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30 апреля, 02:01

Chicago Was On The Verge Of Police Reform. Then Trump Picked Jeff Sessions To Run The DOJ.

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); CHICAGO ― In the final months of the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division scrambled to complete its biggest-ever investigation of a city police department: a 13-month probe of Chicago’s 12,000-strong police force that wrapped up just a week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. For more than a year, the division’s lawyers reviewed thousands of Chicago Police Department documents, visited all 22 police districts, went on 60 ride-alongs, reviewed 170 police shooting files, examined over 425 incidents of less-lethal force, interviewed 340 department members and talked to about 1,000 Chicago residents. Their final report, issued Jan. 13, recognized the tough job officers had in Chicago as they dealt with spiking gun violence, and praised the “diligent efforts and brave actions of countless” officers. But a “breach in trust” eroded Chicago’s ability to prevent crime, because officers were able to escape accountability when they broke the law, the report found. Because “trust and effectiveness in combating violent crime are inextricably intertwined,” the report found “broad, fundamental reform” was needed in Chicago. Without a formal legal agreement to reform — known as a consent decree — and independent monitoring, the report concluded, reform efforts in Chicago were “not likely to be successful.” Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, disagrees. In recent weeks, Sessions has expressed deep skepticism about the role of the federal government in fixing broken police departments, leaving serious doubts about the ultimate outcome of the Justice Department’s work in Chicago. Sessions wants the Justice Department to serve as the “leading advocate for law enforcement in America.” While admitting he hadn’t read the full Chicago report, he called it “anecdotal” and “not so scientifically based.” Earlier this month in Baltimore, a Justice Department lawyer said Sessions had “grave concerns” about an agreement previously reached between that city and the Obama administration. A federal judge signed off on the deal over Sessions’ objections.In an interview with a conservative radio host this month, Sessions seemed to suggest that Justice Department investigations and consent decrees were resulting in “big crime increases.” In an op-ed for USA Today last week, Sessions wrote that consent decrees could amount to “harmful federal intrusion” that could “cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals.” There’s too much focus on “a small number of police who are bad actors,” Sessions wrote, and “too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.” Chicago has a serious violent crime problem. Last year was the deadliest in the city in two decades, with 762 homicides. But supporters of police reform like Jonathan Smith, a former official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that Sessions was “simply wrong” to suggest that crime goes up as a result of reform (or, in Chicago’s case, an investigation). DOJ investigations can increase community confidence in police departments and make people safer, Smith argued. “In communities like Baltimore and Chicago where certain neighborhoods are experiencing gun violence, the problems long predate Justice Department involvement,” said Smith. “The issues in those communities are linked to weakened gun laws that create easy access to firearms, lack of opportunity for jobs and housing and a history of police misconduct that creates mistrust between police and the communities they serve. Lack of police accountability is often a significant contributing factor in a spike in crime because of community mistrust.” Lorie Fridell, a criminologist and police bias expert from whom the Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force solicited information for its report released last year, said DOJ investigations not only help to usher in badly need reforms to the specific departments probed, but other departments also rely on the reports to determine if their own departments are meeting constitutional standards. “I think it’s very unfortunate the DOJ is no longer going to prioritize police reform,” Fridell said. ”The future of police reform is therefore going to have to come from the ground up. It’s going to be important for concerned individuals to demand high-quality policing.” The future of police reform is ... going to have to come from the ground up." Criminologist Lorie Fridell Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman, said it should be “eminently clear” that the Justice Department “will never negotiate or sign a consent decree that could reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city.” Sarah Isgur Flores, the top spokeswoman for the Justice Department, declined to point to any specific sections of consent decrees Sessions or the department took issue with, though she said there were “several areas of concern” with the Baltimore agreement, which she alleged was “thrown together in such a hurried fashion.” She said Trump’s administration “agrees with the need to rebuild public confidence in law enforcement” but had serious worries “where consent decrees may reduce the lawful powers of the police department.” Sessions appears to believe civil rights and constitutional policing were somehow adversarial to effective crime fighting, said Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division in the final years of the Obama administration. But “there’s no evidence that backs up what he’s saying,” she argued. Gupta rejected the new administration’s suggestion that the Baltimore agreement was tossed together at the last minute, calling it “an insult to the city and to the Baltimore Police Department,” and suggested they need take a closer look at what DOJ investigators found in Chicago. “If the attorney general and his staff actually read the report, they would see reflected in that report the perspective of hundreds of Chicago police officers themselves, who talked to us about the realities of policing in the Chicago Police Department,” said Gupta. “That report reflects in many ways a very significant set of voices from law enforcement itself.” Sessions dismissing the Justice Department’s reports without reading them also frustrates Christy Lopez, a former top Civil Rights Division official. It’s “ignorant” to describe the reports as anecdotal, Lopez said. The Chicago investigation, for example, revealed that just 1.4 percent of all misconduct complaints were sustained, or upheld as valid, over a period of more than five years, and that white Chicagoans were much more likely to have their complaints sustained than black or Latino residents. “That’s not anecdotal,” says Lopez. Lopez also said that dismissing the individual stories highlighted in the DOJ reports as anecdotal is “deliberately blind” to what investigators were trying to do. “It devalues people when you minimize the importance of their stories,” Lopez said. “You can call them anecdotes, but, for example in the Ferguson case ― when we have an officer writing down in his own report that after he went out and arrested a woman who’d called in on a domestic violence call, and he arrested her for an occupancy permit violation, and she says ‘I’ll never call the police again, even if I’m being killed’ ― that many be an anecdote, but that’s an important story to tell.” It devalues people when you minimize the importance of their stories." Christy Lopez Chicago residents for years have demanded changes like a citizen-led review board for police misconduct cases or improved mental health and crisis training. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson have both expressed willingness to enact reform, with or without oversight from the courts or the DOJ. Failure to get traction for reforms — even as they face an obstinate police union — could spell political trouble for both of them. In the absence of federal action, advocates “are looking at every option ― including litigation, political pressure and legislation” to bring about reform, said Karen Sheley, director of the ACLU Illinois’ police practices project. The city has “hit a crisis point,” she added. “Everyone in Chicago should be asking their elected officials to support reform, including of the police union contracts, which are being negotiated now.” A lack of police reform has already come at a high cost to Chicago taxpayers. Since 2004, the city has forked over about $662 million for police misconduct in the form of multimillion-dollar settlements, as well as legal fees and other penalties. Settlements totaling more than $100,000 require city council approval ― and they always get it. Police who break the rules and later cost the city money are rarely punished, allowing a core of officers especially prone to violating rules to propel the staggering payout costs. In his op-ed last week criticizing police reform, Sessions pointed to violent crime spikes in Chicago and Baltimore as reasons not to implement reform, even though neither city has implemented consent decrees. In an email to HuffPost, a Justice Department representative provided links to stories about crime spikes in New Orleans, Cleveland and Albuquerque, New Mexico, all cities that came under federal scrutiny. One story highlighted comments from Louisiana’s attorney general, who argued that the Justice Department consent decree has resulted in a spike in crime in New Orleans. “It’s not fair to say that the city of New Orleans is less safe because of consent decrees,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, told HuffPost after a meeting with Sessions this week. Nobody was surprised by the findings. The issues in Chicago are longstanding and deep-rooted." Vanita Gupta Federal consent decrees on policing do have a mixed record, but there are plenty of success stories. The consent decree monitor in Seattle, for example, recently said the police department had made a dramatic turnaround, and the overall crime rate in Newark, New Jersey, is lower than it’s been in 50 years. Peter Harvey, the consent decree monitor in Newark, said it’s simply not true that federal police reform efforts lead to violent crime spikes, and that the community is excited by the prospect of modern policing being implemented in Newark. “Remember, it’s the community that helps you police. Very few cities have enough cops to patrol a city 24-7 effectively, 12 months a year. You need the community to help you,” said Harvey. “The community will help you if you ask the community to engage with you, but what the community will not do is watch you place community residents in chokeholds where they die, and then turn around and say, ‘Well, we want to be your friend.’ Those are inconsistent messages.”  Harvey said the overwhelming majority of cities he knew of found a consent decree to be a positive development, because it allowed them to bring about changes they may have wanted for years but could not implement. “In virtually every city that has had a consent decree, shootings have gone down, killings have gone down, judgments against the city have been reduced, and morale in the police department has been raised and morale in the community has been raised,” Harvey said. “It’s not going to negatively impact the crime rate, because you’re not inviting the police not to patrol, you’re not inviting the police not to enforce the law, you’re inviting the police to follow constitutional mandates.” There’s a fear, a tremendous fear I’ve heard from residents, who wonder, ‘Where do we turn?'" Father Michael Pfleger of Chicago The DOJ’s change of agenda is worrying, said Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church on the South Side of Chicago. “The Justice Department, sort of being the big brother watching, the enforcer, has been a good thing across the country,” said Pfleger, who has organized his congregation to regularly protest violence and police brutality. “Now Sessions has certainly sent a message that police have no one standing over them ensuring they’re acting justify and fairly. ... That’s not what we need right now. Yes, we need strong police, but not an imposing force.” “There’s a fear, a tremendous fear I’ve heard from residents, who wonder, ‘Where do we turn? If the police are wrong, then where do we turn?’” he said. Leaving the systemic problems found in Chicago unfixed “would be a serious abdication of the Justice Department’s responsibility,” Gupta said, noting that investigating patterns and practices of unconstitutional policing was a mandate given to the Justice Department by Congress. “Nobody was surprised by the findings,” Gupta added. “The issues in Chicago are longstanding and deep-rooted. To think that there could be a crime-fighting strategy that doesn’t address police legitimacy and the severe breakdown in police-resident trust in certain neighborhoods in Chicago to me actually seems quite dangerous.” She finds it telling that Sessions and the DOJ have not identified any specific provisions of consent decrees that raise concerns. “What is it specifically that is causing alarm?” she asked. “Is it really the program at large that this Justice Department is seeking to diminish?” Ryan J. Reilly reported from Washington. Kim Bellware reported from Chicago. type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related... + articlesList=5876f814e4b03c8a02d57615,58e7b05de4b05413bfe26b39,58e3039ee4b03a26a3656ff2,58c2e5a0e4b054a0ea6a6547 -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

28 апреля, 19:20

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY: The Democrats’ First 100 Days. Matthew Continetti: Democrats feel be…

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY: The Democrats’ First 100 Days. Matthew Continetti: Democrats feel betrayed. The Electoral College betrayed them by making Trump president. Hillary Clinton betrayed them by running an uninspiring campaign. James Comey betrayed them by reopening the investigation into Clinton’s server 11 days before the election. Facebook betrayed them by circulating fake news. […]

27 апреля, 04:37

Closing EPA's Great Lakes Office Would Put Nation's Water At Risk, Dems Warn Scott Pruitt

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); CHICAGO ― Fifty-one million jobs, 90 percent of the U.S. freshwater supply and many Superfund sites could be jeopardized if the Environmental Protection Agency closes its Chicago-based Region 5 office. That was the sober but urgent warning from congressional Democrats who on Tuesday penned a letter to EPA head Scott Pruitt urging him to preserve the Great Lakes area office amid rumors it could be shuttered as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to slash the EPA’s budget.  “EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves, and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment,” read the letter.  Congresspeople from the six states covered by EPA Region 5 signed the Tuesday letter to Pruitt, including Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). (Read the full letter below.)  Multiple sources previously told HuffPost the White House aims to gut almost one-third of the EPA’s budget and eliminate 1 in 5 employees for the 2018 fiscal year.  In an April 17 letter to EPA Region 5 employees obtained by HuffPost, Acting Region 5 Director Bob Kaplan said rumors of the office’s closure were “not true” and called them “pure speculation.” And in a visit last week to East Chicago, Indiana, which is grappling with a lead contamination crisis affecting both the water and soil, Pruitt reportedly denied to a resident of the town that Region 5 was on the chopping block. The denial from officials has done little to quell the concerns of the Region 5 employees. “Everyone here is very worried even though our regional management here denied [the rumors],” Michael J. Mikulka, president of Local 704, which represents the EPA Region 5 employees, told HuffPost last week. About a month ago, the union got three press calls in the same day asking if it had heard there was announcement Region 5 might be closed. The Office of Management and Budget also issued a memo in March asking the EPA to propose two regions for elimination. Then, two weekends ago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement in support of keeping Region 5 open following reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and Politico that it was on the chopping block. “If the mayor issues a press statement, it’s based on something. It’s not from his imagination,” Mikulka said. A veteran EPA employee who has spent decades at the Region 5 office said for years employees have heard rumblings of the agency getting rid of regions. “There are about 1,000 people in Region 5 and it has the most industrial regions of all of the EPA,” the employee, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told HuffPost. “My question is, ‘Why us?’ We’re a big region in terms of geography. It takes four hours [flying] to get to the edge of the whole region.” According to the Sun-Times, if Region 5 shuttered, employees would go to Region 7, 20 miles south of Kansas City, Kansas. “There are a lot of folks who simply won’t do the move. And to be honest, that’s why it’s being suggested,” the employee said. “The Trump administration suggested getting rid of 31 percent of the budget ― about 3,000 employees, which is about 20 percent of the EPA workforce. How are they going to get there? It’s a lot easier to combine regions knowing that many of the staff in Region 5 would not want to move to Kansas City.” The employee predicted that if the closure came to pass, “at least half” of the Region 5 employees would not go. Several EPA employees said the demand for functions like water-testing and state oversight already outpaces the regional office’s resources.  Members of Congress who signed Tuesday’s letter underscored the important role the region plays in ensuring a quick response to spills and contamination in the six states, which are criss-crossed with oil and gas pipelines ― spills often near the bulk of the nation’s freshwater supply and the Mississippi River waterways.  Shutting down the Region 5 office would make the agency’s partnerships with state and local bodies more difficult and less efficient, with dubious overall cost savings, the letter argued.   Mikulka, the EPA employees’ union president, said shuttering Region 5 would be an effective way to hobble an agency whose mission is largely at odds with the Trump administration’s deregulation-oriented, anti-climate-protection stance.  “If we have the most industry and we do the most enforcement and get the greatest results, what better way to disembowel the EPA than going after Region 5?” Letter From Senators and Reps to Pruitt 042517 by Kim Bellware on Scribd -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 апреля, 20:48

Will We Abandon Women’s Rights In The Name Of Progressive Politics?

By Rebecca Traister The most disturbing thing to emerge from last week’s badly bungled Democratic “Unity Tour” staged by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and new DNC head Tom Perez was the fact that the only thing on which the two men seemed to easily agree was that reproductive rights are not necessarily fundamental to progressive politics. This led to uproar and outrage among some precincts of the left, and eventually to mea culpas and “clarifications” from Sanders and Perez. But it is worth closely examining this fight over the importance of reproductive rights in the party because it is an argument that the Democrats seem to rehash over and over and over again. Related: What the Democrats Need to Do to Take Congress in 2018 To recap: On Wednesday, Sanders gave an interview in which he said that he “didn’t know” if Jon Ossoff, the Democrat who the day before had earned more than 48 percent of the primary vote in a longtime Republican House district in Georgia, was a progressive. It was an odd move for a powerful left-wing politician on a tour to rejuvenate Democratic politics to fire a shot of ambivalence at a Democratic candidate in any tight race, but it felt especially egregious given that Ossoff was now facing Karen Handel, a virulently anti-choice Republican who was forced to leave the Susan G. Komen Foundation in 2012 after trying to sever the organization’s ties with Planned Parenthood, and who actively supported voter-suppression efforts as Georgia’s secretary of State. Sanders’s definition of what constitutes a progressive became even murkier when he suggested that the election of Heath Mello, who’s running for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska — and who as a state senator sponsored a 20-week abortion ban and mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions — would represent a “shot across the board, that in a state like Nebraska a progressive Democrat can win.” Not to be outdone, Perez amplified the message that reproductive rights are negotiable for the Democratic Party. “If you demand fealty on every single issue,” Perez said, “then it’s a challenge. The Democratic Party platform acknowledges that we’re pro-choice, but there are communities, like some in Kansas, where people have a different position.” Well, sure. There are also communities in Kansas where voters have different positions from Democrats on immigration reform, labor protections, climate change, voting rights, and health care, and it would be vexing — and not at all progressive — for post-2016 Democrats to alter their stances on any of those issues. This Unity Tour was supposed to be a means for Perez and Sanders to pull together left-leaning voters, still divided after the spirited primary between Sanders — the democratic socialist whose campaign brought in millions of voters excited about a left-leaning populist agenda — and Hillary Clinton, who was pulled to the left by Sanders and beat him by 3 million votes, becoming the ultimately unsuccessful nominee. Sanders, who is an Independent, has been describing this moment as a chance to “radically transform the Democratic Party,” and his aims are by many measures righteous: He wants to get big money out of politics and reduce the enormous power of what he calls the “millionaire and billionaire class;” he advocates for single-payer health care, free college tuition, and a higher minimum wage, and on this tour has insisted that “it has got to be that those ideas are allowed to become the dominant theme of the Democratic Party and that’s the choice Democrats are going to have to make.” Related: The 200-Year Fight for Abortion Access The problem is that Sanders’s vision — and the vision of Perez and the DNC — as they laid it out this week, looked less like a radical transformation of the Democratic Party and more like a return to mistakes the party has made in the past. These mistakes have nothing to do with economic equality, and everything to do with a willingness to sacrifice the rights of much of the party’s base. For some time now, Sanders — who, it should be noted, has an extremely strong legislative record on reproductive rights — has spoken somewhat carelessly about a populist strategy that exchanges some core Democratic beliefs for the set of issues that are most important to him. “Once you get off the social issues — abortion, gay rights, guns — and into the economic issues, there is a lot more agreement than the pundits understand,” he said in 2015. In January of this year, at a CNN Town Hall, he reiterated, “Yes, of course, there are differences on issues like choice or on gay rights … But on many economic issues, you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views.” Sanders is wrong that reproductive rights (or gay rights, for that matter) are separate from economic issues. The ability to control reproduction is central to women’s social, professional, and economic stability, and the women most likely to require abortion services and to be negatively affected by restrictions on access to reproductive health care are poor and low-income women, disproportionately women of color. But he and Perez were also wrong to view compromising on abortion as part of a pragmatic political path forward and to hold up an aggressively anti-abortion Democrat as some exemplar of progressivism’s future. Heaps of contemporary polling shows abortion is not the divisive issue it was long assumed to be. In 2015, polls showed that seven in ten voters, including independents — and even in Kansas­ — not only supported safe and accessible abortion but were willing to vote based on that support. A postelection Pew study found support for Roe to be at 69 percent, an all-time high. Omaha, the city where Heath Mello is running for mayor, was carried by Clinton — who made the most full-throated case for reproductive rights ever offered by a presidential candidate in her final debate against Donald Trump — by eight points. (For the record, Mello released a statement on Thursday claiming that, “While my faith guides my personal views, as Mayor I would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care,” which is a lovely sentiment, except for the fact that as state senator he literally did do lots to restrict access to reproductive health care.) There is absolutely no need to abandon women’s rights in the name of advancing progressive politics. And yet the party has done it time and again, often after losing presidential elections. It happened after the 2004 defeat of John Kerry, despite the fact that there was little evidence that Kerry’s pro-choice politics had anything to do with his loss. “I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats,” Howard Dean said in December of 2004, as he worked to become the Democratic party chairman. Many Democrats at the time reembraced the Clintonian formulation of “safe, legal, and rare” — a phrase long rumored to have been the invention of Hillary Clinton — which cast abortion not as a legal right necessary to women’s autonomy and economic equality, but as a necessary evil. Clinton herself, then a senator from New York, was part of the stampede away from reproductive rights, telling a group of family-planning advocates in early 2005 that abortion is “a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.” Related: Kirsten Gillibrand Is an Enthusiastic NO The deprioritization of reproductive rights was part of the strategy that helped Rahm Emanuel, chair of the DCCC, win the House for Democrats in 2006. But Ilyse Hogue, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, argues that we should evaluate that strategy now with an understanding of its longer-term implications: “It did not result in more progressive legislation or in a durable governing coalition,” she says. “It depressed the base and predicated the rise of the Tea Party.” Yes, the House majority allowed for a progressive win in the reform of health care, but it also led to a quagmire for progressives when anti-abortion Democrat Bart Stupak proposed an amendment to the ACA preventing federal insurance programs from paying for abortions; thanks in part to other anti-abortion Democrats, the amendment garnered enough support to pass the House, though it stalled in the Senate, and President Obama eventually broke the stalemate by promising an executive order that ensured that no taxpayer money would be used to cover abortion care. During that fight, there was much resentment directed toward the reproductive-rights activists and pro-choice Democrats who objected to passing health-care reform without equal protections and benefits for women: How could you stand in the way of greater progress? This circular formulation, in which reproductive-rights advocates are told that they must sacrifice their issues in order to make progress on those same issues, was repeated by Sanders in an NPR interview on Thursday, in which he explained that, “If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose, at the end of the day we are going to need Democratic control over the House and Senate, and state governments all over this nation. And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on this one issue.” Women have heard this argument again and again, and we have remained the reliable base of a party that has elected and elevated to positions of greater power anti-choice Democrats including Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, and Bob Casey. In fact, it’s hard not to feel that it’s because of the dedication of women, and particularly women of color, to the Democratic Party — where else are they going to go? — that party leaders feel freer to take them for granted and trade their fundamental rights in obsessive pursuit of the great white male. This is how Dems always imagine that they can make inroads in red states. It’s third-way centrist bullshit. But right now, perhaps unlike at any other moment in history, it is also crazily blind to what’s actually happening around the country, as this week’s fierce pushback to Perez and Sanders showed. As Hogue — who went on a Twitter tirade about the proposed compromise on Wednesday night — pointed out, in 2006 Rahm Emanuel could get away with de-emphasizing women’s rights in part because the organized resistance of the moment was anti-war. This time, she says, “the organized resistance is women.” In fact, one recent poll showed that 86 percent of the people making daily calls to Senate and House offices are women, most of them middle aged. And after his better-than-expected showing in Tuesday’s primary, Ossoff said, “This is a story of women in this community,” noting the “thousands of volunteers and organizers … led by women who have been pounding the pavement and knocking on doors for months.” Related: Why Abortion’s Deadly DIY Past Could Soon Become Its Future In the midst of one of the most activated, energized, ground-up movements in modern Democratic political history — where the energy is coming from women who remain underrepresented in state and federal legislatures — the Unity Tour, with its two men making pronouncements about what the party should do next, felt exceedingly out of touch. And the dynamic — the women doing the labor of organizing and protesting and campaigning, knocking on doors and making calls and sending postcards, while guys speak from the microphones about the need to compromise on their rights — is depressingly retro. “Open your eyes to where the resistance is really coming from,” Hogue urged on Thursday. “There are literally millions of women who have been pouring calls into Senate offices, House offices, going to town halls, filing to run for office; we are literally three months out from the largest protest in U.S. history that was overwhelmingly women, in the name of women; that’s where the resistance is. This is the Democratic party base. So why is the place to start negotiating the place that pulls the heart out of the resistance?” In a sign that the political pressure of a female grassroots is more powerful than ever, both Perez and Sanders responded to criticism with course corrections on Friday afternoon. Perez released a statement reading in part: “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable.” Perez also said he fundamentally disagrees with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about reproductive rights and that he’ll be meeting with women leaders from around the country next week to discuss “how we can make sure our Democratic candidates and elected leaders are living up to these fundamental values.” This is good news, though it prompts the question: Why weren’t women leaders central to the planning of the Unity Tour in the first place? Sanders, meanwhile, didn’t give much ground on opening up the progressive tent to anti-choicers, but he did offer an unequivocal endorsement of Ossoff: “His victory would be an important step forward in fighting back against Trump’s reactionary agenda.” It’s unlikely that this will be the last we see of Democrats trying to shore up populist support by sidelining women’s rights, but at least we know that this time around activists and advocates are energized and engaged and pushing back. Maybe the party won’t be doomed to repeat some of its worst history after all. More from The Cut: Why Everyone Loves the Alpha Girl When Women Pursue Sex, Even Men Don’t Get It 25 Famous Women on Fear Sharing Workout Results With Your Friends Pushes You to Exercise Even Harder Celebrating the Work of Black Women Artists in the Second-Wave Feminist Movement -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

24 апреля, 16:44

Obama Makes First Major Appearance Since Leaving The White House

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday makes his first major appearance since leaving office, having chosen Chicago, the city where his political career started, to emerge from a three-month hiatus from the public eye. Obama will meet youth leaders and promote community organizing near the same South Side neighborhoods where his own activism blossomed and propelled him to two terms in the White House that ended with Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as Obama’s first White House chief of staff, said that he was proud that Obama picked Chicago to make his last speech as president and the first in his post-presidency. “I think it reflects his emotional, as well as his intellectual, commitment to this city and seeing this city as his home,” he said. Obama’s continued connection to Chicago is important to the city, which has global aspirations as well as a palpable insecurity about its place in the world. During the last year of Obama’s second term, Chicago laid claim to its share of his legacy by beating out Hawaii and New York as the site of his presidential library. Obama, who still owns a home in Chicago, was raised in Hawaii. The former president and his wife Michelle are expected to move from Washington to New York once their younger daughter, Sasha, graduates from high school. David Axelrod, a former top political adviser to Obama, said the decision to house the library in Chicago should have eased any concerns that its residents may have had about the former Democratic president’s commitment to the city. But Monday’s event, he said, is another important sign of the former president’s strong links to Chicago. “He’s going to be more visible moving forward,” he said. “I think this is clearly a coming-out.” Reverend Michael Pfleger, a social justice activist who heads a large South Side Roman Catholic church, said a prominent Obama presence could help the nation’s third-largest city confront some of the thorny problems it faces. Chief among them is a spike in gun violence, an issue that Trump has highlighted as a sign of lawlessness and the failure of the Democratic politicians who have long run Chicago. “It’s his life, and he’s not in elected office right now, so he can do what he wants,” Pfleger said. “But I’d love to see him engage in his home of Chicago. He could make a huge difference.” Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson said Obama could use his powerful platform to address stark inequalities in Chicago schools, housing and employment, and to advocate for reinvestment in blighted neighborhoods. Monday’s event takes place on the South Side campus of the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught constitutional law. It is intended “to encourage and support the next generation of leaders driven by strengthening communities,” according to a statement. Since leaving office, Obama has kept a relatively low public profile, taking vacations in Palm Springs, California and the British Virgin Islands, where he indulged in the sport of kite-boarding while vacationing with British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Together with his wife, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, the former president recently struck a two-book, $65 million memoir deal. He is expected to travel to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next month.   (Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Mary Milliken) -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

20 апреля, 11:50

Why Some Cities and States Are Footing the Bill for Community College

Americans are often expected to have some level of higher education before they enter the workforce. These political leaders are asking: Shouldn’t government help them along?

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18 апреля, 00:00

Chicago, the City of Weak Shoulders and 'I Can't'

Dennis Byrne, RealClearPoliticsMayor Rahm Emanuel has done the unthinkable: He told graduates of the city’s dismal public school system that he wants them to do something with their diploma. Or else they won’t get a diploma. Something like: get a job, go to college, join the military or even sign up for a “gap” year. In announcing his “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” idea at a press conference earlier this month, he said, “You won't be able to graduate ... unless you show that letter of acceptance to any one of the … outlets we talked about: college, community college, armed services...

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17 апреля, 15:32

SCENES FROM RAHM EMANUEL’S CHICAGO: 29 people shot in less than 18 hours in Chicago….

SCENES FROM RAHM EMANUEL’S CHICAGO: 29 people shot in less than 18 hours in Chicago.

14 апреля, 00:18

Two Steps Forward

As the Trump administration lurches from failure to incompetence to disaster and back again, it’s important to keep pointing out that there is progress still happening in this country—it’s just not originating from Congress or the White House. And a lot of the best news continues to be about renewable energy—and I don’t just mean last week's revelation that the Kentucky Coal Museum has installed 80 solar panels on its roof to lower its electric bill. A more significant solar milestone reported this week is that for a few hours on March 11 utility-scale solar power met roughly half of the electricity needs of the grid that supplies electricity to 80 percent of California and part of Nevada. That’s kind of amazing when you consider that California’s current goal is to get half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Seems like a clear opportunity to both raise California’s goal and accelerate the timeline, no? The other exciting clean energy news from the past week came from two great American cities: Chicago and Portland, Oregon. On Sunday, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the Windy City would transition all of its municipal buildings and operations to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2025. That currently makes Chicago’s the largest fleet of public buildings in the country to commit to clean energy. It’s a doubly sweet victory because the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign traces some of its (grass)roots to the struggle to close Chicago’s notorious Fisk and Crawford coal plants, which were finally retired in 2012. One day after Chicago’s announcement, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County commissioner Jessica Vega-Pederson announced a new plan for transitioning the City of Roses to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Once approved by the city and county commissioners, the plan will make Portland the largest city in the country to commit to transition all energy sectors to 100 percent clean energy (San Diego, which is larger, has so far committed to 100 percent clean electricity). Portland and Chicago are not alone, of course. Around the country, cities are moving full speed ahead by setting ambitious goals and taking actions to reduce carbon emissions. Although it's tempting to see this as a natural response to federal inaction and rollback on climate change, the trend started long before Trump's election. The real reason municipal governments are taking the lead on clean energy is because it's so much better for the people who live in those cities: It’s healthier, it costs less, it creates better jobs, and it makes cities more livable. What’s not to like? The Republican Congress and the Trump administration seem to agree on just one thing: walking America backward. And though their current majority means we must fight every attempted rollback with unflagging persistence and determination, we must press forward with our inclusive vision of 100 percent clean energy that works for all. Trump and friends can’t keep us from taking two (or 200!) steps forward for every step that they retreat. And when it comes to renewable energy, those steps are more like a sprint. Every day seems to bring news of more progress, whether it's from cities, counties, states… or coal museums.   -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

12 апреля, 19:17

Rahm Emanuel Says 'Fairy Dust' Tax Credits Can't Fix Infrastructure Alone

Rahm Emanuel has a message for Donald Trump: tax incentives alone cannot fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure system. Instead, hard federal dollars from Washington are what’s needed, the Chicago mayor said on Wednesday. “We didn’t build up Afghanistan or Iraq on tax credits. We did not. We did it with U.S. dollars,” Emanuel said during a discussion on infrastructure that was hosted by The Wall Street Journal. “When we built schools and roads in Iraq, we didn’t do it on tax credits.” DJ Gribbin, Trump’s infrastructure policy point man who joined Emanuel at the event, said that “a little bit of an all of the above approach” was needed to fund Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. He did not, however, offer any details as to what portion of that plan would be funded by federal dollars versus simply tax credits. The breakdown is “still to be determined,” Gribbin said. Top Trump administration officials, including chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, have spoken favorably of using tax incentives as a way to fund infrastructure improvements. Most Democrats, however, are skeptical that such sources of revenue, known as public-private partnerships, can adequately fund repairs for crumbling roads, bridges, and waterways. Emanuel, who represents the third-biggest city in the U.S., flatly shot down their effectiveness. “It’s fairy dust by itself. Is there a place for it? Yes. But it will not replace dollars. We need new additional money to get this done,” said the former chief of staff to for the Obama administration. Trump has evaded pointed questions about his infrastructure plan, which is expected to be unveiled sometime in late May. The president has said he would “prime the pump” with new spending in order to jump start the economy ― a statement more in line with Democratic than Republican orthodoxy. Yet, he has also said he “may go public/private on some deals.”  “There are some things that work very nicely public/private. There are some things that don’t,” Trump told The New York Times earlier this month, suggesting he may fund his infrastructure plan with borrowed money. “When you can borrow so inexpensively, you don’t have to do the public/private thing. Because public/private can be very expensive,” he said. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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10 апреля, 20:46

SCENES FROM RAHM EMANUEL’S CHICAGO: Judge shot to death in Chicago, manhunt on for suspect….

SCENES FROM RAHM EMANUEL’S CHICAGO: Judge shot to death in Chicago, manhunt on for suspect.

05 апреля, 19:50

Young People In Chicago Want Chance The Rapper To Run For Mayor

“They screamin,’ ‘Chano for mayor,’ I’m thinkin’ maybe I should.” A group of Chance the Rapper fans in Chicago are trying to bring the rapper’s “Somewhere in Paradise” lyrics to fruition by urging Chano to run for mayor.  The #Chano4Mayor campaign website, launched on April 1, was created by a group of young people in the city, including 23-year-old game designer Bea Malsky. Malsky told the Chicago Sun-Times that they’d love to see the rapper run against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is slated to compete for the seat again in 2019. The rapper has earned an admirable reputation for his political activism and philanthropy, including a recent million-dollar donation to the Chicago Public Schools system. The website cites a dissatisfaction with the way Emanuel has governed the city, specifically in terms of its public schools. “Rahm Emanuel has been in office since 2011,” the website reads. “In that time we’ve seen the closure of 50 public schools, the largest in history.” It also goes on to lament the closure of half of the city’s mental health clinics and the shooting of Laquan McDonald.  Emanuel’s administration defended itself against the statements on the campaign’s website. “We’re focused on continuing to build on the record educational gains our students and teachers are making at Chicago Public Schools, driving economic development in every neighborhood across the city and addressing our public-safety challenge by combating the scourge of gun violence,” Emanuel’s spokesperson Matt McGrath said in a statement to the Sun-Times.  But even if Chance opts out of challenging Emanuel ― which is highly probable given his father, Ken Bennett, works as the deputy chief of staff and director for Emanuel’s Office of Public Engagement ― Malsky said they hope he can at least endorse one of the mayoral candidates. “We would be very happy if he’d become more politically involved and he endorsed a candidate who stands up for the same things that he stands up for in his music,” she told the Sun-Times.  The campaign’s Twitter account has garnered nearly 100 followers as of Wednesday afternoon. Chance the Rapper’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   Your call, Chano.  -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

04 апреля, 23:07

Can Trump's Justice Department Undo Police Reform?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had indicated he would not make law-enforcement reform a priority, but new moves suggest he’ll try to reverse Obama-era changes, too.

01 апреля, 14:10

Kushner’s privileged status stokes resentment in White House

As his portfolio grows, some colleagues wonder if he can juggle everything — while others are jealous of his influence.

22 марта, 20:16

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Emails to Rahm Emanuel raise questions about dozens of possible lobbying vio…

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Emails to Rahm Emanuel raise questions about dozens of possible lobbying violations.

17 марта, 02:02

Rural voters lose in Trump’s budget plan

The rural voters who turned out in droves to elect President Donald Trump would be some of the biggest losers under the new White House budget.The spending blueprint calls for a deeper cut to the Agriculture Department — 21 percent — than to just about any other agency. Trump would slash programs that invest in rural infrastructure, target rural public radio and demolish food-aid programs that farmers rely on to buy their products. Rural voters flocked to Trump and his promises to roll back environmental regulations and overhaul Obamacare, block illegal immigrants and put blue-collar Americans back to work. They applauded his nods to farmers on the campaign trail. While many of those promises are in the budget, some are reading the cuts affecting farmers and rural communities as a sign from the White House that middle America isn’t a priority. “Rural America elected Trump. His message to rural America is, ‘I don’t care,’” said Dee Davis, founder of the Center for Rural Strategies, a Whitesburg, Ky.-based nonpartisan group that advocates for rural communities. “It’s building a firewall between a promise made and a promise kept,” Davis said. USDA would take a $4.7 billion hit to its discretionary budget, trimming it to just $17.9 billion. It’s unclear exactly where those cuts would fall, though the White House has named some specific targets. The plan calls for the elimination of the Rural Business and Cooperative Service — a loan program criticized by the conservative Heritage Foundation — that costs $95 million a year, but is credited with spurring millions more in economic activity, and a water and wastewater loan and grant program, which costs nearly $500 million and largely helps rural communities. It would ax the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, a popular, bipartisan program that feeds more than 2.2 million people in need abroad, costing taxpayers about $195.5 million. The White House said there’s a lack of evidence the program is “being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.” Programs aimed at helping rural communities in other parts of the government would also be slashed under the plan. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps seniors and other low-income Americans with their heating bills, would be eliminated at HHS, as would the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding for commercial service to rural airports, and programs at USAID that buy farmers’ crops and send them abroad as food aid. The Interior Department’s budget would be hit with 12 percent cuts, a move that could threaten programs that drive spending in rural communities, conservation groups said.While the budget blueprint doesn’t touch food stamps, the country’s largest nutrition program, because that falls under mandatory funding, it would decrease the funding available for other USDA feeding programs. Feeding programs are considered important for rural communities for two reasons: They give assistance to millions of Americans who struggle to buy groceries for their families, much like low-income Americans in cities, and they also help ensure steady demand for the food that farmers sell. For example, the administration calls for $6.2 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, a federal nutrition program aimed at pregnant women and young children that now covers half of all infants born in the United States. That program received $6.6 billion in fiscal 2016, the last budget year available. The White House noted that the funding level is expected to cover all eligible beneficiaries, but anti-hunger advocates worry the reduction would limit access to those in need down the road. The proposal comes as rural America is struggling with higher unemployment rates and a devastating opioid epidemic. One in four children in rural America are living in poverty. One in five live in a household that sometimes struggles to put food on the table. The proposed cuts are so dramatic they’ve also caught the ire of key farm-state Republicans, some of whom have strongly supported the president. “The president’s proposed budget reduction for agriculture does not work,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) a member of the Agriculture Committee and chair of the Appropriations agriculture subcommittee, said in a statement. “Given the challenging times in the farm patch — from low commodity prices to natural disasters — we need to prioritize and maintain our agriculture budget. While we support more funding for our military and defense, we must maintain support for our farmers and ranchers.” House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) also raised concerns about the cuts because of the current downturn in the agricultural economy. U.S. farmers and ranchers are struggling, he said, and Congress has to be careful not to exacerbate the problem. As a result of those concerns, farm-state Republicans are quick to point out that the budget is merely a wish list from the president and that Congress will have final say in what 2018 funding looks like. “This is the White House’s vision document, and what we are going to do is propose ours, too,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) told reporters Thursday. “Budgets are documents that are not appropriations, they are not authorizations...I’m no more scared than I was when President Obama offered spending priorities that were not conducive to farmers.” The budget makes it clear that the Trump administration doesn’t understand how the government works in rural America, said House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), pointing to the cuts to the USDA’s water and wastewater loans as an example. While the administration called them duplicative, Peterson argued the financing is the only way small towns can update their water system. In Kentucky, for example, some communities are told at times that their water is not clean enough to even wash their cars. In other parts of the country, local water systems are overloaded with nitrates and other contaminants with little money or infrastructure to deal with the problem. “County offices are already understaffed and further cuts would mean private organizations would be tasked with helping navigate farm programs,” Peterson added. “Again, it’s a general lack of understanding what really takes place in rural America.” Funding for agricultural data collection at the National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service also are on the chopping block, along with the number of staff in offices across the country who deploy loans and grants to farmers and local projects."The president's first budget request misses the mark entirely when it comes to the needs of rural America," said Greg Fogel, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a group that represents small- and mid-size farm groups. "He is targeting these detrimental cuts right at the people who helped bring him to the White House – America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.” In a statement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: "Budgets are a reflection of your priorities, and now we know exactly what this administration’s priorities are. They would cut after school programs, airport security, transit system improvements, affordable housing, education and community services across the board – including for pregnant women and new moms who need assistance. They would make deep cuts to economic development funds that benefit every city and town in the country. They would cut community services from meals on wheels to public health to workforce training. Instead of spending $4 billion on a wall that we don't need, the administration should be building bridges and roads across America."

16 марта, 02:03

Wherever Trump goes, his gang of aides stays close by

Preoccupied with proximity, the president's senior staff have developed an unusual habit of crowding into meetings and joining trips.

12 марта, 15:07

Attempts to honor Obama legacy generate fury

Is it too soon for an Obama state holiday in Illinois?

10 марта, 23:48

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 3/10/2017, #21

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 1:44 P.M. EST MR. SPICER:  Happy Friday.  Good to see you all.  Good afternoon.  Two more days until the work week is over -- (laughter) -- full attribution to Rahm Emanuel for that one.   As many of you know, today is day 50 of President Trump's administration.  We have a lot to talk about and a lot that's gotten done.  I also want to acknowledge that today is also Brian's birthday, so happy birthday to Brian.  I'll let you guys celebrate amongst yourselves afterwards. In just these first 50 days, the President has taken many key steps towards delivering on the pledges he made to the American people as a candidate.  He has jumpstarted job creation not only because of his executive actions, but through the surge of economic confidence and optimism that has been inspired since his election.  President Trump knows exactly what businesses need to thrive and grow, therefore adding well-paying and steady jobs to the market. Obviously, we're very pleased to see the jobs report that came out this morning.  It's great news for American workers.  During the first full month of the Trump presidency, the economy added 235,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent.  Notably, we also saw significant growth in the construction, manufacturing and mining sectors.  The unemployment rate ticked down and labor force participation rate ticked up, showing that even as more people are reentering the job market due to the economic optimism that I spoke about, businesses are continuing to grow and create new jobs.   The President looks forward to continuing his work with the private sector to clear roadblocks to key infrastructure projects, withdraw from job-killing trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and slash the bureaucratic red tape that makes additional hiring difficult for American businesses. He has taken action to ensure the safety and security of the United States homeland, its borders and its people.  He has proposed great rebuilding of our nation's military, following a full review of our military readiness and supported by a $54 billion budget increase.  He's implemented new protections to prevent people from coming into our country that seek to do us harm.  As a result of the presidential memorandum that he signed on January 28th, the President has received a plan to defeat ISIS, designed by the Secretary of Defense and the national security team. Just as he has promised during the campaign, he has made enforcing our nation's immigration laws a top priority, signing executive orders that start work on a Southern border wall, that enhance the public safety of Americans through ordering the strong enforcement of immigration laws that are already on the books, halting funding to jurisdictions in the United States that don't comply with federal immigration rules, and directing the Department of Homeland Security to hire a combined 15,000 new officers and agents to support the system and protect the nation. He's outlined an aggressive legislative agenda that includes tax reform that brings relief to small business and the middle class, a massive commitment to infrastructure investment that will generate jobs and rebuild our nation, and repealing and replacing Obamacare.  In fact, just this week, he began working with Congress directly on repealing the worst parts of Obamacare and replacing it with the American Health Care Act.  And this particular legislation is just one prong in the President's comprehensive approach to reforming our healthcare system.   The administration is also taking additional steps to stabilize health insurance markets and start bringing down costs for the millions of Americans that have been affected by Obamacare, such as stabilizing insurance markets through regulatory reform, including the ability to purchase insurance across state lines, providing individuals and families with lower access -- with access to lower-cost options by loosening the restrictions on the financial structure of plans offered through the Obamacare exchanges. And finally, the President is committed to working with Congress on additional legislation that won't be subject to the budget reconciliation process, that will allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines; that will streamline the process of the FDA to bring down the cost of critical medicine; to allow for the expansion of health savings accounts to allow more Americans to use their funds for more healthcare costs -- healthcare-related costs, and so much more. There's a one-page factsheet that lays out the three prongs of the President's plan to repeal and replace.  All Americans can see that one-pager that's available at WhiteHouse.gov/RepealAndReplace.  Feel free to download it and share it this weekend. This administration is already looking forward to all that we've been planning to accomplish in the days and weeks ahead.  You should have a document outlining in each of your email boxes of the President's major actions during these 50 first days.  We've made it available to the public as well at WhiteHouse.gov. In terms of the schedule for his 50th day in office, the President will be having a series of meetings and calls, moving even further along on some of the most significant campaign promises that he made to the American people. After receiving his daily intelligence briefing this morning, the President led a healthcare discussion with key House committee chairs.  The President thanked and congratulated the chairs on successfully ushering the American Health Care Act through the first phase of the legislative process.  He noted that he was pleased to see the bill pass through both committees -- the Energy and Commerce committee, and the Ways and Means committee -- with unanimous Republican support. They discussed working together on additional legislation to further work towards turning healthcare into a system that works for every individual and family and business.  Together, the President and Republicans in Congress will act decisively to keep their promise to the American people.  In attendance at the meeting, including the Vice President, were Congresswoman Black, the chair of the House Budget committee; Congressman Brady, the chair of the House Ways and Means committee; Congressman Walden, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee;  Congresswoman Foxx, the Chairman of the House Education and Workforce committee; and Chairman Goodlatte of the Judiciary committee. In addition to this Hill outreach, senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have met with the American Medical Association to discuss the bill, and will be meeting with additional stakeholders in the coming days.  The President is committed to making the system better, and that includes making sure his team hears feedback from all interested groups in pursuit of a more affordable and accessible healthcare. This afternoon, the President had a call with President Abbas, the Palestinian authority.  We’ll have a readout of that call soon.  The President had lunch with Secretary of State Tillerson, and this afternoon the President will meet with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.  He looks forward to discussing HUD’s mission to create strong, sustainable, and inclusive communities with quality, affordable housing, especially the ways in which we can partner with the private sector to come up with innovative solutions to turn our public housing system around and empower our struggling communities. Looking ahead to the weekend, the President will spend this weekend here at the White House in a series of meetings with his team.  The Vice President’s office has already announced the details of his trip to Louisville, Kentucky, where he will participate in listening sessions with small businesses and job creators throughout the community, and then, joined by Governor Bevin, will hear from local small businesses. The Vice President will discuss the President’s economic agenda, especially the repeal-and-replacement aspects of Obamacare, and how it will reduce the burden on small businesses.  He will then conclude with formal remarks at the Trane parts and distribution center.  Also coming up, Judge Gorsuch confirmation hearings will begin on March 20th.  Yesterday, the American Bar Association reported their committee determined that, by unanimous vote, Judge Gorsuch was given a “well-qualified mark for the Supreme Court.”  The President looks forward to seeing Judge Gorsuch receive a speedy and fair hearing, and an up-and-down vote on the Senate floor. Finally, the President’s weekly address is out.  It discusses Women’s History Month and his plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.  It aired this morning on Facebook Live.  It is now available to watch on YouTube and whitehouse.gov.  Obviously, I encourage everyone to go check it out. And with that, I’d be glad to take your questions.  John Roberts. Q    I was going to say, your pin is upside down. MR. SPICER:  John Roberts always helping with the fashion tips.  (Laughter.)  Q    It’s still upside down. Q    You wanted -- is that a distress call, Sean? (Laughter.)  MR. SPICER:  Appreciate that. Q    House of Cards promo.  MR. SPICER:  Thank you, no.  There’s no promo.  (Laughter.)  John, now on to your questions.  (Laughter.)  But thank you. Q    Our involvement of sending rangers and Marines into Syria marks a dramatic change in our presence on the ground there, and I’m wondering, how much autonomy is the President giving General James Mattis to involve U.S. forces on the ground in Syria? MR. SPICER:  A U.S. Marine artillery unit and a team of rangers have recently positioned in Syria to provide a combined joint task force, Operation Inherent Resolve, the commander, the agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqa in particular.  The exact numbers and locations of the forces are still a sensitive order to protect the location of the forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed under existing authorities for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to accelerate the defeat of ISIS, specifically in Raqqa. I think, as I’ve mentioned before, one of the things that the President has ensured is that the commanders have the flexibility to do what they need to fulfill the mission.  The President is obviously, as Commander-in-Chief, made aware and signs off on all of those missions, but at the end of the day, it’s going to up to the generals to execute their mission to make sure that we continue to defeat ISIS and protect the nation. Q    Now our involvement there really sort of complicates the whole picture because we’re aligned with the Kurds, but then at the same time, a NATO ally, Turkey, sees the Kurds as the enemy.  And then there’s what happens with Russia and its involvement with the Syrian government.  So the big problem with Iraq was we never planned for the day after. MR. SPICER:  Right. Q    So what are the plans for the day after here when Raqqa falls?  Who occupies it? MR. SPICER:  Well, one of the things that I mentioned in the script that is part of what the President has done during his first 50 days is issue an executive order on January 28th for the Secretary of Defense to submit a comprehensive plan in consultation with the joint chiefs and other members of the national security team to defeat ISIS.  That is part of that plan. And so I think you are seeing a comprehensive approach to not only how we’re going to engage in Syria, but the total defeat and elimination of ISIS.  So that is part of an ongoing process that the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and others have been involved in, in briefing the President. Q    But does the President have an idea of who should occupy Raqqa?  Should it be Kurkish forces?  Should it be a coalition?  Should American forces stay there? MR. SPICER:  I think that as we devolve that plan I’ll have more for you on that.  I think you’ve already killed one-question Friday, but we’re going to get back to it. Jon Karl, one-question Friday. Q    Okay, I’ll make it one.  Sean, the chair and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee have asked the Justice Department to turn over any information that they have that there was any wiretapping of President-elect Trump, candidate Trump at Trump Tower.  If there is no evidence that any wiretapping took place, will the President apologize to President Obama for making such a serious charge? MR. SPICER:  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I think it’s important to see where that goes, and I don’t want to prejudge their work at this time. Jim. Q    But if there’s no evidence, I mean, what’s he -- MR. SPICER:  But I think you’re asking, well, what if there’s evidence?  I’m not going to get into a series of hypotheticals, prejudging the outcome of a report or an investigation that hasn’t occurred yet.  I think once that’s done, we’ll respond appropriately. Jim. Q    Thank you, Sean.  Senator Cory Gardner was reported by Politico yesterday to have said he doesn’t believe that a $14-billion wall along the Mexican border is the best way to provide border security.  Does the White House see support for the border wall weakening in Congress? MR. SPICER:  No.  The President was very clear that was something that he campaigned on and promised the American people as an effort to both protect our national security and our economic security, and he’s going to fulfill that pledge.  He’s already started to work with the Department of Homeland Security on both the plans, and the funding mechanism and the bidding and the RFP process will roll out slowly -- or shortly, I should say.  But that’s a pledge that he intends to maintain. John Bennett. Q    Sean, a lot of action on the Hill of course with healthcare lately, but April 28th is right around the corner, government funding expires.  Given that during the transition period you guys asked for a short-term CR so you could weigh in once you were in office, what’s the White House doing right now to avoid a shutdown?  I talked to some sources, they couldn’t point to specific talks.  So what’s the state of play there? MR. SPICER:  Well, Director Mulvaney is going to release his budget on the 16th.  That’s the first step in working with them to get the budget under control.  We’re approaching $20 trillion of our debt, and I think we need to get spending under control.  And so part of funding the government goes hand in hand with keeping track of what we’re spending it on and how we’re spending it on, what our priorities are.  We’ve begun that passback process that we talked about internally within the executive branch.  Director Mulvaney has had several conversations with members on the Hill on both sides, and he’s going to continue to have them.  I know the Vice President has been actively engaged as well. But to your question, I mean, that’s part of the process.  We need to release a budget first about what our priorities are for the coming fiscal year, and then make sure that we do what we can going forward.  But this goes hand in hand with that. Q    -- finish out the current fiscal year, so does the -- MR. SPICER:  I understand.  That’s fiscal year ’17, but I think they go hand in hand.  I think you need to close out FY17 and then I think our budget lays out where we want to go in FY18.  And I think once we have a handle on FY18, we can start to backfill 2017. Q    -- a specific ask, you want cuts for the rest of ’17? MR. SPICER:  I’m not going to -- I appreciate -- we’re not having that discussion here. John Gizzi. Q    Thank you, Sean.  And I will honor the one-question Friday.  The President has said in the past the he welcomes compromise, and they’re open to compromise on the immigration legislation that’s coming up.  This morning when she spoke at the Christian Science Monitor press breakfast, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she would like to see the comprehensive immigration package that passed the Senate but was stopped in the House brought back, and that was her version of a compromise on immigration.  What’s the administration’s position on what former Speaker and Minority Leader -- MR. SPICER:  I think you’re referring the Gang of Eight bill, correct? Q    That’s correct. MR. SPICER:  I think the President’s been very clear during the campaign trail that that’s not a bill that he supports.  But he looks forward to engaging with members to find a way forward to fix our broken immigration system. That bill in particular I think is a nonstarter.  It was a nonstarter when it came out the first time.  I think it continues to be a nonstarter.  But the President recognizes that the system is broken and that he wants to work with Congress to fix it. Hunter. Q    Thank you, Sean.  Does the White House believe there’s such a thing as the deep state that’s actively working to undermine the President?   MR. SPICER:  Well, I think that there’s no question when you have eight years of one party in office that there are people who stay in government who are affiliated with, joined, and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration.  So I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration, and may have believed in that agenda and what to continue to seek it.  I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone. Q    And will the Director of the CIA or the DNI have a presidential mandate to seek these people out and fire them or purge them from the government? MR. SPICER:  That’s not part of the CIA’s mandate under any circumstances, so I don’t know on that.   Blake. Q    Sean, thanks.  The DNC just put out a statement a little while ago saying it is President Obama who deserves the credit for the February jobs numbers.   MR. SPICER:  I’m sure they did. Q    My question to you, how much do you feel that President Trump should be credited for that, and how would you characterize the economy that President Trump was handed over by President Obama? MR. SPICER:  Look, numbers are going to go up and down.  We recognize that.  But I think there’s no question when you look at the CEOs that hire people and the CEOs that have talked about the investment that they want to make in America -- you can look back over the last several administrations, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the number of CEOs and businesses come out and talk about investments and continuing investments and the expansion of investments or hiring based on the vision and agenda of an administration the way they have in this one. And so it's not just a question of what we believe.  I think if you look at the automakers, the other manufacturers, and, frankly, some of the service industries that have come out and talked about the investment that they're going to make, or the continuation of a project that they had going, or the movement of one -- of a manufacturing plant or job investment -- those speak for themselves.  It's not a question of what we believe.  I think it's a question of the commitment that U.S. manufacturers and job creators and businesses are making because they want to buy into the President's agenda and vision for creating a more tax and regulatory business-friendly environment to grow here.  And I think that those speak for themselves. Q    Do you believe, though, that he's had -- that the policies already have had an impact on them? MR. SPICER:  Absolutely.  Look at the confidence indexes.  They're all going to the top.  I think the stock market has generated over $3 billion of additional wealth since he was elected.  There are several economic indicators that show signs of strength because of the President's vision and agenda.  And I don't think that that's any secret. I mean, when you talk to the economists, when you talk to business leaders, they have confidence in the President's agenda that it will yield for a more favorable business climate to hire more Americans, to expand the manufacturing based in America, to make us more competitive around the globe.  And so I do believe that.  But I don't think it's a question of what I believe or what the administration believes.  I think if you look at what outside economists and what business leaders do, they confirm that.  Eamon. Q    Thanks, Sean.  In the past, the President has referred to particular job reports as "phony" or "totally fiction."  Does the President believe that this jobs report was accurate and a fair way to measure the economy? MR. SPICER:  Yeah, I talked to the President prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly -- "They may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now."  (Laughter.) Sara. Q    Thanks, Sean.  Could you clear up what appears to be some tension between what you said yesterday about when the administration or the President was made aware of General Flynn's foreign lobbying ties and the AP reporting today that the transition team was informed of Flynn's potential need to register? MR. SPICER:  So there's a big difference between when he filed, which was the other day -- two days ago -- and what happened then.  What the AP is reporting, just so we're clear, is that a personal lawyer of General Flynn's contacted a transition lawyer and asked for guidance on what he should or should not do.  The lawyer was instructed that that wasn't the role of the transition, and that it was up to the personal lawyer to work with the appropriate authorities or subject matter experts to determine what was appropriate and what was not appropriate in terms of filing. But this was a personal matter.  It's a business matter.  It's not something that would be appropriate for a government entity to give someone guidance on when they should file as an individual -- as a private citizen.   That was the guidance that was given, which is consistent with what should be done.  And so I don't think it should be a shock to anybody that if you asked a government lawyer what you should do in your private capacity as a citizen, they're going to tell you you should consult experts in that area to determine what you should or should not do. Q    That advice was -- the transition was aware of that advice, why wasn’t that then -- was the President made aware that that recommendation had been given to his national security advisor? MR. SPICER:  Well, wait a minute, Sara.  There are tons of individuals that consult with the lawyers and with ethics experts and say, I own this stock, will I have to sell it?  I own a business.  I own this house.   And for the most part, they're given guidance as to, hey, go seek professional help, consult with this entity, consult with a lawyer.  It’s almost like asking someone for tax advice, calling -- and what you will -- if you call the IRS and say, hey, I want to know what I should do this, they will tell you to consult a tax attorney.   That's not the job of a government official, is to tell you what you should or should not do in your capacity as a private citizen.  And so that's a vastly different scenario that any -- whether you -- regardless of what department you call in government, if you call the Department of Education and ask them about education standards, they’ll probably refer you to a local entity or to a teacher if you're asking about your own child.  That's not why government officials -- they're very clear about the line between private action and government action. Jordan. Q    Thanks, Sean.  Does the President agree with House conservatives that the sunset date for the Medicaid expansion should be moved up to the end of next year?  MR. SPICER:  Well, I think the bill that is before the House right now, the reconciliation piece -- and again, I cannot reiterate it enough -- is part of a three-prong process. But the current process does several things.  Number one, it’s the first time that you're going to have a full addressing of an entitlement like this in decades.  It is actually a very, very good thing for conservatives when you look at how we're going to address Medicaid and an entitlement that many conservatives have fought for years need to be addressed. But that being said, the President has also been very clear through all of the discussions -- and I’ve commented on that throughout the week -- that as he meets with members of Congress and outside groups, that if someone has got an idea that can make this legislation more accessible, give more choice to the American people, drive down costs, make it more patient-centric, he wants to listen to it. But I think right now that's where the bill stands.  We're going to continue to listen and work with members of the House and then eventually the Senate.  And so I don't want to prejudge where -- the process itself.  But the bill was crafted in a way that I think represents the President’s thinking and in a -- very smart way of addressing entitlements and going forward. Francesca. Q    So just to put a pin in it, the President is willing to negotiate on the sunset of the expansion of Medicaid? MR. SPICER:  Right.  Right now the date that's in the bill is what the President supports.  He is willing to listen to individuals on different aspects of the bill that might make it -- that might achieve the goals that he set out.  But it’s not a question of negotiation.  We have a date in the bill, and that's the date in the bill. But I think as the bill continues to work its way through the House -- and that goes for Speaker Ryan, he’s got members that are approaching him with ideas and I’m sure he’s listening to them as well.   Senator McConnell is probably dealing with the same issue in the Senate.  And that's the way that the process is going to work.  And I’ve made it very clear since the get-go that this process is going to be one where we're going to take the best ideas, we're going to listen to individuals and try to make sure that we achieve the goals that the President has laid out and the principles that he has laid out. Francesca. Q    Thank you, Sean.  Piggybacking off John and John, at a breakfast this morning -- the same one he referenced -- Nancy Pelosi also said, "It couldn't possibly be true" of the President's allegations against the former President, "because that is not how our system works."  She also said "Obama would not do that" and "it would be a waste of time" for the House Intelligence Committee to investigate that allegation.  Does the White House have any evidence to refute House Minority Leader and former Speaker Pelosi's claim?  And could you explain why the President hasn't asked the FBI chief about this directly? MR. SPICER:  I think we spoke very clearly about what we'd like to happen last Sunday and I'm going to reiterate it:  We believe that the House and Senate intelligence committee have the appropriate forum and process and staff to look into this matter and report back. Q    Sean, on Flynn.  Can you say that the President was informed at all about this arrangement?   MR. SPICER:  No, he was not. Q    The need to register as a foreign agent? MR. SPICER:  No. Q    And then did this set off any alarm bells with anyone? MR. SPICER:  No, just so we're clear, you wouldn't -- General Flynn filed with the Department of Justice two days ago.  How would anyone know that he was going to -- I mean, that's sort of like asking --  Q    What about the need to file? MR. SPICER:  That's up to his personal lawyer.  I mean, again, each person that goes through the process in government seeks counsel in many cases regarding the assets they own and the activities they conducted as to what they have to do or not do.  But this is something that -- it's like asking whether someone needed to file -- if they had a client, whether or not they have to file a lobbying disclosure form.  That's not up for us to determine.  That's up for them and their counsel to determine if they engaged in activities in the past or whatever it is.  Or if a doctor needed to go and up their certification, that is not up for the government to determine.  There are certain private citizens' activities that you conduct and you seek counsel on, or professional advice.  That's not up to the government.  And that's exactly how the system worked. Q    But how did that not raise a red flag?  I mean, you have an attorney calling --  MR. SPICER:  You already got your question, John.  We're doing one-question Friday. Q    But this is an important point. MR. SPICER:  No, it's not, John. Q    Because you have an attorney calling the transition saying that the person who is in line to be the national security advisor may need to register as a foreign agent.  And that doesn't raise a red flag? MR. SPICER:  No, it's not a question of raising a red flag, John.  It's a question of whether or not they gave them the advice that they're supposed to, which is, it is not up to them to make decisions as to what you need to do or not do.  As you know, there are certain activities that fall under each of these requirements as far as what the threshold is, what activities, who the funding source was, et cetera, et cetera.  It is not up to -- nor is it appropriate, nor is it legal -- for the government to start going into private citizens, seeking advice and telling them what they have to register or not.  That would be the equivalent of walking through someone's tax return and saying that's not a deduction that you should take, that is. That's why, when you contact these agencies, they will tell you, you should seek counsel or professional advice or expertise in whatever matter it is.  That is not up to them to determine, plain and simple. Glenn.  I called on Glenn -- John, we’re going --   Q    Moving beyond the legal question here. MR. SPICER:  Thank you. Q    Just to follow up with John, moving beyond the legal question here, this is an issue of judgment about who you guys wanted here in your administration.  There were published reports that your potential national security advisor had dealings with the government of Turkey, a controversial regime at this moment in time.  Congressman Cummings sent a letter to Mike Pence during the transition informing him of this and raising a red flag.  Mr. Pence was on television, I believe yesterday, saying twice that he had no knowledge of that letter. MR. SPICER:  That's right -- no, no, that's not -- hold on, it stop there.  No, no, hold on, before you accuse the Vice President of certain things --  Q    Yeah. MR. SPICER:  Now, what he said was that he was not aware of the filing, just so we're clear.  And he wasn't.  Thank you.  Go on. Q    But just in terms of the larger question here.  Forget about filling out forms and the legalisms here.  What does this say about the transition team's judgment about still appointing him as national security advisor when you had knowledge of this information? MR. SPICER:  No, but you're asking me -- forget about the legalisms.  That's what we ask people to do, is follow the law.  You can't forget about the legalisms.   Q    No, no. MR. SPICER:  No, no, that's what you said.  And what I'm saying is, that's what we did.  They consulted a lawyer, which everyone who had something of -- is advised to do.  That lawyer consulted the transition lawyer, who said, it is your job to consult the appropriate lawyers.   Q    I'm moving beyond the legal issues, I'm saying in terms of -- we're moving beyond the issue of the papers here.  We're talking about the judgment that the President, the Vice President and your team made to select this man as national security advisor when you had information that he had these dealings with Turkey.  Why did you guys still make that decision? MR. SPICER:  But it's a question -- what dealings are you referring to?  The fact that he had a client -- he was also the head of the department of -- the Defense Intelligence Agency, unbelievably qualified, 40 years in the military with impeccable credentials.  I mean, so what is it?  That he -- what exactly are you getting at?  Because so far, he has impeccable credentials, he had a stellar career in the military, widely respected, and I think for you to start to impugn his integrity --  Q    No, but Vice President Pence said that yesterday -- that he wouldn't have that --  MR. SPICER:  But again, but there was no disclosure at the time.  And the question is, is that if his counsel worked with whomever he worked with and determined that he didn't, that's up to him.  But it was up to him.  The burden is on the individual to seek the legal advice or professional expertise to decide what they have to file and not.  I mean, we could literally have a hypothetical question about somebody who made an inappropriate filing on their tax returns or another -- or a professional qualification.  At the end of the day when people present it with you, they are advised to seek expertise and counsel and legal advice about what's appropriate and what's not.  That is not -- it is not up to the transition attorney to go through someone's livelihood and determine what they need to see.  They were given the proper legal advice at the time, which was to seek expertise in that matter.  He had already obtained counsel, and that's --  Q    Let me just sort of clarify.  The transition officials were not overly concerned by his relationship with the government of Turkey? MR. SPICER:  It's not a question of overly concerned, Glenn.  The question is, did they provide him the avenue that they were supposed to, which is, did they tell him to seek counsel, and they did.  And that’s what’s supposed to happen.  That’s it, plain and simple. Yes. Q    Sean, I guess the question for you very simply would be then right now, does this raise concerns that there may be other members of this administration or other members that served in the transition that were or are currently lobbying on behalf of foreign governments right now that may be advising the President of the United States? MR. SPICER:  Look, I think we trust people to fill out the appropriate forms that they need to, and in this case -- Q    But that’s what betrayed -- MR. SPICER:  -- and the President acted accordingly back in the thing, and he made the right call then. Q    He may have been taking actions, though, he may have made the right call -- the national security advisor. MR. SPICER:  But you’re asking me -- this is -- look, this is like saying -- can you tell me that the executives at NBC News have gone through every single person’s and reporters background -- Q    They’re not the President of the United States. MR. SPICER:  No, no, I understand that.  But we trust people to fill out the forms that they’re required to do so in an honest and legal manner.  And in this case, he retroactively filed the forms that he was supposed to do, but we advised him to do what the legal and proper thing was, and that’s the right thing for this administration. So we did the right thing then, and we expect every employee to follow the law.  This President, when it comes to ethics and when it comes to lobbying, he instituted a five-year ban, he banned people -- he has ran on a commitment to drain the swamp.  He has been very committed to making sure that we institute high standards here and that we’re held to them. And so at the end of the day, when he found out that General Flynn had betrayed the trust of the Vice President back in the day, he let him go.  The President has high standards for everyone that works in this administration.   So the answer to your question is, if somebody does something that is not in keeping with the President’s standards that he’s set for every single person in the administration they will be let go. Q    So do you have full faith in all those people that are advising the President right now? MR. SPICER:  I believe that everybody has done what has legally been required of them, but I can’t tell you that every single person has done everything.  I can tell you the President has made clear to every person in this administration you are expected to live up to the high standards that he has set for them, and that if you don’t you will be dismissed. Q    Sean, the removal of South Korea’s President, what’s the reaction of the White House to it?  And also, we know that there will be a presidential election very soon in South Korea, and we know several leading candidates.  They prefer -- last confrontation was DPRK and also opposed the deployment of a THAAD system.  So does the White House looking to the impact of the election might bring? MR. SPICER:  Well, I believe they have to have an election within 60 days.  There’s an acting President who we have strong relationships with, and we will continue to work with South Korea.  They are both an ally and a friend in the region.  This is obviously an issue that we continue to keep up with on the developments there.  It’s a domestic issue in which the United States takes no position in the outcome of that election. It’s up to the Korean people and their democratic institutions to determine the future of their country.  The United States continues to be a steadfast ally, friend and partner to the Republic of Korea.  And that’s it.  Q    Obviously, you guys were excited about the jobs report but maybe a little too excited, both you and the President tweeting within an hour of the jobs data coming out, which is a violation of the federal rule.  So I’m wondering I guess both if there is counseling in you and the President’s future?  But also what you’d say generally to critics who say, the risk of doing this is politicizing what should be kind of nonpartisan -- MR. SPICER:  What I understand is that that rule was instituted to deal with market fluctuations.  I could be wrong, but I believe that’s why it was instituted.  I think tweeting out “Great way to start a Friday,” here are the actual numbers that you all have reported, is a bit -- I mean, don’t make me make the podium move.  (Laughter.)  I mean, honest to god, like, every reporter here reported out that we had 235,000 jobs, 4.7 -- there isn’t a TV station that didn’t go live to it.  So to tweet out “Great way to start a Friday,” I think, yes, the President was excited to see more Americans back to work.   I don’t think that’s exactly a market disruption.  I think that there’s a lot of excitement in this country when we look at the policies that the President has instituted to help put more Americans back to work. So I mean, I understand the rule, but let’s -- Q    The Obama White House, for instance, went out of their way not to comment in that hour-long period.  They would rearrange the President’s schedule around it.  It was something that they and previous -- MR. SPICER:  I get it.  And I think there’s a difference --  Q    -- going forward, yeah. MR. SPICER:  It’s not about commenting.  I think it’s one thing to give analysis and whatever; literally tweeting out great news.  I think, yes, we are excited that when the President and the rest of the team saw the news this morning, as reported on every television station, Twitter, the Internet and every major news site in the country and around the world -- we were excited to see so many Americans back to work. So I apologize if we were a little excited.  And we’re so glad to see so many fellow Americans back to work.  But that’s -- Ashley. Q    Sean, Congressman Cummings’ letter to the Vice President in November did lay out that General Flynn was being paid to lobby for Turkish interests during the campaign.  Why did that not raise a red flag to the Vice President? MR. SPICER:  It’s not a question of raising a flag.  Remember -- I think we keep forgetting something -- his attorney then went to a transition attorney who was told, you need to seek counsel on this and get further guidance.  That’s the job.  It’s not a question of “raise flags,” it’s not for us to adjudicate whether or not someone needs to file under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the FARA Registration Act.  That’s not the job of a transition attorney.  It’s to tell them to seek additional counsel, or to explain to them where to find that information, not to tell them what to do or not to do. Q    But I’m asking about Vice President specifically -- not saying you should go to this attorney or giving legal advice, but why, when this information was brought to the Vice President’s attention, didn’t he raise questions, bring it to the President, look into it further? MR. SPICER:  Because I think it’s fairly simple to say why didn’t this occur.  We’re going through several people.  The answer is, did they seek the appropriate professional advice and counsel, and they did.  And that’s the answer. Alexis. Q    I have a healthcare question for you. MR. SPICER:  Oh, good.  (Laughter.)  Q    Aren’t you relieved. MR. SPICER:  That’s the appeal about it. Q    Would the President be willing to sign legislation -- is he flexible about the refundable tax credit portion of the House bill?  Would he be willing to sign legislation that avoided that particular provision?  Because, as you know, conservatives are concerned that that’s an additional entitlement. MR. SPICER:  I think that, more and more, as the President talks to members of Congress and outside groups -- number one, I think they’re excited to understand the totality of this, and I think he addresses this in the weekly address that you can at whitehouse.gov, that continues to explain the comprehensive aspect of this.  Our reconciliation piece, the administrative piece that Secretary Price will institute, and then the additional legislation -- buying healthcare across state lines, allowing small businesses to pool their things, allowing health savings accounts to expand, the streamlining of the FDA, going after medical malpractice -- all those things that bring costs down. But as I’ve noted before, I mean, people have to remember that if you get your healthcare through your employer, which the majority of Americans do, you are not taxed on that, your employer is not taxed on it.  It is fairly inadequate and unbalanced for small business owners, ranchers and farmers, sole proprietors to have to face a disproportionate tax burden because they’re not a big employer.  I think this is something that conservatives should be embracing, and I think the more that they understand the comprehensive nature of this, they are beginning to support more -- Q    So the President wants it to stay, the refundable tax credit provisions? MR. SPICER:  Oh, absolutely. Q    Okay. Q    Yes -- House Republicans that wrote a letter to the White House asking about why IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is still in his job.  Do you have any response to that? MR. SPICER:  I don’t.  I’d refer you to the Department of Treasury on that.  Yeah. Q    Thank you, Sean.  The other day, the President tweeted that, for the past eight years, during the Obama presidency, Russia “ran over” the United States and, in particular, picked off Crimea and added missiles, which the President described in his tweet as “Weak!”  Given that he seems to be focused on Crimea, at least as far as the tweet is concerned, will the President use the authority and funding granted him in the NDAA to send lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, as has been called for by the House and Senate Armed Services Committee chairmans, and was in was in both party platforms, although the Republican language was watered down?  And if he’s not going to -- I did ask you this about several weeks ago when Senator McCain sent a letter asking for this -- if the President doesn’t want to do it, is that because he would rather focus his efforts with Russia on partnering to try to defeat ISIS? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think Ambassador Haley has noted at the U.N. that any attempt to undermine sanctions that currently exist because of the annexation of Crimea will remain in place until that issue is resolved.  I’m not going to -- the President, when it comes to his overall negotiating strategy, has made it very clear in a variety of circumstances that his philosophy is not one that says, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do.”  He holds his cards close to his vest to maximize his negotiating strategy. Q    But why does sending weapons to Ukraine have anything to do with sanctions? MR. SPICER:  I’m not going to get into the President’s negotiating strategy.  I will tell you that, as he continues to engage with the President of Russia and Secretary Tillerson -- Q    (Inaudible.) MR. SPICER:  I’m not.  We’re not -- Ryan, it’s your birthday.  You get a question. Q    Going back to -- my staff, we’ve got about several dozen emails on -- we talked to congressmen this morning who were getting these emails saying, if you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, why not give everybody what Congress and Senators get?  Can you address that, since Congress won’t? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think part of what we’re trying to do, we -- someone asked the other day about federal benefits.  Right now, a third of the counties around our country have one provider.  That’s not choice.  I think the President understands that very clearly, and that’s, frankly, why he’s pushing the American healthcare -- you know, why we’re doing this, is that so many Americans have no choice, and that he wants there to be greater choice and lower costs. By doing the stuff that we’re doing, especially the third prong of this -- allowing competition over state lines, taking the government mandates away from what they have to include -- that’s really going to institute more choice.  There will be more options.   If you remember, prior to Obamacare, you could go out on the open market and go from a variety of different options and tailor what you or your family needed based on the conditions that you sought or the deductible that you wanted.  And choice dried up with Obamacare.  I think that’s the point, though, is that if you want more of that kind of a system, then this is the bill and the legislation and the comprehensive approach that you should be supporting. Q    But specifically, the perception that somehow senators and congressmen get better care than the rest of us.  Can you address that? MR. SPICER:  Well, that’s what I -- yes, I think that’s why we’re trying to pass it the way we are.  We want more choice.  We want more competition.  We want lower costs.  The American people deserve a better healthcare system, and that’s what this President is pushing for. Margaret. Q    Sean, did the White House sign off on Secretary Tillerson’s decision not to take the press with him on what should be an important trip to Asia, and the growing North Korean threat?  And what are his marching orders?  You talked a lot about the flexibility the President has given to his generals.  What flexibility has he given for diplomatic initiatives to his Secretary of State? MR. SPICER:  As I mentioned at the beginning, the President is having lunch with Secretary Tillerson.  I know that the trip was one of the topics of discussion, and so I will try to follow up with that.   And with respect to the first part of the question, press is being invited to that trip.  They’re traveling commercially.  There is a press logistics component to make sure that they can get everywhere, that they’re given access to everything.  There’s a press conference -- Q    You can possibly to go to all three of those cities commercially to cover him in the way that -- MR. SPICER:  The plane that the Secretary is taking doesn’t accommodate that, but they have made accommodations for members of the press to cover everything.  And I know that -- Q    Is that something you advised to him? MR. SPICER:  No, we don’t get involved in the logistics for every Cabinet member’s trip.  I would advise you to touch base with the Secretary, with the State Department on this.  But I know that they have made aware of the concerns of some of your colleagues, and they are making accommodations in the future with respect to the size of the plane. But make no mistake about it, there is a logistics component to make sure that the press is welcome throughout the trip and at every stop, and that accommodations are taken care of, and there’s logistical support to do that.  There will be a press conference component as well. Q    Would you like, though, public diplomacy and this kind of important diplomatic initiative for this administration to be covered fully going forward? MR. SPICER:  I think it will.  I hope it will be covered fully. Q    And should they be -- reporters allowed to be on the place with the Secretary, as they have for many years? MR. SPICER:  And I think that, when appropriate, they can.  And again, there’s a big difference between making sure that we carve out X number of seats and making sure that we have transparency and openness in covering events.  They have logistical support for you all, to make sure that you have hotels.  There’s travel support.  There’s accommodations and filing centers.  I mean, at some point, this isn’t about blocking anybody.  They’ve gone above and beyond.  Not every plane can accommodate every member of the press. Q    You couldn’t get a bigger plane? MR. SPICER:  It’s not a question -- there’s an element of tax -- Q    Most Secretaries of State can accommodate that. MR. SPICER:  Thank you.  I understand that, and there’s an element of cost-savings at this point that the Secretary is trying to achieve.  But at the end of the day, there has been a press component to every stop of the Secretary’s trip.  He is doing everything he can to logistically support the press who wants to come and cover him, and they are being open to make sure that Secretary is available throughout the trip. Q    President Trump has been -- was very critical of German Chancellor Merkel on the campaign trail.  I was just wondering, how does the White House think that will affect the tone of the meeting on Tuesday, and what type of tone does the President plan to take? MR. SPICER:  I know that we did a bit of a readout earlier today on that.  There’s a lot of excitement on both sides of the ocean for this trip.  I know that we are looking forward to meeting with the Chancellor and her team, and I’ve talked to their folks over there and they’re very excited about coming over.  There’s a lot of trade and economic interests on both sides, and obviously there’s an element of national security that we share.   And so I will let the trip’s -- look forward to the readout, but there is a lot of excitement coming.  And I think the President looks forward to meeting with the Chancellor and discussing areas of shared national interest with her. Athena. Q    Just following up on all of this Flynn discussion.  I gather from today and yesterday, correct me if I’m wrong, I want to make sure I understand the answer to this question.  Are you saying the President was not aware that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when he appointed him to be national security advisor? MR. SPICER:  Correct.  Well, and just remember, you wouldn’t know that until he filed.  He didn’t file until two days ago, so therefore, nobody would have known that because he hadn’t filed as a foreign agent until two days ago. Q    My understanding is that he had filed a lobbying disclosure with Congress in November. MR. SPICER:  Again, that’s different than filing a FARA request with the DOJ. Q    And one more question -- MR. SPICER:  Well, it’s one-question Friday.  (Laughter.)  Q    It’s very much attached to this. MR. SPICER:  All right. Q    The other question is, did Flynn disclose he was acting as a foreign agent in the security clearance review before he became NSA? MR. SPICER:  I don’t know the answer to that question.  That’s something that you should follow up with General Flynn on.   April. Q    Sean, I want to go back to the numbers.  When is it when a former President’s spillover ends and the new President stands on his own merit?  When does that happen? MR. SPICER:  Well, I think on January 20th at noon, you start to assume command of the government, and -- what specifically are you asking for?  Q    The numbers from jobs.  You’re taking -- MR. SPICER:  Well, I think that this is the first full month that encapsulates the President’s administration.  I think that’s a very telling number.  Look, and I get it.  These numbers are going to go up and down.  But I think for the first full month, we’re seeing the enthusiasm and spirit that so many business leaders have been drawn to, and that is exciting as a first month.  But I think this encapsulates a full 30 days of the Trump presidency, and so we’re going to continue to work forward with policies that will lower regulation and lower taxes, create a more business-friendly and entrepreneur-friendly business climate to allow the expansion of U.S. companies and grow U.S. jobs. Q    And lastly, over the last couple of weeks we’ve heard all the negatives -- well, not all the negatives, but a large portion of negatives about the Affordable Care Act, and how you’re looking to make it patient care.  So with that, are there any positives which you could articulate from ACA that will carry into possibly patient care? MR. SPICER:  I think children being able to stay on their plans to 26.  There’s a preexisting-condition piece.  But again, remember -- Q    That’s going to states, the way we understand it.  That’s subject to -- MR. SPICER:  No, no, no, but that -- you’re asking if there’s elements.  I think those are some things that -- and again, remember, there was some stuff that was part of the ACA that is stuff that Republicans had supported for a while as well.  I think this is making sure that this is the most effective and comprehensive healthcare policy that achieves the President’s goals. Q    So those are the only two?  Those are two -- MR. SPICER:  Yes.  You asked -- I don't know, April, I’m sure I could go through the bill and get back.  It’s very long, as you saw the other day.  It’s a thousand-page -- Q    -- pages versus -- MR. SPICER:  Nine hundred seventy four pages.  Very good. David Jackson. Q    The Palestinians are saying that President Trump invited President Abbas to the White House for a meeting very soon.  Can you confirm that? MR. SPICER:  I can.  Thank you guys very much.  Let’s end on a positive note.  Have a great weekend.  We look forward to seeing you.  Take care everybody.  Thank you. END  2:44 P.M. EST 

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