US Politics in Trump era
For 10 days, President Trump and his team have struggled to describe the reasoning behind the decision to launch a drone strike against Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite security forces, propelling the two nations to the brink of war. Officials agree they had intelligence indicating danger, but the public explanations have shifted by the day and sometimes by the hour.On Sunday came the latest twist. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said he was never shown any specific piece of evidence that Iran was planning an attack on four American embassies, as Mr. Trump had claimed just two days earlier.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the loudest voice in the administration pushing President Trump to kill Iran’s most important general. This week, he is back in his role as the nation’s top diplomat, trying to contain the international crisis the general’s death created.
The family foundation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her billionaire husband, Dick, gave more than $1 million to purportedly “independent” right-wing groups that have helped boost her assault on public education, according to a recent tax filing obtained by the government watchdog group Allied Progress and shared with Salon.
As Nation Transfixed by Impeachment, Trump Quietly Provides Offshore Drilling Industry ‘Sweetheart Giveaway’
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was condemned Monday for a proposed policy shift on offshore drilling panned as a "sweetheart giveaway" for a former client. The new extraction-encouraging proposal was announced last month in a report by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), two agencies within the Interior Department and occurred, according to transparency group Western Values Project, "under the cloud of impeachment."
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Democrats and many in the State Department are increasingly exasperated that they have yet to see the results of an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s political appointees mistreated career staffers. The delayed release of the State Department inspector general's findings has generated rising suspicion that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to derail the investigation, whose results could be damning to some of his top aides.
President Trump announced on Sunday that Dan Coats will step down as director of national intelligence after a tenure in which the two were often at odds over Russia, North Korea and the president’s own attacks on the intelligence community.“I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Dream Center Education Holdings, a subsidiary of a Los Angeles-based megachurch, had no experience in higher education when it petitioned the federal Education Department to let it take over a troubled chain of for-profit trade schools.But the organization’s chairman, Randall K. Barton, told the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, that the foundation wanted to “help people live better lives.”
Business leaders and their companies have profited royally off of President Donald Trump’s pro-business policies.Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family are among the groups that have seen an income boon of millions through their own investments since Trump’s tax reform plan was signed, according to her latest annual financial disclosure report.
A key architect of the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken federal climate rules is under scrutiny by a federal watchdog for his dealings with industry players who lobbied the government to ease carbon pollution limits. It is the third inquiry into whether Bill Wehrum, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s air policy division from November 2017 until last month, violated federal ethics rules.
Mick Mulvaney’s battles with Alexander Acosta began almost immediately. Weeks after he was named acting White House chief of staff, Mulvaney summoned the labor secretary for a tense January encounter that became known inside the West Wing as “the woodshed meeting.” Mulvaney told Acosta in blunt terms that the White House believed he was dragging his feet on regulation rollbacks desired by business interests and that he was on thin ice as a result, according to advisers and a person close to the White House. Soon after, Acosta proposed a spate of business-friendly rules on overtime pay and other policies
Earlier this year, following his bungled roll-out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in 2016, Attorney General William Barr claimed he had “no objection” to Mueller testifying before Congress. Now, Barr has changed his tune.
So little time, so much damage done. That's the legacy left by Bill Wehrum who spent only one and a half years as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) top air quality official before announcing that he will step down this weekend under the cloud of a federal ethics investigation over possible conflicts of interest. His resignation follows conflicting statement he made to Congress about his industry connections, according to Politico.
In newly disclosed testimony, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson said President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, operated independently with powerful leaders around the world without coordination with the State Department, leaving Tillerson out of the loop and in the dark on emerging U.S. policies and simmering geopolitical crises.
The Department of Veterans Affairs moved to fire a whistleblowing psychologist, Aghevli, one day before her House testimony. Aghevli has made disclosures that she said led department officials to dismiss her, despite her Gold VA Pins for excellent customer service. Aghevli’s allegations are serious. They include phony-wait-list assertions of the type that have bedeviled VA since it was consumed by a scandal that broke in 2014. She also accused department officials of lying to Congress.
Administration officials are briefing Congress on what they say are ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill that the White House could invoke the war authorization passed in 2001 as legal cover for military action against Tehran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a US list of countries that recruit child soldiers, dismissing his experts' findings that a Saudi-UAE coalition has been using underage fighters in Yemen's civil war, Reuters News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing four people familiar with the matter.
President Trump on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Patrick M. Shanahan to be the permanent defense secretary, leaving the Pentagon in transition at a time of escalating tensions with Iran and questions about the role of the military at the border with Mexico.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that intelligence reviewed by American officials showed that Iran was responsible for attacks earlier in the day on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a critical waterway for the transit of much of the world’s oil.Mr. Pompeo did not present any evidence to back up the assessment of Iran’s involvement.
A House committee voted on Wednesday to recommend that the House hold two cabinet secretaries in contempt of Congress, hours after President Trump invoked executive privilege to block disclosure of crucial documents on the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Homeland Security watchdog retires early after his office was forced to retract ‘feel-good’ audits of disaster response
John V. Kelly, the acting inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, announced his retirement Monday following revelations that he directed his staff to whitewash audits of the agency’s performance after federal disasters.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on British politics during a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders, saying he would not wait for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister of Britain to “push back” against him or any future actions he might take against Britain’s Jews.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has held onto her shares of Vulcan Materials, a construction company she promised to divest from more than a year ago, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Vulcan, the U.S.′ largest supplier of sand and gravel used in paving and building, has seen its stock price rise more than 12% since April 2018, when Chao said she would cash out her shares, according to a 2017 government ethics agreement.
President Trump publicly undercut John R. Bolton, his national security adviser, on Iran and North Korea in recent days, raising questions about the administration’s policy and personnel in the middle of confrontations with both long-term American adversaries.
Trump’s pick for ICE director: I can tell which migrant children will become gang members by looking into their eyes
Mark Morgan, the White House choice to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said during a Fox News interview earlier this year that he can judge the likelihood that an unaccompanied minor will become a gang member by looking into that child's eyes.
The State Department on Wednesday ordered all “non-emergency U.S. government employees” to leave Iraq amid soaring tensions with Iran, which backs proxy forces there. It said in a statement that the announcement affects both the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Baghdad, and a consulate in the northern city of Irbil.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Brussels on Monday for an unplanned visit with European foreign ministers who fear that the United States and Iran are inching toward war. The last-minute decision, announced as he boarded a plane from the United States, set up a confrontation between Pompeo and European diplomats who have been scrambling to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The Trump administration is looking to cut the Education Department’s funding by $7.1 billion compared to what it was given last year. The budget proposal suggests eliminating 29 programs, including after-school and summer programs for students in high-poverty areas, among other things.
‘Sick, Dystopian Stuff’: Former Trump Adviser Kelly Joins Board of Company Running Immigrant Detention Centers
In what one critic deemed a "nauseating example of the revolving door" through which powerful political players often move in and out of the private sector, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined the board of a company which owns some of the largest detention centers for unaccompanied children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote a letter in late March complaining to Attorney General William P. Barr that a four-page memo to Congress describing the principal conclusions of the investigation into President Trump “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work, according to a copy of the letter reviewed Tuesday by The Washington Post.
During a series of recent congressional hearings in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had to respond to a recent report finding the U.S. Department of Education has been scammed for hundreds of millions of dollars by fraudulent or mismanaged charter schools. Her responses reveal not only her inability to counter legitimate concerns over the spread of charter schools but also the charter school industry’s resistance to honestly address a chronic problem with its schools.
The Senate voted to confirm former oil-and-gas lobbyist David Bernhardt as Secretary of the Interior Thursday, despite calls from Democrats and government watchdogs to investigate his past conduct. The confirmation vote was 56-to-41, making Bernhardt the least popular Interior Secretary in 40 years,
In 1994, the Charter School Fund was added to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); in 1995 it began dispersing federal funds to states so that states could use the money to pilot charter schools. Since then, the CSP has handed over about $4 billion to support charter schools, and there are supposed to be some federal guidelines attached to the process. But a new report from the Network for Public Education charges that roughly $1 billion of that has been lost to fraud and waste in the charter school sector.
Trump administration authorized nuclear energy companies to share technological information with Saudi Arabia
The Trump administration has kept secret seven authorizations it has issued since November 2017 allowing U.S. nuclear energy companies to share sensitive technological information with Saudi Arabia, even though the kingdom has not yet agreed to anti-proliferation terms required to construct a pair of U.S.-designed civilian nuclear power plants.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended budget cuts to programs including the Special Olympics on Tuesday. Appearing before a House subcommittee Tuesday to review the department’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, DeVos said, “We had to make some difficult decisions.”
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is under investigation by the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General because of allegations he improperly advocated on behalf of his former employer, Boeing Co.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his desire to go to war with Iran, and said he was meeting with dozens of foreign envoys, including those from the Arab world, in order to push the initiative forward.
In a 1995 essay, Barr expressed the extremist Christian view that “American government should not be secular;” secularism is an abomination in Barr’s theocratic mind despite the law of the land is unmistakably secular. Furthermore, Barr contends America’s government is supposed to be imposing “a transcendent moral order with objective standards of right and wrong that flows from God’s eternal law;” eternal law best dictated by the Vatican and taught in public schools at taxpayer’s expense.
Of all the federal agencies that fall under Donald Trump’s purview, none embodies the administration’s unofficial mandate to do the exact opposite of its stated mission quite like the Environmental Protection Agency.
President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the “dangers of Iran” and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing. In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.
As U.S. lawmakers, civil society leaders, and Latin America experts continue to warn against American intervention in Venezuela's internal political affairs, the Wall Street Journal on Friday confirmed suspicions that opposition leader Juan Guaido's move to declare himself "interim president" of Venezuela this week was highly coordinated with the Trump White House and Republican lawmakers.
Net Neutrality Repeal, Evidence Shows, Is Doing None of the Good Stuff Ajit Pai and Telecom Industry Promised
The telecom industry and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai justified the Republican repeal of net neutrality protections in December of 2017 with promises that a "light-touch framework" would spur investment, giving broadband providers "stronger incentives to build networks, especially in unserved areas, and to upgrade networks."
American civil rights groups have condemned the appointment of a new deputy national security advisor who served on the board of an anti-Muslim group for nearly a decade. US President Donald Trump appointed Charles M Kupperman last week to assist National Security Advisor John Bolton, saying in a press release that Kupperman "brings to the role more than four decades of national security policy and programme experience".
‘A Reckless Advocate of Military Force’: Demands for John Bolton’s Dismissal After Reports He Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran
Reminding the world that he is, as one critic put it, "a reckless advocate of military force," the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton "asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday denounced comments by a senior US official urging protection for Kurdish allies as "seriously mistaken". US National Security Adviser John Bolton held talks in Ankara with Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and other officials on the handling of armed groups in northern Syria and the US's planned pullout of its forces there.
It is true that the global economy is sputtering, and that the stock market is in its worst pullback in a decade, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index down more than 19 percent since Sept. 20 as of Monday’s close. But this sense of gloom and pessimism has gotten ahead of the facts on the ground, especially concerning the United States economy.The real risk is not that insurmountable challenges knock the economy off course. It is that poor leadership converts moderate economic shocks into a crisis.
Beyond his attempts to roll back the agency’s fair-housing rules, Carson is overseeing a department whose fair-housing budget and staffing have been cut. And, notably, he has departed from the practices of recent Democratic and Republican predecessors of using their secretarial power to root out systemic racial discrimination by launching broad-based investigations into bias by banks, real estate companies and others.
For two years, they tried to tutor and confine him. They taught him history, explained nuances and gamed out reverberations. They urged careful deliberation, counseled restraint and prepared talking points to try to sell mainstream actions to a restive conservative base hungry for disruption. But in the end, they failed.
Jim Mattis, the four-star Marine general turned defense secretary, resigned on Thursday in protest of President Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 American troops from Syria, where they have been fighting the Islamic State.Mr. Trump announced the resignation in two tweets Thursday evening, and said Mr. Mattis will leave at the end of February.
Any day now we’re going to hear the news that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are removing guidance meant to reduce racist discipline practices that run rampant in public schools around the country.
This “great guy” will leave behind an administration mired in scandal, chaos and corruption; a president perhaps even more reckless and lawless today than he was when Kelly arrived for work at the West Wing on the morning of July 31, 2017. That was a period in which political pundits and correspondents also believed the retired four-star general to be a “great guy.” Remember how his appointment, as replacement for the hapless Republican operative Reince Preibus, was greeted by the liberal press? Kelly, we were told, would be the “adult in the room”; he would rein in a brash and belligerent commander-in-chief.
The US Senate voted to confirm Kathy Kraninger as the next head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal government’s top consumer watchdog. She will take permanent charge over the CFPB and replace Mick Mulvaney. who critics say he’s sought to undermine its mission and scale back its enforcement and oversight efforts. Those same critics have echoed concerns about Kraninger, wondering whether she’ll continue on the same path as Mulvaney at the CFPB. They also point to her lack of experience in the consumer sector.
S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that it is in Iran's best interests to toe the line and listen to Washington or else its people will pay the price. Iran has vowed to fight back against Washington after the Trump administration reinstated on November 5 sanctions on Iran that were removed under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is set to release a sweeping overhaul of how colleges and universities must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, giving new rights to the accused, including the ability to cross-examine their accusers, people familiar with the matter said. The new rules would reduce liability for universities, tighten the definition of sexual harassment, and allow schools to use a higher standard in evaluating claims of sexual harassment and assault.
If Zinke deserves credit for one thing during his tenure as secretary, it’s for his acting skills, and he was in effect handed a brand new “script” when he took office as interior secretary. This script was written by his oil, gas and mining associates and their mouthpiece organizations. It was a script for a provocative new tragedy in three acts, and his job was to do as the script says.
Matthew Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump named as his acting attorney general on Wednesday, privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries, Vox has learned.
Matthew Whitaker was paid to sit on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, which was ordered in May this year to pay a $26m settlement following legal action by federal authorities, which said it tricked aspiring inventors.
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School constitutional law professor, said that Mr. Whitaker’s expressed views of the Constitution and the role of the courts “are extreme and the overall picture he presents would have virtually no scholarly support” and would be “destabilizing” to society if he used the power of the attorney general to advance them.
When John Bolton was a State Department official under President George W. Bush, he loved nothing more than sabotaging international agreements that he felt undermined America’s sovereignty and security. His “happiest moment” at the State Department, he recalled in a 2007 memoir, came when he personally extracted the U.S. from the International Criminal Court.
During his 20 months in office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has swept in perhaps the most dramatic political shift in memory at the Justice Department, from the civil rights-centered agenda of the Obama era to one that favors his hard-line conservative views on immigration, civil rights and social issues.
As tanks, artillery and combat troops streamed from Russia into Ukraine in 2014, the United States government dispatched a multiagency team of technical experts to Kiev to help the fragile government there shore up its energy supply for the coming winter.The head of that team, William N. Bryan, was a career civil servant with an expertise in energy infrastructure and security.
Secretary DeVos, this is what American teachers want you to know about their struggles. In September, the Guardian invited a team of public school teachers to serve as guest editors of our site and share their stories of teaching in America. As part of the project, our teacher-editors published a manifesto entitled “We shouldn’t be on food stamps: Teachers on how to fix America’s education system”.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos formally moved Friday to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs, the most dramatic in a series of moves that will free the scandal-scarred, for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.
A multimillion-dollar lawsuit has been quietly making its way through the New York State court system over the last three years, pitting a private equity manager named David Storper against his former boss: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The pair worked side by side for more than a decade, eventually at the firm, WL Ross & Co.—where, Storper later alleged, Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed on Wednesday to curtail Obama administration loan forgiveness rules for students defrauded by for-profit colleges, requiring that student borrowers show they have fallen into hopeless financial straits or prove that their colleges knowingly deceived them.
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and architect of President Trump’s aggressive effort to rewrite the government’s rule book on environmental regulations, resigned on Thursday in the face of numerous ethics investigations that doomed his tenure. Despite Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to nurture a close relationship with the president, Mr. Trump himself announced the resignation in a tweet sent from Air Force One. He thanked Mr. Pruitt for an “outstanding job” and said the agency’s deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, would take over as the acting administrator on Monday.
Priebus joins a long list of former Trump administration officials and staffers who have found lucrative work providing “strategic advice” to clients looking to make good with the administration. While President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” by prohibiting former administration officials from “lobbying activities,” many have found creative work-arounds.
81 immigrant children forcibly separated from their parents have been sent to a conservative Christian adoption agency tied to the Betsy DeVos family. Betsy DeVos donated $300,000 to the group and her husband's cousin Brian DeVos was a Vice President. Most of children have had no contact with their parents. How is this legal??
The Treasury Department last week reversed itself after lobbying by Nevada Republicans and agreed to let a previously ineligible county reap huge benefits from the new tax law. Treasury officials had initially deemed that Storey County’s income levels were too high to qualify, based on the metrics they had used to judge every other nomination for the special tax status. But after weeks of prodding from Nevada officials, Treasury relented and gave the designation to Storey County using new data.
Scott Pruitt Has Spent a Total of $4.6 Million on Security, New Disclosures Show — Including $1,500 on “Tactical Pants”
Pruitt’s high spending on security has become the subject of mounting criticism and a host of official investigations: Several EPA inspector general investigations have been opened, as well as an ongoing investigation by the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee. Records released under the Freedom of Information Act list expenditures totaling $288,610 on a range of security-related items. The EPA, according to three expense line items for April, spent a total of $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. shorted stock in a shipping firm — an investment tactic for profiting if share prices fall — days after learning that reporters were preparing a potentially negative story about his dealings with the Kremlin-linked company.
On the day after Thanksgiving in 2016, Ed Corrigan, then the vice president for policy promotion at the Heritage Foundation, was summoned to Trump Tower in New York to join the senior leadership team of the Trump transition. From inside the building where the climactic personnel decisions of “The Apprentice” were once taped, Corrigan oversaw the staffing of 10 different domestic agencies. Donald Trump, the former reality-TV star, was now the president-elect of the United States, and he had an administration to fill.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told federal ethics officials last November that he had gotten rid of all assets that he promised to divest. But he admitted that was not true in a new filing released Monday afternoon.
Gary Cohn, who served as Trump's director of the National Economic Council but left amid a rift over the president's trade policies, said that retaliatory tariffs between countries could drive up inflation and prompt American consumers to take on more debt, possibly pushing the country into another economic downturn.
Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, fired the agency’s 25-member advisory board Wednesday, days after some of its members criticized his leadership of the watchdog agency. The CFPB said it will revamp the Consumer Advisory Board, known as the CAB, in the fall with all new members. The panel has traditionally played an influential role in advising the CFPB’s leadership on new regulations and policies.
House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon blocked an effort by Democrats to increase funding for the agency’s watchdog, which is tasked with investigating the many scandals surrounding agency administrator Scott Pruitt. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has in recent months seen an increased workload due to the more than a dozen investigations launched into Pruitt’s spending and management decisions during his first year as administrator.
Prior to becoming Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell was a Republican operative with a history of making bombastic — one might even say “undiplomatic” — statements. Over the weekend, this habit got Ambassador Grenell in trouble when he gave an unguarded interview to Breitbart in which he seemed to imply that he would actively work to topple the current centrist German government.
In February, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats deemed cyberwarfare the No. 1 threat to the United States. Yet this month, new national security adviser John Bolton decided to eliminate the cybersecurity coordinator position on the National Security Council. Bolton’s decision, justified as a move to “streamline” what is asserted to be a “core capability,” instead is likely to downgrade the priority of cybersecurity and leave top national security officials ill-equipped.
The new national security adviser has been quietly taking advice from a few associates. Some have business interests that overlap with the National Security Council. Nearly two months into Mr. Bolton’s tenure, some people familiar with the N.S.C. say the influence of his associates can be seen in the agency’s effort to crack down on leaks, as well as an exodus of agency staff and a roster of candidates now under consideration to take their place, and have taken to calling the associates a “shadow N.S.C.”
Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees. During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.
Scott Pruitt, the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency, took the side of poultry companies and other businesses in Arkansas in a dispute over the pollution of an ecologically sensitive and economically vital watershed, environmental groups say. While he was representing Oklahoma as its attorney general, Pruitt helped to slow the implementation of a plan, forged years ago by both states, to clean a river in his home state.
Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist who has known the EPA administrator for years, worked for months with Pruitt’s aides to hammer out logistics, according to four individuals familiar with those preparations. In April, Smotkin won a $40,000-a-month contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, with the Moroccan government to promote the kingdom’s cultural and economic interests. He recently registered as a foreign agent representing that government.