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10 things you need to know today

1. At Michigan rally, Trump intensifies attacks on critics

Hasil gambar untuk Trump Tells Grand Rapids Rally: ‘The Russian Hoax Is Finally Dead’

President Trump intensified his attacks against Democrats in the wake of what he called “total vindication” by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, saying at a Thursday rally in Michigan that “the Russia hoax is finally dead.” It was his first rally since Attorney General William Barr released a four-page summary of Mueller’s 300-plus-page report. Barr said Mueller found no evidence Trump or his associates colluded with Russia, although the report didn’t draw a conclusion on whether Trump tried to obstruct justice. Trump told the rally crowd “the Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally gain power by framing innocent Americans,” and now “Democrats need to decide whether they will continue to defraud the public with ridiculous bullshit.”

In vilifying his opponents, Mr. Trump was not troubled by the fact that the 300-plus-page report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has yet to be released, or that Attorney General William P. Barr, in his summary of Mr. Mueller’s findings, stipulated that the report did not exonerate the president, even if it did not find him guilty of conspiracy or of obstructing justice.

“It’s interesting,” Mr. Trump said. “Robert Mueller was a god to the Democrats. He was a god to them until he said ‘no collusion.’ They don’t like him so much now.”

In many ways, the speech was a return to first principles for Mr. Trump, reviving an insurgent theme that had fueled his campaign in 2016. He said the Russia investigation underlined the need to “drain the swamp,” and he celebrated his cheering supporters over what he described as the faithless elites in Washington.

“I’m president and they’re not,” he said.

“They came, and they didn’t even know these people existed,” Mr. Trump said of the elites.

“I have a better education than them. I’m smarter than them. I went to better schools than them,” he added. “Much more beautiful house. Much more beautiful everything.”

Mr. Trump also went after the “fake news” media, celebrating what he claimed was a sharp decline in ratings for CNN and MSNBC after the Mueller findings were released, and predicting they would never regain their credibility.

The president, however, made an exception for Fox News, praising the network’s lineup by its commentators’ first names: Sean (Hannity), Tucker (Carlson), and Jeanine (Pirro), noting with pleasure that “Jeanine is back!” — a reference to Ms. Pirro’s brief suspension after she made disparaging comments on the air about a congresswoman in Muslim dress.

Mr. Trump called the investigation an extravagant waste of time that detracted from an administration that he insisted had compiled a sterling record.

“The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally gain power by framing innocent Americans,” he declared. “Despite this phony corrupt disgusting cloud we’ve done more together in the first two years than any administration in history.”

[The New York Times]

2. Judge rejects Trump health plans as ‘end-run’ around ACA

Hasil gambar untuk ‘Clearly an end-run’: Federal judge rejects Trump’s health-care plan to go around Obamacare

A federal judge late Thursday ruled a Trump administration effort to allow inexpensive health insurance plans avoiding Affordable Care Act requirements was “clearly an end-run around the ACA.” The ruling by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District of Columbia blocked new rules providing for “association health plans” designed to let small businesses jointly offer plans outside former President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

The plans offered lower premiums but fewer health protections than ObamaCare plans. “Indeed, as the president directed, and the secretary of labor confirmed, the final rule was designed to expand access to AHPs to avoid the most stringent requirements of the ACA,” wrote Bates, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. [The Washington Post]

3. Trump overrules DeVos, restores Special Olympics funding

Hasil gambar untuk 'I have overridden my people': Trump says he will keep Special Olympics funded, undercutting DeVos

President Trump said Thursday that he was rejecting a proposal by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to cut $17.6 million in funding for the Special Olympics, even though the reduction was included in the $4.75 trillion federal budget his administration sent to Congress. “I just told my people I want to fund the Special Olympics,” Trump said. “I have overridden my people. We’re funding the Special Olympics.” The shift came after DeVos faced heated criticism for the proposal to eliminate Special Olympics funding. Trump did not say whether the administration would seek all of the funding previously earmarked for the program. Per its most recent available financial information, federal grants account for about 10 percent of the Special Olympics’ annual budget of around $150 million.

Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, also voiced her support after Trump’s remarks, saying on Twitter:  “Love the @SpecialOlympics!” Karen Pence led the U.S. delegation to this year’s Special Olympics World Games in the United Arab Emirates. It is not just Special Olympics facing the budget ax. Trump seeks dramatic across-the-board spending cuts to domestic programs for the coming fiscal year. An exception: the military, which would get a 5 percent increase under his proposal.

“Get rid of the fat, get rid of the waste,” Trump had instructed his Cabinet.

DeVos, however, proposed additional funding for a few programs, including charter schools and a tax credit for individuals and companies that donate to scholarships for private schools.

DeVos said she had to make some hard decisions after the president demanded across-the-board cuts and has had to defend her cuts to members of Congress, where she’s faced days of being grilled.  Earlier Thursday, DeVos—a wealthy Republican donor and former school choice advocate—was on Capitol Hill again defending the proposed cut to the Special Olympics to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

During that hearing, she sharply criticized comments on the proposed cut by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., as a “shameful” and “disgusting” political ploy. “I’ve given a portion of my salary to Special Olympics,” said DeVos, raising her voice as Durbin tried to interrupt her with more questions about the cut. “Let’s not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative. That’s just disgusting and is shameful.”

Durbin responded that proposing to eliminate $18 million out of a $64-billion Education Department budget for something as beloved as Special Olympics “is shameful, too.” He added that whoever approved the proposed cut should get “a special Olympic gold medal for insensitivity.”

The education secretary has explained her rationale by saying the Special Olympics is a private organization – not a federal program – that is better supported by philanthropy.

The cuts have not gone into effect yet and did not have a strong chance of passing in Congress. The budget is just a proposal, a way for the Trump administration to spell out its spending priorities for the coming year.

Trump’s budget was basically dead the moment it arrived at Congress. And, given the political support that the Special Olympics has in Congress, there’s virtually no chance that lawmakers will let the proposed cuts to the program stand.

[USA Today]

4. Pelosi denounces Barr summary of Mueller report

Hasil gambar untuk Speaker Pelosi Calls Attorney General's Mueller Report Letter 'Condescending'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday denounced Attorney General William Barr’s four-page letter summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, saying that providing his interpretation before the full report “wasn’t the right thing to do.” In his letter delivered to Congress on Sunday, Barr wrote that Mueller’s report “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities” and “did not draw a conclusion” on obstruction of justice. “I have said, and I’ll say again, no thank you, Mr. Attorney General, we do not need your interpretation. Show us the report, and we can draw our own conclusions,” Pelosi said. “We don’t need you interpreting for us. It was condescending; it was arrogant.” Congress, she said, doesn’t need Barr “to be our interpreter of something that he should just show us.”

The Democratic chairmen of six House committees have demanded that Barr release the Mueller report to Congress by Tuesday.

Pelosi also defended House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who faced calls Thursday from Republicans to resign over his comments that there was significant evidence the president and his associates conspired with Russia. Pelosi said the Republicans are “scaredy cats” afraid of a “patriotic leader.”

[The Associated Press]

5. Schiff slams Republicans calling for his resignation

Hasil gambar untuk Schiff smacks back at Republicans calling for him to resign

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday called on Adam Schiff to resign his role as chair, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s reported discredited Schiff’s allegations that President Trump’s associates colluded with Russia’s election meddling. “We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who led the Russia inquiry when the GOP controlled the House. Schiff (D-Calif.) responded by angrily accusing Republicans of ignoring clear signs that Trump’s campaign welcomed Russia’s help. He pointed out that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort allegedly handed polling data to an associate linked to Russian intelligence, and that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. “You might think that’s okay. I don’t,” Schiff said. “I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.”

“I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to conspiracy is another matter,” he continued, adding, “But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that’s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.”

The attack by the Republican committee members on Schiff is a continuation of a similar assault launched by Trump — who called on Schiff to quit Congress in a tweet earlier in the morning — and other Trump allies who accused Schiff of fomenting claims of conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Democrats have rallied around Schiff in recent days. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed the GOP attacks, and Democrats’ House campaign arm elevated Schiff on Wednesday to be its national frontline finance chair.

At her weekly press conference Thursday, Pelosi delivered an unprompted defense of Schiff as she railed against Trump and the Republicans who have called for his ouster.

“What is the president afraid of? Is he afraid of the truth? That he would go after a member, a chairman of a committee, a respected chairman?” Pelosi said. “I think they’re just scaredy cats. They don’t know what to do so they have to make an attack. It’s their own insecurity. Their own fear of the truth.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also offered strong praise for Schiff. “The American people have seen Mr. Schiff demonstrate on a regular basis responsibility, thoughtfulness, rationality and a commitment to finding the truth,” Hoyer told reporters Thursday. “Apparently, all four of those aspects upset the president.”

Schiff argued that he still believes there is ample evidence of collusion and said he’s long insisted such evidence may or may not rise to the level of a criminal charge. He said he accepts Mueller’s decision not to charge any Americans in Russia’s election interference efforts but said he still finds the Trump campaign’s posture toward Russia and efforts to accept its help as troubling.

The committee’s Republicans include ranking member Devin Nunes of California, who has battled with Schiff over the direction of the panel’s Russia probe when Republicans led it in the last Congress. They also include Conaway, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, a former CIA officer, and Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, John Ratcliffe of Texas, Mike Turner of Ohio, Chris Stewart of Utah, Brad Wenstrup of Ohio and Rick Crawford of Arkansas.

Nunes opened his remarks by assailing the Obama administration’s approach to Russia, suggesting that he and others warned the administration to take a stronger stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

“Our advice however was not heeded,” Nunes said, accusing the Obama White House of having watched helplessly while Russia marched into Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Nunes did not mention Trump’s own eagerness to smooth relations with Putin or Trump’s musings that the annexation should be made permanent.


6. Maduro government bars Guaidó from holding office in Venezuela

Hasil gambar untuk Venezuelan gov’t bars Guaido from public office for 15 years

The government of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Thursday said it barred opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president after Maduro’s disputed re-election, from holding public office for 15 years. State comptroller Elvis Amoroso, a Maduro ally, justified the decision by citing alleged financial irregularities. U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino called the ban “ridiculous.” Guaidó dismissed the announcement as meaningless, because he views Maduro’s government as illegitimate. He vowed to continue to lead the movement to push out Maduro. “We’re going to continue in the streets,”Guaido said soon after Amoroso’s statements on state television. He dismissed the comptroller’s announcement as irrelevant because, in his view, Maduro’s government is illegitimate.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino described the ban on Guaido as “ridiculous.”

Meeting in Ecuador, delegations from a group of European and Latin American countries also criticized the Venezuelan government’s move.“Such a political decision without regard to due process is yet another demonstration of the arbitrary nature of judicial procedures in the country,” said the International Contact Group on Venezuela. The group says it seeks the peaceful restoration of democracy to the country.

Juan Guaido

The power struggle between Maduro and Guaido has intensified the sense of crisis in Venezuela, which suffered its worst blackouts earlier this month and then another round of power outages that paralyzed commerce this week.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Thursday that electricity had been restored in most of the country, though some areas remained without power and experts have warned that the system is vulnerable to further disruptions.

Schools and public offices were still closed, but there was more traffic in the streets of Caracas and many people were able to make electronic payments for the first time in days. “It’s a moment of happiness in the middle of this tragedy, to see that my card worked,” Caracas resident Maria Isabel Vera said after buying medicine in a pharmacy.

Both the opposition and the government plan demonstrations on Saturday as they try to project resolve in a debilitating standoff in what was once one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries. More than 3 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, escaping dire economic conditions that left many without adequate food or medicine.

Maduro, who is backed by Russia, says he is the target of a U.S.-led coup plot and has accused Washington and Guaido of sabotaging Venezuela’s power grid. Both the U.S. and the Venezuelan opposition, as well as many electricity experts, believe neglect and mismanagement are the cause of the country’s electricity woes.

Venezuelan authorities this month arrested Guaido’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, and accused him of involvement in a “terrorist” scheme to overthrow the government.

The United States was the first nation to recognize Guaido as interim president, asserting that Maduro’s re-election last year was rigged. It has stepped up sanctions and other diplomatic measures in the hopes of forcing him to give up power.

[The Associated Press]

7. Supreme Court rejects request to halt bump-stock ban

Hasil gambar untuk Supreme Court denies request to halt bump stock ban

The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request to halt the Trump administration’s new rule banning bump stocks while lower courts consider challenges to the policy. There were no noted dissents. The ban took effect on Tuesday after Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a request for a stay made by gun owner groups. Bump stocks are accessories that allow semi-automatic guns to fire continuously with a single pull of the trigger, like fully automatic weapons.

The Justice Department issued a rule in December covering semi-automatic rifles with bump stocks under regulation of automatic weapons. Opponents said the rule required the destruction of hundreds of thousands of bump stocks owned by law-abiding gun owners.

Owners were given 90 days to turn in or destroy them, and that period ended Tuesday. Gun Owners of America, other pro-gun rights groups and individuals who own bump stocks asked the court Tuesday to step after the federal ban on the plastic stocks went into effect. They wanted the rule put on hold while legal challenges play out in courts below.

“The final rule mandates the destruction of over 500,000 firearm accessories known as ‘bump stocks,’ owned by hundreds of thousands of law abiding Americans, and valued over $100 million,” their lawyer, Robert J. Olson, argued in court papers. He said now that the rule is in effect, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) can bring felony prosecution charges against those who don’t comply as well as seek penalties for up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. He argued that bump stocks should not be included in the ban.

“The Final Rule is the very embodiment of a violation of the separation of powers — Congressional authority being wielded by an administrative agency,” Olson said.

Lawyers for the Trump administration urged the Supreme Court Tuesday to deny the request. “Every Court to rule on a request to preliminarily enjoin the rule has determined that a preliminary injunction is unwarranted,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the justices in a court filing.

Francisco said the ATF regulation was necessary to advance the “safety of law-enforcement personnel” and would result “in less danger to first responders when responding to incidents.”Bump stocks came under scrutiny after the October 2017 massacre in Las Vegas. A shooter opened fire from his hotel suite onto outdoor concertgoers with rifles fitted with bump stocks, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds of others.


8. Nielsen asks Congress for authority to send migrant kids home

How residents of this US-Mexico border town reacted to US troops, migrants' influx

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sent a letter to Congress on Thursday asking for new authority to immediately deport minors detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying it is necessary to help address “a humanitarian and security catastrophe that is worsening by the day.” In the letter, obtained by ABC News, Nielsen called for the new authority and other action to address a “dire situation” created by a surge in asylum-seeking migrant families and unaccompanied minors who “cannot easily be cared for,” processed, or sent home. “Now we face a system-wide meltdown,” Nielsen wrote. She also asked for authority to detain families until their asylum requests are processed.

Nielsen’s letter is a bold ask of a Congress that remains unsure whether the humanitarian crisis at the border warrants the national emergency President Donald Trump has claimed is necessary.

“DHS seeks authority to return [unaccompanied children] to their families and home countries in a safe and orderly manner if they have no legal right to stay,” Nielsen wrote to Congress.

The secretary’s request underscores the unprecedented spike of children and families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been forced to start releasing some families after regional detention centers hit maximum capacity last week.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been pressuring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for emergency funds and is urgently looking at reprogramming to deal with urgent humanitarian needs, according to a source familiar with the department’s thinking. “We need temporary processing facilities with full humanitarian and staffing support,” Nielsen wrote.

Responding to President Trump’s threats on Friday to completely close the southern border, Nielsen will advise Trump on how to implement a full shutdown. “I will make a recommendation accordingly to the President,” she said.

Nielsen acknowledged that children who cross the border and end up in U.S. custody “are being put at risk” as shelters hit max capacity.

Under current department policy, unaccompanied kids can be sent back if they’re from originally from Mexico. The Secretary’s request for new Homeland Security authority would allow unaccompanied children from other countries to be removed just as easily. “The idea here is asking Congress to treat all children the same,” Nielsen said Friday.

Earlier this week, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan announced that hundreds of officers from border stations will be indefinitely reassigned to reinforce the agency’s security efforts.

The commissioner said 750 officers from stations across the border including San Diego, Laredo and El Paso, Texas.

“Right now it’s an immediate response to a crisis that’s overwhelming our capacity,” McAleenan said Wednesday.

Border Patrol has struggled to fully enforce security measures while transporting and caring for the record high numbers of migrants crossing without authorization, the commissioner said.

[ABC News]

9. Lyft to raise $2.3 billion in 1st ride-hailing IPO

Lyft priced its shares at $72 apiece on Thursday, valuing the company at more than $24 billion ahead of the Nasdaq debut of its stock on Friday. The offering is expected to raise about $2.3 billion after the ride-hailing company raised its price range due to strong demand and increased the number of shares sold. Lyft was not the first ride-hailing app, but it is becoming the first to be publicly traded. Its larger rival, Uber, is preparing for its own IPO in the next few months. Uber’s offering is expected to be the largest in years. Several other high-profile startups, including digital pin board Pinterest, are getting ready to make the same leap. [The New York Times]

10. New York sues family behind OxyContin maker

New York on Thursday expanded a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, to include the billionaire family behind the company, the Sacklers, as well as five other drugmakers and four drug distributors. The lawsuit accuses drug manufacturers of collaborating to deny the risks of opioid addiction and sidestepping a system intended to limit painkiller orders. Like suits filed elsewhere, the New York complaint says Purdue Pharma’s aggressive marketing led to overprescription of OxyContin starting in the mid-1990s, contributing to the deadly opioid epidemic. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said the Sacklers were “the masterminds” behind the nation’s crisis.

The Sackler family members named in the suit said they “have always acted properly.” They and the company said they would fight the new allegations, which come two days after Purdue and the Sacklers agreed to pay $270 million to the state of Oklahoma to settle an opioid lawsuit there. In settling the case, Purdue denied any wrongdoing.

It was the first settlement in a recent wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits that the company says could push it into bankruptcy. New York, in its lawsuit, accused the Sacklers of pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from the company because of potentially costly litigation.

James, the New York attorney general, said she was open to settlement talks but hadn’t been approached. In addition to potentially banning the companies from selling the drugs, her lawsuit seeks penalties and damages that could add up to tens of millions of dollars and a dedicated fund to curb the opioid epidemic.

In the past few weeks, as the accusations against the family have mounted, the Tate museums in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York have cut ties with the family, and other institutions have come under pressure to turn down donations or remove the Sackler name.

The other defendants in New York’s lawsuit are: Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals; U.K.-based Mallinckrodt plc, which has an opioid manufacturing plant in Hobart, New York; Dublin-based Endo and Allergan; Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva and the drug distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and Rochester Drug Cooperative Inc.

Endo said in a statement that it denies the allegations in the lawsuit and intends to vigorously defend itself.

Cardinal Health said it has a “rigorous system” to track pharmacy orders and has stopped suspicious orders for hundreds of millions of painkiller pills over the last decade. In a statement, the Dublin, Ohio-based company said: “Our people operate in good faith, and our goal is to get it right.”

McKesson had no specific response to the New York suit but said it has “strong programs” to try to prevent opioid abuse.

The other companies declined comment or did not immediately respond to requests for it.

[The Associated Press]

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