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The Department of Justice has filed a brief on Thursday on behalf of baker, Jack Phillips.
Phillips was found to have violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws after he refused to bake a cake for Charlie Craig’s and David Mullin’s “wedding” in 2012. Phillips had argued that baking a cake for gay wedding violated his religious beliefs.
The Justice Department has concurred, stating that the cakes he produces constitute a form of expression and that he should not be compelled to use his talents to express support for something he does not believe in. Acting Solicitor General, wrote in the legal brief:
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has responded to the move by calling it “shocking.” Similarly, Democratic Senator for California, Kamala Harris, tweeted:
“Shame on the Justice Department for siding with discrimination. It has no place in our society.”
It is refreshing to see a Justice Department that is committed to protecting both free markets and the religious liberties of the American people. For too long, the gay rights lobby has been able to intimidate those who do not share their views. This decision represents a Justice Department and an administration that is committed to protecting everyone’s rights and liberties, not just the imaginary rights of an outspoken minority.
On July 26th, the FBI raided Paul Manafort’s home in Alexandra, Virginia. The FBI seized documents and other materials from Manafort’s home in relation to the Russia investigation.
However, there are clearly questions that the FBI felt still needed to be answered. According to Politico, Federal Investigators approached Manfort’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, in an attempt to get inside his head.
Peter Zeidenburg, a former prosecutor for the Justice Department, commented:
“It is a big deal. Prosecutors do not take aggressive steps like this with subjects who the government feels are being open and cooperative. And they also do not do this to ‘send a message.’ They do it because they think there is evidence to be found and that if they do not act aggressively, it could be destroyed.”
The simple fact is that obtaining a search warrant usually requires investigators to have a rational reason to believe that there is evidence of a crime. Nor does the FBI execute warrants on cooperating witnesses, they don’t need to. What the investigation will prove cannot be known. Nevertheless, the President Trump’s Administration has cause for concern.
Tensions are rising between the United States and North Korea. Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that the rogue communist state had successfully tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile.
Democrat Senator for California, Diane Feinstein, has called North Korea a “clear and present danger” to the United States. Similarly, Republican Senator for Ohio, Rob Portman, has questioned White House officials on why the rogue state has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism – especially following the murder of Otto Warmbier by North Korean authorities. The chair of the Senate subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity, the Republican Senator for Colorado, Cory Gardner, has stated:
“It is clear, whether it’s the murderous actions the regime has taken against its own people, others, the imprisonments that they continue to be responsible for, whether it’s the missile launches that continue, whether it’s interaction with Iran, this decision needs to be a redesignation of that state sponsor of terror.”
North Korea’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism was removed in 2008 as a result of the Perry Initiative. The removal of the designation came with the proviso that North Korea disable its plutonium production and meet other standards. It has consistently failed to do so.
The latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare has failed after a senate vote of 49/51. The defeat occurred after Republican Senator for Arizona, John McCain, Republican Senator for Maine, Susan Collins, and Republic Senator for Alaska, Lisa Murkowski crossed the floor to vote with the Democrats.
The latest attempt at repeal, known as ‘skinny repeal’, has been seen by many as a last ditch effort to repeal and replace certain elements of Obamacare. It was met with opposition from Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office – who claimed it would leave sixteen million people uninsured (presumably because they would no longer be forced to pay for health insurance), and health insurance companies – who claim that skinny repeal would be disastrous for the market.
In a statement, Senator McCain explained his reasons for voting against the repeal:
“While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.”
Both McCain and Murkowski supported a 2015 repeal and replace bill which was more extreme in its contents than the latest version. Collins, meanwhile, has never expressed any true desire to repeal and replace.
The mainstream media has responded to McCain’s decision by claiming that has “given a lot of Americans something to believe in.” President Trump responded by tweeting: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!”
In the end, the latest defeat is not all doom and gloom. The fact that the latest vote was 49/51 shows how close the Republicans were to repealing and replacing Obamacare. It is perfectly possible for President Trump and other Republicans to find means to persuade McCain, Collins, and Murkowski to change their vote.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced on Twitter that his administration would be reversing the previous Obama administration’s decision to allow transgender individuals into the US military:
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical cost and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
The decision has been met with negative reactions from both Democrats and from disgraced soldier Chelsea Manning (who was convicted of releasing classified documents to Wikileaks and received a pardon from Barack Obama, presumably because he was transgender). Californian Democrat Senator Kamala Harris referred to it as “discrimination, plain and simple”, whilst Manning tweeted:
“So, biggest, baddest, most $$ military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35? Sounds like cowardice”
In June, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis made the decision to delay the Obama administration’s decision by six months to give military service chiefs the chance to review whether allowing transgender people to enlist would affect the military’s capabilities.
The order to allow transgender people to serve openly in the US Military, undergo gender reassignment surgery (paid for by the military), and change their gender in Pentagon systems. Under the decision, military service personnel could not be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment purely only the basis of their gender identity.
Republicans in the Senate have finally decided to vote for debates on a series of proposals to repeal and replace Obamacare. The motion was passed with a vote of 51/50 with Vice-President Mike Pence breaking the deadlock.
The motion’s success came despite phenomenal opposition. Republic Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski crossed the floor to the vote with the Democrats whilst outside left-wing agitators were arrested for disrupting Senate proceedings.
In a positive sign, however, John McCain returned to Washington despite his cancer diagnosis.
Speaking from the White House, President Trump commented:
“I applaud the Senate for taking a giant step to end the Obamacare nightmare. As this vote shows, inaction is not an option, and now the legislative process can move forward as intended to produce a bill that lowers costs and increases options for all Americans. The Senate must now pass a bill and get it to my desk so we can finally end the Obamacare disaster once and for all.”
In the end, the motion does not repeal and replace Obamacare. However, it is an important first step.
Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with primary glioblastoma, a highly malignant (cancerous) brain tumour. The tumour, which carries only a four-percent survival rate, was discovered during surgery to remove a blood clot in the eighty-year-old Senator’s brain.
The Mayo Clinic released the following statement in relation to the matter:
“On Friday, July 14, Sen. John McCain underwent a procedure to remove a blood clot from above his left eye at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. On Friday, July 14, Sen. John McCain underwent a procedure to remove a blood clot from above his left eye at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumour known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot. Scanning done since the procedure (a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision) shows that the tissue of concern was completely resected by imaging criteria. The Senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The Senator’s doctors say he is recovering from his surgery ‘amazingly well’ and his underlying health is excellent.”
Similarly, McCain’s Senate office also released a statement:
“Senator McCain appreciates the outpouring of support he has received over the last few days. He is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family. Senator McCain appreciates the outpouring of support he has received over the last few days. He is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family in Arizona. He is grateful to the doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic for their outstanding care, and is confident that any future treatment will be effective. Further consultations with Senator McCain’s Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.”
McCain, who endured torture during his years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, has received prayers and well-wishes numerous people in both politics and media. President Trump issued a statement saying:
“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.”
Ben Shapiro, conservative journalist and editor at large for the Daily Wire, referred to McCain as an ‘honourable man.’ Former President Barack Obama commented: “cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against”, whilst Steve Scalise tweeted that McCain was “one of the toughest people I know.”
Monday night, Utah Republican Senator, Mike Lee, and Kansas Republican Senator, Jerry Moran, joined Kentucky Republican Senator, Rand Paul, and Maine Republican Senator, Susan Collins in announcing their refusal to support the motion to proceed on the latest Obamacare Replacement Bill.
Positively, the legislation would have axed individual mandates (which prevented health insurance companies from altering their rates based on the health of the individual), insurance subsidies, the expansion of Medicaid, and funding for Planned Parenthood.
The Republican mandate has faced strict opposition from both the Democrats and the public. According to an article published by National Review, the majority of the American public dislike individual mandates and desire lower health care costs over all health problems. In spite of this, however, the American public also dislikes attempts to roll-back coverage on pre-existing health conditions.
The Democrats, needless to say, have been overjoyed at the legislation’s failure. Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, stated: “I am delighted to see that the disastrous Republic health care plan will not succeed.” Meanwhile, the chair of the Democrat National Committee, Tom Perez, referred to the defeat as a “victory for human decency.”
Speaking from the White House, President Trump commented: “I am disappointed, very disappointed. For so many years I’ve been hearing ‘repeal and replace, let Obamacare fail and then everyone will have to come together to fix it.'” President Trump went on to say: “let Obamacare fail, it’ll be a lot easier, we’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it. Let Obamacare fail and then Democrats are going to come to us asking ‘how do we fix it?'”
Republican responses to the failed legislation appear mixed, however. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has made an executive decision to revive the Republican’s 2015 Obamacare repeal bill (originally vetoed by President Obama). The bill would repeal Obamacare over two years. But, as a 2017 Congressional Budget Office report points out, the repeal would leave thirty-two million Americans uninsured by 2026.
Other Republicans, such as New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, have suggested that President Trump abandon his focus on repealing and replacing of Obamacare and instead focus his energies on other priorities. In an interview with MSNBC, Christie commented: “I’d advise him to move on and move on to other priorities like tax reform and infrastructure. I’ve said that to the president for months. I don’t think there’s a will in Congress. I think they’ve shown that there’s no will in Congress for them to work with each other.”
In an attempt to find a solution to the issue, President Trump is planning to host a lunch at the White House with all fifty-two GOP Senators.