US Politics in Trump era
A top diplomat on Wednesday tied President Trump more directly to the effort to pressure Ukraine to probe his political opponents, describing a phone call in which Trump sought information about the status of the investigations he had asked Ukraine to launch one day earlier.
Candidate Donald Trump railed against America’s chronic trade deficits, vowing to eliminate them if he became president. So, how’s Trump doing? Awful. Trade deficits are growing on his watch. The overall trade deficit in September was 21% larger than during his first full month in office.
Trump adviser Stephen Miller injected white nationalist agenda into Breitbart, investigation reveals
Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller shaped the 2016 election coverage of the hard right-wing website Breitbart with material drawn from prominent white nationalists, Islamophobes, and far-right websites, according to a new investigative report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Footage captured by U.S. surveillance aircraft over northern Syria has documented several incidents that military officials say may constitute war crimes on the part of Turkish-backed forces there, a U.S. official said.If verified, the imagery could provide credibility to allegations that the offensive Turkey launched over Western objections last month has resulted in repeated abuses against Syrian Kurds who have been an important U.S. partner against the Islamic State.
The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policy making.
The Russians were hard to miss. They appeared suddenly last year in Madagascar’s traffic-snarled capital, carrying backpacks stuffed with cash and campaign swag decorated with the name of Madagascar’s president.It was one of Russia’s most overt attempts at election interference to date.
Struggling dairy farmers who flocked to an expo in Wisconsin last month hoped to hear some encouragement from one of their own — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a Georgia agri-businessman whose dad had run a small farm.But some came away angry after Perdue — speaking in a state that lost nearly two dairy farms a day last year — remarked that small farms would not likely survive as the “big get bigger and small go out.”
The yield curve, an indicator from the bond market just a few months ago set off alarms about the risk of a recession. Now it has gone back to normal, and that signal has been met with relief in the markets. But as far as the economy is concerned, it might not matter. Once the yield curve has predicted a recession, one usually follows even if that signal changes later.
House Republicans’ latest plan to shield President Trump from impeachment is to focus on at least three deputies — U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and possibly acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — who they say could have acted on their own to influence Ukraine policy.
Days after a decorated Army lieutenant colonel offered damaging testimony about President Trump’s conduct on a July phone call with Ukraine’s leader, Mr. Trump stood on the South Lawn and issued a vague but ominous warning.“You’ll be seeing very soon what comes out,” Mr. Trump said on Saturday, referring to the officer, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman.
With a populist message that promises to rein in corporate excess, Ms. Warren has been facing more hostility from the finance industry than any other candidate. From corporate boardrooms to breakfast meetings, investor conferences to charity galas, Ms. Warren’s rise in the Democratic primary polls is rattling bankers, investors and their affluent clients, who see in the Massachusetts senator a formidable opponent who could damage not only their industry but their way of life.
Iran has taken further steps away from its crumbling nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it is doubling the number of its advanced centrifuges, calling the move a direct result of the United States' withdrawal from the agreement last year.
Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College.
The Trump administration notified the international community Monday that it plans to officially withdraw from the Paris climate accord next fall, a move that will leave the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only nation to abandon the global effort to combat climate change.
The Trump administration is expected to roll back an Obama-era regulation meant to limit the leaching of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury into water supplies from the ash of coal-fired power plants, according to two people familiar with the plans.
The Federal Reserve is hoping that its latest interest-rate cut will help keep the economy safely at cruising altitude. But don’t expect it to provide much of a lift to the housing market. Few economists expect the housing market to take off in response to this week’s rate cut, because rates aren’t what was holding back housing in the first place. Instead, they point to other factors.
The Keystone pipeline system, an addition to which has been the subject of environmental protests for years, leaked about 383,000 gallons of crude oil in North Dakota, covering an estimated half-acre of wetland, state environmental regulators said.
Trump Is Committing ‘Felony Bribery’ by Giving Fundraising Cash to GOP Senators Ahead of Impeachment Trial: Ex-Bush Ethics Lawyer
Attorney Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, warned on Thursday that President Donald Trump appeared to be committing "felony bribery" by giving Republican senators fundraising cash ahead of an increasingly likely impeachment trial in the Senate.
Dogged by uneasiness over trade frictions and weak global growth, the American economy’s growth inched lower over the summer. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the economy — grew at a 1.9 percent annual rate for the third quarter, according to preliminary data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday.
A pathologist hired by Jeffrey Epstein’s brother is now backing the conspiracy theory that the accused child sex trafficker might’ve died by homicide — not suicide — in his Manhattan jail cell in August.
Not only have the U.S. and foreign governments spent money at properties owned by Donald Trump, but the president’s own political campaign and affiliated political committees have also spent about $16.8 million at his businesses since he launched his 2016 bid for the presidency, according to an analysis of federal election spending records.
When President Trump announced on Sunday morning that Islamic State founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, he thanked the Russians for their help while explaining that he kept Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the dark because he was afraid of leaks.
Footage of the US special forces raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Syrian compound reportedly consisted of overhead surveillance footage and no audio, prompting questions over the extent of the dramatic licence taken by Donald Trump in describing the final moments of one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
The House is legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a federal judge ruled on Friday, delivering a major victory to House Democrats and undercutting arguments by President Trump and Republicans that the investigation is a sham.
The Trump administration just threw another obstacle at low-income immigrants by narrowing who can qualify for waivers of expensive fees associated with their applications for green cards, US citizenship, work permits, and dozens of other benefits.
The U.S. government’s budget deficit ballooned to nearly $1 trillion in 2019, the Treasury Department announced Friday, as the United States’ fiscal imbalance widened for a fourth consecutive year despite a sustained run of economic growth. The deficit grew $205 billion, or 26 percent, in the past year. The country’s worsening fiscal picture runs in sharp contrast to President Trump’s campaign promise to eliminate the federal debt within eight years.
After the bombshell news that emerged from U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s testimony, the network’s hosts and personalities took their spin to a new level, peddling absurd conspiracies about the diplomat and declaring reports on his testimony to be fake news.
Giuliani sought help for a Turkish-backed client accused of violating Iranian sanctions from a president who has a one-word policy for dealing with Tehran: sanctions. In the end, Zarrab pleaded guilty.
He has undermined efforts by career diplomats to deliver messages to Washington about corruption and democratic backsliding in Hungary. And he has privately acted as a broker for Mr. Orban’s point of view, taking positions contrary to United States policy, according to interviews with roughly two dozen current and former American and foreign officials as well as others who have worked with Mr. Cornstein.
Trump administration officials have admitted that last summer they knowingly withheld billions of dollars Congress appropriated to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. House Democrats say withholding the relief money violates the law. The HUD delay meant the island missed a deadline to apply for billions of dollars in disaster relief funds, raising doubts about when, if ever, the money will flow to the island devastated in September 2017 by a Category 5 hurricane.
The senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told lawmakers Tuesday that President Trump made the release of military aid contingent on public declarations from Ukraine that it would investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, contradicting Trump’s denial that he used the money as leverage for political gain.
The Taliban have wanted the United States to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Turkey has wanted the Americans out of northern Syria and North Korea has wanted them to at least stop military exercises with South Korea. President Trump has now to some extent at least obliged all three — but without getting much of anything in return.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said Thursday that the Trump administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate what the president has long insisted was Kiev’s assistance to Democrats during the 2016 election.
“There Is Definite Hanky-Panky Going On”: The Fantastically Profitable Mystery of the Trump Chaos Trade
In the last 10 minutes of trading on Friday, August 23, as the markets were roiling in the face of more bad trade news, someone bought 386,000 September e-minis. Three days later, Trump lied about getting a call from China to restart the trade talks, and the S&P 500 index shot up nearly 80 points. The potential profit on the trade was more than $1.5 billion.
Current and former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said Mulvaney contributed substantially to the unfolding political crisis, both through his connection to key events related to the attempt to pressure Kiev and through his general approach to the chief of staff job, which was driven by a perceived reluctance to displease the president.
Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All While Creating Progressive Foreign Policy Americans Want
The Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday shared the results of extensive research into how the $750 billion U.S. military budget could be significantly slashed, freeing up annual funding to cover the cost of Medicare for All—calling into question the notion that the program needs to create any tax burden whatsoever for working families.
President Trump seemed to wash his hands of the conflict between Turkey and America’s Kurdish allies in Syria on Wednesday, generating withering criticism from Republican allies, who rebuked him in a House vote. The day ended with a heated confrontation between Mr. Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office.
U.S. consumers unexpectedly pulled back on retail spending for the first time in seven months, reviving fears that a weakening economy could finally be taking its toll on American shoppers just before the pivotal holiday season.
Russia announced Tuesday that its units were patrolling between Turkish and Syrian military forces near the northern Syrian town of Manbij, in a sign that Moscow, a key ally of the Syrian government, was moving to fill a security vacuum after U.S. troops withdrew from the area.
An estimated 50 nuclear bombs stored at a US airbase in Turkey have become potential bargaining chips in the tense relationship between Washington and Ankara in the wake of the Turkish offensive into Syria. The presence of B61 nuclear gravity bombs at İncirlik airbase, which is about 100 miles from the Syrian border and which the US air force shares with its Turkish counterpart, is complicating Washington’s calculations.
Trump orders withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, days after Pentagon downplays possibility
U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters announced late Sunday that the Syrian Army would deploy along the Turkish border to “liberate the areas that the Turkish army has entered with its mercenaries.”The agreement with forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, followed a Syrian government announcement that its troops were heading toward a confrontation with Turkey.
Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine in May, testified to impeachment investigators on Friday that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had “done nothing wrong.”
The United States is sending about 3,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia in the latest military response by the Trump administration after it accused Iran of attacks last month on Saudi oil facilities, the Pentagon said on Friday. The move came only five days after President Trump said that his desire to terminate America’s “endless wars” led to his decision to pull back from the border area between Syria and Turkey about 50 troops who were working to create a “safe zone” between Turkish and Kurdish troops.
Treasury Department officials are considering rolling back a tax rule aimed at preventing American companies from moving money offshore to avoid U.S. taxes, according to several people familiar with discussions.
Turkey launched airstrikes and fired artillery across its border into northeastern Syria on Wednesday to open a military operation aimed at flushing out an American-backed militia, Turkish and Syrian officials said.
The White House declared war on the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, announcing that it would not cooperate with what it called an illegitimate effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election” and setting the stage for a constitutional clash with far-reaching consequences.
Ivanka Tweet Thanking Turkey’s Erdogan for Attending Istanbul Trump Towers Launch Re-Emerges Amid Syria Controversy
As the world reacted to America's sudden abandonment of its most trusted and effective local allies, a tweet from Trump's daughter Ivanka resurfaced, detailing a relevant conflict of interest regarding relations with Turkey."Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul!" Ivanka wrote in April 2012. The construction—made up of two conjoined towers—is one of seven current Trump Towers locations.
In a major shift in United States military policy in Syria, the White House said on Sunday that President Trump had given his endorsement for a Turkish military operation that would sweep away American-backed Kurdish forces near the border in Syria.
The Trump administration has begun inserting legal protections into recent trade agreements that shield online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from lawsuits, a move that could help lock in America’s tech-friendly regulations around the world even as they are being newly questioned at home.
An anti-Muslim organization plans to host its annual gala at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., in November.ACT for America claims to be the nation’s largest grass-roots national security organization, and is considered the largest anti-Muslim group in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such groups.
President Trump on Thursday publicly called on China to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an extraordinary presidential request to a foreign country for help that could benefit him in the 2020 election.
Volker: Giuliani was warned that claims of Bidens’ misconduct were not credible, ex-envoy tells lawmakers
The former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine told House investigators on Thursday that he warned President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani that Giuliani was receiving untrustworthy information from Ukrainian political figures about former vice president Joe Biden and his son, according to two people familiar with his testimony.
Since his emergence as a political figure, Trump has promised that if he ever attained power, he would use the U.S. military to inflict a massive bloodletting on others, including noncombatants. Unlike other campaign promises, Trump has delivered on this one. Since taking office, he has presided over skyrocketing rates of civilian casualties in America’s many foreign conflicts.
The trade war has cost farmers potential Chinese orders for the corn-based fuel as well as for a byproduct that is used as animal feed. Now, the refinery exemptions are compounding the financial pain — and threatening political consequences for the president, who won this state and its six electoral votes in 2016.
The State Department’s inspector general briefed congressional aides Wednesday about an apparent attempt to smear the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who is seen by House Democrats as a key witness in their impeachment inquiry.
In the first skirmish in what promises to be an epic impeachment struggle between the executive and legislative branches, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at three congressional committees that are seeking to depose diplomats involved in American policy toward Ukraine, calling their demands for confidential interviews “an act of intimidation.”
A federal appeals court on Tuesday affirmed the Trump administration acted lawfully when it scrapped the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules in 2017, dealing a blow to tech giants and consumer advocates who argued that the repeal would create a stratified Internet of fast and slow lanes.
Multiple news outlets reported on Monday that Barr’s Italy trip focused on urging the country’s officials to help his Justice Department investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation for an effort that appears aligned with long-festering conspiracy theories on the matter. The campaign to squeeze foreign countries for information that would discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation also extended to a July 29 meeting that Barr had in London with British officials.
Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Kremlin said on Monday that Washington would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of phone calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The Democratic-led House last week launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump in the aftermath of a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump had solicited interference by Ukraine in the 2020 U.S. election for his own political benefit.
President Trump has turned American foreign policy into an extortion racket, abusing his powers to goad foreign leaders into persecuting his domestic rivals and improve his political standing. The proof for this in the case of Ukraine is irrefutable.
President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.
U.S. manufacturing fell deeper into a contraction last month, erasing hope of a quick turnaround for the industry and handing a blow to President Trump’s promises that he would revive blue-collar jobs and companies. September marked the worst month for U.S. manufacturing in more than a decade, since June 2009.
It’s strange to see my journalism twisted, perverted, and turned into lies and poisonous propaganda by Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and their enablers. But that’s what has happened to a news story I wrote four years ago.
President Trump on Monday questioned whether the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, should be arrested for treason for his description of a phone call Mr. Trump had with the president of Ukraine during a recent congressional hearing.
President Trump was repeatedly warned by his own staff that the Ukraine conspiracy theory that he and his lawyer were pursuing was “completely debunked” long before the president pressed Ukraine this summer to investigate his Democratic rivals, a former top adviser said on Sunday.
President Trump told a crowd of staff from the United States Mission to the United Nations on Thursday morning that he wants to know who provided information to a whistle-blower about his phone call with the president of Ukraine, saying that whoever did so was “close to a spy” and that “in the old days,” spies were dealt with differently.
After hearing that President Trump tried to persuade Ukraine to investigate a 2020 campaign rival, senior officials at the White House scrambled to “lock down” records of the call, a whistle-blower alleged in an explosive complaint released Thursday.
As a political reporter for most of the last 30 years I have also endured many long and rambling political press conferences with Australian prime ministers and world leaders. But watching a full presidential Trump press conference while visiting the US this week I realised how much the reporting of Trump necessarily edits and parses his words, to force it into sequential paragraphs or impose meaning where it is difficult to detect.
After months of caution, Ms. Pelosi has become convinced that Mr. Trump’s reported actions, and his administration’s refusal to share details about the matter with Congress, left the House no alternative but to move forward with an inquiry that has the potential to reshape his presidency and cleave an already divided nation just a year before he plans to stand for re-election.
GOP Racial Gerrymandering Mastermind Participated in Redistricting in More States Than Previously Known, Files Reveal
The reach of late Republican gerrymandering mastermind Thomas Hofeller may be longer than previously known, according to a review of thousands of documents and emails culled from his hard drives, obtained by The Intercept. While Hofeller was known for drawing maps to give Republicans an advantage and to limit the impact of voters of color in North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, and Virginia, the new documents reveal he also participated in the 2010 redistricting cycle in Alabama, Florida, and West Virginia.
President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he discussed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Ukraine’s president as Democrats ramped up calls for an investigation into whether he improperly pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent.
Donald Trump’s promise to a foreign leader so troubled an official in the US intelligence community that it prompted the person to file a whistleblower complaint, according to multiple media reports. Speculation in Washington was at fever pitch on Thursday over which leader Trump was speaking to and what promise he made. The substance of the complaint remained a mystery.
The Education Department has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake the Middle East studies program run jointly by the two schools after concluding that it was offering students a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region.
Investors take for granted that the Federal Reserve controls interest rates. But a surprisingly lively couple of days in short-term money markets has meant that the “how” became nearly as important as the “why.” The stress started on Monday in the market for repurchase agreements, or repos. Repos are short-term loans mainly used by banks and hedge funds in their daily bond trading and brokerage businesses.
McConnell has been unpopular in his home state for years, but his approval rating plunged in one poll to a rock-bottom 18 percent — with a re-election campaign looming in 2020. In January, he had raised red flags among Republicans and -Democrats alike when he took a key role in lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin ally under FBI investigation for his involvement in 2016 election-meddling; three months later, Deripaska’s aluminum company, Rusal, announced a $200 million investment in Kentucky.
The Trump administration plans to revoke California’s right to set stricter air pollution standards for cars and light trucks , according to two senior administration officials, as part of a larger effort to weaken an Obama-era climate policy aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s auto fleet.
The Israelis deployed StingRay mobile identity-catchers, devices that are mistaken for cell towers by cell phones, allowing them to capture the contents of calls and the mobile browser activity. Lipmann says that the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division subjected the devices to extensive forensic tests, looking at where the components came from, how old they were, and considering who would have access to them, and the trail led inexorably to Israel.
The relationship between Iran and the Houthis is not simple and has long been clouded by accusations and denials and amplified by rumors and propaganda from all sides. Iranian backing of the Houthis appears to have increased over time. But experts on Iran’s network of proxies say the Houthis are among the least dependent on Tehran for financial and military support and decision-making.
Citing Previous ‘Misstatements of Fact’ and Corruption Allegations, House Democrats Open Ethics Probe into Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is the target of a new investigation by House Democrats who are trying to determine whether the powerful member of Trump's cabinet, and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has abused her position in order to provide financial or other benefits to members of her family and herself.
Democrats called Sunday for a new investigation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in response to a New York Times piece that said Kavanaugh was seen sexually harassing a female student while at Yale.Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro, Democratic presidential candidates, pushed for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.
President Trump said Sunday the United States was prepared to respond to the devastating attacks on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia that cut the state oil company’s production output by half, while Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was responsible. Trump did not name Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, nor specify whether he was contemplating a military response.
Stolen again. Democrat Dan McCready supposedly lost the special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District to Republican Dan Bishop by less than 4,000 votes. However, racially biased vote suppression schemes easily account for the supposed GOP victory margin.
The Trump administration on Thursday is expected to complete the legal repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation, which had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and water bodies. Weakening the Obama-era water rule had been a central campaign pledge for Mr. Trump, who characterized it as a federal land-grab that impinged on the rights of farmers, rural landowners and real estate developers to use their property as they see fit.
How the hunt to find out who donated $325k to a pro-Trump Super PAC leads to Florida, Giuliani, and Ukraine. The story introduces a cast of characters from the intersection of Trumpworld, Giulianiworld, and Ukraineworld that provide a backdrop to the mystery of how the $325,000 wound up in GOP coffers.
The White House was directly involved in pressing a federal scientific agency to repudiate the weather forecasters who contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian would probably strike Alabama, according to several people familiar with the events.
John Bolton fired: Trump fires national security adviser, saying he ‘disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions’
President Trump announced Tuesday that he had fired his national security adviser, John Bolton, saying in tweets that he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.” Trump’s harshly worded tweet made clear that long-simmering frustration with Bolton had boiled over. Bolton immediately took issue with Trump’s assertion that he was fired, saying that he had offered his resignation.
Six in 10 Americans expect a recession and higher prices as Trump’s approval rating slips amid concern over his trade policies
President Trump is ending a tumultuous summer with his approval rating slipping back from a July high as Americans express widespread concern about the trade war with China and a majority of voters now expect a recession within the next year, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Last year, when many GOP candidates across the country turned to vicious anti-immigrant advertisements to turn out voters in the midterm elections, some turned to i360, Koch’s state-of-the-art data analytics company. The company is one of the several appendages of the Koch political machine — one that includes a suite of voter outreach organization, lobbying, and campaign messaging tools.
Heather Waldron and John Hawley are losing their four-bedroom house in the hills above Blacksburg, Va. A teenage daughter, one of their five children, sold her clothes for spending money. They worried about paying the electric bill. Financial disaster, they say, contributed to their divorce, finalized in April. Their money problems began when the University of Virginia Health System pursued the couple with a lawsuit and a lien on their home to recoup $164,000 in charges for Waldron’s emergency surgery in 2017