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Bernie Sanders unveils $16 trillion climate plan

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Thursday unveiled his presidential campaign’s ambitious take on the Green New Deal, declaring climate change a national emergency and vowing to end fossil fuel dependency.

The announcement came the day after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — whose campaign was focused on combating climate change — announced he was dropping out of the race in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Sanders’ plan, which aims to create 20 million jobs and will cost $16 trillion, is both more lofty and expensive than those of the other 2020 Democratic candidates. Sanders has long been an outspoken advocate for the Green New Deal, the landmark climate change legislation that has become a progressive litmus test.

“The climate crisis is not only the single greatest challenge facing our country; it is also our single greatest opportunity to build a more just and equitable future, but we must act immediately,” Sanders said.

His campaign said the 10-year plan would put the United States on the path to 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050. It includes proposals to boost public transit systems and build a modern energy grid.

Comparing his proposal to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” policies, Sanders said the program would pay for itself over 15 years, in part by collecting tax revenue from the high-paying new jobs and also by “making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution” through new fees and penalties.

While Sanders’ campaign said he’ll work to “end the fossil fuel industry’s greed,” the plan will ensure “a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.”

Speaking later Thursday at climate-focused town hall in Chico, California, Sanders said that he believed society has a “moral responsibility” to prevent climate disasters from ravaging the planet.

Noting his seven grandchildren, he said that “there is nothing that I can think of that is more important than leaving this planet healthy and habitable for them and the generations to come after them.”

Sanders’ plan was released hours before the Democratic National Committee voted not to hold a presidential debate focused on climate change, disappointing activists — including Inslee — who had demanded one.

“This is a terribly frightening, existential crisis that demands a different course of action,” Muriel MacDonald, an organizer for the Sunrise Movement in the San Francisco Bay Area told The Associated Press. “If we play by the old rules, we are going to suffer terribly.”

Shaquille Brewster and Gary Grumbach contributed.

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Giuliani says State Dept. aided his effort to press Ukraine on Trump opponents

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President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed Thursday that the State Department assisted his efforts to press the Ukrainian government to probe two prominent Democratic opponents of the president: former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Specifically, Giuliani has wanted Ukrainian officials to look into any impropriety related to the former vice president’s push to crack down on corruption in Ukraine and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in a natural gas company there. Giuliani also sought to have Ukraine examine whether the Democratic National Committee worked in connection with Ukrainian officials to harm Trump’s 2016 campaign by releasing damaging information on the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Giuliani has spoken with Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak, a lawyer and close ally of recently elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, on the phone and in an in-person meeting in Madrid over the last few weeks to encourage him to ramp up probes into the matters, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Trump’s attorney confirmed to NBC News that the State Department helped put him in touch with Yermak.

“Times completely turned a story about astounding allegations of serious crimes of state concerning Dems into a piece trying to suggest I did something nefarious except they can’t say what it is,” Giuliani told NBC News in a text message Thursday. “Typical spin against Trump or anyone close to him.”

The State Department put Yermak “in contact with me,” Giuliani said. “Not other way around, and I told him they should not be cowered [out of] fully investigating serious possible crimes like bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering and illegal interference in 2016 election.”

“That’s it,” the former New York City mayor and federal prosecutor said. “Reported all to State.”

Giuliani declined to say whether he spoke with Trump about any recent developments in his Ukrainian venture. He told the Times in May that his efforts in Ukraine had the president’s full support, adding, “He basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”

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The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News, but a spokesman later told the Times that Giuliani “is a private citizen and acts in a personal capacity as lawyer for President Trump. he does not speak on behalf of the U.S. government.” The former mayor has also said he is working in his personal capacity with regard to his Ukrainian efforts.

Giuliani has zeroed in on the-then vice president’s 2016 call — widely backed by the international community — for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including removing a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as ineffective and was later removed by the country’s parliament. One of the cases that Shokin was investigating, Giuliani noted, involved Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company whose board at the time included Biden’s son Hunter.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The current Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency that he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported that it found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”

Biden’s campaign declined to comment for this story. Hunter Biden, who stepped down from Burisma’s board this year, previously told the Times, “At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business, or my board service.”

Giuliani and other allies of the president have also sought to paint a picture of “collusion” between the DNC and Ukraine in 2016, particularly as it relates to the release of information about Manafort, who is now serving a seven and a half year sentence in federal prison for undisclosed lobbying work in Ukraine, as well as tax and bank fraud.

The DNC has repeatedly denied working with the Ukrainian government to obtain dirt on Manafort. The incriminating Ukrainian information about Manafort that emerged during the campaign — a ledger showing $12.7 million in unreported payments from a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party — was released by a Ukrainian law-enforcement agency.

Both the DNC and the Times did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News.

The Times reported that Yermak was sent to Washington to build relationships with U.S. officials, discuss sanctions related to a Russian oil pipeline and lay the groundwork for a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian president. The newspaper also reported that the State Department officials who helped arrange Giuliani’s communications with Yermak included Kurt Volker, the U.S. envoy to settlement talks in Ukraine’s yearslong war with Russia.

Yermak told the Times he asked Volker to arrange discussions with Giuliani, additionally saying it was unclear to him whether Giuliani was representing Trump in their discussions. A State Department spokesperson confirmed to the publication that Volker put Giuliani in touch with Yermak.

When Giuliani’s efforts were first reported, his plans were met with swift criticism from Democrats.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation into those efforts in May, saying they might be illegal and adding “the possibility that a personal representative of the President is engaging with foreign governments in order to obtain personal or political gain is a matter that must be thoroughly examined.” Murphy also expressed concern at the time that as far as he knew, “none of these meetings are being coordinated with the U.S. State Department or other government agencies.”

Following the revelations about his efforts, Giuliani canceled a planned May trip to Ukraine to further talks regarding the investigations he wants the country to pursue, saying it could be viewed as “improper.”

Giuliani told NBC News that month that his efforts were not to “take [Biden] out” of contention for the presidency. “I’m actually — he won’t appreciate it — but I’m doing him a favor by trying to get it investigated now,” he said. “Because it wasn’t going to live through November of next year.”

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Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to NBA great Bob Cousy

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump awarded Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Cousy the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, at a White House ceremony Thursday.

Trump hailed Cousy for being “at the forefront” of the fight “against prejudice, racism and bigotry” during his time as a player in the 1950s and ’60s. Cousy, who spoke out against discrimination in the league while he was a player, would also occasionally travel overnight with black teammates when they were faced with segregated hotels on the road.

The president also noted Cousy’s labor activism on behalf of professional basketball players: The legendary Celtics point guard was instrumental in the founding of the National Basketball Players Association.

“You’re one of the all-time greats in the history of sports, not just basketball, and an inspiration to us all,” Trump said.

Accepting the award, Cousy called himself “easily the most fortunate, lucky S.O.B. on the planet.”

While introducing his family, he teared up as he paid tribute to his late wife, Missie. “That’s why you shouldn’t invite old men to the White House,” Cousy, 91, quipped. “They get emotional.”

Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics in 1950.NBA Photos / Getty Images file

The two-time NBA MVP winner — who earned the nickname “Houdini of the Hardwood” during his 13 seasons and six championships with the Celtics — is the fourth NBA player to receive the award. Cousy’s former teammate, Bill Russell, received the honor from President Barack Obama in 2010.

Cousy is the 10th person to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom during Trump’s presidency. Other Trump honorees have included conservative economist Art Laffer, golfer Tiger Woods and a posthumous award for Elvis Presley.

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