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Published: Monday, January 08, 2018 @ 11:00 AM
— The book “Fire and Fury” offers reported behind-the-scenes stories about Donald Trump’s White House. But are the stories credible? A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue.
Opinions from the right:
From The Orange County Register: The author of ‘Fire and Fury’ has an ego just about as big as Trump’s. Who are we to believe?
From Townhall: Will CNN ever be able to get over the fact Trump became president?
Yesterday, Steve Bannon said his comments in Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury" where he called a meeting between Trump aides and a Russian lawyer "treasonous" were directed at Paul Manafort, not Donald Trump Jr.— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) January 8, 2018
Today, Wolff says that's not true https://t.co/SwbzK95brK pic.twitter.com/weoXXWhmzx
Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 2:55 PM
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 2:59 PM
DAYTON — Veterans will have expanded private health care options under legislation passed by Congress, but some critics contend it could lead to more privatization of VA services.
The measure was part of a sweeping $51 billion VA bill that would institute reforms within the federal agency.
The Senate passed the measure in 92-5 vote this week, which continued funding of the VA Choice program due to be out of money as early as next week. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the bill before Memorial Day.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who backed the legislation, said in a Friday interview in Dayton with this news outlet he heard “spirited” complaints about VA health care in town halls throughout Ohio.
Veterans’ stories about VA health care have “gotten better” since then, but the senator still hears a common complaint.
“The problem I keep hearing about is, look I need to get a specialist in my community. I don’t want to drive from here to Cleveland or here to Cincinnati even. Why can’t I go to somebody here locally?”
The VA legislation will ease that issue with private health care options, he said.
“It says we’re going to help veterans get the care that they need where they want to get it at their convenience,” he said.
The legislation will eliminate the requirement veterans must wait at least 30 days or travel more than 40 miles to qualify for a private health care appointment, according to John W. Palmer, a spokesman with the Ohio Hospital Association in Columbus.
“We believe this is going to create stronger opportunities for access to care,” he said. “From a health care access standpoint, we definitely are equipped to handle patients that are coming in.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and a member of the Senate Veterans Committee, voted for the legislation, but said he opposes any privatization meaures.
“Privatization means putting profits ahead of those who served our country, and I will fight any effort to use America’s veterans to line the pockets of wealthy corporations,” he said in an email. “Instead, we must all work together to strengthen and improve VA to better serve veterans.”
The bill also includes provisions to strengthen the VA workforce and make it easier to hire and retain more medical professionals, said Brown spokeswoman Jenny Donohue. His office said the bill streamlines, but does not expand private health care choices.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, voted for the legislation in the House.
“This bill preserves our commitment to quality of care of veterans at facilities like the Dayton VA, puts the needs of veterans first, and ensures our veterans’ service is honored,” he said in a statement.
The Dayton VA has spent $55 million on private health care for nearly 17,700 veterans authorizations in fiscal year 2018, according to spokesman Ted Froats.
Among changes, the legislation will expand caregiver benefits to veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001; puts tighter practices on prescribing opioids to VA patients from private providers; and sets up a presidentially appointed commission to review under performing VA facilities for possible closure, among a list of changes. Dozens of veterans service groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, supported the bill.
The American Federal of Government Employees, which represents 260,000 federal VA employees, has had sweeping concerns with the wide-ranging bill.
The labor union says it could lead to outsourcing or the “amputation” of 36 health care specialties, such a primary care or mental health, outside the VA and force veterans into private health care if their VA facility is closed. The legislation would allow unrestricted use of private walk-in clinics and billions of dollars to be taken out of VA health care without federal data on how contractors spend the money, said Marilyn Park, an AFGE legislative assistant.
“We made a promise to veterans when they signed up to serve that they would be taken care of when they got home – not forced to wait in longer lines at private, walk-in clinics,” AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 4:05 PM
A day after President Donald Trump scrapped a planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un, the President, White House, and State Department made clear that U.S. officials continue to be open to further contacts with their North Korean counterparts, seeing if there is a way to get talks back on track to rein in the nuclear weapons program of the Pyongyang regime.
“We always knew there would be twists and turns leading up to this meeting on June 12,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
“We never expected it to be easy, so none of this comes as a surprise to us,” Nauert added.
On Friday afternoon, officials said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken by phone with the South Korean Foreign Minister, to discuss what the next steps might be – after the June 12 Trump summit with Kim Jong Un was cancelled.
Earlier in the day, the President expressed hope that talks could resume on the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, as allies of Mr. Trump argued he made the right move in walking away from the summit at this point in time.
“I don’t know where we will meet, when we will meet, or even if we will meet…..but I do believe President Trump is going to end the North Korean nuclear program,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
But as Graham and others acknowledged on Friday, it wasn’t clear whether progress might be made, or how.
From both the U.S. side, and the North Korean side, there was no resumption on Friday of some of the more bellicose rhetoric that had marked the long distance relationship between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong Un, as Pyongyang officials said they were open to further talks and the President said he was not giving up.
“Everybody plays games,” the President told reporters in talking about the art of negotiation.
“We weren’t getting the right signals previously, so hopefully we will in the future,” Nauert told the White House Pool reporter, as President Trump gave the commencement address at the Naval Academy on Friday.
“But we didn’t want to go to a meeting just for the sake of going to a meeting,” Nauert added. “There had to be something to come out of it. so we weren’t getting the right signals.”
Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 2:45 PM
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 3:00 PM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday warmly welcomed North Korea’s promising response to his abrupt withdrawal from the potentially historic Singapore summit and said “we’re talking to them now” about putting it back on track.
“Everybody plays games,” said Trump, who often boasts about his own negotiating tactics and skill.
The president, commenting as he left the White House for a commencement speech, said it was even possible the summit could take place on the originally planned June 12 date.
“They very much want to do it, we’d like to do it,” he said.
Earlier Friday, in a tweet, he had called the North’s reaction to his letter canceling the summit “warm and productive.” That was far different from his letter Thursday to North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” by Pyongyang for the U.S. withdrawal.
The tone from both sides was warmer on Friday. First, North Korea issued a statement saying it was still “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider talks “at any time, at any format.”
Ohio leaders react
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was in Dayton Friday and said he was not surprised President Trump called off the summit with North Korea, but was hopeful direct negotiation would happen to cause the regime to disarm its nuclear capability.
“I’ve been one of those people calling for direct negotiations with North Korea, not because they are a country that we should reward or that we can trust, but because we should have direct negotiations with any country that has this nuclear weapons capability,” said Portman, R-Ohio.
He said global sanctions imposed on North Korea were a “good news” story that worked.
“It’s a good example of where if you can get the international community (together) on something, and it really is a diplomatic effort, you can put enough pressure on a regime, even a regime as evil as this one where they say, ‘OK, we want to come to the table and talk,’” said Portman, who also noted North Korea’s recent release of three American detainees.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he was “disappointed” that the talks would not take place in June, but is hopeful groundwork can be laid for a future summit.
“We all agree a denuclearized North Korea must be our goal,” he said.
Democratic Ohio House members, meanwhile, were more critical of Trump’s approach.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo said North Korea “is not an honest broker” and said that “rushed attempts to deter that nation from its decades-long tradition of brutal and unstable dictatorships will not be effective.”
“Validating Kim Jong Un with the direct involvement of the President may well be premature when dealing with an immature dictator,” she said, but urged Trump to continue to pursue high-level diplomatic talks.
North Korea, U.S. Defense leaders respond
Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump’s withdrawal “unexpected” and “very regrettable,” and said the cancellation of the talks showed “how grave the status of historically deep-rooted hostile North Korea-U.S. relations is and how urgently a summit should be realized to improve ties.”
Then Trump, in his response to that response, said it was “very good news,” and “we will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!”
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the recent back-and-forth between Trump and North Korea the “usual give and take.”
The president’s surprise exit from the planned talks on Thursday had capped weeks of high-stakes brinkmanship between the two unpredictable leaders over nuclear negotiating terms for their unprecedented sit-down. The U.S. announcement came not long after Kim appeared to make good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site. But it also followed escalating frustration — and newly antagonistic rhetoric — from North Korea over comments from Trump aides about U.S. expectations for the North’s “denuclearization.”
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 10:29 PM
Under growing pressure from the House to change how lawmakers deal with workplace harassment claims and damage awards, the Senate on Thursday approved a package of reforms that would not allow members to use taxpayer funds to pay any legal settlements, and change the process for Congressional employees to bring complaints against lawmakers.
“This is an incredibly important moment,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who joined with Senators in both parties to forge a compromise that was approved on a voice vote.
“We are completely overhauling the sexual harassment policies of the Congress,” Klobuchar said on the Senate floor.
“These reforms are commonsense,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who had been more and more vocal in recent days about the lack of action on a similar measure passed by the House.
Along with streamlining the process for employees to bring a complaint – and then have it evaluated by Congressional officials – the plan would force members to personally pay for any legal settlement, and not have taxpayers foot the bill.
“Hardworking taxpayers should not foot the bill for a Member’s misconduct, and victims should not have to navigate a system that stands in the way of accountability,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).
The extra protections for employees would also be extended to unpaid staffers on Capitol Hill, including interns, legislative fellows, and detailees from other executive branch offices.
As the Senate approved the plan, the leaders of the House Ethics Committee confirmed that ex-Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) had reimbursed taxpayers for a $39,000 settlement involving a former female staffer in his office.
“We understand he sent that reimbursement payment to the Treasury. We welcome that action,” said ethics chair Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), and the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), in a joint statement.
“There is overwhelming bipartisan consensus in the House that Members should be personally accountable for settlements paid with public funds to resolve claims against them alleging sexual harassment,” Brooks and Deutch wrote in a statement.
But what about when lawmakers leave the Congress? The ethics leaders said even then – they should still have to pay up.
Brooks and Deutch also noted that ex-Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) – who had resigned without following through on a promise to pay off an $84,000 settlement – was a perfect example of why the system needs to be changed.
“Farenthold publicly promised to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for $84,000 in funds paid to settle the lawsuit brought against him for claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation,” they wrote.
“Last week, he announced that he would not do so,” the two added.
The House and Senate must still hammer out a compromise measure between the bills passed by each chamber – but the Senate vote gives a new shot of energy to the effort, though there are House members who feel the Senate plan is not strong enough, especially in dealing with lawmakers.
“I’m optimistic that we can finish the job and get this bill signed into law,” Gillibrand added.