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Planned Parenthood hits back at conservative states for trying to block funding

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Planned Parenthood, the women’s healthcare group under attack recently by U.S. anti-abortion activists, hit back on Wednesday, criticizing some states for trying to block funding for the organization.

Shortly before making a speech at Georgetown University, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told reporters that a letter sent on Tuesday to state Medicaid agencies makes clear that efforts to defund her group are illegal.

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Federal Medicaid Director Vikki Wachino sent the letter to Medicaid agencies in all 50 U.S. states, warning them against cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood.

Wachino’s letter did not name Planned Parenthood directly, but said state Medicaid funds for healthcare providers may only be restricted if the provider cannot perform covered medical services or bill for services appropriately.

It added that states may not defund family planning providers solely because they offer a “full range” of legal gynecological and obstetric care, including abortions.

The letter made it “abundantly clear that recent efforts to prevent patients who rely on Medicaid from coming to Planned Parenthood or other providers for essential preventative services are illegal,” Richards said on a conference call.

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Medicaid is a U.S. government healthcare program for the poor of all ages; Medicare is for the elderly and disabled.

Funding for Planned Parenthood has been under fire since mid-2015. That was when anti-abortion activists began releasing covertly filmed videos purporting to show officials from the group trying to negotiate prices for aborted fetal tissue.

Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited.

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Planned Parenthood denied the accusations and called the probe politically motivated.

Marissa Padilla, spokeswoman for the Department of Health & Human Services, said the letter responded to “recent actions by some states to terminate agreements with providers and restrict individuals from receiving their care.”

Planned Parenthood officials said at least 24 states have moved to restrict access to care at the group’s clinics through Medicaid and other public funding programs since mid-2015.

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Federal officials had previously contacted individual states to warn about restricting beneficiaries’ access to care, though this was the first time they reached out to them all collectively.

Two weeks ago, California law enforcement agents raided the home of the head of the anti-abortion group that produced the videos and seized computers and video footage.

(Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alan Crosby)

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Corey Lewandowski was ‘trapped’ by Democrats — he should have declared the Fifth: Ex-US Attorney

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Former U.S. Attorney John Flannery told MSNBC that top aide to President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski, was trapped by Democrats during his testimony Tuesday.

During a panel discussion as the hearing continued, Flannery explained that Lewandowski should have pleaded the Fifth Amendment privilege because he ultimately trapped himself.

"I don’t think he was wily and effective and I thought he wore down toward the end," Flannery explained. "Several of the members got elements of the crime of conspiracy. And what people forget is that you don’t have to succeed in a conspiracy. And we have Trump asking him basically to kill the investigation by converting [Jeff] Sessions to their side and he’s told this but he doesn’t stop there. He does overt acts he writes down what the president wants Sessions to hear, he makes an appointment with Sessions, but sessions doesn’t show up, we don’t know if there’s any side conversation there. He puts the document in a safe and then he arranges for someone else to give it to Sessions. Then he has another meeting with Trump."

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WATCH: Lewandowski’s lawyer freaks out, tries to block Congress from asking any further questions

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During the House Judiciary Committee testimony of President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about the Russia investigation, Lewandowski's attorney frantically crashed the witness table and demanded that Congress stop asking questions of his client.

"Mister Chairman, as you know I am counsel for Mr. Lewandowski—" began the attorney.

"You are not a witness and you should not be seated at that table," cut in House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sharply.

"I understand that," said Lewandowski's attorney. "I will leave after I register a formal protest based upon the debate that I heard. These seem to be unauthorized questions and I know you choose your words carefully—"

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Congressman blasts ‘tough guy’ Lewandowski for blowing off hearing: He wants to ‘launch his senatorial campaign’

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) laid into President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski for his aggressive behavior before the House Judiciary Committee.

"As you know, Democrats want to call other witnesses for this impeachment investigation," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "Do you worry, though, that Lewandowski set the precedent for not cooperating?"

"Well, Lewandowski portrayed himself as a tough guy," said Jeffries. "He's a likely candidate for a Senate seat in New Hampshire. And he was there probably to try to launch his senatorial campaign, not to take seriously his responsibility as a witness to participate in this hearing on behalf of the effort to find the truth for the American people. But that is okay. Because the American people can judge Lewandowski based on what they've seen from today and in terms of whether he was participating in a cover-up or participating in effort to reveal information to the American people."

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