Just say no
June 18, 2019

If you use cocaine and call yourself an environmentalist, Colombian President Iván Duque considers you a hypocrite.

During an interview with The Guardian on Monday, Duque discussed the different ways cocaine production harms his country. "There are many people who present themselves as environmentalists, and if they want to be coherent, they must understand all the environmental damage that is caused by the production of cocaine — not just destroying tropical forests, [but] spreading chemicals in protected areas and destroying human capital," he said, adding, "How can you present yourself as a defender of the environment when you are creating so much harm? There needs to be an end to hypocrisy and inconsistency."

Colombia is the world's top exporter of cocaine. Coca is the source of cocaine, and after years of spraying coca crops from the air with herbicides, Colombia stopped the practice in 2015; farmers had complained their legal crops were also being destroyed and the herbicide was linked to cancer. Duque told The Guardian he is bringing back aerial spraying, and it will start in a few weeks. The right-wing president added that his decision has nothing to do with the United States pressuring him to do something about an increase in cocaine exports to the country. Catherine Garcia

May 1, 2019

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday he will not be calling on Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before his committee.

"I'm not going to do any more," he said. "Enough already. It's over." Earlier in the day, his committee questioned Attorney General William Barr about Mueller's report. In April, Barr said he wasn't aware of any concerns Mueller might have had about the way he was handling the report, but on Wednesday, a letter Mueller sent to the Department of Justice in March was made public, showing that he was concerned about Barr's summary of the document, saying it "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of his work.

Graham might not want Mueller to appear before his committee, but his colleague Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he sees "no problem" with Mueller testifying, and would like to know why he's "unhappy" with Barr. Catherine Garcia

April 23, 2019

President Trump does not want any current or former White House aides to testify in front of congressional panels in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, he told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

"There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it's very partisan — obviously very partisan," Trump said. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena on Monday to former White House Counsel Don McGahn, asking him to turn over documents and testify next month. McGahn, cited 157 times in the Mueller report, discussed how Trump tried to get him to fire Mueller and then pressed him later to lie about it.

Two people with knowledge of the matter told the Post on Tuesday the White House will fight McGahn's subpoena, asserting executive privilege. This doesn't sound like a solid plan, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste said. "It seems to me executive privilege was waived when McGahn was permitted to give testimony and to be interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller," he told the Post. "I don't see how the White House can assert executive privilege with something that has already been revealed. To use the Watergate expression, 'You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.'"

A person close to McGahn said while he's not "eager to testify," he's also "not reluctant." McGahn doesn't "want to be in contempt of Congress," the person added, "nor does he want to be in contempt of his ethical obligations and legal obligations as a former White House official." Catherine Garcia

January 21, 2019

Anthony Scaramucci spent just 11 days as White House communications director, but it was long enough for President Trump to determine that he is "completely out of his mind," a former aide writes in the latest book about the dysfunction taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Cliff Sims is the former White House director of message strategy, and his new book, Team of Vipers, goes on sale next week. The Washington Post received an advance copy, and Philip Rucker describes Sims as being "a true believer in Trump and his agenda" who wrote "whimsically of the president, but still is critical of him, especially his morality." Scaramucci's brief tenure merited an entire chapter in Team of Vipers, "The Mooch is Loose," painting a picture of a man rabidly searching for the people leaking to the media details about the inner workings of the White House.

Sims writes that Scaramucci threatened to fire all 40 media aides, and told them if anyone asked them to leak, they had to respond by saying no way, Jose. "I cannot do that," he reportedly ordered them to say. "I only report to Anthony Scaramucci and he reports directly to the president of the United States." Trump was tickled by Scaramucci, and asked Sims: "Can you believe this guy? He's completely out of his mind — like, on drugs or something — totally out of his mind. We'll figure it out, but the guy is crazy." Read more anecdotes from Team of Vipers — including several awkward encounters between Trump and former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

January 14, 2019

President Trump's weekend was spent "largely alone at the White House, irked by a pair of startling Russia headlines, and baffled that he's not getting more credit for staying put during the partial government shutdown," The Associated Press reports. Along with prolific tweeting, Trump called in to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro's Saturday night show. The decision to call into Fox News, with just a few hours' notice, "surprised his aides," AP said, and they had some regrets about his conversation.

Trump pushed back against a Washington Post report that he'd gone to great lengths to keep his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin secret, even from top aides, but "White House aides expressed regret that the president did not more clearly and forcefully deny being a Russian agent when asked by the usually friendly Fox News host, according to three White House aides and Republicans close to the White House," AP reports.

Pirro asked Trump if he is or has ever worked for Russia, pointing to a New York Times report that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence operation soon after his inauguration because they became concerned he was a Russian asset, witting or unwitting. "I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked," Trump told Pirro. "I think it's the most insulting article I've ever had written, and if you read the article you'll see that they found absolutely nothing." He did not directly address her question.

In Sunday's Washington Post, columnist Max Boot took a stab, listing 18 bits of evidence Trump could be a Russian asset and concluding, "If Trump isn't actually a Russian agent, he is doing a pretty good imitation of one." At Politico, Strobe Talbott, a deputy secretary of state under Bill Clinton and a Russia expert, lays out his case that "Trump has been colluding with a hostile Russia throughout his presidency. We'll see if it started before that." Peter Weber

May 9, 2018

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is calling on his colleagues in the Senate to reject the nomination of Gina Haspel as CIA director.

Haspel has been with the CIA for more than 30 years, and during her Senate testimony on Wednesday, she was asked about the time she spent in 2002 at a "black site" in Thailand, where terrorism suspects were waterboarded and forced to undergo other harsh and legally questionable interrogation methods. She said that under her watch, the CIA "will not restart such a detention and interrogation program," but did not say "yes" or "no" when asked if she thought the practice was immoral.

As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain was tortured, and in a statement Wednesday he said he understands that "those who used enhanced interrogation methods and those who approved them wanted to protect Americans from harm." Furthermore, he said, he believes Haspel is "a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense," but her "role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination." McCain is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, and is at his home in Arizona. Catherine Garcia

February 16, 2018

President Trump is sticking to his long-held position that Russia had no impact on the 2016 U.S. election — even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for operations including "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump."

Trump tweeted as much Friday afternoon:

In an official White House statement, Trump additionally called reports about Russia's hand in the election — including, apparently, those issued by his own Justice Department — "outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories."

The indictment published Friday alleges that from around 2014 to the present, Russian agents conspired to "defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government," including "the presidential election of 2016." Jeva Lange

February 15, 2017

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Wednesday became the first Republican to say she will not vote to confirm President Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who sued the EPA 14 times while former President Barack Obama was in office.

"I have significant concerns that Mr. Pruitt has actively opposed and sued the EPA on numerous issues that are of great importance to the state of Maine, including mercury controls for coal-fired power plants and efforts to reduce cross-state air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions," Collins said in a statement. "His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the agency's critical mission to protect human health and the environment."

Out of every case that made it to a final decision, Pruitt only won once, The Hill reports. The confirmation vote could come as soon as Friday, and with none of the 51 other GOP senators standing with Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) saying Pruitt has "the right experience for the position," it's likely he will be confirmed. Catherine Garcia

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