×
June 13, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who has found himself in an ethical quagmire over rampant spending concerns, allegedly assigned a specific EPA aide as a "headhunter for his spouse," The Washington Post reports. The Judicial Crisis Network ultimately hired Marlyn Pruitt, a former school nurse, as a temporary "independent contractor" after having received her resume from the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, Leonard Leo — who is also a Pruitt donor and a friend of the family. Pruitt had also pressured another donor, Doug Deason, to find employment for his wife after Deason said he could not hire her due to the obvious conflict of interest.

Pruitt had allegedly told EPA staff that he needed more money to hold onto his two houses in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Washington, D.C.; Marlyn Pruitt has had no income over $5,000 in recent years. The executive branch ethics counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the Post that Pruitt's use of an aide to "become the headhunter for his spouse" is particularly concerning because Marlyn's job would ultimately "affect his financial interests." Public officials are not allowed to use their posts for private gain.

Samantha Dravis, who served as the EPA's Office of Policy associate administrator, was assigned the task of finding work for Marlyn. While Dravis didn't comment to the Post — she has since left the EPA — one friend said Pruitt "pressured her" to find work for his wife.

Pruitt is already the subject of a dozen different federal investigations. Read more about the job hunt for his wife at The Washington Post and here at The Week. Jeva Lange

10:16 a.m.

President Trump on Twitter Saturday morning announced Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is leaving his administration by year's end:

Trump did not say whether Zinke resigned or was fired.

Zinke's tenure at Interior has been marred by allegations of unethical conduct which have reportedly troubled Trump and prompted a Justice Department investigation. His policy proposals have included privatizing campgrounds on public land, shrinking national monument land, and raising national park visitor fees to cover renovations.

This announcement comes one day after Trump said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will step in as acting White House chief of staff. A Politico report in late October indicated further turnover in the already volatile administration was likely following the midterm elections. Bonnie Kristian

8:36 a.m.

The Department of Education is forgiving about $150 million in student debt belonging to some 15,000 borrowers, around half of them former attendees of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain, which went bankrupt in 2015. The agency announced the loan cancellation Thursday in response to a federal court order and began notifying affected students by email Friday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had sought to avoid implementing a set of Obama-era "borrower defense" regulations, among them an option of loan discharges for students whose schools have closed. But a federal judge ruled against her plan in September and also rejected a similar push by for-profit colleges in October.

The loan forgiveness process could take up to three months to complete, but affected borrowers do not have to take any action to benefit. Any payments made on the discharged loans will be applied to other debt on the student's account or returned to the payer, the Education Department announcement notes, and "information related to a discharged loan and its payment history [will be] removed from the borrower's credit report." Bonnie Kristian

8:05 a.m.

A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday night that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, must be "invalidated in whole" because its individual mandate provision is unconstitutional.

District Judge Reed O'Connor argued the mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," and that it cannot "be fairly read as an exercise of Congress's tax power," contrary a 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding the ACA as a tax, "and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause."

President Trump celebrated the decision on Twitter:

Despite Trump's enthusiasm, the ruling's immediate impact is limited. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Fox News ACA enrollment, which is open through Saturday, Dec. 15, will continue as usual because the case will be litigated further. "There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan," the agency said. Bonnie Kristian

December 14, 2018

President Trump on Friday tweeted an announcement that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will step in as acting White House chief of staff.

Mulvaney, who also worked as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before bowing out this week, will replace current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who will depart at the end of the year. "Mick has done an outstanding job while in the administration," wrote Trump, "I look forward to working with him in this new capacity."

Trump additionally praised Kelly as a "great patriot" who "served our country with distinction." Trump's reported first choice to replace Kelly, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers, turned down the job, leaving Trump to consider several administration officials and lawmakers for the post. Summer Meza

December 14, 2018

Gun deaths in the U.S. reached their highest point in nearly 40 years in 2017, according to a CNN analysis of a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC's data showed that nearly 40,000 people died by gun last year, CNN reports, which is up from 28,874 in 1999. CNN's analysis also found that more than 23,000 people died from suicide by guns, which is the highest rate in 18 years.

The report found that white men led the gender and racial demographics for gun deaths by suicide, and black men led in homicide deaths.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), who was nearly killed in 2011 due to a gun wound, released a statement reacting to the CDC's report.

"This data from the CDC reminds us how many lives our gun violence crisis alters every year – and why so many Americans are rising up to demand action," Giffords said. "It's unacceptable that the number of deaths from shootings keeps escalating while Washington, D.C. refuses to even debate policies we know would help save lives." Marianne Dodson

December 14, 2018

People are using the highest levels of government to come up with the world's lowest security passwords.

More than 5 million passwords were leaked this year, password manager SplashData's analysis of breached data reveals. Your standard "iloveyou" and "qwerty" made the list of the most popular passwords in the world, but so did one newcomer: "donald."

Of all the infinite combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols people could use, nearly 10 percent of internet users secured their accounts with one of the 25 worst passwords out there, per TechCrunch. After "123456" and "password," strings of numbers make up the next five "worst passwords" on SplashData's list. And making its first-ever top-25 appearance, clocking in at No. 23, is "donald."

No, SplashData's CEO assures us "this is not fake news." Hackers find "celebrity names" and other common words are often used as passwords, as are simple keyboard strings. So try passwords of at least 12 characters, and mix in some symbols and numbers, SplashData recommends. And whatever you do, don't use anything on the list below, as compiled by TechCrunch. Kathryn Krawcyzk

December 14, 2018

A DC comic series has been axed after allegations of sexual abuse emerged against its writer.

The series Border Town will cease production, and the final two issues of the comic will not be published under DC, The Hollywood Reporter wrote on Friday. The announcement comes after toy designer Cynthia Naugle published a statement saying she had been "sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused" by an unnamed person. The figure was later identified on social media as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel, per the Reporter.

Two artists for the comic have since released statements on Twitter, with color artist Tamra Bonvillain calling Esquivel's actions "disgusting and inexcusable." Esquivel has not yet publicly commented on the allegations.

Border Town opened this year's relaunch of the DV Vertigo line, which publishes more mature content about hot button topics. The comic sold out and was met with critical acclaim, per the Reporter. Marianne Dodson

See More Speed Reads