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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to run the White House budget office, giving the Republicans’ tea party wing a voice in the Cabinet.

    Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., squeaked through on a 51-49 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is emerging as perhaps the most vocal GOP critic of the Trump administration, opposed Mulvaney for the nominee’s past House votes supporting cuts to Pentagon spending.

    “Mulvaney has spent his last six years in the House of Representatives pitting the national debt against our military,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Senators then gave a tentative 54-46 procedural green light to Trump’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. It was a signal that Pruitt should sail through on a final vote scheduled for Friday, despite being opposed by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a GOP moderate.

    Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two of the party’s more moderate members, backed Pruitt.

    Mulvaney’s confirmation promises to accelerate work on Trump’s upcoming budget plan, which is overdue. That’s typical at the beginning of an administration. But there is also the need to complete more than $1 trillion in unfinished spending bills for the ongoing budget year, as well as transmit Trump’s request for a quick start on his oft-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and tens of billions of dollars in emergency cash for the military.

    In the past, Mulvaney has routinely opposed such catchall appropriations bills, which required Republicans to compromise with former President Barack Obama, but the upcoming measure is going to require deals with Democrats

    The South Carolina Republican brings staunchly conservative credentials to the post, and Trump transition officials have telegraphed he’s likely to seek big cuts to longtime GOP targets such as the Environmental Protection Agency and other domestic programs whose budgets are set each year by Congress.

    Trump has indicated, however, that he not interested in tackling highly popular benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare and wants a major investment in infrastructure programs like highways.

    Democrats opposed Mulvaney over his support for curbing the growth of Medicare and Social Security and other issues, such as his brinksmanship as a freshman lawmaker during the 2011 debt crisis in which the government came uncomfortably close to defaulting on U.S. obligations.

    “He said to me in a one-on-one meeting how he would prioritize the debts he would pay if he defaulted on the debt,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. “Wouldn’t that be a great addition to the chaos we are all feeling right now?”

    The vote came a day after Trump’s pick to head the Labor Department, Andrew Puzder, abruptly withdrew his nomination in the face of Republican opposition. Puzder faced questions over taxes he belatedly paid on a former housekeeper not authorized to work in the United States.

    Mulvaney has managed to survive questions about his failure to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a nanny more than decade ago. He has since paid the taxes.

    READ MORE: Labor pick Puzder drops out; Trump slams leaks over Russia contact reports

    The post Tea party gains voice in Trump’s Cabinet with budget chief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump plans a news conference about midday Thursday to announce his nominee for labor secretary — “a star, great person,” in his words.

    Trump’s first pick for the job, fast food chain executive Andy Puzder, withdrew from consideration after it was revealed he employed a housekeeper who wasn’t authorized to work in the U.S.

    Trump has blamed Senate Democrats for stalling or complicating the confirmation process of several of his Cabinet nominees.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Trump to announce new pick for labor secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives to make a statement about a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister on Feb. 16  at the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives to make a statement about a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister on Feb. 16 at the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

    BRUSSELS — The Trump administration signaled Thursday there will be no change soon in U.S.-Russian relations, putting the onus on Moscow to prove itself if it wants closer cooperation with Washington. Russia’s support for Ukrainian separatists was underscored as a test case of its willingness to change behavior.

    At a NATO meeting in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made clear the United States isn’t ready to collaborate militarily with its former Cold War foe against the Islamic State or other threats, a long-standing goal of the Kremlin’s which new U.S. President Donald Trump says he wants, too. After meeting with Russia’s top diplomat in Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Moscow first must help stop violence in Ukraine.

    The comments appeared to put the brakes on a rapid transformation in U.S.-Russian ties, which have been badly strained by fighting in Ukraine and Syria as well as by American accusations of Russian interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election. European countries close to Russia’s border have been especially alarmed by the prospects of U.S.-Russian rapprochement, given Trump’s references to NATO as “obsolete” and his repeated praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “Russia is going to have to prove itself first,” Mattis said. Nations will seek “a way forward where Russia, living up to its commitments, will return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO,” he explained.

    But he made clear that a significant attitude change is required by leaders in Moscow, declaring that there is “very little doubt that they have either interfered or they have attempted to interfere in a number of elections in the democracies.”

    While Mattis addressed reporters, Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the former West Germany capital of Bonn and U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, sat down with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. They represented the first meetings between the two countries’ top diplomats and military men since Trump was sworn in.

    Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil CEO with long experience in Russia, having even been awarded a friendship medal by Putin, emphasized that Russia must abide by a 2015 deal aimed at ending fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists. “As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honor its commitments,” he said.

    Lavrov said in remarks broadcast live by Russian television that during the meeting the parties confirmed a shared interest in pooling efforts to fight terrorism. He credited Tillerson for having “voiced readiness to support” a Russian-led process to end Syria’s civil war.

    “Naturally we couldn’t solve all the problems,” Lavrov said. “But we have a shared understanding that on issues where our interests coincide, and there quite a few of them, we should move forward.”

    He said U.S. sanctions on Russia weren’t addressed. The matter is extremely sensitive, given Trump’s firing early this week of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his discussions about sanctions with a Russian ambassador before Trump took office. The U.S. imposed penalties on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

    Separately, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Dunford and Gerasimov “exchanged opinions about the current state of the Russian-U.S. relations” and assessments about other parts of the world. “They have determined the areas of joint work to improve security of military activities, reduce tensions and risk of incidents.” The United States later issued an almost identical statement.

    But tensions clearly remained. A remark by Mattis at the NATO meeting about negotiating with Russia “from a position of strength” prompted a sharp response from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said such a strategy was “futile.” Asked about Shoigu’s reaction, Mattis said: “I have no need to respond to the Russian statement at all.”

    Trump has tempered his rhetoric about Russia since becoming president, after shocking Democrats and Republicans at home, and allies abroad, with his warm words for the Russians and their leader as a candidate. Various investigations are going on related to the accusations of Russian election meddling. Earlier this week, U.S. officials said Moscow deployed a cruise missile in violations of a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement.

    The U.S. ceased military-to-military relations with Russia after the Crimea takeover. But last year, the Obama administration considered plans to cooperate militarily with Russia as part of a cease-fire deal to end the war in Syria that has killed as many as a half-million people.

    Senior Defense Department leaders opposed the plan, and it quickly fell apart as the truce collapsed. But Putin on Thursday voiced support for “a dialogue” with U.S. special services and those of other member countries of NATO.

    Lee reported from Bonn, Germany. Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

    READ MORE: Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year

    The post Top Trump envoys signal no quick changes to U.S.-Russia ties appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The lenses were printed directly onto a CMOS camera sensor. Photo: Credit: Thiele et al. Sci. Adv. 2017

    The lenses were printed directly onto a CMOS camera sensor. Photo: Credit: Thiele et al. Sci. Adv. 2017

    As anyone who has bought a smartphone in the last few years can tell you, cameras are getting smaller and smaller. Now, miniature lenses that mimic the eyes of predatory birds could shrink a camera’s size to less than 1/100th of an inch — and in the meantime, revolutionize a host of compact technologies.

    The lense structures were created by physicist Harald Giessen and his colleagues at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. They turned to bird vision because eagle and falcon eyes create a picture that is highly detailed in the center, while the surrounding area is blurrier.

    “If you take a snapshot with your smartphone, and you want to magnify it, you cannot see the details anymore because they are pixelated,” said University of Stuttgart physicist Harald Giessen. “Using our sensor, you can zoom into the image without losing anything, because of the higher density of pixels.”

    Using ultrathin plastic and a 3-D printer, their experimental lenses are printed directly onto a sensor from a Raspberry Pi camera. The lenses are arranged in small clusters and range from wide to narrow angles. The printer uses laser pulses — that last just one quadrillionth of a second — to melt and shape the plastic into the perfect lens. A similar manufacturing technique is used to make modern dental implants.

    “The printer costs well over 400,000 Euros ($429,000)” said Giessen. “So it’s not something that you can get at your local computer store.”

    The pictures produced by the camera are foveated, a reference to the part of the eye that’s responsible for peripheral vision. Foveation in this case means that the focus varies in different points on the same picture.

    This imaging technique has a range of benefits, such as reducing the computer processing power needed for virtual reality hardware and generating thumbnails for satellite imagery.

    Tests performed by the researchers show that their compact, birdeye lenses had higher clarity than a comparable single lens.

    One current limitation is the speed of manufacturing. The intricate process of shaping each lens takes between 15 minutes and a few hours, depending on the size, and the end result may still have imperfections.

    “A key challenge, as recognized by the authors, is the fabrication time and cost, making mass production difficult at the moment.” said Yizheng Zhu, a physicist at Virginia Tech who wasn’t involved in the study. “Hopefully, as technology advances, more improvements can be made in this area.”

    “The strength of this demonstration lies in the fact that they have proved miniaturization and functionality while producing strong image quality.” said Gregory Quarles, chief scientist of the Optical Society who wasn’t involved with this study. Quarles says that the next steps for this technology would be to determine the benefits these lenses have over conventional cameras in terms of cost and image quality.

    These cameras could be used in self-driving cars and smart glasses, Giessen said, to make highly detailed scans of the world around them.

    The post ‘Eagle eye’ lenses may inspire hi-def cameras as thin as a strand of hair appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Turkish army tanks and military personal are stationed in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo - RTX2NUZK

    Turkish army tanks and military personnel are seen Aug. 25, 2016 while stationed in Karkamis, on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province of Turkey. The border zone is the setting of Elliot Ackerman’s new novel, “Dark at the Crossing.” Credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

    Elliot Ackerman is a former Marine who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He’s also a journalist who has reported on Syrian Civil war and the border between Syria and Turkey. That border zone is the setting of his new novel, “Dark at the Crossing,” an intimate story that follows three characters: an Iraqi American who wants to go fight in Syria, and a husband and wife, both Syrian refugees, who lost their daughter in the revolution.

    Credit: Penguin Random House

    Credit: Penguin Random House

    In an interview with NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown, Ackerman said his goal in writing fiction is to help people better understand complex political issues — and better understand each other.

    “When we look at a lot of these political issues, whether it’s what’s going on in Afghanistan or the wars in Syria [and] the wars in Iraq – I mean they’re incredibly complex. And in some ways almost impenetrable,” said Ackerman. “I think one of the great things you can do with story, and particularly with the novel and character, is you can take a lot of these themes that are central to what’s going on in the world but really distill them down into a single narrative… and maybe make [you] feel a little bit of what someone on the Syrian border is feeling.”

    Watch that full interview with Ackerman in the player below.

    The post In his new novel, Elliot Ackerman wants to humanize the Syrian conflict appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A recent survey is shedding light on how patients who get perscription painkillers  — drugs such as OxyContin, methadone or Vicodin — sometimes share or mishandle them. Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a look at a demographic trend that is surprising the experts.

    Despite decades of advancements in health care, diet and safety, middle-aged white Americans are now living shorter, not longer, lives.

    Our economics correspondent reports in the latest installment of Making Sense.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Maysville, Kentucky, in the northeast corner of the state, just a short bridge away from Ohio, despite some merchants’ best efforts at cosmopolitan outreach, the downtown is struggling. But at one local establishment, business is brisk and growing.

    DAVID LAWRENCE, Mason County Coroner: This is the Batesville 20-gauge steel protector.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This one is Churchill blue.

    DAVID LAWRENCE: Churchill blue. We can get this in a misty rose for the ladies.

    PAUL SOLMAN: David Lawrence manages the Knox & Brothers Funeral Home, is also the county coroner. He’s been seeing a lot of dead white males of late, especially ages 45 to 54.

    DAVID LAWRENCE: A lot of it due to alcohol or drug abuse.

    DR. WILLIAM CRAIG DENHAM, Family Physician: There has been a Denham practicing medicine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Craig Denham wears multiple hats too.

    DR. WILLIAM CRAIG DENHAM: This small bag is my grandfather’s medical kit.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A fifth-generation Kentucky family physician.

    DR. WILLIAM CRAIG DENHAM: My great-great-grandfather’s.

    PAUL SOLMAN: He’s also medical director for the fire department’s emergency service.

    DR. WILLIAM CRAIG DENHAM: In the past two, two-and-a-half years, we have had about a 300 percent increase in the drug-related overdose ambulance runs. And the prevalence of opiate addiction in this area continues to increase.

    BECKY MANNING, Widow: He’s like, mom, it’s nothing that you did. It’s me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Becky Manning’s son got hooked on drugs. Fortunately, he’s still alive.

    BECKY MANNING: Almost 40 now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But she blames the drugs in part for her husband’s suicide.

    BECKY MANNING: He just carried this tremendous guilt for everything, for our son doing drugs. Then he started getting depressed, and then my husband took his own life.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How did he do it?

    BECKY MANNING: He blew his head off. I came home to that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Best friend Marcy Conner’s husband also killed himself.

    MARCY CONNER, Widow: He developed alcoholism very young in life.

    PAUL SOLMAN: An addiction he shared with lifelong friends.

    MARCY CONNER: One died with a heart attack, but drug use and alcohol use played all the way through his life. Another one died of cancer, drank up to the very end. And my husband actually had a G-tube in, a feeding tube in, and poured alcohol down his feeding tube until he died.

    BECKY MANNING: Alcohol poisoning.

    PAUL SOLMAN: These cases fit a disturbing national pattern. Though U.S. life expectancy has been going up steadily over the last century, there’s now been a sudden and dramatic reversal, for just one demographic.

    ANNE CASE, Economist: White non-Hispanics in America, middle-age, are dying in large numbers.

    ANGUS DEATON, Economist: It was certainly a huge surprise to me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case, who are married, published their finding just after Deaton won the 2015 Nobel Prize in economics.

    The paper showed that, starting in 1999, the death rate of middle-aged white Americans has been going up, instead of down.

    ANGUS DEATON: We thought we must have made an error. I mean, the whole world is getting better. This middle-aged group is the one that’s benefited most, at least since 1970, from advances in the treatment of heart disease, from people quitting smoking, all of those things. And then suddenly for this trend that’s going down just to reverse out seemed like it had to be wrong. But it wasn’t wrong.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The big increase was in what Case calls deaths of despair, alcohol-related liver disease, suicide, drug overdose.

    ANNE CASE: People kill themselves slowly with alcohol or drugs, or quickly with a gun. For people aged 50-55, for example, those rates went from 40 per 100,000 to 80 per 100,000 since the turn of the century.

    And it’s people with a high school degree or less who are killing themselves in these ways in large numbers. That’s the group that’s getting hammered.

    DR. ELLEN KUMLER, Mason County Health Department: And now the CDC is paying more attention to that age group and demographic.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ellen Kumler, a public health doctor for Mason County, Kentucky, says the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control pick up where the Case-Deaton study leaves off.

    DR. ELLEN KUMLER: When we look at the suicide rate, when we look at unintentional injuries, a lot possibly related to substance abuse, as well as liver disease, the rates of those issues have actually increased.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Marcy Conner is a nurse specializing in substance abuse who has experienced deaths of despair time and again in her own family.

    MARCY CONNER: I had a brother that committed suicide, also.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And two cousins, one of them a nurse.

    MARCY CONNER: And he started telling me that his depression medication wasn’t working as well, and pain medication wasn’t working as well. And he lost his temper at work one night and got fired.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Got fired.

    MARCY CONNER: They found him hanging in his garage.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the other cousin?

    MARCY CONNER: She overdosed.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And why so much drug use and abuse? Anne Case and Angus Deaton found something else in their study.

    ANNE CASE: Since at least the mid-1990s, people’s reports of pain, of sciatic pain, of neck pain, of lower back pain year on year have increased.

    MAN: Our best, strongest pain medicines are the opioids.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The mid-’90s was also when the opioid painkiller OxyContin was approved by the FDA, and began to be marketed aggressively to doctors.

    MAN: They do not have serious medical side effects, and so these drugs, which I repeat, are our best, strongest pain medications, should be used much more than they are for patients in pain.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Within five years, the drug’s maker, Purdue Pharma, was earning a billion-dollars-a-year profit on OxyContin, which soon rose to $3 billion. As for the lack of serious side effects? Well, it did have one.

    ANGUS DEATON: It’s basically heroin in a pill with an FDA label on the front. So, people get addicted to this.

    ELIZABETH EASTON, Recovering Painkiller Addict: I started on oxycodone, or OxyContin, in high school.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Elizabeth Easton is now in recovery.

    ELIZABETH EASTON: I unleashed something horrid in me many years ago from doing one — one pill. I went from taking them to snorting them to, yes, injecting, which is really, really horrid.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because you have got to have it.

    ELIZABETH EASTON: You have to. It’s the only thing that makes you feel normal. And it’s the farthest thing from normal.

    BECKY MANNING: It controls your life. You’re a different person.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s what Becky Manning saw in her son.

    BECKY MANNING: Seeking and finding the next high was his priority, no matter who he took down with him.

    MARCY CONNER: The brain is telling you, I have got to have it again. I need more. So that’s where you end up with that craving. The craving ends up with, you know, seeking supply.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And though lawsuits and a government crackdown have helped curb the supply of OxyContin, cheap heroin is more than filling the void.

    DR. WILLIAM CRAIG DENHAM: If you can’t get your pain pills that you’re abusing, you’re going to find the source somewhere. And so people are turning to the street drug heroin, which is more dangerous, in the sense that you’re taking something made in somebody’s garage vs. something made in a factory.

    CHRISTOPHER RUHM, Economist: In many areas, it’s cheaper to get high on heroin than it would be to get drunk.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Economist Chris Ruhm.

    CHRISTOPHER RUHM: This is a major health crisis. I mean, drug poisonings have become the biggest source of preventable premature death. So, for example, there are more drug poisoning deaths than car crash deaths. And that’s quite recent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And says Dr. Denham:

    DR. WILLIAM CRAIG DENHAM: I’m seeing just as many middle-aged women as I am middle-aged men.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Bucking a century-long improvement in white longevity.

    DAVID LAWRENCE: People without jobs and people kind of just keeping themselves secluded from others.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the PBS NewsHour, economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting grimly from Maysville, Kentucky.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, next week, Paul returns to Maysville to ask the obvious question: Why the startling increase in deaths in white America?

    The post ‘Deaths of despair’ are cutting life short for some white Americans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO --  Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) testifies before a Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination of to be director of the Office of Management and Budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo - RTSZ05D

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: The Senate narrowly confirmed Congressman Mick Mulvaney to run the White House Budget Office. The Tea Party conservative from South Carolina was approved 51-49. Senator John McCain joined all 48 Democrats in voting no because of Mulvaney’s support for defense spending cuts.

    The new budget chief also favors trimming entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s nominee for ambassador to Israel says he’s sorry for some of his fiery rhetoric. David Friedman apologized today for inflammatory criticism of President Obama and Hillary Clinton and for calling a liberal Jewish group — quote — “worse than kapos.” That was a reference to Jews who helped the Nazis.

    But several Democratic senators challenged Friedman over his language, as they grilled him at his confirmation hearing.

    SEN. BEN CARDIN, D-Md.: The diplomat has to choose every word that he or she uses. So, why should I believe that these were just emotional expressions and that you now understand the difference between that role and that as a diplomat?

    DAVID FRIEDMAN, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Nominee: If you want me to rationalize it or justify it, I cannot. These were hurtful words. And I deeply regret them. They’re not reflective of my nature or my character.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Friedman has strongly backed Israeli settlements and opposed Palestinian statehood. But, today, he said he’d be delighted if a two-state solution can be achieved.

    Meanwhile, the head of the Arab League today warned against moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He said it would be explosive for the situation in the Middle East.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Islamic State bombers carried out two deadly strikes today, killing 130 people. In Southern Pakistan, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a famous Sufi Muslim shrine. At least 75 people died there, and hundreds more were wounded.

    Hours earlier, in Iraq, a car bomb ripped through a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. The death toll there was at least 55.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Russia, a Kremlin spokesman warned today that political turmoil in Washington has put a damper on improving relations with U.S. And President Vladimir Putin called for restoring contacts between U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies.

    But at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. is not ready for any military collaboration.

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward where Russia, living up to its commitments, will return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO. But Russia is going to have to prove itself first and live up to the commitments they have made in the Russia-NATO agreement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Mattis said there is very little doubt that the Russians have interfered with elections in a number of countries.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Authorities in Malaysia have arrested two more suspects in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s half-brother. He was attacked Monday at a Malaysian airport. Local news accounts say North Korean agents poisoned him, but results of an autopsy have not been released. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is widely suspected of ordering the murder.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, production workers at Boeing’s plant in South Carolina have rejected an effort to unionize, for the second time. The aircraft maker had campaigned for weeks against efforts to organize its plant in North Charleston. President Trump plans to visit the facility tomorrow.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Stocks were mixed on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly eight points to close at 20619. The Nasdaq fell four points, and the S&P 500 slipped two.

    The post News Wrap: Mulvaney confirmed to run Budget Office appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria   - RTSZ0Q4

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now for two different viewpoints on today’s news conference, I am joined by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. He was an adviser to Mr. Trump during his presidential campaign and transition. And Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

    Welcome back to the program to both of you.

    Ruth, I’m going to start with you.

    This is the first sort of wide-ranging, full-blown news conference we have seen from this president in several weeks. What did you make of it overall?

    RUTH MARCUS, The Washington Post: It was, as everybody has been saying, an extraordinary event.

    And I think it had kind of three audiences. One audience was the president himself. I think he likes to do this sort of government by improv. He did campaign by improv. Now he’s doing government by improv.

    You could see him enjoying himself. I think it made him feel better. I think there is a core of Trump supporters who, as he said during the campaign, he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue. They are not rattled by anything they have seen. They’re sticking with him, so they’re happy to sort of see him back out there being Trump.

    I thought it was less successful with the third audience, which is the most important. There are a bunch of people who are never going to be for Trump. Most Democrats, polls show, will never be for Trump. But there are Trump voters and others who are kind of wigglers who I think would be very — certainly not reassured by this performance, not being reassured by hearing him say, contrary to all evidence, that this is a well-functioning machine that they’re seeing in the beginning of this administration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was this a reassuring news conference or something else?

    KRIS KOBACH, Kansas Secretary of State: I think, to many conservatives, many Republicans, it was reassuring, in the sense that this was the first time we have seen a president, a conservative president, really express vocally at a press conference the bias he feels and many of us feel has been given in the coverage toward the Trump administration.

    And so he’s sort of holding the press’ feet to the fire while he’s taking their questions. And it’s combative. It’s interesting. I think you are going to see a lot more people tuning in to these press conferences.

    It used to be that conservatives who were in government, like myself, we would get what we felt was unfair coverage, we’d go home, we would grumble, we would complain about it, but we actually wouldn’t say anything to the reporter or to the reporters while they’re asking us additional questions.

    He’s very confrontational. And I think that’s refreshing. So I think it actually is going to be good. And I think the public is going to take an interest in these press conferences much more so than in past presidencies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ruth, it is the case this president goes on about the press virtually every chance he gets. We heard that today. It took up so much time in his news conference.

    You and I know, as somebody — we have covered this for a long time. Every president feels that he has gotten unfair, dishonest coverage from the news media. Is there something quantitatively, qualitatively different about the coverage of this president?

    RUTH MARCUS: Absolutely, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

    Other presidents behind the scenes mutter epithets about us. He calls us the lowest form of human life to our face. Other presidents tried their best to go around the media that they don’t think are expressing their views. President Trump just is — is just very, very vocal about that and much more — spends much more time being vocal about that.

    The question that I have — certainly, I agree with Kris that this is must-see TV. If you’re interested in ratings, if that’s the test of a successful presidency, this is — we’re doing great here.

    I don’t think that’s the test. And his basic argument was fake — to try to distract from the Russia story and the other bumps, you’re all fake news.

    But it can’t simultaneously be that we’re really upset about leaks and the news — that the leaked news is fake. And so that’s where I thought his argument really fell short.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Kris Kobach, this notion that you can say all day long that you’re getting dishonest coverage, go after the press, but, in the end, does that help him govern?

    KRIS KOBACH: Sorry. I missed — my earpiece — I missed the last part.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it help President Trump govern by spending so much time criticizing the news media?

    KRIS KOBACH: So, that’s a great question.

    I think it may. And time will tell, because we haven’t really seen a president challenging the press’ coverage right after he gets it. And let’s remember, it’s a mixed bag. There are some programs. I think “PBS NewsHour” is very balanced and plays it down the middle, but there are other programs that do not.

    And so I think we will see if it helps him govern. For example, the — let’s take the example of the travel ban. Now, that was characterized by some media outlets as a Muslim ban, which I think is an inaccurate term. And I think most — any fair person would agree that’s inaccurate.

    It’s a temporary travel ban on seven countries, which have majority Muslim population, but there are many, many other countries, the vast majority of the Muslim world is not covered.

    And so that’s an example where he then took the press to task, said, no, this is not fair coverage. And I think there has been more accurate coverage since then. So, it may help him govern, but I think it’s going to be case by case. In some cases, it will. Maybe, in some cases, it won’t.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ruth, clearly, there were a number of other questions about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. He repeatedly said he wasn’t aware of any such thing.

    Does that put all those questions to rest?

    RUTH MARCUS: The Trump administration only wishes that all those questions are put to rest.

    What we know is that he was briefed about contacts between the campaign and intelligence officials. He says he’s not aware of any, but there are clearly things out there.

    He got — this story about General Flynn, who he says was terribly treated by us in the news media, yet he fired him because he was misleading about these contacts. I think we’re just beginning to get the beginnings of the story about what has really happened with Russia and with General Flynn and possibly with the Trump campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Kris Kobach, again secretary of state of Kansas, what about this Russia question, just quickly?

    We did hear, as Ruth just said, the president said, I would have told my national security adviser to be — to go ahead and talk to the Russian ambassador about sanctions.

    But, if that’s the case, why was that something that we now know — or apparently Michael Flynn didn’t level with the vice president and others about?

    KRIS KOBACH: I think I heard the question. Correct me. And, again, I apologize for the earpiece.

    Look, I think the president is relating what he remembers and what he has understood to be the communications that he’s aware of. And I think he was very clear, and I think it’s correct, that the reasons for Mr. Flynn’s departure — General Flynn’s departure were a matter of trust, not a matter of any violation of any law or a regulation.

    So, I do think this particular one is being perhaps blown — and I think the president was frustrated by the press coverage, which really seems to be making quite a mountain out of maybe not a molehill, but not a mountain, blowing this particular personnel question way out of proportion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he went on for an hour and 17 minutes. Much more to discuss.

    Thank you both for being here, Ruth Marcus, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

    The post Does Trump’s confrontational style help him as president? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque   - RTSZ1BW

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: After days of setbacks, a Cabinet nominee dropping out, a resigned national security adviser, and a court rejection of his travel ban, President Trump went on the offensive today.

    At a 77-minute-long news conference, he rejected charges of ties between his campaign and Russia, blasted the intelligence community for leaks, and repeatedly attacked the news media.

    The president said he inherited a mess at home and abroad, but he dismissed the notion of a White House in turmoil.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved.

    Let me list to you some of the things that we’ve done in just a short period of time. I just got here. And I got here with no Cabinet. Again, each of these actions is a promise I made to the American people.

    So, I will go over just some of them. And we have a lot happening next week and in the weeks –in the weeks coming.

    We’ve withdrawn from the job-killing disaster known as Trans-Pacific Partnership. We’re going to make trade deals, but we’re going to have one-on-one deals, bilateral.

    We’ve undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation to keep our nation and our tax dollars safe, and are now in the process of beginning to build a promised wall on the southern border.

    The price is going to come down just like it has on everything else I have negotiated for the government. And we are going to have a wall that works. We’re not going to have a wall like they have now, which is either nonexistent or a joke.

    We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It’s disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.

    So we’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare, and are deep in the midst of negotiations on a very historic tax reform to bring our jobs back, to bring our jobs back to this country, big league. It’s already happening, but big league.

    I have kept my promise to the American people by nominating a justice of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is from my list of 20, and who will be a true defender of our laws and our Constitution, highly respected, should get the votes from the Democrats. You may not see that. But he’ll get there one way or the other.

    This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country. Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time. And we have not even started the big work yet. That starts early next week.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also faced repeated questions about Russian contacts with officials in his campaign and about firing National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

    The Washington Post reported this evening Flynn denied to the FBI last month that he discussed lifting sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but intercepted communications indicate he did.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given.

    He didn’t have to do that, because what he did wasn’t wrong — what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem.

    QUESTION: What will you do on the leaks? You’ve said twice today…

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yes, we’re looking at them very — very, very serious. I have gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies, and we’re — I have actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks.

    Those are criminal leaks. They’re put out by people either in agencies — I think you’ll see it stopping because now we have our people in. You know, again, we don’t have our people in because we can’t get them approved by the Senate.

    QUESTION: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador…


    QUESTION: … prior to your …


    QUESTION: … inauguration?


    QUESTION: And then fired him …



    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple.

    Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So, it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it.

    I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.

    QUESTION: During the campaign, did anyone from your team communicate with members of the Russian government or Russian intelligence? And, if so, what was the nature of those conversations?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election.

    He then called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all of the countries. So that’s the extent.

    Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media.

    The false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said, you know — he’s sitting behind his desk, and he’s saying, you know, I see what’s going on in the United States. I follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story, OK?

    QUESTION: Is Putin testing you, do you believe, sir?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, I don’t think so. I think Putin probably assumes that he can’t make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal. I can’t believe I’m saying I’m a politician, but I guess that’s what I am now.

    Because, look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we’re not going to make a deal.

    Now, I don’t know that we’re going to make a deal. I don’t know. We might. We might not. But it would be much easier for me to be so tough — the tougher I am on Russia, the better. But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.

    QUESTION: I was just hoping that we could get a yes-or-no answer on one of these questions involving Russia. Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing. So that’s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.

    QUESTION: During the election?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody …

    QUESTION: So you’re not aware of any contact during the course …

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, look, look …

    QUESTION: … of the election?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How many times do I have to answer this question?

    QUESTION: Can you just say yes or no?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.

    I know you have to get up and ask a question. It’s so important.

    But Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn’t. I just have nobody to speak to.

    I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago.

    We had a very good talk, especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time. I’m sure you probably get it because it was classified. So I’m sure everybody in this room perhaps has it. But we had a very, very good talk.

    I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Trump also defended his ban on travelers from seven mostly Muslim nations. It’s been blocked in federal court.

    Today, the Justice Department announced that the order will be rescinded. The president said that a new one is coming, and he addressed the fate of immigrant children shielded from deportation under the so-called DACA program.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let me tell you about the travel ban. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision. We had a court that’s been overturned. Again, may be wrong, but I think it’s 80 percent of the time, a lot.

    We had a bad decision. We’re going to keep going with that decision. We’re going to put in a new executive order next week some time. But we had a bad decision.

    Now, what I wanted to do was do the exact same executive order, but said one thing. I said this to my people. Give them a one-month period of time. But General Kelly, now Secretary Kelly, said, if you do that, all these people will come in a month, the bad ones.

    You do agree there are bad people out there, right, that not everybody that’s like you. You have some bad people out there.

    So, Kelly said you can’t do that. And he was right. As soon as he said it I said, wow, never thought of it. I said how about one week? He said, no good. You got to do it immediately, because, if you do it immediately, they don’t have time to come in.

    Now, nobody ever reports that. But that’s why we did it quickly.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Can you give us more details on the executive order you plan for next week? Even its broad outlines?


    LISA DESJARDINS: Will it be focused on specific …

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s a very fair question.

    LISA DESJARDINS: … countries? And, in addition, on the DACA program for immigration.


    LISA DESJARDINS: What is your plan? Do you plan to continue that program or to end it?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have, because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases.

    In some of the cases, they’re having DACA, and they’re gang members, and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids, I would say mostly. And they were brought here in such a way — it’s a very — it’s a very, very tough subject.

    We’re going to deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget, and I have to convince them that what I’m saying is — is right. And I appreciate your understanding on that.

    But the DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me, because, you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do, and you know, the law is rough.

    I’m not talking about new laws. I’m talking the existing law is very rough. It’s very, very rough. As far as the new order, the new order is going to be very much tailored to the — what I consider to be a very bad decision.

    But we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways more. But we’re tailoring it now to the decision, we have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it.

    And the new executive order is being tailored to the decision we got down from the court. OK?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: On Russia and other topics, the president’s scorn of news coverage was on full display. He insisted news organizations are giving a skewed, negative view of his actions and are woefully out of touch with the country.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth, and will not treat the wonderful people of our country with the respect that they deserve.

    And I hope, going forward, we can be a little bit — a little bit different, and maybe get along a little bit better, if that’s possible. Maybe it’s not, and that’s OK, too.

    Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system.

    The press has become so dishonest that, if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it, to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.

    And I will tell you something. I will be honest, because I sort of enjoy this back and forth, and I guess I have all my life, but I have never seen more dishonest media than, frankly, the political media. I thought the financial media was much better, much more honest.

    But I will say that I never get phone calls from the media.

    QUESTION: You said that the leaks are real, but the news is fake. I guess I don’t understand. It seems that there’s a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The reporting is fake. Look, look …


    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know what it is? Here’s the thing.

    The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false, because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life.

    But I’m involved. So, I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.

    And I will tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred.

    You look at your show that goes on at 10:00 the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is, he doesn’t have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth, the hatred coming from other people on your network.

    Now, I will say this. I’m actually having a very good time, OK? But they will take this news conference — don’t forget, that’s the way I won. Remember, I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was like every day.

    Tomorrow, they will say, Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.

    I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

    But, tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, Donald Trump rants and raves.

    Look, I want to see an honest press. When I started off today by saying that it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore.

    Now, maybe I had something to do with that. I don’t know. But they don’t believe you. If you were straight and really told it like it is, as Howard Cosell used to say, right? Of course, he had some questions also.

    But, if you were straight, I would be your biggest booster. I would be your biggest fan in the world, including bad stories about me. But if you go — as an example, you’re CNN. I mean, it’s story after story after story is bad.

    I won. I won.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president went on to say, “This is going to be a bad question,” before calling on reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks.

    APRIL RYAN, American Urban Radio Networks: When you say the inner cities, are you going — are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your — your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as …

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Am I going to include who?

    APRIL RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional …

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what. Do you want to set up the meeting?

    APRIL RYAN: … Hispanic Caucus?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Do you want to set up the meeting?

    APRIL RYAN: No — no — no. I’m not …

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

    APRIL RYAN: I’m just a reporter.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, then, set up the meeting.

    APRIL RYAN: I know some of them, but I’m sure they’re watching right now.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let’s go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it’s great.

    I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings, and he was all excited. And then he said: Well, I can’t move. It might be bad for me politically. I can’t have that meeting.

    I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.

    APRIL RYAN: I hear he wanted that meeting with you as well.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: For the record, the Congressional Black Caucus says it has been asking to meet with the president, but never received a response.

    That leads us to our final highlight: an exchange where Mr. Trump was called out for making another false statement.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We got 306, because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before, so that’s the way it goes.

    I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.

    QUESTION: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan with 304 — 306 electoral votes.

    In fact, President Obama got 365 …


    QUESTION: President Obama 332, and George H.W. Bush 426 when he won as president.

    So, why should Americans trust you …


    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, I was told — I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.

    QUESTION: I guess my question is, why should Americans trust you when you have accused the information they’ve received of being fake, when you’re providing information that is…

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don’t know, I was given that information. I was given — actually, I’ve seen that information around.

    But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?

    QUESTION: You’re the president.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: And our own Lisa Desjardins joins us now from the White House.

    Lisa, one of the things that he said about General Michael Flynn, that he wasn’t hesitating to fire him, partly because he had a replacement in mind. What is the latest we know about that?


    We do have some news, as it seems we can’t get two minutes today without more news. CBS and The Financial Times are reporting that General Roger — Robert Harward, who was the Trump choice to replace Michael Flynn — he’s a U.S. Navy SEAL, former admiral, retired admiral — has declined to take that position.

    So, that leaves a major, key position in the White House still to be filled. The White House seems to be searching. We have asked the White House for comment on that. They have not gotten back to us, but the reporting, that Trump’s choice to replace Flynn has declined to take the job.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lisa, also, at the top of this press conference today was actual news that the president wanted to make, which was the nomination of the replacement candidate for the Department of Labor.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Another name, another very important name that was overlooked today.

    Alexander Acosta is the man who Mr. Trump would like lead the Labor Department. We know a lot about him. He has quite a pedigree. In fact, he has served himself as a U.S. attorney. He also was the first Hispanic to serve as an assistant attorney general, covering civil rights.

    Also, he was on the National Labor Relations Board. That in particular is important, because that’s his main qualification, as far as we know, for this labor job. Currently, he’s the dean of the College of Law at the Florida International University.

    He would be first Hispanic on President Trump’s Cabinet. We’re waiting for reaction from Capitol Hill to his name. He is well-known here. And one thing the White House likes, Hari, in particular, is that he’s gone through the confirmation process before the Senate three times.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, one of the things I want to follow up on is something that you were asking the president today. What’s happening, what is the latest with the executive order?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right, such a critical piece of information.

    The president, as we played for our audience, said he will have a new order out next week. It seems that this next order is an attempt to almost replicate the past order, but line it up so that it passes some kind of court muster.

    And it also seems, reading between the lines — and I have one source indicating that they have not figured out exactly how to do that yet. That’s why it hasn’t been released yet, the White House still designing this executive order.

    But pay attention to Mr. Trump’s words today, Hari. He also said that this is extreme vetting, that they had to move up more quickly because of the Ninth Circuit ruling. So this is something they were looking at more long-term that they seem to be incorporating into an executive order next week.

    It doesn’t seem like it’s all the way fully baked, but it’s going to be significant when it comes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lisa, finally, why did they have this today? Why did they have this press conference, briefly?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think there were a lot of reasons, obviously, just the headlines themselves and the White House struggling to respond to them. They wanted to get the president out himself to do it.

    But there is also a sense in this White House that the president does best on his feet and in these kind of very engaging formats. And you could tell, he said himself, as we played, he was enjoying the back-and-forth with the press. So, it was a lot of that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lisa Desjardins joining us from the White House, thanks so much.

    LISA DESJARDINS: You got it.

    The post Scorning media, Trump denies reports of chaos during wide-ranging news conference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The 2,409 pages of H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are displayed for a photograph in 2010 in New York. House GOP leaders distributed policy documents this week to their membership outlining their initial approach to repealing and replacing President Obama's health care law.  Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    The 2,409 pages of H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are displayed for a photograph in 2010 in New York. House GOP leaders distributed policy documents this week to their membership outlining their initial approach to repealing and replacing President Obama’s health care law. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    House Republicans hope to phase out Medicaid expansion as part of a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to policy documents distributed by House GOP leaders to their membership Thursday.

    The two documents are outlines of an initial approach by House Republicans and are the first printed summaries of a GOP health care plan since the election of President Trump.

    They include a PowerPoint presentation with messaging recommendations and a 19-page paper that outlines the direction Republicans hope to take with new health care legislation. Both were crafted and agreed upon by House Republican leadership and the two committee chairmen who are charged with replacing the ACA: Reps. Kevin Brady, R-TX, chair of the Ways and Means committee, and Greg Walden, R-Oregon, head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

    PBS NewsHour obtained the two policy documents from a member of Congress who asked not to be named because the briefings were not meant to be shared publicly.

    ObamaCare Power Point by PBS NewsHour on Scribd

    Details will be debated and fleshed out when committees return at the end of February.

    “While we could simply allow the law to collapse, that would not be fair to the American families struggling under Obamacare. The truth is, left unaddressed, the situation would only get worse – with even fewer coverage options and even higher costs,” the memo says.

    The 19-page memo describes a repeal-and-replace bill in largely broad terms, leaving out specifics that will be required in final legislation.

    But the guide also offers new insight into House Republicans’ vision for the law, such as an apparent decision to phase out the Medicaid expansion under ACA that covered millions of low-income Americans.

    “House Republicans agree control should be returned back to states and Washington bureaucrats role in Medicaid reduced,” the document says. “Instead of simply expanding a broken program, Republicans instead want to put states in charge of their Medicaid programs and give them the tools, resources, and flexibility to address their unique needs.”

    Under the plan, states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act “could continue to receive enhanced federal payments for currently enrolled beneficiaries for a limited period of time,” the memo said.

    But states that keep that coverage in place would eventually return to their “traditional match rates,” from the federal government, according to the proposal.

    Republicans have been debating whether to continue the Medicaid expansion coverage with some form of block grants, end it suddenly or phase it out over time.

    States would have the option to pursue block grants under this latest proposal.

    House GOP leaders also sent rank-and-file Republicans a 15-slide Powerpoint presentation highlighting what they called Obamacare’s failures, as well as Republicans’ broad goals in replacing it. It also discusses expanding and enhancing health savings accounts and a monthly tax credit consumers could use to buy an insurance plan not “tied to a job or a government-mandated program.”

    The memo said that House Republicans would act to repeal ACA after returning from the President’s Day break.

    Read the GOP outline below.

    GOP Healthcare Policy Briefing: Repeal And Replace by PBS NewsHour on Scribd

    The post House GOP documents outline plan to replace Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, commanding officer of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, speaks to an Afghan official during his visit to Zaranj, Afghanistan, in this 2011 handout photo. Photo by Sgt. Shawn Coolman/U.S. Marines/Handout via Reuters

    Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, commanding officer of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, speaks to an Afghan official during his visit to Zaranj, Afghanistan, in this 2011 handout photo. Photo by Sgt. Shawn Coolman/U.S. Marines/Handout via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Vice Admiral Robert Harward has turned down an offer to be President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, the latest blow to a new administration struggling to find its footing.

    Harward told The Associated Press that the Trump administration was “very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally.”

    “It’s purely a personal issue,” Harward said Thursday evening. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”

    Asked whether he had requested to bring in his own staff at the National Security Council, Harward said, “I think that’s for the president to address.”

    Following Flynn’s ouster, administration officials said his deputy, KT McFarland, was staying on at the NSC. McFarland is a former Fox News analyst.

    Harward would have replaced retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who resigned at Trump’s request Monday after revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussing sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition. Trump said in a news conference Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.

    Harward, a former Navy SEAL, served as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command under Gen. James Mattis, who is now defense secretary. Harward served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush and commissioned the National Counter Terrorism Center.

    Upon retirement in 2013 after a nearly 40-year career in the Navy, Harward became chief executive officer for defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin in the United Arab Emirates. Trump has recently been in very public negotiations with Lockheed over the cost of its F-35 fighter jet.

    Officials said earlier this week that there were two other contenders in the running for the job: acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg and retired Gen. David Petraeus.

    Petraeus, a retired four-star general, resigned as CIA director in 2012 and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information relating to documents he had provided to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair.

    He was also fined $100,000 and remains on probation.

    READ MORE: A month into presidency, Trump prepares for a campaign rally

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    Jesse Miller prepares a dish Feb. 16 in the kitchen at Bar Pilar, a restaurant on 14th Street in Washington, D.C. Miller's kitchen staff, all immigrants, went on strike Thursday during a "Day Without Immigrants," a nationwide protest against President Donald Trump's recent action on immigration. Photo by Abbey Oldham/PBS NewsHour.

    Jesse Miller prepares a dish Feb. 16 in the kitchen at Bar Pilar, a restaurant on 14th Street in Washington, D.C. Miller’s kitchen staff, all immigrants, went on strike Thursday during a “Day Without Immigrants,” a nationwide protest against President Donald Trump’s recent action on immigration. Photo by Abbey Oldham/PBS NewsHour.

    On a typical day in Jesse Miller’s kitchen at Bar Pilar, seven to eight people prep, cook and clean for dinner service. But on Thursday, the executive chef was alone most of the day, while the immigrant workers on staff at the downtown Washington, D.C. restaurant stayed home.

    Miller was eventually joined by his bartender and two friends who showed up in the evening to help out. It was an exhausting day — but that was the point, Miller said.

    Across the country Thursday, workers at Bar Pilar and hundreds of other businesses participated in a “Day Without Immigrants,” a nationwide protest of President Donald Trump’s policies on immigration, including a now-suspended controversial ban on immigration. Immigrants skipped work or school and held rallies in Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington D.C. to demonstrate their role in the country’s economy and their communities. Other cities staged similar protests throughout the week.

    “Some of the workers who are striking said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want us to come in?’” Miller said, in an interview at the restaurant. He told them he was sure. “This is more important than one night of service.”

    The strike, which was not planned by one particular group, spread by word of mouth and on social media. Flyers popped up throughout the northeast and Midwestern cities, urging undocumented workers to participate.

    El Chucho's Executive Chef Saul Canesa. Photo courtesy Saul Canesa

    El Chucho chef Saul Canesa, an immigrant who came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2001. Photo courtesy Saul Canesa

    It impacted markets, daycares, hotels and construction sites, but restaurants were particularly affected, as immigrants make up as much as 70 percent of the restaurant industry’s workforce in some cities, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. Many Americans support Trump’s efforts to tighten immigration laws, and say a bigger focus on legal employment would help the economy. But a number of restaurant owners have argued there should be a better path to citizenship for their undocumented workers.

    Thursday’s action sent “a clear message that the immigrant community is ready to use its labor and consumer power to fight and begin a new chapter in the immigrant rights movement,” Movimiento Cosecha, a national immigrant rights advocacy group, said in a statement.

    In the nation’s capital, at least 100 restaurants were closed Thursday, including five eateries owned by celebrity chef José Andrés, 18 locations of salad chain Sweetgreen and all six branches of Busboys and Poets, a popular regional coffeeshop, restaurant and community gathering space.

    The entire kitchen staff at El Chucho, a Mexican restaurant in Northwest D.C., did not go to work, so only basic food like chips and salsa were served. The restaurant’s chef, Saul Canesa, an immigrant who came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2001, joined his staff in striking. He said he hoped the protest would send a message to President Trump.

    “He says he’s trying to make America great, but I don’t think without our labor he will make it great.” — El Chucho chef Saul Canesa

    “We don’t come here just for what he says, like to bring crime,” Canesa said, referring to the speech Trump made at the start of his presidential campaign, when he said Mexican immigrants “are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists.”

    “We don’t come just to do whatever we want to do, or send money back home. We also come to work,” Canesa said. “He says he’s trying to make America great, but I don’t think without our labor he will make it great.”

    The absence of labor was evident Thursday across Washington. While some popular restaurants —  Bad Saint, Daikaya and Jaleo — shut down entirely, others, like Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel, announced they would close their kitchens and let customers bring in their own food.

    Other restaurants operated on a limited menu. The owners of Boundary Stone in Northeast D.C., said they would man the kitchen themselves, but only serve a few items and for a shorter period of time than usual.

    At Bar Pilar, Miller, who is both head chef and an investor in the restaurant, served a limited menu of Latino-inspired dishes that he made himself, with help from friends. “The idea is for us to feel the pain too,” he said.

    Whether to close shop or scramble to stay open, how much food to serve and whether to pay staff were difficult decisions for business owners, many of whom said in interviews that they wanted to show their support but were also worried about the loss of business.

    Busboys and Poets on 14th and V St. NW, Washington D.C. is empty on Thursday, February 16, 2017 because they closed for A Day Without Immigrants. Photo by: Abbey Oldham.

    Busboys and Poets on 14th and V St. NW, Washington D.C. is empty on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 because they closed for A Day Without Immigrants. Photo by Abbey Oldham.

    El Chucho owner Jackie Greenbaum said she made the decision not to serve any food rather than try to cook it herself. “It seemed the point was better made [to say]: we can’t operate without this segment of the population, who are our friends, our family, and our staff,” she said.

    But Greenbaum also said she couldn’t afford to pay the hourly wages of the staff that participated in the strike. She anticipated making only a quarter of the restaurant’s usual Thursday night revenues.

    Andy Shallal, an Iraqi immigrant who owns Busboys and Poets and is also an activist, spent Thursday drinking coffee at the bar of his location at the intersection of 14th and V Streets, talking to reporters and handing out free coffee. The normally buzzing restaurant sat empty behind him.

    “As an immigrant myself, I need to stand in solidarity with them,” said Shallal, who told immigrant workers at his six restaurant that they could take paid leave for the day.

    Andy Shallal sits in the window of Busboys and Poets on 14th and V St. NW, Washington D.C. is empty on Thursday, February 16, 2017 because they closed for A Day Without Immigrants. Photo by: Abbey Oldham.

    Andy Shallal sits in the window of an empty Busboys and Poets on 14th and V Streets in Washington D.C. Shallal, an Iraqi immigrant, decided to close all six of his restaurants for the “Day Without Immigrants” protest. Photo by Abbey Oldham/PBS NewsHour.

    “It’s a big hit obviously. We’re a big place that serves thousands of people a day, tens of thousand of dollars are at stake,” Shallal said. “But again, when you look at the other cost — of not doing anything — it pales in comparison.” He added: “To me, this is insurance. You have to speak up, or you’re going to be on the wrong side of history.”

    At Boundary Road, a neighborhood restaurant in Northeast D.C., the restaurant’s beverage director, Ejay Apaga, took food orders all day, and did other tasks usually left to the kitchen staff.

    “This is my way of supporting them, being here so they don’t have to,” said Epaga, who was born in D.C. but is of Filipino descent.

    Around 6 p.m., Elizabeth Courtney arrived at the restaurant to meet a girlfriend for dinner, only to find out that food was not being served.

    “I was oblivious, I went up to the bar, and they said they were closed in support of the immigrant protest,” said Courtney, 23, who recently moved to Washington, D.C. “I mean, I think it’s a cool idea, but I just was supposed to meet someone and we’re a little hungry.”

    On an average Thursday evening, Apaga said Boundary Road takes in $2,000. Thursday evening, he said he’d be surprised if the restaurant made more than $500.

    Other restaurants across the D.C. metro area announced that they would donate profits from the evening to nonprofit organizations that help immigrants. Bar Pilar, for example, said it would donate 75 percent of the night’s profits from cocktails to the American Immigration Council, while the bartenders decided to give their tips to immigrant colleagues who didn’t work to be part of the strike.

    Gabriela Saint-Louis, a 24-year-old Haitian immigrant, came with her father to Bar Pilar to order drinks because she knew the money would be donated to an immigration nonprofit.

    “I was heartbroken by the ban,” she said, hours after Trump said he plans to issue a new ban next week. “I’m an immigrant myself, and this is not the America I know.”

    Many who protested Thursday are planning to strike again. Movimiento Cosecha says it is organizing similar action May 1, as well as a seven-day “Week Without Immigrants” at a later date.

    Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the most recent number of restaurants closed for a “Day Without Immigrants.”

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    President Donald Trump takes a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta (R) during a news conference at the White House in D.C. on Feb. 16. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Donald Trump takes a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta (R) during a news conference at the White House in D.C. on Feb. 16. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Critics of President Donald Trump saw in his Thursday news conference a combative, thin-skinned chief executive who continues to blame the media for the controversies roiling his administration.

    His supporters saw something else: A champion of Middle America who is taking on the establishment and making good on his campaign promises to put the country first.

    The Associated Press contacted Trump supporters across the country to see how they viewed a news conference in which the president said his administration was running like “a fine-tuned machine” despite the resignation of his top national security adviser, a court setback on his immigration order, a defeat for his nominee as labor secretary and reports of internal divisions.

    Here are views of some of those supporters:


    Richelle Kirk of Logan, West Virginia, watched some of Trump’s news conference on Thursday and didn’t see any head-scratching comments from the president.

    “I back him 100 percent,” said the 42-year-old stay-at-home mom. “You either love it or get out, is my opinion.”

    During Barack Obama’s presidency, her husband was laid off from his coal-mining job, a loss they blamed on Obama’s environmental policies. She said they lost a home and “everything we owned.”

    After West Virginia voters resoundingly rejected Obama during his 2012 re-election, “we didn’t show our hind ends when Obama was re-elected,” Kirk said. So she believes people shouldn’t overreact to Trump, either.

    She particularly agreed with the president when he took credit for an optimistic business climate and a rising stock market, saying Trump is beginning to fulfill his campaign promise to put people back to work.

    Reporters, she said, “need to leave him alone. He’s just doing what he said he’s going to do.”


    Kevin Felty of Norfolk, Virginia, said it was the “most impressive presidential press conference” of his life.

    “Largely because it was so unorthodox,” said Felty, 48, who works as a surgical assistant and sells life insurance. “It was hyper adversarial between the president and the press. And yet he was able to control the questioning and the tone and the mood in the room.”

    Felty said the media needs to move on regarding Russia and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    “There was nothing illegal that General Flynn had done at that time,” Felty said. “What he did do is make a mistake in not being accurate with the vice president.”

    He also said he believes Trump is trustworthy as president.

    “He doesn’t need the media to chide him to make the right decisions,” Felty said. “It’s something he’s been doing well for decades.”


    Regina Lenoir of Picayune, Mississippi, enjoyed watching Trump’s news conference and said the president “looked more relaxed.”

    Lenoir, 69, said she was most interested in the president’s comments about the alleged leaks that led to the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

    “We don’t know the conversation that happened between him and (Vice President Mike) Pence. Only they know. But the news media gets out there (and) says such and such with no corroboration,” she said. “I’m sick of them making up stories. You know, we’re intelligent people. We can make up our own mind on whether they’re telling the truth.”

    She agreed with Trump’s take on how the media has covered his administration and campaign, saying those covering his administration are good reporters but biased.

    She said if people gave Trump a chance, “he might just surprise everyone.

    “He wasn’t my first choice, but he is my president,” Lenoir said. “I think he handled the news conference very well.”


    Joseph Gatlin of Virginia Beach, Virginia, said he did not watch the news conference but heard about the question a Jewish reporter asked Trump about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the country.

    Trump told the reporter to sit down and said it was not a simple or fair question before describing himself as “the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

    Gatlin, who is Jewish and who was born in Israel, said the media needs to move on from “asking the same question.”

    “He’s not a racist. He doesn’t believe in racism,” said Gatlin, who owns a flooring company. “He’s not anti-Semitic at all.”

    Gatlin pointed to the number of Jewish people in Trump’s inner circle, including his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner. He said the media instead should be asking Trump about terrorism and the economy.

    “I think that it’s become ridiculous,” Gatlin said. “He wants the serious questions. He wants people to ask him questions that people care about. You can’t mention racism in every speech. They’re looking at the wrong things.”


    Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin, said he was glad to see the president push back against the media. He said reporters have no proof Trump or anyone around him did anything wrong.

    “They’re trying to make up a story that Trump worked with the Russians to rig the election,” he said. “Now they’re trying to make a big deal out of (former national security adviser) Mike Flynn. He was doing what he was supposed to do. He was talking to his counterparts. He was talking to the Russians. He got fired because he lied to (Vice President Mike) Pence. There’s no story there. The left media is so excited. They think they took this guy down. No, he made a mistake. He just lied.”

    Hiltgen said he remains squarely behind the billionaire president because he has done what he said he would do on the campaign trail.

    “He’s accomplished more in, whatever, three weeks, regarding the stuff he talked about,” Hiltgen said. “That’s what people voted for. I can’t believe there’s actually a politician doing what he says he would do. That never happens.”

    Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Chevel Johnson in New Orleans; and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.

    WATCH: Trump raps ‘criminal’ leaks, ‘dishonest’ media, ‘bad’ judges

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    Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jason Chaffetz (R-CA) before testimony on the "Oversight of the State Department" in D.C. in 2016. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jason Chaffetz (R-CA) before testimony on the “Oversight of the State Department” in D.C. in 2016. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who has refused Democratic requests to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving President Donald Trump, is seeking criminal charges against a former State Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state.

    Pagliano did not comply with two subpoenas ordering him to appear before the oversight panel. The GOP-led committee later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.

    Earlier this month, Chaffetz met with Trump at the White House and agreed not to discuss oversight. He has rebuffed calls for his panel to look into Trump’s businesses and possible conflicts.

    Chaffetz said in a statement that allowing Pagliano’s conduct “to go unaddressed would gravely harm Congress’ ability to conduct oversight.”

    Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said pursuing charges against Pagliano would be a waste of time and money.

    “Apparently, Chairman Chaffetz and President Trump are the only two people in Washington today who think we should still be investigating Secretary Clinton,” Cumming said in a statement. He added: “The Oversight Committee can’t afford to be distracted by political vendettas against Hillary Clinton while our constituents are begging us to conduct responsible oversight of President Trump.”

    Pagliano refused to answer questions in 2015 from a House panel investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. He later spoke to the FBI under immunity, telling the bureau there were no successful security breaches of the home-brew server, located at Clinton’s home in suburban New York City.

    Pagliano said he was aware of many failed login attempts that he described as “brute force attacks.”

    The email issue shadowed Clinton’s candidacy for president, and Republicans were steadfast in focusing on her use of a private server for government business, with several high-profile hearings leading up to the election. Chaffetz and other Republicans cast Clinton as reckless with U.S. national security by insisting on using private communications systems at potentially greater risk of being penetrated by Chinese and Russian hackers.

    But Democrats insist the sole purpose of the Benghazi hearings — and a separate inquiry by Chaffetz — was to undermine Clinton’s presidential bid. She lost to Trump despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

    FBI Director James Comey announced last July that the FBI was not recommending charges against Clinton in the email case, although he characterized her actions as “extremely careless,” a remark that Democrats condemned as unnecessary editorializing.

    Then, just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, Comey advised Congress that new emails potentially connected to the case had been discovered and would need to be reviewed. A follow-up letter nine days later said the email review had done nothing to change the FBI’s original conclusion. Many Democrats and Clinton herself have suggested that Comey’s actions so close to the election likely affected the outcome.

    READ MORE: A month into presidency, Trump prepares for a campaign rally

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    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Scott Pruitt was approved on Friday by a vote of 52-46.

    Pruitt served six years as Oklahoma’s attorney general and was closely aligned with oil and gas companies in his home state, whose executives backed his political campaigns. He filed 14 lawsuits as attorney general challenging EPA regulations, including President Barack Obama’s plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Pruitt’s nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups that predict he will roll back EPA’s enforcement efforts.

    READ MORE: A month into presidency, Trump prepares for a campaign rally

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    President George W. Bush speaks while receiving the Report of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform from former President Jimmy Carter (C) and former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (L) while in the Rose Garden of the White House in 2001. File Photo via Reuters

    President George W. Bush speaks while receiving the Report of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform from former President Jimmy Carter (C) and former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (L) while in the Rose Garden of the White House in 2001. File Photo via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Bob Michel, an affable Illinois congressman who served as leader of the Republican House minority for 14 years and was skilled at seeking compromise critical in getting many initiatives of two Republican presidents through Congress, died Friday. He was 93.

    A former staffer of Michel’s, Mike Johnson, said he passed away Friday morning.

    Michel’s skill at seeking compromise with the Democrats was critical in helping Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush pursue their agendas during their presidential terms.

    Michel served 19 terms in the GOP minority and retired one election too soon to be part of the GOP House majority that swept into power in 1994. He stood on the sidelines as an ebullient Newt Gingrich of Georgia took the role of House speaker. Gingrich praised Michel that day, but had considered him too pliable and conciliatory with the Democrats while he was Republican leader. But year after year, Michel had been faced with cutting deals with the Democratic majority. He admitted at a GOP fundraiser in 1994 that it was bittersweet to leave office just before Republicans took control of the House.

    “There are times when I feel like a small boy who has dutifully eaten his spinach and broccoli but who leaves the dinner table before mom brings in the strawberry shortcake,” Michel told a crowd of Republicans. In one of the more ironic developments at the Capitol, the offices of the House speaker were dedicated to Michel and called the Robert H. Michel Rooms.

    The current House speaker who occupies those offices, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement, “What a life well-lived by this great and gracious man. Today the members of the House — past and present — mourn with the family and friends of our former colleague and leader.”

    Throughout his service, Michel was seen as a gentleman who considered many Democrats and Republicans among his friends.

    Michel had announced in late 1993 that he would not seek another term, citing lost power under a Democratic administration and a new class of lawmakers making their careers by “trashing the institution.” In an interview after the 1994 election, Michel criticized the GOP’s “Contract With America,” saying its tax-cutting and defense spending provisions could actually worsen the budget deficit.

    Throughout his service, Michel was seen as a gentleman who considered many Democrats and Republicans among his friends.

    “He had many opponents, but no enemies,” former President Richard Nixon said in taped remarks to a crowd of Republicans paying tribute near the end of Michel’s time in Congress. And that was a big factor in his leadership style. “Ideological activists believe they know the truth and they don’t want to negotiate or compromise or even talk about compromise,” he once said. “But in the House the ability to strike a wise compromise is an essential part of leadership.”

    In 1989, Michel indicated that always being in the minority was taking its toll. “Those who have been kings of the hill for so long may forget that majority status is not a divine right,” he said of the ruling Democrats. At the same time, Gingrich rose to the number two minority position, signaling a more combative approach in dealing with the Democrats.

    And Michel warned Republicans not to let their newfound power corrupt them.

    “I just hope it doesn’t go to our newly elected leaders’ heads,” said Michel.

    Michel came from a district that included Peoria and had three congressmen over 60 years — Everett Dirksen, Harold Velde and Michel, who worked as an aide to Velde before being elected to the seat. Republicans looked as though they might claim the majority in 1982, but a public debate over the question of Social Security cuts led to Democratic gains in that election. Michel held Republicans in the House together and was able to provide critical help to Republican presidents and their initiatives.

    Robert Michel was born in Peoria, Ill., on March 2, 1923. During World War II, he served in Europe and received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. In 1949, he served as a congressional aide to Rep. Velde and in 1956 he was elected to the House, winning re-election 18 more times.

    Michel had an easygoing style. He met his wife at Bradley University, where he sang on the chorus. Michel was known for his singing voice and on occasion would serenade his congressional colleagues.

    After leaving Congress, Michel joined a lobbying firm and worked successfully to double the funding for the National Institutes of Health. Michel and his wife Corrine, who died before him, had four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

    At a presentation of a congressional distinguished service award, Michel recalled a warning from his parents about entering politics.

    “I decided upon embarking upon a career in politics without the blessing of my parents,” Michel recalled. “I remember dad and mother telling me, why would you want to get involved in this dirty, rotten, nasty game of politics? And I had to respond to my mom and dad, ‘Folks, you’ve taught me the difference between right and wrong.'”

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    A Palestinian protester climbs over a section of the Israeli barrier during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest marking the 12th anniversary of a campaign against the barrier, in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSZ5ST Credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

    A Palestinian protester climbs over a section of the Israeli barrier on Feb. 17, 2017, during clashes with Israeli troops. The clashes happened at a protest marking the 12th anniversary of a campaign against the barrier, in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah.

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    President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak from a Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C., at 12 p.m. ET. PBS NewsHour will live stream the president’s remarks.

    President Donald Trump said he will “talk jobs” during his visit to a Boeing plant in South Carolina.

    The president is expected to deliver remarks Friday afternoon as Boeing reveals its new Dreamliner aircraft, Boeing’s largest 787 model.

    Trump has previously criticized Boeing during the presidential campaign, saying that its contracts to build the Air Force One were too expensive.

    READ MORE: Trump supporters cheer his combative stance with the media

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    Nyameer Mario, 6, Nyawan Mario, 4, Ruai Mario, 10, and Machiey Mario, 8, wait to be taken to their mother through the United Nations' reunification program. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyameer Mario, 6, Nyawan Mario, 4, Ruai Mario, 10, and Machiey Mario, 8, wait to be taken to their mother through the United Nations’ reunification program. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Three years ago, 38-year-old Nyagonga Machul had to leave her five young children when fighting broke out between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The children, who were staying with their grandmother, ran into the bush when gunmen approached their village.

    On Monday, after years of wondering whether they were safe, Machul and her children were reunited.

    A political leadership dispute in South Sudan sparked the violence in December 2013, forcing an estimated 2 million people from their homes and causing 1.5 million more to flee the country. Families scattered in the chaos, but from time to time, lost loved ones are reunited.

    With the help of friendly neighbors, Machul’s children made their way to a U.N.-protected site in the town of Bentiu in northern South Sudan. UNICEF works with local partner groups to help protect and reunite children with their families through its registry database.

    They matched the lost children with their mother, who by then had taken residence in another protected camp in the capital Juba, 620 miles away from Bentiu.

    “God has answered my prayers,” she said upon their return on Monday.

    Reuters chronicled the Machul children’s journey in this report. See their reunion in the photos below.

    Children play a board game at the U.N. camp near Bentiu in northern South Sudan on Feb. 9. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Children play a board game Feb. 9 at the U.N. camp near Bentiu in northern South Sudan. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Machiey Mario, 8, Nyameer Mario, 6, Nyawan Mario, 4 and Ruai Mario, 10, leave their temporary home near Bentiu, South Sudan, to travel to Juba to be reunited with their mother. A fifth son, Nhial, 14, (not pictured) acted as the caregiver in his mother's absence. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    The Machul children leave their temporary home near Bentiu to travel to Juba to be reunited with their mother. A fifth child, Nhial, 14, (not pictured) acted as the caregiver in his mother’s absence. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Four children wait to board a U.N. flight to Juba, where they will be reunited with their mother. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    The children wait to board a U.N. flight to Juba, where their mother is waiting. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Internally displaced people wash and collect water in a reservoir in the U.N. Mission in South Sudan protected site near Bentiu in northern South Sudan. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Internally displaced people wash and collect water in a reservoir in the U.N. Mission in South Sudan’s camp near Bentiu. About 120,000 people live in the camp. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyagonga Machul, 38, embraces her children (from left to right) Nyameer Mario, 6, Nyawan Mario, 4, Ruai Mario, 10, and Machiey Mario, 8, in Juba, South Sudan, on Feb. 13. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyagonga Machul, 38, embraces her children Feb. 13 in Juba. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyagonga Machul's children gather around her. UNICEF uses a central database to try to reunite family members separated in the fighting. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyagonga Machul’s children gather around her. UNICEF uses a central database to try to reunite family members separated in the fighting. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    A U.N.-run camp outside South Sudan's capital Juba houses those who have fled the violence between government and opposition forces. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    A U.N.-run camp outside South Sudan’s capital Juba houses those who have fled the violence between government and opposition forces. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyagonga Machul talks with two of her children after their long journey. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    Nyagonga Machul talks with two of her children after their long journey. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    The youngest child sits by her mother as she sews a table cloth. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    The youngest child sits by her mother as she sews a table cloth. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    The mother touches the feet of her daughter, Nyawan Mario, 4. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

    The mother touches the feet of her daughter, Nyawan Mario, 4, who was only 1 when they were first separated. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

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    A scientist samples water at Perch Lake on the Fond Du Lac Reservation. Photo courtesy of Fond du Lac Resource Management Division.

    A scientist samples water at Perch Lake on the Fond Du Lac Reservation. Photo courtesy of Fond du Lac Resource Management Division.

    The water in Owens Valley, California — between the Sierra and Death Valley national parks — is usually clean. So, in 1998, Alan Bacock was surprised when results of a routine test of well water on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation came back with a red flag: The tribe’s groundwater was dangerously contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical called Perchloroethylene (PCE).

    The tribe turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Through a General Assistance Program (GAP) grant, which funded an investigation into the pollution source, they were able to identify the source of the pollution–a bathroom fixtures manufacturer — and find an alternative drinking water source. They launched a public awareness campaign, which helped prevent locals from getting sick.

    Without the GAP grant, they wouldn’t have been able to afford the investigation or secure clean water for their community. When the manufacturer continued to improperly dump hazardous waste into the groundwater supply, the Tribal Council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs removed the business from the reservation.

    The grant is just one example of the kind of resources and environmental protections Bacock and other tribal leaders fear are at risk under President Donald Trump.

    In the past few weeks, EPA workers have worried about political threats to the agency, its regulations and its budget. Since President Trump took office, the EPA has faced a flurry of new changes, including a media blackout and a temporary freeze on grants (both of which have since been lifted). Two weeks ago, lawmakers proposed a bill to completely abolish the agency. Reuters reported Thursday that EPA staff have been told to prepare for a handful of new executive actions on the environment this week. And, on Friday, the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt, who has sued the agency more than a dozen times as Oklahoma Attorney General and pledged to greatly reduce its staff and budget as the agency’s administrator, as the agency’s director in the coming days.

    Native American communities are particularly worried about EPA funding because, unlike states, they aren’t generating income, and many of them can’t tax their residents for public works projects. They rely heavily upon EPA grants to maintain water quality standards, create ordinances, manage solid waste, and assess environmental threats. They also look to the EPA for regulations that help protect their land.

    The National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest Native American organization in the United States, is most concerned about losing regulations that address the threat to climate change. They’ve formally opposed Pruitt leading the EPA.

    “It’s not about him personally, he’s made it very clear what his policies are going to be: to dismantle the regulatory structure that regulates climate change,” said John Doccett, General Council to the NCAI.

    But Ken Norton, director of the Hoopa Valley Tribe Environmental Protection Agency, doesn’t have high hopes.

    “Reductions across the board are probably imminent,” Norton said. “We are very worried about tribes’ abilities to protect their environmental resources.”


    Native Americans harvest bark from a birch tree on the Fond du Lac Reservation. Photo courtesy of Fond du Lac Resource Management Division.

    Native Americans harvest bark from a birch tree on the Fond du Lac Reservation. Photo courtesy of Fond du Lac Resource Management Division.


    Since the agency was founded in 1980, the EPA has funded 6,179 grants — totaling $1.7 billion — for Native American projects. The Big Pine Paiute reservation alone has received 14 EPA grants, totaling $2.9 million.

    “Without these grants it will certainly impact the quality of life for our people,” Bacock told NewsHour.

    Lisa Garcia, a lawyer with EarthJustice, a nonprofit environmental organization, said it would be “pretty difficult” to completely dismantle tribe-related EPA funding, because the grants were authorized by Congress in 1992 as part of the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program Act.

    “But I have no doubts that this administration will be looking at grants [in general] and to try and save money there,” said Garcia, who is working with the Standing Rock Sioux in South Dakota.

    Critics of the EPA, including Trump, say that environmental regulations put in place by the EPA have hurt businesses and jobs.

    “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said when he announced Pruitt as his EPA nominee.

    But Nancy Schuldt, the water projects coordinator for the Fond du Lac Environmental Program in Minnesota, says there’s no data to support those arguments. In fact, a clean environment can help generate revenue for communities that are reliant on the land and water, like Fond du Lac, a fishing and hunting tribe that relies on salmon and deer meat to stock their shelves.

    Schuldt contributed to an assessment called “The Value of Nature’s Benefits in the St. Louis Watershed,” in which the organization Earth Economics measured the value of a clean St. Louis river. They concluded that the river’s annual economic benefit was between $5 billion and $14 billion.

    Those on tribal lands are often the first to feel and see changes when environmental regulations aren’t enforced, Bacock said. He added that Native Americans are often located near watersheds and headwaters, so they see impacts more quickly than the cities to which the water flows.

    “They’re the miner’s canary of America’s public life,” Doccett said.

    Without EPA grants, they would look to nonprofits and non-governmental organizations for assistance. But those can be limited and unpredictable, factors that Bacock worries would force the Big Pine Paiute to switch to a volunteer-only model for environmental maintenance.

    “It would take away people being able to really have a large impact,” he said. “A lot of people with these environmental jobs who have this expertise would have to look elsewhere.”

    Tribal officials are also concerned about threats to federal environmental regulations. Of 564 tribes, approximately 50 have federally recognized clean water standards, Bacock said. The cancer-causing chemical he discovered during that routine test in 1998, for instance, was detected because of regulations set forth in the Safe Drinking Water Act. Without federal regulations, tribes in similar situations could be forced to directly sue polluters on their own–a costly option that many tribes could not afford.

    Garcia says that legal recourse would be complicated, costly and difficult if tribes were stripped of their federal funding.

    “Taking money away from the tribes and from low-income communities and the communities that need it the most is definitely not making America great again,” Garcia said.

    It’s too early to tell what changes Pruitt may pursue. In an email to PBS Newshour, an EPA press officer wrote “we cannot speculate on future plans for the agency.”

    As tribes meet with representatives and transition teams from the EPA, they’ll be highlighting the environmental conditions in Indian Country, and “reminding [them] of the trust obligation,” Norton said. “ Tribes do go to EPA and have influences with allocation process.”

    The post Native Americans brace for impact as EPA undergoes changes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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