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A federal appeals court has ruled that President Donald Trump’s administration lacks the legal authority to require drug companies to disclose prices in their TV ads.

The ruling denies Trump a victory on a major priority for the White House: bringing down the cost of prescription medicines.

While most plans to overhaul the cost of drugs are complex, mandating that companies disclose prices is something any consumer can relate to.

Legislation that would lower drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries with high bills is stuck in Congress. There is also a separate bill that would require drug companies to disclose their prices in consumer advertising.

Trump, however, is not empty-handed. His administration recently brokered an agreement with drug companies and insurers that would give Medicare recipients taking insulin the ability to limit their copays to $35 a month, starting next year.

On TV ads, the unanimous decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit did not address the pharmaceutical industry’s argument that forcing companies to disclose their prices in advertising violates their free speech rights.

Instead, the three-judge panel ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services overstepped its legal authority by requiring disclosure under the umbrella of its stewardship of Medicare and Medicaid. The panel issued its decision on Tuesday.

Obama-appointee Judge Patricia Millett wrote for the court that HHS “acted unreasonably” in asserting it had authority to impose “a sweeping disclosure requirement that is largely untethered to the actual administration of the Medicare or Medicaid programs.”

“Because there is no reasoned statutory basis for its far-flung reach and misaligned obligations, the disclosure rule is invalid and is hereby set aside,” the judge added.

Less than a year ago, another Obama-appointed judge ruled in favor of pharmaceutical companies on the same issue.

Responding to the ruling, HHS spokesman Michael Caputo tweeted, “If the drug companies are embarrassed by their prices or afraid that the prices will scare patients away, they should lower them.”

When the disclosure rule was announced last year, Trump tweeted that “Historic transparency for American patients is here.”

Drug pricing details were expected to appear in text toward the end of commercials, when potential side effects are disclosed.

The government hoped that patients armed with prices would start discussing affordability with their doctors, which would gradually pressure drugmakers to keep costs of brand-name drugs in check. AARP was among the organizations supporting disclosure.

The idea was part of a multilevel blueprint Trump announced in 2018 to lower prescription drug costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: AP Reports

Source: Western Journal: Obama Judge Rules Against Trump’s Push for Drug Price Transparency

A U.S. Navy veteran left Iran on Thursday after nearly two years of detention, gaining his freedom as part of a deal that released an American-Iranian physician from prison.

Michael White flew from Tehran to Zurich, where he was met by diplomat Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran.

“The nightmare is over, ” White’s mother said.

In Atlanta, a federal judge approved a sentencing agreement for Florida dermatologist Matteo Taerri, who had been charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran as well as banking laws.

The developments capped months of quiet negotiations between countries at bitter odds over U.S. penalties imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal and over the killing by American forces of a top Iranian general in Iraq at the beginning of this year.

White, of Imperial Beach, California, was detained by Iranian authorities in July 2018 while visiting a woman he had met online. He was convicted of insulting Iranian dictator Ali Khameini and posting private information online, and was sentenced to a decade in prison.

“I am blessed to announce that the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home,” White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement. She thanked the State Department and Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and onetime New Mexico governor, for raising her son’s case with the Iranians.

As White flew to Switzerland, U.S. prosecutors completed the American part of the arrangement by asking a judge to sentence Taerri to time served on his conviction stemming from the 2018 charges.

“There are numerous foreign policy interests that are furthered by this particular sentence,” U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May said in granting the government’s request.

Taerri was charged with attempting to export a filter to Iran that he said was for vaccine research but that U.S. authorities said required a license because it could be used for chemical and biological warfare purposes. He was also accused of structuring a series of bank deposits below the $10,000 limit to evade reporting requirements under federal law.

He pleaded guilty late last year and has already served months behind bars, but in April was permitted to be free on bond pending his sentence. The Justice Department in March withdrew its request to have him detained, citing what it said were significant foreign policy interests.

“The United States government and the government of Iran have been negotiating the release of a U.S. citizen held in Iranian custody,” prosecutor Tracia King said at the hearing. “This case, and more specifically the sentence recommendation, is directly related to these negotiations.”

A citizen of Iran and the United States, Taerri is permitted as part of his sentence to remain in America and to travel abroad.

White’s release was cheered by Trump, whose administration has said it considers the release of detainees and hostages a priority. “I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas!” he tweeted.

A spokesman for the White family, Jon Franks, said in a statement that the charges against White “were pretexts for a state-sponsored kidnap-for-ransom scheme.” He added: “The tragedy of this case is Michael’s only crime was falling in love with Iran and its people for whom he cares deeply.”

Despite widespread speculation, White’s release was not related to the deportation to Iran this week of Iranian scientist Sirios Asghari, officials said. White’s release was linked instead to the Taerri case.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted that such deals can “happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the US should come home.”

White was released from prison on a medical furlough in March as Iran struggled to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. He was turned over to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

Richardson said in a statement that the “release should have and could have been done earlier, but I am glad and relieved that Mike is on his way home to get treated.” White was diagnosed with COVID-19 but has been recovering.

White’s mother has told The Associated Press that she was especially concerned about her son’s health because of his battles with cancer.

Trump administration officials in recent months stepped up public pressure to release White. Last month, for instance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned White by name and thanked Switzerland for its work on arranging the furlough.

The U.S. has also urged Iran to release other Americans jailed in Iran.

Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American, remains in Iran’s Evin Prison after being convicted of collaborating with the United States — charges a U.N. panel has said are bogus. Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian with U.S. and British citizenship, was part of a group of environmental activists sentenced on espionage charges and remains in custody.

Namazi’s brother, Babak, said he was happy for the White family but distressed that his brother was not released. He also noted that his 84-year-old father, Baquer, who was also convicted, is out of prison but has not been permitted to leave Iran despite his poor health.

In December, Iran released Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American Princeton University scholar held for three years on widely disputed espionage charges, in exchange for the release of a detained Iranian scientist.

In March, the family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran 13 years ago, said they had been informed that U.S. officials had determined that Levinson was probably dead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: AP Reports

Source: Western Journal: Trump Administration Frees Navy Vet After Two Years of Iranian Imprisonment

The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday in a decision that conflicted with three other federal appeals courts.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned a lower court’s decision ordering the administration to release funding to New York City and seven states — New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and Rhode Island.

The states and city sued the U.S. government after the Justice Department announced in 2017 that it would withhold grant money from cities and states until they gave federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.

Before the change, cities and states seeking grant money were required only to show they were not preventing local law enforcement from communicating with federal authorities about the immigration status of people who were detained.

At the time, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.”

In 2018, the Justice Department imposed additional conditions on the grant money, though challenges to those have not yet reached the appeals court in New York.

The 2nd Circuit said the plain language of relevant laws make clear that the U.S. attorney general can impose conditions on states and municipalities receiving money.

And it noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the federal government maintains broad power over states when it comes to immigration policies.

In the past two years, federal appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have ruled against the federal government by upholding lower-court injunctions placed on the enforcement of some or all of the challenged conditions.

“While mindful of the respect owed to our sister circuits, we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue,” the 2nd Circuit three-judge panel said in a decision written by Judge Reena Raggi.

“These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations,” the appeals court said.

“But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight.”

The Justice Department praised the decision, issuing a statement calling it a “major victory for Americans” and saying it recognizes that the attorney general has authority to ensure that grant recipients are not thwarting federal law enforcement priorities.

The department added that the ruling’s effect will be limited because other courts have ruled the other way, giving the plaintiffs in the New York case the opportunity to point to those as reasons to ignore the new conditions.

Cody Wofsy, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the decision a “real outlier,” saying he believed the 2nd Circuit was the nation’s first court to side with the Trump administration on the issue.

“Over and over, courts have said the Department of Justice doesn’t have authority under governing statutes to impose these conditions,” he said.

“These conditions are part of the administration’s attempts to bully, cajole and coerce state and local governments into participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.”

Under the Constitution’s federalism principles and the 10th Amendment, Wofsy said, states and municipalities “are entitled to decline to become part of the administration’s deportation force.”

The appeals rulings pertain to the issuance of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Created in 2006, it is the vehicle through which Congress annually dispenses over $250 million in federal funding for state and local criminal justice efforts.

The Byrne Program was named for New York City Police Officer Edward Byrne, who at age 22 was shot to death while guarding the home of a Guyanese immigrant cooperating with authorities investigating drug trafficking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: AP Reports

Source: Western Journal: Appeals Court Sides with Trump Administration in Fight Against Sanctuary Cities

Cory Booker will remain in the Democratic presidential race even though he does not expect to qualify for next week’s primary debate, he announced Thursday.

Booker said a burst of fundraising support has given him the resources he needs to continue his bid.

“Thanks to the outpouring of support over the past few weeks, we know there’s a path to victory, and we no longer need the debate stage to get there,” Booker tweeted.

While Booker has hit the grassroots fundraising threshold to qualify for the December primary debate, his campaign acknowledged it doesn’t expect him to meet the polling threshold.

He would need to draw 4 percent support in four qualifying polls by midnight Thursday, and he currently has none.

Booker also tweeted that he was “in this to win it,” not just “sticking around for vanity or ego.”

On a call with reporters, Booker campaign manager Addisu Demissie said the campaign would “probably” post their best fundraising quarter since the New Jersey senator launched his bid.

Demissie was citing in part a $3 million surge the candidate has seen since the November debate.

Demissie said the campaign will use part of that money to launch a half-million-dollar television and digital ad buy.

Instead of attending the debate, Booker will campaign in Nevada and Iowa next week.

The debate will be held next Thursday in Los Angeles, co-hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico.

Seven candidates have qualified for the debate: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire environmental and progressive advocate Tom Steyer, and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California dropped out of the presidential race last week despite having already qualified for the debate.

“We’re in this thing, and we’ll fight to the last breath,” Demissie vowed.

Author: AP Reports

Source: Western Journal: Cory Booker Claims He’s on ‘Path to Victory’ Despite Not Making Debate Cut

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