GOP HEALTH CARE BILL LACKS VOTES TO PASS HOUSE
washington» The Republican health-care overhaul spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan and backed by President Donald Trump suffered a significant setback Wednesday, as personal appeals by the president and vice president failed to sway conservatives to back the bill.
In a last-ditch effort to persuade key GOP opponents of the bill to stand down, Vice President Mike Pence huddled with members of the House Freedom Caucus in his office Wednesday morning, while Trump met with 18 House Republicans at the White House.
While Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who met with Trump, came out in favor of the bill Wednesday, that single switch was not enough to put the measure over the top. GOP leaders can afford only 22 defections, given that one Democrat is expected to be absent Thursday. A Freedom Caucus spokeswoman said Wednesday that “more than 25” members of the group oppose the bill.
The caucus’s message, spokeswoman Alyssa Farah tweeted, is “start over.”
Trump feels “somewhat” vindicated after Nunes intel briefing
B washington» Communications of Donald Trump’s transition officials — possibly including the incoming president himself — may have been scooped up in legal surveillance but improperly distributed throughout the intelligence community, the chairman of the House intelligence committee said Wednesday.
In an extraordinary set of statements to reporters, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes said the intercepted communications do not appear to be related to the ongoing FBI investigation into Trump associates’ contacts with Russia or any criminal warrants.
Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, said he believes the intelligence collections were done legally but that identities of Trump officials and the content of their communications may have been inappropriately disseminated in intelligence reports.
Before Trump job, Manafort worked to aid Putin B
washington» Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates.
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by The Associated Press.
Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.
U.S., Seoul vow to punish Kim Jong Un after failed missile test.
South Korean and U.S. officials vowed “strong punitive steps” against Kim Jong Un’s regime if it continues provocations after North Korea appeared to conduct a failed missile test Wednesday.
Meeting in Seoul, Kim Hongkyun, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his U.S. counterpart Joseph Yun reaffirmed a commitment to push Kim harder to drop North Korea’s push for nuclear weapons.
The South Korean defense ministry earlier said that North Korea appeared to have fired an unidentified missile from its Wonsan air base in the east. If confirmed, it would be the third round of missile tests by North Korea this year, as it seeks to develop the capability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. in defiance of United Nations sanctions.