Senate confirms Haspel as CIA’s first female director

The Senate on Thursday confirmed acting CIA Director Gina Haspel as the agency’s first female leader.

Four Democrats facing reelection this year in states President Donald Trump won in 2016 helped push the 33-year CIA veteran over the finish line. Haspel faced opposition from most Democrats and Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona, who was absent due to his health, over her role in the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation program, which involved using tactics later deemed torture against detained terrorism suspects.

The moderate Democrats up for reelection — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida — were joined by fellow Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire in the 54-45 vote.

Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, and Haspel needed to sway undecided Democrats in order to be Continue reading “Senate confirms Haspel as CIA’s first female director”

McConnell: White House aide should apologize publicly for McCain crack

A White House aide who made a rude joke about Sen. John McCain’s health last week should apologize, but Republican senators didn’t raise the issue with President Donald Trump at a lunch meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

White House communications aide Kelly Sadler said in a private meeting that the Arizona Republican’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel "doesn’t matter" because "he’s dying anyway." Neither Trump nor the White House has apologized for the remark, though a spokesman said Sadler had contacted the McCain family directly.

"The person who said that should apologize and should apologize publicly," McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.

McConnell visited McCain over the weekend at his home in Sedona, Arizona, where he has been recovering from cancer treatment.

McConnell hits at Trump’s tariffs

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday took aim at President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, marking his first public comments on Trump’s polarizing proposal.

“There is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could sort of metastasize into a larger trade war, and many of our members are discussing with the administration just how broad, how sweeping this might be,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters. “And there’s a high level of concern about interfering with what appears to be an economy that’s taking off in every respect.”

The president shocked Republicans on the Hill last week when he announced that he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. Other nations have threatened to retaliate, and congressional Republicans have warned the president against taking such action. Speaker Paul Ryan had previously expressed concern with new tariffs.

Despite pressure from inside Congress as well as within the Continue reading “McConnell hits at Trump’s tariffs”

‘It’s almost nasty’: Dems seek crackdown on sleeping in the Capitol

A bloc of House Democrats is calling for an ethics investigation into the widespread practice of lawmakers sleeping in their offices, arguing it’s an abuse of taxpayer funds.

More than two dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed on to a letter obtained by POLITICO to Ethics Committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and ranking member Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) asking for a probe into the “legality and propriety” of such conduct by members of Congress.

“There’s something unsanitary about bringing people to your office who are talking about public policy where you spent the night, and that’s unhealthy, unsanitary — and some people would say it’s almost nasty,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.

The CBC’s push targets a practice popular among conservatives triggered by former Rep. Dick Armey, an architect of the 1994 “Republican Revolution.” Lawmakers often sleep Continue reading “‘It’s almost nasty’: Dems seek crackdown on sleeping in the Capitol”

Dreamers fight comes to Senate cafeteria

Lawmakers have less than a month to meet President Donald Trump’s self-imposed deadline to enshrine protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

What does — or doesn’t — happen over the next few weeks won’t affect only the constituents they serve, though. It will also affect those who serve them.

“We’re ground zero for this debate on immigration,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in an interview late Wednesday. “Those very people that we’re deciding their fate, they’re serving us. They’re either serving me coffee and my colleagues, or they’re cleaning the tables, or they’re working in the Pentagon doing the same thing.”

The Nevada Democrat met privately for about an hour this week with more than a dozen immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status and work inside the Capitol or Pentagon. She suggested every member of Congress and the president himself do the Continue reading “Dreamers fight comes to Senate cafeteria”

Senators reach preliminary Dreamers deal, but Trump hasn’t signed off

A bipartisan group of six senators has reached a deal that would shield “Dreamers” from deportation and make other changes to immigration laws and border security — but the framework has yet to win over the White House and other key players on Capitol Hill.

As of Wednesday night, multiple sources said the six senators had signed off on an agreement and were waiting for input from the administration on whether President Donald Trump would accept it. So far, they do not have that approval.

“We are, you know, we’re at a deal,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who had been involved in the negotiations, said Thursday. “And so we’ll be talking to the White House about that, and I hope we can move forward with it. It’s the only game in town. There’s no other bill."

The group includes Flake and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham Continue reading “Senators reach preliminary Dreamers deal, but Trump hasn’t signed off”

Scalise to undergo ‘planned surgery’ related to summer shooting

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will undergo surgery on Wednesday as he continues to recover from last summer’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice.

“I have been fortunate to make tremendous progress in my healing from last June’s shooting, and tomorrow I will undergo a planned surgery as part of my ongoing recovery process,” Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement. “I will remain fully engaged in my work as I heal from this procedure, and I look forward to returning to the Capitol as soon as I can within the coming weeks.”

Scalise first returned to Congress in September after being shot in the hip during a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. The gunshot shattered bone and tore through muscles and organs, leaving the Louisiana lawmaker hospitalized for months after initially being in critical condition. Two police officers, a congressional aide and a lobbyist were also Continue reading “Scalise to undergo ‘planned surgery’ related to summer shooting”

White House: Trump ‘very sad to see’ Hatch retire

President Donald Trump’s reaction to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s retirement announcement on Tuesday: Sad.

“He’s particularly thankful for the senator’s leadership and massive effort that he played and the role that he played in getting the tax cut and reform package passed, and the president certainly praises his service and is very sad to see Senator Hatch leave and knows that he will certainly be missed,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

Hatch (R-Utah), who led the Senate’s tax-writing panel, announced his retirement shortly before Sanders kicked off her first briefing of the new year.

“Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching,” the 83-year-old Senate Finance Committee chairman said in a video announcement. “That’s why, after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.”

His departure Continue reading “White House: Trump ‘very sad to see’ Hatch retire”

Trump taunts Vanity Fair over Clinton apology

President Donald Trump mocked Vanity Fair on Thursday for expressing regret over a controversial Hillary Clinton video it posted over the weekend.

“Vanity Fair, which looks like it is on its last legs, is bending over backwards in apologizing for the minor hit they took at Crooked H,” Trump tweeted, referring to his vanquished general election opponent by the moniker he coined on the campaign trail.

Vanity Fair on Saturday tweeted a video of six New Year’s resolutions for Clinton. “Maybe it’s time for Hillary Clinton to take up a new hobby in 2018,” the post said.

The suggestions for Clinton included writing a sequel to her memoir, “What Happened” — and titling it “What the Hell Happened” — and putting away her “voodoo doll” of former FBI Director James Comey because “a handful of other things” were factors in her election loss, more than a year has elapsed, and Continue reading “Trump taunts Vanity Fair over Clinton apology”

Trump falsely claims he broke a legislative record

President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Wednesday that he had signed more legislation than any of his predecessors at this point in their terms.

“You know, one of the things that people don’t understand — we have signed more legislation than anybody,” the president said in remarks to roughly four dozen first responders at a firehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida. “We broke the record of Harry Truman.”

It is true that Trump had signed more bills in his first 100 days than any president since Truman, but as Trump nears the anniversary of his Jan. 20 inauguration, he is far removed from his 100th day. And he has now signed the fewest number of bills into law of any first-year president dating back to Dwight Eisenhower, according to a recent report from the website GovTrack.

The report was published last Thursday, a day before the president signed a Continue reading “Trump falsely claims he broke a legislative record”

Judge grants Project Veritas a victory over Michigan teachers union

A federal judge in Detroit on Wednesday lifted the temporary restraining order a major teachers union won against the conservative group Project Veritas and denied a request for a preliminary injunction.

A Wayne County circuit judge in September blocked Project Veritas, a group run by provocateur James O’Keefe, from disclosing videos of other information it obtained in an undercover operation carried out against the American Federation of Teachers chapter in Detroit.

AFT Michigan alleged that Project Veritas operative Marisa Jorge used the name Marissa Perez and posed as a University of Michigan student to gain access to the chapter as an intern. The group claimed Jorge “unlawfully accessed and transmitted proprietary and confidential information and engaged in unlawful and unauthorized surveillance of” employees.

AFT Michigan had sought an injunction citing a strong likelihood of success with respect to violations of the Michigan Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the Michigan Eavesdropping Act Continue reading “Judge grants Project Veritas a victory over Michigan teachers union”

Obama edges out Trump as most-admired man

President Donald Trump is the second-most admired man in the world among Americans, joining a small group of incumbent presidents who failed to win Gallup’s top distinction while in office.

Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, and vanquished general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, retain their titles as the man and woman Americans most admire, according to the Gallup poll released Wednesday morning.

Obama edged out Trump, 17 percent to 14 percent, to win his 10th most-admired title. He won the year he was elected president, each year in the White House and his first year out of office. Only former President Dwight Eisenhower has won Gallup’s most-admired more times than Obama (that would be 12).

Clinton narrowly bested former first lady Michelle Obama, 9 percent to 7 percent, retaining her honor for the 16th consecutive year. The former senator, secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee has won 22 times Continue reading “Obama edges out Trump as most-admired man”

Democratic candidate asks for delay in Virginia House seat drawing

A Democratic House of Delegates candidate in Virginia is seeking to delay a Wednesday morning drawing that would determine the winner of the state’s 94th District in Newport News and the balance of power in the chamber.

A three-judge panel last week declared a tie between incumbent Republican Del. David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds, who had won a recount by a single vote one day earlier. The panel had determined that a vote originally not counted because of double markings was intended for Yancey.

Lawyers representing Simonds on Tuesday asked the Virginia State Board of Elections to “delay the determination by lot that is scheduled for tomorrow … until the three-judge recount panel has an opportunity to rule on” a motion for suspension and a motion for reconsideration.

“A decision by the three-judge recount panel to suspend its order and reconsider its determination that the recount between Mrs. Simonds Continue reading “Democratic candidate asks for delay in Virginia House seat drawing”

White House ‘disappointed’ banking panel blocked Ex-Im Bank nominee

The White House expressed disappointment Tuesday that a Senate panel blocked Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Export-Import Bank, but press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president would work “on a path forward.”

Republican Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Tim Scott of South Carolina joined Democrats earlier Tuesday in voting against former Rep. Scott Garrett’s nomination to lead the agency he had tried to shut down when he served in Congress.

“We’re gonna work with the committee on a path forward,” Sanders told reporters.

Whether the White House will name a new nominee “hasn’t yet been determined,” she added. “We’re certainly very disappointed. The Senate Banking Committee missed an opportunity to get the Export-Import Bank fully functioning again, and we’re going to work with them to determine the next steps.”

Garrett’s confirmation failed when the Senate panel voted 13-10 to reject the nomination. Scott reasoned Continue reading “White House ‘disappointed’ banking panel blocked Ex-Im Bank nominee”

Trump denies he considered revoking Gorsuch’s nomination

Responding to a Washington Post story, President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied he considered rescinding the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“A story in the @washingtonpost that I was close to ‘rescinding’ the nomination of Justice Gorsuch prior to confirmation is FAKE NEWS,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “I never even wavered and am very proud of him and the job he is doing as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The unnamed sources don’t exist!”

Trump often cries “fake news” when he sees reports he doesn’t like. He has tweeted the term — oftentimes in all-caps — nearly 140 times since becoming president. And it’s highly unlikely that the Post’s team of reporters fabricated sources, a career-ending offense in journalism.

A spokesperson for The Washington Post said the newspaper stands by its reporting.

The Post reported Monday that Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination and Continue reading “Trump denies he considered revoking Gorsuch’s nomination”

Heritage Foundation taps Kay Coles James to be next president

The conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday announced that board member Kay Coles James will serve as its sixth president beginning Jan. 1.

“Following an extensive search, Heritage’s Board of Trustees unanimously elected Kay Coles James to be our next president,” Thomas Saunders III, chairman of Heritage’s board, said in a statement. “All of us at Heritage are looking forward to continuing working with Kay Coles James developing and advancing conservative policy solutions and principles that are in the best interest of the American people.”

James has been a member of Heritage’s board since 2005. She was described in a statement as “a lifelong grassroots activist” who has “a wealth of experience in public policy” and has held roles locally, statewide and nationally.

James hailed Heritage as a decades-long “vital force in American conservatism, producing the research, analysis, and solutions that inform and influence policymaking.”

“I’m honored that the Continue reading “Heritage Foundation taps Kay Coles James to be next president”

Sen. Kennedy says Trump called him after grilling of judicial nominee went viral

President Donald Trump phoned Sen. John Kennedy over the weekend and told him to do his job when White House staff send over an unqualified nominee for Senate confirmation, the Louisiana Republican said Monday.

“The president and I get along fine, and he has told me, he said, ‘Kennedy, when some of my guys send somebody over who’s not qualified, you do your job,’” the senator recalled in an interview Monday morning with WWL-TV. “And I said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’ And I intend to do that.”

In a viral video posted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) with more than 8 million views, Kennedy grilled Matthew Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission and a judicial nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee exchange, Kennedy highlighted Petersen’s lack of courtroom experience with a series of Continue reading “Sen. Kennedy says Trump called him after grilling of judicial nominee went viral”

Rep. Scott denies sexual misconduct allegation

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) on Friday denied an allegation that he sexually harassed a staffer in 2013.

M. Reese Everson, a former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fellow, alleged earlier Friday that Scott touched her inappropriately, propositioned her for sex and wrongfully terminated her in 2013.

“I absolutely deny this allegation of misconduct,” Scott said in a statement. “I have never sexually harassed anyone.”

Everson and her lawyer, Jack Burkman, held a news conference in Arlington, Virginia. The pair originally scheduled a news conference in late November. At the time, Burkman told reporters the event was canceled because Everson got cold feet, and he had added in a Nov. 29 statement that he would no longer represent her.

Everson explained Friday that her body wouldn’t allow her to leave her home that day. It wasn’t immediately clear why Burkman continued to represent her, but Scott’s statement described him as Continue reading “Rep. Scott denies sexual misconduct allegation”

White House: Trump would be ‘very unhappy’ if Speaker Ryan left

President Donald Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan he would be “very unhappy” if the Wisconsin Republican retired after the 2018 elections, the White House said Thursday.

POLITICO reported earlier Thursday that Ryan has told his closest confidants that his current term as House speaker will be his last. POLITICO also noted that in three dozen interviews with lawmakers, aides, conservative intellectuals and lobbyists, not one believed Ryan would stay in Congress past 2018.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump had spoken to Ryan ahead of Thursday’s press briefing, within hours of POLITICO’s report being published.

“The president did speak to the speaker not too long ago and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly — and in no uncertain terms — that if that news was true, he was very unhappy with it,” Sanders said. “The speaker assured the president that those were Continue reading “White House: Trump would be ‘very unhappy’ if Speaker Ryan left”

Trump says he’ll ‘never let bad things happen’ to U.S. economy

President Donald Trump pledged Wednesday to “never let bad things happen” to America’s economy.

“I’m here today to tell you that we will never let bad things happen with respect to the economy of our country,” the president said in a tax-reform speech delivered from the White House.

Presidents have limited control over the U.S. economy. Trump says he’s cut regulations, and he has named a new chairman to take over the Federal Reserve, among other economic appointments. He is also pushing tax legislation that he says will stimulate growth.

Still, the New York Times reported in January that a president’s economic record is largely dependent on luck, noting that no White House exerts control over the demographic and technological influences that shape the economy.

Trump nevertheless expressed optimism that the House and Senate will finish reconciling their tax bills in the next few days, allowing him to sign Continue reading “Trump says he’ll ‘never let bad things happen’ to U.S. economy”