Top staffer at a pro-Trump super PAC doubles down on claim that black people are ‘statistically’ lazier than whites

Carl Higbie, a former Trump administration official who now works as a high-ranking staffer at a super PAC connected to the president’s agenda distanced himself from racist comments he made on the radio that led to his resignation in January. Now, however, he is doubling down on his claim that black people are “statistically” lazier than whites and claiming the comments were taken out of context.

CNN’s KFILE, the blog that originally revealed the America First Policies’ staffer’s numerous bigoted comments, reported Tuesday that Higbie has since recanted his apology for the remarks he made on his radio show in 2013 and 2014. During those shows, Higbie said he believes “wholeheartedly” that the “black race as a whole” are lazier than white people. He also claimed black women use welfare “as a form of employment,” and that he doesn’t like Muslims because their “ideology sucks.”

When resigning from his position leading the government program that sponsors Americorps, Higbie said that his comments from years prior “do not reflect who I am or what I stand for” and claimed to “regret saying them.”

During a radio appearance on Friday, however, the former Trump administration official said he stands by his comments.

“They dig up a couple things, a couple. Look, I had a radio show,” Higbie told Virginia talk radio DJ John Fredericks. “How many times have you said something on radio that could possibly be construed as very controversial when taken completely out of context? What, daily?”

Higbie went on to tout his time spent “in low-income, urban minority communities” as well as his “mission trips in high school to Dominican Republic, Central America [and] South America” before saying he made a “statistical observation” about black people as a race.

“It fit their narrative,” he said of KFILE’s reporting that led to his resignation. “And because I made a statistical observation, they think that’s racist.”

CNN noted that America First Policies, Higbie’s employer, has hosted a number of events that have been attended by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who is scheduled to attend another such event tonight where the staffer will reportedly be. The super PAC also used to employ Pence’s chief of staff before he took his job in the White House.

[Raw Story]

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]

In Closed-Door UN Meetings, Trump Administration Officials Pushed Abstinence For International Women’s Health Programs

In closed-door meetings at the United Nations in March, Trump administration officials pushed socially conservative views on women’s rights issues — including abstinence-based policies over information about contraception — that were further to the right than those expressed by most other countries present, including Russia and the representative for the Arab states, UN officials who attended the meetings told BuzzFeed News.

The Trump officials’ approach at the UN meeting makes it clear that the administration intends to extend its views on abortion, contraception, and sexual education beyond US borders to an extent that is unusual even for Republican administrations.

The comments came during the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women, a two-week session described by a spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations as the UN’s “most important meeting on women’s empowerment.” The main event is a closed-door negotiation on language to include in an annual UN document that sets global standards and outlines potential policies pertaining to gender equality efforts in all member countries.

Early in this series of meetings, Bethany Kozma — a senior adviser for gender equality and women’s empowerment at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and anti-transgender activistemphasized that the US was a “pro-life nation,” sparking a strong reaction from delegates in the room, two officials in the room confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

“When she said that there was sort of a record scratch and silence,” one UN official who participated in the negotiations but asked not to be named so as to maintain a working relationship with the other member states present told BuzzFeed News. “Everyone was like, ‘are you kidding me?’”

Shannon Kowalski, the director of the International Women’s Health Coalition, said that the Trump administration’s stances on women’s health presented in the meeting were “further to the right” than they were at last year’s commission, or even under George W. Bush’s administration. While the Bush administration implemented anti-abortion policies abroad, the scope was limited to family planning programs. Trump’s policies already expand beyond those limits.

“They’re far more extreme than the US was under the Bush administration,” Kowalski told BuzzFeed News shortly after the session wrapped up. “We saw placement of ideologues within key roles who took similar positions back then, but they limited what they applied their views to.”

Throughout the two-week session, Trump administration officials discussed shifting international policy on women toward abstinence-oriented education and teaching women sexual “refusal skills.” Those views — as well as the US’s push for more conservative policies on immigration, trade and environmental regulation — ended up uniting most of the 45 CSW member states against the US on family planning issues, six sources who attended or were familiar with meetings told BuzzFeed News.

While negotiations at the UN are often political, two officials familiar with the negotiations said that they had never seen nearly all of the other membership states — many of whom have wildly different stances and priorities on family planning issues — come together against the US. The members include several countries where abortion is illegal and punishable by fines or jail time.

The Trump administration has not been shy about its stance on abortion. On his third day in office, President Donald Trump instated an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy, a rule that prevents the US from funding organizations that provide or discuss abortions with the populations they serve. While most Republican presidents have used that policy, Trump’s version applies to all US health funding abroad — not just family planning funds that prior Republican administrations regulated. This includes organizations devoted to curbing HIV/AIDS, which the Bush administration left alone, Kowalski said.

[Buzzfeed]

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 called intel analyst a ‘pretty Korean lady’ — and asked why she wasn’t negotiating with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump’s latest outburst about immigrants from “sh*thole” African countries is far from his first time making racist statements.

In fact, sources tell NBC News that Trump made a career U.S. intelligence officer uncomfortable last year when he grilled her on her Korean heritage and demanded to know why she wasn’t being used to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to NBC News, Trump first asked the officer where she was from after she had finished delivering an intelligence briefing. She replied that she originally hailed from New York City, but Trump pushed her by asking where “your people” originally came from.

At that point, she admitted that both of her parents were from Korea — at which point Trump turned to an adviser and asked them why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t being used as an asset to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal.

“The officials who told NBC News of the fall exchange between Trump and the intelligence briefer in the Oval Office in the fall said the president likely meant no harm with his inquiry, but it raised concern of a lack of cultural sensitivity and decorum,” NBC notes, while also adding that a source close to the president claims that his advisers regularly try to get him to stop talking about people’s race — but to no avail.

[Raw Story]

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]

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