McCain diagnosed with brain tumor

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, during the committee's hearing on worldwide threats. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sen. John McCain and his family are considering options for treating the tumor, including radiation and chemotherapy. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor following an operation to remove a blood clot above his left eye.

McCain and his family are considering options for treating the tumor, including radiation and chemotherapy. The 80-year-old McCain has previously successfully been treated for skin cancer.

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“The Senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation,” said a statement from the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. “The Senator’s doctors say he is recovering from his surgery ‘amazingly well’ and his underlying health is excellent.”

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John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain: Trump playing into Putin’s hands by canceling Syrian rebel program The Hill’s 12:30 Report Senators ask for Syria policy study in defense bill MORE (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with brain cancer, the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix said Wednesday.

The tumor was discovered after the senior Arizona senator underwent a minor procedure last week to remove a blood clot from above his left eye. 

“Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot,” the hospital said in a statement.

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“The Senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.” 

McCain’s latest diagnosis is not his first battle with cancer. He underwent a procedure in 2000 to remove a type of skin cancer called melanoma from the left side of his face.

McCain, 80, also had a melanoma removed from his left arm in 2000 and another removed from his nose in 2002. Both were determined to be the least dangerous types of melanoma.

McCain’s office said in a statement that the Arizona Republican remained in good spirits Wednesday and is confident that any treatments will be effective.

“He is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family in Arizona,” his office said.

“He is grateful to the doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic for their outstanding care, and is confident that any future treatment will be effective.” 

His office said further consultations with his doctors will determine when he will return to the Senate.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate panel rejects Trump funding cuts on Energy Department programs The Hill’s 12:30 Report McCain diagnosis looms over GOP healthcare talks MORE (R-S.C.), a close friend of McCain’s and one of his most ardent allies on Capitol Hill, spoke with the Arizona senator on Wednesday. He said they talked only briefly about McCain’s diagnosis before shifting to a conversation about the Senate’s healthcare reform efforts and the National Defense Authorization Act, the federal defense spending bill.

“Literally, it went five minutes until we turned away from what I think most people have a hard time absorbing and focused on what he loves the best,” Graham told reporters after speaking with McCain.

The news of McCain’s diagnosis prompted an immediate outpouring of support from fellow lawmakers.

“God knows how this ends, not me,” Graham said. “But what I do know is this disease has never had a more worthy opponent.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Hill’s 12:30 Report CBO: 22 million would lose coverage under Senate ObamaCare replacement CBO says new healthcare score coming ‘soon’ MORE (R-Ky.) characterized McCain as a fighter, saying in a statement that “he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life.”

“John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied away from a fight and I know he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life,” McConnell said in a statement. “The entire Senate family’s prayers are with John, Cindy and his family, his staff, and the people of Arizona he represents so well.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynReport: Republican says Trump doesn’t even scare Senate pages GOP reverses course on healthcare Obama sends well wishes to McCain: ‘Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against’ MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, echoed McConnell’s characterization of McCain and said the diagnosis was “just the latest challenge” for Arizona Republican.

McCain’s eldest daughter, Meghan, a Fox News host, said in a statement that her father appeared to be the calmest family member upon receiving the diagnosis.

“It won’t surprise you to learn that in all of this, the one of us who is the most confident and calm is my father,” she said. “He is the toughest person I know.”

President Trump issued a statement shortly after news of McCain’s diagnosis broke, calling him a fighter and sending his family well wishes from the White House.

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter,” Trump said. “[First lady] Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.”

Former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaRNC slams CNN’s Cillizza over Trump-Putin analysis The Hill’s 12:30 Report Trump’s Africa policy should end US aid to dictators, rights abusers MORE, whom McCain ran against in the 2008 presidential election, called his former opponent “one of the bravest fighters” he has ever known, saying that “cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against.”

McCain was first elected to the House in 1982 and won a bid for the Senate just four years later.

Before entering Congress, McCain served in the U.S. Navy as a pilot. While fighting in the Vietnam War, he spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

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Trump warns Mueller against investigating his family’s finances beyond Russia probe

President Trump warned special counsel Robert Mueller from investigating his family’s finances beyond the scope of the probe into ties between his administration and Russia in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.

“I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” Trump told the Times.

Trump during the interview said he wasn’t ruling out firing Mueller as special counsel on the probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

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He did not say that he would order the Justice Department to fire Mueller or under what circumstances he would fire him, but he indicated Mueller investigating his family’s finances would cross a line.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment. 

Trump also noted he previously interviewed Mueller to replace James Comey as FBI director shortly before he was named special counsel.

Trump also said Mueller’s office had several conflicts of interest, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump said Rosenstein was playing both sides in Trump’s decision to fire Comey by recommending the firing but then appointing Mueller as special counsel.

“Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”

Reports emerged last month that Trump was considering firing Mueller, drawing criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers. The White House pushed back against those reports, saying Trump had “no intention” of firing the special counsel.

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New hires create minefield for Illinois governor

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is pictured. | G-Jun Yam, File/AP

The hirings are the latest controversies enveloping Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office following a mass of staff firings and resignations. | G-Jun Yam/AP

CHICAGO — Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has long portrayed himself as a social moderate, this week hired two staffers who have taken stances at sharp odds with that image, including one who recently compared abortion to Nazi eugenics.

Newly-hired communications specialist Brittany Carl authored an April 20 piece for Smart Girl Politics titled “An Inconvenient Analogy: Abortion, Eugenics,and Nazi Germany.”

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“While HuffPo and other media outlets were busy covering the outrage generated by the video, they conveniently failed to mention why anyone would make this comparison in the first place,” Carl wrote. “Certainly nothing matches the atrocity of the Holocaust, but it’s undeniable that abortion is being used to rid the world of ‘disabled and other ‘unwanted’ persons’—a fact the Left and their pro-abortion allies don’t want discussed.”

On Wednesday, the Anti-Defamation League called on Carl to back away from the statement.

“Any analogies comparing the Holocaust to abortion is historically inaccurate, inappropriate, and offensive, especially to survivors and their families,” Lonnie Nasatir, an ADL regional director, said in a statement.“We call upon Ms. Carl to retract her statement.”

A second newly-hired communications specialist, Meghan Keenan, deleted her Twitter account just after she was hired Monday as a $45,000-a-year communications specialist for Rauner’s office. But POLITICO has obtained screenshots of her tweets questioning climate change, calling for defunding the Affordable Care Act, and seeming to support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying “religious objections can actually expand access to abortion, birth control, etc.”

“Relevant to the week’s news on UN climate summit — No significant warming trend in average temp for the past 18 years,” she wrote in another tweet.

The hirings are the latest controversies enveloping Rauner’s office following a mass of staff firings and resignations. Since last week, nearly two dozen Rauner employees have been fired or have resigned in protest after the governor hired a series of individuals who worked with the Illinois Policy Institute, a lightning rod conservative think tank. Rauner began the wave of departures with the firing of top aides last week in response to a punishing override of his budget veto.

Many Illinois Republicans have complained that the IPI has advocated extreme positions, with some GOP legislative members blaming the group for promoting a hostile environment on social media in the days leading up an intense budget override vote. The furor surrounding the vote grew so heated that one lawmaker received a death threat.

The fallout from the office shake-up has created a brand new minefield for the governor, who has insisted he isn’t moving to the right as he heads into what’s expected to be one of the costliest reelection fights in U.S. history.

Some of the new hires have taken hard-right stances on issues that Rauner himself hasn’t fully weighed in on — including health care. And part of Rauner’s formula for winning in a blue state was his liberal stance on abortion — both he and his wife, Diana Rauner, cut TV ads in the 2014 race insisting Rauner had no social agenda.

On Monday, Rauner’s office fired Ben Tracy on the same day he was hired as a personal aide to the governor after it was disovered Tracy had a history of writing racially-charged, homophobic and sexually explicit tweets.

Rauner’s office did not immediately respond to the latest questions.

But earlier this week he downplayed the massive staff turnover. “It’s just part of the process,” Rauner said. “The critical thing for me is, everybody who serves in government should put the best interests of the people of Illinois first. I demand that of everyone. Loyalty anywhere else is wrong.”

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Trump nominees lose patience with lengthy vetting process

Candidates for top Trump administration jobs are increasingly frustrated by the high cost and huge time commitment required to meet the government’s ethics and conflict-of-interest rules, complicating White House efforts to fill hundreds of crucial posts.

At least a dozen people in line for top jobs in the Trump administration have dropped out, with many expressing irritation at requirements that they give up valuable assets to resolve perceived conflicts, according to lawyers and people closely tracking the nominations process.

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“This is not the first administration that has had some nominees that have had challenges, but the difference in scale is quite large,” said Max Stier, the president of the non-partisan Partnership for Public Service, which has advised Trump’s team on nominations. “This administration has nominated many more people with much more complex financial holdings that have problems than past administrations.”

As tempers flare, White House officials and potential candidates for jobs are blaming the White House Office of Government Ethics, the agency responsible for reviewing nominees’ ethics paperwork to ensure it complies with legal requirements.

The White House remains furious with newly resigned OGE Director Walter Shaub, who stepped down after clashing with the administration publicly and privately for months.

“The White House has worked well with OGE career staff, but clashed with Walt Shaub who seemed more interested in creating false controversy for self-promotion than moving nominees though the process or working with the White House,” said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.

But OGE officials and outside ethics experts dismiss the criticism, arguing the agency is simply doing its job. Shaub did not respond to requests for comment.

To date, the president has withdrawn five nominations: Todd Ricketts, who was tapped for deputy commerce secretary; Vincent Viola, who was nominated as secretary of the Army; Jim Donovan, the pick to serve as deputy treasury secretary; Andrew Puzder, Trump’s first choice for labor secretary; and James Clinger, the nominee to chair the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Others who had been announced, but not formally nominated, also pulled out: Mark Green, Trump’s second pick for Army secretary, and Philip Bilden, who the president tapped to be secretary of the Navy.

While the reasons for pulling out have varied, many of the nominees have cited the complicated process of meeting federal ethics rules.

“[A]fter an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests,” Bilden said when he disclosed that he would withdraw.

Lawyers and other people tracking the nominations process said at least a half-dozen other not-yet-announced candidates for administration jobs have quietly dropped out behind the scenes.

Some potential nominees have spent as much as $200,000 on private lawyers to help detangle particularly complicated financial holdings, according to interviews with attorneys and people close to the candidates.

“You have to cut your losses at a certain point,” said one lawyer who works with prospective nominees.

The White House could be facing more problems in the coming weeks. Former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Trump’s pick to lead the Export-Import Bank, is facing increasing pressure from business groups to withdraw, and he may lack the votes to win Senate approval.

Republican lobbyists have expressed frustration that the White House didn’t anticipate possible problems with Garrett’s nomination, and say it’s a symptomof an inadequate vetting operation. Garrett, a vocal critic of the bank, has come under fire from business groups who rely on the agency.

But much of the anger is being directed toward OGE.

One potential nominee mused privately to associates that he believed OGE is targeting the Trump White House and is unfairly holding them to the highest standards – a claim that lawyers who work with the agency called ridiculous.

“I’ve heard this from people, as senior as you can get, that OGE is out to get us,” said the lawyer who works with nominees. “They are very conspiratorial when it comes to all of these things. But that’s just not how it works in government.”

White House officials, including lawyers in the White House counsel’s office, have sometimes clashed with OGE leadership over nominees.

In the early months of the administration, the White House often announced nominees before they were vetted by OGE. But after embarrassing missteps, the White House began clearing the nominees through OGE first starting in April, sources said. That has further slowed the process.

Shaub has borne the brunt of the Trump administration’s frustrations. He has been outspoken since before Trump’s inauguration about his concerns over the administration’s compliance with ethics rules, a stance that his made him a target for the president himself.

Trump hasn’t yet nominated Shaub’s replacement, though White House officials said they hoped to find somebody quickly. But a new OGE director may not solve the tension between the White House and ethics officials, nor will the new pick be able to immediately fix potential nominees’ frustrations.

“This is written into statute. It’s not OGE that makes you go through this,” said one former government ethics lawyer, who declined to comment on the record because he didn’t want to become a target of the administration’s criticism. “It is burdensome, don’t get me wrong. But this administration isn’t being treated worse or better.

A current OGE official echoed those sentiments, adding that delays in moving nominees through the ethics process are often a result of incomplete paperwork that requires additional details.

“A lot of the time delay happens because we’re waiting on information,” the official said. “We’re not the cause of the delays. We’re getting them out faster than in the past.”

OGE is simply following the law, the official added: “We have very little control. The law is very specific in what it requests.”

According to date provided to POLITICO by OGE, the Trump administration had sent 405 nominee reports to the agency as of June 20th. It took about 27 days on average to clear nominees, as of June 28.

OGE’s staff of about 70 people has been spread thin since the election, officials familiar with the agency said.

Lobbyists and lawyers who have spoken to nominees are also frustrated with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which, according to people familiar with the operation, has often been hamstrung by micromanagement from senior Trump advisers.

A Republican lobbyist who has spoken to several potential nominees said there’s widespread anger at the White House. “Presidential personnel is working very slowly,” the lobbyist said. “The process is very backlogged.”

Past presidents have also had nominees drop out. Barack Obama withdrew five nominations, George W. Bush pulled three and Bill Clinton yanked four within the first six months of their presidencies.

But experts tracking the issue say Trump’s stable of wealthy nominees drastically increases the likelihood of a bumpy review of the ethics reports that must be submitted by every nominee.

“The complexity of reports is always an issue. That requires a lot of back-and-forth,” the OGE official said. “We’ve had a high density of extremely complex reports.”

Trump, of course, is not the first president to tap wealthy nominees. Obama appointed billionaire Penny Pritzker as his commerce secretary, and White House lawyers worked for months to meet conflict of interest rules. What’s different this time is the sheer number of similarly complicated cases.

“You have a couple dozen Penny Pritzkers spread out across the agencies,” said a former Obama administration lawyer. “It’s not just Cabinet secretaries. It goes all the way down.”

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