they used to halt puberty led to health problems
- 02/04/17--10:46: Armed citizens patrol the Arizona-Mexico border
- 02/04/17--10:47: 140 Somali refugees set to leave for US sent back to camp
- 02/04/17--13:33: Louvre museum reopens; Egypt identifies machete attacker
- 02/04/17--14:14: Reassessing U.S. relations with Ukraine
- 02/04/17--14:59: Awaiting Senate confirmation, Trump cabinet posts left vacant
- 02/05/17--05:40: Court denies Trump request to immediately restore travel ban
- 02/05/17--07:59: Unpredictable Trump foreign policy may test U.S. spy alliances
- 02/05/17--08:55: To keep their artists, cities explore affordable housing
- 02/05/17--09:31: Asked about Putin, Trump says U.S. isn’t ‘so innocent’
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Welcome to both of you. So much to talk about.
David, week two of the Trump administration.
Let’s start with his pick for the Supreme Court, federal Judge Neil Gorsuch.
What do you make of him?
DAVID BROOKS: Clearly qualified, first-rate legal scholar, first-rate judge, first-rate mind, apparently a first-rate person. He’s what any — the best any Republican president would have done. So, I thought a very good pick for Donald Trump.
The Democrats have a challenge. They can either behave the way the Republicans did to Merrick Garland, which would be disgraceful, but that would blow up the system. They have a loyalty either — I think a primary loyalty to the Constitution and basically to the norms of how we have done justice constitutional — or justice confirmations for the past many decades.
And that is, if the president picks someone who is basically qualified, basically a good person, then you confirm that person even if you don’t agree, because your side lost the election.
Now, I understand the Democratic thinking. The Republicans didn’t behave this way. But I guess my belief is that two terrible behaviors don’t make a good behavior.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s your take on Judge Gorsuch?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, first of all, I agree with David on the assessment of him.
He went to Georgetown Prep, which is a rather exclusive local prep school, then on to Columbia College, and then to Harvard Law School, then to Oxford.
But the vice president made a point when he was interviewed by you in this show, emphasizing he’s a fourth-generation Coloradan, because his resume sounds very much like all the other justices on the Supreme Court.
And as somebody who said that we ought to have somebody on the court who went to night school or went to public school — but, nevertheless, he does seem by temperament — and I will say this. In an administration that has been marked by total chaos and is unsettling in the way it’s behaved and the impulses it’s shown by its president, this was the exception.
It was incredibly normal. They did it well. The announcement was done well. He’s being — the Sherpa he has on Capitol Hill is former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is well-respected with moderates and Democrats, and Ron Bonjean, who was Trent Lott’s adviser and spokesman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: So, that’s been well done. And he seems to be a quality product.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you agree with David, a tough call here for Democrats?
MARK SHIELDS: It’s tough in the sense that, I mean, the Republicans were reprehensible, what they did to Merrick Garland, reprehensible, indefensible. They never even gave the man a hearing, a man with a distinguished career. They ignored the Constitution.
The temptation is enormous. The pressure is enormous from the Democratic base of the party. And don’t forget, I mean, the Republicans responded to the Tea Party, which was the base of their party. And I can understand that.
But I think that — you know, I think, unless there’s something hidden about him that nobody seems to know and nobody seems to even be suggesting, I think he’s going to be awfully tough to defeat. And he’s a quality nominee.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re going to watch that one unfold.
I do want to get, David, to the executive orders. They have been coming at us fast and furious just about every day. But the big one I want to ask you about is the immigration order. It’s created a firestorm. We just — we announced — we just reported a few minutes ago a couple of federal judges have ruled on it because of legal challenges.
There have been protests. You have got State Department employees who have signed a letter of dissent.
Is the administration getting off on the right foot or not with this statement?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, you know, I have been inundated by 18 inches of orders, like we all have over the last couple of weeks, and some of them are good.
I think some of them are completely toothless and symbolic. But this one on the refuges is the one that’s truly abominable and reprehensible. We can’t remind people enough that it responds to a problem that does not exist, that refugees in from these countries have killed no one in a terrorist attack. That’s not where the threat has lain.
It’s from homegrown people. It’s maybe from other countries. The 9/11 people were from Saudi Arabia and some other places. And so it’s a response to nothing.
And so you have to think that it’s just an outgrowth of nativism. And there has been a whiff of nativism, to put it politely, in a lot of the measures that this administration has done. And it has offended our career people in the State Department. It has offended our allies. It has offended a lot of people around the world, for no good effect.
Usually, when there’s some policy, there are pros and cons. There are literally no pros to this one.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Any good effect?
MARK SHIELDS: No good effect.
And both the president and his vice president made the mistake of referring to it as a ban, then tried to — Muslim ban — then tried to walk it back. No.
And, Judy, the irony is, in a week where the president says he wants to unleash churches politically from being hobbled, and goes to the National Prayer Breakfast, I mean, forgotten is the message of Christ, that — how you treat the stranger among you. Whatever you do for the least of these, that of Moses, that you shall not oppress an alien, because you yourselves have been aliens.
This has been the hallmark, this has been the defining value of the United States. We had six Nobel Prize winners American last year. All six were immigrants. Immigrants have been the sustenance and the survival and the treasure of this country.
And Donald Trump is appealing, as he did during the campaign, to the basest, the most selfish and the most literally un-American of instincts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David, I wanted to ask you about foreign policy, but I have to come back to what you were just saying, an outgrowth of nativism.
You wrote a very tough column this week, saying this is not just a Republican administration; it’s an ethnic nationalist administration. You talked about Republicans making a Faustian bargain to go along with Donald Trump.
It’s a pretty dark picture, isn’t it, that you have painted?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
And I just think they’re in an untenable position. Listen, I grew up with Ronald Reagan. And he’s one of the reasons I think it was very encouraging to be a conservative back in those days. And he had a refugee crisis when he first came into office from Cambodia and Laos and other parts of the world. And he said, we’re going to welcome them. And he did welcome them.
And that was a Republican Party that did welcome the refugee because it basically believed in opportunity. It believed in possibility. It was a hopeful party.
This is not a hopeful party. It doesn’t believe in opportunity and — it does see possibility anywhere around the world. It sees threat and menace.
And, frankly, it reminds me of some of the reactionaries in Russia who think that the purity of the country is in the dark soul of the people who have been here for centuries, and everything outside is a threat.
That’s not been the American myth. That’s not the way we have defined our country. And so I do think we’re in the middle of a big argument over how we define the American idea. And what Bannon and Trump have presented us with is an idea of America that’s not been the traditional idea, not the Walt Whitman idea, not the George Washington, Abraham Lincoln idea, which is one of welcoming because we’re the last, best hope of Earth.
And so we have hit the opposite of Emma Lazarus. And that debate about the American idea, seems to me, the core debate under this whole administration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, the opposite of Emma Lazarus.
MARK SHIELDS: The opposite — yes.
Now, Americans — Americans have gone through nativist streaks before. The Know-Nothings in the middle of the 19th century were a dominant political influence of many Northern states, held every seat in the Massachusetts legislature, alarmed about the influx of Irish immigrants and Catholics coming into the country.
But I do think that one major difference between our handling of civil rights in the 1960s, when America rose to one of its most magnificent eras and challenges, and immigration in the 21st century is the economy, I mean, that the measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, but whether, as Franklin Roosevelt said, we provide enough for those who have too little.
And during the ’60s, the median income was doubling of the American household. And we have seen the stagnation. We have seen what has happened. And it comes at a cost. And it comes at a cost in the psyche, that Americans are less welcoming, we’re more fearful.
And I really think that income inequality is — and the disparity in income and the growing gap has contributed to that political climate that Donald Trump has exploited so brilliantly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and while we’re watching this immigration ban, or order, however you’re describing it, David, we have also watched a flurry of statements and tweets about foreign policy, and reported angry phone calls between the president and the prime minister of Australia and the president of Mexico.
Today, the White House issued sanctions, heightened sanctions against Iran. There seems to be a consensus that that’s a good idea.
But do you see an emerging — what do you see emerging in terms of foreign policy from this White House?
DAVID BROOKS: I have to say it has been an extremely unnerving week on the foreign policy front.
The fight with the Australian ambassador — or with the Australian prime minister was emblematic. Trump is right at some level. That was a bad deal that the Obama administration cut. I understand why they cut it. But, for the Trump administration, it was a bad deal.
But that doesn’t mean you get in a fight and get in some temperamental hissy fit, as apparently happened, with probably our most loyal ally in the world, who’s been with us at every fight basically throughout our history.
And so that’s a sign of characterological problem. And then you switch to the real problems in the world. We’re not going to get in a war with Australia.
But, as Steve Bannon said, we might get in a war in the South China Sea. And, as Mike Flynn said, we might get in a war in Iran. And we have to be tough with those countries, but you would like to feel there is some control in our toughness, that there’s some strategy, that we’re not at the whim of one person’s pique.
And so, when we even take what seem to be sensible actions in Iran — or against Iran, I have no confidence, and I don’t think any of us can have confidence, that there is something steady and temperamental and in control about that.
And, as I had mentioned on the program a few weeks ago, the number of use of force decisions the president has to take is large. And none of us can be sure that the sane choices will be made, let alone reasonable ones.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, in just a minute, how are you seeing this emerging national security vision from this administration?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, I mean, we want a president with a steady hand on the tiller. I mean, that’s what we want. We want the captain who is — who is stable, who inspires confidence. And that has not been the case.
This is the biggest betting week of the year. This is the Super Bowl week. And anybody would have given — would have won a fortune on the over-under that the country you’re going to pick an argument with is Australia.
It just — it’s incredible. But it’s all personal, because all politics isn’t local, as Tip O’Neill said. All politics is personal with President Trump. And that carries with it great, great problems.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are just at the beginning. And we thank you both for your insights and we hope you have a good weekend.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.
The post Shields and Brooks on Democrats’ Gorsuch dilemma, refugee ban backlash appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But first — the battle for Mosul.
The months-long siege by Iraqi forces, with U.S. support, has taken back about half the city. Signs of life are returning to those areas, while a new offensive is in the works to capture the rest from ISIS control.
Special correspondent Jane Ferguson and videographer Alessandro Pavone have our report.
JANE FERGUSON: Weaving through recaptured streets of Eastern Mosul, Colonel Nazar Naji takes us to the Iraqi army outposts under his command.
His men are positioned on rooftops, watching for any signs of ISIS fighters coming across the Tigris River that flows through the city. Recently, he tells me, around 50 fighters managed to cross and attack this position.
COL. NAZAR NAJI, Iraqi Army (through interpreter): They have been trying to break into the eastern side of the city, because they are now surrounded on the West side. They are besieged by the Iraqi army, militias and police.
JANE FERGUSON: Since the campaign to drive ISIS out of Mosul began nearly four months ago, Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. air support and special forces, have retaken the eastern side of the city up to the river. The western side is now completely surrounded, and ISIS is under siege.
An Iraqi military offensive to retake the rest of the city is expected to start at any time. Meanwhile, ISIS sharpshooters are still killing soldiers on the government-controlled side.
Because of ISIS snipers just across the river, we need to use these trucks as protection. These neighborhoods were recaptured by Iraq’s U.S.- trained special forces after brutal fighting. It’s now up to the regular Iraqi army to try to hold the line.
Colonel Naji hears on the radio a position nearby is coming under heavy fire, and he races there to lead his soldiers. Backup arrives with heavy weaponry.
COL. NAZAR NAJI (through interpreter): There is an attack by ISIS, and the Humvees are going to support them. There is only one injury, God willing.
JANE FERGUSON: For these men, the fear is that this attack is only to distract them while ISIS sneaks fighters across the river.
The front line is just up here. That’s where the River Tigris is, and ISIS fighters are trying to push the Iraqi army back.
Nearby, the unit responds with mortars. The one casualty, a soldier hit in the head with some shrapnel, is patched up and raced away from the front line.
But just a short distance away, a remarkable sight: Mosul’s streets are again vibrant. Life has returned to areas recaptured from ISIS. Even traffic jams are common. Just weeks ago, these streets were deadly battlegrounds. Now shops and restaurants are open for business. Open-air markets take place every day, packed with people.
Under ISIS, food shortages were severe and prices crippling. Getting food is now easier, but life is still tough.
WOMAN (through interpreter): There is no water and no electricity. We are pumping water out of old wells. And it’s not clean. People can get very sick from it.
JANE FERGUSON: The men at this tea stall are relieved that their neighborhood is safe now, but they have other worries.
MAN (through interpreter): Education is also so important. For three years, our children have not gone to school. They are behind with their studies.
JANE FERGUSON: That’s changing for many children in Eastern Mosul; 250 teenage boys attend this school. These young men would have been targeted for recruitment into the ranks of ISIS fighters. These boys are so determined to be here, they have come despite the lack of electricity and freezing temperatures in the classroom. They haven’t been in school for years, and the teachers are delighted to see them.
MAN: One hundred percent all the students in this area love — loving coming to school. They excited to study.
JANE FERGUSON: Iraqis still living on the ISIS side of the river don’t have that chance. Hundreds of thousands of people are still trapped there. Sometimes, the brave risk their lives, making a run for it.
Back at the riverside, the army unit has spotted two men trying to cross a bridge nearby. They move into position to watch for them. Captain Amr Abdul Sadda tracks them as they approach. An armored Humvee is moved in front of the bridge. In these tense moments, the soldiers have to determine whether the men approaching them are innocent civilians or suicide bombers.
This happens a lot, says the captain.
CAPT. AMR ABDUL SADDA, Iraqi Army (through interpreter): Every day, we try to secure families trying to cross towards us, and give them covering fire, because ISIS are using their snipers on them.
JANE FERGUSON: They are scared?
CAPT. AMR ABDUL SADDA (through interpreter): The people on the other side are afraid. But whenever they cross to us and we accept them, we calm them down and tell them everything is OK. We are the security forces. We are your brothers, and we are here to free you.
JANE FERGUSON: Then they appear. They have taken their clothes off to prove they are not hiding weapons or explosives. Relieved, and still frightened, they have survived a perilous escape from ISIS territory.
But they are part of a tiny trickle of people making it out. The rest remain trapped on the other side of this divided city.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jane Ferguson in Mosul, Iraq.
The post Areas of Mosul are still under siege, but signs of life return appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we’re going to dig into some of the actions taken this week by the White House and the Congress to roll back Obama era rules and regulations.
I am joined by our own Lisa Desjardins and William Brangham.
And we welcome both of you. It’s good to have you here at the table.
William, I’m going to start with you.
We heard John Yang reporting earlier the administration did today go after financial regulations that were part — a feature of the Obama administration, including a peace of Dodd-Frank. Tell us about that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yes.
Today was what some people would say was the beginning of an all-out rollback. Some would argue it’s a dismantling of consumer protections and financial regulations.
With regards to Dodd-Frank, this order that the president put out doesn’t mention Dodd-Frank by name, but it’s all about Dodd-Frank, Dodd-Frank, as you remember, the 2010 law that said we need to fix some of the problems that got us into trouble in 2008, how banks operate, the risks story can take. They created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Critics have hated Dodd-Frank and all of its tentacles ever since it was created. And now the president has asked the secretary of the treasury to look at all the different rules within there, find out which are too costly, which are too burdensome and potentially get rid of them.
Supporters of Dodd-Frank would say maybe the law wasn’t perfect, but something had to be done to constrain Wall Street since the 2008 crisis, so we don’t see a repeat, and that this move goes in the opposite direction.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the other thing they did which I think is important is they went after a provision that — again, feature of the Obama administration — that affects those individuals who are paid to give retirement financial advice.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right.
This is what was known — this was the rules the Department of Labor put out. It’s called the fiduciary standard. And last year, the Department of Labor said any financial adviser or broker has to follow this standard, which means you have to put your clients’ interests ahead of your own, and not sell them a package that might kick back fees to you or might not be very good for them as a client.
Again, the industry for a long time has said this is burdensome, costly, it stops people from getting good financial advice. And today the memorandum that the Trump administration put out said, Department of Labor, look at these rules, figure out which ones we should get rid of.
Again, the supporters of these rules argue that roughly $17 billion every single year is lost by people who are given unscrupulous advice and encouraging a dismantling of these rules is a terrible idea.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s certainly something we want to continue to pay attention to.
So, Lisa, meantime, Congress moving in its own way to roll back some important actions during the Obama administration.
LISA DESJARDINS: Right. Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of them had to do with coal mining and waterways. Tell us about that one.
LISA DESJARDINS: So, Congress now is using a very seldom-used law that allows them to go after rules that were passed in the last months of the Obama administration.
And the first one is this one, the stream protection rule. And what that does is, it requires mining companies to monitor streams for pollution and then it tells them exactly what quality those streams must meet, or else mining companies must fix the problem.
Republicans have moved this week in Congress to roll that back. That legislation is going to President Trump’s desk. And now critics of that rule say the problem was twofold, too onerous on the companies and that it was poorly written, that it affected Great Plains the same way as it did the mining companies in West Virginia that it was really aimed at.
But supporters point out that, according to those who wrote this rule, it would have improved thousands of miles of streams.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the other thing we know Congress is working on, hot-button topic, guns and the access that people who may have disabilities, and whether they have access.
LISA DESJARDINS: This is another big deal, something that the House passed yesterday. They would roll back a rule that had to do with a 2007 law that came out of the Virginia Tech massacre. It was aimed at trying to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining guns.
So, what this rule does is, it takes those who are on Social Security disability and who have been found to be mentally impaired, puts those names into the national background check system, so they would be prevented from buying guns.
Critics — the Republican critics of that law say it’s a problem because it’s an overreach. It would include anyone who doesn’t take care of their own finances. Democrats say it’s about safety.
Listen to just this split on the House floor yesterday.
REP. JACKIE WALORSKI, R-Ind.: If you receive Social Security disability payments and someone helps you manage the payments, this regulation stops you from being able to purchase a firearm.
Your name gets added to a federal database, and the burden is on you to prove it doesn’t belong there. This is absolutely outrageous.
REP. JUDY CHU, R-Calif.: This will not only make it easier for even those with severe mental health issues to buy a gun, but it will also take the option for writing similar rules off the table forever, tying the hands of all future administrations.
LISA DESJARDINS: So, that reversal of that gun rule now goes to the Senate. It’s expected to pass.
And, Judy, the thing I want to impress on people is that because of this special law that they’re using here, the House and Senate can get these rollbacks through more quickly. They only need a majority vote in the Senate, not 60 votes. We are going to see a lot of these in coming weeks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, we’re only two weeks in.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Already, all this is happening.
Lisa Desjardins, William Brangham, we thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, the Trump administration applied new sanctions today to more than a dozen people and companies tied to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Hari Sreenivasan has more.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The White House says the sanctions are not related to the nuclear deal, and structured in a way that maintains the U.S.’ commitments to that agreement.
At the same time, the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, also released a statement today, saying — quote — “The international community has been too tolerant of Iran’s bad behavior. The ritual of convening a United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting and issuing a strong statement is not enough. The Trump administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests.”
Joining me now for what the new sanctions and statements mean going forward is Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Karim, let’s start by putting this in context.
Who do these sanctions affect and what are they going to be prohibited from doing?
KARIM SADJADPOUR, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace: Hari, these sanctions are very targeted against individuals and entities that are affiliated or part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who are involved in Iran’s missile program and Iran’s support for regional militias.
And they’re very targeted. They’re not broad sanctions which are intended to really change Iranian behavior. But I do think they’re intended to do what General Flynn, the national security adviser, said, which is to put Iran “on notice” — quote, unquote.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How different are they from steps that perhaps the Obama administration would have taken had they seen this ballistic missile test happen on their watch?
KARIM SADJADPOUR: You know, the Obama administration was reluctant to sanction Iran and counter its regional behavior because they were very worried that that would provoke an escalation which would jeopardize the nuclear deal, which was the Obama administration’s main foreign policy legacy.
And the Trump administration doesn’t have those concerns. President Trump has routinely denounced the Iran nuclear deal as a disaster. And I think, in contrast to the Obama administration, the Trump administration’s national security brain trust, men like General Flynn, General Mattis at the Pentagon, these were men who served in Iraq, and they hold Iran responsible for the death of hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
And so they felt, during the Obama years, that they were restrained from being able to retaliate against Iran. And now they feel unrestrained and they’re confronting Iran in the region.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, Iran already this afternoon said that they are planning to take similar steps against members inside the United States. Does this escalate? Does this go further?
KARIM SADJADPOUR: I do think, Hari, that we are in the early stages of an escalation which could eventually, over months, culminate in a military conflict either between the United States and Iran or Israel and Iran.
Now, Iran’s comfort zone is to have kind of managed, contained hostility between the United States and Iran. For four decades, that’s been a central part of the revolutionary ideology. But they have stopped short of actually going into military conflict with the United States.
I think that the early weeks and months of the Trump administration will be a time in which both countries are kind of feeling the other one out. Iran, I expect, will want to show that these sanctions and the taunts from Trump are not going to modify their behavior, but, at the same time, they will probably want to respond in a way which isn’t going to significantly escalate. They will want probably a gradual escalation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Is the end goal for both sides here to see who will back out of the deal first, or who will, at least in the international community, lose face?
KARIM SADJADPOUR: You know, that’s absolutely right, that neither side will want to gratuitously tear up the nuclear deal and be blamed for it.
I think that one of the things the Obama administration did well is that they made the case to countries like China, Russia, America’s European allies that America tried to engage Iran, Iran didn’t reciprocate, and the problem lied in Tehran, not Washington.
I think the challenge the Trump administration will have is that you have a president in Washington who is gratuitously blusterous, not only toward America’s adversaries, but also America’s allies. And, at the same time, you have in Tehran a president, Hassan Rouhani, and a foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who in much of the world seems like moderates, reasonable figures.
And add on to the fact that the Middle East is in the throes of tumult and carnage. And for many countries around the world, including China, Russia and Europe, they see Iran as a force for stability in the region and an ally against ISIS.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Karim Sadjadpour, thanks so much.
KARIM SADJADPOUR: Thank you, Hari.
The post Will new sanctions and statements escalate tensions with Iran? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The first two weeks of the Trump presidency are now behind us, punctuated by a push to begin to deregulate the financial industry.
John Yang reports on this day’s events.
JOHN YANG: At the first meeting of this new economic advisory council, President Trump used touted his plans for progress.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re bringing back jobs. We’re bringing down your taxes. We’re getting rid of your regulations. And I think it’s going to be some really very exciting times ahead.
JOHN YANG: The group talked banking rules and tax reform. But some also raised concerns that Mr. Trump’s immigration order would hurt their foreign employees and the economy. Blackstone Group CEO Steve Schwarzman is the council’s chairman. He described the discussion on FOX Business Channel.
STEPHEN SCHWARZMAN, CEO, Blackstone Group: General Kelly, who runs Homeland Security, was there and brought people up to date on the changes that had been made. And there was obviously concern by different people and explanations. And that issue had to be covered and was covered.
JOHN YANG: Even before the first meeting, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick quit the group over the issue. He had been pressed by both workers and customers.
He wrote to employees: “We will continue to advocate for just change on immigration, but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that.”
The same kind of pressure is driving a national boycott of Trump products. Retailer Nordstrom is dropping Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, citing poor sales. Today brought the number of Mr. Trump’s executive actions to 20.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today, we’re signing core principles for regulating the United States financial system. Doesn’t get much bigger than that, right?
JOHN YANG: That executive order directed the Treasury Department to look for ways to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act’s regulations. The 2010 legislation was in response to the financial crisis. It was intended rein in big banks and protect consumers.
The president also signed a memorandum aimed at blocking a retirement savings regulation called the fiduciary rule. Set to take effect in April, it’s aimed at making brokers put clients’ interests first when recommending investments for retirement planning. Administration officials call it a solution in search of a problem, and the financial industry has strongly opposed it.
Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri championed efforts to stop the regulation.
REP. ANN WAGNER, R-Miss.: Taking the boot off the neck of the American people and this economy moving forward. People are crying out to cut the red tape. They are finished with the Washington knows best, top-down bureaucratic regulation that is absolutely suffocating American families.
JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump capped the second week of his presidency by heading to Florida for a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
On his way back to the White House on Monday, Mr. Trump will spend his first major event addressing troops. He will be at Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base on Tampa Bay — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John, a lot going on at the White House this week, right up until today.
The president’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway in a situation where she had to retract a statement she made in an interview yesterday.
JOHN YANG: That’s right.
She talked to Chris Matthews on MSNBC last night. She was defending the president’s immigration order and she said that the media never reported the Bowling Green massacre. Well, one of the reasons the media never reported it is because it never happened.
Today, she acknowledged on Twitter that she had confused it with the arrest of two Iraqi — Iraqis who had been radicalized in Bowling Green, Kentucky. She apologized, but she also complained about being criticized for her slip.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, you mentioned Twitter. The president has continued to be active on Twitter, this morning tweeting again about that phone conversation that he had, reportedly heated conversation, with the prime minister of Australia, and then another one about, of all people, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
JOHN YANG: That’s right. I will take them in order.
The prime minister of Australia said that the phone call was candid and frank, which, of course, is diplomatic language often for a shouting match. But he did say that, contrary to reports, that Mr. Trump didn’t hang up on him. So, Mr. Trump thanked him for straightening that out and called the original reports fake news.
And then on Arnold Schwarzenegger, there was a little back and forth yesterday from the Prayer Breakfast, when he talked about the ratings. Mr. Schwarzenegger replied that maybe they wanted to switch jobs, that Mr. Trump was better at ratings and that he was — Americans could sleep at night.
He said, yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a really bad job as governor of California and even worse on “The Apprentice,” but at least he tried hard.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it sounds like that settles that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: John Yang, after another busy week at the White House, thank you.
And in the day’s other news: January’s job creation was the best since last September. The Labor Department reports that U.S. employers added 227,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.8 percent. Now, that is more Americans looking for work.
President Trump welcomed the report and said that it shows a — quote — “great spirit” in the country.
The jobs report and the president’s move to scale back financial regulations fueled a rally on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 186 points to close back above 20000. The Nasdaq rose 30, and the S&P 500 added 16.
The Trump administration imposed new economic sanctions today on 13 people and a dozen companies in Iran. It is a response to Iran’s test this month of a ballistic missile. Early this morning, the president tweeted:– quote — “Iran is playing with fire.”
And Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president isn’t ruling out other responses, including military action.
SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: These sanctions today I think are going to be very, very strong and impactful. And I hope that Iran realizes that, after the provocative measures that they have taken, that they understand that this president, this administration is not going to sit back and take it lightly.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Later in the day, when Mr. Trump was asked about Iran, he said — quote — “They’re not behaving.”
But Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, posted his own tweet, saying — quote — “Iran unmoved by threats. Will never initiate war.”
We will get into the details of these sanctions, and the implications, after the news summary.
In Paris, security fears surged again today when a man with a machete attacked guards outside the famed Louvre museum. The attacker, said to be an Egyptian national, shouted “God is great” in Arabic. He slightly injured one soldier before being shot and wounded himself. Museum-goers had to run away or shelter in place.
A senior Israeli official is welcoming a U.S. statement on settlements. In it, the Trump White House says they don’t impede peace, but that constructing new ones or expanding existing ones — quote — “may not be helpful.”
In response, Israel’s deputy foreign minister said today: “The conclusion is that more building is not the problem.” A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for action to prevent settlement expansion.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reassured South Korea and Japan today that the U.S. is still committed to defending them. His first trip abroad followed candidate Trump’s complaints that the allies should do more for their own defense.
In Seoul, Mattis met with his South Korean counterpart, and he underscored American support to deter North Korea.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States or on our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mattis later met with Japan’s prime minister in Tokyo. The U.S. has more than 28,000 troops in South Korea and about 50,000 in Japan.
The U.N. human rights commissioner is accusing security forces in Myanmar of mass killings and gang rapes against Rohingya Muslims. A report today charges that there’s a campaign to drive them out of the mostly Buddhist nation. Myanmar has denied previous allegations of abuses against its Muslim minority. It says it is battling insurgents.
Back in this country, a Justice Department lawyer told a federal court today that 100,000 entry visas have been revoked under President Trump’s immigration order. The State Department said later that the number is actually fewer than 60,000.
Meanwhile, federal judges in Boston, Seattle and Virginia held hearings on legal challenges to the order. So far, at this hour, there’s been a split in rulings. The Boston judge declined to extend the partial block on the Trump order, while, in Virginia, a judge allowed a lawsuit challenge to go forward.
The stage is set now for a Senate showdown on Betsy DeVos. She is President Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education. Senators voted early this morning to end debate, with Democrats and Republicans senators jousting over the nominee’s qualifications.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: The nominee for the secretary of education is one of the worst nominees that has ever been brought before this body for a Cabinet position. On the grounds of competence, on the grounds of ideology and on the grounds of conflicts of interest, she scores very, very low.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R-Tenn.: There will be no mandates for Common Core, no mandates for teacher evaluation, no mandates for vouchers, no mandates for anything else from the United States Department of Education headed by Betsy DeVos. We will be swapping a national school board for what she believes in, which is a local school board.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The confirmation vote on DeVos will come next week. It could end in a tie, leaving Vice President Pence to cast the deciding vote.
Congressional Republicans are also moving to rescind more Obama-era regulations. The House voted today to abolish a rule on cutting methane emissions from natural gas drilling. And the Senate gave final approval to dropping a mandate that energy firms disclose what they pay governments for drilling rights. We are going to look at the drive to roll back rules later in the program.
Enrollments on the national Obamacare Web site have fallen slightly. The government reported today that 9.2 million people signed up through the end of January. That’s about half-a-million fewer than at this point last year. There are no final numbers yet for the 11 states with their own health insurance markets.
Still to come on the NewsHour: new sanctions against Iran in response to a ballistic missile test; from Wall Street to the environment, rolling back Obama-era regulations; the next phase of the battle for Mosul; and much more.
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SEATTLE — A U.S. judge on Friday imposed a nationwide hold on President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, siding with two states that had challenged the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country
U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled that Washington state and Minnesota had standing to challenge Trump’s order, which government lawyers disputed, and said they showed their case was likely to succeed. About 60,000 people from the affected countries had their visas cancelled.
“The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury,” Robart said. “This TRO (temporary restraining order) is granted on a nationwide basis …”
It wasn’t immediately clear what happens next for people who had waited years to receive visas to come to America.
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” the statement said.
Trump’s order last week sparked protests nationwide and confusion at airports as some travelers were detained. The White House has argued that it will make the country safer.
Washington became the first state to sue over the order that temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and suspends the U.S. refugee program.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the travel ban significantly harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the lawsuit two days later.
After the ruling, Ferguson said people from the affected countries can now apply for entry to the U.S.
“Judge Robart’s decision, effective immediately … puts a halt to President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful executive order,” Ferguson said. “The law is a powerful thing — it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States.”
Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. The judge’s ruling could be appealed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judge’s written order, released late Friday, said it’s not the court’s job to “create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches” of government.
The court’s job “is limited to ensuring that the actions taken by the other two branches comport with our country’s laws.”
Robart ordered federal defendants “and their respective officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys and persons acting in concert or participation with them are hereby enjoined and restrained from” enforcing the executive order.
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is under litigation, said Friday: “We are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and our legal teams to determine how this affects our operations. We will announce any changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available.?”
Federal attorneys had argued that Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and immigrant entry.
The two states won a temporary restraining order while the court considers the lawsuit, which aims to permanently block Trump’s order. Court challenges have been filed nationwide from states and advocacy groups.
In court, Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell said the focus of the state’s legal challenge was the way the president’s order targeted Islam.
Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and the travel ban was an effort to make good on that campaign promise, Purcell told the judge.
“Do you see a distinction between campaign statements and the executive order,” Robart asked. “I think it’s a bit of a reach to say the president is anti-Muslim based on what he said in New Hampshire in June.”
Purcell said there was an “overwhelming amount of evidence” to show that the order was directed at the Muslim religion, which is unconstitutional.
When the judge questioned the federal government’s lawyer, Michelle Bennett, he repeatedly questioned the rationale behind the order.
Robart, who was appointed the federal bench by President George W. Bush, asked if there had been any terrorist attacks by people from the seven counties listed in Trump’s order since 9/11. Bennett said she didn’t know.
“The answer is none,” Robart said. “You’re here arguing we have to protect from these individuals from these countries, and there’s no support for that.”
Bennett argued that the states can’t sue on behalf of citizens and the states have failed to show the order is causing irreparable harm.
Up to 60,000 foreigners from the seven majority-Muslim countries had their visas canceled because of the executive order, the State Department said Friday.
That figure contradicts a statement from a Justice Department lawyer on the same day during a court hearing in Virginia about the ban. The lawyer in that case said about 100,000 visas had been revoked.
The State Department clarified that the higher figure includes diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted from the travel ban, as well as expired visas.
Ferguson, a Democrat, said the order is harming Washington residents, businesses and its education system.
Washington-based businesses Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft support the state’s efforts to stop the order. They say it’s hurting their operations, too.
Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee and Alicia A. Caldwell contributed from Washington.
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WASHINGTON — President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is a constitutional originalist who opposes all forms of assisted suicide and ruled twice against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate but has never ruled on abortion.
Trump announced the nomination of Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday night, kicking off what Democrats have said will be a contentious confirmation process to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is currently serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over six western states
The 49-year-old Gorsuch holds a Harvard law degree and a PhD in legal philosophy from Oxford.
In 2009, he authored “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” in which he argues against the practice from both a moral and legal standpoint.
“It is an argument premised on the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” Gorsuch wrote in the opening pages of the book.
Federal rulings on physician-assisted suicide have been limited. Most recently, a 2006 Supreme Court ruling continued to defer to the states on the matter. In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled against prosecuting doctors who provide aid in dying but made no ruling on the broader legality. But its opponents are still hankering for a fight: In a November op-ed, Wisconsin’s deputy solicitor general urged another legal battle over the issue and a change in conservative legal tactics.
In Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, Gorsuch sided with the company in an initial circuit court ruling in 2013 as it sought a religious exemption to the mandate. The ensuing Supreme Court decision allowed privately owned for-profit companies to claim a religious objection to the mandate that they cover contraception for their employees.
In a later case also centered on the law’s contraception requirements, Gorsuch joined a dissent in a ruling that denied a motion by other opponents of the mandate claiming religious objections. The dissent blasted the majority for their “dangerous approach to religious liberty.”
With Trump’s recent executive order instructing federal agencies to “ease the burdens” of Obamacare, the contraception mandate could once again end up entangled in litigation.
On the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, however, Gorsuch’s appointment does not move the court in a different direction. Though he has never ruled on abortion before, Gorsuch is expected to vote as the deeply conservative Scalia did should the issue appear again before the justices.
The security of the 44-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling is among liberal groups’ chief concerns when it comes to Trump’s judicial nominees.
Trump said during the 2016 campaign that he is personally opposed to abortion, and that he would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade so that states could decide their positions on the issue individually.
Senate Republicans now face a procedural decision if Democrats try to block Gorsuch’s confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can employ the so-called “nuclear option” — which would allow Trump’s nominee to pass via simple majority rather than the usual 60-vote margin. But McConnell has in the past sounded reluctant to change the chamber’s rules.
Many Democrats, incensed that Senate Republicans never gave former Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing or vote after his nomination in March 2016, vowed to oppose Trump’s nominee even before Gorsuch was announced. It remains to be seen, however, if enough Democrats will unite to stop his nomination without a change in Senate rules.
When President George W. Bush appointed Gorsuch in 2006 to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, he was confirmed by the Senate with a voice vote.
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Jan. 31, 2017. Find the original story here.
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SEATTLE — A federal judge’s ruling temporarily lifting a ban on travel to the U.S. from certain countries triggered confusion in airports around the world as airlines began boarding flights bound for America and federal lawyers took steps to reinstate the ban.
As the impact of the ruling took hold, President Donald Trump lashed out on Twitter early Saturday morning, referring to U.S. District Judge James Robart as “this so-called judge” and calling his decree “ridiculous.”
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned,” Trump tweeted. “When a country is no longer able to say who can and who cannot come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security – big trouble!”
The White House said it would try to get a court to reinstate the ban that prompted the State Department to cancel visas for 60,000 or more people from the affected countries, causing widespread confusion at airports when some travelers were detained and others sent back.
An internal email circulated among Homeland Security officials Friday night told employees to immediately comply with the judge’s ruling. However, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad said Saturday that they’re still awaiting guidance on what to tell Iraqis eager to see if their visa restrictions had changed.
“We don’t know what the effect will be, but we’re working to get more information,” the embassy told The Associated Press in a statement.
A pair of prominent Middle Eastern air carriers announced they would begin allowing passengers from the seven affected countries. Both Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, said U.S.-bound passengers from those countries with valid visas would be allowed to travel. In Egypt, Cairo airport and airline officials said they have received instructions from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to suspend President Trump’s executive order.
Government-backed Qatar Airways is one of a handful of Mideast airlines operating direct daily flights to multiple American cities. Its U.S. destinations from its Doha hub include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.
The judge’s decision was a victory for Washington and Minnesota, which had challenged Trump’s directive. Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order, ruling the states had standing. He said they showed their case was likely to succeed.
“The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury,” Robart said.
The White House has argued that it will make the country safer. Spokesman Sean Spicer released a statement late Friday saying the government “will file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate.”
Soon after, a revised statement was sent out that removed the word “outrageous.”
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” the statement said.
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is under litigation, said Friday: “We are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and our legal teams to determine how this affects our operations. We will announce any changes affecting travelers to the United States as soon as that information is available.”
In their arguments to the court, Washington state and Minnesota said the temporary ban on entry for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and the global suspension of the U.S. refugee program significantly harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination.
After the ruling, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said people from the affected countries can now apply for entry to the U.S.
“Judge Robart’s decision, effective immediately … puts a halt to President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful executive order,” Ferguson said. “The law is a powerful thing — it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States.”
The judge’s ruling could be appealed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal attorneys had argued that Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and immigrant entry.
But in his written order released late Friday, Robart said it’s not the court’s job to “create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches,” but rather, to make sure that actions taken by the executive or legislative branches “comports with our country’s laws.”
Court challenges of the ban have been filed nationwide from states and advocacy groups. Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell said his state’s focus is the way the president’s order targets Islam.
Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and the travel ban was an effort to make good on that campaign promise, Purcell told the judge.
“Do you see a distinction between campaign statements and the executive order?” Robart asked. “I think it’s a bit of a reach to say the president is anti-Muslim based on what he said in New Hampshire in June.”
Purcell said there is an “overwhelming amount of evidence” to show the order is unconstitutionally directed at the Muslim religion.
The judge then questioned the federal government’s lawyer, Michelle Bennett, about Trump’s rationale.
Robart, an appointee of President George W. Bush, asked if there had been any terrorist attacks since 9/11 by people from the seven counties listed in Trump’s order. Bennett said she didn’t know.
“The answer is none,” Robart said. “You’re here arguing we have to protect from these individuals from these countries, and there’s no support for that.”
Bennett argued that the states can’t sue on behalf of citizens, and the states have failed to show the order is causing irreparable harm.
Robart disagreed, and rejected a request from Bennett for an immediate stay of his order.
The State Department said Friday that Trump’s order canceled visas for up to 60,000 foreigners from the seven majority-Muslim countries, contradicting a Justice Department lawyer who said Friday that about 100,000 visas had been revoked.
The State Department clarified that the higher figure includes diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted from the travel ban, as well as expired visas.
Ferguson, a Democrat, said the order is harming residents, businesses and the state’s education system. Washington-based businesses Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft support the challenge, saying the ban is hurting their operations as well.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell and Matthew Lee in Washington, Susannah George in Baghdad, Hamza Hendawi in Cairo and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s nominee for Army secretary, businessman Vincent Viola, has withdrawn his name from consideration for the post.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was disappointed but understood and respected Viola’s decision, a Pentagon statement said. Mattis will recommend to Trump another candidate soon, the statement said.
A Trump administration official confirmed Friday night that Viola had withdrawn. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The Military Times reported that Viola said in a statement he was “deeply honored” to be nominated but cited his inability to successfully navigate the confirmation process and Defense Department rules concerning family businesses.
Viola was the founder of several businesses, including the electronic trading firm Virtu Financial. He also owns the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and is a past chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
A 1977 West Point graduate, Viola trained as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division. In 2003, he founded and helped fund the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
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For years, Sharissa Derricott, 30, had no idea why her body seemed to be failing. At 21, a surgeon replaced her deteriorated jaw joint. She’s been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition. Her teeth are shedding enamel and cracking.
None of it made sense to her until she discovered a community of women online who describe similar symptoms and have one thing in common: All had taken a drug called Lupron.
Thousands of parents chose to inject their daughters with the drug, which was approved to shut down puberty in young girls but also is commonly used off-label to help short kids grow taller.
The drug’s pediatric version comes with few warnings about long-term side effects. It is also used in adults to fight prostate cancer or relieve uterine pain and the Food and Drug Administration has warnings on the drug’s adult labels about a variety of side effects.
More than 10,000 adverse event reports filed with the FDA reflect the experiences of women who’ve taken Lupron. The reports describe everything from brittle bones to faulty joints.
In interviews and in online forums, women who took the drug as young girls or initiated a daughter’s treatment described harsh side effects that have been well-documented in adults.
Women who used Lupron a decade or more ago to delay puberty or grow taller described the short-term side effects listed on the pediatric label: pain at the injection site, mood swings and headaches. Yet they also described conditions that usually affect people much later in life. A 20-year-old from South Carolina was diagnosed with osteopenia, a thinning of the bones, while a 25 year-old from Pennsylvania has osteoporosis and a cracked spine. A 26 year-old in Massachusetts needed a total hip replacement. A 25-year-old in Wisconsin, like Derricott, has chronic pain and degenerative disc disease.
“It just feels like I’m being punished for basically being experimented on when I was a child,” said Derricott, of Lawton, Okla. “I’d hate for a child to be put on Lupron, get to my age and go through the things I have been through.”
In the interviews with women who took Lupron to delay puberty or grow taller, most described depression and anxiety. Several recounted their struggles, or a daughter’s, with suicidal urges. One mother of a Lupron patient described seizures.
Such complaints have recently come under scrutiny at the FDA, which regulates drug safety.
“We are currently conducting a specific review of nervous system and psychiatric events in association with the use of GnRH agonists, [a class of drugs] including Lupron, in pediatric patients,” the FDA said in a statement in response to questions from Kaiser Health News and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The FDA is also reviewing deadly seizures stemming from the pediatric use of Lupron and other drugs in its class. While there are other drugs similar to Lupron, it is a market leader and thousands of women have joined Facebook groups or internet forums in recent years claiming that Lupron ruined their lives or left them crippled.
But the FDA has yet to issue additional warnings about pediatric use, and unapproved uses of the drugs persist.
Meanwhile, pediatricians and industry researchers are criticizing doctors for using Lupron to help kids with normally timed puberty grow taller, an “off-label” practice that was shown more than a decade ago to cause harm. Off-label prescribing is legal and common, but means doctors are using drugs in ways the FDA did not determine to be safe and effective.
In 2009, an international consortium of pediatricians had warned against such use. Among them was a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Erica Eugster, whose research found that puberty-delaying drugs are widely used off label, even though the safety of such prescribing is unproven.
The health problems described by more than a dozen women in interviews could illustrate long range effects of pediatric use and warrant further investigation.
“That’s what you have to ask, ‘Is this the tide rising?’” said Dr. Alan Rogol, a University of Virginia Medical School professor emeritus in pediatrics who said he prescribed the medication for decades. “None of us can answer that.”
AbbVie Inc., the company that now makes the drug, said Lupron safety studies were submitted to the FDA before it approved the medication for Central Precocious Puberty in 1993. The drug’s label defines the condition as the onset of sexual characteristics before age 8 in girls and before 9 in boys.
“Uses beyond those contained in the approved label are considered unapproved uses,” company spokesman Morry Smulevitz said in an email.
Federal records show that the FDA official who led the drug approval process two decades ago was troubled by the two studies he reviewed. In a 1993 letter obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, former FDA medical officer Dr. Alexander Fleming wrote in a memo for the drug approval file that it was “regrettable” that the panel approved the drug after minimal study.
One study followed 22 children for just six months, Fleming said. He described the other study as a “free for all” review that made it difficult to determine what dose was best for children of different sizes. Still, he suggested long-term tracking of the drugs’ effects and favored approval “in the absence of any better approach.”
The study Fleming referred to as the “free for all” concluded in 1992, according to a summary submitted to European authorities. Fleming had no further comment when contacted recently.
A different drugmaker-sponsored study, completed long after Fleming’s letter, looked at children who had taken Lupron for precocious puberty from 1991 to 2009. The 2010 study, which was submitted to the FDA, reported that seven of 55 kids had suffered serious side effects, but said the only serious side effects possibly related to Lupron were the growth of a preexisting tumor, deteriorating vision and severe asthma exacerbation.
According to the National Institutes of Health repository of clinical research, which lists adverse effects discovered in studies, there are two serious side effects of Lupron that aren’t mentioned in the drugmaker’s 2010 study: a bone disorder and a disease-caused fracture, an omission which looks “puzzling” to Dr. Ned Feder, a staff scientist at the Project on Government Oversight.
“It does seem to me that that is certainly a point of criticism,” Feder said. “What are they doing? Is this an accident?”
Smulevitz and the author, Dr. Peter A. Lee of the Penn State College of Medicine, did not answer specific questions about the report. The 2010 study Lee wrote was sponsored by Abbott Laboratories, and is not published in a peer reviewed journal.
Abbott, which was once part of a joint venture that made Lupron, said in a statement that Lupron and the rest of its pharmaceutical business were transferred to AbbVie in 2013.
AbbVie paid the author, Dr. Lee, $157,066 from 2013 through 2015 for traveling and speaking about Lupron across the nation, according to publicly available Medicare data. Lee did not respond to questions about his financial relationship with the drug company.
Smulevitz, the company spokesman, said AbbVie “regularly monitors and reports to [the] FDA (as well as other regulatory agencies) new safety information on an ongoing basis to ensure that our label contains accurate and up-to-date information to assist prescribers and patients.” He said prescribers are referred to other Lupron warning labels to review adverse events.
The FDA, in its statement, said it continues to review post-marketing reports of Lupron and other drugs in its class, monitors adverse-event reports and informs the public of safety concerns.
If the FDA reaches any conclusions, Derricott would like to know. She says she took Lupron from age 5 to 12 to shut down early puberty. At 30, she’s among the first patients who took the drug — even before it was approved for pediatric use. She says now that she’s had more surgeries than her 79-year-old father, and suffers from a blood disorder and bone and joint problems.
“Excuse my language, but it’s hell,” she said.
When drugs like Lupron were discovered in the 1980s, it was like a miracle to pediatric endocrinologists like Rogol.
Lupron and drugs in its class were a solution to a rare but troubling problem: Toddler, preschool and kindergarten-age girls were developing breasts and unexpected body hair. The drug works in the brain to shut down estrogen flow, essentially halting the body’s progress toward puberty. Once the injections cease, the process of puberty resumes.
Experts estimate that boys represent about 10 percent of the kids taking Lupron, many because of tumors or other conditions triggering early puberty.
In the years since the drug was first approved for children, Lupron usage has come under broad review.
Initially approved in 1989 to treat prostate cancer, Lupron works by cutting off the hormones that exacerbate conditions such as prostate cancer and excessive uterine growth. Its effect of chemically castrating men represented an advance over the option men faced previously — surgical castration. Obstetricians and urologists have relied on the drug for decades.
A nonprofit representing 90 percent of the nation’s fertility clinics says many doctors use the drug off-label to prepare women for in-vitro fertilization. Yet, the Lupron label warns of birth defects in rodents and advises against using the drug when one is considering pregnancy.
As with many drugs, side effects have long been a problem. More than 20,000 adverse-event reports have been filed with the FDA in the last decade. Women have reported to the FDA hundreds of cases of insomnia, depression, joint pain and more than 100 cases of blurred vision. About 900 reports cite side effects that children below age 13 have suffered, mostly within months of taking Lupron. Those reports frequently note injection-site pain but also include dozens of cases of bone problems, such as pain or disorders, and the inability to walk.
Among men who take Lupron, its label warns of increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and sudden death. Drug labels are developed jointly by the FDA and the companies involved.
Adverse event reports are effective at flagging simple conditions that doctors recognize as an immediate consequence of taking a drug, such as vomiting or nausea. They are less prone to be filed and less effective at identifying longer-range problems, according to critics of the FDA’s oversight of approved drugs.
“As a parent, I kick myself,” says Jeanne Walsh, a Temecula, Calif., resident who filed an adverse event report years ago, as did several other mothers interviewed recently for this story because their children took Lupron. Walsh’s daughter took Lupron for precocious puberty and now struggles with fibromyalgia and has had jaw-joint surgery. “What was I thinking?”
In 1999, the FDA examined 6,000 adverse-event reports about Lupron filed by doctors, patients and researchers. Although the FDA couldn’t locate its 1999 report on the matter, a court document that summarized the findings of the report said it found “high prevalence rates for serious side effects” including depression, joint pain and weakness, and noted similar effects in men and women with very different ailments suggested the drug was causing the problems rather than underlying medical conditions.
The FDA made no major change, but reviewed the drug labels to determine whether the side effects were covered.
The drug made headlines two years later. Justice Department officials announced a civil and criminal settlement with Lupron’s then-maker. Prosecutors said the Lupron sales team rewarded doctors prescribing the drug for prostate cancer with ski trips, golf outings and bribes. In a court document, one gynecologist said a salesperson told him he “could earn $100,000 annually” by treating the women in his practice with Lupron.
The settlement resulted in a corporate guilty plea for conspiracy to violate prescribing laws and one of the largest fines at the time — $875 million.
Lupron was back in the courtroom in 2008, when patient Karin Klein sued the drugmaker, which was previously TAP Pharmaceutical Products, Inc., a joint venture of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Abbott Laboratories, after she took the drug as a teen to treat endometriosis. Klein alleged that she was not adequately warned of the drug’s effects and after taking the drug as a teen for a uterine condition, developed degenerative disc disease, jaw-joint dysfunction and bone thinning, court records show.
According to a court record in her case, a report by Dr. John Gueriguian, a former FDA medical officer serving as an expert witness for Klein, said the drug causes “irreversible side effects and permanent severely disabling health problems.”
“When a drug’s risks outweigh the drug’s benefits, a drug should be banned and pulled from the market,” Gueriguian wrote. Reached recently, he said he had no further comment.
Attorneys for the drugmaker said Klein’s problems were not caused by the drug. Klein lost the case before a Las Vegas jury and was denied appeals up to the Supreme Court over what her attorneys argued were unfair limits on the expert reviews, scientific studies and adverse-event reports that could be shown to jurors.
Lupron, which is marketed globally, has been a highly successful pharmaceutical product. Its current maker, AbbVie, reported 2015 Lupron sales of $826 million.
Perils Of Off-Label Use
Brooklyn Harbin said she received Lupron after she started her menstrual cycle at age 10. The chance to slow her puberty had passed but she hoped to add a few inches to her 4-foot 9-inch frame before her body matured any further.
According to medical research, doctors prescribe the puberty blocking drug to short kids to essentially give them more time to get taller, since puberty culminates with the body’s long bone growth ending.
Medical researchers have repeatedly warned against such off-label usage. A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that some kids on drugs like Lupron developed osteopenia and lost too much bone density during a three-year course of treatment to justify the therapy. In other words, the lifetime risk of breaking a bone outweighed the reward of growing a bit taller.
Still, Harbin said she began getting shots of Lupron in 2006. Soon afterward, she said her physical problems began.
At 10, after her 10th shot of Lupron, she said she collapsed during a Wal-Mart shopping trip with family. She could feel nothing from the knee down. Harbin said she spent six months in a wheelchair before she regained her strength and could walk again. She had to give up cheerleading, basketball, gymnastics and karate because of her low bone density.
By seventh grade, she said she spent a month at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota learning to cope with chronic pain.
FDA records obtained via a public records request show that her pediatric specialist reported that a pharmacy erroneously gave her grandmother an extended-release, 3-month formula of the medication, instead of a monthly dose at the same strength. It remains unclear whether the dosing error impacted her health.
Harbin said she was diagnosed at 11 with osteopenia, a thinning of the bones milder than osteoporosis. Although her bone density returned to a normal range at 16, her chronic pain has forced her to reconcile her dreams with her physical limitations.
“I felt like little pieces of my life were just taken away from me and no one wanted to own up to it,” said Harbin, who is now 20 and lives in South Carolina. “Suicide became very, very real for me.”
Eugster, director of pediatric endocrinology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, has written that far too many doctors confronted with parents’ concerns about a short child reaching puberty too soon are inclined to “do something,” even though the safety of off-label prescribing “can’t be inferred to exist.”
And the puberty-delaying drugs are expensive — $20,000 to $40,000 for two years of treatment, Eugster reported in The Journal of Pediatrics in 2015.
In another 2015 study, Eugster reviewed the records for 260 kids prescribed Lupron or a similar drug and concluded that 27 percent of them didn’t meet the definition of Central Precocious Puberty. More than half who were treated off-label were prescribed the drug in the hope of increasing their height, according to the report in the journal Endocrine Practice.
Another group of researchers also urged restraint in prescribing drugs to children to improve height in a 2011 article in The Journal of Pediatrics. Led by a pediatric radiology researcher, the research physicians found that even minor delays in puberty reduce children’s bone density, “stressing the need for caution in the use of treatments aimed at prolonging the growth period.”
The FDA approval documents for pediatric Lupron say Central Precocious Puberty affects an estimated 2,000 U.S. children each year, something considered an “orphan disease” because of its rarity. Yet doctors wrote 24,000 prescriptions for the medication in 2015, at an average cost of $8,300 for a 3-month long-acting prescription of the drug, according to IMS Health, a medical research firm.
Twice as many prescriptions were written for the drug in 2011, according to IMS Health, though that was before the long-acting dose was used more routinely.
Living With Long Term Problems
Valerie Ward, 25, who lives outside of Pittsburgh, said she took Lupron for precocious puberty, from age 9 to 12. Like Derricott, Ward said she sees a carousel of medical specialists for excruciating muscle and bone pain, depression, weakness and fatigue.
The symptoms mystify each woman’s doctors. Yet they sound all too familiar to Chandler Marrs, a researcher who has studied Lupron’s side effects in adult women under treatment for uterine disorders.
Marrs, an endocrine specialist who studies women’s health, said she was surprised by the severity and duration of Lupron’s side effects, so she posted a survey aimed at getting more information. With little funding to do outreach, more than 1,000 surveys came back.
The women reported a wide range of symptoms: 30 percent cited severe joint pain, 29 percent, severe body aches; 26 percent, cracking teeth, and 20 percent reported osteoporosis. More than half reported moderate to life-threatening depression. Fifteen percent of the women rated their suicidal thoughts as life-threatening to severe.
Marrs believes a uniting factor explains the diverse and severe range of symptoms. Lupron cuts off a woman’s estrogen, eliminating a key hormone called estradiol that regulates the energy centers of the cell, the mitochondria. She said the missed connection between the hormone and cellular powerhouse will hurt each woman where her body is most vulnerable.
“If your mitochondria break down, your nerves start to break down, if your nerves start to break down, your muscles break down. It’s the cascade of effects,” said Marrs, chief executive of the Nevada-based Lucine Health Sciences research firm.
At 20, Ward says she felt like her health was failing. She had muscle weakness so severe that she could barely lift her arms to wash her hair. Debilitating pain coursed through her body. Doctors puzzled over her blood disorder. She’s been hospitalized after feeling suicidal and depressed.
Last year, at 25, she suffered a seizure that resulted in a cracked vertebra.
“It was the most intense pain I felt in my entire life,” Ward said.
Then came another diagnosis: osteoporosis.
The condition would come as little surprise to anyone familiar with Lupron’s use in adults. Adult women using the drug to induce menopause after uterine disorders are warned on the drug’s adult label not to take an initial course longer than six months to avoid serious bone density loss. They are also encouraged to take hormonal “add-back” drugs to soften the side effects.
A Journal of Clinical Oncology study published in 2005 of men who take Lupron for prostate cancer found that it “significantly increased” the risk of fractures, with prolonged use raising the risk. Yet the impact on kids’ bones is still up for debate.
In interviews, several pediatric endocrinologists pointed to studies showing that kids’ bones do thin while they’re on Lupron, but then they bounce back to normal. One 2009 study by Italian researchers examining 66 girls found that bone density was significantly lower after treatment, but within about 10 years, returned to a level comparable to women who served as study controls. A German study concluded there was no harm to bones, even though seven of 41 women studied, or 17 percent, had osteopenia several years after their treatment ended, according to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Other studies published in international medical journals reached different conclusions. Researchers in Taiwan found “a possible major side effect” when they studied 11 girls who started Lupron at around age 8 and continued treatment for about 5 years. When the women were about 20, they performed bone scans and found that 45 percent of the women had lower-than-average bone density and merited a diagnosis of osteopenia.
Another study by researchers in Turkey concluded that treatment with Lupron for precocious puberty “may have adverse effect on bone health” due to severe vitamin D deficiencies. Their study, published by the West Indian Medical Journal, found that 13 children on Lupron for precocious puberty had serious vitamin short fallings, compared to two children in a control group.
Canadian researchers also identified five children who developed the same bone problem within years of taking a puberty-delaying drug, according to a 2013 study in Hormone Research in Paediatrics, a medical journal. The children each suffered from slippage in the long bone of the leg, near the hip, due to “a lack of adequate sex hormone exposure at a ‘critical period’ of bone formation.”
The FDA considers the drug’s impact on children’s bones an unanswered question, according to a statement: “The effects of bone density in children whose central precocious puberty is arrested with a GnRH agonist are considered ‘unknown’ as they have not been studied.”
By and large, though, the U.S. doctors who dispense Lupron to children are not in a position to see problems that may emerge a decade later, said E. Kirk Neely, a Stanford professor and pediatric endocrinologist. He noted that studies done in Europe haven’t identified long-term joint dysfunction or depression as problems.
“I’m concerned. There’s a very fundamental problem. We treat these kids, they disappear and we never see them again,” Neely said. “We don’t have good follow up, particularly in the U.S.”
Whether Lupron is causing the women’s’ long-term problems, “the answer is I don’t know.”
This story was published by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website. This story was also published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Christina Jewett, formerly of Reveal, is now a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News.
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NAIROBI, Kenya — About 140 Somali refugees whose resettlement in the United States this week was stopped by President Donald Trump’s executive order have been sent back to their refugee camp instead, one of the refugees said Saturday.
It was not clear why they were returned a day after a U.S. court order blocked Trump’s ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia. Officials with the International Organization for Migration, which runs the transit center in Nairobi where the refugees had been waiting for their flights to the U.S., could not be reached for comment.
“How would you feel? One day you are telling friends bye, wishing them well, and the next you are back where you started,” 28-year-old Nadir Hassan told The Associated Press by phone from the camp. “My home for 27 years was a refugee camp. I was hoping to start a new life in the U.S., get an education, a job, a life. We feel bad.”
He had been on a waiting list to leave for about a decade, he said.
The fate of the Somali refugees is especially uncertain because Kenya’s government has vowed to close their Dadaab camp, the world’s largest, by the end of May, citing security concerns. Kenyan officials say the refugees will be returned to neighboring Somalia, where the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group continues to carry out deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.
The Kenyan government says al-Shabab uses Dadaab as a recruiting and training ground for extremists who attack Kenya, but it has not presented any proof.
Human rights groups have protested Kenya’s plans to close Dadaab, saying some of the more than 250,000 refugees there have reported being pressured to leave the camp and that Somalia remains too unstable for people to return home. Refugees who have heeded Kenya’s call to voluntarily leave have said they felt betrayed because assurances of safety and support went unfulfilled in Somalia.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, Yvonne Ndege, said Saturday the agency was looking at other ways of settling the refugees, including moving them to another camp in Kenya, Kakuma, which houses mostly people from South Sudan.
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People protesting President Donald Trump hit the streets on Saturday for a third weekend in a row in the U.S. Capitol, overseas and as far away as Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.
The rallies come after a federal court order blocked Trump’s ban on all refugees as well as travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump called the judge’s ruling “ridiculous” on Saturday, citing issues of national security.
In London, demonstrators called on Prime Minister Theresa May to rescind an invitation for Trump to visit Britain this summer.
Hundreds of protesters also Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where a wall once separated east and west Germany.
And there were demonstrations in Manila, Philippines; Jakarta, Indonesia and at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
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PARIS — The Louvre Museum reopened to the public Saturday, less than 24 hours after a machete-wielding assailant shouting “Allahu akbar!” attacked French soldiers guarding the sprawling building and was shot by them.
The worldwide draw of the iconic museum in central Paris, host to thousands of artworks including the “Mona Lisa,” was on full display on a drizzly winter day as international tourists filed by armed police and soldiers patrolling outside the site, which had been closed immediately after Friday’s attack.
The attacker was shot four times after slightly injuring a soldier patrolling the nearby underground mall but his injuries on Saturday were no longer life-threatening, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
French President Francois Hollande said there is “no doubt” the suspect’s actions were a terror attack, and he will be questioned as soon as that is possible.
An Egyptian Interior Ministry official confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that the attacker is Egyptian-born Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy, who is 28, not 29 as widely reported.
The official said an initial investigation in Egypt found no record of political activism, criminal activity or membership in any militant group by him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
French authorities said they are not yet ready to name the suspect, but confirmed they thought he was Egyptian.
The suspect was believed to have been living in the United Arab Emirates and came to Paris on Jan. 26 on a tourist visa, prosecutor Francois Molins said. The suspect bought two military machetes at a gun store in Paris and paid 1,700 euros ($1,834) for a one-week stay at a Paris apartment in the chic 8th arrondissement, near the Champs-Elysees Avenue.
On the Twitter account of an “Abdallah El-Hamahmy,” a tweet was posted about a trip from Dubai to Paris on Jan. 26. In the profile photo, Hamahmy is seen smiling and leaning against a wall in a blue-and-white sports jacket.
In another tweet in Arabic written shortly before the Louvre attack, Hamahmy posted an angry tirade: “No negotiation, no compromise, no letting up, certainly no climb down, relentless war.”
In an interview Saturday on the Dubai-based news channel al-Hadath, Hamahmy’s father, Reda Refae al-Hamahmy, said he was shocked to learn of his son’s alleged involvement in the latest Paris attack and denied that he was a radical or belonged to any militant groups.
“All I want is to know the truth and find out whether he is dead or alive,” the father said.
“This is all a scenario made up by the French government to justify the soldiers opening fire,” he added. “He is a very normal young man.”
The father said Hamahmy is married with a 7-month-old child and told them he intended to tour the sights in Paris before leaving France. He sent his father a photo of himself with the Eiffel Tower in the background shortly before the clash at the Louvre.
Hamahmy’s brother Ahmed, who works at the Health Ministry in Dubai, was interrogated for several hours by security officials in the United Arab Emirates, the father said. In Egypt, several domestic security agency officers visited the family home in the Nile Delta on Friday night to question family members.
At the Louvre on Saturday, visitors expressed mixed feelings about the incident, with some planning to leave Paris earlier than planned.
“We heard on the news that a terrorist attack took place … we stayed at the hotel and we’re thinking about cutting our vacation in Paris short,” said Lucia Reveron from Argentina.
Others felt safer because of the heightened security presence.
“I went around yesterday in the evening and security was everywhere. Even now, when we arrived (at the Louvre), we were checked and it’s secure. I don’t feel any threats,” said Kurt Vellafonde from Malta.
With the spate of attacks on France in the last few years, many residents have become resilient, even blase.
“There have been very good security measures taken and it does not scare me at all,” said Regine Dechivre. “It’s the phenomena of a person a little bit disturbed. The investigation will tell us what exactly happened.”
The United Arab Emirates condemned the attack at the Louvre but UAE officials offered no comment Saturday about the suspect’s possible connection to the country.
The UAE, which includes the Mideast commercial hub of Dubai, is a major destination for guest workers from Egypt and other countries. Foreign residents outnumber native Emiratis roughly four to one.
“The UAE, while strongly condemning this hideous crime, affirms its full solidarity with the friendly French Republic in these circumstances and its support for whatever measures France may take to preserve its security and safety of its citizens and residents,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.
France is working with the Emirates to build a branch of the Louvre in the federal capital, Abu Dhabi. The project has been repeatedly delayed and is now expected to open later this year.
Hendawi reported from Cairo. Chris Den Hond and Nadine Achoui-Lesage in Paris and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report
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ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: On his call list today, President Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The phone conversation comes at the end of a week where more than 30 people died in the eastern part of Ukraine near its shared border with Russia, due to the worst fighting in two years between government forces and Russian-backed separatist rebels.
On Thursday, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said the administration would not lift sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 after it annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine, until Russia returns control of the region.
To discuss where the issue goes from here, I am joined by Professor Timothy Frye, chair of the political science department at Columbia University.
Professor, what triggered this escalation?
TIMOTHY FRYE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think the Ukrainian forces want to send a message that they should not be forgotten. The Trump administration has barely paid any attention to Ukraine until this week, and some argue that this escalation on the Ukrainian side was an attempt to get their attention.
On the Russian side, they also may have an interest in sparking this conflict to demonstrate to the Ukrainians that perhaps the United States does have their back the way they had in the Obama administration.
STEWART: How big a test is this for the United States, given that many analysts have said, hey, yes, this is Russia saying we’ve got a new administration in the U.S. and they’re friendly to us?
FRYE: Yes, I think this is an important test. I think what Nikki Haley’s statement is about, it’s an tempt to lay the groundwork for a much broader deal with Russia. If you look at what she said closely, very strong condemnation of Russia, clear language. Also, she said, specifically, that the Crimea-related sanctions would stay in place.
But what she didn’t say was that the sanctions related to the Minsk II agreement which the Obama administration, our European partners have said, sanctions relief will not happen until both sides abide by this agreement. This was not spoken about at all. So, in this way, it’s a significant softening of U.S. support for Kiev compared to the Obama administration.
STEWART: How did the Trump administration react, as compared to how U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley reacted?
FRYE: Well, I think the Trump administration is playing a two-level game here. They’re trying to reassure Congress that they will not give away the store in any negotiations with Russia around Ukraine, because remember, Congress is putting forward legislation that would prevent the president from lifting sanctions unilaterally without congressional approval.
So, I think part of Nikki Haley’s statement was designed to reassure Congress that the Trump administration will not give away the store, and that there is no need for this legislation that would tie President Trump’s hands.
STEWART: What is it that President Petro Poroshenko wants from the United States at this point?
FRYE: Well, he wants a stronger position at the bargaining table. There’s been negotiations around Minsk II. This is an agreement whereby the Ukrainian government would devolve some sovereignty to the two regions that are in conflict, and that there would be free and fair elections held, and once those elections are held, then the Russians would seal off the border so that no materiel and personnel could cross into Ukraine and keep the fighting going.
Of course, the Ukrainian side and the Russian side have not fulfilled their ends of the bargain. But the positions of the Europeans and the United States was that only after these agreements are in place will the large-scale sanctions relief be delivered.
So, in this way, the Trump administration’s kind of hiving off the Crimea-related sanctions I think is significant.
STEWART: Professor Timothy Frye from Columbia University — thanks so much.
FRYE: Thank you very much.
ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Billionaire businessman Vincent Viola, President Trump’s pick to be the secretary of the army, has withdrawn from consideration. A West Point graduate and retired army officer, Viola, owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team, said the challenges of separating himself from his businesses have, quote, “proven insurmountable.”
Entering the administration’s third week, only five members of President Trump’s cabinet picks are on the job, including the secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security and Transportation. But the heads of the Departments of Justice, Treasury, Health, Labor, Housing, Veterans Affairs and nine others still await Senate confirmation.
Joining me from Washington to discuss the status of cabinet nominees is “Roll Call” reporter Niels Lesniewski.
Niels, what is the day-to-day impact of only having about a quarter of the cabinet seated?
NIELS LESNIEWSKI, ROLL CALL REPORTER: Well, the real impact is in departments and agencies where the Trump administration and congressional Republicans want to make big changes really quickly. So, for example, health and human services, Tom Price, the congressman from Georgia who has been nominated to head that up, is going to be the person that the Trump administration has in charge of rolling out policy changes, both in sort of executive actions and legislatively to repeal and roll back Obamacare. And then the treasury secretary, when Steve Mnuchin gets confirmed, he’s probably going to be tasked as the point man on any rewrite of the tax code.
So, to the extent that there are agencies that are continuing to sort of do the work that they had been doing under President Obama to some degree, those sorts of functions continue. It’s really the place where’s they want to do a wholesale change of what was being done during the Obama years that they have the biggest problems.
STEWART: There’s something that I noticed watching television, I’ve seen these advertisements for cabinet picks, touting who they are and what they might do. Scott Pruitt, for example, for the EPA, they’re being paid for by different organizations that, obviously, support that agenda. But why is this — what does it say that we have commercials about cabinet picks?
LESNIEWSKI: Well, I think that the commercials about the cabinet picks are laying the groundwork for the eventual votes that take place on the floor of the Senate, so that when, let’s say you are a voter in Indianapolis, and your senator, Joe Donnelly, votes against — who is a Democrat — votes against some of these Trump nominees, there are already ads that may have already been running against him. I think a lot of this is sort of laying the groundwork for the ad campaigns that take place down the road against the incumbent Democratic senators.
STEWART: How much of this lack of confirmation has to do with the vetting process taking longer? How much of it has to do with politics?
LESNIEWSKI: There were some vetting questions with some of the nominees that largely have been resolved now, although, some still have not. A lot of this now is political, however. What we’re seeing, and we’ll see starting on Monday, is the Senate basically being in maybe continuously through the weekends, up until the president’s day recess, trying to get as many of these confirmed as possible, with Democrats basically taking up all the debate time imaginable for people like Jeff Sessions, the pick to be the attorney general, for Tom Price for HSS, and some other picks, that the idea here is that the Democrats really seem to be wanting the Senate Republicans to do as little as possible on the floor and basically by drag this process out as long as they can, it minimizes the opportunity to do anything else.
STEWART: Niels Lesniewski, from “Roll Call” — thanks a lot.
LESNIEWSKI: Thank you.
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WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court denied early Sunday the Justice Department’s request for an immediate reinstatement of President Donald Trump’s ban on accepting certain travelers and all refugees.
The Trump administration appealed a temporary order restraining the ban nationwide, saying late Saturday night that the federal judge in Seattle overreached by “second-guessing” the president on a matter of national security.
Now the higher court’s denial of an immediate stay means the legal battles over the ban will continue for days at least. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asked challengers of the ban respond to the appeal, and for the Justice Department to file a counter-response by Monday afternoon.
Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco forcefully argued Saturday night that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States – an assertion that appeared to invoke the wider battle to come over illegal immigration.
“The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamental sovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch of government and largely immune from judicial control,” the brief says.
Earlier Saturday, the government officially suspended the ban’s enforcement in compliance with order of the order of U.S. District Judge James Robart. It marks an extraordinary setback for the new president, who only a week ago acted to suspend America’s refugee program and halt immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries the government said raise terrorism concerns.
Trump, meanwhile, mocked Robart, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, calling him a “so-called judge” whose “ridiculous” ruling “will be overturned.”
“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision,” he tweeted.
Trump’s direct attack recalled his diatribes during the campaign against the federal judge of Mexican heritage who oversaw lawsuits alleging fraud by Trump University, and may prompt some tough questions as these challenges rise through the courts.
But the government’s brief repeatedly asserts that presidential authority cannot be questioned by judges once the nation’s security is invoked.
Congress “vests complete discretion in the President” to impose conditions on alien entry, so Trump isn’t legally required to justify such decisions, it says. His executive order said the ban is necessary for “protecting against terrorism,” and that “is sufficient to end the matter.”
The Justice Department asked that the federal judge’s order be stayed pending resolution of the appeal, so that the ban can “ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.”
The order had caused unending confusion for many foreigners trying to reach the United States, prompted protests across the United States and led to multiple court challenges. Demonstrations took place outside the White House, in New York and near his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where Trump was attending the annual American Red Cross fundraising gala.
“We’ll win,” Trump told reporters Saturday night. “For the safety of the country, we’ll win.”
The State Department, after initially saying that as many as 60,000 foreigners from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen had their visas canceled, reversed course on Saturday and said they could travel to the U.S. if they had a valid visa.
The department on Saturday advised refugee aid agencies that refugees set to travel before Trump signed his order will now be allowed in. A State Department official said in an email obtained by The Associated Press that the government was “focusing on booking refugee travel” through Feb. 17 and working to have arrivals resume as soon as Monday.
The Homeland Security Department no longer was directing airlines to prevent visa-holders affected by Trump’s order from boarding U.S.-bound planes. The agency said it had “suspended any and all actions” related to putting in place Trump’s order.
Hearings have also been held in court challenges nationwide. Washington state and Minnesota argued that the temporary ban and the global suspension of the U.S. refugee program harmed residents and effectively mandated discrimination.
In his written order Friday, Robart said it’s not the court’s job to “create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches,” but rather, to make sure that an action taken by the government “comports with our country’s laws.”
The Justice Department countered that “judicial second-guessing of the President’s national security determination in itself imposes substantial harm on the federal government and the nation at large.”
Robart’s order also imposes harm on U.S. citizens “by thwarting the legal effect of the public’s chosen representative,” it says.
Associated Press writers Michael Warren in Atlanta, Alicia A. Caldwell, Mark Sherman, Matthew Lee and Jessica Gresko in Washington, Martha Bellisle in Seattle, William Mathis and Julie Walker in New York, contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s unpredictable foreign policy could hamper long-standing U.S. intelligence-sharing partnerships as countries react to a president who seeks closer ties to Russia and is unafraid to offend American allies by cracking down on immigration or getting angry with friendly leaders.
Veteran spies say intelligence relationships are built to weather storms between political leaders. Even in the worst of times, allies share intelligence to thwart threats. But the lack of understanding about Trump’s foreign policy direction and his potential new friendship with Moscow are creating jitters across the Western world.
“We are facing an unprecedented level of uncertainty today,” said John Blaxland, a former Australian intelligence official and professor at Australian National University. He said there is mutual benefit to these “broad, deep” intelligence sharing relationships, but added: “It is hard to calculate just how much damage the new president’s approach may have.”
“It will be felt,” Blaxland predicted, “and it won’t be good.”
Russia is a main concern.
If Trump moves forward with efforts to improve U.S.-Russian relations, European allies in particular will probably question how safe their intelligence is in American hands. Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and threatening movements near the borders of NATO members in Eastern Europe have contributed to the perception of Moscow as a threat to national sovereignty.
If American intelligence agencies are instructed to enhance cooperation with Russia, U.S. allies see “significant counterintelligence threats that come with that,” said Steven Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russia operations. He said they “will be much more careful in the future.”
As candidate and president, Trump has sparked widespread international unease by questioning the value of U.S. military alliances, if not necessarily intelligence partnerships. He called NATO “obsolete” and challenged countries such as South Korea and Japan to assume greater self-defense responsibility. In the last weeks, however, Trump advisers have gone out of their way to stress the durability of such arrangements and America’s commitment to its friends.
Detente between Washington and Moscow is no sure thing, despite Trump’s intentions. Under President Barack Obama, relations between the former Cold War foes strained dramatically over Syria, Ukraine and alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election after initially improving under a “reset” policy. In recent days, Trump’s administration has reverted to criticizing the Kremlin after a flare-up of violence involving Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Regardless of Trump’s new direction, Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, a former CIA officer and new member on the House Intelligence Committee, said American intelligence professionals recognize the need to protect information they receive. “The point at which our allies will get concerned is if they believe that our intelligence professionals do not view Russia as an adversary,” he said.
Trump’s sometimes impulsive style and lack of experience handling classified information also have foreign officials concerned.
Mark Galeotti at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, said European intelligence officials worry that Trump or his advisers will “blurt something out at the wrong moment or to the wrong person.”
Allies might curtail what they share as a result, said Galeotti, who talks with intelligence officials in Europe and Russia.
“It’s not so much about how much,” he said. “It’s precisely how heavily edited it is, how carefully it’s scrutinized to absolutely make sure that there is nothing that you are worried about leaking.”
Former French internal intelligence chief Louis Caprioli said European countries might hold information related to Ukraine or other issues closer, given the uncertainty of Trump’s relationship with Putin. But he said intelligence sharing will continue in critical areas, such as counterterrorism.
“Intelligence services go beyond the political world,” Caprioli said.
Still, allies fret about politics seeping into U.S. intelligence findings.
Trump has disparaged U.S. intelligence agencies for past failures and publicly challenged their assessment that Russia meddled in the presidential election. A day after he was inaugurated, Trump delivered an unusual speech at the CIA headquarters criticizing the media’s coverage of his inaugural crowds.
Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa professor and national security expert, said U.S. allies may ask more questions about the source of American intelligence products. For example, he said, they might think a certain piece of intelligence is from Trump’s strategic adviser Steve Bannon, a conservative media executive who now sits on the National Security Council.
“There will be a growing concern about politicized – as opposed to truthful, objective – judgments and reports,” Wark said.
Last weekend’s testy conversation between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull concerned a refugee deal Trump inherited from Obama. It didn’t relate to the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing program the U.S. has with Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand.
Nevertheless, California Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said the spat can’t be dismissed as simply “Trump being Trump.”
Schiff said Australia shares America’s interest in fighting terrorism and countering Chinese actions, and stood alongside the U.S. in every war of the last century. “This is not a relationship to be taken for granted or abused,” he said.
The committee chairman, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California, isn’t worried: “I have no doubt that intelligence sharing with our allies will continue to be robust and productive.”
Associated Press writer Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.
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NEW ORLEANS — At 75, Deacon John Moore considers himself one of the lucky ones: The scion of three generations of music-making Creoles, he’s been able to sustain himself with his guitar, raise a family, buy a house. Most other musicians here, he says, aren’t so fortunate.
He’s tooling around the streets of Tremé — one of the nation’s oldest black neighborhoods and the birthplace of jazz — in his ancient Volvo, pointing out all the gentrified houses, the ones with the jacked up rents. Everybody wants to live here now, he said.
New Orleans is enjoying a renaissance 12 years after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It took in $7 billion in tourism dollars in 2015, and the city’s famed music scene was a big reason for the draw.
But New Orleans, like much of the rest of the country, also has an affordable housing crisis — costs here have jumped 50 percent since 2000. As a result, many of the musicians tourists flock to see are forced to do the “double-ZIP code thing”: live outside the city and parachute in for gigs.
“If you don’t get musicians and cultural artists affordable housing and rents, it’s going to have a negative impact on the cultural economy,” said Moore, who is president of the local musicians’ union. “We’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
The city’s effort to house its creative class is a struggle playing out around the country. As urban rents skyrocket and wages stagnate, musicians and artists increasingly are being displaced. Many make do in substandard housing, such as Oakland’s Ghost Ship, where 36 people died in a November fire.
In New Orleans, Nashville, New York and Austin, Texas, the arts and entertainment scene is a big part of the tourist equation — and the local economy. But a thriving arts community is important to other cities, too. Research has shown that the arts can give them a competitive edge, spur economic development, create jobs, foster community pride and entice millennial workers.
But city officials face a conundrum: How do you stimulate and preserve your city’s culture when artists and musicians can no longer afford to live there?
Helping the Creative Class
Several cities are experimenting with ways to keep the creative class from getting priced out — and with programs that go beyond the federal low-income housing tax credit that gives private developers an incentive to create low-income housing in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the developer’s tax burden.
In June, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced a five-year housing plan, pledging to build or preserve 7,500 affordable housing units, including “workforce housing” units for “service workers, artists and culture bearers, who may require a deeper housing subsidy.” In April, construction started on the Bell Artspace Campus, an ambitious, $37 million space for the city’s musicians and artists to live and work in. The project is funded through a combination of tax credits, philanthropic dollars and city subsidies.
In March, the Austin City Council voted to explore developments that would cater to Austin’s artistic community with integrated affordable housing and creative workspace. In December 2015, in an effort to make housing more affordable and discourage gentrification, the council voted to more than double the percentage of tax revenue that goes to the city’s housing trust fund.
Meanwhile, in Nashville, a new program targeted for creative professionals allows low- to moderate-income artists to take out low-interest loans to purchase property, rehab existing structures or build new buildings to live and work in.
In New York City, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans in 2015 to provide 1,500 affordable housing units for artists and musicians by 2025. The program will be financed through funding from city agencies and private donors.
Dallas also has plans to create an Arts District that would provide affordable housing and workspace for creative professionals and their families, as does the Texas city of Plano. In Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland, there also are plans in the works for subsidized housing for artists.
In the wake of the Oakland fire, California legislators are working on legislation that could address the affordable housing crisis there. And this week, California is launching a pilot program to identify 10 to 15 communities that could be designated as cultural districts with housing and workspace for artists.
“The smartest cities acknowledge that in many respects, they’re in competition for energy, for investments, for young families, for their tax base,” said Craig Watson, director of the California Arts Council.
The arts have historically been a way for cities to stand out, he said. And because artists are frequently living at or near the poverty level, government-subsidized housing is one way to ensure they don’t end up homeless or leave the city.
“Cities should not sit passively by and lose their artists because they’ve failed to address the very real concerns that artists have,” Watson said.
But city efforts to boost affordable housing can only go but so far, said Elisha Harig-Blaine, who works on housing issues for the National League of Cities. Municipal budgets are straining to keep up with rising costs in public safety and infrastructure, he said, while federal investments in cities have declined.
Some states, such as California, are stepping in to help, Harig-Blaine said, but “the demand for affordable housing is far outpacing the supply.”
Another factor that may complicate state efforts to provide affordable housing for artists: President Donald Trump’s proposed tax and budget cuts.
“This could put a chill on the development of housing because of the uncertainty,” Watson said.
When the Levees Broke
Perhaps no city needs to figure out how to house its artists like New Orleans.
When floodwaters caused by Katrina swept the city in 2005, 134,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 4,000 musicians scattered. Some have returned and done just fine, such as Kermit Ruffins, Greg Stafford and Trombone Shorty, musicians with big national and international followings. Others have not returned — or when they have, they found themselves priced out of the city.
Some were forced to double up with family members because they couldn’t swing the rent for their own place. Many now live in the far suburbs, often without a car or reliable public transportation, forcing them to commute several hours round trip to make gigs.
“It’s an unsustainable thing,” said Ethan Ellestad, executive director of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, which advocates for the inclusion of artists in city policies. “It’s hard to take a drum kit on the bus.”
Before Katrina, a house would rent for as little as $500 in the city, although some of the housing was substandard. After Katrina, the city demolished 15,000 blighted housing units. The median rent for a one-bedroom is now $1,000, a 21 percent increase since 2012. Nearly a third of the city’s renters now spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent.
Home values jumped 54 percent. It’s not unusual to see a humble “shotgun” house listing for upward of $750,000.
Meanwhile, wages for musicians stalled. A 2012 study by the now-defunct nonprofit Sweet Home New Orleans found that the average musician in the city pulled in less than $18,000 a year. There have been no follow-up studies, but Ellestad’s group estimates that since then, incomes have increased 5 to 10 percent.
In the early days post-Katrina, there was a concerted effort to woo musicians back: Native sons Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, with the help of Habitat for Humanity, created the Musicians’ Village, a complex of 72 single-family homes, 5 elder-friendly duplexes, a toddler park and a musicians’ center.
The project was intended to boost home buying among musicians. But many musicians didn’t have the credit to qualify, said Fred Johnson Jr., CEO of the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Foundation, which helps low- and moderate-income families buy homes.
A handful of affordable housing projects for artists and others have cropped up, including loft-like apartments carved out of abandoned warehouses or blighted grocery stores, such as the St. Joe Lofts in the Warehouse District and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center in Central City. A loft that might cost $1,100 on the open market would go for about $427 to $603 at Ashé, depending on the tenant’s income, according to Carol Bebelle, the center’s executive director. The project, which involved special outreach to artists, cultural bearers and social activists, was funded through tax credits and loans.
Building affordable housing for artists — or anyone, really — requires complicated financing, usually a combination of federal, state, local and philanthropic funding, said Ellen Lee, director of housing policy and community development for the city of New Orleans.
With the Bell Artspace Campus, the city took an abandoned school building and provided Artspace, the nonprofit developer, with a bridge loan to get things started. Once the loan is repaid, the city can then cycle that money into other development projects, she said.
“Repurposing public land and facilities brings down development costs so that we can make housing more affordable,” Lee said.
Andreanecia Morris, executive director of the nonprofit HousingNOLA, said it is crucial for the city to look for financing beyond the federal low-income housing tax credits. Developers who rely on tax credits are only required to keep the units at below-market rates for 15 years. After that, they are free to increase rents.
Some developers, such as Erik Beelman of St. Joe Lofts and Bebelle, say they are committed to maintaining their artist housing at below-market rates for more than the required 15 years.
“We were given a challenge because of that disaster,” Bebelle, who also is a poet, said. “We’re getting a chance to do a do-over. There’s not another city in the country that’s been given that opportunity. We need to do a great job.”
This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. You can read the original story here.
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President Donald Trump said he respects Vladimir Putin, and when an interviewer called the Russian leader “a killer,” Trump said the United States has many of them.
“What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?” he told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly in an excerpt released by the network. The president’s interview was to air Sunday afternoon on the Super Bowl pregame show.
Trump has long expressed a wish for better ties with Moscow, praised Putin and signaled that U.S.-Russia relations could be in line for a makeover, even after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to help Trump win against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Putin has called Trump a “very bright and talented man.”
During Putin’s years in power, a number of prominent Russian opposition figures and journalists have been killed.
In the interview, Trump says, “I do respect him,” and then is asked why.
“I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world – that’s a good thing,” Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
O’Reilly then said about Putin: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”
Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
In the excerpt, Trump did not cite specific U.S actions. It was unclear whether he expanded on the comment or added context later in the interview.
“I don’t think there’s any comparison,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I really do resent that he would say something like that,” she said.
The Kremlin had no immediate comment on Trump’s interview.
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, distanced himself from the president.
“Putin’s a former KGB agent. He’s a thug. He was not elected in a way that most people would consider a credible election. The Russians annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine and messed around in our elections. And no, I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does,” McConnell told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
While saying he would not critique “every utterance” by Trump, McConnell said he thinks “America’s exceptional, America is different, we don’t operate in any way the way the Russians do. I think there’s a clear distinction here that all Americans understand, and no, I would not have characterized it that way.”
“I obviously don’t see this issue the same way he does,” McConnell said.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said he had seen the video clips of Trump’s remarks and suggested “there may be a broader context.”
But Sasse made clear on ABC that he thinks “there is no moral equivalency” between the U.S. and “the murderous thugs that are in Putin’s defense of his cronyism.”
O’Reilly also asked Trump to back up his claims that some 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the election. Trump didn’t answer directly, but asserted that immigrants in the U.S. illegally and dead people are on the voter rolls. “It’s a really a bad situation, it’s really bad,” Trump said.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 8 election. Trump won the Electoral College vote but lost the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes to Clinton.
Trump recently announced on Twitter that he would call for a “major investigation” into voter fraud, but the plan for Trump to take some type of executive action on the issue has been delayed, senior administration officials said last week.
McConnell, meanwhile, said such an investigation should be handled by the states, which historically have been the ones to probe such allegations.
“There’s no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election, and I don’t think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that,” McConnell told CNN. “I think the states can take a look at this issue.”
The Trump administration on Thursday revised recent U.S. sanctions that had unintentionally prevented American companies from exporting certain consumer electronic products to Russia. The change allows companies to deal with Russia’s security service, which licenses such exports under Russian law.
The products were not intended to be covered by the sanctions the Obama administration imposed on Dec. 29 after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election. The White House denied it was easing sanctions.
Also last week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley condemned Russia’s “aggressive actions” in eastern Ukraine and warned Moscow that U.S. sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea will remain until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.
But she tempered her criticism, saying it was “unfortunate” that she had to condemn Russia in her first appearance at the U.N. Security Council.
“We do want to better our relations with Russia,” Haley said.
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