Judge rules against Trump administration in teen pregnancy prevention case

A federal judge in D.C. ruled Thursday that the Trump administration’s cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program were unlawful.

Last summer, the administration notified 81 organizations that their five-year grants through the program would end in 2018, rather than in 2020, prompting multiple lawsuits.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled in one of those cases Thursday, ordering the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to accept and process applications of four grantees as if they had not been terminated.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling. As numerous studies have shown, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is not working. Continuing the program in its current state does a disservice to the youth it serves and to the taxpayers who fund it. Communities deserve better, and we are considering our next steps,” said HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley in a statement. 

The Public Citizen, a consumer rights group in D.C., represented Policy and Research LLC, Project Vida Health Center, Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens and the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy — four of 81 grantees who had their funds cut short by the administration last year.

Several other lawsuits are still playing out in court.

“The court’s decision today is a rebuke of the Trump administration’s effort to kill a program that is working effectively to lower teen pregnancy rates,” said Sean Sherman, an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group. “Because of the court’s ruling, the four grantees will be able to continue to serve their local communities and to conduct important research. The court’s decision confirms that HHS must administer the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in accordance with the agency’s own regulations and the requirement of reasoned decision-making.”

The administration abruptly cut the grants off last year, arguing that the programs were ineffective at curbing teenage pregnancy.

The program, created in 2010 under former President Obama, funds organizations working to reduce and prevent teen pregnancy, with a focus on reaching populations with the greatest need.

But it has long been criticized by conservatives for its focus on comprehensive sex education, which can include teaching about safe sex and abstinence.

[The Hill]

With Vice President Pence breaking tie, Senate passes anti-Planned Parenthood bill

Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote Thursday to pass legislation that will allow states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions.

The measure, which now goes to President Trump for his signature, dismisses an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to such organizations.

Pence’s vote was needed to break a 50-50 tie. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke with their party, voting against the measure.

Republicans have said the Obama rule should be overturned to allow states the right to steer funds away from abortion providers, if they choose.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said the measure reverses a rule that “attempted to empower federal bureaucrats in Washington and silence our states.”

Democrats condemned the measure throughout the day, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York calling it “another example of the Republican war on women.”

“It would let states treat women as second-class citizens who don’t deserve the same access to health care as men,” he said.

The House in February had voted 230-188 largely along party lines to reject the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn recently enacted regulations.

The rule prohibits states from withholding family-planning funding from providers for reasons other than their ability to offer family-planning services. It took effect Jan. 18, two days before President Obama left office.

Since 2011, 13 states have restricted access to such grants, disrupting or reducing services in several instances.

[USA Today]

Trump: ‘I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind’

President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that he is “totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind.”

The president made the statement as the White House continues to deal with a scandal involving former top aide Rob Porter, whose ex-wives have accused him of domestic violence.

“I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that,” Trump said Wednesday after reporters pressed him on whether he believed the women’s accusations.

It marked the first time Trump directly addressed the notion of domestic violence during the Porter imbroglio, which has thrust the White House into chaos over the past week. On Friday, Trump defended Porter, stressing that the former staff secretary has claimed he is innocent of the claims.

“We wish him well,” Trump said of Porter last week. “I think you also have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday he’s innocent.”

Porter wasn’t the only former White House aide to quit over domestic abuse allegations last week. Speechwriter David Sorensen resigned Friday after The Washington Post reported that Sorensen’s ex-wife accused him of emotional and physical abuse. Sorensen, in turn, denied the allegations and said his former wife actually victimized him.

[CNBC]

Reality

After ten days of dodging direct questions on where he stood on domestic violence and throwing his support behind Rob Porter, who beat his wives, Trump “heroically” says the right thing.

Kellyanne Conway Says Sen. Gillibrand, Who Was First Elected in ’06, ‘Protected’ Clinton During Impeachment

Following White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s resignation amid allegations that he abused two ex-wives, President Donald Trump told reporters that he wished Porter well and that Porter has said the accusations are false. He also stated that Porter was “very sad” over the situation and hoped the ex-aide had a “wonderful career.”

During today’s broadcast of ABC’s This Week, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was pressed on the president’s response to the controversy and his weekend tweet seemingly doubling down on it in which he cited due process. Host George Stephanopoulos brought up reaction from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who said that Trump has shown that he “doesn’t value women.”

Conway brushed off Gillibrand’s criticism by invoking President Bill Clinton’s indiscretions with women and late ’90s impeachment. After noting that Trump’s accusers had “their day” when they were “trotted out” on television, Conway said the following:

“I don’t need a lecture from Kirsten Gillibrand on anybody else who protected and defended and harbored a sitting president who had sexual relations in the Oval Office and was impeached for lying. I don’t need a lecture from her or anybody else.”

Only one problem with Conway’s counterpoint to Gillibrand — Gillibrand was first elected to Congress in 2006 and didn’t actually get to Washington until January 2007, years after Clinton was impeached over the Lewinsky affair. This fact wasn’t lost on some media figures.

[Mediaite]

Trump Defends Rob Porter: ‘He … Says He’s Innocent’

President Donald Trump on Friday praised former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House Thursday amid a domestic abuse scandal involving allegations from two ex-wives.

“We wish him well, he worked very hard. We found out about it recently and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House.”

Despite images handed over to media outlets from his first wife showing her with a black eye she says Porter gave her on their honeymoon in the early-2000s, the president said White House officials “hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”

The president, breaking his silence on the matter, said he was “very sad” when he learned about the charges, which Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly knew about months ago.

Porter also is “certainly … also very sad now,” Trump said.

The president again defended Porter near the end of his remarks about the former staffer.

“He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that,” said the president, who has faced sexual assault accusations from multiple women. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House.”

On Thursday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah announced Porter had left the White House staff for good. “His last day was yesterday,” Shah said. “I know he came in today to clean out his stuff.”

Shah called the assault allegations “serious and disturbing,” ramping up the White House’s reaction after defending Porter much of Wednesday.

“They’re upsetting,” Shah said.

He described the allegations as still being reviewed as part of an extensive background check process that Porter was still in the midst of when reports made the charges public this week.

Asked what caused the White House to change its tone on Porter, Shah replied the images of one of Porter’s ex-wives’ black eye were “upsetting.”

He declined to say whether Kelly knew about the allegations long before the reports were published.

Trump’s defense of the alleged wife abuser comes after he encouraged “lock her up” chants about 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal server while secretary of state. He also has called on other political foes and some of those looking into potential collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to be the subject of federal probes and possible prosecution.

The president did not comment on the fate of his embattled chief of staff. Some women’s organizations, for instance, have called on Kelly to step down for reportedly knowing about the Porter allegations for months but keeping him on staff — even allowing him to become his right-hand man.

Kelly’s repeated defenses of Porter earlier this week and his allowing Communications Director Hope Hicks, Porter’s current girlfriend, to craft a number of Thursday statements about the matter has again made the chief of staff a lightning rod for Democrats. (He has caught their ire also over his hard-line comments about illegal immigrants.)

For instance, Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington called Kelly’s role in keeping Porter on as a White House staffer even after learning of the allegations “very, very disturbing.”

“Clearly, WH Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about Rob Porter’s history of abuse directly from FBI and chose to ignore it,” Jayapal tweeted Thursday morning. “#MeToo is as much about those who protect the abusers with their silence as the abusers themselves.”

[Roll Call]

Trump administration rescinds Obama guidance on defunding Planned Parenthood

The Trump administration announced Friday it is rescinding guidance from the Obama administration that made it harder for states to defund Planned Parenthood.

The guidance, issued in 2016, warned states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or other health-care providers that offer abortions could be against federal law.

The Obama administration argued Medicaid law only allowed states to bar providers from the program if those providers were unable to perform covered services or if they can’t bill for those services.

However, the Trump administration rescinded that guidance Friday in a letter to state Medicaid directors, arguing it was part of the Obama administration’s effort to favor abortion rights.

“Reinstating the pre-2016 standards frees up states to once again decide for themselves what reasonable standards they use to protect Medicaid programs and their beneficiaries,” Charmaine Yoest, assistant Health and Human Services secretary for public affairs, said in a press call with reporters Friday morning.

“This is part of the Trump administration’s effort to roll back regulations the Obama administration put out to radically favor abortion.”

Anti-abortion groups cheered the announcement Friday as another step toward defunding Planned Parenthood.

President Trump and his administration have taken … an important step toward getting American taxpayers out of funding the abortion industry, especially Planned Parenthood,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group in Washington, D.C.

She urged Congress to “finish what this pro-life administration has started” by defunding Planned Parenthood.

States such as Texas have tried to ban Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid programs but were blocked by the Obama administration.

While rescinding the guidance won’t automatically allow states to ban Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs, it signals that the administration supports such efforts.

Texas submitted a request to the Trump administration last year requesting permission to bar Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program, but the administration has not yet responded.

Approval from the administration would likely spark similar efforts in other conservatives states but also would encourage legal challenges.

Planned Parenthood on Friday said rescinding the guidance would effectively encouraging states to block the organization from state Medicaid programs.

“They couldn’t get the votes to pass it in Congress, so now they are pushing states to try and block care at Planned Parenthood,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president for Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Without Planned Parenthood, many of our patients would lose access to health care altogether — either because there are no other providers in their community or because other clinics cannot serve all of our patients.”

he administration has already taken several actions in President Trump’s first year in office supporting its anti-abortion stance.

In April, Trump signed legislation that nullified an Obama-era rule that effectively barred state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services to groups that provide abortions.

The announcement on Friday comes the same day as the March for Life, an annual march against abortion in Washington, D.C.

Trump is set to speak at the march live via video, the first president to do so.

Also set to speak at the event are House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) and Chris Smith (N.J.)

[The Hill]

Trump says Sen. Gillibrand ‘would do anything’ for campaign cash after she calls for his resignation

President Trump lashed out Tuesday at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is calling for his resignation over the multiple allegations of sexual assault against him. And Trump did so in a suggestive tweet that critics say demeans women.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

“The insinuation in this tweet is clearly sexual and it’s demeaning to women,” BBC News anchor Katty Kay remarked.

Gillibrand responded in a tweet of her own.

“You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office,” she tweeted.

Gillibrand is one of at least 56 female lawmakers — all Democrats — calling for a congressional investigation into the allegations against Trump. On Monday, Gillibrand took it a step further, saying Trump should resign.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, more than a dozen women came forward, accusing the real estate mogul and former reality television star of sexual misconduct. Trump fiercely denied their claims, many of which emerged after the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape was made public in October 2016. In the infamous tape, Trump boasted that his celebrity status allowed him to forcibly kiss and grope women.

Trump again denied the accusations on Tuesday.

[Yahoo News]

Donald Trump Just Claimed He Never Met Women Accusing Him of Sexual Harassment. That’s Not True

President Donald Trump targeted Democrats and the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct in a tweet Tuesday morning, calling their claims “false” and “fabricated.”

“Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia — so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met,” the president tweeted. “FAKE NEWS!”

While Trump claimed he did not “know and/or have never met” these accusers, several of the women had participated in events in which he was the host. Of the 19 women who have come forward with accusations against the president, one of them, Summer Zervose, was a contestant on the fifth season of NBC’s The Apprentice, and several of them were contestants in Miss USA pageants.

Additionally, one of them is Natasha Stoynoff, a former People magazine staff writer who interviewed Trump and Melania Trump in Mar-a-Lago in 2005, when, she said, Trump forced her against a wall and kissed her.

Their claims, many of which have a number of corroborators, were recently detailed again in The Atlantic and The Washington Post.

Trump’s tweet came after the White House told Megyn Kelly Today that the claims were “false” and “totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts” — seemingly confirming, at least, that Trump at met at least some of his accusers.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TIME Tuesday morning.

On Monday, three women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct in the past spoke at a press conference and appeared on Megyn Kelly Today amid a national reckoning as more men in a variety of industries have been fired or forced to resign over accusations of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The women repeated their accusations on Kelly’s program Monday morning in light of newfound attention to the subject — and the momentum of the #MeToo movement.

The stories told by Samantha Holvey, Rachel Crooks, and Jessica Leeds included allegations that Trump came backstage unexpectedly and inspected contestants during the Miss USA pageant in 2006, and that he had forcibly kissed Crooks on the mouth at Trump Tower in 2005.

“In an objective setting, without question, a person with this record would have entered the graveyard of political aspirations never to return,” said Cooks said Monday. “Yet, here we are with that man as President.”

In recent weeks, a wave of allegations has resulted in men in a variety of industries resigning or being fired. The list includes former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who stepped down last week amid sexual misconduct allegations, as well as Michigan Rep. John Conyers.

Democratic lawmakers on Monday called on Trump to resign amid the allegations, as well as recommended a Congressional investigation into the claims. One of those lawmakers included New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whom Trump also targeted on Twitter on Tuesday.

[TIME]

Trump questions authenticity of ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

President Donald Trump has questioned the authenticity of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about being able to grope women, The New York Times reported over the weekend, despite the fact that Trump immediately apologized for his remarks when the video surfaced.

Trump’s decision to stick with Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore despite sexual harassment allegations against him is rooted in the President’s own sexual harassment scandal during the 2016 election.

“He sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now-famous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitalia, and the flood of groping accusations against him that followed soon after,” the Times reported. “He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently.”

CNN has not independently confirmed the New York Times’ reporting. The White House has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

During the election, several women accused Trump of previous instances of sexual harassment and the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump released in October 2016 caught him saying on a hot mic: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”

Trump’s reported denials mentioned in the New York Times directly contradict his apology following the tape’s release.

He said in a short video statement hours after the video surfaced: “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”

[CNN]

Trump Urges Voters to Pick Roy Moore Instead of ‘Liberal Jones’

With a little more than two weeks until a special election for the Senate in Alabama, President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, and reiterated his support for Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women.

“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning.

“Liberal Jones would be BAD!” he tweeted less than an hour later.

In response, the Jones campaign said Mr. Jones’s record as a prosecutor “speaks for itself.”

“Roy Moore was unfit for office before nine Alabama women served as witnesses to all Alabamians of his disturbing conduct,” Sebastian Kitchen, Mr. Jones’s spokesman, wrote in an email. “Doug Jones is continuing to focus on finding common ground and getting things done for real Alabamians.”

During the Alabama Republican primary, Mr. Trump endorsed Senator Luther Strange on Twitter, then deleted some of those tweets after Mr. Strange lost the runoff in September.

On Sunday, the president claimed that after he had supported Mr. Strange, the candidate “shot way up in the polls” — a claim he also made in September — but “it wasn’t enough.”

It has been widely reported that Mr. Strange did not advance in the polls after Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

The latest poll numbers indicate that Mr. Moore is in a tight race. Alabama historically votes Republican but the allegations against Mr. Moore have taken a toll.

Most of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct said it occurred when they were teenagers and Mr. Moore was in his 30s. He has denied the allegations.

“I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” Mr. Moore told the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

High-ranking Republicans have not been convinced.

“I believe the women,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said.

Mr. Trump, however, has remained skeptical.

“Forty years is a long time. He’s run eight races, and this has never come up,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. “He says it didn’t happen.”

[The New York Times]

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