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Conservative commentator Ann Coulter on Wednesday called the University of California at Berkeley a “radical thuggish institution” after she canceled a speech at the school originally scheduled for Thursday amid concerns about violence.

“It is a dark day for free speech in America,” Coulter tweeted. “It’s sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech.”

In fact, Coulter canceled the appearance after the conservative group backing her, Young America’s Foundation, dropped its efforts to secure a room for her speech. In a statement posted Tuesday on its website, the group cited concerns about “leftist thugs who have terrorized Berkeley’s campus.”

“Ms. Coulter may still choose to speak in some form on campus, but Young America’s Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,” the group said.

In February, UC Berkeley canceled an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos, then an editor at Breitbart News, after protesters started fires, threw Molotov cocktails, pushed metal barricades into windows and threw rocks and fireworks at police, per a statement by the school.

At least 20 people were arrested earlier in April after violence broke out between rallies for and against President Donald Trump in downtown Berkeley.

“There’s nothing more I can do,” Coulter said in an email to Fox News on Wednesday. “I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team.”

Administrators at the school canceled Coulter’s appearance last week, saying they were “unable to find a safe and suitable venue” for the event.

A day later, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks reversed that decision and proposed to reschedule Coulter’s speech to May 2. She rejected that offer.

 

 

Thirteen current or former Fox News employees of color, including a current anchor, have joined two racial discrimination lawsuits against the network, CNN reported Wednesday. Those dozen-plus plaintiffs are just the beginning, their lawyer predicted.

“This lawsuit will continue to grow, I suspect,” attorney Douglas Wigdor said at a press conference, according to CNN, noting that he has received calls from additional on-air Fox employees since he filed an amended version of the complaint Tuesday.

In a statement, Wigdor accused the network of “systemic race discrimination” and expressed hope that the litigation would prompt the network to take swift action.

“When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” the statement read.

Kelly Wright (pictured), a black reporter and anchor who has spent 14 years at the network, is now lead plaintiff on the class action suit, which was filed last month in state Supreme Court in the Bronx on behalf of two former payment department employees.

Wright alleged in the complaint that he was “effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’—the racist caricature of a Black entertainer,” according to CNN.

An award-winning journalist who serves as co-anchor of America’s News Headquarters, a Saturday program, Wright contended he’s been kept off of the network’s marquee programs, like “The O’Reilly Factor.”

He alleged his effort to do a series of stories about black communities in America was rejected by the show because “it showed Blacks in ‘too positive’ a light,” according to the complaint obtained by CNN.

Wright joins a complaint first brought by Tichoana Brown and Tabrese Wright, who alleged that Fox’s recently fired comptroller, Judith Slater subjected them to “top-down racial harassment.” This involved Slater demanding that black employees arm-wrestle white colleagues, mocking how black employees pronounced words like “ask” and “mother” and suggesting black men were “women beaters.” Fox News, its parent company, 21st Century Fox, Slater, and Fox’s general counsel Dianne Brandi are named as defendants, according to the New York Times.

Another former employee, Adasa Blanco, filed a related, separate complaint on Tuesday against Fox News, Slater and Brandi, alleging that top executives at the network ignored employees’ repeated complaints about racial discrimination, CNN reported.

Through a spokesperson, Fox News strenuously denied all of the allegations against the network and Brandi, calling them “copycat complaints” and vowing to “vigorously defend these cases.”

Slater was fired in February after the network learned about the allegations. Her attorney Catherine Foti told CNN in a statement that the racial discrimination complaints “are completely false.”

The beleaguered conservative news network currently faces two additional lawsuits from former on-camera employees accusing the network and its senior executives of sexual harassment and illegal surveillance, respectively.

Two top Trump administration officials announced a number of gigantic proposed tax cuts Wednesday, but did not go into detail about the White House’s plans for working with Congress to bring the ambitious proposal to fruition.

One of the officials, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, also said that President Donald Trump had “no intention” of releasing his tax returns, even though they would show how the President would be affected by the cuts. “I think the America population has plenty of information,” he said.

Mnuchin joined fellow Goldman Sachs alumnus Gary Cohn, now director of the National Economic Council, to announce the President’s ambitious but vague tax plan in a joint press conference, just under the administration’s 100-day wire. Mnuchin pledged at one point that economic growth and cutting deductions and loopholes would pay for what he described earlier in the day as “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country.”

A single page handed out to reporters laid out the basics, with a significant political slant.

Yet, on any one of these points, Mnuchin and Cohn had few answers to reporters’ questions.

Mnuchin said that “we will make sure that there are rules in place” so that wealthy individuals did not exploit lower corporate tax rates to shield personal wealth, but he did not specify what they would be.

What rate would be charged on profit being repatriated into the United States from overseas? one reporter asked.

“We’re working with the House and Senate on that, Mnuchin said.

“You’re going into very micro details,” Cohn added, though the details in question would affect hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue. “A very important one, we agree. Very important,” he admitted, after reporters protested the comment. 

Asked about the income definitions of the simplified brackets for individuals, Cohn said “we have outlines.”

“We have a broad brush view of where they’re going to be,” he continued. “We’re running an enormous amount of data on the proposals right now. 

“If you don’t replace some of the revenue with a border adjustment tax,” one reporter wondered, “how will you make up for the deficit caused by the reduction in the corporate tax rate? 

“Ok, well, again, today we’re putting out the core principles, which include rates, because we think that’s a very important part of the plan,” Mnuchin said. “We will be working very closely, as I said, with the House and the Senate to turn this into a bill that can be passed and the President can sign and there’s lots and lots of details that are going into how that will pay for itself.”

The broad basics, though, were clear: Slash the corporate rate to 15 percent. Repeal the estate and alternative minimum taxes. Double the standard deduction. 

How would the plan affect a median income family of four? one reporter asked toward the briefing’s end, lobbing a softball. “What does it mean for them?”

“It’s going to mean a tax cut,” Cohn said.

“How much?” the reporter asked.

“It’s going to mean a tax cut,” Cohn said again. “Look, look, you’re asking the same question we got asked over here. We will let you know the details at the appropriate moment. We’re in very robust discussions with the Senate, with the House leadership. They are progressing very quickly.” 

Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Not long after conservative hardliners in the House signaled they would be supporting a new version of the GOP’s failed Obamacare repeal bill, the group of the conference’s moderates known as the Tuesday Group emerged from a meeting Wednesday skeptical of the proposed changes to the legislation, which would allow states to essentially gut the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions protections.

Many moderates, including those who were previous “yes” votes on the original bill, as well as those who had come out against it, said they would need to see more information about the proposed amendment. More concerning for Republicans hopeful for a deal on Obamacare repeal, some former “yes” votes said that they were now undecided on the larger legislation due to the changes.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. Most people don’t understand exactly what’s in the legislation,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) told reporters. “We need an analysis, we need an explanation of how this is all going to work.”

The amendment was worked out between Tuesday Group co-chair Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), who was supportive of the original bill, and Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC), who had led the conservative opposition to the previous iterations of the legislation. The proposal would allow states to opt out of certain  Affordable Care Act mandates on insurers, with some mandates able to be waived only if specific conditions were met.

The concession for moderates was that the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits requirement—which mandates 10 broad coverage areas insurers must offer—was no longer fully gutted as it was in the original bill but rather optional for states. However, at least a dozen moderates opposed the original bill for other reasons, like how it structured its tax credits for insurance or how drastically it scaled back Medicaid. Those issues weren’t addressed in the new deal.

“Too many people have viewed this health care reform process as a speed bump on the road to tax reform,’ said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), a co-chair of the Tuesday Group who opposed the original bill and the new changes as well.

Dent said that no whip count had been conducted in the Tuesday Group meeting, but it was his sense that the moderates who were “no’s” before remained no.

Other previous “no” votes, such as Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) said their positions remained unchanged Wednesday.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who came out against the original bill before it was pulled from the floor, said that she did not have “adequate” information yet to say whether the amendment would change her vote.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) (pictured) said he was previously yes on the bill but now considers himself undecided with the new changes.

“With the prior bill, I supported that publicly before it went down. This is a different twist and I have got to re-examine it,” he said.

The House Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that its was supportive of the amended health care bill—meaning that at least 80 percent of its 40-or-so members were likely to vote for it—as outside conservative groups withdrew their opposition to the legislation given the proposed changes.

Asked about the pressure now on the moderates to fall in line, Dent said, “I can deal with pressure any way it comes.”

Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel on Wednesday said that voters will hold the GOP accountable in the 2018 midterm elections if President Donald Trump fails to keep one of his most consistent campaign promises and build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“Let’s talk about the wall, because it was a little confusing yesterday,” conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham asked McDaniel in an interview flagged by CNN’s KFILE.

Ingraham cited an interview Tuesday in which Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that Trump would be willing to sign a temporary funding measure that did not include funding for his proposed wall.

“But the President comes out yesterday and says there’s going to be a wall,” she said. “So what is the RNC doing specifically to push the Trump agenda and help it get traction in Congress?”

“I know that our voters are going to hold us accountable in 2018 if we do not keep the campaign promises that were made,” McDaniel replied.

“That wall was, that promise is just something, that’s not something there’s a lot of wiggle room on, or any wiggle room,” Ingraham said. “That thing doesn’t get built for whatever reason, and I can see the campaign commercials already being cut.”

McDaniel said that members of Congress who don’t vote to advance Trump’s agenda will “lose the trust of our base.”

“If we don’t keep our promises, our base is going to walk away,” she said. “They’re going to feel like, ‘Hey, you said one thing on the campaign trail to get elected and you didn’t act on it.'”

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Suspended Alabama Chief Justice and gay marriage opponent Roy Moore announced Wednesday he is running for U.S. Senate.

The fiery Republican jurist, who was suspended from the bench on accusations that he urged defiance of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing gays and lesbians to marry, said he will seek the Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He made the announcement in a news conference on the steps of the Alabama Capitol.

Moore told supporters he believes in the vision of President Donald Trump

“We can make America great again, we’ve got to make America good again,”Moore said.

He charged that families are being destroyed by divorce and the US Supreme Court has destroyed the institution of marriage.

Moore made the announcement surrounded by about two dozen supporters who waved American flags, a Christian flag and signs from Moore’s past campaigns.

He is joining what’s expected to be a crowded GOP primary field in the Aug. 15 primary.

Moore has twice won statewide elections for chief justice, and twice been removed from those duties by a judicial discipline panel. His other election bids have fallen flat, including in 2010 when he finished fourth in the Republican primary candidate for governor.

The U.S. Senate seat is currently held by Luther Strange. He was appointed by then-Gov. Robert Bentley who resigned this month amid fallout from an alleged affair with a top staffer. Bentley had planned to hold the Senate election in 2018, but the state’s new governor, Kay Ivey, moved it up to this year, setting off a stampede of contenders in what’s expected to be a four-month demolition derby among Republicans, the dominating political party in the state.

Moore, now 70, was a little known judge in Etowah County in the 1990s until the American Civil Liberties Union unsuccessfully sued him over a handmade wooden Ten Commandment plaque he hung on his courtroom wall. The fame helped catapult him to the office of chief justice in the 2000 election.

The Court of Judiciary, the panel that disciplines judges, removed Moore as chief justice in 2003 after he disobeyed a federal judge’s order to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument that he installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building. He called the order unlawful, saying he had a right to “acknowledge God.” He was re-elected as chief justice in 2012, a victory he described as a vindication.

Moore quickly found a new fight: Same-sex marriage.

In a Jan. 6, 2016 memo to probate judges Moore wrote that a 2015 Alabama Supreme Court order to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples remained in “full force and effect.”

His memo came six months after the highest court in the nation ruled that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry.

The judiciary panel in September suspended Moore for the remainder of his term, saying he had violated judicial ethics by urging probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples.

Moore denied the charge of urging defiance, and said he was only giving a status update on the 2015 state order. However, he also called his ouster a politically motivated effort from “homosexual and transgender groups” because of his opposition to gay marriage.

Moore has been a divisive figure inside and outside of Alabama. He enjoys a loyal following of social conservatives but has also butted heads with some in the state GOP’s business wing.

“The people of Alabama have watched Judge Moore, time and again, stand up to the federal courts and defend the Godly principles that have made this nation great. … Alabama will become ‘Ground Zero’ in the political and cultural war,” Dean Young, a longtime Moore supporter, told The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the complaints that led to Moore’s removal, calls Moore the “Ayatollah of Alabama” who has been unable to separate his personal religious beliefs from his judicial responsibilities.

While Moore is best known for his religious stances, he’s also been an outspoken advocate of sentencing reform. In a 2015 court writing, he criticized a sentence of a life without parole for a 76-year-old man who grew marijuana for personal use.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Environmental Protection Agency pledged to correct what it called an “error,” after a Democratic senator asked for an investigation into whether EPA chief Scott Pruitt violated federal law by appearing in his official capacity on an Oklahoma GOP fundraiser invitation.

Though government officials are allowed to speak at political fundraisers, they cannot do so in their official capacity. The invitation to a fundraiser for the Oklahoma GOP advertised: “You do not want to miss Pruitt at this year’s OKGOP Gala, as he discusses his plans to slash regulations, bring back jobs to Oklahoma, and decrease the size of the EPA!

“We take the rules by which federal officials must participate in public events very seriously,” EPA spokesperson JP Freire said in a statement to TPM Wednesday. “We worked with our ethics office to ensure attendance at this event would comply with rules, and this flier unfortunately doesn’t reflect those requirements. We are working to fix this error and ensure full compliance with the rules.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) filed a complaint Tuesday over that language with the Office of Special Counsel, writing that Pruitt may have violated the Hatch Act.

Whitehouse said that upon reading the invitation’s description of Pruitt — “Make sure to purchase your Gala tickets so you don’t miss out on Administrator Pruitt’s future plans and how he will continue to Drain the Swamp!” for example — attendees could reasonably believe they were paying a private political party for access to a federal employee.

“The unmistakable impression one receives from the May 5 invitation is that by purchasing a ticket or agreeing to sponsor the OKGOP Gala, the attendee will have special access to a federal employee discussing official actions already taken, and to be taken in the future,” he wrote. “This is clearly impermissible political activity under the Hatch Act.”

LATE UPDATE 6:11 p.m. ET: The White House told the Washington Post late Wednesday that Ivanka Trump proposed the creation of a new fund to support female entrepreneurs, but would not control it. Though details of the proposal remain hazy, the World Bank is expected to manage the fund, which would likely offer both money and technical assistance to corporations, according to the Post.

Axios published a late update to its story to note that the World Bank, not White House, would manage it. The bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, also released a statement saying he was “working with partners on the details around creating a facility for women’s economic empowerment, specifically through providing access to finance, markets, and networks.” Kim thanked Ivanka Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their “leadership” on the issue.

Original story below:

White House adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump is establishing a “massive fund” to “economically empower women” that will be funded by contributions from foreign countries and corporations, Axios reported in a vague, five-paragraph bombshell on Wednesday.

According to Axios founder Mike Allen, Trump told him directly that she has already started soliciting funds to support the fund, which will provide “working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises,” and that she has support from President Trump and World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim to pursue the project.

A spokesman for the World Bank confirmed to TPM that Kim and Ivanka Trump are currently in talks about how best to finance it. The pair co-authored an op-ed for the Financial Times this week about the need for both the public and private sectors “to move decisively to invest in women worldwide.”

But what exactly Ivanka Trump’s fund will look like and how it will operate remains a giant question mark. Ethics experts told TPM that Axios’ description leaves it unclear if the fund will be a private, for-profit endeavor or if it will be run through a federal government agency.

“We just don’t know what this is: is it animal or mineral?” Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a phone interview.

“Some of the questions that need to be answered are: is it being done through governmental authority or not? Instead of private equity, is it intended as some sort of non-profit?” Clark said.

Axios, the White House, and the Office of Governmental Ethics did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.

Federal employees face restrictions on soliciting funds for charitable organizations out of concern that solicitees could feel coerced into making donations, Clark said. She didn’t know if similar restrictions existed for federal employees soliciting private equity, but said it was unclear that Ivanka Trump had “any governmental authority” to make such requests.

On the other hand, Clark said, “This would not be okay for her to do in a private capacity” because her White House role would give the impression she was doing it on behalf of the Trump administration and create a whole web of possible conflicts of interest.

“It absolutely cannot be a private fund,” Richard Painter, ethics czar in George W. Bush’s White House, told TPM. “She can’t be at the White House soliciting money for a private foundation. We went through this with Hillary Clinton, who resigned from her foundation when she took a job as secretary of state.”

Painter said he doesn’t believe the Trump administration would “even think” of setting up an outside private foundation, and suggested it could be run through a government agency that has statutory authority to accept gifts.

“That’s what would be required: an official U.S. government agency with the authority to solicit gifts and to administer the funds,” Painter said.

Clark noted that the Axios report made it sound like they were soliciting investments rather than gifts, and that the words “massive fund” make it sound like a private sector initiative.

Axios’ reporting on the early contributors who have made “quiet commitments” offer few hints on the nature of the fund. It says only that “several corporations,” as well as “Canadians, Germans and some Middle Eastern countries” have vowed to contribute money, leaving it unclear if the donors are foreign governments, companies in those countries, or individual foreign citizens.

Ivanka Trump and the governments of both Germany and Canada have paid collective lip service to the need to support female entrepreneurship.

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House in March, he, the President, and Ivanka Trump announced a new Canada-US task force on women in business and female entrepreneurs: the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. Canadian publication Maclean’s published a story last week questioning how much progress the task force has since made, noting that no meetings have yet been scheduled and that “there is no apparent infrastructure” supporting the group.

The President’s eldest daughter was also invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attend a summit organized by the Group of 20 major economies in Berlin this week. During a Tuesday panel on feminism and female empowerment, she was booed by the audience for calling her father a “tremendous champion of supporting families.” Both Merkel and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland shared the stage.

“I’m seeking the counsel … of informed and thoughtful women and men and I’m really striving to think about how best to empower women in the economy, both domestically and across the globe,” Ivanka Trump told the audience.

What that plan looks like remains to be seen.

Heritage Action on Wednesday announced that the group would no longer urge Republican lawmakers to vote against the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare if a newly proposed amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) is adopted.

Last month the conservative group initially issued a key vote alert calling on members to vote against the American Health Care Act (AHCA), indicating that the group would not support members who voted in favor of the legislation.

Though Heritage Action will no longer pressure Republican members to vote against the bill, the group did not issue a resounding endorsement of the legislation.

“Representatives MacArthur and Meadows deserve tremendous credit for their good faith negotiations to improve the bill. Their proposed amendment advances the debate and raises key issues for the Senate to consider as the effort to repeal Obamacare moves forward,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Neeham said in a statement.

“To be clear, this is not full repeal and it is not what Republicans campaigned on or outlined in the Better Way agenda,” he continued. “The amendment does, however, represent important progress in what has been a disastrous process. Given the extreme divides in the Republican Party, allowing Texas and South Carolina to make different decisions on health insurance regulations than New York and New Jersey may be the only way forward.”

The new amendment drafted by moderate MacArthur and House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) prompted the Freedom Caucus to officially back the AHCA if the amendment is included. The amendment would allow states to apply for waivers from certain Obamacare mandates.

Though the amendment has brought conservatives on board, it’s not yet clear whether the changes will bring the bill too far to the right to win over moderate Republicans.

President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a draft executive order that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to reports published Wednesday by Politico and Reuters.

A White House official told TPM by email that NAFTA remains a priority for Trump and that his administration has been working on it since he took office.

Politico first reported, citing two unnamed White House officials, that a draft of the order has entered the final stages of review and could be announced by early next week.

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s newly formed National Trade Council, drafted the executive order “in close cooperation,” according to Politico’s report.

Reuters cited an unnamed senior administration official who said the order is “under consideration” and confirmed Politico’s report.

On the campaign trail, Trump called NAFTA “one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country” and pledged to renegotiate it “to get a much better deal for America.”

CNN reported in November, citing a draft memo from Trump’s transition team, that he would look at formally withdrawing from NAFTA by day 200 of his presidency. Trump will mark 100 days in office on Saturday.

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