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Two Democratic senators threaten to hold up Trump EPA nominee

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Two Democratic senators said on Wednesday they may hold up the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency nominee Susan Bodine until she explains her advisory role at the agency, which may violate federal law.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon sent a list of questions to Bodine, Trump’s pick to head up the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, about her current role as special counsel to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt while she waits out the confirmation process.

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Whitehouse and Merkley said by advising Pruitt on enforcement matters before being confirmed by the Senate, Bodine may be violating the Federal Vacancies Reform Act that prohibits nominees from assuming the authorities of the office before being confirmed by Congress.

“Your appointment creates the appearance, and perhaps the effect, of circumventing the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent responsibility for the position to which you have been nominated,” the Senators wrote. 

This means that subjects of EPA enforcement actions could potentially challenge the validity of these actions in court if her role in these decisions is deemed “improper,” they said.

Pruitt is the only EPA appointee to have been confirmed since Trump took office in January. Bodine is still awaiting a full Senate vote after her Senate confirmation hearing in July, while four other assistant administrator nominees are set for confirmation hearings on Sept. 20.

Democratic lawmakers have been at odds with Pruitt since his narrow-margin confirmation in February over his close ties to industry, his doubts about human-caused climate change, planned drastic cuts of the EPA’s budget and workforce and ethics requirements for political appointees.

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The senators also asked Bodine if she was involved in a recent EPA decision to enforce an Obama-era rule to regulate methane leaks from new oil and gas infrastructure on a “case by case” basis rather than fully enforcing it.

Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, chair of the Senate environment committee, said Bodine should get her full Senate vote immediately.

“It is a shame that the critical post of the assistant administrator charged with leading enforcement at the EPA remains unfilled,” Barrasso said through a spokesman.

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The EPA was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Colbert names Trump’s siege on DC the ‘Tinyman Square’ incident

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It wasn't quite Tiananmen Square, where a still-unknown number of Chinese protesters were murdered by the government in 1989, but it was the closest thing President Donald Trump managed to score this week.

After watching the footage of the military tear gas, beat and shoot at protesters so Trump could march from the presidential bunker to St. John's Church for the cameras.

"It was like Tiananmen Square," Colbert deemed. "Except, in Trump's case, Tinyman Square."

Trump claimed on "The Fox & Friends" that no one was tear-gassed, so it's unclear what was stinging people's eyes and making them cough, choke and tear up. The Park Police released a statement saying it wasn't tear gas. While the moment was captured on video from dozens of different camera angles, one protester actually grabbed a canister of Oleoresins Capiscum, or "OC," the gas that was used.

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Vladimir Putin must love watching the US fall apart: columnist

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New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser made the astute observation that if Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to destabilize the United States with the election of President Donald Trump, he's clearly achieved his objective.

It was reported in March that Russian intelligence services are working to incite violence using white supremacist groups to try and sow racial chaos in the United States ahead of the November election.

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Conservative columnist links all Republicans to the attack on Lafayette Square

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Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump decided to walk across Lafayette Square for a photo-op. To get there, however, it took an outright battle with mounted park police, police covered in body armor and rattled Secret Service members who had just rushed the president to the bunker several nights before. Armed with semi-automatic weapons and military gear, they staged a siege on Lafayette Square against unarmed hippies, woke whites and people of color, again, forced to fight for justice.

Writing for the Washington Post Wednesday, conservative columnist Max Boot attacked Attorney General Bill Barr, who accepted responsibility for demanding that demonstrators be tear-gassed, beaten and shot with rubber bullets. Like Bull Conor ordering fire hoses on students marching in Birmingham, Alabama, Barr's attack on Lafayette Square for a photo-op proved he is willing to do what it takes to stroke the fractured ego of a president forced to cower in a bunker.

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