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Beto O’Rourke on impeachment and 8 other issues

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON, Iowa — Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke has begun to flesh out some of his policy ideas as he makes his way across Iowa, backing away Friday from his support for full single-payer health care and declining to say whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.

“I’m no longer sure that’s the fastest way for us to get there,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a campaign stop here.

The Texas Democrat once endorsed Medicare for All, which in its purest form would replace every American’s health insurance plan with one run by the government, in effect ending private health insurance in the United States.

O’Rourke said Friday he’s open to a full single-payer program in the long-run, but that he sees a more immediate solution in proposals that would allow Americans to choose to buy into Medicare or keep their current plans.

“It allows people to keep employer-based insurance, many of whom want to do that,” he said. “Over time, I hope Medicare has the investment, the buy-in necessary, becomes attractive enough that people choose to leave employer-based insurance instead of being forced to join Medicare.”

While O’Rourke said his presidential campaign will continue the grassroots, populist theme of his Senate run, which broke fundraising records despite rejecting all PAC money, he will need to carve out a policy space for himself in a crowded Democratic field. Fans have likened him to former President Barack Obama, and his policy positions might cover more centrist ground than some of his Democratic rivals on several issues.

Here’s what we know about where O’Rourke stands on other issues.

1. Impeachment

During his Senate campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O’Rourke said he would vote to move forward with impeachment hearings against Trump.

Asked again about the issue Friday, O’Rourke said it’s up to Congress to decide and that the 2020 presidential election is the best way to remove Trump from office. But he hasn’t changed his opinion on the president’s guilt.

“If you’re asking me, has the president committed impeachable offenses? Yes. Period,” O’Rourke said.

2. Immigration/border security

O’Rourke, who switches fluidly between English and Spanish, represented the border city of El Paso, and has supported comprehensive immigration reform. He also has said he believes undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, or Dreamers, deserve a path to citizenship. O’Rourke has sharply denounced Trump’s border wall and anti-immigration policies, railing against the administration’s family separations and attempts to reject asylum seekers at the border.

He said the border barrier in El Paso should be taken down.

3. Taxes

O’Rourke told CBS This Morning on Friday that he favors raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, though he declined to name numbers.

“I think corporations should be asked to pay a greater share into the success of this country,” he said. “The wealthiest at a time of historic income inequality should be asked to pay a greater share. I don’t know what the levels should be at, but I know that the tax cuts from nearly two years ago of $2 trillion at a time that we had $21 trillion in debt, at a moment of extraordinary need across the country, was one of the most irresponsible things that the country has ever done.”

4. Climate change/environment

O’Rourke, who has a 95 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, would reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. As a Senate candidate, he touted incentives for new and renewable energy sources, and previously has called for investment in clean energy and opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.

He said after announcing his run for president on Thursday that he supports the idea of a Green New Deal, but without delving into specifics.

5. Capitalism

It’s a question every 2020 Democrat has been asked, thanks to the presence in the race of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a self-described democratic socialist.

O’Rourke, who owned a small web design business, calls himself a capitalist but makes it clear he sees major flaws with the system.

“Now having said that, it is clearly an imperfect, unfair, unjust and racist capitalist economy,” O’Rourke said at a campaign event in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on Friday.

6. Criminal justice

As a Senate candidate, O’Rourke, who has said he was arrested as a young man for forcible entry and for drunk driving, called for eliminating private, for-profit prisons, legalizing marijuana and expunging the records of those imprisoned for its possession. He also backed ending mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses and instead treating addiction as a public health concern. O’Rourke backed eliminating the cash bail system, which he says punishes the poor disproportionately and creating “meaningful reentry” programs to reduce recidivism.

7. Economy

O’Rourke, who was a member of the fiscally moderate New Democrat Coalition, says the country needs to use the power of the market to address major challenges. But he also supports some regulations to protect consumers and stronger antitrust laws to break up monopolies.

He has opposed Trump’s tariffs, saying they lead to tit-for-tat treatment that makes U.S. products more expensive and less competitive and ultimately impacting jobs, while also saying that he supports fairer trade deals. O’Rourke has rated highly with labor unions, calling for beefed-up worker retraining programs and a $15 minimum wage.

8. Gun control

He has called for a ban on certain semiautomatic assault rifles, supported universal background checks and opposed concealed carry reciprocity, which would allow those permitted to carry a concealed firearm in one state to do so in others.

9. Education

O’Rourke has opposed school vouchers and called for increasing aid to public schools in low-income areas, according to The Washington Post. He also has supported focusing less on standardized testing and giving teachers more autonomy.

Vaughn Hillyard contributed.



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Buttigieg, a military vet, says Trump pretended to be disabled to dodge the draft

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By Josh Lederman

WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg accused President Trump on Thursday of exploiting his privileged upbringing to “fake a disability” during the Vietnam War so that “somebody could go to war in his place.”

Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan as a Navy intelligence officer, sought to use his own military background to draw a sharp contrast with Trump during a “Washington Post Live” interview. Pressed on whether he believed that Trump, who cited bone spurs in his heel to be exempted from the draft, had a disability, Buttigieg suggested he did not — “at least not that one.”

“If you’re a conscientious objector, I’d admire that,” said Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor and Democratic 2020 contender. “But this is somebody who, I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multi-millionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place.”

Allegations that Trump dodged the draft have been a sore spot for the president dating back to his 2016 presidential campaign, when it was revealed that he had received five deferments from service in the Vietnam War — four for education and one for a diagnosis of bone spurs.

Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, told the House Oversight Committee in February that Trump had told him “there was no surgery” and “You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”

Buttigieg also lambasted the president for reportedly considering pardons for several U.S. service members or contractors convicted or accused of war crimes, calling it “disgusting.”

“If you are convicted by a jury of your military peers of committed a war crime, the idea that the president is going to overrule that is an affront to the idea of good order and discipline and to the idea of the rule of law, the very thing we believe we’re putting our lives on the line to defend,” Buttigieg said.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

But Buttigieg in recent days has increasingly attracted Trump’s attention as he’s gained traction in the Democratic presidential primary. Trump earlier this month mocked Buttigieg as Alfred E. Neuman, the goofy cartoon mascot of Mad Magazine, and criticized Fox News for hosting Buttigieg on Sunday for a town hall event.

As Buttigieg works to increase his appeal to black voters, he blasted Trump on Thursday for what he described as “the racism that is emanating from this White House.” Asked whether Trump is a racist, Buttigieg said, “I think so.”

“If you do racist things and say racist things, the question of whether that makes you a racist is almost academic,” Buttigieg said. “The problem with the president is that he does and says racist things and gives cover to other racists.”

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Bank CEO Stephen Calk charged with soliciting Manafort for Trump admin job

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By Tom Winter, Joe Valiquette and Adiel Kaplan

Bank CEO Stephen Calk tried to exchange $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort for a top position within the Trump administration, according to an indictment against the banking executive unsealed Thursday.

Calk, the president of the Federal Savings Bank, approved millions in “high-risk loans in an effort to secure a personal benefit, namely to an appointment as Secretary of the Army, or another similar high-level position in the incoming presidential administration,” said Deputy U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss of the Southern District of New York.

Stephen CalkThe Federal Savings Bank

Federal investigators were probing last year whether Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair, promised Calk a job in the White House in return for $16 million in home loans, NBC News first reported in February 2018.

Calk, who surrendered to the FBI Thursday morning, allegedly approved multiple high-risk loans for Manafort, who urgently needed them to avoid foreclosure. While the loans were pending approval, Calk allegedly provided Manafort with a ranked list of positions he desired. At its head were the two top positions at the U.S. Treasury, followed by Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Defense. The list also included 19 high-level ambassadorships, among them ambassador to the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.

Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City, Virginia and the Hamptons. The three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News last February.

The loans raised red flags at the bank in part because of Manafort’s history of defaulting on prior loans and that the size made Manafort’s debt the single largest lending relationship at the bank, according to prosecutors. Calk was required to authorize an unusual lending scheme to avoid passing the lending cap to a single borrower.

In exchange, Manafort provided Calk with personal benefits, prosecutors said. The bank CEO was appointed to Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers in August 2016, just days after the bank approved a proposed $9.5 million loan to Manafort.

According to the indictment, Manafort and his son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, approached the bank in an effort to refinance loans tied to a construction project in Los Angeles.

During a meeting held on July 27, 2016 — while Manafort was Trump campaign chairman — Calk allegedly broached the idea of him joint the Trump campaign. By the next day, the first loan of $5.7 million was approved. Less than a week later, Manafort offered Calk a position on the economic advisory committee for Donald Trump, according to the indictment.

Calk issued another loan for over $9 million later in the fall of 2016. Then, Calk reached out to Manafort asking him if he was involved in the Trump presidential transition following the election, according to the indictment.

Manafort allegedly responded, “total background but involved directly.”

Shortly after the election, in November or December 2016, Manafort recommended Calk for an administrative position, leading to a formal interview of Calk for Under Secretary of the Army at the transition team headquarters in Trump Tower in 2017. When Manafort made the recommendation, he had more than $6 million in loans pending approval at Calk’s bank.

Calk ultimately was not hired for the position.

Months later, the loans to Manafort were downgraded by the banks regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Calk allegedly lied to regulators, telling them he never desired a position in the presidential administration.

A November 14, 2016 email Calk sent to Manafort that included his resume and list of desired positions in ranked order was as exhibit in the Manafort trial.

Charlie Gile contributed.



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European elections UK results time: What time is the result of EU election due?

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THE EUROPEAN elections kicked off in the UK this morning, with polling stations open from 7am. What time is the result of the EU election due?

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