Trump forces out Jeff Sessions as US attorney general
By ERIC TUCKER
Wednesday, November 7
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country’s chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation.
Sessions told the president in a one-page letter that he was submitting his resignation “at your request.”
Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former United States attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the president’s Republican campaign and Russia.
The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into the attorney general’s tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the Mueller investigation.
Trump blamed the decision for opening the door to the appointment of Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump’s hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice and stymie the probe.
Asked whether Whitaker would assume control over Mueller’s investigation, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be “in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.” The Justice Department did not announce a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller more than a year and a half ago and has closely overseen his work since then.
Whitaker once opined about a situation in which Trump could fire Sessions and then appoint an acting attorney general who could stifle the funding of Mueller’s probe.
“So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt,” Whitaker said during an interview with CNN in July 2017.
Asked if that would be to dwindle the special counsel’s resources, Whitaker responded, “Right.”
In an op-ed for CNN, Whitaker wrote: “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.”
The relentless attacks on Sessions came even though the Alabama Republican was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and despite the fact that his crime-fighting agenda and priorities — particularly his hawkish immigration enforcement policies — largely mirrored the president’s.
But the relationship was irreparably damaged in March 2017 when Sessions, acknowledging previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador and citing his work as a campaign aide, recused himself from the Russia investigation.
The decision infuriated Trump, who repeatedly lamented that he would have never selected Sessions if he had known the attorney general would recuse. The recusal left the investigation in the hands of Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel two months later after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.
The rift lingered for the duration of Sessions’ tenure, and the attorney general, despite praising the president’s agenda and hewing to his priorities, never managed to return to Trump’s good graces.
The deteriorating relationship became a soap opera stalemate for the administration. Trump belittled Sessions but, perhaps following the advice of aides, held off on firing him. The attorney general, for his part, proved determined to remain in the position until dismissed. A logjam broke when Republican senators who had publicly backed Sessions began signaling a willingness to consider a new attorney general.
In attacks delivered on Twitter, in person and in interviews, Trump called Sessions weak and beleaguered, complained that he wasn’t more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and called it “disgraceful” that Sessions wasn’t more serious in scrutinizing the origins of the Russia investigation for possible law enforcement bias — even though the attorney general did ask the Justice Department’s inspector general to look into those claims.
The broadsides escalated in recent months, with Trump telling a television interviewer that Sessions “had never had control” of the Justice Department and snidely accusing him on Twitter of not protecting Republican interests by allowing two GOP congressmen to be indicted before the election.
Sessions endured most of the name-calling in silence, though he did issue two public statements defending the department, including one in which he said he would serve “with integrity and honor” for as long as he was in the job.
The recusal from the Russia investigation allowed him to pursue the conservative issues he had long championed as a senator, often in isolation among fellow Republicans.
He found satisfaction in being able to reverse Obama-era policies that he and other conservatives say flouted the will of Congress, including by encouraging prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges they could and by promoting more aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana law. He also announced media leak crackdowns, tougher policies against opioids and his Justice Department defended a since-abandoned administration policy that resulted in parents being separated from their children at the border.
His agenda unsettled liberals who said that Sessions’ focus on tough prosecutions marked a return to failed drug war tactics that unduly hurt minorities and the poor, and that his rollbacks of protections for gay and transgender people amount to discrimination.
Some Democrats also considered Sessions too eager to do Trump’s bidding and overly receptive to his grievances.
Sessions, for instance, directed senior prosecutors to examine potential corruption in a uranium field transaction that some Republicans have said may have implicated Clinton in wrongdoing and benefited donors of the Clinton Foundation. He also fired one of the president’s primary antagonists, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, just before he was to have retired — a move Trump hailed as a “great day for democracy.”
Despite it all, Sessions never found himself back in favor with the president.
Their relationship wasn’t always fractured. Sessions was a close campaign aide, attending national security meetings and introducing him at rallies in a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
But the problems started after he told senators during his confirmation hearing that he had never met with Russians during the campaign. The Justice Department, responding to a Washington Post report, soon acknowledged that Sessions had actually had two encounters during the campaign with the then-Russian ambassador. He recused himself the next day, saying it would be inappropriate to oversee an investigation into a campaign he was part of.
The announcement set off a frenzy inside the White House, with Trump directing his White House counsel to call Sessions beforehand and urge him not to step aside. Sessions rejected the entreaty. Mueller’s team, which has interviewed Sessions, has been investigating the president’s attacks on him and his demands to have a loyalist in charge of the Russia investigation.
Sessions had been protected for much of his tenure by the support of Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who had said he would not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general if Trump fired him.
But that support began to fade, with Grassley suggesting over the summer that he might have time for a hearing after all.
And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Judiciary Committee member who once said there’d be “holy hell to pay” if Trump fired Sessions, called the relationship “dysfunctional” and said he thought the president had the right after the midterm to select a new attorney general.
Trump celebrates GOP gains, threatens House Democrats
By JONATHAN LEMIRE, CATHERINE LUCEY and DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Wednesday, November 7
WASHINGTON (AP) — As Washington came to grips with its new divided reality, President Donald Trump on Wednesday reveled in his party’s Senate victories, mocked members of his own party who lost after not seeking his support and even suggested he may be able to govern more effectively after losing a chamber of Congress.
Trump faces the prospect, starting early next year, of endless investigations after Democrats formally take control of the House, along with stymied policy efforts and fresh questions about the resilience of his unorthodox political coalition. Still, he celebrated Republicans’ success in retaining the Senate and seemed to blame losing GOP candidates for distancing themselves from him and his unorthodox methods.
He took an unabashed victory lap and, despite the split decision, declaring in a free-wheeling, combative, 90-minute White House news conference that “I thought it was very close to complete victory.” He also belittled the number of high-profile Democrats, including his predecessor, who crisscrossed the nation to support their candidates, while suggesting that he alone was responsible for the Republican triumphs.
“I only had me. I didn’t have anybody else,” Trump said.
Though boasting that Republicans appear likely to hold the highest number of Senate seats in 100 years, Trump was quick to distance himself from his party’s failure to maintain control of the House. In a remarkable scene, he called out defeated Republicans by name — “Too bad, Mike” at one moment, “Mia Love gave me no love and she lost” at another — and blamed them for not embracing his agenda.
“Candidates who embraced our message of lower taxes, low regulation, low crime, strong borders and great judges excelled last night,” said Trump. “On the other hand, you had some that decided to, ‘Let’s stay away. Let’s stay away.’ They did very poorly. I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”
The president’s rebuke was felt on Capitol Hill. Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania who announced his retirement earlier this year, tweeted his displeasure with the president’s diatribe, writing that his colleagues have had to “bite ur lip more times you’d care to; to disagree & separate from POTUS on principle & civility in ur campaign; to lose bc of POTUS & have him piss on u. Angers me to my core.”
Trump suggested there could be room for bipartisanship, declaring that Democrats — who made opposing him a centerpiece to their campaign — would, in fact, be eager to work with him on issues like infrastructure. But the olive branch he extended was studded with thorns as he declared that Republicans would retaliate if Democrats use their control of the House to issue subpoenas to seek his tax returns and investigate his business dealings, his Cabinet’s conduct and his campaign’s ties to Russia.
“They can play that game, but we can play it better. Because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” Trump said. “If that happens, then we’re going to do the same thing and government would come to a halt and we’re going to blame them.”
But the White House news conference was also quickly overtaken by Trump’s ongoing attacks on the media, as the president repeatedly flashed his temper as he insulted several reporters by name, interrupted their questions, ordered some to sit down and deemed one inquiry “racist.” He also sidestepped repeated questions about upcoming staffing changes in his West Wing or Cabinet — including the fate of embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions — but hinted that moves could be coming soon.
On Tuesday, the president telephoned House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a conversation that her office said included congratulations and a nod to her pitch for bipartisanship. And on Wednesday, he said she deserves to be House speaker.
“I give her a lot of credit. She works very hard and she’s worked long and hard. I give her a great deal of credit for what she’s done and what she’s accomplished,” Trump said.
Widely viewed as a referendum on Trump’s presidency, Tuesday’s results offered a split decision that revealed deep tensions in the American electorate — a rift that could easily widen during two years of divided control of Congress. Trump’s aggressive campaign blitz, which paid off in some key victories, suggests he is likely to continue leaning into the fray.
Control of the House gives Democrats the ability to launch investigations into the president and stifle his agenda, but White House aides called on them to reach across the aisle.
“I don’t know that there will be much of an appetite for Democrat lawmakers to spend all of their time, or most of their time or even a fraction of their time investigating, instigating, trying to impeach and subpoena people,” said Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
In addition to his conversation with Pelosi, Trump called Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as other candidates he backed during the race, the White House said. And he downplayed reports of voter irregularity and suppression, particularly in Georgia, instead saying, “I heard it was very efficient in Georgia.”
Trump had aggressively campaigned in the closing days of the race, his focus on boosting Republicans in states he carried in 2016.
In the three races he targeted on the final day, Trump’s picks won Tuesday night, with Republican Mike Braun defeating Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Republican Josh Hawley defeating Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine defeating Democrat Richard Cordray in the race for Ohio governor.
The White House for days has stressed the historical headwinds it faced: In the last three decades, 2002 was the only midterm election when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats. And only twice in the past eight decades has the president’s party picked up House seats in the midterms.
Trump’s shadow loomed large over the results. Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, while about 25 percent said they voted to express support for Trump.
Overall, more voters disapproved of Trump’s job performance than approved — a finding that is largely consistent with recent polling. Voters scored Trump positively on the economy and for standing up “for what he believes in.” But the president received negative marks from voters on temperament and trustworthiness.
Still, about one-third of voters said Trump was not a factor in their votes.
Trump’s scorched-earth campaigning came to define the 2018 campaign. In the final days, he sought to motivate supporters with the battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Returning to his immigration-heavy 2016 playbook, Trump went on to unleash his full fury on a caravan of migrants slowly making their way to the southern border. His take-no-prisoners approach troubled many Republicans seeking to appeal to moderate voters in suburban House districts, but Trump prioritized base voters in the deep-red states that could determine the fate of the Senate.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
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Experimental compound reduces Gulf War illness-like behavior in mice
Study designed to mimic prevention and therapy strategies
SAN DIEGO – An experimental drug is showing some promise in stopping mood abnormalities and cognitive disorders similar to those seen in people with Gulf War illness, an animal study suggests.
The research was presented Nov. 7 in San Diego at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting.
“Our results in mice indicate that this small experimental molecule is capable of preventing development of cognitive difficulties and mood deficits if the treatment starts early,” said Glenn Lin, the study’s principal investigator and a professor of neuroscience at The Ohio State University.
“Importantly, we also found that this small molecule can significantly ameliorate cognitive and mood problems when the symptoms are already present,” said Lin, who is part of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.
Gulf War illness is characterized by a cluster of central nervous symptoms believed to have been caused by a combination of wartime exposures that are not well-understood.
“These veterans have difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering recent information and trouble finding words when speaking. They also often feel down or depressed, irritable, moody and anxious, and have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep,” Lin said.
There currently is no medication known to improve these problems.
The Ohio State lab and others working on Gulf War illness have found that dysregulation of glutamate, a major neurotransmitter in the brain, may contribute to the symptoms patients experience. The scientists – including a team at Harvard Medical School – have collaborated to develop potential therapies that normalize the glutamate activity.
The molecule tested at Ohio State normalizes dysregulation of glutamate in the brain, Lin said.
In the study being presented in San Diego, researchers tested the experimental treatment in mice with deficits comparable to those seen in people with Gulf War illness, said lead researcher and post-doctoral researcher Xueqin Wang.
The treated mice were given the compound early, in a study designed to mimic a preventive therapy.
“In people, this would be like giving a drug to soldiers before exposures that could cause illness,” she said.
In the treated mice, compared to untreated animals, the researchers saw less behavior that would be comparable to anxiety and depression and also found some evidence of improved memory, she said.
Now, the team is working on a study designed to mimic treatment after symptoms arise – rather than preventive treatment, Wang said.
More research is needed to detail how the molecule may interact with the brain before it could be tested in humans, Lin said, adding that his team and others are studying the compound for use in a variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
URL : http://news.osu.edu/experimental-compound-reduces-gulf-war-illness-like-behavior-in-mice/