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Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:38 PM
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:38 PM
WASHINGTON — The State Department's second in command, John Sullivan, sought Monday to allay fears that a plan to reorganize the agency will lead to an upheaval of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that major decisions, such as transferring key operations to the Department of Homeland Security, have not been made.
But Democrats on the committee remained skeptical given the drastic cuts to the budgets of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development that the Trump administration has proposed. The reductions, which Congress has yet to approve, have stoked concerns that a far-reaching overhaul, involving job cuts, program eliminations and the expected consolidation of many offices in the agency's sprawling bureaucracy are a foregone conclusion.
But Sullivan gamely argued otherwise. He said there is no intention of folding the independent U.S. Agency for International Development into the State Department. He told members of the committee that USAID is well represented in internal department discussions on the reorganization and that he understands and respects USAID's different mission, culture and skill sets.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said he found the possibility of making USAID part of the State Department alarming.
He called the reorganization effort an "ill defined" process that "thus far seems to be no more than an exercise in undermining and pushing out career diplomats."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said she would oppose any attempt to move the State Department's bureaus for refugee admissions programs and consular affairs to Homeland Security. Sullivan said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "does not have at present that intention." But Sullivan also said if those moves are raised during the reorganization review, "we would consider" them.
More than three dozen former diplomats and national security officials from Republican and Democratic administrations have urged Tillerson to retain the department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. They said they were reacting to a leaked proposal from the White House Domestic Policy Council to shift the office to Homeland Security.
Homeland Security, the former officials told Tillerson in a letter released Monday, "has neither the international staffing infrastructure nor the expertise to identify refugee groups in need of protection or resettlement, nor to understand the diplomatic consequences or opportunities to leverage resettlement for U.S. foreign policy interests."
Among those who signed the July 16 letter were William Burns, who served as deputy secretary of state and envoy to Russia during the Obama administration, and William H. Taft IV, who held high ranking posts at the State and Defense departments during the George W. Bush administration. Leaders of 18 humanitarian organizations also signed the letter.
"We are convinced that the elimination of PRM's assistance functions would have profound and negative implications for the Secretary of State's capacity to influence policy issues of key concern to the United States," they wrote. "It would also be ironic, as this is one of the bureaus at State that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support over many years."
A survey commissioned by the State Department also recommended moving State's responsibilities for issuing passports, visas, and other travel documents to Homeland Security. Those duties are currently handled by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, one of the largest parts of the State Department.
The survey, conducted by a private consulting firm, was ordered in late April by Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO. Tillerson was brought into Trump's administration in part due to his experience running a massive organization, and he was given a mission to reorganize the State Department.
Tillerson has largely accepted the administration's plans to slash diplomatic and development funding, although he faces intense bipartisan opposition in Congress, which will likely reverse at least some of his proposed 31-percent cut in funding.
Trump wanted to cut almost $17 billion from the foreign aid budget, but House Republicans countered last week with a reduction of $10 billion. The $47 billion foreign aid measure approved by the House Appropriations Committee spared Israel and Egypt and exempted the budget for protecting U.S. embassies overseas.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:16 PM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam.
“The president's overall health is excellent," White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday.
Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical:
Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’
Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday.
“(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “
Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results.
“He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”
White House doctor says despite President Trump's fast food habit and lack of exercise, he's in "excellent" condition; "He has incredibly good genes, and it's just the way God made him" https://t.co/fpNP3Hpnco pic.twitter.com/VGoTFSgp7C— CNN (@CNN) January 16, 2018
Cognitive screening showed no issues
Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary.
“I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.”
He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.”
“I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.”
Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication
A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said.
“We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water.
He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.”
Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds
At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday.
“The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine.
“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said.
Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels
Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels.
“I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.”
Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 11:57 AM
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
SCOOP: Mueller has subpoenaed Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing Russia investigation. First person in Trump's inner circle known to have received a grand jury subpoena. https://t.co/dbKWuDjdMp— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) January 16, 2018
Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 11:19 AM
WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week in its probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.
An unidentified source told Reuters on Thursday that the interview will take place Tuesday behind closed doors. It will focus on Bannon’s time as Trump’s campaign chief and not on his time in the White House, according to Reuters.
In preparation for the interview, Bannon hired Washington attorney Bill Burck to represent him, NBC News reported Friday. Burck was previously hired to represent former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGhan in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, according to Law360.
Burck is representing Bannon only before the committee and not in Mueller’s probe, NBC News reported.
Trump named Bannon, the former chairman of the conservative news website Breitbart News, as his campaign chief in August 2016. After his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to fill the newly created position of White House chief strategist.
He left the Trump administration in August 2017, almost exactly one year after joining Trump’s presidential campaign.
Days before his exit, Bannon faced scrutiny for an interview he did with the liberal magazine The American Prospect, contradicting the president's warnings to North Korea of "fire and fury" in response to threats. Tension between the pair intensified last week after Bannon was quoted in journalist Michael Wolff’s controversial tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Bannon told Wolff he thought a meeting set up by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Trump slammed Bannon in a statement after the comments were made public, saying, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Bannon later apologized for the comments.
Bannon announced Tuesday that he would be leaving Breitbart News for the second time in two years.
"You have not heard the last from me," he wrote in a Twitter post announcing his departure.
I am proud of what we have achieved with Breitbart News. As I now step down I leave at a world-class news platform that has come a long way but has really just begun it’s mission. And you have not heard the last from me, new announcements coming up soon!#MAGA— Steven Bannon (@SteveKBannon) January 9, 2018
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 5:55 AM
— A federal judge in California dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – also known as DACA – on Tuesday by temporarily blocking their ability to do so.
In his ruling, Judge William Alsup said DACA must stay in place until litigation over the program is complete. He also said that the Department of Homeland Security’s “decision to rescind DACA was based on a flawed legal premise.”
The judge’s ruling will allow recipients who didn’t renew by last year’s deadline to submit renewal applications, but no new applications will be allowed to be submitted.
“Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, according to The Hill. “Today’s ruling is a huge step in the right direction.”
“America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them,” Becerra continued. “They followed DACA’s rules, they succeeded in school, at work and in business, and they have contributed in building a better America. We will fight at every turn for their rights and opportunities so they may continue to contribute to America.”
The Trump administration announced in September that it was ending the program; however, earlier on Tuesday, during a meeting with Republicans and Democrats to discuss immigration issues, Trump appeared willing to negotiate a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants – a move that stunned both Democrats and Republicans.
“My head is spinning with all the things that were said by the president and others in that room in the course of an hour and a half,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, according to The New York Times.
During the meeting, Trump also appeared to support Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein’s call for a clean DACA bill, which would push off dealing with issues like border security until later.
In a tweet Tuesday evening, though, he did seem to harden his resolve on the border wall, saying that a southern border wall must be part of any “DACA approval.”
As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018