TIME White House

White House: Shelling Of U.N. School in Gaza ‘Totally Indefensible’

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has issued the Obama administration’s toughest critique yet of Israeli conduct in the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, saying Thursday that the Israeli shelling of a U.N. school-turned-shelter for Palestinian civilians was “totally indefensible.”

Addressing reporters, Earnest quoted U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” of the attack, which took place early Wednesday morning. At least 19 people died in the incident, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which ran the shelter. The shelling marked the sixth attack on a U.N. shelter during the ongoing conflict.

On Wednesday, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said “the United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza,” but did not single out Israel for responsibility. Earnest’s comments went further, noting that the U.S. government has no reason to doubt U.N. reports that Israel was behind the shelling.

“It does not appear there’s a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident,” Earnest said.

“The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible,” Earnest said. “And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”

Earnest said the incident should redouble efforts for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, prospects for which slimmed Thursday as the Israeli military prepared to broaden its operations inside Gaza.

“The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of those who have been lost in this terrible conflict,” Earnest added. “And what we are simply asking the Israelis to do, in fact urging the Israelis to do, is to do more to live up to the standards that they have set for their own military operations to protect the lives of innocent civilians.”

Caches of weapons have been found in at least three UNRWA schools over the course of the three-week conflict. In the most recent incident, the Israeli military said its forces took fire from the area around the school and returned fire.

“We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza,” Meehan said. “All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN’s neutrality.”

TIME Gaza

A U.N. School Is No Refuge as the War Worsens in Gaza

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinian civilians wounded during Israeli shelling of a U.N. school wait at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014 Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

A strike on a U.N. school being used as a refuge in Gaza leaves 15 people dead, and puts more international pressure on Israel

Seventeen times, officials from the U.N. called their contacts in the Israeli army to give them the exact GPS coordinates of a U.N. school in the Jabalya Refugee Camp. “There was fighting very close by and the staff there was very alarmed,” Christopher Gunness, the spokesman of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works with Palestinian refugees, tells TIME. “We told them what the precise coordinates were.”

Despite the worried calls, the Jabalya Elementary Girls School was hit just after the early morning call to prayer Wednesday, when most of the 3,000 people taking shelter there were asleep. A few minutes later, the school was hit by a second explosion, in which a shell or a rocket crashed through the roof of the building. Fifteen people were killed and more than 100 injured.

However it happened, the devastating attack of the U.N. school seems such an egregious example of killing innocent civilians that it could be a turning point in the three-week-old war between Israel and Hamas that senior U.S., European and Middle Eastern officials have so far failed to halt. Strong condemnations have come in from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called the strike “unjustifiable,” as well as from the White House. It is the second time over the past several days that a U.N. school has been hit, and the sixth such incident since the war began.

The refugees at Jabalya “are people who were told to leave their homes by the IDF,” Gunness says. As a result, there are 200,000 Gazans around the Strip living in 85 shelters, leaving UNRWA and other aid agencies struggling to provide for their most basic needs. That includes water, which is trucked in because most of the tap water in Gaza is undrinkable even during peacetime. “We can’t offer safe sanctuary. We ask people to respect the inviolability of our offices.” Earlier in the day, Gunness tweeted: “UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.”

Israeli forces, however, have not taken responsibility for the attack on the school. As it did after fiery destruction of a power plant a day earlier, which seemed to indicate Israel was not just striking military targets but also the kind of basic civilian infrastructure that could permanently affect the more than 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, the IDF said it was checking the incident and could not confirm who had hit the school.

“We don’t target U.N. facilities in any way, shape or form,” Lieut. Colonel Peter Lerner tells TIME. He describes the IDF’s version of events: “In the early hours of the morning, there was mortar fire launched from the vicinity of the school and there was an exchange of fire there. In the aftermath of that, there was a report of deaths in the school. We are reviewing this incident.”

Lerner says that in the past few days, there have been “several attempts by Hamas to pin on Israel launches from the Gaza Strip” that didn’t go as planned, landing on civilians instead of in Israel. “There are two cases in which we are aware of — the Beach Camp [Shati] and the attack on Shifa Hospital — which were the result of rockets that were definitely launched in Gaza.” As for UNRWA’s 17 distressed calls to the Israeli army, Lerner said that the location of the U.N. schools was not the issue. “We know where their schools are, as well as shelters and warehouses, and we have an ongoing relationship with their offices in Gaza to facilitate their humanitarian work on the ground. In fact, the humanitarian cease-fire today was to enable their ongoing activities.”

That cease-fire — though a four-hour lull or pause would be a more precise description — was declared by Israel in part because of U.N. requests, ostensibly to allow emergency workers to go out into the field and to remove bodies from the ruins. Hamas, for its part, has refused to participate in any cease-fires unilaterally declared by Israel, and continued launching several rockets even during the cease-fire, adding to the more than 2,670 that have been fired since July 7. During this so-called lull, Israeli warplanes struck a crowded market in Shujaiyeh, killing 15 people. Shujaiyeh, an area in the eastern part of Gaza City, has witnessed the heaviest bombardment by the IDF since it began its ground operation, with many of the buildings reduced to ruins.

At the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip, Said Sulaiman sits over the bed of his son Rezeq, who was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the U.N. School in Jabalya. As instructed by the Israeli army, two weeks ago they decided to flee their house in Atattra, near Beit Lahia — an agricultural area that in the past has been used by Hamas and other militants for launching rockets — and came to seek shelter at the U.N. school.

“I came to the school in search of a safe place. My family is still in the school while I am here, and I hope no strikes will happen while I am away,” says Sulaiman, 55. “We are waiting here in the room until the operation room is ready to take him into surgery. I hope they won’t have to amputate his leg. I just want to return to my house with my family safe after the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and for the aggression to stop.”

A more lasting cease-fire still seems elusive, however. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet agreed Wednesday night to intensify attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza and to keep destroying tunnels. The night before, Mohammed Deif, the head of al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said that only Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza would be enough for the militant group to agree to a cease-fire.

A Hamas-made video released on the same night, showing militants infiltrating Israel via a tunnel, successfully ambushing and killing five Israeli soldiers near Nahal Oz, has only confirmed for the government that the tunnels still pose a danger, encouraging the government to continue the fight. A poll released Tuesday found that 90% of Israeli Jews think the IDF operation in Gaza is justified. The survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, indicated that most expected the war to continue.

The Palestinian Ministry of Healthy put the death toll Wednesday at 1,361; Israel has lost 58 soldiers and three civilians. Israeli officials blame Hamas for many of the civilian deaths, repeatedly accusing the militant group of shooting from within populated areas, including residential buildings and hospital. Netanyahu himself has charged Hamas with regularly using human shields, purposefully putting people in harm’s way. That means Israel’s soldiers and pilots have to either have to retreat from their targets or shoot anyway, knowing that civilians will be killed in the process.

Gunness counters that on three occasions, including one this week, rocket caches have been discovered in U.N. schools, but noted that these were empty, out-of-use structures undergoing maintenance — not buildings housing refugees.

“On these separate occasions, [rockets] were found in schools that have been closed for the summer and which were being inspected by UNRWA,” Gunness says. “We condemned the groups that put them there as a flagrant violation of the sanctity and neutrality of the U.N., we immediately notified all relevant parties, and we have never handed them over to Hamas.” The dispute over who hit the U.N. school continues, but the day’s grim images make one fact indisputable: there are no safe havens in Gaza.

— With reporting by Hazem Balousha / Gaza City

TIME White House

Obama Just Bought a Round For Everyone At This Coffee Shop

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama tries a sample of roasted coffee from Ethiopia at Parkville Coffee during a surprise stop along Main Street in Parkville, Mo., on July 30, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Chai tea and coffee for everyone!

President Barack Obama visited a local coffee shop on his way out of Kansas City, Mo. Wednesday and gave patrons of Parkville Coffee a hump day treat — a round of beverages, on POTUS.

“It’s not that often the President buys you a cup of coffee,” President Obama said, according to a pool report.

President Obama filled the patrons’ orders of chai tea and coffee, though he personally opted for an iced tea. When an employee offered him a tea flavored with lavender, the President said, “I’m not confident enough to order that,” per the pool.

The President spent the day in Kansas City, which is about a 16-minute drive from Parkville, to talk about the economy, before later departing back to Washington, D.C.

TIME Congress

Paul Ryan: Sue Obama, But Don’t Impeach Him

Rep. Paul Ryan speaks to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on July 30, 2014. Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan said Republicans should continue with their plans to sue President Barack Obama over his executive actions and regulations, but should stop short of attempting to impeach him.

“This does not rise to the high crimes and misdemeanor level,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. The impeachment talk has been a steady theme among the GOP’s Tea Party wing and has been embraced in recent days by Democrats as a potent fundraising tool.

“I see this as sort of a ridiculous gambit by the President and his political team to try and change the narrative, raise money and turn out their base for an upcoming election that they feel is not going to go their way,” Ryan said Wednesday, echoing House Speaker John Boehner’s comments Tuesday that the White House’s impeachment talk is a “scam.” “We have no plans to impeach the President,” Boehner said.

But the White House has been hard at work keeping the issue alive. On Friday, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer said he “wouldn’t discount” the possibility of impeachment. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest read off a list of Tea Party Republicans who had made comments about impeachment, defending the White House’s decision to talk about the issue.

Earnest would not say that Democrats should stop fundraising off impeachment, a tactic that has brought in more than $1 million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It is up to Democrats to make their own decisions about ensuring that their candidates have the resources necessary to run successful campaigns in the fall,” he said.

Ryan, however, defended Republicans’ decision to file a lawsuit against Obama’s executive actions, saying that Congress’ traditional avenue of checking the executive branch—through budgeting—is unavailable because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“What John [Boehner] is doing is expressing frustration that we are not using the power of the purse, so he’s trying to stand up for congressional prerogatives and that is why the lawsuit has intellectual merit, because we want to show that we’re not going to take this lying down,” he said. “The President is issuing executive orders and regulations that exceed the parameters of the statutes that gave him the authority in the first place.”

 

TIME LGBT

Obama Urged to Address LGBT Rights in Africa

Advocates issue report on the dreadful state of LGBT rights in Africa, as world leaders and leading figures from the continent prepare for the US-Africa Leaders Summit

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Updated at 4:38 p.m. ET Tuesday

The White House will host more than 40 African heads of state for a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week, the first event of its kind and the largest such event any U.S. president has held with African governments. Some 200 African and U.S. CEOs are invited, and numerous faith leaders will gather to discuss their role in advancing development. To mark the historic event, LGBT advocates have issued a report on the state of LGBT rights in Africa. Their conclusion? It ain’t good.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Human Rights First report contains some stark numbers. A total of 37 African nations currently criminalize same-sex relationships. Four countries—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—allow for the death penalty against LGBT people in parts or in all of the country. Cameroon arrests more people based on their sexual orientation than any other country in the world. Ghana treats same-sex relationships as a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison. In Kenya, the sentence is up to 14 years. Only one country, South Africa, grants full marriage equality to LGBT citizens.

The U.S.—Africa summit, these advocates argue, is the perfect time for the White House to stand up for LGBT rights on the continent. Voices for equality on the ground deserve U.S. support, they say, and the U.S. should help create the political environment to ensure human rights are respected.

“The United States should demonstrate its firm commitment to upholding the fundamental principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” Ty Cobb, director of global engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, says. “This includes making clear that the United States will be a champion of LGBT rights abroad, and that we will not tolerate efforts to enact state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people in any country.”

The authors of the report aren’t alone. Representatives from the Council for Global Equality, Advocates for Youth, Amnesty International, GLAAD, and a dozen other organizations wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on July 25 urging “particular attention” at the summit to the rights of the next generation of LGBT Africans.

“We are confident that with your support, and the robust contribution of civil society, the summit will provide a unique opportunity to emphasize that LGBT and other marginalized communities suffer disproportionately from governance deficits, and that too many governments scapegoat LGBT individuals to distract public attention away from those structural failures,” they wrote. “The economic themes of the conference also provide an opportunity to emphasize that homophobia, transphobia and related forms of intolerance have economic costs, including to the trade and investment environments in emerging markets.”

Activists also note that the moment has particular importance as some African countries are taking more steps toward equality. “There are reports that Malawi will stop arresting LGBT people and review its laws,” Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel for Human Rights First, explains. “A move to pass new anti-gay legislation (and hold a massive anti-gay rally) was stalled in Ethiopia this year. Two young men were just acquitted in Cameroon. It’s too early to say if this is part of a larger trend or just a few independent rays of hope but it’s a trend we should watch and support.”

The Obama administration has already reacted to anti-LGBT legislation in Africa. Last month, the White House increased sanctions against Uganda for its anti-gay law signed in February, which made certain homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment. The summit will give the president an opportunity to make the case in person, if he chooses. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni is slated to attend, as is Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who also signed an anti-homosexuality law this year.

“This summit is a unique opportunity to tell the story of how our nation and every nation grows stronger and more prosperous when all citizens—including LGBT people—are accepted by society and provided equal treatment under the law,” Cobb says. “Every citizen must be empowered to reach their maximum potential, and we should urge these nations to reject laws, policies, and practices that discriminate against LGBT people.”

National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price tells TIME that LGBT equality in Africa will be on the table at the summit. “The Obama Administration has long spoken out—including with our African partners—in support of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals,” he says. “We expect the Summit will provide an opportunity to continue these conversations.”

– Zeke J. Miller contributed to this report

TIME White House

The Story Behind President Obama’s Custom Golf Balls

Not all golf balls are created equal when the President tees up for a foursome

Golfing at the tony Congressional Country Club this weekend, President Barack Obama shanked a ball off the first tee into the woods, providing a similarly unlucky player with a keepsake souvenir—a personalized presidential golf ball.

Dallas resident Pace Doherty found the president’s ball on Sunday, a day after the duffer-in-chief hit the links with aide Marvin Nicholson and ESPN personalities Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. The Titleist balls were personalized with Obama’s official nicknames, with the word “POTUS” on one side and the number “44” on the other. (Obama is the 44th President of the United States, and POTUS is the quasi-official acronym for his job title.)

A source familiar with the president’s golfing confirmed that Obama personally pays for the golf balls, which retail for $57.99 a dozen, or about $10 more than a non-customized set.

Doherty posted a photo of the custom golf ball on Instagram.

Titleist spokesman Eric Soderstrom identified the ball as from the company’s signature Pro V1 line, currently played by 2013 Green Jacket winner Adam Scott. “We have been supplying golf balls to golfing presidents for many years,” he said Monday. “It is harder than you think to stamp perfectly on a round sphere with dimples in it.”

In his definitive tome on presidential golfing, First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers and Cheaters from Taft to Bush, ESPN reporter Don Van Natta, Jr. records former President Richard Nixon playing with custom golf balls featuring his signature and the presidential seal. Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all had golf balls featuring their signatures as well.

Presidential golf balls and boxes, 1970-92.
Presidential golf balls and boxes signed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior. Sarah Fabian-Baddiel—Heritage Images/Getty Images

The golf ball in question differs slightly in design from Obama’s first presidential model, also a Pro V1. The initial version featured the “44” with the presidential seal on the opposite side. Titleist sold Obama those balls in a custom half-dozen box emblazoned with the presidential seal.

As recently as 2010, double-digit play numbers were reserved for the commander in chief alone, requiring the company to make special modifications to its processing line. But no longer. The company upgraded its manufacturing systems to allow anyone to print double-digit play numbers. Custom Pro V1 golf balls monogrammed with a “44” and “POTUS” like Obama’s retail for $57.99 on the website Golfsmith.com.

Amazon.com sells the monogram-free stock dozen Pro V1 golf balls for $47.95.

 

 

 

TIME Foreign Policy

White House: EU, US to Impose New Russia Sanctions

(WASHINGTON) — The United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday.

The show of Western solidarity comes as the U.S. accuses Russia of ramping up its troop presence on its border with Ukraine and shipping more heavy weaponry to pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukrainian cities.

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy discussed the crisis during a rare joint video teleconference on Monday. The discussion follows days of bilateral talks on how to implement tougher sanctions after the downing of a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine, an attack the U.S. says was carried out by the separatists.

The U.S. and European sanctions are likely to target Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors. The EU is also weighing the prospect of levying penalties on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be deepening Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine.

“It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures, and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week,” said Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Europe, which has a stronger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S., has lagged behind Washington with its earlier sanctions package, in part out of concern from leaders that the penalties could have a negative impact on their own economies. But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said following Monday’s call that the West agreed that the EU should move a “strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that the Western leaders “regretted Russia has not effectively pressured separatists to bring them to negotiate nor taken expected concrete measures to assure control of the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

The U.S. penalties are expected to be imposed after Europe finalizes its next moves. Neither set of penalties is expected to fully cut off Russian economic sectors from the West, an options U.S. officials have said they’re holding in reserve in case Russia launches a full-on military incursion in Ukraine or takes a similarly provocative step.

As the West presses ahead with new sanctions, U.S. officials say Russia is getting more directly involved in the clash between separatists and the Ukrainian government. Blinken said Russia appeared to be using the international attention focused on the downed Malaysia Airlines plane as “cover and distraction” while it moves more heavy weaponry over its border and into Ukraine.

“We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peace-keeping intervention in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysian plane was shot down by a missile on July 17. The West blames the separatists for the missile attack and Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

Other leaders participating in Monday’s call were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The White House said the leaders also discussed the stalled efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the need for Iraq to form a more inclusive government and the uptick in security threats in Libya.

TIME Immigration

Obama: Migrant Children Without Humanitarian Claims Will Be Sent Back

An estimated 90,000 migrant children could cross into the U.S. before September. The President met with leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to discuss ways to slow the influx

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President Barack Obama took a tough line on the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have crossed the nation’s southern border in recent months, saying those without humanitarian claims will be subject to return to their home countries eventually.

Meeting with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Obama continued his efforts to dissuade parents from sending their children on the often dangerous journey to the United States. “Children who do not have proper claims,” Obama said, “will at some point be subject to repatriation to their home countries.”

But Obama did preview what the administration is calling a “pilot program” that he is considering in Honduras to allow those with refugee claims to make them from that country without physically making the journey to the United States.

“Typically refugee status is not granted just on economic need or because a family lives in a bad neighborhood or poverty,” Obama said. “It’s typically defined fairly narrowly.”

“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” he added. “If that were the case it would be better for them to apply in-country rather than take a very dangerous journey up to Texas to make those same claims. But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants.”

Obama said such a system would keep smugglers from profiting off families seeking better lives for their children, and “makes this underground migration system less necessary.”

Earlier this month Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson estimated that up to 90,000 migrant children will attempt to cross into the U.S. during the fiscal year ending this September.

TIME republicans

Top Obama Aide: Rand Paul Is ‘Most Intriguing’ Republican

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the 2014 National Urban League Conference July 25, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the 2014 National Urban League Conference July 25, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jay LaPrete—Getty Images

"He's the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans"

A senior aide to President Barack Obama suggested Friday that Sen. Rand Paul would be the greatest threat to Democrats’ hopes to retain the White House in 2016.

Speaking to reporters, counselor to the president Dan Pfeiffer said the Kentucky Republican is “one of the most intriguing candidates” in the field because of his appeal to younger voters of both parties.

“He’s the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans,” Pfeiffer said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “Every other Republican running is basically just Romney-lite when it comes to younger Americans.” Rand has made reaching out to non-traditional voters a signature component of his political agenda, most recently delivering a speech Friday to the National Urban League.

As for the senator’s presidential hopes, Pfeiffer questioned whether Paul has the organization to be a real threat and acknowledged that he would have to first make it through a tough primary where some of his positions are problematic to voters. But, he added, “there’s a germ of something there.”

Among Paul’s potential rivals, Pfeiffer suggested that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would be one of the weakest candidates Republicans could field. “I think that Sen. Cruz would be a really interesting candidate for Democrats,” he said. “He is deeply out of step with the country on a wide array of issues.”

Asked whether he would prefer to run a candidate against Cruz or Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Pfeiffer laughed, “That’s like, would you rather have ice cream or cake.”

One of the longest-serving Obama aides, Pfeiffer brushed away the suggestion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee, has tried to distance herself from Obama in recent weeks as she travels the country on her book tour.

“I don’t think that we should presume that Secretary Clinton or anyone else must agree 100% with the president on every single decision that was ever made, either before or since,” Pfeiffer said. “But she has been incredibly loyal to this president.”

“On the long list of concerns that I have in my life, political and otherwise, this is pretty low on the list,” he added. “I don’t think that she’s trying to distance herself.”

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