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Trump administration officials meet GOP senators on tax bill

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 3:45 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 3:45 AM


            Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, joined at right by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., makes a point as the House Ways and Means Committee continues its debate over the Republican tax reform package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, joined at right by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., makes a point as the House Ways and Means Committee continues its debate over the Republican tax reform package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Top administration officials met privately with Republican senators Wednesday as Senate GOP tax writers put finishing touches on their high-stakes bill cutting levies on people and corporations and reshaping the federal tax code.

A day before Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, planned to unveil the legislation, some of its most basic contours were set while others seemed in flux.

As leaders hunted for ways to pay for their tax cuts, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said the measure would fully eliminate the deduction people can take for state and local property, income and sales taxes. The House version would retain the deduction only for property taxes and cap that at $10,000, drawing opposition from GOP lawmakers from states with high local taxes like New York and New Jersey.

Perdue said the Senate plan would compress the current seven personal income tax brackets down to four. On Tuesday, two Republicans had said the bill would retain the seven brackets but cautioned that changes were possible.

Hatch's plan was likely to include a one-year delay in its reduction in the corporate tax rate, which will be permanent, said a GOP aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Shrinking that rate to 20 percent from its current 35 percent has been a chief goal of President Donald Trump and the business community, and delaying that reduction would help contain the bill's costs.

"We're excited, everything looks good," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters after he and chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn met with Republicans on Hatch's panel in the Capitol late Wednesday.

The tax bill must worsen federal deficits by no more than $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. If Republicans don't do that, the measure will be vulnerable to a bill-killing Senate filibuster by Democrats that GOP senators lack the votes to block. It also cannot add to red ink beyond the first 10 years without facing the same fate.

Across the street, the House Ways and Means Committee completed a third day of debate on the nearly $6 trillion legislation, with the Republican-led panel wading through dozens of amendments and rejecting Democrats' efforts to revise the bill.

Republican leaders want the panel to approve the bill Thursday. Their goal is for Congress to send a measure to Trump by Christmas, which they hope would protect their congressional majorities in next year's elections.

A preliminary estimate by Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said the House measure would add $74 billion more to 10-year deficits than the $1.5 trillion target allows.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, plans to make last-minute changes in the measure before final passage, presumably to meet the target and nail down GOP votes so the House can approve the legislation soon. Democrats are expected to uniformly oppose the legislation.

The committee voted along party lines against a battery of Democratic proposals to restore to the bill tax benefits to student borrowers, people with significant medical expenses, homeowners and teachers.

The proposed elimination of the deduction for medical expenses not covered by insurance is especially controversial. The deduction has helped offset costs of such things as nursing home care, laser eye surgery and out-of-state travel for a second opinion on a rare cancer.

Eliminating it "is a direct assault," said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the failed amendment's sponsor. "This is devastating to individual families."

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Republican drubbing in Tuesday night's elections "just puts more pressure on making sure we follow through" on the party's drive to overhaul the tax code.

Ryan, speaking at an event held by the Washington Examiner newspaper, said, "We've got to get on with keeping our promise, and one of the chief promises we made when we ran for office ... in 2016 was that we would do tax reform and tax cuts for families, for people, and so we've got to get on with that."

Ryan, R-Wis., spoke after Republicans lost gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey by large margins in off-year elections that appear to be a bad omen for GOP chances in next year's midterms. The tax rewrite effort has assumed even greater significance in the wake of the GOP failure to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.

Republicans have discussed repealing Obama's individual mandate in their tax legislation to raise more money to pay for tax cuts. That mandate requires most people to buy coverage or face a fine.

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office lowered its estimate Wednesday for how much money repealing that requirement would save from $416 billion over a decade to $338 billion.

Repeal would save money because without being forced to get coverage, fewer people would sign up for Medicaid or buy federally subsidized private insurance.

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

Trump delays lifting ban on import of elephant trophies from Africa

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 8:37 PM
Updated: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 8:37 PM



Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Update (Friday, November 17)

President Donald Trump said in a tweet Friday he’s delaying a new policy allowing the body parts of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review “all conservation facts.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. The agency said encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.

Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision. On Friday, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the “wrong move at the wrong time.”

Trump said that the policy had been “under study for years.” He says he will review the issue with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Earlier

The Trump administration plans to lift a ban on Friday that barred big game hunters from bringing trophies from elephants killed in a pair of African nations to America, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told ABC News in a statement Wednesday that the decision was made after officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia provided them with information to support a reversal of the ban.

"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation," the spokesperson told ABC News.

The decision will overturn a 2014 ban implemented by President Barack Obama’s administration in response to falling elephant populations. 

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A provision in the act, however, allows for the government to give permits that let people import trophies from such animals if evidence shows that hunting them helps conservation efforts, according to NBC News.

The rule reversal will apply to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe from Jan. 21, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018, the news station reported. It will also apply to elephants killed in Zambia in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and “applications that meet all other applicable permitting requirements,” a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson told NBC News.

According to the 2016 Great Elephant Census, Savanna elephant populations fell by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014. About 352,000 elephants were spotted during the survey, 82,300 in Zimbabwe and 21,700 in Zambia.

Both countries had areas that saw substantial declines in elephant populations along the Zambezi river in Zambia and in Zimbabwe’s Sebungwe region, according to the census.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sen. Al Franken accused of kissing, groping news anchor without consent

Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017 @ 11:39 AM
Updated: Thursday, November 16, 2017 @ 2:38 PM

Al Franken Accused Of Groping A Woman In 2006

Update 2:37 p.m. Nov. 16: Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, on Thursday called for an ethics investigation of himself after a Los Angeles news anchor came forward with allegations that he kissed her forcibly and groped her as she slept during a USO tour in 2006.

Leeann Tweeden on Thursday shared an image taken on the trip back to the U.S. at the end of the tour. Franken can be seen smiling up at the camera as his hands hover over her chest.

"I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter," Franken said in a statement released Thursday. "There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture."

He said that he would “gladly cooperate” with an ethics investigation into the incident.

"The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories," he said. "They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

Update 11:58 a.m. Nov. 16: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for an Ethics Committee investigation after a Los Angeles news anchor accused Sen. Al Franken of kissing and groping her without her consent in 2006.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this,” McConnell said, according to Politico. “Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable – in the workplace or anywhere else.”

Leeann Tweeden wrote in a blog post for KABC that Franken “forcibly kissed” her and groped her as she slept during a USO tour in December 2006. Franken was an Air America radio host at the time. He was voted into office in 2008.

Franken apologized to Tweeden in a statement Thursday.

Original report: A Los Angeles news anchor and sports broadcaster on Thursday accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, of “forcibly kissing” her and groping her as she was asleep during a USO tour in 2006.

>> Read more trending news

In a blog post for KABC, Leeann Tweeden wrote that Franken, who was a radio host for Air America at the time, forced himself on her as they were practicing a skit he wrote for the tour.

She said that, as the show’s emcee, she hadn’t expected to do more than introduce the acts, “but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.”

In this image provided by the U.S. Army, sportscaster Leeann Tweeden and then-comedian Al Franken meet and greet military members during an autograph signing session of the USO Sergeant Major of the Army's 2006 Hope and Freedom Tour in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 14, 2006. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., apologized Nov. 16, 2017, after Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her during the 2006 USO tour. Colleagues, including fellow Democrats, urged a Senate ethics investigation. Tweeden also accused Franken of posing for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept, while both were performing for military personnel two years before Franken was elected to the Senate. (Sgt. Thomas Day/U.S. Army 40th via AP)(Sgt. Thomas Day/AP)

“When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss,’” Tweeden wrote. “I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.”

She said he badgered her to practice the kiss scene, and that she eventually agreed, despite her discomfort.

“We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth,” she wrote. “I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.”

She said that after the incident, she made sure not to be alone with Franken again.

“I felt disgusted and violated,” she wrote. “No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the sergeant major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened.”

She said she focused on entertaining the troops and didn’t speak up because she “didn’t want to cause trouble.”

“We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our holiday tour, I was a professional and I could take care of myself,” she wrote. “I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done, and they knew how I felt about it.”

She said that it wasn’t until she was looking through a CD of photos from the tour that she learned that Franken had groped her while she was asleep. She shared a photo of the incident, which showed her sleeping in a flak vest and Kevlar helmet as Franken’s hands hovered over her chest.

“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” she wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

Franken apologized for the incident in a statement Thursday.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny, but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Tweeden said she decided to come forward because “there may be others.”

“I want the days of silence to be over forever,” she wrote. “I want them, and all the other victims of sexual assault, to be able to speak out immediately, and not keep their stories –  and their anger – locked up inside for years, or decades.”

6 Democrats file articles of impeachment against Trump

Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 5:20 PM

Six House Democrats File To Impeach President Trump

Six House Democrats filed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, accusing the president of obstructing justice and undermining the freedom of the press in a likely ill-fated push by lawmakers to oust the president.

>> Read more trending news

"We have taken this action because of great concerns for the country and our Constitution and our national security and our democracy," Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, said Wednesday at a news conference.

Cohen sponsored the resolution and was joined by five of his colleagues in the House of Representatives: Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois; Rep. Al Green, D-Texas; Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-New York; and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky.

Announcing Introduction of Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump

Posted by Congressman Steve Cohen on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The group filed five articles of impeachment against the president, claiming, among other things, that the president obstructed justice in connection with the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and connections to Trump presidential campaign officials; and that he has undermined the federal judiciary and the freedom of the press.

>> Related: Larry Flynt offering up to $10M for information leading to Trump's impeachment

“The time has come to make clear to the American people and to this president that his train of injuries to our Constitution must be brought to an end through impeachment,” Cohen said.

In the resolution, lawmakers accused Trump of obstructing justice with his firing in May of FBI Director James Comey. In congressional testimony, Comey said he felt the president tried to get him to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign less than a month into his tenure after it was revealed that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian officials.

>> Related: Read James Comey’s complete testimony before the Senate committee 

In response to the resolution, a Republican House Judiciary Committee aide told Politico that, “It’s the policy of the committee to consider impeachment articles if and when the constitutional criteria for impeachment exist.”

Democrats also expressed skepticism over the future success of the resolution.

 >> Related: Impeach Trump, says billboard near Mar-a-Lago

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said that many Democrats believe that Trump should be impeached, but “we have just made the judgment that the facts aren’t there to pursue that,” Politico reported.

The Associated Press noted that the measure was likely to fail in the Republican-led House.

 >> Related: Tennessee congressman to file articles of impeachment

“Indeed, the large majority of Democrats seem intent on having nothing to do with the effort either as lawmakers await the results of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia,” the wire service reported. “Democratic leaders have argued that the impeachment campaign riles up Trump's GOP base, a critical bloc in next year's midterm elections.”

Read the resolution:

Articles of Impeachment filed against Donald Trump by National Content Desk on Scribd

Trump criticized after apparently tweeting condolences for wrong mass shooting

Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

US President Donald Trump speaks about his 12-day trip to Asia, fair trade, and the economy, at the White House on November 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks about his 12-day trip to Asia, fair trade, and the economy, at the White House on November 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump faced criticism after he appeared to have copied a tweet shared after a mass shooting earlier this month at a Texas church in the wake of an attack Tuesday that left five people dead and 10 injured in Northern California.

>> Read more trending news

“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas,” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening, according to Newsweek. “The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived.”

The tweet came nearly 10 days after authorities said Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, opened fire on people gathered for Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people and wounding 20 others.

It came on the same day that a man killed five people and injured 10 others in attacks in Tehama County, California.

>> Related: 6 dead, including suspected gunman, in shooting at California home, elementary school

After the attack in Texas, Trump tweeted a nearly identical message to the one shared Tuesday, writing, “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”

Twitter users accused Trump of copying and pasting his condolences and forgetting to change the location of the attack.

Trump’s tweet was subsequently deleted.

Authorities said officers shot and killed Kevin Janson Neal, 43, Tuesday after he fired shots in at least seven locations in Tehama County, including an elementary school. Five people were killed in the attack, including two of Neal’s neighbors and his wife.

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