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 Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at the White House on June 2, 2017.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at the White House on June 2, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

A high-ranking political staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency has told lawmakers he faced retaliation after pushing back against outsized spending demands from Administrator Scott Pruitt and his top aides.

House and Senate Democrats sent letters Thursday to President Trump and Pruitt describing a meeting they had with Kevin Chmielewski, who was recently placed on involuntary, unpaid leave from his positon as EPA's deputy chief of staff for operations.

Chmielewski is a Republican who served as a key staffer for the Trump campaign before being hired at the EPA last year to help oversee spending at the agency. He says he was forced out after questioning Pruitt's travel and security spending, including the administrator's use of first-class flights.

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Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaui
Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaui (Jacquelyn Martin)

A federal appeals court panel on Thursday will hear oral arguments in the legal battle over the acting leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will provide a live audio stream of the arguments, beginning at 6:30 a.m. PDT.

Leandra English, the bureau’s deputy director, is appealing a lower court decision denying her request for a preliminary injunction to remove Mick Mulvaney as acting director and install her instead.

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook as the ship departs Larnaca, Cyprus on April 9.
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook as the ship departs Larnaca, Cyprus on April 9. (MC2 Alyssa Weeks / U.S. Navy)

President Trump said Thursday that an attack on Syria could take place "very soon or not so soon at all!"

The president made the statement in a tweet Thursday morning. Trump on Wednesday had warned Russia to "get ready" for a missile attack on its ally Syria, suggesting imminent retaliation for last weekend's suspected chemical weapons attack. But on Thursday, Trump wrote: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place."

At stake in Syria is the potential for confrontation, if not outright conflict, between the U.S. and Russia, former Cold War foes whose relations have deteriorated in recent years over Moscow's intervention in Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, most recently, its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Mick Mulvaney took his seat before a congressional committee Wednesday for the first time since his controversial appointment to be the nation’s top consumer financial watchdog and boldly declared he didn’t have to say a word.

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(Associated Press)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Paul D. Ryan, who announced Wednesday he would not run for reelection, has plenty of time to consider a presidential run, especially if you measure in Sen. Bernie Sanders years, the liberal Vermont independent who is still mulling a presidential bid at the age of 76.

“He’s got 28 years,” Gingrich said in a phone interview from Italy, adding that Ryan can go home, spend time with his family, earn some money, run for governor of Wisconsin and then still forge a presidential campaign. “He’s got at least six presidential elections in front of him.”

But Gingrich is not surprised Ryan is leaving the speakership.

  • Russia
(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump continues to lash out at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the wake of Monday’s FBI raids targeting his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, he called the Russia investigation “Fake & Corrupt” and referred to Mueller as the “most conflicted of all,” except for Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel’s work because Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself.

Trump did not explain why he believes Mueller is conflicted, a charge that could lay the groundwork for attempting to fire him as special counsel. But previously the president has complained that Mueller should be precluded from leading the investigation because, among other reasons, Trump interviewed him as a potential FBI director after firing James B. Comey last year.

With news that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) won’t seek another term in 2018, Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy is expected to make a bid for the position, assuming Republicans keep their majority.

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