Pence on Porter scandal: 'The White House could've handled this better'

Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the White House mishandled the allegations about former staff secretary Rob Porter that continue to roil the West Wing, a week after his resignation.

“This administration has no tolerance for domestic violence. Nor should any American,” Pence said during an interview with Mike Allen of Axios at a live event in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. “As I’ve said, and the White House has said, I think the White House could’ve handled this better. And I still feel that way.”

Pence’s comments are in stark contrast to those of White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was asked by Wall Street Journal on Monday if the White House should have handled Porter’s situation any differently.

“No,” Kelly said. “It was all done right.”

Kelly’s remark also appeared to be at odds with the sentiment of White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, who suggested on Friday that the administration “could have done better” in its handling of the Porter matter.

Porter resigned from his post last week after the allegations of domestic battery by his two ex-wives were published. Porter has denied the allegations. But multiple reports that Kelly knew about the allegations months before they were made public has led to speculation that his job may be in jeopardy.

The vice president was asked whether he was confident that Kelly has been fully honest and transparent about Porter’s departure with the White House brass.

Pence was evasive in his answer.

“There are very few Americans or American families that have served this nation more honorably or sacrificed more for this country than the family of Gen. John Kelly,” Pence said. Kelly’s son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

“John Kelly’s service in uniform, his distinguished service at our Department of Homeland Security — where there was a dramatic reduction of illegal crossings on our southern border — and his distinguished service as our chief of staff gives me and the president great confidence in this good man,” Pence added. “John Kelly has done a remarkable job as chief of staff for the president of the United States. And I look forward to continuing to work with him for many, many months to come.”

But Pence isn’t always known to have his finger on the pulse when it comes to palace intrigue.

Last week, while en route to the Winter Olympics, Pence said he first learned of Porter’s departure when the press did.

Pence was then asked by a reporter why he often seems “out of the loop” when it comes to major news coming out of the West Wing.

He did not answer that question directly either.

“It’s a great honor for me to serve as vice president,” Pence replied. “President Trump has been incredibly generous with the responsibilities and opportunities he’s given me.”

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Freeform Teen Comedy: Trump ‘Trolled His Way Into the White House’

The Freeform comedy Grownish follows Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) after she leaves her family home on ABC’s Blackish and goes off to college. She’s growing up and learning new things and, on the February 14 episode “Erase Your Social,” the lesson is about how to handle social media. Of course, they decided to make it about Trump.

Zoey finds out that one of her friends, Nomi (Emily Arlook), finds joy trolling people online, especially people who are popular like Janelle Monae and Anna Kendrick. She wants Zoey’s roommate Ana (Francia Raisa) to get in on the fun and, in doing so, tries to talk up trolling. She says that trolling has actually changed the course of history. 

Nomi: Trolling is the great American art form. I mean, think about it. We finally get to take shots at whoever we want, whenever we want, with no repercussions. I mean, look at our president. He trolled his way into the White House.

The thing is, the data shows that even Trump’s supporters think that his tweets are risky, easily misunderstood, and are too often are in response to something he sees on television. His voters also think that his tweets are to be blamed for troubles that he has. It sounds like they agree with South Park that Trump should “put it down” and that it is not the reason he got into the White House. 

Aaron (Trevor Jackson) is having social media troubles of his own. He is proud of the fact that “I never like, comment, post, retweet anything unless it aligns with my, you know, political progressive vision.” However, when he shared something titled “Immigration Isn’t the Problem,” he didn’t realize that the piece argued that the problem is “Mexican gay Muslims,” and now he is “the black voice of the alt-right.” One of his new followers is Ted Nugent and Aaron’s pretty upset about that. He describes Nugent as follows: “I want you to picture Satan, but he’s from Michigan and he wears a cowboy hat.” 

What’s with liberals comparing people to “Satan?” Grownish has done a pretty good job of staying away from politics (unlike Blackish, from which this is a spin-off), but this episode not only went political, it did it poorly. 

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Another Trump White House staffer resigns amid abuse allegations

A second White House staffer, speechwriter David Sorensen, resigns amid allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife. It’s another stunning development in a week of damaging moments for Kelly, who is reportedly willing to resign over the developments.

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Leadership urges House Democrats to vote against budget deal as shutdown looms

WASHINGTON — With a potential shutdown looming, a bipartisan budget deal that is expected to pass the Senate on Thursday faces a decidedly uncertain future in the House of Representatives. With the conservative House Freedom Caucus opposed to the agreement, it is unlikely to pass without Democratic support. However, Yahoo News obtained an email Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s office sent to Democratic House members urging them to vote against the deal.


That instruction was prefaced with a request for members to tell House Democratic leadership how they’ll vote on the agreement — a sign that party leaders are trying to figure out where their members stand. Indeed, multiple top Democratic House staffers told Yahoo News that there is uncertainty among members about how many will follow leadership and vote against the agreement.

The government is set to shut down at midnight unless a budget deal is done. The Senate agreement would avert a shutdown, raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded for two years. It earned bipartisan support in the Senate because it contains increased spending for both defense and domestic programs. Pentagon budget increases have been a long-term goal of Republicans, and Democrats demanded they be coupled with funding for other programs.

Opposition to the agreement from Democrats stems from the fact that it does not address the expiring DACA program that shields from deportation some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. Democrats initially vowed not to back any budget deal that did not reinstate DACA in some form. Former President Barack Obama established the program through executive action in 2012, but President Donald Trump rescinded it last year, calling for congressional legislation to address the issue.

Last month’s brief government shutdown ended after Senate Democrats backed off that demand and supported the short-term measure that is keeping the government open through Thursday evening. That short-term deal did not need the support of House Democrats to pass, and members of the party’s liberal wing are concerned they would be unable to obtain a DACA fix from Republicans without the leverage of a looming shutdown.

Senate Democrats got onboard with the short-term deal after Minority Leader Chuck Schumer extracted a promise from Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would allow a vote on an immigration deal sometime soon. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she wants a similar pledge from House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Pelosi spent a little over eight hours on Wednesday delivering a marathon speech on the House floor where she shared the stories of the so-called Dreamers, who are protected from deportation by DACA.

“Our basic request is to honor the House of Representatives, give us a chance to have a vote on the floor,” Pelosi said near the conclusion of her remarks.

In response to Pelosi’s remarks, a spokesperson for Ryan, AshLee Strong, issued a statement touting his willingness to address DACA.

“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports,” Strong said.

However, Strong’s statement did not confirm that Ryan would allow an open immigration debate on the House floor. It also suggested that Ryan would back immigration reform only along the lines dictated by Trump. Late last month, the White House released an immigration framework that included steps to preserve DACA, but also contained measures that are opposed by Democrats such as stepped-up border security funding and curbs to current levels of legal immigration.

Slideshow: Activists protest against the Trump administration’s immigration policies >>>

At his weekly press conference on Thursday morning, Ryan urged House members of both parties to back the budget deal. He touted the increases in military spending as necessary and vital while promising wary Democrats “we want a DACA solution.”

“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment I share,” Ryan said. “To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign. We must pass this budget agreement first though so that we can get on to that.”

Neither Ryan or Pelosi’s office responded to a request for comment on this story from Yahoo News.

The conservative Freedom Caucus’s opposition to the budget deal stems from the fact that the spending increases will add to the national debt. In a text message to Yahoo News, Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, indicated that his group is staying firm in its opposition, leaving the deal in need of Democratic support. Meadows also predicted that Democrats would ultimately back the bill.

“It won’t pass without Democrat support, but I would estimate at least 100 Democrats vote for the budget deal today,” Meadows said.

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White House admits 'we all could have done better' on Porter departure

WASHINGTON — During the White House briefing on Thursday, deputy press secretary Raj Shah addressed criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of multiple domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter.

“I think it’s fair to say that … we all could have done better over the few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation,” Shah said.

Porter resigned on Wednesday, one day after allegations of spousal abuse became public. In an interview with the (U.K.) Daily Mail, Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, recounted Porter’s physical and verbal abuse during their marriage, allegations that Porter vehemently denied.

On Wednesday, the paper released a follow-up piece in which Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, made similar claims, and provided a photo of herself with a black eye that she said was caused by Porter.

Initially, when the Mail was set to release the interview with Willoughby, the White House provided multiple statements to the paper in support of Porter, including one from chief of staff John Kelly.

“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” Kelly said in a written statement.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders also gave a statement to the newspaper wherein she described Porter as “someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character.”

John Kelly, left, with Rob PorterJohn Kelly, left, with Rob Porter

At Wednesday’s White House briefing, hours before the second set of abuse allegations and accompanying photos emerged, Sanders said Porter had “been effective in his role as staff secretary” and added that “the president and chief of staff have had full confidence and trust in his abilities and his performance.” She also read a statement from Porter denying the charges. Sanders said Porter would be “leaving the White House” but would initially “stay on to ensure that there’s a smooth transition moving forward.”

All of that changed after the second set of accusations and the photographic evidence that accompanied them.

“I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition,” Kelly said in a subsequent statement.

The White House’s initial decision to stand by Porter in the face of domestic abuse accusations drew sharp criticism, forcing Shah to acknowledge the discrepancy between Kelly’s two statements during Thursday’s briefing.

“I think the second statement that he sent out reflected his thoughts,” Shah said. “Which is that these allegations are deeply troubling. They are shocking. And I think the first statement reflected, you know, the Rob Porter that we have known.”

Shah later said that Kelly’s final statement was, in part, based on the “additional allegations” and further information in the second report.

John Kelly with Donald Trump and North Korean defectorsJohn Kelly with Donald Trump and North Korean defectors

In addition to the controversy over the White House’s first public response to Porter, there have also been questions about when top administration officials first became aware of the abuse claims. Holderness told the Daily Mail that the FBI interviewed her about her marriage to Porter since he was being reviewed for a security clearance. CNN later reported that senior officials, including Kelly, were aware of the situation “for months.”

Shah began Thursday’s briefing by reading a statement in which he gave a description of the White House background check process.

“It’s important to remember that Rob Porter has repeatedly denied these allegations, and done so publicly,” Shah said. “That doesn’t change how serious and disturbing these allegations are. They’re upsetting, and the background check investigates both the allegations and the denials. The investigation does not stop when allegations come to light. It continues to determine the truth.”

When pressed about when, exactly, various White House officials had learned about the allegations of spousal abuse, Shah said he could not get into “specifics.”

Shah also did not answer a question about whether Kelly had been “partially aware” of the allegations prior to the second newspaper story and the photos of Holderness’s black eye.

“Well, I think we all became aware of the news reports that emerged on Wednesday morning, and some of the graphic images,” said Shah.

As staff secretary, Porter was responsible for the flow of documents in and out of the Oval Office, including sensitive and potentially classified information. Shah implied Porter’s background investigation was ongoing, and said he was operating with an “interim” security clearance.

Other top White House aides — including former deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law — have also been issued interim clearances. At the briefing, Shah was asked whether there are “a lot of other people, at the highest levels in the White House, operating under a temporary security pass.”

“I can’t get into that,” Shah replied.

Prior to the abuse allegations, the Daily Mail reported that Porter was in a romantic relationship with White House communications director Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s longest serving aides. Shah said Hicks had recused herself from “some matters concerning” Porter’s situation.

His first time behind the White House podium, Shah was filling in for Sanders at Thursday’s briefing, which was rescheduled multiple times and began over two hours later than it was originally scheduled.

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Verve Lux tiny house puts its toilet over the trailer tongue

With tiny homes, every bit of square footage matters. That’s the reason why transforming furniture, multifunctional or hidden stairs and utility rooms built over the trailer tongue are common.

But instead of placing a utility or storage room over the trailer tongue, Tru Form Tiny has placed a “toilet extension” instead, significantly increasing the floor area of one of the most commonly cramped areas in a tiny home: the bathroom.

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Surrounded with large picture windows that increase the sense of interior space, the Verve Lux is a more high-end model of the company’s Verve tiny home (which doesn’t have the bump-out), and is offered in lengths of 16, 20 or 22 feet long. The entry door is on the side, leaving both ends of the home open to other functions; there’s no loft nor stairs here, making the Verve suited to those who might have mobility issues or who hate low loft ceilings.

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Shown here is the 16-footer, which has everything packed in: a kitchen, living/sleeping area, fold-down deck, detachable awning and that bigger bathroom, thanks to the bump-out that houses the toilet.

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

It looks like a flush toilet in these particular photos, but we imagine that it’s just as possible to install a composting toilet instead.

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

The company says that the pull-out, L-shaped sofa-bed comes with the home. However, one can upgrade to a platform bed with a hydraulic lift and under-mattress storage as well. In addition, the company is offering kits to integrate smart home technologies as another possible option.

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

Tru Form Tiny© Tru Form Tiny

While the idea of gaining that bit of extra floor area by building over the trailer tongue isn’t new, it’s the first time we’ve seen it done for the toilet in order to add more space. Pricing for the Verve Lux starts at USD $45,900 — you can find more information over at Tru Form Tiny Homes.

[Via: Tiny House Town]

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Clean your house naturally with ‘The Modern Organic Home’

Using just a few key ingredients, this book can teach you how to scour everything from dirty ovens to leather boots to ceiling fans.

The Internet abounds with recipes for homemade cleaning products, but sometimes it’s nice just to have everything in one place. A new book called The Modern Organic Home: Recipes and Tips for Cleaning and Detoxing Your Home is what every green housekeeper should have. Written by Natalie Wise, who must have one heck of a spotless house, the book is a treasure-trove of cleaning recipes.

Wise’s eco-friendly cleaning journey began when she had allergic reactions to many conventional cleaners. That’s when she discovered how many of them contain toxic ingredients. After switching to green cleaners, she grew frustrated with how ineffective they were, and how she often had to “clean up after the cleaning products.”

Eventually, in an effort to cut down on costs, Wise began making her own cleaning products. That’s when she discovered that thorough cleaning really only requires a few basic ingredients: white vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap to start. In the introduction, Wise writes:

“Making my own cleaning products invested me in the cleaning process. It invested me in the health of my own home and self. I’ll be honest my interest was also partly monetary and partly, well, vain. A bottle of the standard tub-cleaning solution is nearly $6 these days, with the commercial organic version more than that. With an initial investment, you can keep your home clean for very little. Traditional chemical cleaners come in garish containers with warning labels all over them. I prefer a small tote full of natural ingredients in glass bottles and shakers, which looks clean and calm.”

The book is divided into chapters for each room of the house. Each chapter includes recommended steps for purging, cleaning, and organizing (a lite version of the decluttering, minimalist books I’ve reviewed before), followed by room-specific recipes.

As expected, DIY recipes tend to be repetitive because they contain many of the same ingredients, just in different quantities depending on what their job is. There are all the usual all-purpose countertop cleaners, microwave and oven cleaners, glass cleaner, scummy sink and shower scrubbers, and toilet bowl cleaner.

But Wise goes above and beyond with a bunch of unexpected recipes. Have you ever wondered how to revive wooden spoons? Try her “Wonder Wax”! Or restore copper pots’ shininess with ketchup, of all things. Use aluminium foil to get rust off bathroom faucets and make a refrigerator shiny again with a dash of olive oil.

She gives detailed cleaning instructions for random household objects, such as kids’ icky lunch bags, backpacks, running shoes, and stuffed animals. Readers will learn how to clean everything from computer screens to lampshades to makeup brushes. There’s an entire section on removing stains of all kinds. In other words, when this book says it’s about the entire Modern Organic Home, it really is.

Perhaps the best thing about Wise’s book is that it’s inspiring. It has certainly infected me with the spring cleaning bug and makes me want to get to work immediately.

The Modern Organic Home: Recipes and Tips for Cleaning and Detoxing Your Home (Skyhorse, 2018) is available on Amazon, $16

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Despite subpoena, Bannon will not testify before House committee

Steve Bannon


Former White House senior strategist Steve Bannon will not testify before the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, two sources said on Monday, despite a subpoena requiring him to appear.

The panel wants Bannon to testify as part of its investigation of allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 presidential election in the United States, following up on his Jan. 16 appearance that failed to satisfy some members of the committee.

Representative Mike Conaway, a senior Republican committee member, told reporters on Monday he expected Bannon to comply with a subpoena and answer questions on Tuesday.

But two sources familiar with the situation said he would not appear, which could leave Bannon facing a charge of contempt of Congress.

Bannon could not immediately be reached for comment.

One of the sources said the White House had not authorized Bannon to answer committee questions. During his Jan. 16 appearance, Bannon refused to answer questions about his time in President Donald Trump’s administration or the post-election presidential transition, committee members said.

The Intelligence Committee and the White House have not resolved the question of whether executive privilege would apply in Bannon’s case.

The House Intelligence Committee is one of three congressional committees, along with the Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller, investigating the allegations of Russian influence.

The source said Bannon would answer all of Mueller’s questions when he appears before him, which is expected next week.

Russia denies meddling in the election, and Trump has denied any collusion between his associates and Russia.

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