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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- After Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was just one of two Republican senators to vote against proceeding to debate on a health care bill on Tuesday, she received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke voicing President Donald Trump’s displeasure about her vote.

The call, first reported by the Alaska News Dispatch, was confirmed by Murkowski’s office to ABC News.

“This was a difficult conversation,” Murkowski later said in an interview with MSNBC. “What I told the president, what I have told the president since he was elected, was I'm here to help the people of my state.”

The Interior Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.

The Alaska News Dispatch report also alleged that Zinke placed a call to Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, and expressed the same message about Murkowski’s vote.

Sen. Sullivan’s office did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Murkowski is the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Interior Department and its funding.

On Thursday morning, the committee announced it would be postponing a meeting to consider nominees to both the Interior and Energy Departments.

When asked about the call at a press briefing, incoming White House press secretary Sarah Sanders deflected questions on the subject.

“I’m not going to speak about conversations between Cabinet members and other individuals that I wasn’t a part of and haven't had a chance to talk to either individual about,” Sanders said.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, did not comment on Zinke’s call, but he defended Murkowski’s stance on the health care discussion.

“I understand there are plenty of moving parts in the health care discussion; however, the facts on the ground for Alaskans haven’t changed. We still face the highest health care costs in the nation. 187,000 Alaskans -- one-fourth of our population -- are covered by Medicaid, and nearly 35,000 of those have coverage thanks to Medicaid Expansion. My team and I will continue engaging with our congressional delegation to make sure Alaskans are protected,” Walker said in a statement.

Many pointed to the call as a potential abuse of power on the part of Zinke if it was meant to threaten political retribution against Murkowski.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, announced his intention to ask for a formal investigation of the incident.

“Running a department of the federal government means you serve the people as a protector of their rights and freedoms,” Grijalva said in a statement. “It doesn’t mean you serve the president as a bag man for his political vendettas.”

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has approved new sanctions to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election in an overwhelming vote, sending the bill to the White House and setting the stage for a potential showdown with President Trump.

The bill, cleared by the Senate in a 98-2 vote, would limit Trump's ability to lift or waive sanctions against Russia, and imposes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea. It passed the House earlier this week in a bipartisan 419-3 vote.

The Trump White House has not taken a position on the bill amid the administration's efforts to improve relations with Russia and the ongoing probes into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

"The President and the administration support sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday. "We continue to support strong sanctions against those three countries, and we're going to wait and see what that final legislation looks like and make a decision at that point."

In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci suggested Trump could veto the measure.

"He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians," he said.

Republicans and Democrats urged Trump to quickly sign the measure into law after the House and Senate cleared it with veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

"This bipartisan bill is about keeping America safe, and I urge the president to sign it into law," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement.

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci responded Thursday evening to an article detailing an expletive-ridden conversation a reporter with The New Yorker says he had with Scaramucci wherein he criticized key members of the Trump administration's senior staff.

“I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA,” Scaramucci said in a tweet after the article posted.

Scaramucci was responding to an article posted on The New Yorker’s website (warning: this article contains offensive language), in which journalist Ryan Lizza detailed an expletive-ridden phone conversation that Lizza says the two had about Scaramucci’s hunt for leakers within the administration and his frustration with certain key members of the Trump administration, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

At one point, Scaramucci called Priebus a “f------ paranoid schizophrenic.”

At another, Scaramucci used a vulgar phrase describing how he alleges Priebus prevented him from becoming a part of the administration in the first six months.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Reince Priebus is still the White House chief of staff and on Wednesday he told ABC News he intends to remain in the position, but people close to President Donald Trump say he is increasingly frustrated with the management of the West Wing and the president’s most trusted advisers are already making suggestions about who could be the next chief of staff.

Here is a list of possible Priebus replacements being talked about:

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway: Conway has had some tough days in the White House over the past six months, but by all accounts her stock is rising. Close personally to the president and first lady, Conway was the first woman to serve as campaign manager on a winning presidential campaign. She would be the first woman to serve as chief of staff.

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg: Currently the chief of staff and executive secretary for the National Security Council, Kellogg already spends a lot of time around the president. He was also an important adviser to the president during the campaign and one of the first senior military officers to endorse Trump. He has earned the trust of a president who likes to be in the company of generals.

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney: Mulvaney didn’t have much of a relationship with the president before the inauguration, but he came highly recommended by Vice President Mike Pence to be OMB director. The president has come to rely on him when it comes to dealing Congress and, of course, on budget issues.

Retired Gen. John Kelly: To many in the president’s inner circle, Homeland Security Secretary Kelly is considered the MVP of the Trump Cabinet. Kelly might well be the president’s first choice for chief of staff, but there is a big downside: He also likes him in his current role.

Newt Gingrich: Gingrich has spent a lot of time with the president in recent weeks and has become a close confidant of the Trump family. He is a loyalist from the early campaign days but is not afraid to tell the president when he thinks he is making a mistake. Most recently, Gingrich told Trump he should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Other possibilities being bandied about include Tom Barrack, Corey Lewandowski, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Gary Cohn.

As the president considers changes in the West Wing staff, he is relying more and more on the advice of his most loyal advisers from the campaign. Campaign veterans like Lewandowski and David Bossie have been spending more time around the West Wing. Conway has been playing a more central role, while Gingrich has been spending more time with the president.

On the other hand, the staff that came in from the Republican National Committee -- including Sean Spicer (on his way out), Katie Walsh (already gone) and Priebus (status unclear) -- have been pushed out of the inner circle.

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US Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions said President Trump's criticism of him is "hurtful," but he appreciates that the president has the country's best interests in mind.

"Well, um, it's kind of hurtful," Sessions told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in an interview airing Thursday night, when asked if he thinks the president's criticism of him is fair.

"But the president of the United States is a strong leader," Session said during the interview, which was conducted in El Salvador. "He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again. He's had a lot of criticisms and he's steadfastly determined to get his job done and he wants all of us to do our jobs. And that's what I intend to do.

Over the course of the past four days, Trump called Sessions "beleaguered" in a tweet, slammed him for taking "a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes," said that he was "disappointed" with Sessions during a joint press conference with a visiting head of state, and questioned via tweet why Sessions didn't replace the acting FBI director.

Trump's first shot across the bow came during a New York Times interview on July 19, when he said Sessions should never have recused himself from the investigations into any campaigns and their interactions with Russia. Trump said that if he knew Sessions was going to recuse himself, he would have picked someone else for the job.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned on Thursday that there would be “holy hell to pay” if President Donald Trump fires U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“This effort to, basically, marginalize and humiliate the attorney general is not going over well in the Senate,” Graham told reporters on Thursday. “I don’t think it’s going over well in the conservative world. ... If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.”

The South Carolina senator also pointed out that “any effort to go after" special counsel Robert Mueller "could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.”

Graham, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, stressed that there would be no confirmation hearing for a new attorney general in 2017 and that Trump should respect Sessions as a person who “deserves better.”

Graham’s warning partly echoed Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who subtly critiqued Trump on Twitter Wednesday morning, saying the Judiciary Committee is focusing for the rest of the year on judges first and sub-cabinet nominees second -- and not any attorney general nominee.

Everybody in D.C. Shld b warned that the agenda for the judiciary Comm is set for rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) July 27, 2017


Senators such as Graham and Grassley have backed Sessions as Trump jabbed him this week for being “weak” on the Clinton email investigation and for not “firing” Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was closely tied to former FBI Director James Comey.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said to ABC News on Wednesday, "Well, I'm a little bit surprised at some of the reported comments. Jeff has been very loyal to the president, and I think that he deserves loyalty back."

The Trump-Sessions tension gained steam July 19 when the president told the New York Times that he was disappointed that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation, leaving the power to appoint a special counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein appointed Mueller, who Trump said in the interview “should never have been appointed.”

Graham reiterated his support for Mueller’s continuation of the Russia investigation, saying he has no “reason” to think that Mueller is compromised. Graham warned that he would be introducing a bill next week that prevents the special counsel from getting fired when “empanelled to investigate the president” unless there is judicial review of the firing.

“The idea that the president would fire Mueller or have somebody fire Mueller because he doesn’t like Mueller or Mueller is doing something he doesn’t like, then we have become Russia,” Graham said. “So the red line should never be drawn. ... No president can do that.”

Graham added that the “president is not in the business of drawing red lines when it comes to the law” and said he hoped Trump would “calm down” to work together on Afghanistan, taxes and health care instead.

When Rosenstein appointed Mueller on May 17, Trump took a defensive stance, saying a thorough investigation will confirm “no collusion” with Russia and that he wanted to “fight back.” Mueller resigned from law firm WilmerHale, which boasts clients such as adviser to the president Jared Kushner.



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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has issued guidance to military commanders stressing that there will be no change in military policy toward transgender service members until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives further direction from the White House.

President Trump Wednesday announced via Twitter what appeared to be a reinstatement of the military's ban on transgender service members.

"I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the president," Dunford said in a written message on Thursday to military commanders, according to a copy obtained by ABC News.

"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance," the nation's top military commander continued.

"In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford said. "As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."

A Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday referred questions to the White House.

Vice Admiral Robert Burke, the Navy's top personnel officer, issued guidance to his commanders Wednesday that no personnel actions should be taken until further guidance is received by the White House and no ongoing medical treatments for transgender sailors should be ceased.

"With regard to implications for those currently serving, OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) is working to quickly discern the president's intent," Burke said in a copy of the guidance obtained by ABC News. “Treating service members with dignity and respect is something we expect from our sailors at all times."

The military does not track the number of transgender military service members through its personnel records, but the armed services do have information about service members who have contacted military medical services about a possible transgender transition.

About 160 sailors and fewer than five Marines are undergoing some form of transgender transition through the Navy's medical services, according to a Defense Department official. About 80 Army personnel are in similar transitions. The Air Force does not provide details about how many service members may be in transition.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Even though Jeff Sessions has indicated he has no intention of leaving his post, President Donald Trump’s continued public criticism of his attorney general has raised speculation about whether the president might seek to use his recess-appointment authority to replace Sessions without Senate oversight should he resign or be fired.

So how would it work?

If Sessions were to resign or be fired by the president, the Constitution allows for the president to fill the post through a recess appointment if the Senate goes on recess for a period of more than 10 days.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that the president can “fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.”

Under those terms, the president could appoint whomever he wants, with the pick remaining in effect until the end of the Senate’s next session -- through Jan. 3, 2019 -- without any need for Senate approval altogether in selecting a new acting attorney general.

It’s a prospect so worrisome on Capitol Hill that the Senate is set to block the scenario from presenting itself in the first place by keeping the Senate technically in session through the planned August recess.

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Tuesday that "we're exploring the ways right now” to keep the Senate formally in session through the August recess, calling the prospect that the president could use the recess to stop the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election “unacceptable.” While the attorney general has the power to fire a special counsel, Sessions has effectively waived that authority to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, due to his recusal from campaign-related investigations.

Democrats could filibuster the motion to adjourn so that the Senate would gavel in every three days as a means to keep the Senate formally in session.

It’s not a new approach and was used commonly during the previous administration.

Jane Chong, deputy managing editor of the legal blog Lawfare, notes that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did just that while Barack Obama was president.

“Under McConnell, we saw the Senate do pro forma sessions specifically to prevent from going into recess under this definition and, by extension, to prevent President Obama from exercising his recess powers,” Chong said.

The power to decide whether the Senate is in session rests solely with that legislative branch, with Chong pointing to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2014 National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning case.

"We hold that, for purposes of the recess appointments clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is, provided that, under its own rules, it retains the capacity to transact Senate business,” the case reads.

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Vstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Numbers from a 2016 Rand Corp. study show that the ban on transgender people in the military announced by President Trump may affect only a small percentage of the 1.3 million active-duty service members currently enlisted.

On Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter that transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. "in any capacity," but it is unclear how the ban would affect transgender people already serving.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was unable to say during a press briefing Wednesday how the new policy would be implemented.

Here are the numbers on transgender individuals in the U.S. military:

How many transgender individuals serve in the military?


Advocacy organizations have wide-ranging estimates on how many transgender people may be serving in the military.

The 2016 Rand study, titled "Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly," estimates that between 1,320 and 6,630 of 1.3 million active-duty service members may be transgender.

A mid-range estimate states that 2,450 active-duty service members and 1,510 members in the U.S. reserves may be transgender, according to the study.

The Department of Defense does not provide official numbers on transgender service members, but four of the military services have some numbers that indicate how very few active-duty members of the military have officially self-identified as transgender.

One defense official said the number of service members that have identified as transgender is in the low hundreds.

Only a "subset" of service members would seek a gender transition-related treatment, according to the Rand study.

Estimates derived from data from surveys and private health insurance claims indicate that between 29 and 129 active-duty service members could seek transition-related care that could "disrupt their ability to deploy," the study states.

What are the estimated costs to health care?

The cost of extending gender transition-related health care coverage to transgender service members would increase active-component health care costs by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, according to the study.

This represents a .04 to .13 percent increase in active-component health care expenditures, according to Rand.

How would transgender individuals affect military readiness?

There would be "little to no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness," according to the study.

"Policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the U.S. military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness," the study states.

Commanders of foreign militaries that allow transgender personnel noted that integration policies "had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force," according to the study.

Why did Defense Secretary James Mattis decide to delay review of transgender applicants to U.S. military?

On June 30, Defense Secretary James Mattis decided to delay the Obama-era review of allowing transgender individuals to join the military.

A statement from Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White indicates that Mattis made that decision based on recommendations from the services.

"Secretary Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018," White said of the June 30 decision. "The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces."

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Wednesday wrote in a now-deleted cryptic tweet that the "leak" of his financial disclosure form is a "felony," adding that he would be contacting the FBI and The Department of Justice.

"In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45," read the tweet, posted at 10:41 p.m.

Scaramucci was referring to a report by Politico which revealed the findings of the former Wall Street financier's disclosure, which was filed with the Office of Government Ethics. According to the report, Scaramucci earned $4.9 million from his stake in the investment firm SkyBridge Capital and a salary of more than $5 million between January 2016 and June 2017.

But to contextualize it as a leak is incorrect. Why? Because it's a public document.

Wikileaks, for example, tweeted, "Your financial disclosure report is a public document," with an image of instructions on how to obtain such a report.

Your financial disclosure report is a public document. https://t.co/H8goxJlmFG pic.twitter.com/Ir28JpYZdA

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 27, 2017


Scaramucci's tweet also raised eyebrows because he included White House chief of staff Reince Priebus's Twitter handle.

At a press briefing last week, though, Scaramucci said he had no friction with Priebus. "Reince and I have been personal friends for six years," he said last Friday. "We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers. There’s a lot of people in here who have brothers, and so you get that. But he’s a dear friend. He brought me into the political system. He brought me into the Republican National Committee network."

After the Twittersphere lit up, pointing out to Scaramucci that the disclosure form is public and that it appeared he was threatening Preibus, he deleted the tweet, and posted a new one at 12:47 a.m., writing that he wasn't calling for the FBI and DOJ to investigate Preibus: "Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45," he wrote.

Late Wednesday night the DOJ released a statement, agreeing with Scaramucci that leaks, in general, are an issue.

"We have seen an astonishing increase in the number of leaks of classified national security information in recent months," DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said. "We agree with Anthony that these staggering number of leaks are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect this country. Like the Attorney General has said, 'whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,' and we will aggressively pursue leak cases wherever they may lead."

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is in the middle of thick debate, struggling to pass any option for repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After a proposal to only repeal the majority of the law failed Wednesday afternoon, Senate sources say the Republican leadership’s next move will likely be to introduce a narrower repeal bill that would only scrap portions of the ACA.

This path, dubbed the “skinny” repeal, as it would be limited in scope, is still in the works. But senators say one possibility would be a bill that only repeals the individual and employer mandates in the ACA as well as the medical device tax.

This approach could leave other parts of the current law intact, including the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, marketplace regulations about what insurance companies have to cover and what they can charge, and subsidies for people buying their own insurance. GOP lawmakers hope this will increase their chances of passing the bill.

But so far, senators have not proposed specific language for a limited or “skinny” repeal.

"We’re going to figure out from our members what the traffic will bear in terms of getting as much of the Obamacare repeal and other elements into a bill that gets 50 votes," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said Wednesday.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., indicated he'd vote for a bare-bones package as long as it kept the process moving forward. "We'll keep the process going. If we've got to do something less than obviously I'd want to keep the process going, we'll do it," he said.

Under current law, the individual mandate places a penalty tax on those who choose to opt out of insurance plans, while the employer mandate requires companies with a minimum of 50 full-time employees to offer coverage to their workers. The repeal will likely also propose cuts on the current taxes on medical device companies.

Some Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they would not support a vote on any repeal efforts that do not lead to another push to draft a comprehensive replacement option. "We’re trying to find those things that we can agree upon. The main thing to me is a vehicle to do something bigger," Graham told reporters.

With the individual mandate revoked, more young, healthy Americans may choose to forgo coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that just repealing the individual mandate could lead to 15 million fewer Americans having health coverage as opposed to current law. By 2026 they estimate that 43 million people would be uninsured.

Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute scholar Robert Reischauer wrote in a Brookings report that this would leave “insurers with a pool of sicker and costlier-than-average customers,” driving companies to increase their premiums in the non-group market. The CBO estimates that premiums would likely jump by 20 percent relative to rates under current law.

This increase in premium costs could lead to some people being priced out of plans they can no longer afford, or the federal government may compensate for these people through subsidies and tax credits.

The individual mandate provides social cost-savers as well. If people don’t have insurance, but still get sick, hospitals, taxpayers, and local governments end up covering the costs. “In the absence of a mandate, those social costs would probably increase relative to the case under current law," the CBO said in a report last December.

The employer mandate would likely have some coverage consequences, but less than the individual mandate. If passed, a limited repeal could also serve as a placeholder legislation that would allot GOP Senators to plan a more comprehensive replacement to the Affordable Care Act in coming sessions.

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Photo by Michael Hernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The acting chief of diplomatic security is leaving the State Department Thursday, vacating two important roles that ensure the protection of American diplomats serving around the world.

Six months in, the Trump administration still has not named its pick for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security -- and dozens of other top roles at the State Department -- despite then-candidate Donald Trump's constant criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attack.

Bill Miller has been the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service since 2014, and he was made Acting Assistant Secretary after his predecessor Gregory Starr, a career foreign service officer, left in January.

Miller was not forced out and has not resigned in protest, according to the State Department, and with his departure, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs Christian Schurman will assume the Acting Assistant Secretary role.

But the departure is causing outrage from some Democrats, who are crying hypocrisy from a president who raged about the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans serving in Libya, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“It's an absolute abrogation of leadership by the President and Secretary Tillerson, and it's putting American lives at risk,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a paper statement.

“If [Trump] cared about protecting our Foreign Service officers, he would have long ago nominated an Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security,” he added.

Miller’s departure is also a reminder of how few positions the Trump administration has filled at the State Department. They still have no senior officials confirmed by the Senate other than Secretary Rex Tillerson and his Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. Only six individuals have been named for senior positions and are awaiting confirmation.

The empty slots include four of six Under Secretary positions that are vacant; one is filled by an individual in an acting role, and the other is filled by Tom Shannon, who was confirmed by the Senate in 2016.

There are 108 other senior roles -- some that require Senate confirmation and some that don’t -- including Assistant Secretaries who are the policy lead for different regions, like the Near East or East Asia, and special envoys who are focused on particularly vexing issues or hot spots, like counterterrorism or anti-Semitism.

Of those 108 other roles, 31 are filled by someone in an acting role, and 41 are completely vacant, with two more soon to be empty: the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, in charge of diplomatic engagement on cyber issues and security, and the ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice, who advises the Secretary on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The State Department has said that there are candidates in the pipeline who are held up by paperwork and that some roles will not be filled until Tillerson completes his review and reorganization of the agency's structure.

"All of those functions will still remain here at the State Department," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday. "A different person may handle it. In some instances, it may get combined with an existing bureau. That doesn’t mean that the priority goes away and that doesn’t mean that the functions of that job or its duties will go away."

CBS News was the first to report Miller’s departure.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shot down rumors of his own resignation, saying "I'm not going anywhere."

When asked how long he would serve for, Tillerson said "as long as the president lets me." He also said his relationship with President Trump is "good."

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- With the failure Wednesday afternoon of the 2015 House bill that would just repeal the Affordable Care Act, Congress’ two best chances to scrap the legislation in one fell swoop dissipated before senators’ eyes.

That amendment, which also contained a provision to delay the implementation of a repeal by two years to allow lawmakers to come up with a replacement system, failed 45-55, with seven Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in opposition.

The Senate will now continue voting on measures from both parties, with the Republican ones mostly geared toward scrapping individual aspects of Obamacare one by one -- still in pursuit of the goal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., laid out Wednesday morning.

"Ultimately, we want to get legislation that will finally end the Obamacare status quo through Congress and to the president's desk," he said.

The straight repeal-only option was based on 2015 piece of legislation that passed both chambers of Congress but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.

Although that language cleared the House and Senate back then, some Senate Republicans acknowledge now that the vote was symbolic. It was used by some at the time to send a message to Obama and to their constituents back home even though they knew it would be vetoed. And before Wednesday’s vote, some Republicans said they would not back the repeal-only option this time.

Senate Republicans' first attempt at passing their replacement legislation failed last night, with nine Republicans joining all of the chamber's Democrats to defeat it, 43-57.

That outcome was not a surprise, given that the bill was previously pulled from the Senate floor because of lack of support.

Republicans from several factions of the party stated their objections to it for a variety of reasons, including its proposed cuts to Medicaid, failure to cut premiums sufficiently and failure to repeal Obamacare entirely.

Republican leadership is expected to move through various versions of repeal, including limited repeal options that would scrap only portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual and employer mandates.

After those votes, the full Senate, even Democrats, will be able to offer additional amendments.

That so-called vote-a-rama later this week could open the floodgates for all senators to introduce as many amendments as they want.

That process could last until senators are physically exhausted.

Democrats have said they have hundreds of amendments to offer and are preparing for a marathon.



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US Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that President Trump has "been very clear" about his feelings toward Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"He's obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does. He wants him to lead the Department of Justice. He wants to do that strongly. He wants him to focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues," Sanders told reporters at the White House.

She added, "You can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job and that's where they are."

Sanders also confirmed that Sessions was at the White House Wednesday "for other meetings" but he did not meet with the president.

Sessions' chief of staff, Jody Hunt, recently informed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that Sessions has no plans to resign from his post, despite growing pressure from Trump, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The president recently called Sessions — one of Trump's staunchest supporters during the presidential campaign — "beleaguered" and "weak." And Trump told reporters Tuesday that he would not have chosen Sessions for attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the federal probe of Russia's efforts to influence last year's presidential election.

"We will see what happens. Time will tell," Trump said in response to a question Tuesday about Sessions' possible resignation.

The Washington Post first reported Hunt's conversation with Priebus.

Trump's public disparagement of Sessions continued Wednesday morning, with the president questioning Sessions' decision to keep the acting FBI director on board.

"Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!" Trump wrote in two tweets.

Even with the status of his tenure as attorney general unclear, Sessions and his team have been moving ahead with his fight against sanctuary cities. On Tuesday the Department of Justice announced that it will be tightening requirements for cities and other jurisdictions around the country that want key federal grants. In order to receive grants in the next fiscal year, the DOJ will require cities and other jurisdictions to certify that they are in compliance with a law that allows federal authorities to obtain immigration-related information on "any individual" from local police.

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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said today that President Trump has "been very clear" about his feelings toward Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"He's obviously disappointed but also wants the attorney general to continue to focus on the things that the attorney general does. He wants him to lead the Department of Justice. He wants to do that strongly. He wants him to focus on things like immigration, leaks and a number of other issues," Sanders told reporters at the White House.

She added, "You can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job and that's where they are."

Sanders also confirmed that Sessions was at the White House today "for other meetings" but he did not meet with the president.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sessions' chief of staff, Jody Hunt, recently informed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that Sessions has no plans to resign from his post, despite growing pressure from Trump, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The president recently called Sessions — one of Trump's staunchest supporters during the presidential campaign — "beleaguered" and "weak." And Trump told reporters yesterday that he would not have chosen Sessions for attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the federal probe of Russia's efforts to influence last year's presidential election.

"We will see what happens. Time will tell," Trump said in response to a question Tuesday about Sessions' possible resignation.

The Washington Post first reported Hunt's conversation with Priebus.

Trump's public disparagement of Sessions continued this morning, with the president questioning Sessions' decision to keep the acting FBI director on board.

"Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!" Trump wrote in two tweets.

 

 

 

 

Even with the status of his tenure as attorney general unclear, Sessions and his team have been moving ahead with his fight against sanctuary cities. On Tuesday the Department of Justice announced that it will be tightening requirements for cities and other jurisdictions around the country that want key federal grants. In order to receive grants in the next fiscal year, the DOJ will require cities and other jurisdictions to certify that they are in compliance with a law that allows federal authorities to obtain immigration-related information on "any individual" from local police.

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump campaign adviser J.D. Gordon appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian election interference.

Gordon, who told ABC News he was appearing for a “closed meeting" with the committee, advised Trump on foreign policy during the presidential campaign.

Gordon played a role in putting together the Republican Party platform, which was criticized for taking a pro-Russian position on the defense of Ukraine. He also met with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at the GOP Convention in Cleveland in July 2016, a meeting first reported by USA Today.

CNN has reported that Gordon tried to make changes to the GOP platform on Ukraine to align it with Trump's own position and comments.

Gordon is one of several Trump campaign advisers and associates that have been contacted by congressional investigators. Former Trump aide Michael Caputo has appeared before the House committee, while longtime adviser Roger Stone and campaign digital director Brad Parscale are expected to appear for interviews in the coming weeks.

Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, met with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators on Tuesday and has provided documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.

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