Anthony Scaramucci’s full interview on ‘New Day’ – CNN

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Joint Chiefs: ‘No modifications’ to transgender policy from Trump tweet – Politico

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Defense Department's fiscal 2018 budget. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, pictured here in March, wrote in the message to the chiefs of the services and senior enlisted leaders that the military will continue to “treat all of our personnel with respect.” | Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

‘We will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,’ Marine Gen. Joe Dunford writes.




There will be “no modifications” to the military’s transgender policy as a result of President Donald Trump’s declared ban on transgender men and women on Twitter, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said in a message to top military officers on Thursday — the latest sign of the disarray following the commander-in-chief’s abrupt announcement.

Marine Gen. Joe Dunford also wrote in the message, which was sent to the chiefs of the military branches and senior enlisted leaders, that the military will continue to “treat all of our personnel with respect.”

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“I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President,” Dunford wrote in the internal communication, a copy of which was provided to POLITICO. “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions,” he continued.

The president said Wednesday in a series of three tweets that transgender troops would no longer be allowed to serve in any capacity, sparking questions about what that would mean for the thousands currently in uniform and whether it constitutes an official policy change.

The announcement also sparked fierce criticism from lawmakers in both parties, while advocacy groups immediately threatened to take the president to court to overturn any ban.

Dunford’s message was seconded later in the day by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ chief spokeswoman.

“The Department of Defense is awaiting formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the Commander-in-Chief’s announcement on military service by transgender personnel,” Dana White said. “We will provide detailed guidance to the Department in the near future for how this policy change will be implemented.

“The Department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all servicemembers are treated with respect,” she added.

The Pentagon’s position underscored how the military, like legal experts, does not consider the president’s social media pronouncements policy.

In an appearance at the National Press Club, Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, also said laterThursday that Dunford is “exactly right” and that the military will work through new guidance when it gets a formal directive from the White House through normal channels.

“We grow up and learn to obey the chain of command, and my chain of command is secretary of the Army, secretary of Defense and the president,” Milley said. “We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it…To my knowledge, the Department of Defense, Secretary Mattis has not received written directives yet.”

Milley also doubled down on Dunford’s message that every service member – “bar none” – should and will always be treated with dignity and respect.

Only a formal directive through the chain of command would lead to a real policy change, said Tobias Wolff, a professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School.

He said that Dunford’s statement makes it clear that the Pentagon does not make major changes to its policy because of a tweet – “and he was right to do so.”

“The chairman of the joint chiefs is respecting the rule of law and the role of the secretary of defense, and he is protecting commanders in the field from having good order and discipline undermined,” Wolff said. “General Dunford should never have been put in this position. It is a reflection of the crisis we now face with this increasingly unstable and reckless individual occupying the presidency.”

Dru Brenner-Beck, a retired Army judge advocate general and president of the National Institute for Military Justice, told POLITICO that under normal procedure the president would issue an executive order instructing the Pentagon to go about changing the department’s personnel policy — but only after Defense Department officials coordinated with various parts of the military and weighed in on the proposed changes in the draft order.

Brenner-Beck said its even legally questionable whether a declaration from the president’s personal social media account is enough to launch the process of rewriting Pentagon regulations, calling it “a whole new frontier.”

“A tweet doesn’t really give you policy,” she said. “How do you implement a tweet? Usually you would have some kind of an actual policy document that comes down.”

A Defense Department official, speaking on the condition they not be named, said Thursday that the Pentagon is scrambling to coordinate with the White House for guidance on the way forward, noting that there is an urgent need to explain to the troops what it means.

Transgender troops — which by some estimates number as high as 15,000 and as few as 1,300 — have been allowed to serve openly since June of 2016. The Pentagon has been studying ways to implement the decision for new recruits — including questions about housing and medical care.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month ordered that review be extended another six months.

The Pentagon’s policy changes have not been without controversy. House Republicans, as part of defense spending legislation now under consideration, have sought to prohibit the Pentagon from paying for troops’ gender transition surgery.

But virtually no one has suggested drumming them out of the military altogether.

“Everyone was confused and I think there are still confused,” said Radha Iyengar, a senior economist at the government-funded Rand Corporation, who authored a recent study for the pentagon on the medical costs associated with transgender service members. “I think the Joint Chiefs statement helps that but we are waiting to see what the actual policy is.”

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US Joint Chiefs blindsided by Trump’s transgender ban – CNN

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Republicans’ incredible shrinking Obamacare repeal – Politico

Sens. Steve Daines and Mitch McConnell are pictured. | Getty

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), pictured with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has offered an amendment to see whether Democrats will support a single-payer health care system, a vote designed to put moderate Democrats in a tough spot.

Senate Republicans’ once ambitious Obamacare repeal effort is shriveling even further, with growing doubts over whether the GOP can fully eliminate the health law’s coverage mandates or any of its taxes.

The GOP’s “skinny” repeal bill, in other words, is getting even skinnier.

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Sources on and off Capitol Hill on Thursday described a new outline of a bill that would repeal the law’s individual mandate and partially delay its employer mandate. It also would defund Planned Parenthood and give states more flexibility to opt out of Obamacare regulations; the law’s Prevention and Public Fund is also expected to be sharply cut. But there are growing concerns among Republicans that budget requirements will prevent the Senate from repealing any of Obamacare’s taxes.

“The one thing that unifies our conference is the repeal of the individual mandate and the employer mandate,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Thursday. “Those are two of Obamacare’s biggest overreaches and are essential to Obamacare’s functioning.”

Even as the chamber careens toward a final decision on whether to repeal, replace or revise Obamacare, with no certain outcome, Republican leaders are desperate to get rid of their political headache after several failed votes earlier this week.

“We have to pass something. … But a lot depends on what’s in the skinny bill,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the most senior GOP senator and chairman of the Finance Committee. “The leader’s going to call up what he thinks can pass and he’s probably going to be right. [But] I’ve been wrong before. This is a touchy thing right now.”

The Senate will begin a series of votes on Thursday afternoon designed to test what senators will support for an Obamacare replacement bill, dubbed a “vote-a-rama.” This will help determine whether Senate Republicans can reach any consensus among themselves. The session could last until Friday morning, depending on GOP and Democratic maneuvers, and culminates in a final passage vote.

Initial votes will include a GOP effort to see whether Democrats will support a single-payer health care system, as many in their base support. The amendment was offered by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and is designed to put moderate Democrats in a tough spot.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected at some point to unveil the GOP’s highly anticipated “skinny repeal” bill — the narrowest effort to dismantle Obamacare that can win at least 50 votes. Many Republicans believe this proposal may be their only hope for reaching an agreement inside the GOP conference and forcing House-Senate talks to hash out a final Obamacare repeal package.

“We all know this is likely to be a long night. It’s part of a long process that has taken a lot of hard work from a lot of dedicated colleagues already,” McConnell said on the floor Thursday. “One phase of that process will end when the Senate concludes voting this week, but it will not signal the end of our work — not yet. Ultimately, the goal is to send legislation from Congress to the president — legislation that can finally move us beyond Obamacare’s years of failures.”

McConnell won’t introduce the bill until after a meeting of all Republican senators today.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’s been assured by senators in both parties that if the bill fails, the Senate will start over in committee. But Republicans want to get the issue off their plate andare seeking a bridge to negotiations with the House, not necessarily a final policy solution.

They want to pass something — anything — and hope they can forge a broader deal in conference committee with the House and White House, even if it could reopen painful party divisions on proposed cuts to Medicaid spending and efforts to slash Obamacare regulations.

McConnell and his top lieutenants started from a bare-bones plan that would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer coverage mandate, as well as the medical device tax. Such a move could cause 16 million fewer people to have health insurance and could lead to a sharp spike in premiums, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.But even those limited ambitions may be scaled back.

Republicans are seeking to repeal as many of Obamacare’s taxes as they can, but doing so would blow holes in the budget. Some sources off the Hill doubted Republicans would even be able to repeal the medical device tax.

Some GOP senators were pushing for billions of dollars in new funding for fighting opioid addiction to be included in leadership’s package, part of an effort to restore the $45 billion in such funding already promised by McConnell in previous bills. But that has been ruled out as spending too much money to hit budget targets; the Senate must hit at least $133 billion in savings, as required under Senate rules, GOP sources said.

The parliamentarian has found that language allowing states to undo some ofObamacare’s consumer protections might not be allowed under reconciliation rules, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee.

“What exactly it looks like is a point of conversation and debate,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican. “But we’re having those conversations with our members and we’re hopefully going to get to a point where we can figure something out.”

Some conservatives feel that an agreement is within reach.

“We are a lot closer than many outside observers believe, and from the beginning I have believed we can and will get to yes,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Yet several moderate GOP senators like Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have not signed on to the scaled-back plan, although Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada signaled support Wednesday. Ohio and Nevada’s governors oppose the “skinny” repeal bill, which could cause Heller and Portman to break with their popular state leaders.

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Scaramucci cranks up the pressure on Priebus – Politico

The new communications director references ‘Cain and Abel’ when talking about their relationship.




White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Thursday escalated his tensions with chief of staff Reince Priebus, recalling the biblical story of Cain and Abel in reference to their relationship and saying it’s up to Priebus to prove that he’s not a leaker.

“If you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds. We have had differences. When I said we were brothers from the podium, that’s because we’re rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along,” Scaramucci said Thursday on CNN’s “New Day,” referencing the Book of Genesis story in which Cain kills his brother Abel. “I don’t know if this is reparable or not, that will be up to the president.”

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“If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” he continued. “But let me tell you about myself. I’m a straight shooter and I’ll go right to the heart of the matter.”

Kellyanne Conway, another top adviser to President Donald Trump, also appeared to pile on. When asked on Fox whether Priebus is “the big leaker,” she responded, “I’m not aware of the latter. I will just tell you that leakers are easier to figure out than they may think. This West Wing is a very small place.”

Since Scaramucci was named to the post last Friday – triggering the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer – he has been on a mission to root out leakers, an issue that has frustrated Trump since he won the presidency last November.

Scaramucci has so far focused much of his leaks hunt on the West Wing, threatening on Tuesday to “fire everybody” in the communications shop if the embarrassing anonymously sourced stories don’t stop. And it appears he’s now zeroing in on Priebus, who had repeatedly tried to keep Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier, out of the White House.

On Wednesday night, Scaramucci seemed to suggest in a post to Twitter that it had been the chief of staff who released his financial disclosure form to the press. Despite the fact that the form is available to the public upon request, Scaramucci characterized its publication as a leak and wrote that “in light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45.”

Many interpreted the inclusion of Priebus’s Twitter handle as an indication that Scaramucci blamed Priebus, a conclusion that the communications director disputed by deleting the initial tweet and replacing it with one explaining that he had only meant to suggest that all top-level White House staffers are involved in the effort to curb leaks.
During his CNN interview on Thursday, Scaramucci said he’s interviewed most of the assistants to the president and members of the communications team as he tries to identify the leakers.

“And what the president and I would like to tell everybody, we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.”

Scaramucci’s cryptic comments are the latest indication of the growing pressure on Priebus, who has found himself with an ever-shrinking circle of White House allies. West Wing staffers close to Priebus including former deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, Spicer and former deputy press secretary Michael Short have all departed the White House, the latter two within the last week.

And while Priebus has said publicly that he supported bringing Scaramucci into the Trump administration, reports from multiple media outlets indicated that he was kept out of the loop on the decision and lobbied against it once he became aware. Spicer, too, opposed Scaramucci’s hiring and tendered his resignation once the move became official.

Asked during a news conference about the apparent tension between Scaramucci and Priebus, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a full vote of confidence to the latter.

“I think Reince is doing a great job as chief of staff,” he said.

It’s unclear if Trump will make any decision soon on Priebus, who reportedly has been on the ropes for months. But both Scaramucci and Conway expressed intense frustration with the current state-of-play in the West Wing, especially when it comes to leaks.

“Now, there are leaks, and there are people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs,” Conway said.

Scaramucci also suggested that Trump had been poorly served by some in his West Wing, telling CNN that those working for the administration should stop seeking to rein in the president and instead seek to amplify his message across the country.

He said that in his business-world experience, “paranoia and backstabbing” is the result of “underconfidence plus insecurity,” and that he would seek to plug the leaks either by bolstering those doing the leaking such that they stop the practice or by removing the staffer altogether.

“There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. That is not their job,” he said. “Their job is to inject this president into America so that he can explain his views properly and his policies so that we can transform America and drain the swamp and make the system fairer for the middle and lower income people.”

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