Texas judge rules health care overhaul unconstitutional
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A federal judge in Texas has ruled the Affordable Care Act “invalid” on the eve of the sign-up deadline for coverage next year.
In a 55-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled Friday that last year’s tax cut bill knocked the constitutional foundation from under “Obamacare” by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage.
Supporters of the law immediately said they would appeal.
The White House applauded O’Connor’s ruling, but said the law remains in place while appeals proceed. President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should pass a new law.
Twenty Republican-led states brought the lawsuit. After Trump ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the health law, a coalition of ACA-supporting states took up the defense.
O’Connor is a conservative Republican appointee who previously blocked other Obama-era policies.
TRUMP-CHIEF OF STAFF-THE LATEST
The Latest: Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is announcing that budget director Mick Mulvaney will be his next chief of staff.
Trump tweeted Friday that Mulvaney “has done an outstanding job” in his administration and would take over next year.
Trump deemed Mulvaney his “acting chief of staff” but it was not immediately clear what that meant for the length of his tenure.
He will replace John Kelly. Trump praised Kelly’s service and called him a “great patriot” in the tweet.
Trump announced last week that Kelly, who served in the post for more than a year, would soon be departing.
The president’s first choice was Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, who bowed out after being unable to come to an agreement on how long he would serve in the post.
TRUMP-LAWYER INVESTIGATION-THE LATEST
The Latest: Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer says Trump directed him to buy the silence of two women during the 2016 campaign because he was concerned their stories of alleged affairs with him “would affect the election.” He says Trump knew the payments were wrong.
Michael Cohen says he “gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty.” Cohen spoke in an interview with ABC that aired Friday on “Good Morning America.”
Cohen says that “of course” Trump knew it was wrong to make the hush-money payments, but he did not provide any specific evidence or detail in the interview.
The White House is dismissing Cohen’s accusations. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley blasted the media for taking Cohen seriously and “giving credence to a convicted criminal.”
CHILD DEAD-BORDER PATROL-THE LATEST
The Latest: Migrant girl’s dad said she was ill on bus
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol says a 7-year-old girl who died while she was in custody appeared to be in good health when she was first detained along a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border.
An intake form signed by the girl’s father said she wasn’t sick, wasn’t sweating and seemed mentally alert. The form was obtained by The Associated Press.
Immigration officials briefing reporters say the girl’s father told officials that she was sick and vomiting when they were on a bus heading to a Border Patrol station. When they arrived 90 minutes later, the girl wasn’t breathing.
Emergency personnel revived her twice, and she was sent to an El Paso hospital via helicopter at 7:40 a.m. She died Dec. 8. An autopsy is pending.
Mueller: FBI is not to blame for Flynn’s false statements
WASHINGTON (AP) — The special counsel’s office is pushing back at the suggestion that the FBI acted improperly in its interview of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn’s lawyers said in a sentencing memorandum this week that Flynn was not warned during his interview with the FBI that it was a crime to lie to federal agents.
But prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller say Flynn had lied to the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador well before the January 2017 interview and merely repeated the same falsehoods when approached by the FBI.
Flynn is expected to be sentenced next week for lying to the FBI.
Senators ask FBI to investigate Blackmun for lying to panel
Two lawmakers are asking the Justice Department and FBI to look into whether former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun lied to a Senate panel in testimony about the handling of sex-abuse allegations against Larry Nassar.
At issue is Blackmun’s refuted claim that he discussed the case with USOC staff after receiving word of Nassar’s potential crimes from the USA Gymnastics president at the time, Steve Penny.
A report from the Ropes and Gray law firm released earlier this week concluded that nobody on the USOC staff could corroborate Blackmun’s account of a meeting. Blackmun had told the investigators there had been a meeting, but later changed his story upon hearing there was no corroboration.
Ropes and Gray concluded that there was a 14-month gap between Blackmun’s initial contact with Penny and the time Nassar’s crimes became public, which gave him the opportunity to molest more young women.
Facebook says bug may have exposed user photos to developers
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says a software bug may have exposed a broader set of photos to app developers than users had granted permission for.
The company said Friday that the bug affected 6.8 million people who used Facebook to log in to other services and granted permission for third-party apps to access the photos for 12 days in September. The bug has been fixed.
Generally when people give apps access to their photos, this only means photos posted on their Facebook page.
Facebook says the bug potentially gave developers access to other photos, such as those shared on Marketplace or on Facebook Stories. The bug also affected photos that people uploaded to Facebook but chose not to post or could not post for technical reasons.
As sentencing looms, Flynn is upbeat, has adoring fans
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is relaxed and hopeful even as the possibility of prison looms when he’s sentenced in the Russia probe next week.
People close to Flynn tell The Associated Press he has been relaxing with friends at events such as an Elton John concert. At a recent Boston Celtics game, strangers approached him to shake his hand and get photos.
His supporters plan a rally the day he’s sentenced Tuesday, and a lucrative consulting gig could await him.
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that Flynn was given a great deal because the special counsel was “embarrassed by the way he was treated.”
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States. His lawyers requested probation, not prison.
Australia recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
SYDNEY (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government has decided to formally recognize west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but won’t move its embassy until there’s a peace settlement.
He says Australia will recognize east Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital only after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution. The Australian Embassy won’t be moved from Tel Aviv until such a time.
While the embassy move is delayed, Morrison says the government will establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and will also start looking for an appropriate site for the embassy.
He says in a speech Saturday: “The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognizes west Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel.”
Scandal-plagued CBS grants $20M to 18 women’s rights groups
NEW YORK (AP) — CBS is pledging $20 million in support of 18 organizations dedicated to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace as the network tries to recover from a scandal that led to the ouster of its top executive, Les Moonves.
CBS said Friday that the money will go toward helping the organizations expand their work and “ties into the company’s ongoing commitment to strengthening its own workplace culture.”
The money is coming out of Moonves’ severance package. Whether Moonves will receive the remaining $120 million of his severance hinges on the outcome of an investigation into his conduct.
In a joint statement, the 18 organizations praised the donations as a significant step while also calling on CBS to disclose the results of the Moonves investigation.
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