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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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The White House’s self-styled counterterrorism adviser and frequent media critic Sebastian Gorka said Thursday that there was no truth to a flood of recent reports that he was being forced out of his position.

But his comments left open the possibility that he could move to another role in the administration, as multiple outlets have reported.

“I will be in the White House as long as the President wants me there and if he needs me to do something somewhere else, I will do whatever he needs me to do,” Gorka told Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade, calling reports of his departure “very fake news.”

The Daily Beast first reported last Friday that the deputy assistant to the President might be removed from his post, thanks to his inability to obtain a security clearance and media attention to his ties to a Hungarian knightly order founded by a Nazi collaborator. The Washington Examiner, New York Times and several other publications also cited anonymous administration officials who suggested Gorka may shift into a role within the Trump administration that doesn’t require access to classified information.

Gorka has dismissed such anonymously-sourced reports as “fake news,” an insult he has also lobbed at a BBC reporter asking him about falsehoods President Donald Trump repeated in a February press conference and undergraduate students questioning him about his rhetoric on Islam.

As he has in many previous interviews, Gorka told Fox News’ Kilmeade that things were different on the inside.

“Outside of Fox and some other places almost eighty, ninety percent of what you read about, what goes into the White House is absolutely bogus, it’s just made up,” he said about the rumors he would soon be leaving his role there.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing this week that there were no personnel announcements to make “at this time” in response to a question on Gorka.

Jake Turx, a reporter for Orthodox Jewish publication Ami Magazine, tweeted Tuesday that Gorka told him he met with Trump and “got assurances that he’s not being asked to step down.” Turx’s tweet has since been deleted.

In yet another Trump administration ethics misstep, an official State Department Twitter account this week shared a post promoting Ivanka Trump’s book “Women Who Work.” The post, which was retweeted from the first daughter and White House adviser’s personal account, has since been deleted.

“Thank you to my beautiful sisters for the support of my #WomenWhoWorkBook!” Ivanka Trump wrote in the original post, which showed her sister Tiffany and sister-in-law Lara posing with hardcover copies.

The Office of Global Women’s Issues @GenderAtState account shared the tweet without comment.

The State Department did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for further information.

The incident is the latest in a growing list of ethically questionable moves made by the Trump administration. Two weeks ago, the State Department’s ShareAmerica site was forced to apologize for sharing a post promoting the “Winter White House,” also known as Donald Trump’s Florida Mar-A-Lago resort.

Ivanka Trump was brought on as an official White House adviser without first consulting the Office of Government Ethics, and she and husband Jared Kushner have come under scrutiny for holding onto real estate investments while serving in government. She also won approval to trademark her apparel brand in China on the day she dined with the president of China.

The powerful first daughter said she would be attuned to ethics concerns while promoting “Women Who Work,” which was released Tuesday, and decline to publicly promote it.

“In light of government ethics rules, I want to be clear that this book is a personal project. I wrote it at a different time in my life, from the perspective of an executive and an entrepreneur, and the manuscript was completed before the election last November,” she wrote in an April 20 Facebook post.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to avoid the appearance of using my official role to promote the book, I will not publicize the book through a promotional tour or media appearances,” she wrote.

Since then, she has shared multiple posts on her social media accounts featuring quotes from the book and links to articles about it.

A video of her dancing with her two young sons is pinned to the top of her Facebook page, along with a link to a “Working Mother” article titled “10 Times Ivanka Trump Gets Real About Working Motherhood in Her New Book.”

Little moments matter, especially for working moms!! #TBT to an after-work dance party with my boys. Working Mother Magazine outlined 10 additional things I have to say about motherhood in my #WomenWhoWorkBook. See the article at: workingmother.com/10-times-ivanka-trump-gets-real-about-working-motherhood-in-her-new-book#page-2

Posted by Ivanka Trump on Thursday, May 4, 2017

Civil rights groups scored a victory Thursday when a federal judge in Georgia ruled that the state had to reopen voter registration for next month’s high-profile congressional runoff election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten entered a preliminary injunction requiring Georgia to allow voters in the Sixth Congressional District to register until May 21 in order to avoid causing “substantial and irreparable harm” to “numerous voters.”

Five civil right groups, including the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, sued in April alleging that the state was violating the National Voter Registration Act by requiring voters to register three months before a runoff race.

The lawsuit charged that Georgia’s policy, which would have set a March 20 registration deadline, would keep “untold numbers of people from voting” in the runoff. The NVRA requires that voters be allowed to register up to 30 days before all elections, including runoffs.

Both parties have framed this special election as a proxy battle over President Donald Trump’s success in office. Trump has backed Handel, while Ossoff’s campaign has received donations and benefitted from the work of volunteers from across the country.

Ossoff secured 48 percent of the vote in an 18-candidate field on April 18, coming just short of the 50 percent he needed to win the seat vacated by Trump’s Secretary for Health of Human Services, Tom Price, outright. Handel nabbed her spot in the runoff with 20 percent of the vote.

The order, from a judge nominated by former President George W. Bush, to reopen voter registration for the June 20 runoff could help determine the outcome.

Read the full order below:

It all came down to the moderates.

The Affordable Health Care Act squeaked through the House, 217-213, after a rush of last-minute reversals Thursday from GOP lawmakers who had been undecided or telegraphed staunch “no” votes.

Citing the need to take some action towards repeal, discussions with President Donald Trump and a Hail Mary pass of an amendment to fund coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions, Republicans from purple districts, like Rep. John Faso (R-NY) and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), and even Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), whose district went for for Hillary Clinton in November, ended up supporting the bill.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) can take much of the credit, as he drafted the amendment that would give $8 billion over five years to cover people with pre-existing conditions that provided other moderates with political cover. Co-sponsors Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Don Young (R-AK), as well as Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Billy Long (R-MO), cited those additional funds as essential to swaying their votes

These are the House lawmakers whose votes ensured the passing of the AHCA:

Fred Upton (R-MI)

Represented Sixth District since 1987
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 58.6 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 51 percent

Upton formally came out against the bill Tuesday to GOP leadership and in an interview on local Michigan radio. But within 24 hours, after a phone call from Trump and a meeting at the White House, the influential former chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reversed course.

He unveiled an amendment that provides $8 billion over five years to finance high-risk pools and bolster coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions in states that seek waivers to certain Obamacare mandates, as the AHCA allows them to do in its current form.

Though he admitted he didn’t “know” if this funding would be sufficient, Upton said the Senate and Congressional Budget Office score would help sort that out down the line.

Billy Long (R-MO)

Represented Seventh District since 2010
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 67.5 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 70 percent

A close Trump ally, Long surprised members of his caucus on Monday by announcing he could not support the revised version of the AHCA because he said it “strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable.”

As with Upton, face time with the President helped sway Long’s vote. He also expressed confidence that the additional funds in Upton’s amendment would protect those with pre-existing conditions, like his daughter, a cancer survivor.

“They need to be covered, period,” Long said Wednesday.

Marc Amodei (R-NV)

Represented Second District since 2011
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 58.3 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 52 percent

The Nevada Republican was listed as a “no” on some publications’ whip counts until as late as Thursday morning. Amodei consistently expressed concern that the AHCA as drafted would lead to a massive budget shortfall for Medicaid in the Silver State.

By late Thursday morning, Amodei released a statement explaining that he flipped to a “yes” as a result of “extensive discussions” with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as “extensive research” conducted by his office.

“I have concluded that the potential for Nevada deficits or expanded Medicaid enrollees being kicked off of Medicaid will be avoided,” Amodei said in the statement. He predicted that the “raucous discussion” over the details would continue in the Senate.

John Faso (R-NY)

Represented Nineteenth District since 2017
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 54.1 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 53 percent

A member of the moderate Tuesday Group, Faso has played a key role in dictating the overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. He expressed support for the initial draft of the legislation, which was yanked from the floor before it could come to a vote in March, and pushed heavily to shift the cost of Medicaid from individual counties to the state.

“My view has never been to repeal and replace. My view has been to keep what works and fix what doesn’t,” Faso said in April.

On Thursday, Faso released a short statement on Twitter saying that amendments to the bill proposed over the past week “addressed his concerns” and that he planned to support the legislation.

Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

Represented Twenty-First District since 2015
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 66.1 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 54 percent

At the start of the Trump administration, Stefanik said that Obamacare repeal should be rolled out slowly, in a multi-year process that maintained some parts of the original law.

“My priority is ensuring that we not pull the rug out from under individuals who are on Obamacare,” Stefanik said in January. “So right now there’s a lot of discussion about what the time horizon is. I want a multi-year process before repeal is actually implemented.”

She was undecided on the initial bill in March, even after working with three other representatives to secure an additional $15 billion for substance abuse treatment, mental health care and maternity care.

Stefanik remained undecided on the newest iteration of the bill until hours before Thursday’s vote, when she announced: “The American Health Care Act is not perfect, but it is an important step in reforming our broken healthcare system to help families in our district.”

Brian Mast (R-FL)

Represented Eighteenth District since 2017
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 53.6 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 53.3 percent

Freshman lawmaker Mast appeared to lean in the AHCA’s favor before it was pulled from the floor in March, emotionally calling for his colleagues to sign onto the bill and likening GOP unity on voting for it to the unity that he and his fellow soldiers used to win battles while stationed in Afghanistan.

Mast was still “looking at” the bill’s language on Wednesday, but officially came out as a “yes” on Thursday morning.

“Inaction is the worst thing we can do. There are people out there at risk of not having any coverage,” Mast told Politico. “If there are no providers out there, then people with pre-existing conditions absolutely aren’t covered. So this is the right thing to do.”

Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)

Represented First District since 2013
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 59.1 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 56.2 percent

LaMalfa had been undecided but leaning yes on the bill, so long as he felt confident that original Medicaid recipients would retain coverage. Moments before stepping into the chamber to vote Thursday, LaMalfa told TPM he would vote “yes.”

“To do nothing would be wrong because people that are subject to these higher costs have been pleading with us for several years to rectify their ability to have choices, to have insurance they can afford,” he said.

LaMalfa said confirmation that Congress and their staffers would not be exempt from changes to the bill helped change his mind, as did his feeling that there is a growing “consensus” that no federal money should go towards abortion.

California requires all insurance plans to cover abortion and the GOP’s bill prohibits its new tax credits from going to plans that do, meaning all Golden State plans could essentially be ineligible.

LaMalfa said that “California can adjust their abortion policy” to address this.

Jeff Denham (R-CA)

Represented Tenth District since 2013
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 51.7 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Clinton 49 percent

While he did not explain his reasoning, Denham said throughout the week that he planned to oppose the revamped AHCA. But he then co-sponsored the Upton amendment and ultimately voted yes.

His district narrowly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)

Represented Twenty-Sixth District since 2015
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 53 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Clinton 56.8 percent

Curbelo said as recently as Wednesday that the current version of the AHCA “fails to sufficiently protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.” But he was apparently swayed by the Upton amendment, which he said he discussed with the lawmaker, and voted to support the bill.

The congressman’s office said it was a “game-time decision,” though he reportedly had statements supporting it set to be sent out moments after it passed.

Curbelo’s district voted for Clinton by a 16-point margin in November.

Don Young (R-AK)

Represented at-large district since 1973
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 50.3 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: Trump 51.3 percent

Young was consistently undecided on the bill, and opposed its first iteration in March. He said at the time that he wanted to wait until 2020 to repeal the Affordable Care Act after working with Democrats on a bipartisan replacement bill.

Yet on Thursday, he voted for it. A Vox reporter says Young cast his vote right after he was approached by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

Justin Amash (R-MI)

Represented Third District since 2011
Member’s share of vote in 2016 congressional election: 59.5 percent
How the district voted in 2016 presidential election: 52 percent

The strict libertarian and Freedom Caucus member was one of the staunchest opponents of the initial version of the AHCA, criticizing leadership for misrepresenting the legislation and boasting on Twitter and to the press that he had no intention of voting for it.

The Freedom Caucus provision allowing states to waive Obamacare mandates apparently helped sway his vote, tough, as he cast a “yes” vote on Thursday.

“I think it’s not great policy, just like ObamaCare is not great policy,” Amash told The Hill shortly before. “[But] it’s likely a marginal improvement over ObamaCare. I’m an incrementalist, and we’re working through the details.”

Former national security adviser Susan Rice has declined to appear before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russian meddling in the presidential election, CNN reported Wednesday.

Her decision stemmed from the disagreement between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who extended the decision to come before his panel on crime and terrorism, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) over whether Rice’s appearance was necessary.

“Senator Whitehouse has informed us by letter that he did not agree to Chairman Graham’s invitation to Ambassador Rice, a significant departure from the bipartisan invitations extended to other witnesses,” Rice’s lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, wrote Graham in a letter obtained by CNN. “Under these circumstances, Ambassador Rice respectfully declines Senator Graham’s invitation to testify.”

Ruemmler added that Rice was “prepared to assist Congressional inquiries into Russian election interference because of the important national interests at stake, provided they are conducted in a bipartisan manner, and, as appropriate, in classified session.”

Graham told CNN earlier this week that he wanted to question Rice in order to determine if the Obama administration “tried to politicize intelligence.”

That allegation stems from reports that Rice had requested the unmasking of Trump officials who appeared in intelligence reports because they were swept up in routine surveillance of foreign nationals.

National security experts have said that if Rice made those requests, they would be germane to her work as a national security adviser trying to determine the extent of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who have viewed classified documents pertaining to the Russia investigation say they have yet to see evidence that Rice did anything unusual.

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will testify Monday.

Without directly indicting the Trump administration, FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday tore down the logic behind the President’s travel ban and noted hostile rhetoric and government policy towards Muslims made the jobs of law enforcement officials “harder.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing if Comey agreed that citizenship alone is “not a reliable indicator of a terrorist threat posed by an individual to the United States.”

“Correct,” Comey replied. “Most of the people we have open cases on are U.S. citizens.”

In announcing its revised travel ban blocking immigration from a handful of majority-Muslim countries, the Trump White House argued it needed to “protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals.”

That executive order was blocked by multiple federal judges, who said its primary intent was to discriminate against Muslims.

Earlier in his questioning, Leahy asked if proposals like Donald Trump’s campaign promise to ban all Muslims from entering the United States “can perpetuate division and hatred,” ultimately making “America less safe.”

“I’m not going to comment on the particular statement,” Comey said, “but I do agree that a perception or a reality of hostility towards any community, in this particular the Muslim-American community, makes our jobs harder.”

“Those good people do not want people engaging in acts of violence in the name of their faith or in their neighborhood, and so our interests are aligned, but if anything gets in the way of that, it chills their openness to talk to us and to tell us what they see,” he continued.

Trump has repeatedly accused Muslim Americans of willfully harboring terrorists in their communities.

FBI Director James Comey suggested Wednesday that the Obama administration could have gone public earlier about Russia’s interference in the U.S presidential election.

“I thought it was very important to call out what the Russians were trying to do with our election,” Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “And I offered in August myself to be a voice for that in a public piece calling it out. The Obama administration didn’t take advantage of that in August. They did it in October. But I thought that was very important to call out.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), like other Democrats on the committee, repeatedly pressed Comey to explain why he publicly discussed the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and not its probe into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russian officials, which began in July 2016.

Comey said a foreign power’s meddling in the election was a matter of “counterintelligence,” and that his announcement regarding the Clinton server probe was made without consideration of political partisanship.

The Obama administration reportedly was reluctant to respond to Russian hacking ahead of Election Day because officials feared being accused of tipping the scales for Clinton and because they believed that she would win.

In early October, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement blaming Russian leadership for orchestrating mass cyberattacks on Democratic groups and political figures.

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that he was looking into whether agents at the bureau leaked sensitive information to reporters or public figures, including close Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, during the 2016 election.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked about former FBI official Jim Kallstrom’s and Giuliani’s claims that they had inside information about the bureau’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“Now either they’re lying or there is a serious problem within the bureau,” Leahy said. “Did anybody in the FBI during this 2016 campaign have contact with Rudy Giuliani about the Clinton investigation?”

“I don’t know yet, but if I find out that people were leaking information about our investigations whether to reporters or private parties, there will be severe consequences,” Comey replied.

He said he was “very, very interested” in getting to the bottom of the issue, and that he would inform the committee once the FBI did so.

In multiple cable news interviews in the run-up to the election, Giuliani boasted that former agents had clued him into the “revolution coming on in the FBI” about how the probe into Clinton’s email server was handled.

The FBI handled its probes into Russia’s meddling to help Donald Trump win the U.S. election and into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in the same way, Director James Comey argued at a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“You said absolutely nothing regarding the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections into Russia’s illegal efforts to help elect Donald Trump,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told Comey during the hearing. “Was it appropriate for you to comment on one investigation repeatedly and not say anything about the other?”

“I think so,” Comey replied.

“I think I treated both investigations consistently under the same principles,” he continued.

Comey noted that the FBI did not confirm the existence of its probe into Clinton’s email server until three months after it began, and then said “not another word, not a peep about it until we were finished.”

Leahy pointed out that Comey announced the discovery of additional emails FBI agents believed could be related to that investigation less than two weeks before Election Day, while making no public comment about the existence of the probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials until after the election.

Comey said he had no choice but to comment on the development in the Clinton probe “because I had testified under oath repeatedly that we were done and finished there.”

“With respect to the Russia investigation we treated it like we did with the Clinton investigation,” he repeated. “We didn’t say a word about it until months into it and the only thing we’ve confirmed so far about this is the same thing with the Clinton investigation: that we are investigating.”

“I don’t know what we’ll say when we’re done, but that’s how we handled the Clinton investigation, as well,” Comey said.

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that it makes him “mildly nauseous” to think announcing the discovery of new emails potentially related to the agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server influenced the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

But he said that even in hindsight, he would make that same decision again.

“I stared at ‘speak’ and ‘conceal,’ and ‘speak’ would be really bad,” Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “There’s an election days away—Lordy, that would be really bad. Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI but well beyond. And honestly’ as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we’ve got to walk into the world of really bad.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member of the committee, asked why he felt it necessary to make this announcement just 11 days before Election Day, given the FBI’s practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations.

Comey said he felt compelled to tell Congress that the FBI was restarting its probe in a “hugely significant way” after discovering thousands of new emails, some of which he said contained classified information, on the computer belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner.

“Anybody who disagrees with me with me has to come back to Oct. 28 with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do. Would you speak or would you conceal?” Comey asked. “I could be wrong, but we honestly made the decision in those two choices and even in hindsight, and this has been one of the most painful decisions, I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that to Congress.”

Feinstein scoffed when Comey said he did not make a public announcement, but instead sent a “private letter” to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Oversight Committees.

“It was just a matter of minutes before the world knew about it,” she said.

The California Democrat added that nothing of value was found in the emails, and that Comey’s decision affected the campaign.

Comey said there was “a great debate” at the agency about how to act, and that one of his junior lawyers asked him if he should “consider that what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president.”

“I said thank you for raising that,” Comey went on. “Not for a moment. Because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent institution in America. I can’t consider for a second whose political fortunes would be affected in what way. We have to ask yourselves what is the right thing to do and then do that thing.”

Watch a clip of his remarks below

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