Rus­sia sanc­tions still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion

The Detroit News - - Trump Administration - From Detroit News wire ser­vices

White House scram­bled Mon­day to walk back U.N. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley’s week­end an­nounce­ment that new eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia are im­mi­nent, but stressed the penal­ties are still be­ing con­sid­ered.

Ha­ley cre­ated a firestorm Sun­day when she said the new sanc­tions would be im­posed by the Trea­sury Depart­ment on Mon­day, when, in fact, no such an­nounce­ment was planned, ac­cord­ing to two of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

In a state­ment, White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders tried to clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion, but her ex­pla­na­tion cre­ated more con­fu­sion and led to sug­ges­tions that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had per­son­ally in­ter­vened to halt the sanc­tions from tak­ing ef­fect Mon­day.

War pow­ers res­o­lu­tion un­veiled

The chair­man and other mem­bers of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee un­veiled a bi­par­ti­san res­o­lu­tion Mon­day au­tho­riz­ing the use of mil­i­tary force over­seas, ac­cel­er­at­ing a de­bate that Congress has been re­luc­tant to have, but that’s tak­ing on new ur­gency af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s strikes on Syria.

The res­o­lu­tion from Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, DVa., would re­peal the broad au­tho­riza­tions Congress ap­proved in 2001 and 2002 for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, re­plac­ing them with new au­thor­ity to go af­ter spe­cific “non­state ter­ror­ist groups.” A grow­ing num­ber of crit­ics say Congress should no longer be us­ing the more than decade-old res­o­lu­tions as le­gal un­der­pin­nings for the fight against ex­trem­ist groups such as the Is­lamic State.

It is not at all clear whether the res­o­lu­tion would find enough sup­port to pass the House or Sen­ate.

Trans­gen­der troop ban on hold

A U.S. judge in Seat­tle has or­dered Pres­i­dent Trump not to ban trans­gen­der troops from serv­ing in the mil­i­tary, say­ing it’s un­clear whether re­cent changes to his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy are con­sti­tu­tional.

U.S. District Judge Mar­sha Pech­man was one of four judges na­tion­wide who blocked Trump late last year from over­turn­ing an Obama-era di­rec­tive al­low­ing trans­gen­der troops to serve openly. The Jus­tice Depart­ment asked her to dis­solve that rul­ing, cit­ing changes that would al­low trans­gen­der troops to serve in lim­ited cases.

Be­cause the changes were an­nounced just last month, the sides had not had time to ar­gue whether the pol­icy is dis­crim­i­na­tory or whether the mil­i­tary is en­ti­tled to set its own pol­icy, given its ex­per­tise in what’s needed for na­tional de­fense, Pech­man said in an or­der Fri­day. She told the par­ties to pre­pare for trial.

EPA vi­o­lated spend­ing law

An in­ter­nal gov­ern­ment watch­dog says the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency vi­o­lated fed­eral spend­ing laws when pur­chas­ing a $43,000 sound­proof pri­vacy booth for Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt to make pri­vate phone calls in his of­fice.

The Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice is­sued its find­ings Mon­day in a let­ter to Sen­ate Democrats who had re­quested a re­view of Pruitt’s spend­ing.

GAO Gen­eral Coun­sel Thomas Arm­strong deter­mined that EPA’s pur­chase of the booth vi­o­lated fed­eral law pro­hibit­ing agen­cies from spend­ing more than $5,000 for re­dec­o­rat­ing, fur­nish­ings or other im­prove­ments to the of­fices of pres­i­den­tial ap­pointees with­out in­form­ing Congress.

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