TIME White House

Former White House Counsel Takes Name Out of Running for Attorney General

Nominating Kathy Ruemmler would have invited questions on advice she gave the President on an array of sensitive topics

Former White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler has removed her name from consideration to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General, a White House official confirmed Friday.

Ruemmler, once one of President Barack Obama’s closest aides, was seen as the front-runner for the nomination, which would have required Senate confirmation. Obama asked Ruemmler to consider taking the job in September, shortly after Holder informed Obama he intended to step down after nearly six years on the job. “She took the step this week at her own volition,” the official said.

Regardless of the outcome of next month’s midterm elections, nominating Ruemmler would have exposed her to questions on the nature of the advice she had given the president on an array of sensitive topics. The White House announced earlier this month that the president would not seek to announce a replacement for Holder before the elections.

Ruemmler was one of the lead prosecutors in the government’s case against former Enron executives and worked as a white-collar defense lawyer. She joined the Obama administration in 2009, rising to become the White House Counsel, the president’s in-house lawyer, before stepping down earlier this year.

“Kathy is someone who always tells it like it is, is a world class lawyer, and remains a trusted advisor to the president,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in a statement. “Anyone who knows Kathy knows she has impeccable judgment, extraordinary foresight, and is a formidable force. She is also as selfless as they come, and the president is proud to call her a close friend.”

The official said Obama had not yet decided on a successor to Holder, and has not made a determination of whether to announce the nomination during the lame-duck period after the election or after the new Congress is seated in January.

TIME ebola

Obama ‘Cautiously More Optimistic’ About Ebola

President Barack Obama speaks to the media after holding a meeting with his newly-appointed 'Ebola Response Coordinator' Ron Klain, along with other members of the team coordinating the Obama administration's ebola response efforts, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 22, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks to the media after holding a meeting with his newly-appointed 'Ebola Response Coordinator' Ron Klain, along with other members of the team coordinating the Obama administration's ebola response efforts, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 22, 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA

"If people want to make sure that... their families are safe, the very best thing they can do is make sure that everybody in their family is getting a flu shot"

President Barack Obama said Wednesday he is “cautiously more optimistic” about efforts to keep Ebola from spreading in the United States as his administration looks to centralize its response to the disease.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with aides, including his new “Ebola Response Coordinator” Ron Klain, Obama expressed relief that many of those who were potentially exposed to the first U.S. victim, Thomas Eric Duncan, have made it through the 21-day incubation period without contracting symptoms.

“What we’re seeing is that the public health infrastructure and systems that we are now putting in place across the board around the country should give the American people confidence that we’re going to be in a position to deal with any additional cases of Ebola that might crop up without it turning into an outbreak,” Obama said, reiterating that “the prospect of an outbreak here is extremely low.”

“If people want to make sure that, as we go into the holiday season, their families are safe, the very best thing they can do is make sure that everybody in their family is getting a flu shot, because we know that tens of thousands of people will be affected by the flu this season, as is true every season,” Obama said.

Obama’s comments come a day after U.S. officials required all travelers from West Africa to fly through one of five U.S. airports where enhanced screening procedures have been implemented. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would begin monitoring all travelers from West Africa for 21 days.

Klain, a longtime Washington political operative, began working in the West Wing Wednesday to lead the administration’s response to the epidemic in West Africa and efforts to keep it from U.S. shores. He is reporting to National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco.

Obama referenced the two Dallas nurses who contracted Ebola after treating Duncan, noting they appeared to be recovering. “Again, we’re cautiously optimistic,” Obama said. “They seem to be doing better. And we continue to think about them.” The president highlighted new CDC standards for personal protective equipment which were put in place following those infections.

“We’re going to systematically and steadily just make sure that every hospital has a plan, that they are displaying CDC information that is currently been provided so that they can take step-by-step precautions when they’re dealing with somebody who might have Ebola,” Obama said.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Offers Democrats A Killer Soundbite on Minimum Wage

Faith And Freedom Coalition Holds Policy Conference
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel on June 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It's not what he said. It's how it will sound when edited.

The journalist Michael Kinsley observed that “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s sin Tuesday provided a modern corollary.

Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Christie seemed to invite the controversy by saying, “I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am.”

On Twitter, Democrats instantly seized on the quote fragment. The Democratic National Committee and Democratic Governors Association swiftly blasted out statements in condemnation, as opposition research group American Bridge posted it to YouTube. “Our hearts are breaking,” said DNC Press Secretary Mike Czin in a statement. “Poor guy. It must be almost as tiring for him as it is for the millions of Americans who work full time but live in poverty because the minimum wage is too low.”

In proper context, Christie’s statement fit within the Republican Party’s longstanding position on the minimum wage: He argued the focus should be on creating minimum wage jobs, not raising the pay scale for the least-paid. “I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, ‘You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized,” Christie said. “Is that what parents aspire to for their children?”

But that more nuanced argument is not something most voters will hear this fall—or when Christie mounts a likely bid for the White House in 2016. Instead they are likely to hear “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage,” over and over and over again thanks to his Democratic foes, especially if Christie becomes the Republican Party’s nominee.

The moment was not unlike Mitt Romney’s 2012 line that “I like being able to fire people” when they do poor work—a tenet of the free market, but an statement that played into the insensitive rich guy narrative Democrats and his GOP primary opponents had already invested millions in developing.

In the modern campaign, where every public or private utterance is liable to be recorded or tweeted by a reporter or opposing tracker, Christie’s unforced error Tuesday wasn’t saying something wrong. It was saying something that could be edited to sound like something else entirely.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Releases 1 of 3 U.S. Detainees

Jeffrey Fowle
Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea speaks to the Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Wong Maye-E—AP

Jeffrey Fowle is on his way home, officials say

North Korea has released Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans who have been detained by the reclusive country, the White House confirmed Tuesday.

“I am in a position to confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to his family as we speak,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a briefing.

The U.S. negotiated Fowle’s release through the government of Sweden, which handles consular cases for American citizens in North Korea.

Fowle, who was visiting the country as a tourist, was arrested earlier this year for leaving a Bible in the restroom of a club. Two other Americans, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, continue to be held.

North Korea requested that the U.S. provide transportation for Fowle out of the country, and Earnest said the Department of Defense arranged transport for his trip back to the U.S.

TIME 2014 Election

Super PAC Backed by Nancy Pelosi Concedes Likely Democratic Defeat In 2014

Weeks before election day, Democrats have turned their sights to the next election cycle, hoping for better results.

The Nancy Pelosi-backed super PAC campaigning for House Democrats has thrown in the towel on the party’s chances to retake the House majority this year, telling donors in a email fundraising note that it needs their help for 2016.

“I don’t think I will shock anyone by saying that it is an uphill climb to win a majority in the House this year,” the email, titled “Long-term planning,” from House Majority PAC states. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t lay the groundwork for 2016 now.”

Acknowledging that retaking the majority was always a long shot at best for House Democrats is one thing, but saying it publicly just two weeks before polls close is another. Pelosi is barred by law from dictating messages to the super PAC, though it has a history of following her public comments. She has appeared at events for the group, which is run by former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aides and focused on her goal of retaking House control.

At a press conference earlier this month, Pelosi said, “I think we’ll do okay,” when asked about the upcoming election, before shifting focus to 2016. “You know what, their days are numbered,” she said of Republicans. “I know that in two years there will be a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.”

At an event Monday in San Francisco with Hillary Clinton, Pelosi again focused on 2016, without predicting the outcome of the current election cycle. “I am frequently introduced as the highest-ranking woman in political office in our country,” Pelosi said. “I’d like to give up that title and elect a Democratic woman for President of the United States. And soon.”

Last week DCCC Chair Steve Israel said the party is up for a “tough and unpredictable” election night, saying there are 32 races within six points—enough to tip the balance. But in recent weeks the party has had to refocus on shoring up its incumbents, not targeting potentially vulnerable Republicans.

The House Majority PPAC email was sent in the name of former DNC Chair and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. It says the party must keep fighting this year to maintain any hope of retaking the majority for the next Democratic president—a thinly-veiled hint to potential White House hopeful Hillary Clinton.

“Important legislative actions like raising the minimum wage and immigration reform are virtually dead,” the email continued. “Instead House Republicans would prefer to waste their time trying to dismantle Obamacare. That is exactly the fate our next Democratic president’s agenda will suffer in 2016 if we don’t regain the majority.”

“If we want to have a chance at 2016, we have to hold the line in the House now,” the email concludes.

In a follow-up email to donors Tuesday morning, House Majority PAC Executive Director doubled-down. “Did you see Governor Dean’s message, friend? He’s right. 2014 isn’t about winning the majority — it’s about laying the groundwork for electing a Democratic majority in 2016 to get our next Democratic president’s back.”

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the people who founded the House Majority PAC. They were former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aides.

TIME 2014 Election

GOP Wields Romney Fundraising List in Senate Battle

A potent tool for raising cash

If Republicans retake the Senate next month, they’ll have done it with a lot of help from Mitt Romney.

The former GOP presidential nominee’s digital operation may have been a generation behind President Barack Obama’s effort, but his email list has proven to be a potent fundraising too for the party as it looks for victory this fall. “It’s easily our most successful digital fundraising source,” said Matt Lira. executive director of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm. “As far as our fundraising is concerned, there’s the Romney list and there’s everything else.”

In the past week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has emailed the list no fewer than 16 times, many times with emails addressed from Romney himself, while the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republican’s campaign arm, has used it at least once.

Maintained in a nondescript office overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria by his former digital consulting firm Targeted Victory, the list is one of the Republican Party’s most valuable assets, containing millions of email addresses and records of more than 1.5 million digital donors to that campaign. “This is the largest donor base in the history of politics on the right,” said Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of the firm and the former Romney campaign’s digital director.

Moffatt’s firm maintains day-to-day control of the list and takes a cut of the fundraising proceeds and list maintenance fees, according to people familiar with the arrangement. The firm, which has been paid millions by the NRSC for its digital fundraising work, transferred more than $100,000 into Romney’s campaign account in June for the rights to use the list.

“Governor Romney is excited that Republican candidates and committees are making use of the Romney for President email list for fundraising and [get-out-the-vote purposes this cycle,” said Romney aide Kelli Harrison. “Hopefully access to this tool will make a difference in races all across the country.”

The value is clear, Lira said. “It’s the largest list of people who are predisposed to donate, predisposed to volunteer, predisposed to vote Republican,” he said. “The Romney donor base is broader, compared to some more ideological lists.” When donors give through the Romney list, it both freshens the underlying list and provides the NRSC with a new contact for its internal lists.

Renters have the option of reaching out to the entire universe of donors, or just segments, like those who purchased merchandise or participated in contests on the Romney campaign, in hopes of generating greater return on investment.

In 2012, the Romney campaign, flush with cash, rented almost every GOP email list available so it could build its own list of contacts and donors, making it the most comprehensive collection of GOP emails, outstripping even the Republican National Committee according to industry sources.

“Email is king to online fundraising,” said Vincent Harris, whose firm Harris Media works for clients like Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell. He added the Targeted Victory arrangement “brings about a big point that candidates don’t think of: who owns their data?”

Lira declined to say how much the NRSC has raised off the Romney list; the committee has been massively outraised by its Democratic counterpart.

The Romney approach differs from that used by Obama, whose campaign also maintains control of the his small-dollar donor and volunteer lists for the use of Organizing for Action, the nonprofit issue advocacy group he has thrown his name behind. Obama transferred his data and other lists to the Democratic National Committee.

While the Romney list remains fresh, don’t look to it as evidence that the two-time White House hopeful will make a third bid. The list has also been used by potential 2016 candidates like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Rick Perry.

TIME 2014 Election

Obama White House Finds Ebola and ISIS Crises Silver Lining

US-VOTE-OBAMA
President Barack Obama casts a ballot in early voting for the 2014 midterm elections at the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Center October 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

An excuse for why he's not campaigning for more Democrats.

President Barack Obama has found a silver lining in months of global crises: an excuse for why he’s not out on the campaign trail for Democrats this fall.

Asked Monday if it was odd two weeks before the midterm elections that Obama was not spending more time on the road for Democrats, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz pointed to all the president’s other commitments, including the twin crises of Ebola and ISIS, which have upended Senate campaigns around the country.

“I don’t think it’s weird given everything that we are trying to manage,” he told reporters in Chicago, where Obama cast an early ballot this morning and held one of just seven pre-Election Day rallies last night. “As I think we’ve said now for some time there’s a lot of significant, complex situations going on both around the world and here at home and I think a lot of those issues have dominated the president’s time. Given that the elections are a few weeks away, obviously that is a priority as well. So I think you’ll see the president as he did yesterday campaign when he can.”

Few Democrats around the country have invited Obama out on the campaign trail, given his toxic appeal in swing states this cycle. Nationwide, Obama’s approval rating, as measured by Gallup, stands at 40%, just above his historic low of 38%. In the second week of October, 41% of the country disapproved of Obama’s performance, compared with the 37% approval rate George W. Bush had at the same point in his presidency.

Last week the White House announced that Obama would appear at only seven rallies in Democratic-leaning states, and would only appear with a single Democratic Senate candidate before Election Day. The Senate appearance will be with Gary Peters, a Democratic candidate in Michigan, who has been leading by double digits in some recent polls. One of the seven rallies, for Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, was postponed last week so Obama could attend meetings at the White House on Ebola. The White House said it would be rescheduled before the election.

Republicans need to pick up six seats to win control of the U.S. Senate next year. Current polling averages suggest the party is slightly favored to win at least that many, with fifteen days to go before polls close.

TIME 2014 Election

Obama Votes Early in Chicago

"I love voting"

President Barack Obama cast his ballot for November’s midterm elections on Monday during Illinois’ early-voting period, during a trip to the state to campaign with Democratic candidates.

Obama’s motorcade arrived at Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Center in his hometown of Chicago shortly after 11 a.m. to cast a ballot two weeks before Election Day. “I love voting,” Obama said. “Everybody in Illinois, early vote. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

When a poll worker if he was Barack Obama before handing the President his ballot, Obama replied, “That’s me.”

Obama declined reporters’ requests to say who he voted for, but he was in Illinois to campaign for Gov. Pat Quinn Sunday evening and appear at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee on Monday afternoon.

Immediately after voting, Obama stopped by a Quinn campaign office bearing donuts and pastries to inspect the get-out-the-vote effort for the Democratic governor. “Nothing like campaign fever,” he said.

“Michelle sent these,” Obama said of the treats, joking, “We got broccoli, carrots.”

TIME Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She Has Quite a Large Supply of Notorious RBG Shirts

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks with National Constitution Center president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, Sept. 6, 2013, in Philadelphia. Matt Rourke—AP

"Now my grandchildren love it"

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is intimately familiar with the popular Tumblr created in tribute to her, Notorious R.B.G.

At an event at the 92nd St Y in New York Sunday evening, Ginsburg said she maintains “quite a large supply” of t-shirts bearing her face and the reference to the late rapper Biggie Smalls, known also as The Notorious B.I.G. In an interview with National Public Radio legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, Ginsburg said she gives them out as gifts.

Totenberg: On a somewhat lighter note, I want to ask you about the Notorious RBG t-shirt.[Applause, Cheers]. I gather there are some people he who’ve worn them. I wear mine on the weekends all the time. And people will occasionally—The guy at the drug store said to me last weekend, he said, who is that woman, she looks very familiar, but who is she? I said she’s a supreme court justice. He said, oh good, I’ve learned something today. So how did you find out about the notorious RBG t-shirts.

Ginsburg: I think a law clerk told me about this tumblr and also explained to me what Notorious RBG was a parody on. And now my grandchildren love it and I try to keep abreast of the latest that’s on the tumblr. I have—and in fact I think I gave you a Notorious RBG—

Totenberg: Two of my three. I bought one.

Ginsburg: I have quite a large supply.

Totenberg: Do you have the one—what’s the one ‘you can’t have truth without Ruth'”

Ginsburg: Without Ruth. [nods]

Ginsburg offered high praise for Tumblr earlier this year in an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric.

“Most of it I think is very funny. There is a rap song, and there is one using the words from the Hobby Lobby dissent. I haven’t seen anything that isn’t either pleasing or funny on the Web site,” she said. “I think she has created a wonderful thing with Notorious R.B.G. I will admit I had to be told by my law clerks, what’s this Notorious, and they explained that to me, but the Web site is something I enjoy, all of my family do.”

TIME ebola

Military Prepares 30-Person Ebola Team For U.S.

Ebola-California-Preparedness
Doctors and staff participate in a preparadness exercise on diagnosing and treating patients with Ebola virus symptoms, at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Reed Hutchinson—AP

"They will not be sent to West Africa or elsewhere overseas and will be called upon domestically only if deemed prudent by our public health professionals"

The U.S. military is forming a 30-person medical team to prepare to respond to additional cases of Ebola in the United States, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

The “expeditionary medical support team” will consist of 20 critical care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious disease protocols, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

“In response to a request from the Department of Health and Human Services—and as an added prudent measure to ensure our nation is ready to respond quickly, effectively, and safely in the event of additional Ebola cases in the United States—Secretary Hagel today ordered his Northern Command Commander, Gen. Chuck Jacoby, to prepare and train a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States,” Kirby said.

The team will begin specialized training in infection control and the use of personal protective equipment within the next week, at Fort Sam Houston.

“Upon conclusion of training, team members will remain in a ‘prepare to deploy’ status for 30 days, available to be sent to other [contiguous United States] locations as required,” Kirby said. “They will not be sent to West Africa or elsewhere overseas and will be called upon domestically only if deemed prudent by our public health professionals.”

Up to 4,000 American troops are being deployed to assist in responding to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but they are not involved in direct patient care.

The Pentagon team formation follows last week’s Ebola diagnosis of a second health care professional in Dallas, the third confirmed case of the virus in the United States, causing public concern about the spread of the disease to reach new heights.

The virus is only spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of those who are symptomatic with the disease.

U.S. officials say they are confident they can stop the spread of the disease in the U.S. In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health reiterated that the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is minimal.

“There aren’t absolutes. Nothing is completely risk-free,” he said. “But the relative risk of things, people need to understand, is very, very small.”

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