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Trump official paid president’s campaign $744,000 for experts to pump up her ‘personal brand’: report

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In April, President Donald Trump’s Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma faced public backlash after a report detailed a $2.25 million contract she awarded to Republican consultants to bolster her own public image.

But the scandal may have been even worse than that. According to Politico, among the 40 outside contractors hired as part of this contract included “eight former White House, presidential transition and campaign officials for President Donald Trump” — who charged up to $380 per hour for “strategic communications” work and relied on the federal government’s convoluted contractor system to conceal what they were doing.

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Among the contractors Verma hired were Marcus Barlow, her former spokesman when she was consulting for Mike Pence while he was governor of Indiana. Barlow’s contract allowed him to bill up to $425,000 in one year — which is more than twice the salary of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Also hired were Ken and Keith Nahigian, who worked for multiple GOP presidential campaigns and the Trump transition team, Brad Rateike, who advised the Trump campaign, and Maggie Mulvaney, a Republican fundraiser who is now working on Trump’s re-election team.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deny anything improper, with a spokesperson saying, “When the administrator started in 2017, [Verma] wanted to ensure that the agency was communicating with the American people about CMS programs and not just relying on inside-the-beltway health press. At that point, CMS did not have the specialized expertise or bandwidth needed to execute on a strategic communications plan for the agency’s work in ensuring all Americans have access to affordable, high quality health care.”

Verma has long been a controversial figure in the Trump administration. She is the mastermind behind the plan to encourage states to disenroll working-age adults without a job from Medicaid, which resulted in tens of thousands of low-income people — including some who are working — being kicked off the rolls in Arkansas. This work requirements plan is largely stalled in federal court.


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New York couple point guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their house

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A New York couple pointed guns at protesters marching past their house during a Black Lives Matter rally, and activists want them to be charged.

Protesters were nearing the end of their parade route when a white man came out of his home shouting obscenities in an apparent attempt to incite the group, and then yelled to his wife to get his gun, reported WNYT-TV.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, who took part in the march, said the woman came back outside and started waving the gun around.

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Australian columnist aghast at America’s ‘rotten’ COVID-19 response: ‘We are witnessing the fall of a great power’

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A columnist for an Australian newspaper has been watching the United States' response to the novel coronavirus with a mix of shock and horror -- and he now believes "we are witnessing the fall of a great power."

Crispin Hull, an editor and columnist for The Canberra Times, argues in his latest column that President Donald Trump's disastrous handling of the pandemic is symbolic of deep rot within the American political system.

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Largest bank in the US holds back $10 billion anticipating Americans won’t be able to pay their mortgage

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Last week it was revealed that nearly one-third of Americans couldn't pay their mortgages or their rent. It's the third month in a row with over 30 percent of American renters and homeowners showing that they're in trouble, despite the stimulus check from Washington.

Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal wrote that the largest bank in the United States, JP Morgan Chase, put aside $10 billion, anticipating that the numbers of home loan defaults are going to get far worse.

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