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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid controversy around Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Senate has confirmed the nominee for the agency's No. 2 position.In a party-line vote, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler to be the EPA's deputy administrator. Some members of Congress indicated after the vote that Wheeler could be next in line to take over at EPA if Pruitt resigns or is fired by the president."It's entirely possible Andrew Wheeler could be sworn in as acting administrator before he serves a single day as deputy administrator," the top Democrat on the Senate committee with oversight of EPA, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Thursday.This week's vote on Wheeler was even more high-profile because of the swarm of controversy surrounding Pruitt in recent weeks, including questions about his living arrangement in a Capitol Hill townhouse connected to lobbyists and his spending on travel and security since he took over at the agency. More than 100 members of Congress, including three Republicans, have called for Pruitt to resign and the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee has asked the EPA to provide documents on Pruitt's spending decisions and living arrangement to the committee.Pruitt tweeted to congratulate Wheeler and said in a statement he looks forward to working with Wheeler to implement the president's agenda.The previous acting deputy administrator Mike Flynn, who was at EPA for more than 36 years, retired last week.Wheeler worked at the EPA during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, according to an EPA press release, as a staffer for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and worked as general counsel for conservative Sen. James Inhofe, R-Ok., who wrote a book about global warming called "The Greatest Hoax."Wheeler is also a principal at Faegre Baker Daniels consulting firm and was registered as a lobbyist for companies like Murray Energy in 2017, according to federal lobbying records. Murray Energy's website calls it the largest coal mining company in the country.Nine environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote to senators urging them to vote against Wheeler earlier this week.Some Democrats said that Wheeler should be vetted more thoroughly in case Pruitt resigns and he ends up taking over at the EPA. The ranking member of the committee that considered his nomination, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, said that more questions have been raised about actions at the agency since Wheeler's confirmation hearing.Other Republicans, including the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said they were confident that Wheeler will be a good addition to the agency."Andrew Wheeler is well qualified to serve in this critical position at the EPA," Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY, said.Another Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said she had more confidence in Wheeler than Pruitt to lead the agency.One of the controversies with Wheeler's nomination has been his connection to Murray Energy's CEO, Bob Murray.Murray has publicly said that climate change is not a problem and that carbon dioxide, which the EPA lists as the primary greenhouse gas, is not a pollutant.In a PBS documentary that aired last October, Murray said he had written the administration an "action plan" to help the coal industry and said that the administration had already "wiped out page one" of his requests. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's office obtained a copy of that memo, reviewed by ABC News, which lists 14 policy priorities such as rolling back the Clean Power Plan and withdrawing the finding that forms the basis of the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases.Carper said that Wheeler committed to regulating greenhouse gases.The EPA did not say Thursday when Wheeler will be sworn in.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is poised to pardon Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with the president’s thinking.The president has already signed off on the pardon, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.The move would mark another controversial pardon for Trump and could raise questions as an increasing number of the president’s political allies have landed themselves in legal jeopardy. The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for people caught up in the Russia investigation.Early in his term, Trump pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA operative. Then-President George Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, sparing him prison time, but didn't pardon him.After Libby claimed that he couldn't have been the source of the leak, multiple people came forward to testify that they learned of Plame's identity from Libby prior to when Libby said he had first received the information.At trial, Libby claimed to have simply forgotten he actually learned about the identity from Cheney a month before he said he had.Since the conviction, Libby has since had his law license restored and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored his voting rights in 2013.Many conservatives have been urging a pardon for Libby, including attorneys Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • US Coast Guard Academy(NEW YORK) -- Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest could be tied to the fate of the state’s Republican governor, Eric Greitens, who is facing calls to resign after a shocking report detailing an alleged nonconsensual sexual encounter with his former hairdresser.The highly competitive race, in which both parties are heavily invested in winning, could determine which side controls the upper chamber in Congress next year.“If the governor remains the governor up until Election Day, I think he’ll have a genuine impact on the election,” said John Hancock, a former chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.And that impact could hurt Republican candidate Josh Hawley, who has called for Greitens to step down, at the polls.A report by a bipartisan Missouri House Committee released Wednesday includes graphic testimony from Greitens’ former mistress, who alleges he bound her hands with tape, put a blindfold on her, took a partially nude photo of her and then threated to release the photo if she mentioned his name.He insists the relationship was purely consensual.“This was an entirely consensual relationship, and any allegation of violence or sexual assault is false,” he said in a statement.Hancock said if Greitens is still in office in November then “at some point the biggest implication is what it could portend for turnout. If he’s still the governor he will have some supporters and Josh Hawley would have called for his resignation and impeachment and potentially you’d have a fissure in the Republican electorate that could be problematic.”Democrat incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill also called for Greitens to resign.“I think it’s terribly unfortunate for our state and I do think my opponent has been asleep at the wheel in terms of all the corruption around Jefferson City that he’s failed to take a look at including the activities of the governor so that’s unfortunate,” McCaskill told ABC News.Hawley said the report from the Missouri state legislature contains “shocking, substantial, and corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by Governor Greitens,” behavior that is “certainly impeachable." Hawley also called for Greitens to “resign immediately” to spare the people of Missouri.McCaskill is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this year and is running in a state President Donald Trump won by 19 points in 2016.Another problem facing the governor and his party is that there are multiple ongoing investigations -- including one from Hawley, the state attorney general, and the House investigative committee, in addition to an upcoming criminal trial in May, meaning there will be a constant stream of news surrounding Greitens over the next few months.Jack Cardetti, a former Missouri Democratic Party spokesman, said talk of Greitens is “sucking up the political oxygen at the moment.”He added that “the longer this drags on, the longer Eric Greitens remains governor, the worse for everybody in the Republican Party.”But several lawmakers have called for Greitens’ resignation and the GOP leadership in the Missouri statehouse have said impeachment would be an option, although it would likely happen in a special session called after the legislature adjourns on May 18.Thus far Greitens has resisted calls to step down even as members of his own party call for it.Republican Rep. Ann Wagner said he is unfit to be governor.Other prominent Republicans in the state expressed their concern for the details revealed in the report but stopped short of calling for his resignation.“The allegations in the report are very concerning. As I said previously, both the legislative and legal processes that are underway are appropriate and should continue moving forward,” said Republican Sen. Roy Blunt in a statement.And GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler said in a Facebook post: "The report
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  • ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump engaged in a months-long effort to secure the loyalty of then-FBI Director James Comey in a series of meetings and phone calls that began in the presidential transition period -- behavior Comey likens to that of a mafia boss, Comey writes in a book set for release next week.Those efforts included a now-famous, private White House dinner with Trump just a week after the president was inaugurated, in which Trump, Comey writes, told him: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”Comey writes that to him, “The demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony.”Comey responded with silence, he writes in the book, and Trump moved the conversation along. Later in the dinner, Trump returned to the subject: “I need loyalty.”“You will always get honesty from me,” Comey writes that he responded.“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said.“You will get that from me,” Comey responded.The book, “A Higher Loyalty,” is Comey’s first extensive public accounting of his handling of investigations affecting Trump and Hillary Clinton – and the circumstances around his firing by Trump – since his congressional testimony last year.ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos is conducting the first interview with Comey about the book, airing in a special edition of “20/20” on Sunday, April 15, at 10 p.m. ET.A few weeks before his private dinner with the president, shortly before his inauguration, Comey had a similar feeling about mob loyalty pledges during his first meeting with Trump, he writes. Comey and other top intelligence officials were at Trump Tower to brief the president-elect, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and a small circle of their top aides on Russian efforts to influence the election.Rather than ask about how to meet the threat from Russia, Comey writes, Trump, Pence and incoming White House aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer quickly focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them,” debating “how to position these findings for maximum political advantage.”“I sat there thinking, Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us ‘amica nostra’ – friend of ours. To draw us in,” Comey writes. “As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family and that Team Trump h ad made it a ‘thing of ours.’ ”Weeks later, after the private dinner with Trump in which Comey says he agreed to give the president “honest loyalty,” Comey had another private Oval Office meeting with Trump. This time, he writes, Trump appeared to ask him to drop an FBI inquiry of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.“He is a good guy,” Trump told Comey, according to the book. “I hope you can let this go.”“I did not interrupt the president to protest that what he was asking was inappropriate, as I probably should have,” Comey writes. “But if he didn’t know what he was doing was inappropriate, why had he just ejected everyone, including my boss [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] and the vice president, from the room so he could speak with me alone?”The book also includes a detailed description of Comey’s handling of the investigation regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. That investigation led Comey to make a series of unusual and controversial public statements over the course of the summer and fall of 2016 – statements Clinton and others believe influenced the election.Comey writes that he felt obligated to take more of a personal role as the public face of the investigation rather than deferring to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch – in part because of something i
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  • Central Intelligence Agency(WASHINGTON) -- CIA director Mike Pompeo faced a sometimes testy Senate confirmation hearing Thursday in his quest to become the next secretary of state.The 21 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lobbed questions at Pompeo on topics ranging from his views on the special counsel investigating alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign to a possible U.S. strike in Syria to his stance on gay marriage.Pompeo, who remained relatively calm and collected throughout the grilling, seemed to come away largely unscathed."The Pompeo I hear today, much more different than some of the Pompeo of the past," Ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said in his closing remarks."And so, I'm trying to figure out which is the one that's going to act if he gets confirmed as the Secretary of State. Because some of these things of the past, I could never support. Some of the things you've said here today, I could actually be supportive of. So I hope you can help me understand this as we move forward in your nomination," Menendez said.Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ended the hearing with a show of support."I plan to avidly support your nomination and confirmation," Corker said.Democrats on the committee questioned Pompeo, known for his hawkish views, on where he stands on major policy issues including military action in Syria, a nuclear summit with North Korea and the fate of the nuclear deal with Iran. Given his tight-knit relationship with President Donald Trump, Democrats wanted to know whether he can put partisan politics aside."As the Senate considers your nomination to be the president’s top foreign policy advisor, we must ask: will you enable President Trump’s worst instincts?" Menendez asked at the top of the hearing.“Will you stand up to President Trump and say: ‘No, you are wrong in that view’? Or will you be a yes man?" Menendez asked.It was a sentiment even Corker, a one-time Trump critic, emphasized.Corker said "...at times, the president may act or speak impulsively. We have seen that good counsel has led the president to evolve – from my perspective to a much better place – on a number of important issues, Corker said."I believe the next Secretary of State must continue to provide such counsel, even when it is difficult. If confirmed, you must continue to provide advice to the president that allows him to view a given situation holistically and not make decisions that focus on the impact to one domestic group or foreign government," he said.Democrats homed in on Pompeo's stance on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and what he thinks about Trump's threats to fire him.New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked Pompeo: "You graduated from Harvard law school, you're an attorney. Do you think special counsel Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt?"Ma'am, I'm going to not speak about any of the three investigations that I have been a participant in today," Pompeo responded.Shaheen pressed him: "Do you think the president has the authority, recognizing your legal background, does the president have the authority to fire special counsel Mueller on his own?"I'm in no position to make a comment on that legal question," he answered.Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, asked, "Do you believe special counsel Mueller's investigation is an attack on our country and all we stand for?" quoting Trump referring to the FBI raid on the office and home of his private attorney Michael Cohen."I hope you'll take this the right way. As the director of the C.I.A. I've been involved in that investigation," Pompeo said. "Anything I say with respect -- I want to avoid that today. I apologize I can't speak more fully..."When Coons asked, should Trump try to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, "would you resign your post as secretary of state in order to demonstrate that we are a nation of laws, not of men?" Pompeo answer
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