Wednesday April 12, 2017 5 Top Stories to Start Your Day

1. Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his Russian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with the topic of Syria being spotlighted. Lavrov went after the United States immediately for their bombing of the Syrian airport that was used as the command site when bombing Syrians with poisonous gas and chemical attack. The Trump administration has taken a tough stance on Russia and their support of the Syrian regime. Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the United Nations stated, “Removing Assad (Syrian President) from power was a priority, but Tillerson stated that the US ‘hoped” that the Syrian people would remove Assad from power but that the US’s first priority would be defeating ISIS. Russian President Putin stated that the rift between the United States and Russia is changing the relationship between the countries to being worse than it was during the Cold War. Putin stated, “The working level of confidence in Russian-American relations, especially at the military level, under the administration of Donald Trump, has not improved, but rather worsened.”

2. Tuesday evening, the Washington Post reported that one of President Trump’s national security advisors during the presidential campaign, Carter Page, had been under surveillance by the FBI as a possible “agent for the Russian government.” The surveillance came to light when the Washington Post discovered that a FISA warrant was granted to investigate the ties between Page and Russia. Trump had stated in an interview with the Washington Post editorial page staff in March 2016, that Page, who had previously been an investment banker in Moscow, was a part of the Trump campaign as a foreign policy expert. Page issued a statement Tuesday evening comparing the surveillance used against him as similar to the FBI surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. He added he has nothing to hide. The White House has not issued a statement on the Washington Post’s story. According to the Post’s story, “This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents.”

3. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Tuesday, repealed guidelines the Obama Administration had enacted to reform how student loan servicers collect debt. The Obama Administration had issued two different memorandums that require the Federal Student Aid Office to help borrowers manage or discharge their debt to the agency. DeVos formally withdrew the Obama memos Tuesday without comment on what was wrong with the policy or adding a new policy. The Obama administration had worked to have the FSA office change how debtors are treated, rather than maximize the amount of cash they can stump up to meet their obligations after complaints by students over how they were treated by the collection services. One agency that had been a source of many complaints is the Navient Company In January, state attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, along with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, sued Navient over allegations the company abused borrowers by taking shortcuts to boost its own bottom line. Navient has denied the allegations.

4. Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologized for comments made where he compared the chemical attack on Syrian citizens by their own government and the Third Reich. Spicer stated that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II to shame Russia’s alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The comment drew sharp response from critics who pointed out Hitler’s use of barbaric measures during the Holocaust. The comment comes as Jewish people all over the world are celebrating Passover. Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect issued a statement, “Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary. Sean Spicer now lacks the integrity to serve as White House press secretary, and President Trump must fire him at once.”

5. In an election that had implications for the Trump Administration, Republican Ron Estes defeated his Democratic rival in a high-profile special congressional election in Kansas Tuesday. The win, which was narrower than expected, may still worry Republicans across the country as they try to figure out if Trump’s low approval ratings might hurt his party’s candidates. The election results thus far show, show Estes won with 53 percent of the vote, and Thompson got 46 percent. In November, Trump and former Rep. Mike Pompeo, who vacated the seat to become CIA director, had both won the district by nearly 30 percentage points in November.

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