Review Category : Politics

President Trump decries Clinton ‘collusion’ as Democrats take aim at GOP health care bill

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump, still mired in persistent allegations that his victory in the 2016 presidential election was aided by his campaign colluding with Russia, took to Twitter on Sunday morning to accuse Hillary Clinton of colluding with the Democratic Party to secure her nomination.

“Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie!,” Trump tweeted.

Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2017

Clinton’s alleged collusion with her party to defeat the insurgent Sanders campaign in the 2016 primary is an issue that brought division in the Democratic Party’s base, and has resulted in a lawsuit that seeks restitution for donations made by supporters to the self-described Democratic Socialist’s campaign, citing claims of fraud and deception on the part of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The allegations — bolstered in part by a trove of emails leaked from the account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks — ultimately played a role in Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, resigning as the DNC chair. They also inspired protests that took place at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

The president’s tweet follows others he wrote on Friday and Saturday that took aim at the Obama administration, alleging it failed to curtail the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?” Trump wrote.

Clinton and Sanders, meanwhile, have been focused on bolstering the opposition argument against the GOP health care bill, which will be evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office later this week.

Clinton tweeted on Saturday, saying that if the bill is passed, the Republicans are “the death party.”

Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they’re the death party. https://t.co/jCStfOaBjy

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 23, 2017

Meanwhile, Sanders helped kick off the start of the “Protect Our Care” tour at a rally at the Pittsburgh Convention Center, using the opportunity to blast the Republican health care bill.

“This is a barbaric and immoral piece of legislation,” Sanders told the crowd Saturday night.

Trump has backed the proposed health care legislation, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, despite calling a version of the bill that passed in the House “mean.”

So far, five Republicans have come out in opposition to the current version of the bill, creating major obstacles for getting the legislation passed. Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that objections that exist within his party can be overcome through negotiation.

“I don’t think they’re that far off — you know, famous last words — but I think we are going to get there,” he said.

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Democrats ‘better stand for something,’ says party’s Senate leader

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, in the wake of his party’s most recent loss in a congressional special election, Democrats “better stand for something.”

Schumer told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday that the party will unveil a strong economic message this summer that will appeal to the middle class and unite Democrats.

“Here’s the No. 1 lesson from Georgia 6th,” Schumer said in reference to the Democratic loss in the special election last week in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District outside Atlanta.

“Democrats need a strong, bold, sharp-edged and commonsense economic agenda,” the Senate minority leader said.

Schumer said Democrats have an opportunity given that Trump has an approval rating of 40 percent.

“But they say, ‘What the heck do the Democrats stand for?’ We better stand for something, and it can’t be baby steps,” he said.

The New York senator also addressed the Senate health care bill unveiled by Republicans on Thursday, which he said stands about a 50 percent chance of passing.

“I think they have, at best, a 50-50 chance of passing this bill,” Schumer said, adding that the legislation “devastating.” “And that’s what’s making it so hard for them to pass it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to bring the bill to a vote on the Senate floor before the July Fourth recess. So far, five Republican senators have announced their opposition to the bill in its current form, which raises questions about whether the bill can clear the 50-vote threshold for passage.

The GOP Senate leadership unveiled the legislation, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act, on Thursday after negotiating behind closed doors. The private negotiations drew criticism and concern from Democratic senators and some Republicans.

Schumer told Stephanopoulos on This Week that he asked McConnell to bring the entire Senate together to work on the bill.

“Let Democrats and Republicans together — all 100 of us — meet in the old Senate chamber and discuss this,” the Democratic senator said.

But he said Senate Republican leaders “want to try it themselves first.”

“If they fail, hopefully they’ll come sit down. They’ll stop sabotaging Obamacare and sit down with us and make Obamacare better,” Schumer said.

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Adviser: Trump is ‘leaving open the possibility’ conversations with Comey were taped

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump is “leaving open the possibility” that his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey were taped, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said.

Conway’s comments in an interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday came two days after the president announced on Twitter that he had not personally taped his conversations with Comey.

In a pair of tweets on Thursday, Trump wrote: “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

Stephanopoulos asked Conway on This Week if the president has tried to end any uncertainty over the issue by asking the intelligence community if it had recorded any of the conversations between Trump and Comey.

She declined to say.

“I’m not going to comment on his conversations with his intelligence community,” Conway said. “He is leaving open the possibility that it could have happened.”

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Kellyanne Conway declines comment on potential Supreme Court retirement

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Amid speculation that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy may announce his retirement, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway declined to say whether President Trump or the White House has heard from the justice about his plans.

“I will never reveal a conversation between a sitting justice and the president or the White House,” Conway told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday.

The Supreme Court’s last day before summer recess is Monday, and there is speculation that any news out of the high court could come then.

Conway said the White House is “paying very close attention” to decisions that may come down before the court adjourns for the summer.

In the event of a vacancy, she said the president would look for a candidate with similar credentials to his previous nominee who was confirmed, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“I can tell you one thing: Just as the president did with Justice Neil Gorsuch, whenever there are vacancies, whenever that happens, he will look for someone with the fidelity to the Constitution, who doesn’t make up the law as they go along,” Conway said.

She added that she hopes Republicans can “get more than a handful of Democrat senators” to vote for the nominee.

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President Trump on health care: ‘I think we are going to get there’

Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As five Republicans have come out in opposition to the current Republican health care bill, President Donald Trump expressed optimism that the Senate will pass the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“I don’t think they’re that far off — you know, famous last words — but I think we are going to get there,” the president said in an interview with reporters.

Trump downplayed the opposition that the bill is facing, suggesting the objections that exist within his party can be overcome through negotiation.

“We have a few people that are — I think you can say modestly — they’re not standing on the rooftop screaming. They want to get some points. I think they’ll get some points,” he said.

Asked if Republican senators are doing enough to help him get the bill through, the president said, “I think so.”

In addition to the five Republicans who have said definitively that they will not support the legislation as it is currently written, there are several other Republicans who have expressed misgivings about the bill since getting a first look at the text on Thursday. Prior to the bill’s Thursday release, most members of the Senate had not seen the text, which was drafted behind closed doors by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a close cadre of aides.

In the interview, the president continued to slam Democrats as obstructionists, and singled out Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., for criticizing the legislation before he had seen what was in it, noting that few in the GOP had even seen it at that time.

“I saw Sen. Schumer criticizing the bill a couple weeks ago, and he had no idea what was in the bill,” he said. “In fact, the Republican senators didn’t know because it wasn’t released. Very few people knew.”

The president also took a personal swipe at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been a leading voice in criticizing the GOP’s plan to repeal Obamacare. Trump once again referred to her as “Pocahontas” and called her a “highly overrated voice.”

“I call her Pocahontas, and that’s an insult to Pocahontas. I actually think she is just somebody that has a lot of hatred, a lot of anger,” the president said.

He went on to suggest that Warren actually damaged Hillary Clinton’s chances of capturing the White House during the 2016 campaign.

“I watched her campaigning for Hillary, and she was so angry. Hillary would be sitting back, listening to her, trying to smile,” he said. “But there were lot of people were going, ‘Wow, is this what we want?’ ”

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Top Democrat says Senate health bill has ’50-50′ chance of passing

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said there’s a 50-50 chance the Senate Republicans’ health care bill will pass.

“I think they have, at best, a 50-50 chance of passing this bill,” Schumer told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week.

The New York senator said the bill is “devastating.”

“And that’s what’s making it so hard for them to pass it,” he said.

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled their health care plan — the Better Care Reconciliation Act — that was negotiated behind closed doors.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to bring the bill to a vote on the Senate floor before the July Fourth recess.

So far, five Republican senators have announced their opposition to the bill in its current form, raising questions about whether the bill can clear the 50-vote threshold for passage.

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Kellyanne Conway on Senate health bill: ‘These are not cuts to Medicaid’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway asserted Sunday that the Senate health care bill does not propose cuts to Medicaid, despite projections that it would cut Medicaid by $800 billion.

“These are not cuts to Medicaid,” Conway said to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “This slows the rate for the future, and it allows governors more flexibility for the future with Medicaid dollars.”

Conway said those who became a recipient of Medicaid through the Obamacare expansion are “grandfathered in.”

“We’re talking about in the future,” Conway said.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos on how the proposal doesn’t amount to cuts when it directly curtails funding for Medicaid, Conway said the administration sees its actions as putting Medicaid back to pre-Obamacare levels.

“We don’t see them as cuts. It’s slowing the rate of growth in the future and getting Medicaid back to where it was,” she said.

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Koch brothers plan stepped-up spending: ‘More optimistic now about what we can accomplish’

Hemera/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) — The Koch brothers’ political network plans to pick up the pace of spending in the run-up to 2018, despite major policy disagreements with the Trump administration that includes skepticism of the health care bill now being debated in the Senate.

The Koch network of organizations –- funded by some 100,000 donors, with billionaires Charles and David Koch front and center -– had previously announced plans to spend between $300 million and $400 million in the 2017-18 cycle.

“We think it’s going to be on the high end of that range,” Tim Phillips, president of the Kochs’ political wing Americans for Prosperity, told reporters Saturday as the Koch network’s twice-a-year conference started.

Charles Koch told donors that the network he and his brother control is growing and getting stronger. In his opening remarks to the gathering, at a posh resort in Colorado Springs, he made no mention of President Trump, who has had a tense relationship with the Kochs.

“We are more optimistic now about what we can accomplish than we’ve ever been,” Charles Koch said. “I see us taking it to the next level.”

In Colorado this weekend, hundreds of wealthy conservative donors have joined four governors, six senators, and five House members -– all of them Republicans -– to discuss policy and strategy under the thematic batter of “the courage to lead.”

As for leadership in Washington, leaders of the Koch-backed political groups are expressing optimism about progress in some areas, particularly judicial appointments and the rollback of regulations.

But they are airing sharp differences with the Trump administration in other areas, including criminal justice reform, trade agreements, and drug enforcement.

Mark Holden, Koch Industries’ general counsel, told reporters that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is embracing a failed “big-government approach” that is “based on fear” when it comes to following tougher sentencing guidelines. Holden has led efforts to reach out to Republicans and Democrats -– including the Obama administration -– on sentencing reform, only to see Sessions move in the other direction.

“Hopefully we can change people’s minds,” Holden said.

The Koch-backed groups have stopped short of endorsing the Senate health care draft revealed this past week. They came out against the initial House proposal, but relented after changes were made to reflect conservatives’ concerns.

“We’re still hopeful on the health care front,” Phillips said, adding that the bill “needs to get better” from a conservative perspective to earn his group’s support.

He called it “flatly wrong” for Republicans to support continuing Medicaid expansions -– something moderate lawmakers are pushing for in the Senate.

“Their position is not the compassionate way to go, because this program is failing,” he said.

The Koch brothers have had a tense relationship with Trump, dating back to a primary campaign where the president attacked his GOP rivals for their ties to the billionaires. Charles Koch told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl last April that “it’s possible” Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Trump for small-government priorities; the Kochs wound up attacking Clinton in local races while staying away from outright support for Trump.

As part of an effort to patch up relations, Vice President Mike Pence met privately Friday night with Charles Koch. Pence was in Colorado for unrelated political events and did not attend the donor gathering.

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Bernie Sanders headlining ‘don’t take our health care’ rallies in three states

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Bernie Sanders is headlining a “don’t take our health care” rally tonight in Pittsburgh as a first stop on a three-state tour to mobilize opposition to the Senate health care bill, which the Vermont senator has called “by far the most harmful piece of legislation I have seen in my lifetime.”

Sanders teamed up with progressive advocacy organization MoveOn.org to hold rallies this weekend in Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Charleston, West Virginia, with the goal of pressuring Republican senators in each of the states to oppose the legislation released Thursday.

Republican Sens. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia have said they’re reviewing the legislation and have not made a final decision.

Toomey issued the most supportive statement of the three, calling the Senate bill, “an important and constructive first step in repealing Obamacare and replacing it.”

Five GOP senators have so far announced their opposition to the bill drafted by some of their Republican colleagues. Republicans can afford only two defections from the 52 senators in their ranks to pass the bill.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its assessment of the bill early next week.

Sanders has slammed the legislation as “disastrous,” saying in a statement Thursday that it “has nothing to do with health care. It has everything to do with an enormous transfer of wealth from working people to the richest Americans.”

Sanders spokesperson Josh Miller-Lewis told ABC News, “We’re at a pivotal moment in the fight to save health care and the goal this weekend is to elevate that fight.”

All three of the states where the senator and MoveOn are holding rallies were won by President Trump in the 2016 election.

The first rally is Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Pittsburgh, followed by events Sunday in Ohio and West Virginia.

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Sally Yates goes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions over criminal justice reform

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is publicly criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his hardline stance on drug-related crimes.

In a highly publicized end to her 27-year career with the Justice Department, Yates was fired by President Donald Trump in January. On Friday, Yates published her first tweet as a “private citizen,” in which she linked to an op-ed she penned for The Washington Post.

My first tweet as a private citizen. Read my op-ed responding to AG Sessions on the need for criminal justice reform https://t.co/143F3hagva

— Sally Yates (@SallyQYates) June 24, 2017

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back the clock to the 1980s, reinstating the harsh, indiscriminate use of mandatory minimum drug sentences,” she writes in the editorial.

The opinion piece was a direct response to one written by Sessions in the Post last week in which he advocated for a “tough” approach to fighting crime and echoed the president’s mantra to “make America safe again.”

Sessions was defending a memo he’d issued in May reminding federal prosecutors that pursuing sentences less than the mandatory minimum requirements would require a supervisor’s approval.

Citing what she called historically low violent-crime rates, Yates argues that Sessions’ memo limits the ability of prosecutors to pursue an appropriate sentencing for drug offenses.

In her piece, Yates references a 2014 study that found drug defendants with shorter sentences were slightly less likely to commit additional crimes. However, the study notes, the analysis showed “no statistically significant difference in the recidivism rates of the two groups.”

She was quickly praised for her public advocacy by fellow former prosecutor Preet Bharara, who was also fired this year by Trump.

I welcome my friend @SallyQYates to private life and the public arena. Thank you for your service. Good to see you here. https://t.co/r3oTmH7tyW

— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) June 24, 2017

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