Trainings at Full Capacity for Potential Female Candidates

There are 105 women in the US Congress. Out of a total of 535 members. That’s the highest number in history. Yet, the percentage is well below the number of women who live in the US. The Center for American Women and Politics lists 400 women who are running for national office next year. They, along with many other groups, are urging women to enter politics with training sessions with names like “Ready to Run,” “Elect Her” and “Teach a Girl to Lead.” VOA’s Carolyn Presutti reports

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AP Source: Clinton Camp Helped Fund Trump Dossier Research

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund a political research firm that produced a dossier of allegations about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

That’s according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke Tuesday evening to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential client matters.

The person says the arrangement, first reported by The Washington Post, was coordinated by a lawyer for the campaign and the DNC and his law firm. That lawyer, Marc Elias, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.

The person says the political research firm, Fusion GPS, had approached Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, about doing continued research into Trump’s international business connections.

Representatives for Fusion GPS declined to comment.

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More Cracks Emerge Among Republicans

The White House and the Senate majority leader on Tuesday tried to cement over widening cracks in their governing Republican Party.

The most prominent new fissure came on the Senate floor when Jeff Flake of Arizona slammed the president’s behavior and announced he would not run for re-election next year.

Flake, a first-term senator, who previously served 12 years in the House of Representatives, said it is “profoundly misguided” to “stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters [the length of a Twitter message].”

Return to decency?

Flake said the Republican Party had fooled itself long enough that Trump would return to decency.

The unusually fierce attack by a sitting senator on a president from his own party came just hours as Trump tangled on Twitter with another Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Corker, who has also decided not to run again for the U.S Senate where he has served for a decade, said the president’s staff had asked him to intervene when Trump was “getting ready to do something that was really off the tracks.”

Corker said, “someone of this mentality as president of the United States is something that is I think debasing to our country.”

Trump on Tuesday renewed his social media attack on Corker, calling him the “incompetent head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee” who would not be able to get elected “dog catcher.”

Corker responded with a tweet of his own: “Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff”

During the time between the online insults exchanged with Corker and Flake’s surprise speech, the president made a rare trip to the Capitol to have lunch with Republican senators in an attempt to boost support for tax reform and other policy priorities.

Trump, on Twitter, said most of the Republican senators “are great people who want big Tax Cuts and success for U.S.” noting he received “multiple standing ovations” during the meeting.

McConnell stands clear

Afterward the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, refused to be drawn into the chasm.

“If there’s anything that unites Republicans, it’s tax reform,” he told reporters. “We’re going to concentrate on what our agenda is and not any of these other distractions.”

The Republicans enjoy a 52-48 majority in the Senate, but several other Republican senators — for various reasons — have also wavered on backing Trump on major issues such as health care reform and may also do so on tax policy, according to political observers.

There was no attempt from the White House briefing room podium in the afternoon to try to assuage Flake and Corker.

“It’s probably a good move,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Flake’s decision not to run again. And she accused Corker of “grandstanding on TV,” rather than getting on board with the president’s political agenda.


The pro-Trump Great America Alliance is hailing the Arizona senator’s announcement as a “monumental win for the entire Trump movement and should serve as another warning shot to the failed Republican establishment that backed Flake and others like them that their time is up.”

Populist wing takes control

What today’s developments make clear is the Trump populist wing, “equivalent to the radical right in Europe,” has now taken control of the party from the establishment Republicans, according to David Lublin, a professor of government at American University.

Flake’s speech, he contends, “raises the specter of impeachment” if the opposition Democrats can gain control of the House of Representatives next year because “it directly attacks him for his anti-democratic behavior.”

“At this point the question is less a crippled presidency than a crippled country … unable to manage our foreign alliances” as the United States is now viewed under President Trump as a “less reliable partner,” Lublin tells VOA.

Flake made reference to this in his speech, saying “despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership.”

On the brink?

Corker had earlier said Trump’s hostile rhetoric on North Korea and others could lead to World War III and suggested the president leave foreign policy “to the professionals.”

The White House takes umbrage with those characterizations.

History will look at Trump “as somebody who helped defeat ISIS, who built an economy that was stronger than it’s been in several decades, who brought unemployment to a 16-year low, who’s created over 1.7 million jobs since being elected,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday.


“I think those are the things that people actually care about, not some petty comments from Senator Corker and Senator Flake.”


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GOP Senator Flake, Vocal Trump Critic, Won’t Seek Re-election

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Tuesday he would not seek re-election next year, delivering a forceful condemnation of the “flagrant disregard of truth and decency” and bemoaning political complicity in a Senate speech clearly directed at President Donald Trump.

Speaking to a rapt audience of other senators, the first-term Arizona lawmaker spelled out his frustration and disappointment in a floor speech before relaying the news that he would not be on the ballot in 2018. 

“There are times we must risk our careers,” Flake said. “Now is such a time.”

Flake, who has criticized the path that the Republican Party has taken under Trump, said the impulse “to threaten and scapegoat” could turn America and the GOP into a “fearful, backward-looking people” and a “fearful, backward-looking party.” Flake didn’t mention Trump by name, but clearly was directing his remarks at the president and his administration.

Flake, a former House member, is a conservative who favors limited government and free markets but one known to work on bipartisan legislation. Most notably, he has worked on immigration legislation aimed at finding a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

“A political career does not mean much if we are complicit in undermining these values,” he said. He received applause at the conclusion of his remarks.

His speech came shortly after Trump had joined Senate Republicans at their weekly policy luncheon, and came a few hours after the president had engaged in a war of words with another retiring Republican senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Republicans and Democrats were upset with the news.

“It is one of the most depressing things that has happened during my time in the Senate,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who called Flake a man of great integrity and principle.

Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she was “extraordinarily disappointed” and called Flake a “person of utmost integrity.”

Arizona politics

After bucking Trump in a state the president won, Flake is bottoming out in polls. Republicans may be left with a hard-core conservative challenger that might win the primary but lose in the general election.

Flake was facing a challenge from former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who failed in her effort to take out Sen. John McCain last year but has gained some traction this year. Last week, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon attended a fundraiser for her.

But mainstream Republicans in Arizona believe Ward cannot beat Rep. Krysten Sinema, who is running in her primary as the only well-known Democratic candidate. They’ve been searching for another candidate to take on Flake, and his decision to step aside opens the door wide for those efforts.

Besides Ward, other potential candidates for Flake’s seat include current state university regent Jay Heiler, former state GOP chairman Robert Graham, state treasurer and 2016 Trump campaign CFO Jeff DeWit. Other names that have been floated in recent weeks include Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks, conservative stalwarts who sit in safe GOP seats.

Heiler announced early this month that he was considering a run. He was chief of staff to Arizona Gov. Fife Symington in the 1990s and has been involved in numerous political campaigns.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer was pushing Heiler as a candidate.

“I’ve known Jeff for a long time and I admire him for his service that he has given to our state,” she said Friday. “But I believe it is an opportunity for me to support a different candidate, someone that I’ve known for a long while, and somebody that I believe will serve Arizona the best.”

On Tuesday, she tweeted that “the 2018 Senate race about to get real interesting!”

Herschel Fink, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said Flake’s retirement “further exposes the Republican Party’s civil war — which will continue in full force in Arizona as the GOP struggles with a field of candidates who go further and further out of touch with voters.” 

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Ivanka Trump: Tax Plan Addresses Needs of US Families

President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter on Monday channeled her roles as a working mother, entrepreneur and senior adviser to the president to help him sell his administration’s tax plan for reform, which she said is overdue to address the needs of the modern American family in an increasingly competitive global market.

Ivanka Trump joined U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza and former U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth of New York for an hour-long town hall-style meeting at a senior center outside Philadelphia. During the discussion, she called tax reform “critical” legislation and touted the proposed changes to the tax code as changes that will help everyday Americans.

“There are many elements of this tax plan that I think are squarely targeted at creating jobs and growth in this country and offering relief to our middle-income families,” she told the audience. “This is about the recognition that, as a country, we have to have policies that mirror our values. We have to encourage the next generation to be competitive and compassionate. For me, I think this couples together our core values as a country.”

The president has prioritized tax reform as his top agenda item and is urging Congress to pass legislation. He and other Republican leaders have crafted a proposal calling for steep tax cuts for corporations and potentially individuals, a doubling of the standard deduction used by most Americans, a reduction in the number of tax brackets from seven to three or four, and a repeal of the inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The tax system would be simplified, and most Americans would be able to file their income taxes on a postcard, according to the plan.

Ivanka Trump has been focused on promoting a plan to expand the child tax credit, which she highlighted Monday as “well-designed.” She drew on her life experience to connect with the audience as a mom who has an understanding of the challenges parents face with the rising cost of child care.

“Every parent has to manage the competing demands of raising a family and their passions,” she told the crowd. “I, too, had to manage that, but I am far more fortunate than most. I had help, and I recognized that I wouldn’t be able to do even a small fraction of what I was able to do professionally or as a parent … if I didn’t have access to the means to be able to put my children in a secure and safe and protected and nurturing environment.”

Increasing the child tax credit, she said, could mean the difference between sending a child to an after-school program or paying for quality day care — and could even aid some young couples wrestling with whether they can afford to start a family.

Trump received a hearty reception from the audience when she talked about how tax reform will benefit small businesses. While she said the need for some regulation is necessary, she argued that America’s tax system is too burdensome and expensive and is affecting the country’s ability to compete.

“If you level the playing field, nobody’s going to beat the spirit of the American worker,” she said. “No country is more innovative. But our corporate rates are dramatically higher than our prime competitors in the developing world. We want people to be choosing America not just because it’s their preferred place to locate but because it makes sense. I do think it can’t just be about cutting taxes. You want to fuel an incentivized growth that will lead to the long-term benefit of both.”

Details on how much the $1,000 child tax credit should increase have not been settled, and the president’s daughter has not publicly offered a number.

Later in the day, Fox News Channel planned to air an interview with her. She was expected to continue discussing taxes.

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Putin Critic Bill Browder Cleared for Travel to US, Customs Agency Says

A prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States revoked his authorization to travel to the U.S. after Moscow succeeded in getting him added to Interpol’s wanted list.

Bill Browder, who became a British citizen after giving up his U.S. citizenship in 1998 for tax reasons, tells VOA he hopes the action will soon be overturned, but that he cannot leave Britain until the issue is resolved. In a phone interview from London with VOA, the former banker who became a human rights activist, said he is not just barred from traveling to the U.S.

“In fact, it is worse than that. I am banned from traveling anywhere,” Browder said. “Any national border that I cross, I will be arrested based on the Russian’s illegitimate Interpol notice.”

However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency spokesperson told VOA late Monday that Browder has been cleared for travel to the U.S. again.

“As the agency charged with preventing the entry of terrorists and other criminal actors from entering the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection regularly screens law enforcement systems in order to determine if any travelers present a security or law enforcement risk. This vetting is done on a recurrent basis and decisions on travel are made on the latest information available,” according to the CPB statement. “William Browder’s ESTA [visa waiver travel authorization] remains valid for travel to the United States. His ESTA was manually approved by CBP on Oct. 18 — clearing him for travel to the United States.”

Asked for comment, Browder said the timeline CBP is providing is not accurate, but he hopes that the issue has been resolved.

Earlier in the day, Browder had told VOA he reached out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for clarity on the issue.

“I spoke to somebody there who refused to give me any information on why this happened and encouraged me to write a Freedom of Information Act request if I really wanted to find out.”

Fifth time, says Browder

Browder said this is the fifth time Russia has had him added to Interpol’s list. Each time, he says Interpol has looked at the circumstances, determined they were illegitimate and lifted the notices.

The British activist said he had planned on coming to the U.S. for important meetings related to his ongoing work on Russian human rights violations. Browder would not say if he had planned to meet with prosecutors or lawmakers to discuss Russia’s interference in the 2016 American presidential elections, but he did say Moscow probably considered his planned meetings in the U.S.

“It is a beautiful way of grounding me and making me ineffective and I’m sure they thought that through when they did this,” he told VOA.

Browder is the founder of Hermitage Capital Management Foundation and was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia. His tax lawyer in Russia, Sergei Magnitsky, was jailed in Russia in 2008 under false charges of tax evasion after working to expose a purported tax fraud scheme by Russian officials.

Magnitsky died in a Russian prison in 2009 after being beaten and denied medical care, earning Moscow widespread condemnation from international human rights organizations. Browder, who was living in London at the time, spearheaded a campaign to get Western governments to punish those high-ranking Russians responsible for Magnitsky’s death.  

Sanctions on Russians

The United States, Estonia and Canada have imposed sanctions on Russians involved in Magnitsky’s death, infuriating Putin and the Kremlin. For years, the Kremlin denied beating and mishandling Magnitsky, saying he died of natural causes.

The Kremlin now claims Browder is responsible for Magnitsky’s death, saying he colluded with a British security service to talk Russian prison personnel into not helping Magnitsky. Browder rejects these new murder allegations as “absurd” and “farcical.”

Putin campaigned hard against the measure Browder pushed, known in the U.S. as the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act.” It denies visas and blocks access to American banks for Russians accused of having committed human rights abuses at home. After the resolution passed in the U.S. in 2012, Putin retaliated by ending American adoptions of Russian children.

‘Richest man in the world?’

On July 27, Browder testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that Putin was the “richest man in the world,” a result of “terrible crimes” Putin’s government committed without the threat of retribution.

“I believe he is worth $200 billion,” Browder said, testifying in the Senate panel’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. “The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money, and he doesn’t want to lose that money by having it frozen. So he is personally at risk of the Magnitsky Act.”

‘Remedy this error’

Browder’s visa being revoked had triggered criticism from some former diplomats and lawmakers. The ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to rectify the situation.

“I urge you to immediately reverse the Department of State’s baffling decision to revoke Bill Browder’s visa and explain why the department took this misguided action,” Engel said. “This decision harms American credibility on the world stage, and it is unacceptable. I expect that you will remedy this error at once and explain to me and other lawmakers why this happened in the first place.”

Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin also called on U.S. officials to review the decision on Browser’s travel authorization.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul also weighed in Monday, tweeting:

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Bergdahl Defense Calls for Dismissal

The defense for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who could face life in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009, has asked the judge to renew a motion to dismiss charges based on new comments made by President Donald Trump.

Trump, whose role as president includes the job of commander in chief, responded to a reporter’s question on Bergdahl last week by stating that he couldn’t say more on the case, “but I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

As a candidate for president, Trump called Bergdahl a “traitor” who deserved to be executed. He also promised that, as president, he would “review his case” if the soldier did not receive further punishment from the court.

The judge, Army Col. Jeffrey Nance, heard arguments Monday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on the last-minute motion, which said Trump’s comments were “unlawful command influence” that prevent Bergdahl from getting a fair sentence.

Last week, Bergdahl pleaded guilty at a court martial hearing to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Nance is expected to rule of the motion when the court martial comes out of recess Wednesday morning. He said he “did not have any doubt whatsoever” that he could be fair and impartial.

However, Nance pointed out that “in spite of” Trump’s initial acknowledgement that he shouldn’t comment on the hearing, the president “goes on to say something” knowing that the sentencing for Bergdahl was still pending.

Trump’s comments on the campaign trail had previously been deemed by the judge as “disturbing” but not unlawful command influence because they were considered “political rhetoric” meant to embarrass his opponent.

However, Nance told the prosecution Monday that this reasoning “tend(s) to be eroded when the now president of the United States arguably adopts those statements.”

“What political opponent is he trying to embarrass when making statements in the (White House) Rose Garden?” the judge said.

Starting Wednesday, the hearing is expected to include testimony from soldiers injured in the dangerous search for Bergdahl after he left his post and was captured by the Taliban.  The judge is expected to weigh their testimonies along with factors such as Bergdahl’s willingness to admit guilt and his five years in Taliban captivity.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009, prompting an extensive manhunt. The soldier from Idaho previously explained his actions saying he merely intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

Bergdahl was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban detainees held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  His high-profile case drew national political attention.  President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the prisoner trade jeopardized the nation’s security.  

Speaking last year in an on-camera interview by a British filmmaker, which aired Monday on ABC News, Bergdahl said Trump’s comments would make his chance for a fair trial impossible.

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said.  “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”

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McCain issues veiled criticism of Trump’s Vietnam deferment

U.S. Sen. John McCain has issued a veiled criticism of President Donald Trump’s medical deferments that kept him from serving in the Vietnam War.


In an interview with C-SPAN last week, McCain lamented that the military “drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur.”


One of Trump’s five draft deferments came as a result of a physician’s letter stating he suffered from bone spurs in his feet. Trump’s presidential campaign described the issue as a temporary problem.


McCain spent six years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967.


Trump derided McCain’s service in 2015, stating his fellow Republican wasn’t a “war hero” and adding “I like people who weren’t captured.”


McCain’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for comment Monday.

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Ivanka Trump to Talk Taxes in Pennsylvania

Ivanka Trump is heading to Pennsylvania to promote the Republican tax overhaul plan.

The White House says Trump will appear at a town hall in Richboro Monday, with U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza. The event will be moderated by former Rep. Nan Hayworth.


A key part of the conversation will be the proposal to expand the child tax credit, which the first daughter is backing. Ivanka Trump has been working on the plan to expand the $1,000 credit with the administration and lawmakers. Details on how much the credit should increase to have not been settled, and the president’s daughter has not publicly offered a number.


Later in the day, Fox News Channel will air an interview with Ivanka Trump by host Sean Hannity. She is expected to continue discussing taxes.



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