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National Govt & Politics
Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump
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Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump

Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump

Говорит Москва: Democrats put focus on Russia, Trump

Democrats in the U.S. House will try to send an unmistakable message to President Donald Trump on the issue of relations with Russia this week on Capitol Hill, bringing up a series of bills on the House floor dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin, including a plan which demands the public release of any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"This transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the people," a series of key Democrats said about the resolution on the Mueller inquiry.

The Russian legislative blitz comes as Democrats on a series of House committees have stepped up their requests for information from the White House and the Trump Administration on issues related to the Russia investigation and the Mueller probe.

So far, Democrats say they aren't getting much in the way of help from the White House on any of their investigative efforts.

"It's like, zero," said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). "We can't get witnesses, they don't want us to talk to witnesses."

Among the Russia-related bills on the schedule this week in the House:

+ The "KREMLIN Act," a bipartisan bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence - already reportedly in hot water with the President for saying that North Korea probably wouldn't give up its nuclear arsenal - to submit to Congress a new round of intelligence assessments on Russia and its leaders. "The Kremlin’s efforts to sabotage our democracy and those of our allies across Europe are undeniable," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who has sponsored this bill with fellow Intelligence Committee member Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT). 

Earlier this year, DNI Dan Coats said of Russia: "We assess that Moscow will continue pursuing a range of objectives to expand its reach, including undermining the US-led liberal international order, dividing Western political and security institutions, demonstrating Russia’s ability to shape global issues, and bolstering Putin’s domestic legitimacy."

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+ The Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill which again asks the U.S. Intelligence Community to weigh in with evidence about the Russian government, and expressing the sense of Congress 'that the United States should do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin.'

"I am proud to cosponsor this bill which aims to identify Putin and his allies for who they are: nefarious political actors undermining democracies," said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who teamed up with Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on this measure.

"Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia," President Trump tweeted last July, after his controversial summit with Putin in Finland. "They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!"

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+ A bipartisan bill to block any move by the U.S. Government to recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is another measure meant to put public pressure on the President, who has been somewhat uneven in public statements on his feelings about Russia's move to take Crimea, as well as the ongoing proxy war being supported by Moscow in areas of eastern Ukraine, and how the U.S. should respond - even as his administration has leveled new economic sanctions against Moscow.

In November of 2018, the President canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina, after Russian naval forces seized several Ukrainian ships and their crews.

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+ A bipartisan resolution calling for 'accountability and justice' surrounding the assassination of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in Moscow in 2015. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the Trump Administration to sanction those involved in the murder, as the measure also calls for an international investigation into his death. "Boris Nemtsov had a vision for a democratic and free Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Putin’s cross hairs," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). This not just a House effort, as there is a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

"Putin's media and surrogates called Boris Nemtsov an 'enemy of the people,'" said Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, and a frequent critic of President Trump.

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+ Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.  While the four previous legislative measures have bipartisan support, the final piece of this "Russia" week in the U.S. House might create a bit of a tussle on the floor of the House, as Democrats move to put GOP lawmakers on the record about whether they want to make any report from the Special Counsel public. 

Under the Special Counsel law, there is no guarantee that the Mueller report will ever see the light of day - the Special Counsel submits a report to the U.S. Attorney General - in this case, William Barr - who is then authorized to summarize that to Congress. 

That's different than back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr was able to send Congress volumes and volumes of evidence - knowing that all of it would be made public.

In testimony before the Senate earlier this year, Barr did not expressly commit to releasing any report, saying "my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision."

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  • Here is the letter Barr sent to leaders in Congress after he received the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian Collusion during the 2016 presidential election. Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins: I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation. The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review. Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(c) I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you. Sincerely, William P. Barr Attorney General
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Norman Long claimed that he had gone to pick up dinner and came home to find that his wife had apparently drowned in the pool. “According to an investigator’s affidavit of probable cause, Norman Long and neighbors were at poolside when the investigator arrived at 8:35 p.m. (that night), performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Michelle Long,” a 2017 news release from prosecutors said. “Norman Long ‘became combative’ while CPR was being administered and had to be restrained, the neighbors said.” A small dog was also found dead in the water.  Michelle Long’s autopsy showed that she had not drowned but instead died of blunt force trauma. Her death was ruled a homicide, prosecutors said.  Investigators spent just over six weeks investigating Michelle Long’s killing before arresting Norman Long on Aug. 1, 2017. He was charged with first-degree murder for “using physical force to cause blunt head and neck trauma” to his wife, the news release said. “It was a violent attack by him,” Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton said during Norman Long’s first court appearance in August, NBC10 in Philadelphia reported. “The medical examiner found that there was bruising on her hands, consistent with defensive wounds. There was a struggle.” He was also charged with concealing evidence by “disposing (of) paper towels containing the blood of Michelle Long in the kitchen trashcan” and obstructing justice by throwing the blood-stained towels away and putting his wife’s body in the swimming pool, prosecutors said.  According to NJ.com, investigators believe Michelle Long may have been planning to leave her husband of 15 years. The last search she did on her computer, just minutes before her death, was a search for houses.  “This is what happened as a result of him finding out about that,” Dalton said during Long’s August appearance, NBC10 reported.  A timeline of the crime given in court last August alleged that Norman Long said his wife was on the computer when he left between 6:30 and 7 p.m. to pick up dinner at Applebee’s, NJ.com reported then. Prosecutors argued, however, that the timeline did not correspond with evidence. Michelle Long’s search for homes ended at 6:11 p.m., prosecutors said.  Surveillance footage from a nearby business’s security camera showed Norman Long driving by a carwash and then heading back home before going to Applebee’s, where the restaurant’s own footage shows him inside from 7:15 to 7:37 p.m., NJ.com reported. He against drove by the carwash headed for home at 7:47 p.m. The 911 call reporting Michelle Long’s death was received at 8:02 p.m. Norman Long was taken to a state psychiatric hospital for evaluation following his Aug. 1 arrest because he was expressing suicidal thoughts, prosecutors said.  NBC10 reported last year that the defendant’s first court appearance was delayed because he had an emotional breakdown in the jail. Sources told the news station Long physically fought being removed from his cell and had to be forcibly taken to his hearing. He was quiet once he was in the courtroom, the news station reported.  Michelle Long’s daughter, Brittany Maguire, said at the time of her stepfather’s arrest that her family was torn apart. “She was definitely the best mom, and she did not deserve this at all,” Maguire said during a news conference attended by NJ.com reporters. “We are all broken without her.” Since Michelle Long’s death, her mother and her daughters have partnered with a company called ROAR for Good, which makes a wearable personal safety device that, if activated by the touch of a button, shares the user’s location via text to a previously chosen list of contacts. It is designed to let people know if a loved one is in danger.  It can also emit a high-frequency alarm to scare away assailants, NJ.com reported. 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Senior leadership envisions using that revenue to offset the cost of a new Downtown headquarters, and the documents project that would mean not having to look at customer rates to fund the facility. Off Southside and Atlantic sits the former Coggin Automotive dealership site. JEA acquired that property in 2011 to aid construction under the Total Water Management Plan, which involved a water transmission pipeline. Because that project has now been completed, JEA says they have no use for the roughly five acre property, although they would retain an easement for the underground utilities that were installed. A second site is 250 acres in the Cecil Commerce Center off Normandy Boulevard. JEA’s overall claim right now is 305 acres, but that involves an electric substation, water treatment plant, and other improvements and restrictions. 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The current HQ needs substantial repair, and is too large for JEA’s current needs. A September 2016 assessment- which WOKV was told is the most recent comprehensive assessment of the Tower- showed renovating the structure as it stands was at that time expected to cost between $65.3 million and $78.2 million. Problems identified with the Tower include everything from efficiencies, like the poor floor plan, to systems problems, like plumbing, electrical, and security. Just last month, parts of nine floors in the 19-story Tower experienced flooding because of several different building issues. The cost of the repairs and cleanup in that case was around $60,000. JEA’s Board of Directors has been weighing three proposals for a new Downtown HQ, and they’re expected to vote next month on which plan to move forward with. The cost of each of the proposals has not been made public, nor is it clear at this time how much of that bill the real estate sales could cover. 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If there is interest, that’s where the sale would be, but if not, there would be a public bid process and formal award. There is no timeline for how long that process could take, but the Board would have to approve any sale over $500,000, and the Board and City Council would have to approve any sale under assessed value. The Board will be presented this initiative for discussion Tuesday, although they will not have to take any action at this point. Leasing or partnering in development on properties could also be considered, although the Board packet shows JEA’s leadership studied that and determined selling the sites would be the best move economically.

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