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National Govt & Politics

    The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine watched in disbelief as her reputation was publicly sullied in a slow-burning campaign to discredit her. She was unceremoniously ousted from her job even as her boss assured her she had done nothing wrong. On Friday, diplomat Marie Yovanovitch gets her turn to tell the public how she feels about her treatment by the Trump administration. Yovanovitch, 60, is a career foreign service officer with a solid reputation who suddenly found herself labeled “bad news” by President Donald Trump over the summer. She will be in the spotlight as the lone witness when public impeachment hearings resume for a second day. She’s already laid out her story for legislators in private. “You’re going to think that I’m incredibly naive,” Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators at a marathon, closed-door deposition hearing in October. “But I couldn’t imagine all the things that have happened over the last six or seven months. I just couldn’t imagine it.” Yovanovitch was pushed out of her job in late April, so it’s unlikely she can offer much of substance about the central allegations against Trump. Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry contend Trump pressured Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son and withheld much-needed U.S. military aid to nudge the Ukrainian leader to do his bidding. Instead, Democratic lawmakers are expected to point to the circumstances of her ouster as they try to make their case that Trump, with the help of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, mounted an inappropriate pressure campaign to enlist Zelenskiy in the effort to damage Democratic political rival Biden. “Giuliani also conducted a smear campaign against the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said at the first public impeachment hearing earlier this week. “A senior State Department official told her that although she had done nothing wrong, President Trump had lost confidence in her.” Trump was convinced that Yovanovitch was a rogue actor who held a political bias against him, according to a rough transcript of the July 25 call between the president and Zelenskiy. She was recalled from Kyiv by Trump months before the call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to do him a “favor” and look into Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in Ukraine. At the time of the call, the Trump administration had put a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and Zelenskiy and his team were trying to get Trump to commit to a date for a White House meeting. The intelligence community whistleblower who spurred the House investigation cited Yovanovitch’s ouster as one in a series of events that amounted to an abuse of power by the president. Yovanovitch, a State Department employee for 33 years who also led U.S. embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, is well known in diplomatic circles for her measured demeanor and diligence in representing both Republican and Democratic administrations, according to former colleagues. Colleagues, in interviews and closed-door depositions, expressed anger and concern about the effort to oust Yovanovitch, who testified that she was apparently seen as an obstacle to the business interests of Trump’s allies. “Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March,” said George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state. “As the news campaign, or campaign of slander, against not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded ... he was on TV, his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine.” After the ambassador’s recall, Giuliani told Ukrainian journalists that Yovanovitch was pulled from Kyiv because she was part of efforts against the president. The former New York mayor also has said that he told the president there were concerns among Trump supporters that she had displayed anti-Trump bias in private conversations. Trump didn’t mince words about his disdain for Yovanovitch in his July call with Zelenskiy. 'The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news,' Trump said, according to the rough transcript released by the White House. 'She's going to go through some things.' Yovanovitch said she was later told that the State Department had been under pressure from Trump to remove her from Ukraine since the summer of 2018. In her own deposition session last month, Yovanovitch showed flickers of raw emotion about her firing and described watching from a distance as she faced critical coverage in conservative media outlets. John Solomon, a columnist for the Washington news outlet The Hill, published a March interview with Yuriy Lutsenko, a former prosecutor general in Ukraine. Lutsenko claimed that the ambassador had given him a “do not prosecute” list—an accusation both she and State denied. Lutsenko himself later backtracked. Around the same time in late March, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., posted a tweet referring to her as a “joker,” and linked to an article from the conservative website Daily Wire that detailed a growing call for Yovanovitch’s ouster. Fox News commentators weighed in and questioned her loyalty to the president. Yovanovitch raised concerns about the U.S. media reports with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. In response, Sondland encouraged her to tweet her support for Trump on social media. “He said, ‘You know, you need to go big or go home,'” she recalled. “‘You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the president.’” The advice floored Yovanovitch, who like most career diplomats who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations, try to avoid even the scent of partisanship. “I just didn't see that there would be any advantage to publicly taking on a fight with those who were criticizing me in the United States,” she said. Now Yovanovitch, hardly a marquee name in Washington, finds herself thrust into the spotlight of just the fourth impeachment inquiry in U.S. history. Nancy McEldowney, a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria who has known Yovanovitch for three decades, said the accusations levied by Trump and Giuliani don’t add up with the professional envoy whose focus throughout her career has remained on “serving American national interests and supporting the people around her.” ___ Associated Press writer Adam Geller contributed to this report.
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren’s fight with Wall Street escalated when billionaire investor Leon Cooperman called the presidential candidate’s proposal to put a new tax on the nation’s wealthiest people a plan to “penalize success” and said her ideas “made no sense.” “If this lady wins, we’re in big trouble,” Cooperman said Thursday in an interview on business news channel CNBC. The Massachusetts senator’s campaign for the White House has made an issue of income inequality and Warren has said she would push for new taxes to help pay for programs such as expanding Medicare, forgiving student loan debt and spending on infrastructure. One key proposal of her campaign is a 2% tax on every dollar of an individual’s wealth above $50 million. Her supporters are known to chant “two cents! two cents!” at many of her rallies. As Warren has moved up in the polls among the Democratic candidates, the reaction from Wall Street and the financial industry has become louder and more antagonistic. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, in an interview on “60 Minutes” this week, said Warren “vilifies successful people.” Lloyd Blankfein, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, echoed Dimon’s comments. “Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country,” Blankfein said in a tweet on Thursday. He did note that Warren was “not my candidate, but we align on many issues” without specifying which issues. Warren and her campaign appear to relish the conflict. The campaign has released an ad highlighting her wealth tax. The ad includes a clip of Cooperman and notes that the hedge fund manager was once charged with insider trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Cooperman settled that case with the SEC in 2017, not admitting any guilt, and paid a $5 million fine. The ad is running on CNBC, which runs in the background on investment bank’s trading floors. Cooperman sparked the feud on the network a month ago by saying the stock market would fall 25% if Warren is elected. In a subsequent CNBC interview, Cooperman teared up as he got emotional while complaining that Warren was painting billionaires as “deadbeats.” Warren’s campaign is now selling a “billionaire tears” coffee mug on its website. Wall Street is a popular punching bag for politicians in an election season. In the 2016 campaign, both Republicans and Democrats had in their official party platforms a plan to break up the big banks. In his own campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump ran an ad that criticized a “global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that into the pockets of a handful of large corporations.” As Trump said “large corporations” in a voiceover, the ad cut to an image of Blankfein. ___ AP Political Reporter Will Weissert contributed to this report from Washington.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued new guidelines that will allow athletes attending the nation's military academies to seek waivers to delay their service and play professional sports immediately upon their graduation. A memo signed Friday by Esper requires athletes going pro to get approval from the defense secretary. It says they must eventually fulfill their military obligation or repay the cost of their college education. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press. President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon in May to come up with a way to allow athletes to play professional sports immediately upon graduation. The Pentagon in 2018 rescinded a policy allowing athletes from the service academies to go straight to the pros. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued that the academies exist to train officers.
  • Republican Gov. Matt Bevin conceded to Democratic archnemesis Andy Beshear on Thursday, putting an end to Kentucky’s bitterly fought governor’s race and setting the stage for divided government. Bevin, an ally of President Donald Trump, made the dramatic announcement outside his statehouse office on the same day election officials across Kentucky double-checked vote totals at his request. Bevin, who trailed by several thousand votes, acknowledged that the recanvass wouldn’t change the outcome. “We’re going to have a change in the governorship based upon the vote of the people,” Bevin said at the news conference. Members of Bevin’s administration watched solemnly as the pugnacious governor graciously wished Beshear — the state’s attorney general — well in his new role. It capped a nearly four-year rivalry that overshadowed Kentucky politics. Beshear, wielding his authority as the state’s top lawyer, challenged a series of Bevin’s executive actions during their terms. Their feud spread to the campaign trail and a series of bare-knuckled debates this year. “I truly want the best for Andy Beshear as he moves forward. I genuinely want him to be successful, I genuinely want this state to be successful,” Bevin said in his concession Thursday. The new governor-elect was scheduled to meet with reporters later in the day. Last week’s election results showed Bevin trailing Beshear by more than 5,000 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast, for a lead of less than 0.4 percentage points. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement that Thursday’s recanvass of vote counts left the final margin at 5,136 votes. The final state Board of Elections is scheduled to meet Nov. 21 to certify the vote totals. Bevin promised a smooth transition leading up to Beshear’s inauguration. “Every single facet of our administration that is desired is ready, willing and able” to assist in the transition, Bevin said. Bevin vowed not to publicly undermine or second-guess Beshear’s actions once his rival takes his place in the governor’s office. “I am sure there will be things I’m excited by and have complete agreement with, and there will be things that I will probably be on the other side of the equation with, and this is the way things are,” Bevin said. In the days after the election, Bevin had steadfastly refused to concede while hinting, without offering evidence, that there had been “irregularities” in the voting. Bevin, however, faced a growing chorus of state Republicans urging him to accept the results of the recanvass unless he could point to evidence of substantial voter fraud. Beshear, the son of a former two-term Kentucky governor, had already declared victory and has been preparing to become governor in December. The Kentucky contest was watched closely for early signs of how the impeachment furor in Washington might affect Trump and other Republicans heading into the 2020 election. Bevin railed against the impeachment inquiry and illegal immigration in trying to nationalize the race, while Beshear kept his focus on state issues such as education, health care and pensions Beshear’s upset win gives Democrats a victory in a state that had been trending heavily toward Republican in recent years. Beshear followed a disciplined campaign style focused on what he termed “kitchen table” issues, such as health care and education, while capitalizing on Bevin’s penchant for making enemies of teachers and other groups. The new governor-elect avoided talking about Trump, impeachment or other polarizing national issues that risked energizing his opponent’s conservative base. Trump loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president in TV ads, tweets and speeches. Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide in winning the presidency in 2016 and remains popular in the state. The president took center stage in the campaign with his election-eve rally in Lexington, the state’s second-largest city, to energize his supporters to head to the polls for his fellow Republican. But the combative Bevin was unable to overcome a series of self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state’s woefully underfunded public pension systems. Beshear effectively exploited the feud, branding Bevin as a bully. Bevin lashed out at teachers who used sick days to rally at Kentucky’s Capitol. In 2018, Bevin asserted without evidence that an unidentified child who had been left home alone somewhere in the state had been sexually assaulted on a day of mass school closings as teachers rallied. He apologized but doubled down earlier this year by connecting a girl's shooting in Louisville with school closings caused by teacher protests.
  • Trying to boost Republican efforts to defeat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, President Donald Trump rallies again in Louisiana on Thursday evening, just two days before a Saturday runoff election that's being closely watched by leaders in both parties. It's second time in eight days that the President has come to the Bayou State for a campaign rally to help Republican Eddie Rispone, as polls have basically shown a dead heat. 'You're going out to replace a radical, liberal Democrat,' Mr. Trump said to cheers last week, using an attack line which has had mixed success for Republicans in recent elections. 'John Bel Edwards has not done the job,' the President added ahead of Louisiana's unusual November 16 runoff. For Republicans, the Louisiana race for Governor is a chance to offset a loss earlier this month in Kentucky, where GOP Gov. Matt Bevin lost by just over 5,000 votes to Democrat Andy Beshear. While the President campaigned for Bevin - as he has for Rispone in Louisiana - Bevin was an unpopular Governor, as he netted fewer votes than other Republicans on the ballot running in statewide elections. After making various unsupported claims about possible voter fraud, and holding out the possibility of an extended challenge to the results, Bevin on Thursday afternoon conceded defeat. That came after a recanvass in each Kentucky county showed no evidence of any changes in vote totals, as the Governor never produced any evidence of voter fraud. There were three races for Governor in 2019 - Democrats won in Kentucky, and Republicans kept control with a victory in Mississippi. That makes the Louisiana runoff the rubber match for this political year.  Recent polls have shown a dead heat between Edwards and Rispone.
  • In a sharply divided country, here's something many Americans agree on: It's hard to know what's a true and honest fact. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and USAFacts finds that regardless of political belief, many Americans say they have a hard time figuring out if information is true. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they often come across one-sided information and about 6 in 10 say they regularly see conflicting reports about the same set of facts from different sources. “It is difficult to get facts. You have to read between the lines. You have to have a lot of common sense,” said Leah Williams, 29, of Modesto, California. A Republican, Williams says she relies on like-minded friends and family to help sort through conflicting information. “There are wolves in sheep’s clothing everywhere.' The poll found that 47% of Americans believe it’s difficult to know if the information they encounter is true, compared with 31% who find it easy to do so. When deciding whether something is factual, there is widespread consensus on the importance of transparency in how the information was gathered and if it is based on data. Democrats and Republicans alike frequently find the process challenging. But as a president with a history of making false statements and repeating debunked conspiracy theories faces public hearings this week in only the fourth impeachment inquiry in the nation’s history, the poll finds that differing political beliefs led Americans down different paths as they try to determine what's a unquestionable fact. Democrats are more likely to say they rely on scientists and academics, while Republicans are more likely to trust what they hear from President Donald Trump. “When I hear him on Fox News — that’s where I get all my information,” said Al Corra, a 48-year-old Republican from Midland, Texas. Trump, he said, is the easiest way to cut through an otherwise confusing information environment. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to put a great deal of trust in the president’s statements, 40% to 5%. Overall, a majority of Americans (61%) have little to no trust in information about the government when it comes from Trump, Corra said he distrusts academics as too “liberal' and he's not alone in that regard among Republicans. More Democrats than Republicans say they consider something to be factual if it’s been verified by scientists — 72% versus 40% — as well as academics — 57% versus 30%. Scott Austin, a Democrat from Aurora, Colorado, says he generally trusts scientists, but checks their affiliations carefully because he believes fraudulent information abounds. “If I see something that some scientist from Stanford says, I’ll believe that because it’s Stanford,” he said. Austin, a 52-year-old Army veteran, says he has to ping-pong from website to website to try to verify facts and has found himself increasingly skeptical of government information. Like 54% of Americans, he believes the president has a lot of sway over the information distributed by the government, and that’s made him increasingly skeptical given his lack of trust in what Trump says to be true. “I never had a problem trusting the government under Democratic or Republican administrations — until this administration,” Austin said. Close to half of Americans — 45% — also think members of Congress have a lot of influence on information that comes from the government, while just 3 in 10 say the same of federal agency employees. When it comes to assessing whether information is factual, at least three-quarters of Americans think it’s very important for it to be accurate, and that sources provide all relevant information and explain the way that information was gathered. Smaller majorities say the information should include opposing viewpoints and be devoid of opinion. About 6 in 10 say they are very likely to consider information factual if it is based on data. Many Americans say they rely on government websites, as well as news sources and social media, to get information. In total, 54% say they get information about the government from social media at least once a day, 52% say that about local TV news, 50% from national TV news networks and 47% from cable news. About 6 in 10 also say they have used government websites to look up information. And yet, poll found widespread skepticism about these sources — majorities say they have little to no confidence in information they get about the government from social media, the president, members of Congress and businesses. Lynn Joseph, a retired artist in Las Vegas, tries to ferret information out on the internet, but is skeptical of just about all sources nowadays. “Do I trust anybody? No,” she said. “My philosophy is everybody’s guilty until proven innocent.” Joseph, a Republican, is among the modest group of Trump supporters who don’t trust the accuracy of his statements. Overall, about a third of those who approve of the president say they trust information they get from him about the government only a moderate amount, and roughly another quarter say they have little to no trust. “I’m a Trump supporter, but I know about him,” she said. “He speaks before he should.” ___ Riccardi reported from Denver, Colorado. ___ The AP-NORC/USAFacts poll of 1,032 adults was conducted Oct. 15-28 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone. ___ Online: AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/
  • Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. announced Thursday that he will try to reclaim his old job as Utah governor. The Republican kicked off his campaign with a swing through southern Utah, reintroducing himself to voters far from capital in Salt Lake City, where he served as governor over a decade ago. “A lot of people are asking why we would want to do this again,” he said in a statement, referring to him and his wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman. “While we’ve served in this post before, we can’t think of anything else we’d rather do.” Huntsman, a charismatic, popular moderate conservative, had recently been elected for a second term when he stepped down in 2009 to serve as U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration. He mounted a short-lived run for president during the 2012 cycle and went abroad again as ambassador to Russia under President Donald Trump, an assignment made particularly challenging as the U.S. investigated Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. After two years, Huntsman left Russia amid heavy speculation about a potential gubernatorial run. He’s entering a crowded field of candidates and has heavy name recognition from his time in the governor’s mansion and as the son of late billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., a well-known philanthropist with another son who purchased the Salt Lake Tribune. Among Huntsman’s competitors are Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, another moderate conservative who has been willing to criticize Trump at times and has the support of Gov. Gary Herbert. Huntsman touted his international experience in his campaign announcement, saying it would give him the vision to help Utah compete on the world stage. “He’s looking for that next chapter. If there’s a place he can start that, why not come back to Utah see if he could pick up where he left off?” said Reed Galen, an independent Utah-based political consultant who worked for prominent Republicans like George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain. While a state position could be seen as a step backward, a governor can often make decisions and execute them quickly, especially as a well-known Republican leader in a deeply GOP state, Galen said. Still, there are skeptics. Republican state Sen. Todd Weiler said Huntsman is going to have to convince voters that Utah isn’t an “overlooked girlfriend” or a platform between more high-profile roles. “I think he’s going to be hard to beat, but I do think he should not get a free pass,” Weiler said. Huntsman is vying to replace his own successor and onetime lieutenant governor. Herbert has served since Huntsman left for China but is not running again. Other Republicans who have already declared include Utah County businessman Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. Huntsman’s highest-profile competitor is probably Cox, a native of rural Utah who has support there as well as an established a presence on Twitter, where he shares his love for the Utah Jazz basketball team and asides about Taylor Swift alongside political posts. Cox cast himself as an underdog in a tweet Thursday, which didn’t mention Huntsman directly but appealed to supporters to help him overcome challenges like a lack of a “billion dollars” and “names on buildings.”
  • The deputy to outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers Thursday that he had no role in the Ukraine matters now at the heart of the House’s impeachment investigation as he tried to distance himself from the controversy with the Senate considering his Cabinet nomination. Dan Brouillette recounted the department’s efforts to promote natural gas exports to Ukraine, but he denied any knowledge of or role in conversations involving President Donald Trump’s push for Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden or son Hunter. “I have not been involved in any of the conversations that are related to the House inquiry,” Brouillette told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Perry had been one of the longest-serving members of a Cabinet roiled by scandals and resignations. But his last months at the agency have been clouded by questions about what he knew and did about Trump’s drive for a Ukraine investigation of Hunter Biden, who was a board member on a Ukraine gas company. Perry says he knew nothing about Trump’s campaign-related agenda in Ukraine and that his planned Dec. 1 departure from the agency is not related to the scandal. Asked by a Democratic lawmaker if he would honor any possible subpoena to testify before impeachment investigators, Brouillete said he would have to consult with White House lawyers. The White House has told administration employees not to comply. Brouillette is a military veteran, former businessman and energy official who twice before has won Senate confirmation. He is the second-in-command at the department, responsible for day-to-day operations, and there are no public accounts of possible conflicts of interest or other major scandals directly touching him. Brouillette largely faced cordial questions from senators on energy, nuclear weapons and waste, and other matters. While the administration has promoted oil and gas, Brouillette’s first remarks at the hearing stressed the department’s research work from supercomputers to quantum science. Directors of some of the country’s 17 national research laboratories sat behind him in a show of support. Brouillette also referred repeatedly to working to improve battery storage, the big technological jump needed to bolster the grid reliance of solar, wind and other renewable energy. Perry, a former Texas governor, seemed to reflexively promote U.S. fossil fuels but also supported carbon-free renewables in a more low-key way. Brouillette endorsed an “all of the above” energy policy promoting oil, gas, nuclear and renewables. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., complained of “extreme radical” policies that he said were forcing the closing of a coal-fired power plant in his state Brouillette offered support for coal, but conditioned it by saying coal was needed until researchers are able to increase battery storage for other forms of energy. For older forms of energy, “it’s important to remain on line until we have the answers” on that, Brouillette said. Supporters of U.S. coal, which is seeing mines and plants close as cheaper natural gas and renewables outcompete it in the market, argue the ability to stockpile coal makes it essential to the energy grid.
  • A White House lawyer won Senate confirmation as a federal appeals court judge Thursday despite complaints by lawmakers from both parties about his record on immigration, race, women's equality and LGBTQ rights. Steven Menashi, an associate White House counsel, was confirmed by a 51-41 vote for a seat on the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Maine Sen. Susan Collins was the sole Republican to oppose Menashi, a 40-year-old New Yorker who has never tried a case or argued an appeal. Republicans and Democrats complained that Menashi failed to answer questions at his nomination hearing, and Collins joined Democrats in criticizing Menashi’s record on a range of issues, including immigration, race, women's equality and LGBTQ rights. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called Menashi a “disgrace” and ``one of the most contemptible nominees to come before the Senate” in more than 20 years. As a lawyer for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Menashi “helped cook up an illegal scheme to use the Social Security data of students swindled by for-profit colleges in order to deny them debt relief,’’ Schumer said, noting that a federal judge ruled the plan violated federal privacy laws. Schumer, who has railed against many judicial appointments by President Donald Trump, said Menashi stands out as extreme, unqualified and “almost craven. If there was ever anyone who was too far, it’s Menashi.’’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Menashi an “impressive nominee,’’ citing his degrees from Dartmouth College and Stanford Law School, clerkships for federal judges including Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and experience teaching and practicing law. Other Republicans were more skeptical. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Menashi “has written some really weird stuff' and is 'different than I would have chosen,' but is qualified for the federal bench. Graham was one of several senators who expressed frustration at Menashi’s refusal to answer questions about his record at the White House and the Education Department during his confirmation hearing in September. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee's top Democrat, said Menashi’s silence made it difficult for senators to fulfill their constitutional role to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees. She and other Democrats were especially unhappy about Menashi’s role in denying debt relief to thousands of students swindled by for-profit colleges. “Mr. Menashi should not be rewarded for providing such bad legal advice with a lifetime appointment to the federal bench,’’ Feinstein said. Menashi’s “troubling record of undermining critical rights and questions surrounding his involvement in Secretary DeVos's shameful efforts to ignore the law” disqualify him from a lifetime judgeship, added Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Collins said Menashi's past writings, particularly about women, LGBTQ advocates and racial diversity, raise questions about whether he has the appropriate judicial temperament. Collins, one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents next year, said it was inappropriate for Menashi to refuse to answer questions about his work in the Trump administration during his confirmation hearing. “His reluctance to answer questions about the family separation policy made it difficult for me to assess his record and impeded my constitutional duty to evaluate his fitness to serve as a judge,’’ she said in a statement. “After careful consideration ... I do not believe he is well-suited to serve on the federal bench.' Menashi is among more than 150 federal judges nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, including at least 46 appeals court judges. About one-quarter of federal appeals court judges were nominated by Trump.
  • Deval Patrick launched what he acknowledged to be a “Hail Mary” bid on Thursday for the Democratic presidential nomination, testing whether voters sifting through an already crowded field are open to hearing from new candidates less than three months before the primary voting officially begins. Raised in poverty on the South Side of Chicago, Patrick made history in 2007 as the first black governor of Massachusetts. He has close ties to former President Barack Obama and his network of advisers, which could help him quickly establish contacts and raise money in the critical states that begin voting in February. But his late entry presents significant organizational and financial hurdles. It’s also unclear whether black voters, who have largely backed former Vice President Joe Biden, would shift to him. Two other black candidates in the field, Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, are languishing in the polls. Still, Patrick is betting there’s a narrow window to shake up a Democratic primary that has stagnated in recent months with four persistent front-runners, each of whom has glaring vulnerabilities. At a time of bitter partisan divides, the 63-year-old Patrick is positioning himself as a political leader who can work on progressive causes without alienating moderates who worry about the pace of change being advocated by some Democratic candidates. “But I think that there has to be more than the big solutions,” he told reporters at the statehouse in New Hampshire, where he registered to appear on the ballot in the first-in-the-nation primary, expected to be held on Feb. 11. “We have to use those solutions to heal us.” Such comments were a none-too-subtle dig at another presidential candidate from Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren. The senator has risen to the top of the Democratic pack in recent months with calls for fundamental changes to the American economy, including a wealth tax and a shift to a government-run health care system known as “Medicare for All.” Patrick said he spoke with Warren on Wednesday night and described a “hard conversation for both of us.” He credited her with running the “best and most disciplined campaign” in the field and praised her as “incredibly smart” and “incredibly thorough in her policy positions.” But he suggested the scope of her proposals would be hard for a president to implement. “I think the actual business of advancing an agenda once elected is a different kind of undertaking,” he said. Patrick told CBS earlier Thursday that he doesn’t support Medicare for All “in the terms we’ve been talking about.” Warren’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment on Patrick’s launch. Last week, she mentioned him as someone she would consider nominating to a Cabinet post if she were elected. While he insisted he would not “climb up by pulling anybody else down,” Patrick offered critiques of other Democratic candidates. He said he was a “big, big fan” of Biden, but argued his campaign is too focused on simply replacing President Donald Trump and then “we can go back to doing what we used to do.” That, Patrick said, “misses the moment.” Patrick is the third major black candidate in the race. The other two, Harris and Booker, have struggled to gain traction in part because black voters have so far sided with Biden. Harris and Booker are “friends of mine and I respect them and I’ve talked to them from time to time,” Patrick said. “There are a variety of reasons why their campaigns in some quarters are just not getting traction,” he said. His announcement comes as some Democrats worry about the strength of the party’s current field of contenders. Another Democrat, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is also weighing a last-minute bid for the party’s nomination. Even 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton said this week in a BBC interview that she is “under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it,” adding that she has no such plans but still would “never, never, never say never.” It’s also a near certainty that Patrick — and possibly Bloomberg — wouldn’t make a Democratic debate stage until January, if at all, because of restrictive debate rules set by the party. Patrick suggested Thursday that he’s fine skipping the debates. “I’m not sure it’s something to aspire to,” he said. “I’m more interested in forums where you can actually engage with regular voters and not just ones where the moderator is tempted to treat it like a cage fight.” Still, some prominent Democrats are questioning Patrick’s viability. “Stop. We have enough candidates,” said Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic National Committee member from New Hampshire, which hosts the party’s first presidential primary following the Iowa caucuses. Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, whose state boasts the second-largest number of Super Tuesday delegates behind California, argued that donors and the media are mistaken to think that rank-and-file Democrats see Biden, Warren and others as unable to take down Trump. Besides, Hinojosa said, “most of the people you need to build out a campaign have already chosen sides.” Patrick, a former managing director for Bain Capital, has close ties to Wall Street donors, which could emerge as a liability in a Democratic primary where voters are often skeptical of the financial sector. Patrick caused headaches for Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012 when he defended Bain, which was co-founded by Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate that year. On Thursday, Patrick said he still doesn’t agree with the attacks on Bain, but acknowledged the frustration aimed at the wealthy. “I am a capitalist,” he said. But “there are justifiable reasons why people feel like our economy and our government has been tilted too much in the direction of moneyed interests.” Patrick will be among more than a dozen 2020 candidates who will speak at a fundraiser for the Nevada Democratic Party on Sunday night. Nevada is one of the early voting states. ___ Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Bill Barrow, Michelle L. Price and Will Weissert contributed to this report.