OTHER DEVELOPMENTS


Mike Pompeo took over as America’s top diplomat Thursday after being confirmed by the Senate and sworn in minutes later. The new secretary of state immediately dashed off to Europe in an energetic start befitting the high-stakes issues awaiting him from Iran to North Korea. The hard-charging former CIA director was confirmed on a 57-42 vote – one of the slimmest margins for the job in recent history. Every past nominee to get a roll call vote since at least the Carter administration received 85 or more yes votes in the Senate, with the exception of Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who got 56.

President Donald Trump’s White House doctor withdrew his nomination to be Veterans Affairs secretary Thursday in the face of accusations of misconduct, the latest embarrassing episode highlighting Trump’s struggles to fill key jobs and the perils of his spur-of-the-moment-decision-making. The weeks-long saga surrounding the nomination of Navy Dr. Ronny Jackson leaves the government’s second-largest agency without a permanent leader while it faces an immediate crisis with its private health care program. White House officials are taking a new look at the way nominees’ backgrounds are checked – and they believe they will persuade Trump to take additional time to ensure that a replacement is sufficiently vetted.

Trump boasted last fall he would open all remaining John F. Kennedy assassination records. However, Trump announced Thursday the public must wait another three years or more before seeing material that must remain classified – more than five decades after Kennedy was killed Nov. 23, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. The National Archives released its last batch of more than 19,000 records Thursday. An undisclosed amount of material remains under wraps because Trump said the potential harm to U.S. national security, law enforcement or foreign affairs is “of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure.”

Trump said Thursday that personal attorney Michael Cohen handles very little of his legal work, but did represent him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” a rare presidential public reference to the porn star who claims she had sex with the president in 2006. Prosecutors in New York quickly claimed Trump’s early-morning comments buttress their arguments that not much of the material that the FBI seized from Cohen’s home, office and hotel should be protected by attorney-client privilege.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, another Trump administration official with his job on the line over ethical concerns, took heat from lawmakers Thursday over his profligate spending and lobbyist ties and tried to divert responsibility to underlings. The EPA administrator said “twisted” allegations against him were meant to undermine the administration’s anti-regulatory agenda, and he denied knowing details of some of the extraordinary spending done on his behalf at the agency.

Source: Associated Press

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