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US Senate confirms former Exxon CEO as Secretary of State

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The U.S. Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state on Wednesday, filling a key spot on the Republican’s national security team despite concerns about the former Exxon Mobil Corp  chief executive officer’s ties to Russia.

In the vote, 56 senators backed Tillerson, and 43 voted no. The tally was largely along party lines, with every Republican favoring Tillerson, along with four members of the Democratic caucus, Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner as well as Angus King, an independent.

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Democratic Senator Chris Coons did not vote.

Senate Democrats had tried, but failed, to delay the vote because of Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries and temporarily halting the entry of refugees.

They said they wanted to ask Tillerson more questions about the issue after Trump signed the order on Friday.

Senators had also expressed concerns over Tillerson’s ties to Russia after the executive spent years there working for the oil company. Some faulted him for failing to promise to recuse himself from matters related to Exxon Mobil businesses for his entire term as secretary of state rather than only the one year required by law.

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Republicans said they thought Tillerson would be a strong leaders as the country’s top diplomat. They also said it was important to fill key slots on Trump’s national security team quickly.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Alden Bentley and Jeffrey Benkoe)


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Elections 2016

Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson send anti-trans signals to Trump’s evangelical base

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While Trump grabs headlines, his Cabinet members quietly use transphobia to shore up white evangelical support

The white evangelical vote is almost certainly a lock for Donald Trump in 2020, but it appears the president is taking no chances of losing this critical voting block. One major part of that strategy appears to be quietly deploying his Cabinet members, especially those associated with the Christian right, to generate stories highlighting the Trump administration's overt bigotry toward trans people, and its eagerness to deprive trans Americans of basic rights.

Just this week, both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson snagged coverage by making community visits that were ostensibly for noble purposes, but were clearly meant to signal to Christian right voters their hostility to trans rights.

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Elections 2016

Intelligence official directly contradicts Trump administration’s excuses for suppressing whistleblower

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A top official in the intelligence community has disputed the factual basis for the Trump administration’s suppression of a whistleblower complaint believed to regard the potential misconduct of the president himself, a new letter released Thursday revealed.

The letter was made public by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). He is locked into a fierce and potentially explosive dispute with an array of forces within the administration to obtain the complaint, which was made through proper channels by an intelligence official last month to the community’s inspector general. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was “credible” and “urgent,” and subsequent reporting from the Washington Post found that it concerns a “promise” made by Trump in communication with a foreign leader.

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Longtime GOP strategist explains why his party is getting crushed in the war of ideas

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Republican strategist Stuart Stevens on Wednesday warned the GOP that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) might not be a pushover candidate against President Donald Trump in 2020.

Writing on Twitter, Stevens admitted that he had "no idea" if Warren would beat Trump next year, but he did say that "Trump and supporters are destroying [the] credibility of any center-right argument" thanks to Trump's "corrupt and unstable" governance.

When one of Stevens' followers said that Warren would not be able to fulfill her promises just by taxing the wealthy, he countered that this idea is still more popular than anything Republicans are championing.

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