White House, Leading GOP Politicians refuse support for Trump’s tweets
Developments on Day 47 of the Trump Administration:
White House Backs Off Trump’s “Obama Wiretap” Claims
The White House steps back from Donald Trump’s unsupported claims that President Obama wiretapped communications in Trump Tower in 2016.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to back up Trump’s accusation, set out in a series of tweets on Saturday, yesterday: “That’s above my pay grade.”
Spicer said it was now appropriate for the Senate and House Intelligence Committee to look into the assertions.
The White House has tried to use Trump’s outburst to shift attention from any inquiry into the ties between Trump associates and Russian officials.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier in the day about the Trump claims, “No comment.”
Even Representative Devin Nunes — the GOP chair of the House Intelligence Committee who has dismissed any suggestion of Trump-Russia links — stepped away from the wiretapping line: “A lot of the things [Trump] says, you guys take literally.”
Nunes later hedged his comments and said that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have been wiretapped in his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and that Trump had raised “valid questions”.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, also a Republican said he had not seen any evidence of Trump’s claims.
And the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoed Burr when asked if he had seen any support: “No I have not.”
Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said:
The President has asked our committee to investigate this. Mr. President, we accept….
It is also a scandal if [your] allegations prove to be false.
A “person familiar with the matter” said FBI Director James Comey was “incredulous” over the weekend about the Trump tweets.
The source said Comey was concerned that the allegation would make the FBI look bad, asking his staff to request that the Justice Department knock down the allegation.
The Justice Department, led by Trump loyalist Sessions, has not issued a statement.
TOP PHOTO: Donald Trump (Alex Wong/Reuters)
Franken Rebuffs Sessions’ Explanation Over Russian Meetings
Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has rebuffed the further explanation from Attorney General Jeff Sessions about Sessions’ failure, during his confirmation, to disclose two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak: “He should come back and explain himself.”
Franken issued the statement during questioning of the nominee for Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein.
Asked by Franken in the January hearings if any Trump associate had met a Russian official, Sessions volunteered that he had not.
After the meetings with Kislyak in July and September were revealed in the media, the Attorney General said that he thought the question referred only to discussions connected with the Trump campaign, rather than his position on the Armed Services Committee.
Trump Budget Cuts Coast Guard, TSA, & Disaster Relief to Fund “The Wall” & Immigration Crackdown
The Trump Administration’s draft budget is cutting the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, and other security agencies to help fund the wall on the Mexican border and a crackdown on immigration.
The proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), also reduces the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster relief after hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.
The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget would be cut 14% to about $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11% each to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.
The cuts are proposed even as the planned budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all the agencies, grows 6.4% to $43.8 billion. About $2.9 billion of this would go to building the wall, with $1.9 billion funding “immigration detention beds” and other Immigration and Customs Enforcement expenses. Another $285 million will hire 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more ICE agents and support staffers.
Trump Wrongly Blames Obama Over Guantanamo Releases
President Trump wrongly blames the Obama Administration for the release of 122 “vicious” detainees from the Guantanamo Bay center.
122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
Trump wrote soon after Fox News, in a report about a US airstrike that killed a former detainee in Yemen, cited the 122 figure.
But almost of the Guantanamo releases came under the George W. Bush Administration, which began the detentions in 2002.
— Carol Rosenberg (@carolrosenberg) March 7, 2017
Pruitt Stacks EPA with Climate Change Skeptics
The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, stacks the agency with climate change skeptics.
Pruitt has drawn heavily from the staff of Senator James Inhofe, a leading climate change denier and fellow Oklahoman, including his selections for Chief of Staff and two deputies.
Two Trump campaigners from Washington State are taking up senior positions.
As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt was involved in dozens of lawsuits targeting the EPA’s resolutions.
The agency is also facing a 20% budget cut and loss of 38 programs, including climate change initiatives, in the first Trump Administration budget.
GOP Legislator to Poor: Give Up Your iPhones to Get Health Care
As House Republicans present plans to replace ObamaCare, GOP Representative Jason Chaffetz suggests that poor Americans can pay by prioritizing health care over smartphones:
Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice,“so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone they just love and spending hundreds of dollars on that they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.
The average annual cost of health care for a typical American family of four is $25,826, or just over $2,100 per month.
A standard two-year plan for the iPhone 7 is about $27 a month, while the one-time cost for the iPhone 6 is about $365.
As head of the Oversight Committee, Chaffetz has held out against any investigation of Donald Trump over the President’s possible conflicts of interest and failure to disclose tax returns.
US Supplies Missile Defense Equipment to South Korea
US missile launchers and other equipment for a missile defense system arrives in South Korea, a day after North Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles into the ocean near Japan.
China said it will take “necessary measures” to protect itself and warning that the US and South Korea should be prepared to bear the consequences.
The Trump Administration, in contrast to a high-profile display of concern last month over the previous North Korean test, has offered no response to Monday’s test-firings.