Posts tagged with "Speaker Nancy Pelosi"

House approves $3.5 trillion budget plan

August 26, 2021

On Tuesday, August 24, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a budget framework that will pave the way for Democrats to spend up to $3.5 trillion on a sweeping economic package to expand the social safety net that President Joe Biden has made a signature agenda item, reports CNN

.The House vote came after painstaking negotiations between progressive Democratic leaders and a group of moderates yielded a compromise that paved the way for passage.

Based on that compromise, the House voted on a rule to advance both the budget deal and a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Due to a procedural maneuver, passage of the rule also approved the budget resolution, bypassing a separate vote. In a concession to moderates, the rule also directs the House to take up the bipartisan bill by September 27.

“I’m sorry that we couldn’t land the plane [Monday] night, and that you all had to wait,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus on Tuesday morning, according to a Democratic aide in the room. “But that’s just part of the legislative progress … I think we’re close to landing the plane.”

The Senate approved the budget resolution earlier this month. Budget resolutions do not become law and are not signed by the President, but the framework will act as an important policy blueprint. Both chambers must adopt the resolution for Democrats to use a process known as budget reconciliation to later pass legislation addressing the climate crisis, aid for families, health care and more that cannot be defeated by a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

The budget resolution includes a set of instructions for House and Senate committees that will allow them to write reconciliation legislation with a total price tag of as much as $3.5 trillion. The final reconciliation package, once it is drafted, is expected to be considered in the fall.

With regard to the $3.5 trillion topline number for this package, the President has been clear: this is the number that will honor his vision to Build Back Better,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats over the weekend. “This is the number that has been agreed to in the Senate and is now before us in the House. Accordingly, we will write a reconciliation bill with the Senate that is consistent with that topline.”

Representative Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from Texas, told CNN on Tuesday that “good progress” has been made when asked if moderates have reached a deal with leadership.

In a clear signal of the high stakes moment, Biden himself joined members of his senior team in making calls to some of the holdout moderates, according to a White House official. Biden’s senior aides and top legislative affairs officials have been in regular touch with the moderate group for several weeks and publicly backed Pelosi’s approach. But several House Democrats had quietly voiced desire for Biden himself to weigh in—something Biden did with some members Monday.

The optimistic tone Tuesday morning stood in stark contrast to the heated division on display Monday evening, when tension in the Democratic caucus came to a boiling point in a heated, expletive-laden meeting. Multiple sources confirmed that lawmakers grew visibly angry when Pelosi emphasized lawmakers shouldn’t “squander” the opportunity to pass these bills with their majority in the House.

Democrats have ambitious goals for the legislative package, which opens the door for them to implement key priorities across a wide range of policy issues. Republicans are steadfastly opposed to the effort and have denounced it as a reckless partisan tax and spending spree.

According to a summary of the budget resolution released after Democrats formally unveiled the measure the measure seeks to establish universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and make community college tuition-free for two years. Among other provisions, it calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps; adds new dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare coverage; and would make an “historic level” of investment in affordable housing.

The budget resolution sets a target date of September 15 for committees to submit their reconciliation legislation.

Democrats will ultimately be subject to constraints on what they can include under the budget reconciliation process. Provisions have to directly impact the budget, and the Senate parliamentarian may rule that certain priorities cannot be included as a result. The parliamentarian is responsible for advising the chamber on how its rules, protocols and precedents operate.

Research contact: @CNN

Senate introduces text of bipartisan infrastructure package

August 4, 2021

The U.S. Senate introduced the long-awaited text of its bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sunday, August 1—aiming to pass the massive measure this week, NBC News reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said he would push forward with amendments to the legislation, which senators were finalizing through the weekend.

“Given how bipartisan the bill is, and how much work has already been put in to get the details right, I believe the Senate can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The measure—H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—includes roughly $555 billion in new spending to build roads, public transit and other priorities of President Joe Biden, which would inject a windfall of money into a series of transportation projects that have long enjoyed support from both parties.

The bill, which is 2,702 pages, includes $110 billion for roads, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. It has measures aimed at reforming Amtrak, “revolutionizing” a transportation grant program and enhancing the electrical grid. Other provisions target drinking water infrastructure, broadband affordability and reducing ferry emissions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked on the bill said that they had overcome their differences to craft legislation that would modernize the country’s outdated infrastructure.

“So many people have given up on the Senate,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) “They have given up on Congress. They have given up on our ability to be able to do the big things. This is big. This is a big deal.”

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) added that the group had followed a commitment to focus on “core” infrastructure—instead of a far more expansive set of proposals initially advanced by the White House—and to not raise taxes.

“We kept to those two principles,” he said.

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to defeat a filibuster and begin debate on the agreement, a sign that it has broad support in the chamber. Among the 17 Republican supporters in that vote was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

According to NBC News, Schumer said that once the bill was passed, he would move to a budget blueprint for an even more massive $3.5 trillion measure to fund Democratic priorities on climate, health care and the economy as senators work to finish up legislative work before their summer break begins next week.

The Senate’s infrastructure legislation faces trouble in the House amid pushback from Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), and progressives who say it doesn’t do enough to invest in public transportation, water and tackle climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has insisted that the larger measure must be passed before the House, which already has left for its recess, will even consider the bipartisan infrastructure deal. The larger bill will give Democrats skeptical of the Senate agreement a chance to address their priorities.

Biden voiced his support for the infrastructure measure Sunday, tweeting that the deal “is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Senate decisively passes bill to target anti-Asian hate crimes

April 26, 2021

On Thursday , April 22, the Senate overwhelmingly voted (94-1) to approve legislation aimed at strengthening federal efforts to address hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans, amid a sharp increase in discrimination and violence against Asian communities in the United States.

The bipartisan vote was the first legislative action either chamber of Congress has taken to bolster law enforcement’s response to attacks on people of Asian descent, which have intensified during the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) was the lone opponent of the legislation, arguing that it mandated an overly expansive collection of data around hate crimes that could slide into government overreach.

“By passing this bill, the Senate makes it very clear that hate and discrimination against any group has no place in America,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York. “By passing this bill, we say to the Asian-American community that their government is paying attention to them, has heard their concerns and will respond to protect them.”

The measure, sponsored by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), would establish a position at the Justice Department to expedite the agency’s review of hate crimes and expand the channels to report them. It also would encourage the creation of state-run hate crime hotlines; provide grant money to law enforcement agencies that train their officers to identify hate crimes; and introduce a series of public education campaigns around bias against people of Asian descent.

The legislation will next go to the House, where lawmakers passed a resolution last year condemning anti-Asian discrimination related to the pandemic. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) pledged on Thursday shortly after the bill’s passage to put it to a vote on the House floor next month, calling it a catalyst for “robust, impactful action,” the Times said.

I cannot tell you how important this bill is” to the Asian-American community, “who have often have felt very invisible in our country; always seen as foreign, always seen as the other” said Hirono, the first Asian-American woman elected to the chamber and one of only two currently serving there. “We stand with you and will continue to stand with you to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening our country.”

Republicans initially had offered a lukewarm response to the bill. But they rallied around an amended version after Hirono worked behind the scenes with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to secure enough Republican support to win 60 votes. That included adding a section explicitly documenting and denouncing attacks against Asian-Americans, as well as the provision establishing the hate crime hotlines, proposed by Senators Richard Blumenthal, (D-Connecticut) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas).

Collins took to the Senate floor on Thursday to urge her colleagues to support the legislation, calling on them to join her in sending “an unmistakably strong signal that crimes targeting Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in our country will not be tolerated.”

In the lead-up to the bill, The New York Times, using media reports from across the country to capture a sense of the rising tide of anti-Asian bias, found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate.

Research contact: @nytimes

House impeaches Trump for instigating mob attack on Capitol

January 15, 2021

One more time with feeling: House Democrats in their second impeachment of President Donald Trump accomplished what they couldn’t in their first: They kept their party unified and brought some Republicans on board, Roll Call reports.

The chamber on Wednesday voted 232-197 to approve a single article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for encouraging his supporters who attacked the Capitol last week.

The article outlines Trump’s impeachable conduct, describing how for months leading up to the January 6 joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College votes, he “repeatedly issued false statements” alleging widespread fraud and saying state and federal officials should not certify the results.

Trump reiterated those false claims in a January 6 speech at a rally for his supporters outside the White House in which he also “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged— and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,’” the resolution says. 

“Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the resolution reads.

The impeachment article also cites Trump’s “prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification,” like his January 2 phone call threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn the state’s results, as it notes he “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power,” Roll Call notes.

Wednesday’s vote makes Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice. The House first impeached him on December 18, 2019, on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. The Senate acquitted Trump of both charges on February 5, 2020.

Trump has seven days left in office, and a Senate trial won’t occur in time to remove him any earlier.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump “must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together.”

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a note to his conference Wednesday refuting media press reports that have suggested he plans to support impeachment, but the Kentucky Republican left open the possibility he may reach that conclusion.

“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell saidm, according to the Roll Call report. 

Ten Republicans, including the No. 3 in House GOP leadership, Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, voted to impeach Trump.

All 222 Democrats supported the impeachment resolution as well.

Republicans besides Cheney who voted to impeach Trump include Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Tom Rice of South Carolina and David Valadao of California.

The bipartisan support is different from the first time the House impeached Trump, when no Republican supported either article.

The impeachment vote split the GOP leadership team, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise voting against the article and Cheney voting for it.

McCarthy in a floor speech said Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol,” but he argued against impeachment, saying it would “further fan the flames of partisan division.”


Pelosi declined Wednesday morning to tell reporters when she planned to transfer the impeachment article to the Senate, which will determine how quickly the chamber can begin a trial.

The Senate is out of session until Jan. 19. McConnell on Wednesday rejected Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s request to use a 2004 emergency convening authority to bring the Senate back early, McConnell’s spokesman confirmed.

Whether or not the trial is held while Trump is still in office, lawmakers have said they intend to invoke Amendment 14 of the U.S. Constitution, which, under Section 3, would bar Trump from holding public office ever again.

Section 3 reads: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Research contact: @rollcall

Democrats look to impeachment as Pence demurs at invoking 25th Amendment

January 11, 2021

Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts , the assistant speaker of the House, told The New York Times on January 8 that Democrats could vote on impeachment by the middle of next week—just seven days ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as POTUS.

Democrats plunged forward on Friday with plans to impeach President Trump over his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the Capitol, picking up some potential Republican support to move as early as next week to try to force Trump from office just as his term is drawing to a close.

Clark, the No. 4 Democrat, said that if Vice President Mike Pence would not invoke the 25th Amendment to forcibly relieve Trump of his duties, Democrats were prepared to act by the middle of next week to impeach him for a second time. Speaker Nancy Pelosi planned to gather Democrats by telephone at noon to discuss the effort.

According to the Times, they were rushing to begin the expedited proceeding two days after the president rallied his supporters near the White House, urging them to go to the Capitol to protest his election defeat; then continuing to stoke their grievances as they stormed the edifice— with Pence and the entire Congress meeting inside to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory— in a rampage that left five dead.

“If the reports are correct and Mike Pence is not going to uphold his oath of office and remove the president and help protect our democracy, then we will move forward with impeachment to do just that,”  Clark said in an interview on CNN.

The prospect of forcing Trump from office in less than two weeks appeared remote given the logistical and political challenges involved, the Times said—given that a two-thirds majority in the Senate would be required. But the push unfolded amid a sense of national crisis following the Capitol siege, as White House resignations piled up and some Republicans appeared newly open to the possibility, which could also disqualify Trump from holding political office in the future.

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, said he would “definitely consider whatever articles they might move, because I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office.”

“He sworn an oath to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution — he acted against that,” Sasse said on CBS. “What he did was wicked.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump Administration: No more in-person election security briefings for Congress

September 1, 2020

What they don’t know can’t hurt us:  That’s the assumed motive behind the Trump Administration’s move over the weekend to squelch in-person intelligence briefings provided to the U.S. Congress about the upcoming presidential election.

Until now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been responsible for delivering regular updates to lawmakers on what measures are being taken to protect balloting from foreign or internal tinkering, The New York Times reports.

The nation’s top intelligence officials moved on Saturday to tighten control over the flow of sensitive intelligence about foreign threats to November’s election, telling Congress that they would no longer provide in-person briefings about election security and would rely solely on written updates instead.

Representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of the policy change by telephone on Friday and followed up with a batch of letters to congressional leaders on Saturday.

In the letters, the Chief of the Intelligence Office, John L. Ratcliffe, framed the move as an attempt to “ensure clarity and consistency” in intelligence agencies’ interactions with Congress and to crack down on leaks that have infuriated some intelligence officials.

“I believe this approach helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information O.D.N.I. provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on elections security, foreign malign influence and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized,” he wrote, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. “It will also better protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse.”

But coming just ten weeks before Election Day, the change drew complaints from lawmakers in both parties, who worried the move would block their ability to question and test intelligence assessments from the executive branch at a time when they are crucial to ensuring that foreign powers do not undermine the results

Intelligence agencies have revealed that Russia is again trying to bolster the campaign of President Donald Trump, who has insisted he is actually “the last person Russia wants to see in office” and consistently attacked the intelligence agencies during his tenure.

Democrats, who fear Trump’s appointees have moved to color intelligence assessments for his political benefit, were particularly furious. The Times said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff of California, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the new policy “shameful” and said intelligence officials had also canceled briefings with committees and the full House on election security threats already scheduled for September at the request of Ratcliffe’s office. They vowed to try to force their reinstatement

“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” the two senior Democrats wrote.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. CNN first reported the change

Research contact: @nytimes

Mutiny on the bounties: Trump balks at briefing House members on Russian perfidy

June 30, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for the Trump Administration to brief all House members immediately about allegations that surfaced on June 27–detailing that Russians have been paying Afghan militants to assassinate U.S. soldiers, Politico reports.

Most recently, President Donald Trump has claimed that he knows nothing about the disclosures—and that he and Vice President Mike Pence never have been briefed on the matter by U.S. intelligence agencies. He has not said that he intends to follow up on the accusations against Russia and, by extension, against President Vladimir Putin—which he does not believe to be credible.

However, The New York Times has countered that story, saying that senior White House and intelligence officials knew about the bounty allegations since at least March but took no action.

Indeed, the Times has reported that Trump was briefed on the matter and that it was included in his Presidential Daily Brief, but Trump denied ever learning of the intelligence and late Sunday said his leaders in the intelligence community told him it wasn’t credible.

“The questions that arise are: Was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed? Congress and the country need answers now,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and CIA Director Gina Haspel. “I therefore request an interagency brief for all House Members immediately. Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable.”

Since the news reports emerged, Politico reports, Democrats and some Republicans have been demanding details from the Administration. Early Monday, congressional aides indicated no briefing had been set up for the House intelligence, armed services or foreign affairs committee. It’s unclear if the Gang of Eight—the leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the intelligence committee—will be briefed, but as of Monday morning there was no meeting scheduled, per a congressional source.

The new allegations —which The New York Times and The Washington Post reported may have led to the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan—have once again brought Trump’s relationship with Russia under scrutiny.

Senior House Democrats were furious with the reports, which first surfaced Saturday. Pelosi told ABC ‘s ‘This Week” on Sunday: “This is as bad as it gets.”

“If reports are true that Russia offered a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Trump wasn’t briefed, that’s a problem,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) tweeted Sunday. “What will it take to get Trump to abandon the fiction that Putin is our friend?”

“Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP,” Trump said. “Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Democrats, however, hammered the president over the bounties.

“It’s sickening that American soldiers have been killed as a result of Russian bounties on their heads, and the Commander in Chief didn’t do a thing to stop it,” Representatuve Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, told Politico.

Research contact: @politico

As COVID-19 rages, Trump asks Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare

June 29,2020

The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the United States hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, June 26—eclipsing the mark set during one of the deadliest stretches in late April, CBS News reports; noting that there is “ample evidence” that the pandemic is making a comeback.

Yet, even so, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court late on June 25 to terminate the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—the only health insurance to which many Americans have access. If the justices agree, they will wipe out coverage for as many as 23 million Americans, The New York Times reports.

In an 82-page brief submitted an hour before a midnight deadline, the Administration joined Republican officials in 18 states in arguing that, in 2017, the largely Republican Congress had rendered the law unconstitutional when it zeroed out the tax penalty for not buying insurance—the so-called individual mandate.

In his brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco maintained that the health law’s two remaining central provisions are now invalid because Congress intended that all three work together, the Times said.

The court has not said when it will hear oral arguments, but they are most likely to take place in the fall, just as Americans are preparing to go to the polls in November.

Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. They are bracing for the possibility that the effort to overturn the health law will cost them, according to the Times report.

Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the news outlet that he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Democrats, who view health care a winning issue—and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs—are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday, June 29, on a measure to expand the healthcare law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.

“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Access denied: President blocks Alex Azar and Seema Verma from testifying before ‘Trump haters’ in House

May 6, 2020

The White House told House Democrats on May 4, that their requests for testimony from two key members of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 task force would be denied—a move that adds to the list of officials who have been blocked from speaking under oath about the federal response (or lack therof) to the pandemic, The Daily Beast reported.

And that only expands the number of White House aides and federal-level officials whom the White House has prevented from bearing witness during the past three years—stonewalling all attempts by Congress to investigate or obtain firsthand evidence on the Administration’s obscure or covert activities.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee had asked the administration for testimony from Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; and from Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Two sources, including a Democratic spokesperson for the committee, confirmed to The Daily Beast that their requests were rejected on Monday.

Indeed, according to the Daily Beast, last week, the White House blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) the administration’s foremost infectious disease expert, from testifying before House Democrats, although Fauci still is set to appear before a Senate panel run by Republicans.

The White House defended the decision by saying it would be “counterproductive” to have officials involved in the COVID-19 response to appear at congressional hearings because they are too lengthy.

A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the task force has been working “non-stop” since the beginning of the outbreak and has conducted numerous public briefings. “I don’t think anyone can reasonably say we aren’t being transparent,” the official said.

President Trump himself had a different explanation. “The House is a set up,” he told reporters on Tuesday morning from the White House lawn en route to Arizona. “The House is a bunch of Trump haters.”

That outlook was formalized in a new White House policy that began circulating among officials on May 4. It instructed members of the coronavirus task force that they would not be permitted to testify in Congress without the approval of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said that the White House’s move was “business as usual” from the Trump administration and said that lawmakers needed the latest information from task force officials to inform their legislative response to the virus.

 “The fact is that we need to allocate resources for this,” said Pelosi. “In order to do that, any appropriations bill must begin in the House. And we have to have the information to act upon.”

Azar, the embattled chief of HHS, has faced criticism over missteps in the agency’s COVID response, particularly the lack of testing availability early on in the outbreak. He has not testified publicly since March 12. Verma, who oversees the government’s two biggest and most expensive healthcare programs, has not testified publicly since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Parnas: Trump gave the orders on Ukraine; Giuliani, Pence, and Barr were ‘on the team’

January 17, 2020

The White House reeled as more damning evidence on the Ukraine plot emerged this week, even as the House voted to release its two articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Lev Parnas—the indicted associate of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been implicated in an alleged attempt to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in an exclusive and explosive interview aired on January 15, “… Trump knew exactly what was going on.”

“He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials,” Parnas revealed.

“I mean, they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President Zelenskiy’s inner circle or Minister Avakov or all these people or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work,” Parnas said.

Zelenskiy was elected president in April, defeating incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Arsen Avakov is Ukraine’s interior minister, NBC News reported.

On Tuesday, the network said, House Democrats released records as part of the evidence that attorneys for Parnas turned over to House impeachment investigators, which show that Giuliani requested a private meeting with Zelenskiy, then the president-elect, with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”

The evidence appears to bolster Democrats’ argument that Giuliani was doing Trump’s bidding by trying to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

In response to Parnas’ interview, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday morning, “These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison.”

“The facts haven’t changed — the president did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start,” Grisham said.

In a statement to “The Rachel Maddow Show” while the program was airing, Giuliani denied that he told Ukrainian officials that Parnas spoke on behalf of Trump.

“Never,” Giuliani responded when asked whether Parnas was speaking for Trump.

Asked whether he believed Parnas was lying, Giuliani said, “All I can say is the truth.” Giuliani said of Parnas, “He’s a very sad situation.”

The president, himself, continued to stick to the same script, tweeting, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer just said, “The American people want a fair trial in the Senate.” True, but why didn’t Nervous Nancy and Corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff give us a fair trial in the House. It was the most lopsided & unfair basement hearing in the history of Congress!”

The impeachment articles against Trump center on an alleged campaign by Trump to pressure Zelenskiy to announce investigations into Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma in 2014 until he left last year.

“Yeah, it was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and also Rudy had a personal thing with the Manafort stuff. The black ledger,” Parnas told Maddow.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is serving a 7½-year prison sentence for tax evasion and violating federal lobbying laws after having been charged

Parnas also told the MSNBC anchor that Vice President Mike Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. “Oh, I know 100% . It was 100%,” he said.

Asked whether Pence was aware of a “quid pro quo” around the visit, Parnas replied by quoting Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who said during the House impeachment inquiry: “Everybody was in the loop.”

Maddow said her show asked for comment from Pence and had not received a response.

Parnas said Attorney General William Barr was also likely aware of what was going on. Parnas said that he never spoke with Barr but that “I was involved with lots of conversations” that Giuliani and another person had with Barr in front of him.

“Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it’s impossible,” Parnas told Maddow. “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”

Asked about Trump’s denial that he knows him, Parnas said, “He lied.”

Parnas said he wants to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. “I want to get the truth out,” he said, “because I feel it’s important for our country.”

The impeachment trial has been scheduled to start on January 21.

Research contact: @NBCNews