<![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, 24 Apr 2017 17:21:56 -0400Mon, 24 Apr 2017 17:21:56 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[7 in 10 Back Independent Probe of Russia, Election: Poll]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 13:05:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/189*120/quien-es-putin17.jpg

Committees in both the House and Senate are looking into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, but nearly three-quarters of Americans would prefer an independent, non-partisan commission, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

A majority of Americans, 54 percent, do believe that that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

But 61 percent say they have little to no confidence in Congress conducting a fair or impartial investigation.

The poll of 900 adults has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Analysis: Can Bernie Sanders Save the Democratic Party?]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:31:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/670413724-Bernie-Sanders-DNC-Rally-Miami.jpg

Boos, blowback and a American flag falling during a live interview have plagued the Democratic National Committee's national "unity tour" featuring Sen Bernie Sanders and DNC chairman Tom Perez, NBC News reported.

Reviews were mostly negative for the effort to put the Democratic party's new leader in front of Sanders' most loyal supporters in key spots around the country, like Miami and Las Vegas, where the tour ended Saturday.

Sanders is the most popular politician in the country, and he and Perez both want his supporters to work with the party, but what unity was on display was dubbed "strange behavior" by the Washington Post.

"We must conclude that the current model, the current process by which the Democratic Party does business, is a failed process," Sanders said minutes after Perez left the stage in Mesa. "That is why I am here tonight. Enough is enough."



Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[California Gears Up to Fight Trump on Car Emissions]]> Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:18:00 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/134002821-405-traffic-generic.jpg

Even as President Trump pulls back on regulations governing car emissions, part of a broader policy of overturning environmental protections enacted by the Obama administration, California is determinedly headed in the opposite direction with stricter rules it alone is authorized to enact.

During a visit to Detroit last month, Trump halted the imposition of standards that would cut car emissions almost in half by 2025, including greenhouse gases that are responsible for global warming. The administration instead will reopen a review of the standards at the request of the major automakers, giving them the chance to argue that the rules should be eased.

"This is going to be a new era for American jobs and job creation," Trump said in Detroit.

But California is moving forward with the more stringent tailpipe rules, setting up an expected showdown with the Trump administration. A week after Trump's announcement, the California Air Resources Board not only voted to reaffirm the standards and but also began to consider new ones to take effect after 2025. Likely to join the fight will be the dozen other states that follow California's standards rather than the national ones. States can choose either.

"The Trump administration really is very aggressively proclaiming that we should not be addressing climate change at the federal level," said Sean B. Hecht, the co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the UCLA School of Law. "And the auto companies have taken this as an opportunity…to say, 'Hold on, let's try to back out of this deal where we have these federal fuel economy standards through 2025.'"

Trump has had a mixed record in his first 100 days in office. He began dismantling former President Barack Obama's major climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, with an executive order lifting carbon restrictions, but has made little headway on many of his other campaign promises. His travel ban is tied up in the courts and an overhaul of Obamacare was withdrawn from the House because it had little support. Now California and other, mostly blue states are vowing to fight any easing of regulations governing car emissions.

California needs to control emissions to meet its ambitious plans for battling climate change, with zero-emission vehicles such as electric cars from Tesla and Chevrolet part of the mix. Last year, legislators passed a bill requiring that by 2030, the state cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below its 1990 levels. To send a message about their willingness to take on Trump, Democratic leaders of the California legislature hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to represent them in legal fights with the White House.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and the state's other top Democrats called Trump's move to roll back the emissions standards a cynical ploy.

"President Trump's decision today to weaken emission standards in cars is an unconscionable gift to polluters," Brown wrote to the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on March 15. "Once again you've put the interests of big oil ahead of clean air and politics ahead of science."

Electricity production accounted for most of the greenhouse gases produced in 2014 at 30 percent, but transportation was right behind at 26 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's website. In California, that percentage was even higher: Transportation generated 37 percent of its emissions in 2014.

"For sure California is gearing up," said Deborah Sivas, an environmental litigator at Stanford Law School. "Part of it depends on the next moves by the administration."

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment about its plans for the emissions standards. In a statement last month, Pruitt said that along with the Department of Transportation, the EPA would consider whether the emissions standards were good not only for the environment but also for consumers.

"These standards are costly for automakers and the American people," he said. "We will work with our partners at DOT to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic."

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed his statement, calling Trump's position a "win" for the American people.

Attempts to undercut the standards will prompt drawn-out litigation from states such as California or New York, Sivas predicted. To reverse an earlier decision, the EPA will have to go through the same series of elaborate steps that were taken to put the rules into place.

"They can't just say, 'Oh yeah, well forget that,'" Sivas said.

California earned its unique authority to set regulations tougher than national ones through its pioneering efforts to curb air pollution. When Congress amended the Clean Air Act in 1970, it gave the EPA authority to restrict air pollution from tailpipes as a way to tackle smog. But because California had established its own laws a decade earlier, and because it successfully argued that its air pollution was naturally worse than other states', it was given special status in the law. California may ask the EPA administrator for a waiver to restrict pollution more stringently than the federal government if, in the law's language, the state's standards are at least as protective of public health and welfare and needed to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.

The EPA has denied California's request for a waiver just once, during the administration of President George W. Bush, when California first moved to regulate greenhouse gases in addition to more traditional pollutants. California sued but the case was never decided because Obama was elected.

If the Trump administration were to deny future waivers, California would certainly push back. 

Hecht said that in the past, California has argued that it has compelling and extraordinary circumstances because it has a very large economy and sells many cars, and so its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases will make a difference. It also has said that climate change will have specific, negative effects on the state: the loss of the snow pack which will threaten its water supply, for example.

"They were accepted by the Obama administration, and the question will be, Will California win that court fight?'" he said.

Nor is there anything in the law giving the EPA administrator the authority to withdraw a waiver already granted.

"It doesn't speak to the issue one way or the other," said Richard Frank, an environmental law professor at the University of California-Davis.

The Trump administration would likely argue that it has the discretion to revoke any waivers granted by a previous administration, while California would say that absent specific language in the law, the EPA lacks the authority, he said.

"Given all that it will be tough for EPA to say we're going to rescind your waiver," Sivas said. "So I think California has the upper hand in that fight if it comes down to that."

At Pruitt's confirmation hearing, he refused to commit to keeping the waiver in place. Pressed by California's Sen. Kamala D. Harris, a Democrat, he said, "I don't know without going through the process to determine that. One would not want to presume the outcome."

If the Trump administration were to try to withdraw the waiver, Sivas thought California would win in court.

"It's pretty clear under the statue that the deference goes to California not to the EPA on whether the waiver is appropriate," she said. "The Congress wrote the statute that way."

The EPA has already concluded both that elevated levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger" public health and that emissions from new cars contribute to the dangerous levels of greenhouse gases.

The so-called "endangerment finding" came about after Massachusetts sued the EPA under the George W. Bush administration to force it to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's "capacious definition of 'air pollutant,'" meaning the EPA had the statutory authority to regulate their emissions from new cars and other vehicles.

When it was challenged, the finding was upheld in a federal court, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

"It is there, and it needs to be enforced and respected," Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing. "There is nothing that I know that would cause it to be reviewed."

Massachusetts — which along with Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington follow California's lead — is committed to the stricter standards, said Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

As with California, Massachusetts is relying on lower car emissions to achieve its climate change goals. The administration of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker wants to place 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road in Massachusetts by 2025 as part of a multi-state effort.

"Any weakening of those standards would raise concerns about Massachusetts' ability to meet emissions reduction goals and maintain ozone standards," Coletta said.

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation also said it would stick with the California standards to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.

"While federal leadership is essential, New York will not stand idly by while clean air protections are eviscerated, and will take any and all actions necessary to ensure public health and our environment are protected," it said.

Meanwhile, the attorneys general of eight of the states plus the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection criticized Trump's position as a dramatic wrong turn for the country that would undermine successful efforts to combat pollution.

"An extensive technical study by the Environmental Protection Agency already found that the standards are fully and economically achievable by the auto industry," their March 16 statement said. "Relaxing them would increase the air pollution that is responsible for premature death, asthma, and more – particularly in our most vulnerable communities."

The standards that Trump wants to ease were set in 2012 in an ambitious effort that also created consistency across the country. The agreement, which grew out of an accord that Obama crafted in 2009 after the financial melt-down, brought together the Obama administration, the car manufacturers and the California Air Resources Board. The rules require each company's fleet of vehicles for the model years 2022 through 2025 to achieve on average 54.5 miles per gallon and they enable the manufactures to avoid making two versions of vehicles for different states.

As part of the agreement, the EPA undertook an evaluation mid-way through the period, but expedited its analysis just before Obama's term ended. In November, with Trump about to take office, it announced it would leave the regulations in place.

That decision left many of the car companies crying foul, saying the review had been rushed, and urging Trump to intervene and weaken the standards. Manufactures warned of price hikes over what consumers could pay, and the loss of 1 million automotive jobs, and pointed to the popularity of pickup trucks and other less fuel-efficient vehicles.

"The Trump Administration has created an opportunity for decision-makers to reach a thoughtful and coordinated outcome predicated on the best and most current data," the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement after Trump’s announcement.

Now that the review has been reopened, a final decision from the EPA could come as late as April 2018.

Meanwhile in court, the alliance is arguing that the EPA's speeded up review was arbitrary and capricious. California responded by asking the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit that it be allowed to defend the feasibility of the standards in court.

An earlier analysis by the EPA found that the standards would reduce oil consumption by nearly 40 billion gallons of refined gasoline and diesel fuel, decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 540 million metric tons and save consumers more than $1,650 per vehicle, the California politicians said.

"Your action to weaken vehicle pollution standards — standards your own members agreed to —breaks your promise to the American people," Brown wrote to the automobile manufacturers. "Please be advised that California will take the necessary steps to preserve the current standards and protect the health of our people and the stability of our climate."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pelosi: Border Wall Is ‘Immoral, Expensive, Unwise’]]> Sun, 23 Apr 2017 12:07:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/pelosibudgetfeuerherd.jpg

A deal to fund the federal government this week won't necessarily include all the funds needed for a border wall, but White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday said there will be "enough to get going" — even as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it "immoral," NBC News reported.

Asked by "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd in an exclusive interview whether the Trump administration would push a government shutdown if border wall funding is not included in a bill to fund the government this week, Priebus said, "it will be enough in the negotiation for us to either move forward with either the construction or the planning or enough to get going with the border wall."

Pelosi said she and the Democrats will stand firmly against construction of a border wall. 

"The wall is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise, and when the president says, 'Well, I promised a wall during my campaign.' I don't think he said he was going to pass billions of dollars of cost of the wall on to the taxpayer," she said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Majority Give Trump Low Marks for First 100 Days: Poll]]> Sun, 23 Apr 2017 09:21:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-642088032.jpg

About two-thirds of Americans give President Donald Trump poor or middling marks for his first 100 days in office, including a plurality who say he's off to a "poor start," according to results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the survey believe Trump is off to a poor start, with 19 percent saying it's been "only a fair start," NBC News reported. That's compared to a combined 35 percent who think the president's first three months in office have been either "good" or "great."

Trump's overall job-approval rating stands at 40 percent—down four points from February. It's the lowest job-approval rating for a new president at this 100-day stage in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted April 17-20 of 900 adults, including more than 400 who were interviewed by cell phone. The poll's overall margin of error is plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.



Photo Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Mike Pence Discusses North Korea With Australia Leader]]> Sat, 22 Apr 2017 18:41:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Screen-Shot-2017-04-22-at-6.46.52-PM.jpg

Vice President Mike Pence and Australia's Prime Minister have joined forces on the issue of North Korea. They urged China to pressure the North Korean regime to drop its nuclear weapons program.

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<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton Warns Trump Admin. Threatens LGBT Rights]]> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 03:32:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/hcAP_17096774888472.jpg

Hillary Clinton slammed President Donald Trump Thursday at a fundraiser, saying his administration is a threat to LGBT rights, NBC News reported.

"Each time this administration elevates an outspoken opponent of LGBT equality," the former presidential candidate said, "I picture all of the joyful, beaming couples that I've met across our country … who are so excited to get married, start a family, and begin their lives together."

At the event in New York City, Clinton criticized Trump for withdrawing Obama-era school guidance aimed at protecting transgender kids, which instructed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their chosen gender identities.

The former secretary of state was at the fundraiser to receive the LGBT Center's Trailblazer award.



Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Groups Take Aim at USDA for Animal Welfare Document Takedown]]> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 09:06:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/USDA-Headquarters-GettyImages-71752176.jpg

Thousands of public records about animal welfare have vanished from the internet, part of a government database that included atrocious puppy mill conditions, improper veterinary care and other mistreatment of animals. Now activists are hitting back at the USDA in the courtroom and by posting deleted records online.

The United States' Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) cited ongoing litigation and privacy concerns as the reason for its database's removal two months ago.

APHIS, an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), previously hosted open records on its website pertaining to the administration of the Animal Welfare Act. The law regulates the treatment of animals in research facilities, maintains a minimum standard of care for warm-blooded animals and requires cats and dogs to be held in pounds for five days before being released to dealers. Included in the records are inspection reports, research facility reports and enforcement actions. The documents provide information on animal experiments, puppy mill conditions and the treatment of animals at circuses, among other things.

APHIS' explanation for the documents' removal wasn't sufficient for those passionate about animal rights, or defenders of public information. They say the information is crucial for public oversight, and that it takes away animal-rights groups' ability to ensure the law is being enforced. 

One man took it upon himself to collect and post thousands of the deleted documents using his website The Memory Hole.

"When I first heard that the database had been pulled offline, I remember I proactively grabbed some of those documents," said Russ Kick, a writer and editor who runs the site.

While some of the records were the result of his own research, many have been sent to him by others who have also taken interest in the deletion of APHIS' database.

Talk of scrubbing the database began before President Donald Trump's administration took office in January. Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Washington Post in February the department responsible for enforcing the Horse Protection and Animal Welfare acts had recommended removing the database from the web and making the documents available through a Freedom of Information Act request. He said he did not act on the recommendation because he did not have enough time left to review it before leaving his job. 

The documents were removed from the department's website in early February, and only some have been returned since. Some enforcement records are also available on the Office of Administrative Law Judges' website. 

Delcianna Winders, an academic fellow in the Animal Law and Policy Program at Harvard Law School, said that no new enforcement records had been posted online since 2016. 

On its website, APHIS said it decided to make adjustments to posting the records before the change of administration. 

"In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency's website," the agency said on its site. 

Though APHIS said it is defending against the litigation, its statement added, "in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy."

Kick, with The Memory Hole, isn't alone in his effort to share the documents with the public.

Winders, who uses the documents for her own work at Harvard, sent thousands of the records she's saved to Kick to publish on his site.

"The impact is huge, I don’t think it can be overstated," she said of the documents' removal.

Numerous groups use the records regularly in order to ensure that the agency is complying with the Animal Welfare Act, she added. 

"Those laws have basically become unenforceable now," she said.

She isn’t the only one who feels that way.

"Animals across the country are in jeopardy so long as the USDA's illegal deletion of records continues," said Brittany Peet, the director of captive animal law enforcement for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

She said PETA is part of a coalition that has filed a lawsuit against the USDA to force them to restore the documents. Winders is a plaintiff in the same lawsuit, according to the complaint.

PETA has also made available through a Dropbox over 21,000 of its own copies of the deleted records, which Kick also said he linked to on his site.

APHIS has restored some of the deleted documents, but the amount is a far cry from the volume that had been maintained online for years, experts say.

In a statement to NBC, APHIS spokesperson Tanya Espinosa said the agency began reposting some information online on Feb. 17. The statement added that people can submit FOIA requests for the records.

"If the same records are frequently requested via the Freedom of Information Act process, APHIS may post the appropriately redacted versions to its website," Espinosa said.

Kathleen Conlee, vice president of Animal Research Issues at the Humane Society of the U.S., said her organization won’t stop working until all of the information is restored. 

"[This] has a major impact on the public and consumers and it spans a wide avenue of animal issues," Conlee told NBC.

Peet echoed Conlee’s sentiment, saying, "This isn’t just about animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Act also regulates important human safety issues."

Some of these issues include being able to find out about diseases at zoos, or attacks by dangerous, captive animals, she said.

This isn't the first time animal rights groups have had to battle it out with the USDA.

In the early 2000’s, Conlee said, the same information was inaccessible for a short time. The organization filed a lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement that compelled APHIS to make documents public.

All annual reports, including pain and distress information, had to be made available to the public electronically. The USDA was also forced to indicate on its site which facilities didn't submit annual reports. 

The Humane Society issued a notice of violation of court order and intent to enforce or reopen the lawsuit in February shortly after the documents were removed from the internet. The notice states that the USDA violated the terms of the 2009 agreement.

APHIS hasn’t always received a gold star for its enforcement of the law, either — something experts were quick to point out.

In a 2014 report, the Office of the Inspector General "cites specific examples of enforcement deficiencies, poor oversight, inadequate penalties, lack of deterrence, and many examples of animals suffering and dying," according to the Animal Welfare Institute.

Politicians are also backing efforts to get the records fully restored through legislation to compel the agency to make the documents public.

Peet said public scrutiny has been the primary thing holding the agency's feet to the fire when it comes to ensuring that basic animal welfare standards are upheld.

"And that's been taken away," she said. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Ivanka Trump's Chinese Fan Club Worships 'Goddess Ivanka']]> Thu, 20 Apr 2017 11:40:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ivankatrumpinauguration_1200x675.jpg

The White House's first daughter Ivanka Trump is a star among the young Chinese population, news agencies such as China's official news agency Xinhua has described Trump as "capable and stylish," and the Communist Party's flagship newspaper, The People's Daily, called her "elegant and sociable," NBC News reported.

An online fan club that has thousands of followers is called "Goddess Ivanka."

But her fame and fandom has meant that hundreds of copycat Chinese companies have tried to cash in on her brand. 

Trump's company has 16 registered trademarks in China and more than 30 pending applications, according to China's Trademark Office database, The Associated Press reported. Those are in addition to at least five trademarks given preliminary approval since the presidential inauguration.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Welcomes Palin, Nugent and Kid Rock to the White House]]> Thu, 20 Apr 2017 10:27:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/kidrockandthenuge.jpg

Rockers Ted Nugent and Kid Rock joined former reality show star and one-time Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin for dinner at the White House with President Donald Trump Wednesday night, an administration official told NBC News. 

Palin, a former Alaska governor, posted photos on Facebook of her, Nugent and Rock in the oval office, speaking with the president and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. 

"A great night at the White House. Thank you to President Trump for the invite!" Palin wrote in a caption that accompanies the photos.

Palin and Rock were early supporters of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Nugent, who has sparked controversies with his outlandish political comments in recent years, also supported the future president during the campaign. 

Known as the "Motor City Madman," Nugent called for President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be “tried for treason and hung” after an American ambassador and others were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. 

He was also recorded calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and a “gangster” in 2014.



Photo Credit: Getty/FilmMagic
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<![CDATA[White House Defends Aircraft Carrier Claim]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:52:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/NC_trump160419_1500x845.jpg

White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the Pentagon's claim of sending the Carl Vinson strike group to North Korea as a nuclear deterrent. The Carl Vinson was reportedly heading the opposite direction, to Australia, for a training exercise. 

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<![CDATA[DC Driver's Licenses to Add 'Washington, DC' to Top]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 10:38:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/4fa5cef4b1ced.preview-300.jpg

You might notice a big change the next time you have to renew your DC driver's license.

Starting in June, the DMV will go back to placing "Washington, D.C." along the top of all licenses, WAMU reports. Right now, licenses have "District of Columbia" at the top. The goal of the change is to cut back on confusion.

In recent years, several D.C. license holders have reported experiencing trouble at airport security or at liquor stores in other states. 

In 2014, a D.C. woman flying home from Arizona was questioned as to whether her D.C. driver's license was a valid form of identification. Luckily, the confusion was short-lived, and the woman made it home without any delays.

Justin Gray, a Cox Media Group reporter, experienced a similar situation a few months later.

Gray was heading back to D.C. when, he says, a Transportation Security Administration agent didn't recognize his license.

A quirky law in New Hampshire also prevents people with D.C.-issued driver's licenses from buying alcohol.



Photo Credit: Vernon Ogrodnek / Press of AC]]>