Apr 28, 2017

White House advisor: Trump not backing off religious freedom promise

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Leonard Leo, an influential social conservative who advises the White House on judicial matters, tells me speculation that President Trump has abandoned a core campaign promise on religious rights — based on delays over an executive order — is misguided.

Why this matters: Social conservatives care deeply about the issue — that religious institutions should be exempted from providing contraception in their employee health plans. Several movement leaders have told me privately that they worry Trump has judged this too politically risky to bother with.

But Leo tells me the delay has nothing to do with that. He says senior officials at the Justice Department and the White House are working through complicated negotiations over how to structure health insurance transactions.

Behind-the-scenes: The Trump administration is considering a range of options, from providing blanket exemptions to allowing schemes that would let insurance companies deal directly with employees.

The story making conservatives anxious: A Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday: "The White House is stalling [on fulfilling its promise.] On Monday, government lawyers told a federal court considering one flashpoint issue, a requirement for employee health plans to include contraception, that the administration needed more time to decide its position."

Leo's quote: "The administration is not stepping back. It's doing precisely what it should be doing here... because of the way people are attacking Trump executive orders, it's very important that this thing gets done right and be as litigation-proof as possible, knowing full well they're going to get sued anyway."

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Updates: Cities move to end curfews for George Floyd protests

Text reading "Demilitarize the police" is projected on an army vehicle during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Washington, D.C.. early on Thursday. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several cities are ending curfews after the protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people led to fewer arrests and less violence Wednesday night.

The latest: Los Angeles and Washington D.C. are the latest to end nightly curfews. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted Wednesday night that "peaceful protests can continue without a curfew, while San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted that the city's curfew would end at 5 a.m. Thursday.

Murkowski calls Mattis' Trump criticism "true and honest and necessary and overdue"

Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday that she agreed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis' criticism of President Trump, calling it "true and honest and necessary and overdue."

Why it matters: Murkowski, who has signaled her discomfort with the president in the past, also said that she's "struggling" with her support for him in November — a rare full-on rebuke of Trump from a Senate Republican.

Facebook to block ads from state-controlled media entities in the U.S.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook said Thursday it will begin blocking state-controlled media outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. this summer. It's also rolling out a new set of labels to provide users with transparency around ads and posts from state-controlled outlets. Outlets that feel wrongly labeled can appeal the process.

Why it matters: Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, says the company hasn't seen many examples yet of foreign governments using advertising to promote manipulative content to U.S. users, but that the platform is taking this action out of an abundance of caution ahead of the 2020 election.