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Democrat Warren slams Trump’s defense nominee, citing ethics concerns

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Democrat Warren slams Trump's defense nominee, citing ethics concerns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday clashed with Mark Esper, President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. defense secretary, saying he should be not be confirmed to the post because of ethical concerns related to his former lobbyist job at defense contractor Raytheon Co.

FILE PHOTO – Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to members of the media during a town hall at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, New Hampshire, U.S., July 8, 2019. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The sharp exchange between Esper, the current Army secretary, and Warren was a rare contentious moment during his otherwise smooth Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, with panel members eager to fill the lingering Pentagon vacancy.

Esper refused when Warren demanded that he commit to not working for any defense contractor for four years after leaving his Pentagon job and that he extend a two-year ethics commitment due to expire in November that forces him to avoid decisions involving Raytheon.

He agreed to comply with all legally binding ethics regulations while in office. Warren, a candidate for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination and the only member of the committee to voice opposition to Esper’s confirmation, repeatedly interrupted him as he tried to explain his position.

There has been no confirmed defense secretary since Jim Mattis resigned in December over policy differences with the Republican president, the longest period in Pentagon history. Three people have served as acting secretary during that time, including Patrick Shanahan, who withdrew from consideration as Pentagon chief on June 18 after reports emerged of domestic violence in his family.

Numerous Cabinet members and senior White House officials have left the administration, either through firing or resignation, during Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

Esper, 55, is an Army veteran who has served as a congressional aide and as a Pentagon official under Republican President George W. Bush as well as a Raytheon lobbyist. He was introduced and given a strong endorsement at the hearing by Senator Tim Kaine, who served as 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate.

While not criticizing Trump, Esper told the committee that he aligned himself with Mattis’ views on national security. Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, quit after Trump announced a plan to withdraw American troops from Syria, then pointedly mentioned in his resignation letter the need for the United States to treat allies with respect and be “clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors.”

Esper also said he would resign if asked to do something immoral, illegal or unethical.

Seeking to rebut Warren’s remarks, Esper also said he had never been accused of corruption in his life. Warren zeroed in on Esper’s seven years at Raytheon as vice president for government relations. She said that work raised questions about conflicts of interest.

“Secretary Esper, the American people deserve to know that you are making decisions in our country’s security interests, not in your own financial interests,” said Warren, who has prided herself as a check on corporate influence in the U.S. government.

“You can’t make those commitments to this committee. That means you should not be confirmed as secretary of defense.”

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Esper’s chief of staff Eric Chewning said, “I think the easiest way to think about the secretary’s (Esper’s) recusals is he is doing everything required by law. I mean, there’s no waivers, nothing outside of law, everything that he’s required to do by law.”

NO F-35 FOR TURKEY

Raytheon’s business is vast, and weapons sales involving the company could easily creep into policy discussions involving Esper. One example is Turkey. The United States warned Turkey against buying a Russian air defense system, instead pushing the NATO ally to buy America’s best alternative: Patriot missiles, made by Raytheon.

Chewning said on Monday that depending on the conversations, there could be instances in which Esper would need to recuse himself on the Patriot missiles issue.

Esper called Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian system “disappointing,” saying in a comment aimed at Turkey’s defense minister: “You can either have the S-400 or you can have the F-35 (fighter jet), you cannot have both.”

Warren slammed Esper for failing to commit not to seek a waiver from his existing government ethics agreement and cited concerns that the nominee is due deferred payments from Raytheon of at least $1 million after 2022. She also sought assurances that he would not quickly return to Raytheon or another defense firm after his Pentagon job.

Some panel members rallied to his defense. Referring to Warren, Republican Senator Rick Scott said: “I think she just needed a moment for her presidential campaign.”

Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination in Washington, U.S. July 16, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

Esper graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1986 alongside current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Esper also served in the 1991 Gulf War.

“I went to war for this country, I served overseas for this country, I have stepped down from jobs that paid me well more … and each time it was to serve the public good,” Esper said in response to Warren.

“So no, I disagree with you.”

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Will Dunham

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in ‘SMEAR story’

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Trump rips New York Times over Kavanaugh piece, calls for resignation of anyone involved in 'SMEAR story'

President Trump blasted The New York Times over its supposed bombshell report on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, calling on “everybody” involved in the “smear” to resign.

“I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony!” Trump tweeted Monday evening.

“They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation… She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”

NEW YORK TIMES CRITICIZED FROM BOTH SIDES OVER NOW-REVISED KAVANAUGH ALLEGATIONS

Late Sunday, The New York Times walked back an explosive report about a resurfaced allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh from his college days. The piece by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, adapted from their forthcoming book, alleged there was corroboration of an incident in which Kavanaugh, as a college student at Yale, exposed himself to a female classmate at a party.

However, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway — who reviewed an advance copy of the book – flagged an omission and the paper eventually revised the controversial story after being lampooned on social media over the gaffe.

The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim said she did not recall the purported sexual assault. The newspaper also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode.

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Trump was asked about whether anyone from The Times should be “fired” over the controversy. He called it a “fair” question but didn’t directly give an answer.

“I think The New York Times made another terrible mistake,” Trump said. “It’s a shame that a thing like that could happen… They used to have a thing called fact-checking. They don’t have fact-checking anymore.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gregg Re contributed to this report.

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

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With New Mexico rally, Trump seeks to flip state won by Clinton in 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will hold one of his signature rallies on Monday night in New Mexico, a longtime Democratic stronghold his campaign has added to the list of states it hopes to win in the November 2020 election.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

The last time New Mexico supported a Republican in a presidential race was 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by 8 percentage points three years ago.

Trump’s campaign sees an opening in the state with Latinos, who it believes will swing his way despite tough immigration policies, including a crackdown on migrants from Central America and a push to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democrats have criticized those efforts. But a Trump campaign aide said the Republican president could win over Latinos who came to the United States legally and believe others should, too.

“Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN. Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day — see you in a few hours!” Trump tweeted ahead of his trip.

The campaign also views Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry as a plus in the state, which is rich in oil and natural gas, said the campaign aide, who declined to be named. Trump is likely to discuss energy on Monday night.

Trump won the White House in 2016 with electoral votes from traditional Republican-leaning states and some surprise Democratic-leaning ones.

The Trump campaign says it wants New Mexico’s five electoral votes to augment the 306 electoral votes the president received in his first election, not create a separate path for victory. A candidate must get 270 electoral votes nationally to win.

Democrats, who did well in New Mexico during the 2018 mid-term elections, are skeptical.

“Last cycle, Democrats crushed Republicans in New Mexico because voters are fed up with President Trump’s toxic healthcare agenda and broken promises,” said David Bergstein, a communications director for the Democratic National Committee focused on battleground states.

“We take nothing for granted, but this GOP strategy looks like they’re concerned about a realistic pathway to 270 electoral votes,” he added.

Trump won electoral-vote-rich swing states such as Ohio and Florida in 2016, while also picking up Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from Democrats.

The campaign says it is eyeing more pickups in 2020, including Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Nevada.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown

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California adds Iowa to ‘travel ban’ over refusal to fund gender transitions

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California adds Iowa to 'travel ban' over refusal to fund gender transitions

California announced Monday that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding “travel ban” list because of that state’s new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.

The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.

Becerra’s authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The list already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

WATCH: LIBERAL POLICIES BLAMED FOR WORSENING CALIFORNIA’S HOMELESSNESS CRISIS

Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state’s sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A homeless woman smokes as she waits for city crews to clean the area near Los Angeles City Hall Monday, July 1, 2019. California is overrun with homeless individuals. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.

At the federal level, the Trump administration has disputed the idea that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under law include protections for gender identity. The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that “gender identity” was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.

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Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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