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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    With members of the House and Senate leaving town for a ten day break at the end of this week, the future of billions of dollars in disaster relief for victims of hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, and more remains in limbo in the halls of Congress, as the Senate struggles to finalize a deal, with opposition by President Donald Trump to extra aid for Puerto Rico one of the stumbling blocks. 'Now it’s time for Congress to pass the disaster relief bill,' Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) tweeted on Sunday. 'Our Panhandle communities have waited long enough,' he said, referring to the extreme damage caused by Hurricane Michael last year. But while the House has passed two different relief bills - a $14 billion package in January, and a $19 billion plan earlier this month - the Senate has been unable to come to an agreement, with money for Puerto Rico, and possible extra money to deal with the surge of immigrants along the southern border still in the mix. 'What is happening at the border is tragic, and we hope to address some of that in the supplemental that is coming, the disaster supplemental, to provide some of the resources that are needed there,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. But so far, that broader deal - which would likely push the price tag of the bill over $20 billion - has not come together. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is still holding back $16 billion in already approved disaster aid for areas hit by hurricanes in 2017, including $4 billion for Texas, and $8.2 billion for Puerto Rico. Last week, the feds released $1.4 billion in already approved disaster funding for states hit by disasters in 2018 - but left the much larger amount of 2017 money still on the shelf, even though officials have promised for months that it was about to be released. The 2018 money included $448 million for Florida, and nearly $35 million for Georgia to deal with Hurricane Michael damage - but much larger sums of aid, including money to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base - are caught up in the disaster bill before Congress. And one of the main reasons that disaster bill has been stuck in the Senate since January is President Trump's opposition to extra aid for Puerto Rico. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to have a vote on disaster aid before the Senate leaves town for Memorial Day. 'I'm not going to be sending members of either party home to these storm and flood ravaged states without at least some action,' McConnell said. If key Senators can't reach an agreement, the latest $19.1 billion House-passed bill is ready for action on the Senate calendar. The clock is ticking on any deal - the House is scheduled to leave town by Thursday afternoon.
  • The political fallout from the Mueller Report received an unexpected jolt on Saturday from a Republican member of the U.S. House, as Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a more libertarian lawmaker who has often been a critic of the President, became the first GOP member of Congress to open the door for the President Trump's impeachment, saying it's clear Mr. 'Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.' In a series of posts on Twitter, Amash - a member of the House Freedom Caucus - accused Attorney General William Barr of having 'deliberately misrepresented' the findings and evidence of the Mueller Report. 'In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings,' Amash said, making the calls for impeachment now bipartisan. 'Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence,' Amash said, echoing an argument heard from many Democrats. Democrats welcomed Amash's declaration. 'This is a very consequential statement,' said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). 'Thank you Justin Amash for putting country ahead of party.' 'We can now have bipartisan impeachment proceedings. Thank you, @justinamash,' said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). Amash chided members of both parties for reacting to the Mueller Report simply because of who was targeted, basically predicting that if a Democrat had been in the White House, the reactions would have been completely opposite 'We’ve witnessed members of Congress from both parties shift their views 180 degrees — on the importance of character, on the principles of obstruction of justice — depending on whether they’re discussing Bill Clinton or Donald Trump,' Amash added on Twitter. There was no evidence that Amash's statement was going to open the flood gates in Congress against the President - but it will give Democrats the ability to say there are bipartisan concerns about President Trump. “Call him the lone member of the Republican Integrity Caucus,” said Congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, who has been a frequent critic of the President. Fellow Republican Congressman, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) took a mild jab at Amash, writing on Twitter that his nickname for Amash was right, using the hashtag, 'Often Wrong Never In Doubt.
  • The Friday decision by President Donald Trump to lift special tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada and Mexico not only defused a year old trade battle with those two neighbors, but also strengthened the prospects in the U.S. Congress for a revised free trade agreement negotiated by the Trump Administration. 'The biggest hurdle to ratifying USMCA has been lifted,' said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who had helped lead opposition to the tariffs, saying it would prevent the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade deal from being approved by Congress.  Not only will the U.S. drop import duties on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico, but those countries will drop retaliatory tariffs against a variety of American exports, which had caused collateral economic damage to a variety of U.S. businesses. 'These tariffs, and the retaliation they caused, have hurt American farmers, manufacturers, businesses and consumers across the country,' said the group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. 'These tariffs are damaging the U.S. manufacturing sector, and particularly downstream U.S. steel and aluminum consuming companies,' said the Coalition of American Metals Manufacturers and Users. Many voices in the U.S. and Canada praised Grassley for helping push the President to drop the 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada, as Grassley and GOP Senators repeatedly made clear to President Trump that a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade deal would go nowhere in Congress until that happened. 'The agreement with Canada and Mexico to lift steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliation without quotas will allow the U.S. to better target China’s unfair trade practices and pave the way for the USMCA,' said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN). 'This is great news we’ve reached a deal on Steel and Aluminum,' said Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS). 'Kansas exports to Canada and Mexico in 2017 totaled $4.4 billion.' 'It is good these tariffs will be lifted,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. 'I've always said we should be focusing efforts on China — not Mexico, Canada, Europe.' But Democrats have also raised a series of other questions about the trade agreement - which still has not been submitted to the Congress for a vote, even though it was finalized last year. In the wake of the tariffs announcement, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday that he would go to meet the Canadian Prime Minister on May 30. While this move to ease tariffs will certainly help U.S. farmers and other businesses, there is still great uncertainty involving retaliation by China - in a separate trade dispute sparked by President Trump's aggressive efforts to levy tariffs on American trading partners. “We actually had a deal and they broke it,” the President said of the Chinese on Friday, referring to last minute demands and changes that Beijing thought it could gain from Mr. Trump. It did not work. “I said, 'Can't do that. Sorry, you can't do that,'” the President said in a speech.
  • President Donald Trump set out plans on Thursday to retool the nation's legal immigration system, in order to bring more highly skilled workers to the United States, saying it was time to emphasize skill and smarts in deciding who gets a green card to live and work in America. 'We discriminate against brilliance,' the President said in a speech from the White House Rose Garden. 'We won't anymore, once we get this passed.' 'Only 12 percent of legal immigrants are selected based on skill, or based on merit,' Mr. Trump added, as he said it's time to emphasize those qualities in order to draw more 'top talent' from abroad. The President has long sought to limit so-called 'chain migration' - where extended family are allowed to follow someone who is legally admitted to the United States - and to do away with the visa lottery, which he argues is one example of how highly-skilled workers aren't getting a preference for a green card in America. 'Immigrants must be financially self-sufficient,' the President said, making clear that his priority was in attracting higher wage workers and skilled talent - not only those currently in the work force overseas, but also foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities. 'Some of the most skilled students are going back home because they have no relatives to sponsor them in the United States,' the President said, arguing that he wants those 'exceptional students' to stay and 'flourish' in America. Mr. Trump also rolled out several proposals to deal with the current migrant surge at the southern border of the United States, proposing changes which would swiftly determine who is legitimately claiming asylum, and those who are not. The immediate outlook for the plan in Congress was murky at best; the White House is not sending actual legislation to Capitol Hill on the subject, leaving any legislative lifting to Senate Republicans, who know that any big changes on immigration must be bipartisan in order to get through the Senate, and be approved by Democrats in the House. The President's plan includes no provisions dealing with illegal immigrants already in the United States, or with the fate of so-called 'Dreamers' who were brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents. 'We have to, I believe, come to comprehensive immigration reform,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who pointedly noted the President has talked about helping Dreamers in the past. Asked about the President's emphasis on a 'merit' based system - Pelosi bluntly called that 'condescending.' Allies of the President said they were ready to push ahead, though the path forward was not at all clear. Earlier this week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the only way anything would pass on immigration would be through compromise. Graham vowed to hold a hearing on the subject, and then allow his committee to vote on actual legislation; no time frame has been announced, as the President made clear he believes if Democrats refuse to deal, it will help him in 2020. 'If for some reason - possibly political - we can't get Democrats to approve this merit-based, high security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and of course - hold the Presidency,' Mr. Trump said to applause.
  • Sending a stern bipartisan message, lawmakers from the state of Florida blasted the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday for refusing to publicly identify which counties had their voter databases penetrated by Russian hackers in 2016, as well as other counties which may have had suspicious activity around the same time. 'It is untenable to hold this information classified and to not let the public know,' said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), after a closed door briefing by FBI officials on Capitol Hill, 'We have very clearly and very forcefully asked the FBI to declassify that information,' said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), as lawmakers said there was no reason not to let voters in Florida know where the election year cyber intrusions took place.  'I don't know who the hell they think they are to not share that information with us,' said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).  The penetration of voter databases in two counties in Florida occurred after phishing emails were sent to election workers across the state. 'They sent these to all 67 counties,' said Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL). 'Unfortunately, two counties had employees that did click on those emails, and they gained limited access.' The outrage was bipartisan, as Florida lawmakers said there's no reason the identity of the counties should be a state secret, three years after the attempted hacking took place. 'They not only deserve to know what happened,' Waltz said of voters in his state, 'but they deserve to know what we're doing to protect the elections going forward.' Both parties stressed there was no evidence that voter databases were tampered with before the 2016 elections after Russians gained access to the two unidentified counties - but they say that’s no reason for the feds to hide the locations of where it occurred. “What we have told them is that it is untenable to hold this information classified, and not to let the public know,” said Murphy.
  • As President Donald Trump rolls out new plans Thursday to slow the surge in migrants trying to make it across the southern border of the United States, a key GOP lawmaker in Congress said Wednesday that the only chance for anything to get done in the House and Senate is a compromise - with both parties giving in on controversial immigration policy matters. 'To get what you want, you've got to give something,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as he told reporters that it's obvious the President does not have the votes to do what he wants on immigration - and neither do the Democrats. 'You're going to have to get Democrats in the room,' Graham told reporters. 'This is the time for the Tuesday Trump to show up.' What Graham meant by that was a White House meeting which took place on a Tuesday in early 2018, where President Trump told a bipartisan group of Senators - in a meeting shown on TV - that if they could forge a deal among themselves on immigration, then he would sign it. “I'll take the heat,” the President said.  “I don't care.” But the idea went sideways quickly. 'We sent him a bill - and he didn't sign it,' Graham recounted, as more conservative lawmakers and aides intervened, derailing a compromise which would have involved $25 billion for the President's border wall, in exchange for protections for some illegal immigrant 'Dreamers.' Graham's comments came as he unveiled a series of new immigration plans on Wednesday, mainly designed to limit asylum claims, forcing those from Mexico and Central America to make those only in their home country - not at the U.S. border, or when they are apprehended. Graham's plan would also treat unaccompanied children like those from Mexico or Canada - they would be sent back right away, and not allowed to stay in the U.S., which he says has become a magnet, and one reason the numbers of migrants has jumped dramatically. The South Carolina Republican - who said he still considers himself a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform - said he plans to use his Senate Judiciary Committee in an effort to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration. But he knows it will take more than Senators. 'So, I am urging the President to lead us to a solution,' Graham said, as he also pressed Democrats to overcome their distaste for Mr. Trump. 'Find a solution to this problem, quickly,' Graham added. So far the reaction among Republicans to the plan being released by the President on Thursday has been cool - as reviews were decidedly mixed after a closed door meeting of top White House officials, including Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, with GOP Senators on Tuesday. While President Trump has aggressively pushed Congress to act on changes to U.S. immigration laws, he has had little success either in forcing votes, or in forging a plan which could gain even a majority in the Congress. In February of 2018, the Senate voted on four different immigration plans; the one backed by President Trump netted only 39 votes, the smallest of the four.
  • Intensifying the standoff between President Donald Trump and Democrats in the U.S. House, the White House on Wednesday accused Democrats of using Congressional investigations to harass the President and his Administration, making the argument that since the investigation of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is over, Congress cannot pursue additional investigations related to the Russia probe. 'The only purpose for this duplication seems to be harassing and seeking to embarrass political opponents after an exhaustive two-year investigation by the Department of Justice did not reach the conclusion that some members of the Committee apparently would have preferred,' said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. In a 12 page letter to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Cipollone repeatedly made clear that any inquiry aimed at the White House by lawmakers must be tied to a 'legitimate legislative purpose,' a phrase that's been used repeatedly in recent days to rebuff requests for the President's tax returns, and in court arguments over subpoenas by a House committee. “As a result, the requests raise serious concerns of violating the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution,” Cipollone added. Specifically on the Russia investigation, Cipollone wrote, 'it appears that the Committee's inquiry is designed, not to further a legitimate legislative purpose, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already the subject of the Special Counsel's long-running investigation.' The White House argument is simple - since the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election was investigated by the Special Counsel and the Justice Department, there can be no repeat by the Congress. 'Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized 'do-over' of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,' the top White House lawyer wrote. The White House letter specifically cited an interest by Democrats in investigating the 'pardon power' of a President, saying that is not allowed under the Constitution. But - back in 2001 - Republicans in the Congress held a series of hearings and launched a broad investigation of pardons issued by President Bill Clinton, just before he left office. Democrats have made clear they're not going to just drop their broad array of investigations - vowing to subpoena the former White House Counsel Don McGahn for testimony, as well as Robert Mueller.
  • Amid signs of growing tensions between the United States and Iran which have prompted worries about military conflict, Senators in both parties on Wednesday urged the Trump Administration to explain the threats supposedly coming from Iran, and why the State Department suddenly announced it is sending non-essential diplomats home from their posts in Iraq. 'I would urge the State Department and the DOD (Department of Defense) to come down here and explain what's going on,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The lack of an explanation was broached on Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by members of both parties, who said lawmakers were in the dark as to what was going on in with Iran, and why American diplomats were suddenly in danger in Iraq. 'The Trump Administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions,' said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The call by Menendez for an immediate briefing was echoed by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) - who was then told by committee chairman Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), that he had been briefed by the Trump administration on the situation - which made clear that Democrats had been left out of the discussions. Across Capitol Hill, Democrats in the House and Senate all but accused the Trump Administration of trying to provoke Iran into a military conflict. 'This escalating crisis with Iran was entirely predictable, and entirely purposeful,' said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). 'This seems like escalation with no end game.' Echoing that was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who warned the White House not to get into any fight with Iran without the express approval of the Congress, as Paul also said he feared the Trump Administration was setting up negotiations with Iran to fail. But some Republicans pushed back - as U.S. allies cast doubts on evidence that there was an immediate threat from Iran, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) assailed unidentified officials quoted in one story in the New York Times. The Trump Administration seemed unlikely to offer briefings to all members immediately - instead that seemed likely to take place in both the House and Senate next week.
  • Telling reporters that he did not order an internal Justice Department investigation into the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised the decision of Attorney General William Barr to put a federal prosecutor from Connecticut in charge of an internal review of the matter. 'I didn't know it, but I think it's a great thing that he did it,' the President told reporters as left the White House for a trip to Louisiana on Tuesday, as he again accused FBI officials of using the probe to wrongly investigate his campaign over possible ties to Russia. 'They want to look at how that whole hoax got started,' Mr. Trump said. Mr. Trump - and many Republicans in Congress - have long claimed that the FBI 'spied' on his 2016 campaign, an accusation given new life by Attorney General William Barr in early April, when he told a Senate panel that there had been possible illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign. Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked about that characterization by the Attorney General - and he made clear that he did not agree with Barr, saying, 'that's not the term I would use.' That semantic conflict was simmering in the President's mind, as he denounced the FBI Director's answer as 'ridiculous.' 'I thought the Attorney General answered it perfectly,' Mr. Trump said of Wray. 'I certainly didn't understand that answer; I thought it was a ridiculous answer.' In charge of the review will be U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut - who is no stranger to high profile investigations. In 2008, Durham was chosen to investigate the destruction of videotaped interrogations by the CIA, in a post-9/11 dispute over treatment of terrorist detainees, and whether they were tortured in violation of U.S. laws. Last week, former FBI General Counsel Jim Baker said the probe began after Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had offered to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos later plead guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with 'certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.”
  • Even as President Donald Trump floated the idea this week of another round of bailout payments to farmers to help them deal with the loss of markets due to retaliation against new U.S. tariffs, the outlook from back in farm country was not one of optimism, with the current U.S.-China trade uncertainty again forecast to buffet a variety of agricultural producers. 'Times are tough in farm country,' said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), whose state exports a significant amount of soybeans to China. 'American farmers are paying the price for trade uncertainty with China.' 'Soy growers need a positive resolution of this ongoing tariff dispute, not further escalation of tensions,' said the American Soybean Association. 'We see no end in sight,' said Lynn Rohrscheib, the President of the Illinois Soybean Growers, who fears even more economic hardship.  'When China’s reciprocal tariffs hit our soybeans last summer, we lost nearly one-third of our market overnight,' Rohrschieb added. 'In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017,' Virginia's two Democratic U.S. Senators said on Tuesday. But at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump expressed confidence that the U.S. would prevail in what he labeled a trade 'squabble' with the Chinese. 'Our economy is fantastic; theirs is not so good,' the President told reporters, as he said he is not backing off the threat to possibly levy tariffs on an additional $325 billion in imports from the Chinese. “I think it's going to turn out extremely well, we're in a very strong position,” Mr. Trump told reporters. 'We're going to be collecting over $100 billion in tariffs,' the President said of the additional duties on imports from China. But those tariffs would be paid for by U.S. businesses and consumers - another sore point for critics of the President's trade strategy. But in farm country, the collateral damage is being felt. + In Michigan, agricultural leaders said 'these tariffs will have a negative impact on U.S. farmers across the nation.' + In Iowa and Nebraska, the outlook is getting 'grimmer by the day.'  + In Georgia, farmers who export cotton, soybeans, pecans, and peanuts will face higher tariffs as they try to sell products in China. + In Indiana, farm exports of soybeans and oilseeds have dropped dramatically in the last year. 'The tariffs have done enough damage already to agriculture,' said a top official of the Indiana Farm Bureau.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A married Georgia police officer appeared in court with black eyes last week for his first court appearance in the homicide of his girlfriend, a paramedic who was found shot to death May 11 in her home.  William Leonard Talley, 51, is charged with murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and a violation of his oath as a public officer, according to Muscogee County Jail records. A judge on Saturday ordered Talley, a sergeant with the Columbus Police Department, be held without bond on the murder charge.  Talley, a married father of two teenage daughters, is accused of shooting Kelly Susanne Levinsohn, 44, inside her home. He was arrested in neighboring Harris County after crashing Levinsohn’s truck on Interstate 185, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.  >> Read more trending news The longtime police officer, who was left in critical condition in the crash, was hospitalized at Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital for five days before being released Thursday and booked into the jail.  His attorney, Jennifer Curry, told the Ledger-Enquirer that Talley is being housed away from the general population while he continues to recover from his injuries. Curry said Talley, a police officer since 2002, would be at risk among fellow inmates he helped put behind bars.  Curry on Saturday waived her client’s preliminary hearing and entered a not guilty verdict on his behalf.  “Our goal today really was to protect families on both sides, especially Mr. Talley’s children,” Curry told the newspaper. “They didn’t ask for this, so I’m trying to respect their privacy.” Talley’s wife was among the scant number of people in the courtroom Saturday. Despite his marital status, Columbus police officials have characterized Levinsohn’s death as the result of a domestic situation. They have not confirmed a romantic relationship between her and her alleged killer, though some of Levinsohn’s neighbors told WTVM in Columbus that the pair had been dating for more than a year.  Curry declined to comment Saturday on the nature of her client’s relationship with Levinsohn, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.  “Again, my goal today was to protect his two daughters,” Curry said. “I’m hoping that both families have time to understand what happened and come to terms with where we’re at now.” Columbus police officials said officers were called to Levinsohn’s home around 8 p.m. Saturday by an unidentified caller who told 911 dispatchers someone had been injured or killed in the home. The caller identified the suspect in the slaying as an officer with the department.  The caller met officers at Levinsohn’s home and told them the suspect had been in a car crash in Harris County, the Ledger-Enquirer reported. Officers went inside the home, where they found Levinsohn dead of a single gunshot wound.  They also found the paramedic’s vehicle to be missing, the newspaper said.  Columbus police Chief Ricky Boren told the Ledger-Enquirer that investigators recovered a gun believed to be the murder weapon. It was not a department-issued weapon, Boren said.  Talley, a patrol sergeant and SWAT team member, is on leave without pay pending a resolution of the case, the newspaper said.  Clark Rowell, who lives across the street from the crime scene, told WTVM his neighbor’s relationship with Talley was not always a peaceful one.  “One time, they had a bad argument out there on the front porch,” Rowell told the news station. “He went to the door, she opened it up and she wouldn’t let him in.” Rowell said after Levinsohn slammed the door on him, Talley “stomped” to his patrol car and left.  Talley’s own personnel record shows that he was also handcuffed by colleagues called to Levinsohn’s home more than a year before her slaying. Records obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer show officers were called to the scene around 7:41 p.m. March 11, 2018. Talley had been drinking, according to the report obtained by the newspaper.  “Talley had to be placed in handcuffs due to a brief struggle while officers attempted to calm him down and speak with him about his personal issues,” the report stated.  Two on-duty supervisors had to be called to Levinsohn’s home to deal with the situation. According to the Ledger-Enquirer, Talley served a single day’s suspension in September related to the incident.  He was not arrested, the newspaper said. It was his first disciplinary action in nearly a decade and his previous disciplinary issues were minor ones.  A sergeant since November 2009, Talley briefly became a detective in 2015, but transferred back to the patrol division less than a year later. Aside from the handful of disciplinary actions against him, he was given “glowing” performance evaluations, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.  Supervisors in 2017 complimented his “initiative” and recommended he try for a promotion to lieutenant.  From all accounts, Levinsohn also excelled at her job as an advanced emergency medical technician with Care Ambulance, the Ledger-Enquirer reported. Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan told the newspaper Levinsohn had been with the service for 12 years.  Bryan said her slaying came as a shock to those she worked with. “She was very dedicated to her job. It’s a hard job, both physically and mentally hard. She took it in stride, never showed any kind of negative mood towards one of the patients that she was transporting,” Bryan said. “She was always there to ease the patient’s pain and suffering, and she was just the kind of person you would want to see come to the scene to be with you.” He said Levinsohn was also a friendly face for first responders, who were often exposed to horrific situations.  “In our line of business, me as a coroner and her as an EMT, we see a lot, car accident victims, gunshot victims, stabbing victims, sick people,” Bryan said. “(Levinsohn) was a very emotionally stable person. She kept a level head the whole time, and I praised her for that quite often.” The coroner said he was taking extra care that Levinsohn’s body was treated with respect as her mother, Wylma Levinsohn, traveled home from Israel to see about burying her daughter, who friends described as her best friend.  According to Kelly Levinsohn’s obituary, her funeral was Sunday in Columbus.  Longtime friend Staci Warman described Kelly Levinsohn as a loyal friend with a smile that was “the most contagious part about her.” “She was the best friend anybody really could ever have,” said Warman, who last spoke to Levinsohn in April, the day after Levinsohn’s birthday.  At the time, Levinsohn was on a trip to Aruba with her mother, Warman said.  Kay Witt, who had known Levinsohn since her childhood, also spoke about the tropical vacation, saying that Wylma Levinsohn will be left with a treasured memory.  “They spent a week in Aruba and had an absolute ball, snorkeling, driving around, laying on the beach, eating,” Witt told the Ledger-Enquirer. “All the things that you would do on your fantasy vacation, they did.” Witt said Kelly Levinsohn was also her mother’s “rock” as her father, Bill Levinsohn, battled cancer before his 2017 death.  Besides her mother, Levinsohn is also survived by an older brother, Gary Levinsohn, who “loved her from the minute she was born and was so proud of what she became,” her obituary said. 
  • A police officer died and two others were injured after they responded to a domestic violence call late Sunday at an Alabama mobile home park, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news  After an hours-long manhunt, authorities arrested Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, on charges connected to the shooting. The slain officer was identified as William Buechner, WSFA reported. The news station reported the injured officers were identified as Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott. Here are the latest updates: Update 1:30 p.m. EDT May 20: Auburn police Chief Paul Register said early Monday that the two officers injured in Sunday’s shooting were expected to recover. 'This is probably the worst day of my time here,' Register said. 'Words cannot express the loss for this family, our family and this community.' One of the injured officers, identified as K-9 Officer Webb Sistrunk, was being treated Monday at a hospital in Columbus, Georgia, WMBA reported. The other officer, identified as Officer Evan Elliott, was treated for his injuries and released, according to the news network. Authorities on Monday arrested Grady Wayne Wilkes on charges including capital murder, WMBA reported. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey decried the violence. 'This is so tragic and so useless. I'm just heartbroken,' she said Monday during an appearance in Montgomery. Update 12:40 p.m. EDT May 20: Police on Monday identified the slain officer as William Buechner, a 13-year veteran of the Auburn Police Department, WBMA reported. Police Chief Paul Register identified the injured officers as Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott, AL.com reported. Authorities earlier Monday arrested Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, the man suspected of shooting the officers. Officials continue to investigate. Update 8:32 a.m. EDT May 20: Police have apprehended the man accused of fatally shooting one police officer and injuring two others late Sunday at an Auburn mobile home park. According to WVTM reporter Sarah Killian, Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, was captured Monday. >> See the tweet here Original report: According to the Opelika-Auburn News, a white man opened fire just after 10 p.m. Sunday as Auburn police officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at a mobile home park. “Responding officers were injured by gunfire and were transported to local hospitals,” Auburn police said in a news release. Although authorities have not release the officers’ names or conditions, the Opelika-Auburn News reported that one died and two more were seriously injured.  Police said the suspect, Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, is on the run. He is described as a 6-foot-4, 215-pound white male with brown hair and hazel eyes. He was wearing body armor, camo clothing and a helmet. Wilkes is believed to be “armed and dangerous,” authorities said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A man who broke into a home in Houston early Sunday died after he was shot several times by the man who found him in his teenage daughter’s bedroom, according to police and multiple reports.  >> Read more trending news Police said they were called around 2:40 a.m. Sunday to respond to a shooting at a home on North Bellaire Estates Drive. The homeowner told police he found an armed man in his 13-year-old daughter’s upstairs bedroom after a break-in. The homeowner said he wrestled the gun away from the burglar before firing it multiple times, striking the intruder, according to authorities and the Houston Chronicle. Police said the burglar, who was not identified, broke into the home through a downstairs window and walked up the stairs to get to the girl’s bedroom. Four children between the ages of 4 13 and 4 were home at the time of the incident, officials said. Detective Blake Roberts told reporters a neighbor helped get the kids out of the home after the shooting. “They did observe the suspect downstairs in the residence, stabbing himself … (with) a kitchen knife,” Roberts said, according to KPRC-TV. Authorities took the injured intruder to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. It was not immediately clear why the home was targeted. 'This appears to be random,' Roberts said. “Of course, it's still under investigation. We still have a lot of research to do on the male that broke into the house as far as his criminal history, his mental history and anything we can find in order to determine what would be the motive for this.”
  • Monday is Memorial Day, a day to honor those who died in military service to the United States. >> Read more trending news In addition to being a day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, the last Monday in May is also seen as the “unofficial start of summer.” Retailers are here to help shoppers get a jump on all things summer with special deals for military personnel and great discounts for the rest of us. Here are some Memorial Day deals to jump start your three-day shopping weekend. Academy Sports and Outdoors: Military and first responders get 10% off in-store and online purchases through Memorial Day. Everyone can get discounts during the Memorial Day sale. Amazon: Look for sales on TVs, KitchenAid mixers, grills, Dyson vacuums and more. Birch Lane: Shop the Memorial Day pre-sale through Wednesday for discounts up to 70%. Bed Bath & Beyond: Save 40% on select outdoor furniture.  Belk’s: Use the code “Memorial” and get 20% off regular & sale purchases (15% off home & shoes; 10% off small appliances), through Memorial Day. Bloomingdale's: From Tuesday through Memorial Day, get 20% off Big Brown Bag sale and clearance. eBags: Get up to 60% off sitewide.  >> Memorial Day 2019: Quotes about patriotism, freedom Eddie Bauer: Use the code “CREEK40” at checkout to get 40% off sitewide when you enter coupon code 'SUMMIT40' at checkout. Famous Footwear: Get up to 60% off select sale items. Home Depot: Get 40% off select appliances. Get $10 off gallon cans of select paints an stain; $40 off 3-gallon and 5-gallon cans of paint. Hush Puppies: Save up to 50 percent on sale items. Johnston & Murphy: Get free shipping on all women’s orders and on orders more than $100.  Joss & Main: From Wednesday to May 30, save up to 70% off sitewide. Land’s End: Get 50% off all swimwear and water shoes.   Layla Sleep: Get $125 off the Layla mattress and get two pillows free. Lilly Pulitzer: Get two wine glasses, elephant wine stopper and a wicker wine basket when you spend $600 or more.  Lowe's: Get up to 40% off select appliances from Thursday through May 29. Macy’s: Sales not going on at Macy’s include select sneakers from 40% to 60% off, men’s 20% to 60% off, luggage 50% off, and fine jewelry 50% to 70% off. Old Navy: Get 50% off tees, tanks, shorts and swimwear. Nordstrom: Get 20% off Thule Baby Gear through Memorial Day. Purple: Up to $100 mattresses, plus free sheets.  Peruvian Connection: Get 20% off sale items plus free shipping through Memorial Day. Sears: Get 40 percent off select appliances. Serta: Save up to $600 on iComfort mattress sets. Target: You can save up to 30% on home and patio items. Walmart: Get 30% to 60% off on clothing, furniture, home goods, kitchen appliances, tech gadgets, toys and more. Wayfair: Through May 28, save up to 70% off mattresses, bedding and kitchen essentials; 65% off living room furniture and pet products; 60% off coffee tables, and up to 50% off grills.    
  • There’s a giraffe baby boom at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens! Less than a week after a male calf was born to experienced mom Naomi, he has a new half-brother. A second giraffe calf was born at the Zoo early Sunday, to mother Luna. “It’s really fun to have two calves this close together. We can’t wait to see how they’re gunna do when they get a little bit older and they’re playing with each other and watching them run around the yard- it’s gunna be awesome,” says Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Deputy Director Dan Maloney. GALLERY: Second giraffe calf born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens This giraffe was also sired by Duke, who died at 21-years-old late last year, due to age-related issues. Maloney says Duke was considered important to their cooperative breeding program, so having two new sons after Duke’s passing is very special, because it continues that bloodline. “Having a healthy population- really healthy bloodlines- is important to any of these cooperative breeding programs,” he says. Conversations will take place with partners and under the species survival plan to determine whether and when that means these calves will move to another Zoo, in order to ensure that healthy future population. The Zoo is also looking at bringing in a new bull giraffe, so breeding can continue following Duke’s death. “Giraffes are starting to have lots of problems within their home ranges in Africa. No one would ever have thought that giraffes would be under any kind of pressure and become rarer in different parts, but they are,” Maloney says. This new youngster is small for a giraffe calf, standing at 5’9” and 119 lbs. For comparison, the calf born to Naomi a few days ago was 6’4” and 187 lbs. Maloney says Luna tends to produce small offspring, but by all accounts, this calf is healthy and doing well. GALLERY: Male giraffe calf born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens The plan is to start introducing the new calf to other members of the herd in their side holding area, but Maloney says they intend to get him out on exhibit soon. “They’re gunna grow up in that herd structure, so you might as well get them out there as soon as you can,” he says. With high profile animals, the Zoo offers donors an opportunity to sponsor and name the babies. Maloney says, through that opportunity, it appears one of these calves will be named Izzy. The second one has not yet been determined. And these are not the only new youngsters being welcomed at the Zoo. GALLERY: Baby boom at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens In the last few weeks, the Zoo seen the birth of a yellow-backed duiker, hatchings of two Black-faced ibis chicks and a Magellanic penguin chick, and several additions to the herpatology collection.

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