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Trump’s praise for Dana Rohrabacher comes back to haunt him

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Former Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California confirmed a shocking revelation to Yahoo News on Thursday — that he had offered a pardon to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2017 if he publicly disputed the notion that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee.

The offer was first reported on Wednesday when Assange’s lawyers revealed the exchange in a British court.

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But while Rohrabacher confirmed that he presented Assange with the idea, he said President Donald Trump was not aware of the possible pardon. Instead, Rohrabacher said that he discussed the pardon with then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after the Assange meeting. But while Kelly was “courteous,” Rohrabacher said, they never broached the topic again, and there’s no indication Trump was even made aware of it.

After the reports broke of the allegation on Wednesday, the White House quickly denied the president’s involvement.

“The president barely knows Dana Rohrabacher other than he’s an ex-congressman,” said Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. “He’s never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject. It is is a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never-ending hoax and total lie from the DNC.”

Many noted, however, that Trump had tweeted endorsements of the California congressman in 2018.

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According to his interview with Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, Rohrabacher sought to have Assange endorse the conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich, not Russia, had obtained the committee’s emails and turned them over to WikiLeaks. Rich was killed in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2016, and conspiracists tried to claim his murder was part of a nefarious plot by Democrats to frame Russia. But as Isikoff himself has thoroughly documented in the podcast Conspiracyland, these allegations are unsupported by the evidence. Meanwhile, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed extensive evidence implicating the Russian intelligence services in the hack of the DNC as part of a wider campaign to interfere in the 2016 election.


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Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers

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The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report

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The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.

But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.

"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."

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Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report

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According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.

As it turned out, that test was flawed.

Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."

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