Sanders pushes for Kelly to face the press over Porter scandal

Nine days into the Rob Porter scandal, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is pushing for senior officials who made the decisions surrounding his security clearance to take over the task of explaining—and defending—those decisions to the public.

Since Tuesday, when FBI director Chris Wray in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee contradicted her account of how Porter’s background check was handled, Sanders has moved to have White House counsel Don McGahn or chief of staff John Kelly to brief the press directly, according to a person close to the White House.

The issue remained unresolved at the time Wednesday’s briefing was canceled, according to the person, and may wind up being decided by President Donald Trump himself.

“I think the president is going to side with her,” this person said. “I think the president is going to want them to clear it up.”

Sanders did not respond Continue reading “Sanders pushes for Kelly to face the press over Porter scandal”

Third White House official resigns after being told he wouldn’t qualify for full clearance

A senior official on the National Economic Council resigned on Tuesday after being informed that he would not receive a permanent security clearance, as the White House faces increasing scrutiny over the number of high-ranking officials allowed to work on interim clearances.

George David Banks, who had served since February 2017 as special assistant to the president for international energy and environmental policy, told POLITICO that he was informed by the White House counsel’s office Tuesday that his application for a permanent clearance would not be granted over his past marijuana use.

Like an estimated three dozen others in the White House, Banks had been working on an interim security clearance while the administration determined the status of his full clearance.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Banks is the third White House official to leave the administration over the last week. White House staff Continue reading “Third White House official resigns after being told he wouldn’t qualify for full clearance”

Controversial professor withdraws from consideration for top Census job

Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience who testified on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, has withdrawn from consideration for the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people familiar with his plans.

Brunell had come under fire from Democrats and others after POLITICO first reported last year that he was the leading candidate for the job.

A Commerce Department spokesman confirmed that Brunell is not under consideration for the job. Brunell did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday.

Mother Jones first reported the news that Brunell had withdrawn from consideration.

Voting-rights advocates were watching to see who got the job of deputy director of the Census Bureau, viewing it as the first sign of how the administration might try to shape the 2020 census, which determines which states lose and gain electoral votes and seats in Continue reading “Controversial professor withdraws from consideration for top Census job”

Controversial professor withdraws from consideration for top Census job

Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience who testified on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, has withdrawn from consideration for the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people familiar with his plans.

Brunell had come under fire from Democrats and others after POLITICO first reported last year that he was the leading candidate for the job.

A Commerce Department spokesman confirmed that Brunell is not under consideration for the job. Brunell did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday.

Mother Jones first reported the news that Brunell had withdrawn from consideration.

Voting-rights advocates were watching to see who got the job of deputy director of the Census Bureau, viewing it as the first sign of how the administration might try to shape the 2020 census, which determines which states lose and gain electoral votes and seats in Continue reading “Controversial professor withdraws from consideration for top Census job”

Kelly under pressure to defend handling of Porter abuse allegations

In any other universe, Monday would be a big day in Washington.

The White House is slated to simultaneously unveil its latest budget blueprint and deliver a long-delayed plan to repair the country’s aging infrastructure, President Donald Trump’s signature policy proposal for 2018.

But the firestorm surrounding chief of staff John Kelly has overshadowed what would otherwise be a banner day for the administration, frustrating Republicans and putting new pressure on Kelly to restore confidence in his leadership.

People close to the president have been grumbling privately for days about Kelly’s handling of allegations that White House staff secretary Rob Porter verbally and physically abused his two ex-wives. The White House said Porter decided to resign after the claims became public, but officials’ description of the timeline has shifted since the news first broke on Tuesday. Questions remain about when Kelly learned of the women’s accusations and how much he Continue reading “Kelly under pressure to defend handling of Porter abuse allegations”

Draft White House memo would speed up infrastructure project permitting

The White House is circulating a draft memo to more than a dozen federal agencies that would dramatically speed up the time it takes to secure environmental permits for infrastructure projects, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.

The draft memorandum of understanding, which is being reviewed by 17 federal agencies and is expected to be finalized soon, would help implement an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in August that set a goal of completing the environmental review process for major infrastructure projects within two years.

Faster permitting is expected to be one element of the infrastructure plan the White House is slated to unveil on Monday, though the inter-agency memorandum of understanding is not expected to be finalized in time for this week’s rollout.

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately provide comment on the memo.

In order to more quickly green-light proposed bridges, pipelines and roads, Continue reading “Draft White House memo would speed up infrastructure project permitting”

Second White House staffer resigns amid abuse allegations

A second White House official has resigned over domestic abuse allegations, according to the White House.

Speechwriter David Sorensen, who worked at the Council on Environmental Quality, part of the Executive Office of the President, submitted his resignation after being confronted by White House officials, said deputy press secretary Raj Shah.

Sorensen’s departure was first reported by the Washington Post.

It comes amid the ongoing fallout from the resignation of staff secretary Rob Porter following allegations from his two ex-wives that he was verbally and physically abusive during their marriages.

A White House official said his position did not require a security clearance and his background check was ongoing.

“Before we were contacted by the media, we learned last night that there were allegations,” Shah said in a statement. “We immediately confronted the staffer, he denied the allegations and he resigned today.”

Sorensen, a former aide to Maine Republican Continue reading “Second White House staffer resigns amid abuse allegations”