Finnish president denies ever discussing ‘raking’ with Trump

The leader of Finland denied on Sunday that he’d ever told President Donald Trump that the small Nordic nation relies upon “raking” its forests to prevent wildfires — even though Trump promoted the dubious conservation method during a visit to flame-ravaged California over the weekend.

“You look at other countries where they do it differently, and it’s a whole different story,” Trump said Saturday, standing alongside Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom of California among the charred ruins of the Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park in the town of Paradise.

“I was with the president of Finland, and he said, ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation,” Trump continued. “And they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem. So I know everybody’s looking at that to that end. And it’s going to work out, it’s going to work out well.”

But President Sauli Niinistö of Finland told Ilta-Sanomat, the country’s second-largest newspaper, on Sunday that he never discussed raking with Trump during their brief meeting in Paris last weekend, where the leaders attended various commemorations marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I.

“I mentioned [to] him that Finland is a land covered by forests and we also have a good monitoring system and network,” Niinistö said, adding that he recalled telling Trump: “We take care of our forests.”

The Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most devastating wildfire in the state’s history, has resulted in at least 76 deaths and nearly 1,300 people missing. The fire, which is 55 percent contained, has destroyed nearly 10,000 homes and set ablaze 233 square miles, according to The Associated Press.

While in California, the president was reluctant to blame the effects of rising global temperatures for a series of increasingly devastating wildfires. Asked by reporters whether his visit to the fire zone had altered his opinions on climate change, Trump replied: “No. No. I have a strong opinion: I want great climate. We’re going to have that, and we’re going to have forests that are very safe.”

The president has instead largely attributed the natural disasters to forestland mismanagement by California’s leaders. He was widely criticized by local officials last week for a tweet in which he threatened to withhold the state’s federal funding.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump wrote online. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

On Saturday, the president continued to emphasize the importance of working with environmental groups to improve forest maintenance, and pledged to “take care of the floors, you know, the floors of the forest.”

“I think everybody’s seen the light, and I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent. We’re going to have to work quickly,” Trump said. “But a lot of people are very much — there’s been a lot of study going on over the last little while, and I will say I think you’re going to have — hopefully this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one.”

As news of Niinistö’s contradiction of Trump disseminated across social media on Sunday, Finns took to Twitter to post videos, pictures and memes accompanied by the word #haravointi, which translates from Finnish to English as “raking.”

Initial report shows Pentagon EHR rollout still has big problems

A team of independent Pentagon investigators gave another poor grade to the MHS Genesis electronic health record implementation in the Pacific Northwest, according to sources familiar with an executive briefing on the report.

The Initial Operational Test and Evaluation at Madigan Army Medical Center, just outside Lakewood, Wash., found MHS Genesis remains “not effective and not suitable” — conclusions similar to those reached in an April report on three other sites, in Spokane and the Puget Sound. The latest report also said MHS Genesis was “not interoperable,” according to two individuals who saw a summary briefing provided to Stacy Cummings, the DoD official in charge of the project.

Despite the negative assessment, the surgeons-general of the four military branches have signed off on moving forward with MHS Genesis, which is running at the four Northwest sites and is planned to go live at three additional bases in California and one in Idaho next year, the two sources said.

A Pentagon official said that while Cummings has been briefed on the findings, the final report was not finished. “I expect the report to recognize significant system improvement” in response to problems that were broadcast in the April report, said David Norley, Cummings’ executive assistant.

Officials planning the next stage of the implementation are increasing training of clinicians and will have more Cerner experts on site to assist with problems. Already, officials running the implementation have reduced the average time required to respond to complaints from 84 days to fewer than six, Norley said.

But one Pacific Northwest doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the fixes still required too much time. Military clinicians who attended Cerner’s annual conference in Kansas City earlier this month were impressed by the company’s capabilities, the doctor said, “but we’re lagging way behind where we should be because our processes aren’t agile enough. We’ll get there, but it’s going to take time and money.”

It isn’t clear how much the military intends to change MHS Genesis in response to complaints about usability and other issues, but Norley said the current version will be improved. In any case, he said, “the baseline solution allows more data sharing, greater patient safety features, and more cyber security protection than the legacy system it replaces.”

A Cerner spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

VA and Defense secretaries on Sept. 26 signed an agreement pledging to “align their plans, strategies and structures as they roll out a EHR system that will allow VA and DoD to share patient data seamlessly” for 18 million people covered by the two systems. They also promised to create a new organizational structure that will put the power to resolve differences in a single office.

It’s not clear how much the systems will be allowed to diverge. More similarity could mean easier transmission of patient data between DoD and VA facilities. Yet the two services meet drastically different needs for active-duty troops and veterans.

To this point, the chief of the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee overseeing the EHR deal complained in an Oct. 10 letter to acting VA Deputy Secretary James Byrne that the VA appeared to have abandoned its Lighthouse project, an in-house project to create an open API platform into the VA’s health system.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) wrote that it was important for the VA to “future-proof” its Cerner acquisition with the technology so it can import software and apps that may go beyond what Cerner can provide.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the agency would respond to Banks’ request for information about whether the agency was still committed to the open API pledge.

VA recently issued a list comparing the Cerner modules in its contract with those in MHS Genesis.

Notably, the VA has enhanced specialty services like radiology, labs and cardiology, more interoperability functions as well as prescription drug monitoring, population health and administrative software, largely absent from MHS Genesis.

The VA contract with Cerner and its partners is approximately $10 billion, while the DoD contract currently is $4.3 billion.

Republicans battle to defend Trump from threat of impeachment

The audition to become President Donald Trump’s most visible defender in Congress — and lead the fight against any impeachment proceedings — is in full swing.

One of Trump’s fiercest allies, Rep. Jim Jordan, on Friday began flirting openly with a bid to serve as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, the panel where a flood of Democratic-led investigations, and potential impeachment, will begin.

“We’re still looking at it,” the Ohio Republican said when asked whether he would run for the post. “I’ve always been one who’s going to fight to get the truth out no matter what role I have. So we’ll just wait and see.”

Republicans’ pick will be critical for Trump and his party. The new House Democratic majority has detailed a long list of targets for investigation, from Trump’s business entanglements to his decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey. Even after Republicans were routed in the midterms, GOP leaders are vowing to aggressively defend against Democratic probes, which they’ve labeled “presidential harassment.”

The top slot on the Judiciary Committee also comes with a powerful policy portfolio. The committee has jurisdiction over immigration, gun control and abortion, as well as oversight of the Justice Department and FBI. But with Capitol Hill polarized over the president, the next ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee will likely be spending more time fighting for Trump than legislating with Democrats. It’s a reality that is already coloring the jockeying for the job.

Trump, in fact, has already given Jordan a boost — calling incoming GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and urging him to ensure Jordan, a longtime McCarthy adversary, got a top committee post next year. That led to whispers and speculation that Trump wanted Jordan in the Judiciary slot, though Trump has declined to explicitly endorse him.

“I would like to see Jim in a high position ’cause he deserves it,” Trump told the Daily Caller on Wednesday. “He’s fantastic, but I haven’t gotten into the endorsement or not.”

Jordan’s interest in the role has scrambled the calculus for the other GOP lawmakers eyeing the job, including Rep. Doug Collins, who’s widely perceived as the front-runner.

Collins has spent a year maneuvering meticulously to become the lead Republican on the committee. The affable Georgian has crisscrossed the country fundraising for colleagues, forged relationships with Republicans in House leadership and showcased his legislative chops by partnering with Democrats to advance high-profile legislation.

But since Election Day, when rumors of Jordan’s interest in the position began to surface, Collins has taken pains to emphasize all the ways he’s backed up Trump in investigations and on the House floor over the last two years.

Collins’ allies note that he has taken on the Justice Department over GOP allegations that senior officials were biased against Trump — an issue Jordan has championed for a year. And Collins himself says that even as he considers ways to collaborate with Democrats, he’ll relish the chance to beat back any “overreach” in their investigations of the president.