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Trump highlights health agenda with vow to lower ‘unfair’ drug prices

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By Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News

It was not the centerpiece, but health was a persistent theme in President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address at the Capitol on Tuesday night.

Although the administration has focused more on issues of trade, taxes and immigration, the president laid out a series of health-related goals, including some that even Democrats indicated could be areas of bipartisan negotiation or compromise. Trump vowed to take on prescription drug prices, pursue an end to the HIV epidemic and boost funding for childhood cancers.

He also took a victory lap for goals promoted by his administration that had been accomplished. “We eliminated the very unpopular Obamacare individual mandate penalty,” he said, referring to the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that most people must have health insurance or pay a fine. It was eliminated as part of the 2017 GOP tax bill, despite backlash from critics that it could undercut Obamacare, after many failed attempts by Republicans to repeal the law.

And Trump noted congressional passage of a “right to try” bill that was supposed to make it easier for terminally ill patients to gain access to experimental medications, but so far few patients have been able to make the law work for them.

The most likely ground for bipartisanship will be the issue of drug prices, where Democrats are as eager as the president to do something to rein in prices that are spiraling upward.

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, this is unfair, and together we will stop it. We will stop it fast,” he said. “I am asking the Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients.”

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Charlie Elphicke: Conservative MP charged with three counts of sexual assault

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DOVER MP Charlie Elphicke has been charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with three counts of sexual assault against two women.

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House Democrats demand answers from Hope Hicks over ‘apparent inconsistencies’ in her testimony

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House Democrats are demanding answers from former Trump aide Hope Hicks after newly unsealed documents showed “apparent inconsistencies” with her congressional testimony about hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent Hicks a letter Thursday, calling on her to explain her June testimony to the panel in which she said that she had no knowledge of the payments to Daniels and that she hadn’t discussed them with President Donald Trump or others.

Documents unsealed earlier Thursday revealed that the FBI believed Hicks and the president were both involved in the payouts arranged by Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney and fixer. Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence for a slew of crimes, including breaking campaign finance laws by hiding payments to Daniels and another woman who also claimed she had an affair with Trump. The president has denied the affairs.

“As I reminded you at the outset of your interview, anything other than complete candor can have very serious consequences,” Nadler wrote in his letter, noting that lying to congressional investigators is a crime.

Hicks, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign who later served as the White House communications director, was interviewed by the Judiciary Committee behind closed doors last month. The committee later released a transcript of her interview.

Pressed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, during the hearing, Hicks repeatedly denied she had witnessed conversations between Trump and Cohen about Daniels. Hicks’ attorney interjected to clarify that the question was specifically about Hicks’ work on the campaign, and she again said that the answer is no.

“Given the apparent inconsistencies between your testimony and this evidence, I would like to give you an opportunity to clarify your testimony on a voluntary basis, prior to considering compulsory process,” Nadler wrote Thursday, hinting at a potential subpoena. He gave her a deadline of Aug.15.

In a statement, Hicks’ lawyer denied any wrongdoing.

“Reports claiming that Ms. Hicks was involved in conversations about ‘hush-money’ payments on Oct. 8, 2016, or knew that payments were being discussed, are simply wrong,” her lawyer, Robert Trout, said. “Ms. Hicks stands by her truthful testimony that she first became aware of this issue in early November 2016, as the result of press inquiries, and she will be responding formally to Chairman Nadler’s letter as requested.”

Thursday’s court documents — unsealed from the case against Cohen over campaign finance violations — describe a “series of calls, text messages, and emails” among Cohen, Trump, Hicks, Daniels’ attorney Keith Davidson and David Pecker, an executive from the company that published the National Enquirer at that time.

“Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the ‘Access Hollywood’ story,” an FBI agent said in the court documents.

The documents also reveal that the FBI interviewed Hicks about her involvement. She told the FBI she couldn’t recall a series of phone calls of which the FBI said it has records.

Tom Winter contributed.



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Jo Swinson on Brexit: Like planning for your home to burn down – Lib Dem frontrunner

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THE favourite to become the new leader of the Liberal Democrats believes that leaving the EU is like planning for your own house to burn down, claiming no deal would be a catastrophe.

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