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Monday, Dec 17th

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'Massive power grab': Trump EPA prepares to roll back Obama-era clean water rules

EPA to rollback clean water regulationsThe Trump administration is moving forward with a significant rollback of an Obama-era clean water regulation that has become a rallying cry for farmers and property-rights activists opposed to federal overreach.

The new proposal, unveiled Tuesday morning by Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and other administration officials, would ease Washington's oversight of small bodies of water, undoing a regulation President Donald Trump has called "a massive power grab."

The new rule would replace an Obama administration regulation, known as the "Waters of the United States" rule that expanded federal protections to smaller rivers and streams.

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Time honours Khashoggi, four others as Person of the Year

Time person of the yearTime magazine has named a newspaper and four journalists, including Washington Post's murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as its Person of the Year.

The Capital Gazette in the US state of Maryland's Annapolis, two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, as well as Khashoggi, were recognised as "Guardians" of truth, Time's editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal announced on Tuesday.

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44 ex-senators pen op-ed calling Senate to defend democracy as Mueller probe concludes

Op-ed penned by 44 former SenatorsA bipartisan group of more than 40 ex-senators are calling for the current members of the upper chamber to join together to defend democracy, saying that the U.S. is entering a "dangerous period" as the investigation into Russian election interference nears its conclusion.

"We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration," the 44 senators write in an op-ed addressed to current senators for The Washington Post. "The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

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Trump claims Cohen hush money payment was 'simple private transaction'

Trump claims Cohen hush money was a private transaction

President Donald Trump on Monday sought to downplay the felony his former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to this month, arguing that Cohen’s hush money payments on behalf of Trump were a “simple private transaction” rather than a breach of campaign finance law.

Apparently citing a Fox News segment, Trump insisted on Twitter that there is “no smocking [sic] gun” pointing to coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia that emerged from the closed door congressional testimony of former FBI Director James Comey last week.

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Trump administration hid report revealing Wells Fargo charged high fees to students

Trump held WF report showing they charged high fees to students

The Trump administration for months concealed a report that showed Wells Fargo charged college students fees that were on average several times higher than some of its competitors.

The “unpublished” report was obtained by POLITICO through a Freedom of Information Act request. It was produced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office previously led by Seth Frotman, who quit as the bureau’s top student loan official in protest of Trump administration policies. Frotman said in his resignation letter that CFPB leaders had “suppressed the publication” of the report.

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Accused Russian agent Maria Butina asks judge to change plea in conspiracy case

Maria Butina to change pleaMaria Butina, a Russian national charged with conspiracy and acting as the agent of a foreign government, joined prosecutors Monday in asking a judge to schedule a hearing for her to change her plea.

Butina has pleaded innocent so far in the case in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She has been jailed since July, largely in solitary confinement. But now lawyers for both sides are asking for a plea hearing Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

“The parties have resolved this matter,” the two-page filing said.

The latest court filing suggests that Butina could be preparing to plead guilty to charges involving what prosecutors claim were efforts to infiltrate U.S. political organizations in order to advance Russia's interests.

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Justices won't hear states' appeal over Planned Parenthood

Supreme Court rejects Planned Parenthood caseThe Supreme Court on Monday avoided a high-profile case by rejecting appeals from Kansas and Louisiana in their effort to strip Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood, over the dissenting votes of three justices.

The court's order reflected a split among its conservative justices and an accusation from Justice Clarence Thomas that his colleagues seemed to be ducking the case for political reasons. New Justice Brett Kavanaugh was among the justices who opted not to hear the case.

The two states were appealing lower court rulings that had blocked them from withholding money that is used for health services for low-income women. The money is not used for abortions. Abortion opponents have said Planned Parenthood should not receive any government money because of heavily edited videos that claimed to show the nation's largest abortion provider profiting from sales of fetal tissue for medical research.

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Trump plan to reclassify nuke waste alarms environmentalists

trump to ease regulations on disposal of radioactive wasteThe Trump administration has proposed reclassifying some radioactive waste left from the production of nuclear weapons to make disposal cheaper and easier.

The U.S. Department of Energy wants a change in its legal definition of high-level radioactive waste stored at places such as Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.

Reclassifying waste as low-level could save the agency billions of dollars and decades of cleanup work. Critics say that's because much of the waste essentially could be left in the ground.

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Prosecutors probing potential links between Trump Organization executives and hush-money payments

Prosecutors probing link between Trump org. and hush money payments
Federal prosecutors are reportedly continuing to probe potential links between Trump Organization executives and the two hush-money payments that President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen says the then-candidate helped coordinate.

The prosecutors have requested documents and other materials from the Trump Organization in recent weeks, The New York Times reported on Sunday. They are trying to identify if other organization officials helped pay off two women to keep quiet about alleged affairs with Trump, according to the newspaper.

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