Trump administration

Updated at 6:55 p.m. ET

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Trump believes the allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault against Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore are "very troubling and should be taken seriously" but stopped short of calling on him to step aside as other national Republican leaders have.

"He believes the people of Alabama should make the decision of who their next senator is going to be," said Sanders, who added later that she didn't expect Trump to campaign for Moore.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has entered the West Wing.

Mueller's team is charged with looking into whether anyone on President Trump's campaign worked with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election, so it was inevitable that investigators would want to talk with aides now working in the White House.

Some, like top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, communications director Hope Hicks and policy adviser Stephen Miller, were key players in the campaign as well.

Updated at 1:48 p.m. ET

President Trump is nominating a former pharmaceutical executive to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that, among other things, regulates prescription drugs.

The nomination comes at a time when rising drug prices have become a hot political issue.

Nearly a year after Election Day, Americans have the clearest picture yet about the extent of the influence campaign Russia ran against the United States in 2016.

The operation had a clandestine side and an overt side, and aspects that moved from one into the other. It involved a number of Russian government intelligence officers and cyber-operatives within Russia, as well as at least a few operatives working in the West.

And, according to at least one former top U.S. spymaster, it went better than its authors could have possibly imagined.

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During an interview Monday night on Fox News, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said that "the lack of the ability to compromise led to the Civil War."

His comment was swiftly countered by confounded observers, who pointed out that the Civil War was fought over slavery and that compromising on slavery would be morally unconscionable — and that the country did strike such compromises for decades and they did not, in fact, prevent war.

Five months into his mandate, Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller III unleashed a legal version of "shock and awe" on Monday with criminal charges against President Trump's former campaign chairman and a guilty plea by a foreign policy aide.

Mueller made no public comment about the charges or the next steps in an investigation that's irritating the White House and riveting the nation. But there are some clues in the court documents about where the former FBI director and his investigators may be heading.

The first charges have been filed in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, and the court documents help make clearer the timeline of Russia-related events that took place during the presidential campaign.

The Trump administration is pushing back against a growing bipartisan push for Congress to pass a new measure authorizing the use of military force against ISIS, Al-Qaida, and other terror groups.

The work of President Trump's commission studying voter fraud and other voting problems has been stalled by the eight lawsuits filed against it, according to one commission member.

Indiana's Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson says the suits, which seek release of all of the commission's correspondence, among other things, have had a "chilling" effect.

Some Democrats on the 11-member panel have complained in recent weeks that they're being kept in the dark about its activities and plans.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

President Trump declared a public health emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic Thursday, freeing up some resources for treatment. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history," Trump said, adding, "it's just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort."

"We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said.

The deputy attorney general strode onto the stage last week in a seventh-floor conference room at the Justice Department to announce criminal charges against two Chinese men who used the Internet to sell deadly synthetic drugs.

"These cases reflect a new and disturbing facet of the opioid crisis in America," Rod Rosenstein, the second-in-command at Justice, told reporters who gathered for what was billed as a major development in the fentanyl epidemic that's afflicting the nation.

Sen. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who announced his retirement in a withering speech aimed at President Trump, tells NPR that he is "deeply saddened" to leave the Senate, but that lawmakers must take a stand now against the administration's behavior or "lose that chance."

Updated at 10:24 a.m. ET

Marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to send a message to Congress is a classic move in presidential political theater, and Tuesday is President Trump's inaugural performance. Trump makes his first visit to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Republicans at their weekly meeting and the message is clear: Pass a tax cut.

Senate Republicans passed a $4 trillion budget blueprint late Thursday by a narrow 51-49 vote, with Kentucky's Sen. Rand Paul joining Democrats in opposing the measure considered a key step in forward on President Trump's promises of a tax overhaul.

The White House praised the bill, saying it "creates a pathway to unleash the potential of the American economy through tax reform and tax cuts."

On a scale of 1 to 10, President Trump said Thursday that his administration deserves a "10" for its response to the devastation caused on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria.

Trump spoke after his meeting in the Oval Office with the U.S. territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello, who — when asked by Trump "did we do a great job?" — said, "You responded immediately, sir."

It was the Friday before a Monday deadline, and federal health officials in Washington, D.C., were working feverishly with their counterparts in Oklahoma to finalize the details of a new state reinsurance program.

Updated October 20

Construction crews are erecting eight looming prototypes of President Trump's border wall in a remote section of the San Diego borderlands. Four are solid concrete; four are made of steel and concrete; one is topped with spikes. They all approach 30 feet in height. Customs and Border Protection is paying $20 million to six construction companies from Mississippi, Maryland, Alabama, Texas and Arizona. Crews in white hardhats operating cranes and forklifts are expected to complete the models by the end of the month.

If there's one thing President Trump's critics want from him, and he refuses to give up, it's his tax returns.

The returns didn't come up during Wednesday's hearing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. But the hearing was the first step in a process that could loosen Trump's grip on them.

If the next step goes the plaintiffs' way, the case could make the president's tax returns surface.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

Less than a week after President Trump said he is cutting off subsidies to health insurance companies, lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had a deal to restore the money and take other actions that could stabilize insurance markets for next year.

On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., has withdrawn his name from consideration as America's drug czar, President Trump said Tuesday. Marino is stepping back days after reports that legislation he sponsored hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration in its fight against the U.S. opioid crisis.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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President Trump made his view of the North American Free Trade Agreement very clear during the presidential election. He called NAFTA "the worst trade deal in ... the history of this country." And Trump blamed NAFTA for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

His administration is in the midst of renegotiating the free trade deal with Canada and Mexico, and that is making many U.S. farmers and ranchers nervous.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced the United States will withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

President Trump has been critical of the United Nations as a multilateral body, claiming it is "hobbled by bureaucracy and mismanagement, but held out hope for improvement," as reported by NPR's Scott Horsley.

Updated at 5:38 p.m. ET

President Trump spoke to one of the most faithful blocs of his base on Friday, telling attendees of this year's Values Voter Summit that in America "we don't worship government, we worship God."

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

President Trump announced Friday that he will not recertify the Iran nuclear deal. As NPR's Scott Horsley writes, Trump "is stopping short of asking Congress to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Instead, the president is urging lawmakers to pass a new law, spelling out conditions under which sanctions could be reimposed."

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On Capitol Hill Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. "There's no such thing as a free market in energy," he said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Governments are picking winners and losers every day."

It was a remarkable statement, coming days after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt derided such tipping of the scales as he moved to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

White House chief of staff John Kelly made an unusual appearance at Thursday's daily press briefing to clear up a few things: He isn't going anywhere, he is not frustrated by President Trump's use of Twitter and he is not trying to micromanage the president.

"Although I read it all the time, pretty consistently, I'm not quitting today," Kelly said. "I don't believe — and I just talked to the president — I don't believe that I'm being fired today. And I'm not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving."

With President Trump's announcement that he plans to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen as homeland security secretary, he still has one more Cabinet post to fill — health and human services secretary. A president having to find replacements for two Cabinet secretaries this early in an administration is unprecedented. But observers are more alarmed by the less visible vacancies at the sub-Cabinet level: hundreds of positions without a nominee, and a president who says he has no intention of filling many of the jobs.

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