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Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 2:50 PM
Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 2:50 PM
WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says Senate Democrats are holding the department's nominees "hostage" to a political agenda that includes opposition to his review of presidentially designated monuments.
In a sharply worded letter to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Zinke said it's unfortunate that Democrats have placed holds on four Interior nominees, including the department's top lawyer and budget chief.
The nominees "have nothing to do with this monument review, yet they have been forced to sit on the sidelines" for months, Zinke wrote Thursday. "As a former Navy SEAL, this is not the type of hostage situation I am accustomed to."
Zinke offered to meet with Durbin, who requested a briefing last month along with other Democratic senators to discuss the monument review.
President Donald Trump ordered the review this spring following complaints by congressional Republicans that previous presidents had misused a century-old law intended to protect federal lands, creating oversized monuments that hinder energy development, logging and other uses. Trump called some monument designations by his Democratic predecessors "massive land grabs."
Zinke has recommended that Trump shrink four large monuments in the West, including the sprawling Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.
Zinke also recommended that Nevada's Gold Butte and Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou monuments be reduced in size, although exact details remain unclear. The proposals have prompted an outcry from environmental groups and Democrats who accuse Trump and Zinke of engaging in a secretive process aimed at helping industry groups that have donated to GOP campaigns.
Opponents have promised to take the Trump administration to court to block any attempts to rescind or reduce the monument designations. Former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton designated the monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to protect sites considered historic or geographically or culturally important.
In a letter last month, Durbin and 15 other senators complained that Zinke's recommendations "threaten important natural, archaeological and cultural resources," especially Bears Ears, a 1.3-million acre site in southeastern Utah that is home to thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
"National monuments have preserved our country's unique public lands, extraordinary history and our common culture as a people," the senators wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to Trump. "We urge you not to reduce their boundaries in any way."
Durbin and several other senators wrote a separate letter to Zinke seeking a meeting about the monument review, which they said has been conducted virtually in secret.
Zinke responded Thursday that he visited the four monuments that are being shrunk and met with or talked to lawmakers and governors in all four states.
"While the review does not affect the state of Illinois, I nonetheless understand your interest in this matter, and I appreciate the written comments you and your colleagues provided throughout this review process," Zinke wrote to Durbin.
Durbin has placed holds on the nominees in his leadership role. Spokesman Ben Marter said Durbin looked forward to meeting with Zinke, although no date has been set.
"That was probably harder than it needed to be, but the secretary has now reached out to schedule a meeting and Sen. Durbin is looking forward to it," Marter said.
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
WASHINGTON — An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.
The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
The Special Counsel's office files a new indictment for making false statements to investigators pic.twitter.com/kYaO8c8M2l— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 20, 2018
READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller? | Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation? | What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with? | MORE
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM
WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.
Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.
Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.
Porter has denied any wrongdoing.
"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy on allegations of spousal abuse against former top White House aide Rob Porter: “How in the hell was he still employed… How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” https://t.co/vuNO7b7riO https://t.co/nHySCCvUGb— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.
The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.
“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.
White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.
“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.
Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.
Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.
She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM
ANDERSON, S.C. — A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.
In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.
Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”
The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.
Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.
“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.
Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.
“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.
According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”
Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.
Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”