<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Politics]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usMon, 20 Feb 2017 05:58:16 -0500Mon, 20 Feb 2017 05:58:16 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Emails Show Kushner's Stricter Approach on Ethics Than Trump]]> Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:25:58 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_17023542554197.jpg

The Trump administration has struggled with ethics vetting for Cabinet nominees and faced criticism for the president's decision to remain invested in his business empire. When Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, prepared to enter the White House, however, the administration sought to do it by the book.

That is the picture established by new emails, obtained by MSNBC, showing how Kushner's lawyers worked on a divestment plan to avoid conflicts by conferring with the Office of Government Ethics.

"The process was good here," said Norm Eisen, an ethics expert who is suing the Trump administration, saying the emails show Kushner and his wife divested themselves from any holdings that presented conflicts.

"Although the Trump transition team apparently was not particularly cooperative with the Office of Government Ethics," said Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert at Washington University Law School, "Kushner and his lawyers seem to have taken a different approach."



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais]]>
<![CDATA[Bill Would Allow Hunters to Target Bears, Wolves in Alaska]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2017 16:22:36 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/bearsinalaskafeuerherd.jpg

Hunters could once again go after bears, wolves and other predators in national wildlife refuges across Alaska if an Obama-era federal law is overturned by Congress and gets the president's approval, NBC News reported.

Supporters of repealing the rule, which was issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August, got a boost Thursday when the House voted 225-193, mostly along party lines, to undo the law.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is behind the resolution to strip away some of the federal government's control over Alaska's 76 million acres worth of federal wildlife refuges. Under the federal law, hunters are prohibited from shooting or trapping wolves while at their dens with cubs, using airplanes to scout for potential grizzly bear targets, trapping bears with wire snares and luring bears with food to get a point-blank kill.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[‘I Am a Muslim Too’: Russell Simmons Headlines Unity March]]> Sun, 19 Feb 2017 00:05:14 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_101210146201.jpg

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is feeling "zen" about a multifaith and multiethnic unity rally he's headlining Sunday — organized in response to the uncertainty and anxiety that was created by President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban, NBC News reported.

The entrepreneur has been trying to bridge religious and cultural divides for years, and said he is eager to lend his celebrity to the "I Am a Muslim Too" march through Times Square in his native New York City.

"Believing that people are the same takes you a long way," Simmons told NBC News this week. "I love doing this work. It's purposeful. It makes me happy."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[DNC Race Shakeup: Ray Buckley to Exit, Endorse Keith Ellison]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2017 11:55:49 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dncshakeup.jpg

In the biggest shakeup of the Democratic leadership race in months, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley plans to drop his bid to be the party's national chairman and throw his support behind Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, NBC News reported.

With just a week left before Democratic National Committee members gather in Atlanta to cast their ballots, the move could have far-reaching consequences both for the election and the future of the party.

"While it was a tremendous honor to run for DNC Chair over the past few months, I am proud to throw my support behind Keith so we can ensure that the next Chair of the DNC is dedicated to investing in and strengthening state parties and ensuring that the DNC is an accountable organization," Buckley said in a statement. "As I've talked to the DNC membership, it's clear Keith has widespread support, and I know as our next DNC Chair Keith will successfully unite and grow our party."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Here’s How Congress Is Handling Russia Investigations]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2017 04:35:30 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_17048721312607-Sens-Comey-Secret-Meeting.jpg

At the end of a week's worth of new revelations and a resignation, FBI Director James Comey held a closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee Friday, NBC News reports.

Members who emerged refused to say what the meeting was about or even to acknowledge that a meeting was happening — though reporters saw Comey enter the same room as the senators.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did send out a tweet that hinted at Russia:

"I am now very confident Senate Intel Comm I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of #Putin interference and influence," the Florida senator said.



Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite, AP]]>
<![CDATA[House Overturns Rule Protecting Planned Parenthood]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2017 02:18:59 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_17010593540071-House.jpg

The Republican-led House this week overturned a regulation then-President Barack Obama put in place to protect Title X funding, prompting criticism from Democrats and others over the move's impact on women's health care.

The House on Thursday scrapped a rule that barred state and local governments from withholding federal funds from family planning providers that offered full reproductive services, including abortion.

“With this bill, Republicans are demonstrating that they will stop at nothing to limit women’s access to health care,” a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told NBC.

The Republican-sponsored H.J. Res. 43 passed in a 230-188 vote, largely along party lines. 

Obama had finalized the regulation on Jan. 18 — two days before leaving office — in an attempt to enforce pre-existing Title X laws after states had tried to circumnavigate them during his presidency. Implemented under Richard Nixon, Title X provides federal funding to the United States’ most qualified family planning providers.

Federal funds are not used to perform abortions, and Title X is a reimbursement program, requiring beneficiaries to report how they use grants.

When Rep. Diane Black defended her resolution on the House floor, she said, “while I am unapologetically pro-life, you don’t have to be in order to support this resolution.” She cited the 10th Amendment and claimed that Obama had violated states’ rights.

“Despite the histrionics you may hear on the other side of the aisle today, with this resolution we are not voting to defund Planned Parenthood, voting to cut Title X funding, or voting to restrict abortion rights,” Black continued.

But for many, H.J. Res. 43 was a move toward an abortion-less America.

“We are very pleased with the House vote today on H.J. Res. 43,” Carol Tobias, President of National Right to Life, told NBC. “This 11th-hour rule, promulgated by the Obama administration, was a last-minute gift to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.”

Of the four million Americans who benefit from the Title X program, 1.5 million are patients at Planned Parenthood. According to Monica McLemore, assistant professor at University of California-San Francisco, the House measure was “a thinly veiled campaign to start to defund Planned Parenthood." 

For Rep. Julia Brownley from California’s 26th congressional district, “it was a very easy choice” to vote “no.”

“The resolution is obviously deeply disturbing and morally corrupt,” Brownley told NBC.

She said that even before she took office in 2013, conservatives had targeted “health benefits for women, and particularly women who need it the most.”

According to a Department of Health and Human Services annual report, at least 30 percent of Americans who benefited from Title X services identified as nonwhite, and 32 percent said they were Hispanic or Latino in 2015. Two-thirds had a family income below the poverty level.

There’s also a “geography issue” when it comes to women’s health care, according to McLemore. As a certified nurse, she travels around California. In rural areas, she said, patients sometimes have to drive for an hour or two to find a clinic.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a center for reproductive health research, 39 percent of American women ages 15-44 lived in counties without abortion clinics in 2014. That doesn't necessarily mean that residents in those areas didn’t have access to reproductive care, but it might limit their contraceptive options.

A 2017 report from Guttmacher found that Planned Parenthood locations are far more likely than health departments or federally qualified health centers to provide same-day IUD insertions, which are more effective than other forms of birth control. For those in need of pill packs, 83 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics offer on-site distribution, compared to 34 percent of federally qualified health centers.

“Cutting out a provider that sees nearly a third of patients in the Title X program will mean that more women will go without services, have to pay out of pocket for care, or travel farther for services,” said Audrey Sandusky, director of advocacy and communications at the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. “You can’t simply shift providers overnight.”

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study detailing how since 2011, anti-abortion initiatives in Texas have resulted in a 27 percent increase in childbirth among women who had previously taken injectable contraception through publicly funded programs. The state itself has reported that there was over a 25 percent decrease in clients from the Texas Women’s Health Program between 2011 and 2013.

"For many people, not being able to get care at their trusted health care provider means that they don’t get care at all,” Danielle Wells, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, told NBC. “Those hurt the most would be people who already face barriers to accessing health care — especially people of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes.”

Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood don’t only affect reproductive health. The clinic is known for its wide-ranging care, including treatment for STIs and breast and cervical cancer screenings. Title X funding doesn’t exclusively benefit women, either: in 2015, one out of 10 patients were male. Planned Parenthood serves both genders.

Proponents of H.J. Res. 43 believe other health service providers are poised to take Planned Parenthood’s place if it loses its Title X grants.

“It’s not about defunding women’s health care or trying to take away access to people getting the care that they need,” said Melanie Israel, research associate at the The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.

Israel said that for every Planned Parenthood facility, there are 20 other federal community health centers that could provide services for women. She pulled this tally from analysis by anti-abortion organizations Charlotte Lozier Institute and the Alliance Defending Freedom; House Speaker Paul Ryan cited the same number at a CNN town hall in January. 

“That’s just a false statistic,” Brownley said.

As the Washington Post reported, the ratio may indeed be misleading. A little over 4,000 of the 13,000 facilities included in the study are part of the Rural Health Clinic program, which does not require its providers to accept low-income clients. This means that some of the centers could turn away the most vulnerable demographics represented under Title X. 

The Congressional Budget Office found that at least in the short-term, 5- to 25 percent of Planned Parenthood patients would have reduced health care access if the reproductive health organization were defunded. Experts said they don’t know of any existing medical resources that could fill Planned Parenthood’s shoes.

“There is no health care service provider that currently exists that could absorb the volume of patients across the country that Planned Parenthood sees,” McLemore said.

“If services are lost in a community, there is a significant lag in terms of another service provider or another health care system being able to adjust,” she added. “We’re not that nimble.”

In January, the House passed H.R. 7, another attempt to prohibit abortions by dissuading insurance companies from covering the procedure. Both H.R. 7 and H.J. Res 43 will be kicked to the Senate, where a Republican majority will decide their fate. 



Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Congress Members Reminded to Remain Vigilant at Home]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:57:01 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_17041045862245-constituents-protest-GOP.jpg

A new memo distributed to members of Congress Thursday told them to remain vigilant as they leave the protective bubble of the nation’s capital and return to their home districts for the Presidents Day week recess.

The memo from the U.S. House sergeant-at-arms to every representative in the House doesn’t mention a specific threat, but it instructs them to alert their local police if they plan to attend a public meeting.

A series of town hall meetings in the hometowns of congressional leaders have been volatile recently. None has turned violent, but at least one person was arrested and some police escorts have helped protect the Congress members leading the events.

"Contact the proper law enforcement authority to coordinate any necessary police assistance at the event," the memo said.

The alert also warned them to be careful near their homes.

"It is especially critical to note that if your home address and phone number are publicly available, you should remain particularly alert regarding your surroundings."

This type of warning is reminiscent of the alerts sent out six years ago when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in her hometown in Arizona, according to Brad Fitch, head of the Congressional Management Foundation, which works with Congress members and their constituents toward improving trust and effectiveness.

"We have occasional periods in our history where offices of Congress become the places of protest or even, in some cases, attacks," Fitch said.

All members of Congress have offices on Capitol Hill, where they are surrounded by hundreds of elite police officers and a bomb squad, but they also maintain official offices in their home cities. Many also are well secured.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's longtime office in a southeast D.C. complex has a guard in the lobby, as does Rep. John Delaney’s office in a Gaithersburg, Maryland, office tower.

Congressman Jamie Raskin has his district office in the same place as his predecessor Sen. Chris Van Hollen did -- a downtown office tower in Rockville. Like so many local members of Congress, his office is open to the public, but it's secured with a locked door, a buzzer and card access.

That's the challenge, Fitch said. Members of Congress have police protection at the Capitol but must also keep an open door to constituents in their home states.

"Congress can't be a fortress,” Fitch said. “It has this dual tradition of being open and accessible because that's tradition."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Emphasizes Military Spending at Boeing]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 15:44:34 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Trump_Boeing-148736146912200001.jpg

 President Donald Trump reiterated his emphasis on rebuilding the military in a Friday visit to Boeing in South Carolina, a day after he made the same promises in a White House news conference. "We are looking seriously at a big order," he said.

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<![CDATA[Calls for 9/11 Commission-Style Probe Into Russia Meddling ]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 08:57:03 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/representative+elijah+cummings.jpg

A senior Democratic lawmaker said the creation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election has gained bipartisan support.

Rep. Elijah Cummings told MSNBC the creation of the commission was necessary "to really get into how all of this happened, what was the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and try to figure out how to make sure that this does not happen again."

Cummings, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said the Republican co-sponsor of a bill to create the commission is "a congressman from North Carolina" whose name would be made public Friday.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has previously called for an independent commission into election meddling. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Conservative Media Firm Founder Joins White House Team]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 08:38:30 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/tru7GettyImages-642085400.jpg

Donald Trump has named Mike Dubke, founder of conservative media firm Crossroads Media, to be head of the White House communications team, NBC News reported. 

Dubke is expected to start in his new role as early as Friday, an administration official told NBC. 

Crossroads Media is a conservative media firm "specializing in advertising strategy and placement for political candidates, issue advocacy organizations and trade associations," according to their website. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[America Is the 'Problem Now': Asylum Seekers Flee to Canada]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:33:49 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/refugeesescapetocanada.jpg

A Somali man trekked 21 hours as temperatures hovered around 0 degrees Fahrenheit to make it across the northern U.S. border into Manitoba, Canada, CBC, a Canadian news agency reported.

The freezing and exhausted man shared his story with a CBC news reporter at about 4:30 a.m. Saturday.

"I have a problem. America is [the] problem now," he said, according to the report.

He was eventually picked up by Canadian police who brought him to get medical care. 

The man is one of several Somali refugees who have fled into Manitoba since Donald Trump took office, CBC reported. Concerned about their legal status in the U.S., they've braved freezing temperatures on exhausting treks to make it over the northern border.



Photo Credit: CBC News ]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Taps NY Billionaire to Review Intelligence Agencies]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:52:39 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Feinberg_Trump_15519367-148727880542900001.jpg

 President Donald Trump said Thursday his administration has asked a New York-based private equity executive to lead a review of the U.S. intelligence community as he moves to crack down on "illegal leaks" of classified information.

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<![CDATA[Guiterrez: Hispanic Dems Barred From Meeting With ICE Director]]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 03:32:36 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/luis+gutierrez+GettyImages-580956024.jpg

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez was among a group of Hispanic congressmen barred from a meeting Thursday with a top federal immigration enforcement official, while lawmakers who did make it to the meeting worry all undocumented immigrants are at risk of deportation.

According to Gutierrez, a Democrat, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were scheduled to meet Tuesday with acting Immigration and Custom Enforcement Director Thomas Homan to discuss President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on deportation.

The meeting was canceled at the last minute and rescheduled for Thursday, at which point, Gutierrez said, it was transformed into an invitation-only, Republican-led affair. The congressman was ultimately asked to leave by an aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wasn’t on hand. Several other members of the CHC were also excluded.

“In 20-plus years, I have never heard of the Republicans controlling what meetings Democrats can have with officials of the Executive Branch and never had a staffer ask me to leave a meeting to which I am entitled to attend,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Ryan told Politico Thursday that the speaker’s office organized the bipartisan meeting at the request of the DHS, limiting attendance to “members with jurisdictional interests in immigration enforcement,” including certain members of the Democratic caucus.

As NBC News reported, the members of Congress who did get to attend the meeting didn't walk away comforted. They still expressed concern for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said that "all immigrant communities are at risk" with changes ordered by President Donald Trump through his executive orders.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., said in a statement that, "in effect, every undocumented person in America is now vulnerable to arrest and removal as a result of the president's orders."

Jennifer Elzea, an ICE spokeswoman, said in a statement that the meeting emphasized that ICE "does not conduct arrests indiscriminately" or use checkpoints. Officers instead seek out preidentified individuals for arrest at specific locations based on law enforcement leads." She explained that the arrests are made on "a case by case basis."

Rep. Linda Sanchez, a vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said that "they said we can and should expect many more arrests and removals this year."

Last week, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began carrying out Trump’s deportation order, arresting more than 680 individuals in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Antonio.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly insisted Monday that the order only affects “convicted criminal aliens and gang members” and “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws,” although some continue to question the scope of the enforcement.

"My constituents have questions about who is being targeted by ICE, which DREAMers with DACA they are targeting for deportation, which victims of domestic violence ICE is deporting, which immigrants at church shelters are being targeted,” Gutierrez said.

“We know the statements by Trump about targeting criminals is a lie, but we were hoping someone could give us the truth or any information at all,” he added.

A group of Democratic senators, including Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, introduced legislation Thursday to rescind the measure.

“It’s time for Congress to stand up and make it clear that we will not be intimidated by the President’s bullying,” Durbin said in a statement. “This legislation would end the Administration’s mass deportation scheme and begin to lay the groundwork for a smarter, fairer immigration approach."

Trump extolled the virtues of his divisive order during a White House press conference Thursday, 

"We've begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety," he told reporters. "We are saving American lives. Court system has not made it easy for us."

Outlining his vision for bolstering the country's borders, Trump detailed plans for a "great wall" on the Mexican border and a crackdown on sanctuary cities, like Chicago. In addition, the president was unable to give a clear answer Thursday about how his administration would handle DACA students, who came to the country as young children and applied for deferred action, a form of relief from deportation.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trump: Flynn 'Was Just Doing His Job']]> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:47:45 -0500 //media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/FLYNN_Trump_Full-148727036175000001.jpg

President Donald Trump said he believed Michael Flynn "was just doing his job" as a then-incoming national security advisor to the White House when he called a Russian minister. Trump maintained that Flynn was fired for misleading Vice President Mike Pence. 

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