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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    Using his veto pen for the first time in just over two years in office, President Donald Trump on Friday rejected a special resolution from Congress which would block his national emergency declaration to shift money into construction of a border wall, a day after the GOP Senate joined the Democratic House in rebuking the President. 'Congress’s vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality,' President Trump said in the Oval Office. 'It's against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis.' The measure now goes back to the House and Senate, where any effort to override the President's veto is far short of the necessary two-thirds super majority. 'On March 26, the House will once again act to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override his veto,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But the President sternly disagreed. Here's the text of the President's veto message, as sent back to the Congress: To the House of Representatives:   I am returning herewith without my approval H.J. Res. 46, a joint resolution that would terminate the national emergency I declared regarding the crisis on our southern border in Proclamation 9844 on February 15, 2019, pursuant to the National Emergencies Act.  As demonstrated by recent statistics published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and explained in testimony given by the Secretary of Homeland Security on March 6, 2019, before the House Committee on Homeland Security, our porous southern border continues to be a magnet for lawless migration and criminals and has created a border security and humanitarian crisis that endangers every American. Last month alone, CBP apprehended more than 76,000 aliens improperly attempting to enter the United States along the southern border -- the largest monthly total in the last 5 years. In fiscal year 2018, CBP seized more than 820,000 pounds of drugs at our southern border, including 24,000 pounds of cocaine, 64,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 5,000 pounds of heroin, and 1,800 pounds of fentanyl. In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, immigration officers nationwide made 266,000 arrests of aliens previously charged with or convicted of crimes. These crimes included approximately 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings. In other words, aliens coming across our border have injured or killed thousands of people, while drugs flowing through the border have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.   The current situation requires our frontline border enforcement personnel to vastly increase their humanitarian efforts. Along their dangerous trek to the United States, 1 in 3 migrant women experiences sexual abuse, and 7 in 10 migrants are victims of violence. Fifty migrants per day are referred for emergency medical care, and CBP rescues 4,300 people per year who are in danger and distress. The efforts to address this humanitarian catastrophe draw resources away from enforcing our Nation's immigration laws and protecting the border, and place border security personnel at increased risk.   As troubling as these statistics are, they reveal only part of the reality. The situation at the southern border is rapidly deteriorating because of who is arriving and how they are arriving. For many years, the majority of individuals who arrived illegally were single adults from Mexico. Under our existing laws, we could detain and quickly remove most of these aliens. More recently, however, illegal migrants have organized into caravans that include large numbers of families and unaccompanied children from Central American countries. Last year, for example, a record number of families crossed the border illegally. If the current trend holds, the number of families crossing in fiscal year 2019 will greatly surpass last year's record total. Criminal organizations are taking advantage of these large flows of families and unaccompanied minors to conduct dangerous illegal activity, including human trafficking, drug smuggling, and brutal killings.   Under current laws, court decisions, and resource constraints, the Government cannot detain families or undocumented alien children from Central American countries in significant numbers or quickly deport them. Instead, the Government is forced to release many of them into the interior of the United States, pending lengthy judicial proceedings. Although many fail ever to establish any legal right to remain in this country, they stay nonetheless.   This situation on our border cannot be described as anything other than a national emergency, and our Armed Forces are needed to help confront it.   My highest obligation as President is to protect the Nation and its people. Every day, the crisis on our border is deepening, and with new surges of migrants expected in the coming months, we are straining our border enforcement personnel and resources to the breaking point.   H.J. Res. 46 ignores these realities. It is a dangerous resolution that would undermine United States sovereignty and threaten the lives and safety of countless Americans. It is, therefore, my duty to return it to the House of Representatives without my approval.   DONALD J. TRUMP   THE WHITE HOUSE, March 15, 2019. 
  • 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.' + 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!' + 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. + 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. + 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.
  • As President Donald Trump sent Congress on Monday a $4.7 trillion budget proposal for 2020, the estimates of his own budget experts predict that this spending plan will result in four straight years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion, with no budget surplus until the mid-2030's. After a deficit of $779 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, the President's new budget plan forecasts four more years of even higher levels of red ink. 2019 - $1.092 trillion 2020 - $1.101 trillion 2021 - $1.068 trillion 2022 - $1.049 trillion The White House budget document shows the deficit dropping to an estimated $909 billion in 2023. The higher deficit figures come even as the White House projected a growing amount of revenues coming in for Uncle Sam as a result of the 2017 GOP tax cut plan, as officials said the problem is not taxes, but the level of government spending. 'We don't think the tax cuts are going to lead to anything other than economic growth over the next ten years,' a senior White House official told reporters on Monday morning. After revenues were basically flat from 2017 to 2018, the official predicted the feds would see growth of 6 percent in money coming into the Treasury in 2020, as compared to 2019. Part of the President’s 2020 budget plan would make the GOP tax cut permanent for individuals - the business part of that tax package was permanent, but the income tax cuts and other items impacting individual taxpayers end in 2025. Still, for the President - and his chief aides - the big problem is spending, not tax revenues, as the White House said the 2020 budget was a ‘fiscally responsible and pro-American budget.’ While GOP supporters of the President like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) touted today’s budget plan - the declaration that the Trump budget will result in a balanced budget won’t be happening anytime soon. In the next ten years, the 2020 Trump budget estimates that another $7.2 trillion would be added in deficits, pushing the national debt towards the $30 trillion mark. “Under reasonable economic assumptions, we find it would add about $10.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years,” said the watchdog group, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It's quite an achievement for the President's budget to have fantastical economic assumptions, massive & unprecedented cuts to domestic discretionary spending, and *still* manage to end up with trillion dollar deficits for the next four years,” tweeted Shaki Akabas, an economic expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
  • With over $2 trillion added to the federal debt since he took office just over two years ago, President Donald Trump will deliver a spending plan to the Congress on Monday which is certain to spur a sharp debate with Democrats over proposed cuts in domestic spending programs, but won't come close to producing a balanced budget for more than a decade. 'It is time for Congress to join the president in his commitment to cutting spending, reducing bloated deficits, and getting our national debt under control. America’s future generations are depending on them,' said Russ Vought, the acting chief of the White House budget office. But, so far, President Trump's time in office has seen the growth in the deficit accelerate, from $584 billion in President Obama's last full year in office in 2016, to $779 billion in 2018. As of January, the deficit in 2019 was running 77 percent higher than a year ago, as even White House budget estimates have forecast a yearly deficit over $1 trillion in coming years. Here's some of what to look for in Monday's budget submission, which is titled, 'A Budget for a Better America.' 1. Domestic spending cuts, back door increase for defense. With no deal as yet to avoid budget caps from a 2011 deficit law, spending in 2020 would be limited on defense to $576 billion, and $542 billion for domestic programs. But the President wants much more for the military, so the Trump Administration will reportedly propose spending a massive $174 billion for the 'Overseas Contingency Operations' fund - an increase of $106 billion - for a total military budget of $750 billion. Budget watchdog groups say the idea is a big, fat budgetary gimmick, nothing but a slush fund for the Pentagon. 2. Trump to request $8.6 billion for the border wall. With no confirmed details yet on how the President will shift around some $6.6 billion in the Pentagon budget to fund construction of his border wall, Mr. Trump will reportedly ask Congress to approve $8.6 billion for the wall in 2020. Democrats had a simple reaction on Sunday. 'No,' said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'No,' said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). 'Dead on arrival,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). Even after a 35 day partial government shutdown earlier this year, the President received $1.375 billion for barriers - but not a wall, and there seems to be little chance that dynamic will change for Democrats in the 2020 budget debate. 'Congress refused to fund his wall,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Sunday. 'The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.' 3. Goal for a balanced budget would be 2035. Even if President Trump serves two terms in office, his own White House doesn't forecast anything close to a balanced budget. The last official budget estimates from the White House in July of 2018 - which will be updated with this new budget proposal - predicted the deficit would peak over $1 trillion for three years, and then finally get below $500 billion by 2027, adding almost $8 trillion in deficts along the way. More conservative Republicans in the House aren't worried by those details, as they say the President has shown 'fiscally conservative leadership,' even though the debt has already increased by more than $2 trillion during his two plus years in office. 4. Not all the details, and already behind schedule. President Trump was supposed to have sent this budget to Congress by the first Monday in February - but today will only bring the basic highlights, not all the nitty gritty details of the proposal. Part of the reason is that the 35 day partial government shutdown delayed a lot of work in government agencies. All of the spending work is supposed to be done by Congress each year by September 30 - but that's only happened four times since the budget process was reformed in 1974. Congress has six and a half months until the deadline - it's hard to see how lawmakers avoid more stop gap funding plans - and maybe another shutdown as well. 5. A new dynamic with divided control of Congress. In the first two years of the Trump Presidency, Republicans in the House and Senate were in charge - but now, Democrats will have first crack at the President's budget, and they are certain to take a much different road. In a sense, that's a good thing for Mr. Trump, giving him the chance to battle it out with Democrats more clearly on budget priorities. But it also amplifies the chance for a government shutdown on October 1. Speaker Pelosi likes to say that a budget is a 'statement of values.' After the Trump budget gets delivered to Congress, the next move will be up to Democrats in the House, to forge their on budget outline for 2020. There are political pitfalls ahead for both sides.
  • The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee took the unusual step Friday of publicly releasing a 268 page interview transcript with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, confirming reports that Ohr forwarded material to the FBI from his wife, and that former British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele warned during the 2016 campaign that Russian intelligence believed they had President Donald Trump 'over a barrel.'  'He (Steele) told me that the former head of - or he had information that the former head of the Russian foreign intelligence service had said that they had Trump over a barrel,' said Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who funneled information from Steele to FBI investigators. 'My interpretation is that that meant that, if true, the Russian Government had some kind of compromising material on Donald Trump,' Ohr told lawmakers in the August 28, 2018 deposition, as he defended the quality of information Steele had provided the U.S. Government in the past. 'Chris Steele has, for a long time, been very concerned about Russian crime and corruption and what he sees as Russian malign acts around the world, in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere,' Ohr told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'And if he had information that he believed showed that the Russian Government was acting in a hostile way to the United States, he wanted to get that information to me.' In the deposition, Ohr acknowledged that he forwarded information not only from Steele to the FBI - but also from his wife, Nellie Ohr, who worked at Fusion GPS, the company which had hired Steele to do intelligence work on President Trump from Europe. Ohr said he realized during 2016 that his wife was researching 'some of the same people that I had heard about from Chris Steele,' and that she provided her husband with a thumb drive of information, which he then gave to FBI investigators.  Republicans found the chain of events described by Ohr to be a bit difficult to swallow. 'I'm trying to envision this cold start to a conversation with 'Here, honey, here's a thumb drive,'' said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) at one point. Ohr, an expert in Russian organized crime, said he never looked at any of the information. 'I didn't want to plug it into my machine at work,' Ohr testified. 'I just gave it to the FBI.' The transcript of the deposition was released by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on Friday; Collins said he took the unilateral action because he was frustrated that it was taking so long for the Trump Justice Department to make the transcript public. 'After many months, and little progress, our patience grows thin,' Collins said in a speech on the House floor on Friday morning. 'I intend to make other transcripts public soon,' Collins said, referring to interviews done with a variety of Justice Department and FBI figures when Republicans were in charge of the House in 2018. Collins said the transcripts were being held back because of questions over redactions, as he accused the Trump Justice Department of slow walking requests to make the testimony public. In 2018, House Republicans conducted a series of private interviews with different figures involved in the Russia investigation - not focusing on possible wrongdoing involving the Trump campaign - but instead looking at Justice Department and FBI officials, and how they came to start and conduct the initial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  Other than a two day closed door interview with former FBI Director James Comey - who requested the release of his closed door testimony - none of the other private transcripts had been released publicly until Collins did so on Friday. While Ohr's testimony was in private, some highlights were immediately leaked to a series of news organizations back in August of 2018. 'AP sources: Lawyer was told Russia had 'Trump over a barrel,'' the Associated Press reported. 'DOJ official told Russia had Trump 'over a barrel,'' was the CNN headline at the time. The GOP inquiries for Ohr repeatedly sought to raise questions about a broader conspiracy of actions by officials at the Justice Department, as Republicans tried to paint a picture of a group of government officials doing everything they could to investigate Mr. Trump and his allies. Republicans also found it hard to believe that Ohr's wife got a job from Fusion GPS without his involvement. 'I don't remember who made the contact, whether she spoke with Glenn Simpson directly or whether there was another party or someone else involved. I just know it wasn't me,' Ohr said of his wife's job. “So when she came home and said, 'Honey, I got a job with Glenn Simpson,' what did you say?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) at one point. In the interview, Ohr was asked about an email from Steele in which Steele wanted to talk about 'our favorite business tycoon’ - which GOP lawmakers seemed to believe was a certain U.S. candidate. But Ohr repeatedly said that description wasn't a reference to President Trump, but rather to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was owed money by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Republicans again and again pressed Ohr about how he handled information from Steele, and why he did not inform his bosses that he was handing over that material to the FBI. 'I have received information from different people about organized crime over the years, and in each case I've provided it to the FBI,' Ohr explained. Ohr said he did not have a personal relationship with Glenn Simpson, who had hired Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS, but that they had met several times through the years. Ohr defended his contacts with Steele, even after the FBI had terminated their relationship with the former British agent. “When I got a call from Chris Steele and he provided information, if it seemed like it was significant, I would provide it to the FBI,” Ohr said.
  • After three days of pointed debate, the House voted along party lines on Friday to approve a sweeping voting, elections, and government ethics reform package, as Democrats championed the changes as essential to democratic government, while Republicans denounced the details as nothing more than a political effort to tip the election scales against the GOP. 'We were sent to Washington with a sacred task to do everything in our power to reinstate Americans’ hope and faith in our democracy,' said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), one of dozens of new members elected in 2018, as Democrats filled the over 600 page bill with a laundry list of reforms to make it easier to vote, including making Election Day a national holiday. 'H.R. 1 will promote online registration, same day and automatic voter registration, because we should be making it easier, not harder, for people to vote,' said Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA). 'Every eligible voter should be able to cast a vote!' said Rep. Chrissy Houlihan (D-PA), another newly elected Democrat. The bill also includes a raft of ethics reforms to apply to government officials, lobbyists, and more in Washington, D.C., as backers proclaimed it would be the biggest changes since Watergate. 'The American people elected a new Congress to clean up corruption and make Washington work for them,' said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). While Democrats hailed the reforms, which included independent boards to draw Congressional district lines, as essential to the future of the United States, Republicans were furious, denouncing the measure as a big government, Socialist hodge podge of unworkable liberal ideas which would take away election decision-making by the states. 'This bill, as a whole, is nothing more than a charade to make permanent the Democratic majority that just came into existence just a few months ago,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), as Republicans fired wave after wave of attacks at Democrats about the bill, known as the 'For the People Act.' 'When Republicans were in the majority, we reserved H.R. 1 for legislation that actually benefited the American people,' said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA). 'It is not for the people,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'It is, instead, for the Democratic majority, by the Democratic majority, in hopes of maintaining the Democratic majority for many years to come.' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - who has already made clear that he won't bring the bill up for a vote - has labeled the plan, the 'Democrat Politician Protection Act.' On the House floor this week, Republicans openly chafed at a variety of provisions in the bill, like one which would force states to hold extra early voting hours and days - including Sunday. 'For my colleagues who may be unfamiliar, minority communities, particularly African American and Latino, use Sunday early voting to energize their communities to make their voices heard,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL). 'My own State tried to shut it down in 2012,' Crist added, as the House adopted a plan to include Sunday early voting as an election requirement.  'I don’t think the Federal Government should be involved in the minute details of early voting hours,' countered Rep. Davis. Some of the efforts by Democrats to further expand the bill fell flat with their own party - for example, the House voted 305-126 against an amendment which would have lowered the minimum voting age in federal elections to 16 years old. The House did vote on Friday to allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register ahead of their 18th birthday, to make sure they are ready to vote when they reach their 18th birthday, an idea which also was denounced by Republicans. Democrats had hoped to spend the entire week trumpeting their action on this measure, but it was almost completely overshadowed by the internal intrigue over anti-Semitic statements from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as the House interrupted debate on the bill Thursday to approve a resolution denouncing hatred against any groups. 'We're busy with our legislative work,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'despite what we might read in the press.' For those who want to look at the details - here is the link to the text of the 622 page bill before the House debate began. There is also a 446 page summary of the bill's actions.
  • Despite continuing signs of a strong economy, U.S. businesses created only 20,000 new jobs in the month of February, the Labor Department reported on Friday, the second worst monthly jobs report of the Trump Administration. Even with the slower jobs tally, the nation's unemployment dropped down to just 3.8 percent; it hit a historic low of 3.7 percent in September and November of last year. The figures continued a streak of job growth extending back to October of 2010, as this marked the 101st straight month of positive job numbers. 'In February, employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, health care, and wholesale trade, while construction employment declined,' the report stated. One of the big losers was the construction sector, which saw a drop of 31,000 jobs. While job creation slowed in February, wages continued to grow, as the average hourly pay hit $27.66 per hour last month - and up by 3.4 percent from the same point a year ago. 'The economy is very, very strong,' President Donald Trump said at the White House as he noted the increase in average wages for workers. 'So, we're obviously very happy with that.' Another good sign was the U6 unemployment rate - considered the broadest measure of joblessness - as it dropped almost one percent, going down to 7.3 percent in February, the lowest point for the U6 since March of 2001. After growing for four straight months, the size of the labor force declined slightly again in February, by 45,000 people, as the Labor Force Participation Rate remained at 63.2 percent.
  • After days of internal wrangling among Democrats over how to respond to statements about Israel by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) which infuriated Jewish lawmakers in both parties, the U.S. House on Thursday approved a wide-ranging resolution denouncing hatred and bigotry against a variety of groups, but not directly naming and rebuking Omar for her comments. 'The words spoken by our colleague from Minnesota touched a very real, a very raw place for me,' said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who joined others in making clear they wanted a more specific message to Omar, who was just elected in November. 'One thing we are all reminded of this week is that words have power, and divisive words have pain,' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). 'This resolution doesn't need to be seven pages. It's just wordy,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as GOP lawmakers said Democrats had twisted themselves into a legislative pretzel, instead of just addressing what was said by Omar. 'It didn't have to be this hard,' said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), after Democrats made several last minute changes to the resolution. The vote on the resolution was 407 to 23, with one member voting ‘Present.’  All the votes against the measure were from Republicans. “Yes, I voted against a sham resolution, which while condemning anti-semitism, was designed to cover Rep. Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic statements,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX). “If the Democratic Caucus wants to truly condemn hatred, they would take action by formally condemning Rep. Omar by name and by removing her from her committees,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), another one of the “No” votes. “Without naming the offender, the chastisement is an empty gesture,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).  “I voted “no” to the watered down resolution.” “I voted for this watered down resolution condemning all hate,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) wrote on Twitter.  “But the remarks by their members deserve to be specifically called out & voted on.” Omar did not join in the debate; she did vote for the resolution. 'We are here today because of anti-Semitic rhetoric said by one member of this chamber, again and again and again,' said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who was one of almost two dozen Republicans who voted against the resolution, desiring something more direct. 'We now have a pattern,' said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) about statements by Omar about Israel. “We are having this debate right now because of objections by Democrats about something said by a Democrat,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). On the House floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the controversy should serve as a reminder to lawmakers, that “our words are weightier, once we cross the threshold into Congress.”
  • A day after giving more testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump sued the Trump Organization for nearly $2 million in legal fees, charging the President's family business stopped payments about the time that Michael Cohen began working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'As of January 25, 2019, unreimbursed attorneys’ fees and costs incurred on behalf of Mr. Cohen in connection with the Matters subject to his indemnification agreement with the Trump Organization exceeded $1.9 million,' Cohen's lawyers wrote in a 22 page legal document made public on Thursday. The papers give a timeline of how Cohen worked under a joint defense agreement with the Trump Organization and the President's lawyers - until Cohen made the decision to begin cooperating with the Mueller probe - documenting positive statements from the President and his own legal team. 'On April 26, 2018, in a call-in interview with the FOX News television program “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump stated that Mr. Cohen was a “good person” and “great guy,' the lawsuit states. But Cohen’s lawsuit says the tone of the President, and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, changed abruptly, once it became clear that Cohen was going to be assisting the Special Counsel. The lawsuit says just over $1 million is owed to Cohen’s original lawyer. Cohen says what happened was a simple breach of contract between himself, the President, and the Trump Organization. “Attorneys’ fees and costs subject to the Trump Organization’s indemnification agreement continue to accrue,” the suit states.
  • Democrats in the Congress on Wednesday spent another day grappling among themselves over how best to put out political fires sparked by several of their new members, wrestling with perceived anti-Semitic statements by one, promises by another to force action on impeachment of the President, and continued fallout from the climate change proposals of a third new member of the House. As the U.S. House began debate Wednesday afternoon on a sweeping bill chock full of reforms in elections, voting, and government ethics, Democratic lawmakers were fielding questions instead about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whose statements with regards to Israel have repeatedly put her colleagues on the defensive in recent weeks, spurring talk of a House vote designed to admonish Omar. But with no agreement on what kind of resolution to draw up - and with some Democrats pushing back against the idea of punishing Omar - House Democrats engaged in a vigorous closed door tussle over Omar on Wednesday morning, emerging with no consensus on how best to move forward, as Republicans lobbed verbal grenades with glee from the sidelines. 'There is no room for anti-Semitism anywhere in this chamber,' said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who has gone after Omar on social media over her statements, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders struggled to figure out their next step. Worried by public bickering among Democrats over Omar on social media, senior lawmakers used their Wednesday meeting to urge their newer members to talk to each other directly, as a way to defuse tension over Omar. 'Stay off Twitter,' was the advice from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). 'Everybody is against the bigotry,' said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL). 'There's just some difference of opinion on how to move forward,' as Democrats acknowledged that the issue was getting in the way of their legislative message. 'What do we do when we have this robust public agenda, and then we are also asked to superintend all of these comments breaking out all over the country of an objectionable nature?' asked Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who rattled off to reporters a series of high profile issues like voting rights and the cost of prescription drugs which were being shoved into the background. While Omar's future was in limbo, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) was back in the impeachment business, as she announced she would file impeachment articles in coming weeks against President Trump. Tlaib - whose previous call to impeach President Trump landed her in hot water because of her choice to add in a certain vulgar term - joined with more liberal activists who were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words, 'TICK TOCK INDIVIDUAL 1,' using the reference to President Trump in legal documents about the Russia investigation.  'The people at home are frustrated and want the criminal schemes to stop, especially those from the Oval Office,' Tlaib argued. 'Our democracy must be protected,' Tlaib said, as some party activists openly worry that Speaker Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are going to take no action at all against the President. Under the rules of the House, any member can offer impeachment articles against a President - as there's no guarantee that any hearings or vote must be taken on those type of charges. But with the current atmosphere surrounding President Trump, Tlaib's promise to file impeachment charges was another reminder to party leaders that the 'I-word' remains a potent force, even as House Democratic leaders are nowhere near making such a politically explosive decision. The third thorn in the side for Democratic leaders has been the 'Green New Deal' unveiled several weeks ago on climate change, as Republicans around the nation have quickly made it into boilerplate attack on Democrats at all levels of government. The proposal - a simple non-binding resolution on climate change - wasn't really the source of the problem; instead it was a separate document posted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) containing all sorts of climate policy changes, which has energized Republicans in both the House and Senate. 'Braun Compares 'Green New Deal' to 'Unaffordable Care Act,'' read the headline happily put out on social media by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN). 'The Green New Deal is not serious policy; it’s a fantasy,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). 'The more you look at the Green New Deal, the worse it looks,' said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).  Those statements hit Twitter in just a 15 minute span on Wednesday, as the Green New Deal has swiftly become Republican shorthand for budget busting, big Government, tree-hugging, climate-change-crazed, liberal Democrats. The various troubles over Omar, impeachment, and the Green New Deal might not seem like much from outside - but on Capitol Hill, the combination threatens to overshadow the legislative achievements of Democrats. By the end of Wednesday, the Speaker's office was trying to get back on message, slamming the President for refusing to turn over documents to a series of House committees, and trying to stay ahead of restless supporters back home. 'What is President Trump Hiding?' Pelosi asked in a statement, defending the investigations launched in recent days by Democrats, and their legislative agenda. 'House Democrats will be relentless in our pursuit to get the answers the American people deserve, clean up the corruption in Washington, and enact reforms that address the most pressing challenges facing our nation,' Pelosi said. A few hours earlier, the Speaker had been on the House floor to back H.R. 1, the signature reform package of House Democrats. But out in the Speaker’s Lobby, reporters were mainly asking about other topics, as the energized progressive wing of the party makes waves on Capitol Hill.

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  • Duval County voters have re-elected Lenny Curry as Jacksonville Mayor and Mike Williams as Jacksonville Sheriff.  Vote-by-mail numbers remain only partially reported, but with both early voting and Election Day voting numbers fully reported, Lenny Curry had 57.65% of the vote. His next closest competition, Anna Lopez Brosche snagged 24.14%  of the vote. Jimmy Hill got 7.53%, while Omega Allen picked up 10.50%.  During his victory speech, Curry addressed his accomplishments as mayor.  'Four years ago, I promised you I would focus on public safety, the pension crisis, educational opportunities for young people, invest in your neighborhoods, and create jobs. And over the last four years, I've honored those promises, and I believe that's why you've re-elected me, because I had a record to run on,' said Curry.  Looking to the future, Curry says the focus will remain on public safety, with continued investment in after-school programs and summer jobs for young people. Curry also said he will keep a focus on the health of the St. Johns River and job creation.  Curry also addressed the future of downtown Jacksonville, saying you can't be a suburb of nowhere.  'We're gonna make downtown a destination. Residential, retail, sports, art, and entertainment. You will not recognize downtown in four years,' said Curry.  While he promised big changes for downtown, he vowed it would not come at the expense of other neighborhoods. Lopez Brosche released a statement following her defeat, congratulating Curry on his win. In that statement, she says she is understandably disappointed, but has absolutely no regrets about running for mayor. FULL STATEMENT FROM LOPEZ BROSCHE POSTED BELOW: STORY: FULL DUVAL COUNTY ELECTIONS RESULTS In the race for Sheriff, Mike Williams defeated Tony Cummings, 61.60% to 38.40%, based on the fully reported early voting and Election Day voting numbers (vote-by-mail remains only partially reported). During his victory speech, Williams thanked the people of Jacksonville for their vote as he said Tuesday's elections begins the next chapter of work that needs to be done.  'Today JSO is ready to handle any challenge-- to work with our community, to protect Jacksonville. This community's strong support of JSO continues to astound me and I am forever grateful for that,' said Williams.  Williams says JSO will continue to work with the community to combat violence and gangs, as he says families in every neighborhood deserve to feel safe.  'Our core strategy going forward is a simple one. We know what works, we will do more of that. We will do it faster, and we will do it better,' said Williams.  Williams says JSO's methods will only get better, thanks to the new tools and technology, the professionals of JSO, and the community. Cummings released a statement Tuesday evening, thanking his supporters. “I thank you for believing in our vision for securing the city and bringing crime under control. We did not get the results we were looking for, but our vision, I’m sure, did not go unnoticed by the establishment,” said Cummings.
  • Some new faces are joining the Jacksonville City Council, but five races will remain undecided until May. In order to win outright tonight, a candidate had to secure 50% + 1 of the votes. If that did not happen, the top two vote-getters in the race will face off on May 14th. That will happen in five races, including two that feature incumbents.  FULL RESULTS: Jacksonville’s City Council races In District 8, Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman and Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly are the top two contenders. Pittman was appointed to the seat when the Governor suspended the prior City Councilwoman. That prior Councilwoman, Katrina Brown, did run in the race, but she did not land in the top two to make it to the runoff. In At-Large Group 3, incumbent Democrat Tommy Hazouri and Republican Greg Rachal will face off in May.  In District 10, the top two vote-getters are Democrat Brenda A. Priestly Jackson and Democrat Celestine Mills, but nobody secured the majority needed to win outright. District 14 was another open seat, and Republican Randy DeFoor and Democrat Sunny Gettinger will be on the ballot in May in that race. City Council At-Large 1 was open, and Democrat Lisa King will face Republican Terrance Freeman. Freeman is a sitting Councilman in District 10, but is running for election to At-Large 1, instead of re-election to the seat he holds, which he was appointed to by the Governor when the prior Councilman, Reggie Brown, was suspended. The remaining 14 races have been decided. Four of those seats had victors before the night even started- Republican LeAnna Cumber in District 4, Republican Rory Diamond in District 13, incumbent Republican District 3 Councilman Aaron Bowman, and incumbent Republican District 11 Councilman Danny Becton were all elected without opposition. Among the other races, in the open District 6 contest, Republican Michael Boylan secured the win. Open At-Large Group 2 saw Republican Ron Salem victorious. At-Large Group 4 was another open seat, although the person filling it is a familiar name to the Council- former Councilman Republican Matt Carlucci defeated two challengers to win the race. Aside from the two incumbents in runoffs for their seats, the others secured re-election. Democrat Joyce Morgan was re-elected in District 1, Republican Al Ferraro was re-elected to District 2, Republican Scott Wilson was re-elected to District 4, Democrat Reggie Gaffney was re-elected to District 7, Democrat Garrett Dennis was re-elected to District 9, Republican Randy White was re-elected to District 12, and Republican Samuel Newby was re-elected to At-Large Group 5.
  • The Department of Defense has compiled a list of military construction projects that could be eliminated, reduced, or otherwise altered in order to fund the border wall, under President Trump’s National Emergency declaration. The list includes two projects at Naval Station Mayport. WOKV has previously reported on a more than $82.3 million budget for a Littoral Combat Ship Support Facility that could be at risk. Naval Facility Engineering Command Southeast says this project consists of a larger administrative building and parking garage to support LCS operations on the base. Mayport is a hub for one of the LCS designs, with 16 of the ships expected to call Mayport home by 2023. The DOD list, which was released by Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) also identifies a nearly $75 million Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant on the base as something that could be affected by the need to find funding for the National Emergency declaration. NAVFAC Southeast tells WOKV this project would upgrade the existing sewage treatment plant, to treat wastewater on the base. It would “modernize and improve” the base’s ability to treat wastewater, according to NAVFAC Southeast. The project is not currently under contract, but solicitation is ongoing. There is no timeline set for possible groundbreaking or completion, because NAVFAC Southeast says that is generally determined after the contract is awarded. We asked what the impact would be if the project was eliminated, and NAVFAC Southeast said only that they continue to solicit the project. The DOD list identifies all military construction projects that could be affected, which are projects that have not yet been awarded and are not slated to be awarded before September 2019. Eligible projects also must not impact housing, barracks, and dorms. The DOD further says the list represents more funding than they expect to need as part of the $3.6 billion National Emergency declaration, so while they have highlighted all possible projects, it does not mean that all of these projects will be affected. It is not yet clear when there will be a final determination on this.
  • Newly uncovered court documents show that Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the man accused of the notorious Golden State Killer serial murders and rapes in the 1970s and 1980s, was arrested on an unrelated charge in 1996, but was let go. DeAngelo, a U.S. Navy veteran and former police officer, faces 13 murder charges and 13 counts of kidnapping related to some of more than 50 sexual assaults the Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, is believed to have committed over a span stretching from 1975 to 1986. Following his arrest outside his Citrus Heights, California, home last April, authorities said the only prior arrest they knew of was a 1979 shoplifting incident that led to DeAngelo losing his job with the Auburn Police Department.  He stole a hammer and a can of dog repellent in the incident, according to reports.  The Sacramento Bee, which requested a bevy of court records following DeAngelo’s high-profile arrest last year, reported Friday that the records the newspaper received included documents from a lawsuit DeAngelo filed following a 1996 arrest in which he was accused of stealing from a gas station by leaving without paying for some gas.  >> Read more trending news DeAngelo, then 50, was arrested in an April 16, 1996, sting operation in which law enforcement officials in Placer County targeted people with outstanding warrants by notifying them that they had won free Super Bowl tickets, the Bee reported. The targets were told they could pick up the tickets at a Sacramento office.  DeAngelo was one of the people who responded to the ruse, the Bee said. He was jailed and released, and the charge against him was later dismissed, the court records showed.  Related story: Alabama man charged in 1999 double murder of teen girls Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office officials said there was no way to know in 1996 that DeAngelo was the murder suspect they and several other law enforcement agencies had sought for so long. “We had no way of knowing at the time who we actually had in our jail, because the evidence wasn’t there, the technology wasn’t there,” Sgt. Shaun Hampton told the newspaper Friday. “I don’t think there’s any way we could have known. There was no way for us to identify this person by him simply being in our jail for a few hours.” DeAngelo later sued the gas station manager for false arrest, claiming the gas pump had malfunctioned before he finished pumping the gas for which he’d already paid. The attendant, who the records alleged did not speak English well, reported him as an attempted robber after he demanded cash back for the gas it failed to pump.  “Eventually, the case was dismissed and the court entered an order finding plaintiff factually innocent and sealed the record,” the lawsuit said, according to the Bee.  The $1 million suit was eventually settled out of court, the Bee said. William Wright, who sued on DeAngelo’s behalf, told the newspaper he could not remember details of the settlement.  Wright expressed shock upon learning Friday that his client in 1996 was the Golden State Killer suspect. He said he remembered “Joe” as a nice guy who was “very upset about this gas station business.” “I’d seen the guy on TV, but I never made the connection,” Wright told the Bee. “He was very pleasant when he was talking to me.” Related story: Genealogy, DNA solve case of newborn left to freeze to death in ditch 38 years ago The newspaper reported that Sacramento County officials did not begin collecting DNA samples from suspects arrested for felonies until a few years after DeAngelo’s 1996 arrest. The process became routine statewide after the 2004 passage of Proposition 69, a law pushed by Bruce Harrington.  Harrington’s brother and sister-in-law, Keith and Patrice Harrington, were two of DeAngelo’s alleged victims in 1986, 10 years before his arrest in the gas station incident. The couple were found slain by Bruce and Keith Harrington’s father when he arrived at their home for dinner.  DeAngelo became a suspect in the Golden State Killer case after cold case investigators tried a novel approach to solving the crime -- taking DNA evidence left behind by the killer and comparing it to DNA profiles shared to public commercial databases by people hoping to find relatives they were not aware of.  Detectives were able to narrow down the DNA profiles they found on GEDmatch to close relatives of potential suspects, including DeAngelo. They confirmed they were on the right track after DNA taken from the handle of a driver’s side door on DeAngelo’s vehicle matched the evidence left at multiple Golden State Killer crime scenes.  They verified the match with a direct sample from DeAngelo following his arrest.  Since DeAngelo’s arrest, law enforcement agencies across the country have started using the same “genetic genealogy” technique to solve cold cases they have been working for decades. Buzzfeed News reported last month that Parabon Nanolabs Inc., a company that in the weeks after DeAngelo’s arrest established a commercial forensic genealogy service, has helped police identify suspects in three dozen cases since last May. Bode Technology, the largest forensic DNA testing company in the U.S., is launching its own rival service.  Alabama authorities on Monday announced that they had solved the 1999 double homicide of two 17-year-old girls who were found shot to death in a car trunk after getting lost on their way to a party for one of the girls’ birthday. Parabon Nanolabs provided the DNA analysis that led to a suspect.  Coley Lewis McCraney, of Dothan, is charged with five counts of capital murder and one count of first-degree rape in the July 31, 1999, deaths of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett, who were each shot once in the head. McCraney, who was 25 when he allegedly raped Beasley and killed her and her friend, faces the death penalty in the slayings.  South Dakota investigators earlier this month announced the arrest of a Florida woman accused of leaving her newborn son to freeze to death in a ditch in Sioux Falls 38 years ago. Theresa Josten Bentaas, now 57, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of the infant, who the community named Andrew John Doe and buried in a local cemetery after his family could not be located.  Parabon Nanolabs provided the DNA analysis in that case, as well.  DeAngelo is awaiting trial in the Sacramento County Jail, the same facility he was booked into in 1996. 
  • A 64-year-old Tennessee man, who was also accused of posing as a psychiatrist in Ponte Vedra, Florida, has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison following a fraud scheme that cheated investors out of $3 million. According to the US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, George David George pleaded guilty Tuesday to seven counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering. As part of his sentence, George will also be required to pay more than $2.8 million in restitution. The US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee says the charges stemmed from a business that George founded, called WellCity, Inc. George was accused of soliciting millions of dollars from investors, by misrepresenting the company's revenues, assets, and more.  The US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee says George also spent some time on the run, which included living under fake aliases in multiple states, including Texas, Alabama, and Florida. While in Alabama, investigators say he leased a $70,000 Mercedes using a stolen identity.  During his time in Florida, George is accused of representing himself as a Harvard-educated psychiatrist named Stephen Olivier. While posing as Dr. Olivier, he 'treated' patients in Ponte Vedra. The US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee says George ultimately gave one of his patients, a 16-year-old, Clonazepam after getting the medication from a woman he met on Match.com. The teen's mother testified that after her son took the medication, he became suicidal and needed to be hospitalized.  George was ultimately apprehended and arrested by US Marshals while in Florida. 

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