US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Speaker has shrugged off a new lawmaker’s use of a profane epithet to assail President Donald Trump.
Democrat Rashida Tlaib courted controversy when she used explicit language while calling for the president’s impeachment.
Ms Pelosi on Thursday said while she would not use such language, it was no worse than things Mr Trump has said.
The controversy comes amid renewed talk of impeachment among lawmakers.
The Republican president called her comments “highly disrespectful” to the US in a news conference on Friday.
“I thought her comments were disgraceful. This is a person I don’t know, I assume she’s new,” he told reporters.
“I think she dishonoured herself and dishonoured her family using language like that in front of her son and whoever else was there.”
When asked about her call for impeachment, Mr Trump responded: “You can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job that’s the way I view it.”
Earlier on Friday, he tweeted that his political enemies only want to remove him from office because he is “the most successful”.
Donald J. Trump
How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?
What did Ms Tlaib say? Michigan’s Ms Tlaib made the remark to supporters at a reception hours after she was sworn in on Thursday as one of the first two Muslim women members of Congress.
“People love you and you win,” she said. “And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t.'”
She added that they would impeach Mr Trump, using a profane term to describe him.
On her first day in office, Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to begin implementing the expansion of Medicaid that Maine voters passed more than a year ago.
Mills took little time to bask in her historic win as Maine’s first female governor back in November before declaring she would implement the expansion that voters had passed last November.
The expansion will make Medicaid available to roughly 70,000 more Mainers.
Mills predecessor, Gov. Paul LePage had vehemently opposed the expansion and refused to implement it even after Maine voters passed it.
Democrats will take control over the House of Representatives as new members are sworn in today. Democrats picked up 40 seats in the November election, while in the Senate Republicans expanded their majority slightly to 53. Over 100 women will serve in the House for the first time in U.S. history, including the first two Native American women, the first two Latina women from Texas and the first two Muslim women. Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will be sworn in on the Qur’an that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, and she plans to wear a thobe—a traditional Palestinian gown—to the ceremony. Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is now the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress.
One congressional seat that will not be filled today is North Carolina’s 9th District. Republican Mark Harris was initially believed to be the winner of that race against Democrat Dan McCready, but the results were not certified, amid allegations of Republican voter fraud. With their new majority, Democrats now have the ability to subpoena the administration and are expected to launch investigations into President Trump and his administration.
Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate and incoming US senator from Utah, sharply criticised President Donald Trump and said the US leader had caused dismay around the world.
In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post late on Tuesday, Romney criticised a number of Trump’s actions in December.
“The appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs all defined his presidency down,” he wrote.
He added that “Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world.”
Romney suggested that “on balance, (Trump’s) conduct over the past two years … is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
Trump hit back in an early morning tweet on Wednesday, saying, “Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast!”
Trump questioned whether Romney will be “a Flake”, referring to outgoing Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who was a frequent critic of Trump.
“Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful,” Trump said. “I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”
Romney’s op-ed came as he and other politicians take up their seats in the new Congress. It is unclear whether Trump will face a serious challenge in 2020 in securing the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Last February, Trump endorsed Romney’s run for a Senate seat in Utah.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney excoriated Trump as a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers”. Trump responded that Romney had “choked like a dog” in his unsuccessful 2012 campaign against Democratic President Barack Obama.
Despite Romney’s prior criticism, after Trump won the presidency in November 2016, he briefly considered tapping Romney as secretary of state.
In the op-ed on Tuesday, Romney said he “will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions”.
Romney has strongly defended press freedom and challenged Trump’s repeated attacks on some news outlets as an “enemy of the people”.
“The media is essential to our Republic, to our freedom, to the cause of freedom abroad, and to our national security. It is very much our friend,” Romney wrote in an essay in November.
This week in Washington has distilled all the chaos, upheaval, drama and conflict of the first two years of the Donald Trump presidency down to its purest form.
It’s been a bungee jump from high to low, then careening everywhere in between – and it’s not altogether clear that it won’t end with the loud and final thud of an impact on the ground.
Here’s a look at the crises – plural – that have unfolded in the past few days.
Most, if not all, are of the president’s own making. Mr Trump campaigned as a disrupter, and this week has been disruption in the extreme.
The shutdown fight
At the end of last week it appeared that Congress was on a glide path toward avoiding a partial shutdown of the federal government.
Then, on Thursday, everything went haywire. After the White House had signalled it would support the stopgap funding measure, hard-core conservative media outlets and politicians demanded the president draw a line in the sand over building his much-promised border wall.
Mr Trump abruptly changed course, announcing that “any measure that funds the government must include border security”. The fact he’s stopped calling for a wall and instead asked for border security and “metal slats” – fencing – is a concession that might have meant something if it was made weeks ago, and not under the shadow of a shutdown.
The irony is that the warning was made at a signing ceremony for bipartisan farm legislation, during which the president touted another recently passed bill reforming the criminal justice system. Green shoots of inter-party co-operation appeared this week, only to be met with the herbicide of wall acrimony.
The House of Representatives seems solidly behind including wall funding in any bill. But the Senate, with only 51 Republicans and unified Democratic opposition, is well short of the 60 votes needed to agree to such a measure. And if enough House members change their mind, there’s always the chance that the president will veto a stopgap bill without any funding for the wall.
The dynamic changes considerably on 3 January, when Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats take over the House.
At that point, the door slams shut on wall funding ever being approved in the House. The Senate may very well acquiesce to a new wall-free spending bill and the president becomes the final roadblock.
Would he back down, giving the House Democrats an early win? That may be a bitter pill to swallow.
For Mr Trump, however, the pain he appears to fear from his supporters seems to outweigh in his mind the political discomfort from a shutdown.
The great withdrawal
If Mr Trump’s pivot on budget funding was surprising, his unexpected announcement that he’s pulling the 2,000 US troops out of Syria – and reports of plans for thousands more coming home from Afghanistan – was an electric shock through the US foreign policy establishment.
The fact that the president, who campaigned in part on drawing down US involvement obligations abroad, might contemplate such a move is not unexpected. The manner in which the announcement was made, with little apparent consultation with senior government officials or US allies abroad, is the primary source of upheaval – and the cause for concern among even those who might otherwise support the decision.
Was Trump right to say ISIL is beaten?
Then came the exclamatory punctuation mark at the end of the drawdown drama. Defence Secretary James Mattis, perhaps the most universally respected member of Mr Trump’s Cabinet, announced he was resigning because of differences of opinion he has with the president. In his announcement, he offered full-throated support for the US alliance structure and a warning that the US must serve as a counterweight to authoritarian rivals.
Then came his parting shot.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defence whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he wrote.
It was one of the most direct suggestions of disapproval from any of Mr Trump’s ever-expanding list of former advisers and Cabinet secretaries.
All of this raises the question, why did the president act now? There has been some speculation that it may be tied the budget fight over the Mexican border wall. If people tell the president there’s not enough money, then he’ll reduce US commitments abroad. Others have suggested the move was a distraction in the midst of an unpleasant news cycle. Or perhaps it was a move to placate Turkey or – an evergreen explanation – Russia.
Whatever the reason, Mr Trump has roiled his supporters in the US Senate at a time when he needs them most. In the past, Republican politicians have managed to walk the line between offering tuts of disapproval for presidential actions they don’t like, while still voting lockstep for conservative policy priorities.
In the coming days, however, this straddling effort will be tested like never before.
Mueller’s circling army
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Benjamin Wittes and Mikhaila Fogel compare Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation of possible Russian ties to the Trump presidential campaign to a siege on a walled city.
If the investigation is “a campaign of degradation over a substantial period of time”, this week brought a number of new volleys that could hasten the eventual collapse.
There was Michael Flynn’s sentencing fiasco, in which Mr Trump’s former national security adviser admitted in open court that he knowingly lied to the FBI and wasn’t tricked or trapped into it. The judge, Emmet Sullivan, then suggested he sold his country out.
Facing the prospect of an angry judge threatening jail time, Flynn’s lawyers asked for a sentencing delay – dangling the possibility of more co-operation by Flynn and guaranteeing this portion of the Mueller investigation will stretch on until at least March.
Meanwhile, the Senate released two investigations into Russian social media campaigns to influence the 2016 presidential election.
They indicated the scope of the attack was much wider than previously known. The efforts reached hundreds of millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other services, engaging conservatives and discouraging key voting blocs on the left, all in an attempt to help Mr Trump’s presidential bid.
The president and his supporters have dismissed evidence of Russian meddling as blame-shifting by Democrats seeking an excuse for their 2016 defeat. With these reports, that becomes a more difficult case to make.
What’s still not known is if there are any direct links between the Russians and the Trump team. Rumours swirl of new Mueller indictments on the horizon, however, perhaps of Trump confidant Roger Stone, who had contacts with WikiLeaks, the group that released hacked Democratic documents.
The clock is ticking – providing a possible explanation for Mr Trump’s dyspeptic attitude of late.
A crumbling foundation
There was evidence as early as 2016, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, that Donald Trump frequently used his family’s charitable foundation – funded in large part by donations from other people – to settle business lawsuits, buy baubles at auctions and, during the presidential campaign, advance his political interests.
Any of this could qualify as “self-dealing” and put the charity’s tax status at risk.
The controversies swirling around the foundation attracted the attention of the Democrat-run attorney general’s office in New York, which launched an investigation. On Tuesday, they negotiated the dismantling of the charity.
Mr Trump and his lawyers explained that they wanted this all along, and that the entire inquiry was the result of “sleazy Democrats”. But this is another dark cloud that won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
What’s more, she said, the state would continue to seek millions of dollars in back taxes and fines from the Trump Organization, and sanctions against the president and his three oldest children.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly criticised Hillary Clinton and her family’s much-larger operating foundation. Two years later, however, it’s the president’s charity that remains in the headlines.
Dow heading down
Mr Trump has spent much of his presidency touting the seemingly endless ascent of the US stock market.
“The Stock Market just reached an All-Time High during my Administration for the 102nd Time, a presidential record, by far, for less than two years,” he tweeted in early October.
Politicians who hitch their star to the stock market, however, can be in for a bumpy ride. Since Mr Trump wrote that tweet, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen more than 4,300 points – a 16% decline.
Due to a combination of rising interest rates, the president’s trade wars, the impending government shutdown and indications of slower economic growth, the now long-in-the-tooth bull market may be coming to an end. December has seen the biggest market decline since the Great Depression and the largest drop in any month since 2009.
Larger economic indicators, such as GDP growth, unemployment and consumer confidence, are still strong. The current economic expansion is now entering its 13th year, however, and no one has yet discovered how to outwit the business cycle.
What goes up eventually comes down (at least a bit), and the timing may not be good for the president.
But despite his Republican Party having majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the ACA is still operating.
However, in 2017 Congress did repeal the requirement – the so-called individual mandate – that people buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Mr Trump took to Twitter following the judge’s ruling in Texas.
He also urged incoming Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to “pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare”.
The ruling came a day before the deadline for Obamacare enrolment for the coming year.
What does the ruling say?
Two Republicans – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his Wisconsin counterpart Brad Schimel led the legal challenge.
Sitting in Fort Worth, US District Judge Reed O’Connor noted that a $1.5tn tax bill passed by Congress in 2017 eliminated the tax penalties which anyone who failed to obtain health insurance had to pay.
He ruled that the individual mandate was now unconstitutional.
As the individual mandate was an “essential” element of the ACA, the whole of Obamacare was therefore unconstitutional, Judge O’Connor said.
He said his ruling was concerned with the intentions of the 2010 and 2017 Congresses.
“The former enacted the ACA. The latter sawed off the last leg it stood on.”
What reaction has there been?
Ms Pelosi described the ruling as “cruel” and “absurd” and said it would be repealed.
She said it exposed “the monstrous endgame of Republicans’ all-out assault on people with pre-existing conditions and Americans’ access to affordable health care”.
Mr Schumer, meanwhile, said the ruling appeared “to be based on faulty legal reasoning and hopefully it will be overturned”.
He said that if it was upheld in the higher courts “it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions”.
What comes next?
The decision is almost certain to be challenged in the US Supreme Court.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that the law would remain in place for the time being, pending further legal developments.
Meanwhile, the White House called on Congress to replace Obamacare with an affordable healthcare system which protects people with pre-existing conditions.
But other states have argued that eliminating Obamacare would harm millions of Americans, and pending any appeal the landmark health care law remains in place.
US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: “If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts, it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families.”
[If you take much more from us we’ll have to take all of you down.]
Isela was denied life insurance because her medication list showed a prescription for the opioid-reversal drug naloxone. The Boston Medical Center nurse says she wants to have the drug on hand so she can save others.
Bloodwork was supposed to be the last step in Isela’s application for life insurance. But when she arrived at the lab, her appointment had been canceled.
“That was my first warning,” Isela says. She contacted her insurance agent and was told her application was denied because something on her medication list indicated that Isela uses drugs. Isela, a registered nurse who works in an addiction treatment program at Boston Medical Center, scanned her med list. It showed a prescription for the opioid-reversal drug naloxone — brand name Narcan.
“But I’m a nurse, I use it to help people,” Isela remembers telling her agent. “If there is an overdose, I could save their life.”
That’s a message public health leaders aim to spread far and wide. “BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE,” was the message at the top of a summary advisory from the U.S. surgeon general in April.
But some life insurers consider the use of prescription drugs when reviewing policy applicants. And it can be difficult, some say,to tell the difference between someone who carries naloxone to save others and someone who carries naloxone because they are at risk for an overdose.
Primerica is the insurer Isela says turned her down. (NPR has agreed to use just Isela’s first name because she is worried about how this story might affect her ongoing ability to get life insurance.) The company says it can’t discuss individual cases. But in a prepared statement, Primerica notes that naloxone has become increasingly available over the counter.
“Now, if a life insurance applicant has a prescription for naloxone, we request more information about its intended use as part of our underwriting process,” says Keith Hancock, the vice president for corporate communications. “Primerica is supportive of efforts to help turn the tide on the national opioid epidemic.”
After Primerica turned her down, Isela applied to a second life insurer and was again denied coverage. But the second company told her it might reconsider if she obtained a letter from her doctor explaining why she needs naloxone. So, Isela did contact her primary care physician — and then realized that her doctor had not prescribed the drug.
Isela had bought naloxone at a pharmacy. To help reduce overdose deaths, Massachusetts and many other states have established a standing order for naloxone — one prescription that works for everybody. Isela couldn’t just give her insurer that statewide prescription; she had to find the doctor who signed it. As it happens, that physician — Dr. Alex Walley — also works at Boston Medical Center.
Walley is an associate professor of medicine at Boston University; he also works in addiction medicine at Boston Medical Center and is the medical director for the Opioid Overdose Prevention Pilot Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“We want naloxone to be available to a wide group of people — people who have an opioid use disorder themselves, but also [those in] their social networks and other people in a position to rescue them,” Walley says.
He says he’s written a half dozen letters for other BMC employees denied life or disability insurance because of naloxone, and that troubles him.
“My biggest concern is that people will be discouraged by this from going to get a naloxone rescue kit at the pharmacy,” Walley says. “So this has been frustrating.”
The life insurance hassle — and threat of being turned to down —has discouraged Isela and some of her fellow nurses. She is not carrying a naloxone kit outside the hospital right now because she doesn’t want it to show up on her active medication list until the life insurance problem is sorted out.
“So if something were to happen on the street, I don’t have one — just because I didn’t want another conflict,” Isela said.
BMC has alerted the state’s Division of Insurance, which has said in a written response that it is reviewing the cases and drafting guidelines for “the reasonable use of drug history information in determining whether to issue a life insurance policy.”
But Isela isn’t a drug user. And yet, she is being penalized as if she were.
Michael Botticelli, who runs the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at BMC, says friends and family members of patients with an addiction must be able to carry naloxone without fear that doing so will send them to the insurance reject pile.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure that we try to kind of nip this in the bud,” he says, “before it is any more wide-scale.”
Botticelli says increased access to naloxone across Massachusetts is one of the main reasons overdose deaths are down in the state. The most recent state report shows 20 fewer fatalities this year compared to last.
Botticelli relayed his concerns in a letter to Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, who says he contacted the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That group says it has not heard of any cases of life insurance applicants being denied because they purchased naloxone.
Adams says it’s good to, as Botticelli suggests, nip the problem in the bud.
“Naloxone saves lives,” Adams says, “and it is important that all Americans know about the vital role bystanders can play in preventing opioid overdose deaths when equipped with this lifesaving medication.”
Isela says the second company that rejected her has agreed to let her reapply, in light of Walley’s letter stating that she carries the drug so that she can reverse an overdose. Isela is in the process of reapplying.