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    Days away from being sentenced in the Russia probe, former national security adviser Michael Flynn is not exactly hiding his face in shame. People close to him tell The Associated Press that as the possibility of prison looms, Flynn is relaxed and hopeful, eager to get through Tuesday's sentencing and move forward. He'll be the first official in President Donald Trump's administration to be sentenced in the case. Flynn has been having fun with his old high school gang, going out on the town to see an Elton John concert and watch the New England Patriots and Boston Celtics play, friends tell the AP. Random people approach him in public with hugs, handshakes and requests for photos. His supporters plan to rally outside the courthouse the day of his sentencing, and a lucrative consulting gig could await him. The retired three-star general pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States during Trump's White House transition. In a filing this week , his lawyers highlighted Flynn's long and distinguished military service and extensive cooperation with prosecutors in asking that he be sentenced to probation and community service , rather than prison. The special counsel investigating whether Trump's 2016 Republican presidential campaign coordinated with Russia has said Flynn was so helpful that he was entitled to avoid time behind bars , even though sentencing guidelines recommend up to six months in prison . Despite the extensive cooperation, Flynn has not drawn any of the vitriol that Trump has hurled at those who have turned on him — most notably his former fixer Michael Cohen. The president on Thursday called Flynn a 'great person.' Flynn has given 19 interviews to prosecutors, five of those before he pleaded guilty, according to his filing. His lawyers said he turned over thousands of documents, and the special counsel's office has said that he has also aided a criminal investigation they haven't yet revealed. While Flynn's lawyers acknowledged he had made a 'serious error in judgment' and 'shown true contrition,' he has an extended group of supporters who believe he's an American hero being unjustly prosecuted because of his association with Trump. Tuesday's filing added fuel to that idea. His lawyers detailed his FBI interview, including that agents did not warn him in advance that it was a crime to lie to the FBI, and suggested Flynn was discouraged from bringing a lawyer into the meeting. Prosecutors with the special counsel's office pushed back on Friday against the idea that anything was improper. They wrote in a filing that Flynn, a longtime intelligence officer, had been lying to administration officials and media about his contacts with the Russian ambassador for weeks before the FBI called, then voluntarily met with them. They said he should have known not to lie. Members of Flynn's family and friends tweeted this week that he had been entrapped, set up or ambushed by the FBI. His son, Michael Flynn Jr., complained of a double standard with Democrat Hillary Clinton because she had lawyers in her FBI interview. Trump on Thursday tweeted that the special counsel gave Flynn 'a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated.' 'They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!' Trump wrote. In the time since he left the White House just weeks after Trump's inauguration, Flynn has moved back to Middletown, Rhode Island , where he and his wife, Lori, grew up and where they have a deep social network. Thomas A. Heaney Jr., a retired Army colonel who has been friends with Flynn since they were 9 years old, said they have been out more than a dozen times in Rhode Island and elsewhere when Flynn has been recognized by people on the street. 'Every single circumstance I've been witness to, people are in support of him, and they voice that opinion to him when they see him. And they are upset about the way he's been treated. That's the general theme each and every time,' Heaney told the AP. Flynn has remained mostly out of the public eye since his guilty plea, with occasional public appearances in front of friendly audiences. The closest he's gotten to commenting on his case was in a campaign appearance for an ultimately unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate in California earlier this year, telling the crowd he wasn't there 'to complain about who has done me wrong or how unfair I've been treated or how unfair the entire process has been.' Several supporters who came together in a private group chat on Twitter plan to rally outside the federal courthouse when he is sentenced, according to one of the organizers, Pasquale Scopelliti. Flynn wrote a foreword to Scopelliti's self-published book, 'America First: The MAGA Manifesto,' earlier this year. He said Flynn was not involved in the rally. Scopelliti said they hope to counteract Flynn detractors who they expect will be shouting 'Lock him up!' — a reference to Flynn's anti-Clinton 'Lock her up!' chant during the 2016 Republican National Convention. 'He is our hero, absolutely,' Scopelliti said. The 'hero' label puzzles U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and former federal prosecutor, who said Flynn committed a serious crime of lying to the FBI about a national security matter while in the White House and serving as national security adviser. He said Flynn may be benefiting from Trump's labeling of the special counsel investigation as a 'witch hunt' and 'hoax.' 'I think that's part of a political campaign designed to discredit the special counsel, but some people do believe it,' Whitehouse said. As for what's next for Flynn, those close to him said he has a number of options, including consulting or writing a book. Over the summer, a firm headed by lobbyists who recently represented the government of Qatar announced Flynn was coming to work there. Flynn's attorneys quickly said he hadn't joined Stonington Global. As of Thursday, its website still listed Flynn as joining it as director of global strategy. The company didn't respond to requests for comment. 'His Rolodex has got to be amazing,' longtime friend Rocky Kempenaar said. 'I just know he's not done. I don't know what he's got up his sleeve. He loves our country, he just wants to give and give and give.' Among Flynn's fans is former Trump national security aide Sebastian Gorka, who worked with Flynn in the White House. He floated another idea on Twitter and Fox News this week: that Trump should bring on Flynn as his new chief of staff.
  • President Donald Trump has picked budget director Mick Mulvaney to be his acting chief of staff, ending a chaotic search in which several top contenders took themselves out of the running for the job. 'Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration,' Trump tweeted Friday. 'I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!' Trump added that his current chief of staff, John Kelly, will be staying until the end of the year. 'He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!' Trump wrote. Trump's first pick for the job, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers, took himself out of the running last weekend and decided to leave the White House instead. The decision caught the president and many senior staffers by surprise, and Trump soon found that others he considered front-runners were not interested in the job. It was not immediately clear why the president decided to make Mulvaney's appointment temporary. One senior White House official said there was no time limit on the appointment and Mulvaney would fill the role of chief of staff indefinitely, regardless of the 'acting' title. Key to his selection: Mulvaney and the president get along and the president likes him personally. Additionally, Trump prized the former congressman's knowledge of Capitol Hill and political instincts as the White House prepares for a Democratic-controlled House and the president's upcoming re-election campaign. The decision came suddenly. Trump had grown frustrated with the length of the search and the growing perception that no one of stature wanted the job, according to one person familiar with his thinking. Mulvaney received the news before the president tweeted his announcement. They spoke face to face Friday afternoon at a meeting that was supposed to be about the budget and spoke by phone later in the evening, according to a second White House official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter on the record. 'This is a tremendous honor,' Mulvaney tweeted. 'I look forward to working with the President and the entire team. It's going to be a great 2019!' Mulvaney, who will be Trump's third chief of staff, will now take on his third job in the administration. He is head of the Office of Management and Budget, and for a time simultaneously led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The White House originally said Russell Vought, Mulvaney's deputy, would be taking over at OMB. But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday night that Mulvaney will not resign that job even though he 'will spend all of his time devoted to his role as the acting Chief Of Staff for the President.' Sanders said Vought 'will handle day to day operations and run OMB.' Mulvaney had signaled in recent weeks that he wasn't interested in being chief of staff, with a person close to him telling reporters that he'd made clear that he would me more interested in taking over as secretary of the Treasury or Commerce. But the White House officials disputed reports that captured that sentiment, and said the president didn't need to change Mulvaney's mind. A former tea party congressman, Mulvaney was among a faction on the hard right that pushed GOP leaders into a 2013 government shutdown confrontation by insisting on lacing a must-pass spending bill with provisions designed to cripple President Barack Obama's signature health care law. Trump's pick generated little immediate reaction on Capitol Hill, where most of Mulvaney's allies are part of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. But his knowledge of Congress and how government works is likely to be an asset in the coming months. The appointment of the affable, fast-talking South Carolinian came just hours after another candidate for the post, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, took himself out of contention. Christie cited family reasons in a statement saying he was asking Trump to remove him from consideration. He had met with Trump on Thursday to discuss the job, according to a person familiar with the meeting who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. Ayers, who had cited family concerns as a reason he didn't accept the post, tweeted Friday: 'The right father of triplets got the job...Congratulations @MickMulvaneyOMB!' Both men are, coincidentally, fathers of triplets. Trump's first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, served for six months before leaving in July 2017. Trump tweeted his choice of Kelly to replace him before he formally offered the retired four-star Marine general the job. For some months, Kelly had success streamlining the decision-making process in the West Wing and curtailing access to the undisciplined president. But Trump grew weary of the restrictions and Kelly's influence waned as the two men frequently clashed. As the search dragged on after Ayers bowed out, with no backup at the ready, the void had been filled with Trump's specialty: drama. British journalist Piers Morgan suggested he would be a good fit in an op-ed for The Daily Mail, while former major league slugger Jose Canseco tweeted his interest to Trump. Speculation swirled around an array of Trump associates, prompting some to distance themselves from the job. When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited the White House this week, he insisted it was merely to see the Christmas decorations. The wild process was hardly a novelty for the Trump administration, which has struggled with high staff turnover and attracting top talent, but it underscored the tumult of Trump's Washington. In past administrations, chief of staff was a sought-after job, typically awarded after a careful process. Now, many view the job as a risky proposition, given Trump's propensity for disorder and his resistance to being managed. Author Chris Whipple, an expert on chiefs of staff, had called the search process 'sad to watch.' 'In his first two years, Trump devalued the position by failing to empower anyone to perform the job, and now he's turned the search for a replacement into a reality show,' said Whipple, author of 'The Gatekeepers,' a book on the subject. 'The only thing more broken and dysfunctional than the White House itself seems to be the search for the new White House chief of staff.' Trump on Friday disputed that notion. 'For the record, there were MANY people who wanted to be the White House Chief of Staff. Mick M will do a GREAT job!' he tweeted. ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
  • Melania Trump spread her anti-bullying message on an annual Christmas season visit to a Washington children's hospital on Thursday, reading a story about a Christmas ornament named Oliver who is bullied by other ornaments in a family's collection. 'Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year,' the first lady said after she finished reading 'Oliver the Ornament' at Children's National Health System. The author, Todd Zimmerman, sat a few feet away. Mrs. Trump launched an initiative earlier this year to teach kindness to children, naming it Be Best. Zimmerman thanked the first lady 'from the bottom of my heart' for inviting him to be part of the visit, an annual tradition that dates to first lady Bess Truman, who served in the role from the mid-1940s to 1953. 'It is such an honor and I'm humbled by your kindness,' Zimmerman added. 'I also want to thank you for everything you do to promote kindness through your Be Best foundation and all of your daily activities. It's that same type of kindness that we're trying to promote with 'Oliver the Ornament' and it's that same message that I hope all of you receive this Christmas season and throughout the entire year.' Mrs. Trump is using the initiative to encourage children and young people to be kind online. The first lady recently told ABC News during an interview in which she promoted Be Best that she could be 'the most bullied person' in the world, judging by 'what people are saying about me.' Critics have pointed out that her husband, President Donald Trump, routinely mocks people on Twitter. Before taking a seat in front of a towering Christmas tree in the hospital's atrium, Mrs. Trump toured part of the neonatal intensive care unit and met with three families and children who had been treated there after they were born prematurely at 24 weeks. The two boys and one girl, ages 16 months to 6 years old, each weighed about 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) at birth. Mrs. Trump sat with the families while the children played and listened as Nikki Watkinson told the story of her son Grayson's early delivery in her husband's truck during a snowstorm. 'You will have an incredible story to tell him,' the first lady replied. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • President Donald Trump's eldest son says his father is a 'regifter' who 'may or may not' have once given him the same gift he presented to his dad the year before. Donald Trump Jr. says in an interview with the entertainment program 'Extra' that because he is his father's namesake, he 'got regifted all the things that were monogrammed for him at times.' And he says that one Christmas he called his dad out on the regifting, explaining that he was the one who'd had the item monogrammed. Trump Jr. also says he'll be spending the holidays with his family and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle at his dad's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. He also jokes that 'it would be a wonderful thing' if he could tweet his father's holiday dinner commentary
  • Porn star Stormy Daniels must pay President Donald Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys' fees and another $1,000 in sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed, a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered Tuesday. Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, had requested nearly $390,000 in fees and equal amount in sanctions as a deterrent against a 'repeat filer of frivolous defamation cases.' Judge S. James Otero cut the requested legal fees by 25 percent and awarded just $1,000 in sanctions. Otero previously noted that fees by Harder's firm — as high as $840 an hour — were reasonable but the 580 hours spent on the case appeared excessive. Daniels alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement days before the 2016 presidential election. She sued him for defamation after he dismissed her claims of being threatened to keep quiet about the tryst as a 'total con job.' The judge threw out the case in October. Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted Tuesday's order 'will never hold up on appeal.' In a statement he predicted Daniels 'will never have to pay a dime' because she will receive far more — $1 million — from Trump for attorneys' fees and other costs related to a separate lawsuit Daniels brought in Los Angeles over the non-disclosure agreement. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is challenging the agreement she signed with Trump's then-lawyer Michael Cohen to prevent her from discussing the alleged affair. The agreement was signed days before the 2016 election as part of a $130,000 hush-money settlement. Daniels also has alleged that her former lawyer, Keith Davidson, colluded with Cohen to have her publicly deny the affair with Trump. Cohen has pleaded guilty to several felonies and admitted funneling money to Daniels to keep her quiet about the affair. Trump has denied the affair, but essentially acknowledged the payment to Daniels. Despite the deal to stay quiet, Daniels spoke out publicly and alleged that five years after the affair she was threatened to keep quiet by a man she did not recognize in a Las Vegas parking lot. She also released a composite sketch of the mystery man. She sued Trump for defamation after he responded to her allegation by tweeting: 'A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!' Otero ruled in October that Trump's statement was 'rhetorical hyperbole' against a political adversary and was protected speech under the First Amendment. Trump's lead attorney previously said the fees and unspecified monetary sanctions were earned because of the extraordinary nature of the defamation case and because of Avenatti's gamesmanship. 'This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history,' Harder wrote in court papers. Daniels 'not only brought a meritless claim for defamation against the sitting president of the United States, but she also has engaged, along with her attorney, in massive national publicity.' The Cohen and Davidson lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court is on hold until May. ___ Follow Weber at https://twitter.com/WeberCM ___ Associated Press reporter Brian Melley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on the White House chief of staff (all times local): 10 p.m. As President Donald Trump ponders picking a new chief of staff, more names are emerging as possible contenders for the job. A person familiar with Trumps' thinking tells The Associated Press that among the four people being considered by Trump are the White House budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, and a Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows. Other names in the mix include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Two names being floated by people close to the White House are Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Trump's former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie. Once thought to be the president's top choice, vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers tweeted Sunday that he's no longer in the running for the position. ___ 9:25 p.m. As President Donald Trump ponders picking a new chief of staff, more names are emerging as possible contenders for the job. People familiar with the discussion at the White House tell The Associated Press that among the people being considered are the White House budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, and a Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows. Other names in the mix include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Trump's former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie. Once thought to be the president's top choice, vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers tweeted Sunday that he's no longer in the running for the position. Trump says in a tweet that he'll be making a decision 'soon.' ___ 8:05 p.m. Now that President Donald Trump's top choice to be chief of staff has passed on taking the job, he is considering four others for the post. A person familiar with Trump's thinking tells The Associated Press that the president is considering the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, and a Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, who is chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Thought to be the president's top choice, vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers tweeted Sunday that he's no longer in the running for the position. A White House official tells the AP that Trump and Ayers could not reach agreement on Ayers' length of service. Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020 election. ___ 5 p.m. President Donald Trump is considering four people as he determines who will be his next chief of staff. A person familiar with Trump's thinking tells The Associated Press that the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, is among those under consideration to replace John Kelly. The person thought to be the president's top choice for the job, vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers, tweeted Sunday that he's no longer in the running for the position. Instead, he will begin overseeing a pro-Trump political action committee next year. A White House official tells the AP that Trump and Ayers could not reach agreement on Ayers' length of service. Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020 election. ___ 4:20 p.m. President Donald Trump's top pick to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is no longer expected to fill that role. That's according to a White House official who is not authorized to discuss the personnel issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. Ayers is Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff. The official says that Trump and Ayers could not agree on Ayers' length of service. The father of young children, Ayers had agreed to serve in an interim capacity though the spring, but Trump wanted a two-year commitment. The official says that Ayers will instead assist the president from outside the administration. Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would be departing the White House around the end of the year.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to be America's ambassador at the United Nations is likely to face questions about her thin diplomatic resume during an upcoming Senate confirmation hearing that will shine fresh attention on the president's 'America first' approach to foreign policy. If confirmed by the Senate, Heather Nauert, a 48-year-old former Fox News Channel reporter, will replace Nikki Haley. Nauert had little foreign policy experience before taking the podium as spokeswoman for the State Department. Nauert's confirmation could hinge on her performance at the hearing. Still, she stands a good chance of approval because after the new Congress begins in January, Republicans will have a 53-47 vote majority over Democrats in the Senate. In announcing his decision on Friday, Trump said Nauert was 'very talented, very smart, very quick.' He said he thought she would be 'respected by all.' Others, including former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, criticized the choice. Nauert's job as spokeswoman at State is 'to read talking points and explain policy,' McFaul tweeted. The job of U.N. ambassador is very different, he said, and usually requires foreign policy or diplomatic expertise or both. Trump backer Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a statement praising Nauert, but his Republican colleagues who sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were silent. 'I've known Heather for many years. She is a fine and capable person,' Graham said, adding that she had the confidence of Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. If she gets the job, Nauert would take the post with less clout than Haley, a former South Carolina governor who announced in October that she would step down at the end of this year. Trump is downgrading the ambassador's position to a sub-Cabinet-level post. That means Nauert could be overshadowed by Pompeo or Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, who had the U.N. job in 2005 and 2006. She also would be going up against foreign counterparts like the U.N. representatives from Russia and China, who each have decades of experience in diplomacy. Nauert thanked Trump and said she was humbled at being chosen. 'If confirmed, I look forward to continuing the outstanding job Ambassador Haley has done representing your administration and the American people.' Trump's announcement comes just a day after the U.S. lost a high-profile vote in the U.N. General Assembly for a resolution condemning the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Haley had lobbied hard to get the resolution passed, but couldn't garner the two-thirds majority needed. Haley herself arrived at the United Nations with little foreign policy experience beyond promoting international investments in South Carolina. However, she quickly learned key issues and how the U.N. operates. Because of her work at the State Department, Nauert would have the advantage of already knowing the Trump administration's position on all major global issues. But without being a member of the Cabinet, she wouldn't have the same independence that Haley has enjoyed. Pompeo tweeted that Nauert has traveled with him since he took the helm of the State Department. 'I have great confidence in her. Heather plays a key role in advancing U.S. foreign policy & I look forward to her speedy confirmation.' She also would arrive at a time when Trump and members of his foreign policy team have all displayed sometimes open contempt for the United Nations and its affiliated agencies. In its first two years, the Trump administration has pulled out of the U.N. scientific, educational and cultural organization UNESCO, the U.N. Human Rights Council and threatened to leave the International Postal Union. It has cut off contributions for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and U.N. population fund. It has also sought to reduce funding for U.N. peacekeeping operations. Pompeo, Nauert's current boss, recently delivered a speech attacking multinational institutions and agreements that many believe have served as pillars of stability in the post-World War II era. In that speech in Brussels, Pompeo questioned the value and credibility of organizations like the U.N., the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, saying they are in need of dire change if they are to continue to have U.S. support or membership. 'Haley lost a degree of autonomy when John Bolton became the national security adviser, because he had strong views about the U.N,' said Stephen Pomper of the Crisis Group, an organization that works to prevent wars. 'Bringing Nauert aboard in a sub-Cabinet role will diminish the position yet further,' said Pomper, who worked at the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama. 'For better or worse, the administration's U.N. policy is pretty established at this point, and there's no reason to expect that Nauert will deviate from the 'America First' course that Haley, Bolton, and Pompeo have set.' Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the top Democrat on a Senate subcommittee that oversees America's relationship with the U.N., slammed Trump's nomination of Nauert. He said she lacks experience and that her loyalty to Trump and experience as an anchor on his favorite cable news network are insufficient qualifications. Nauert, a native of Rockford, Illinois, also worked at State as the acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs. As a New York-based anchor and correspondent at the Fox News Channel, Nauert oversaw breaking news, anchored programs, covered global and domestic crises and interviewed senior elected and military officials. Nauert, who also was a network correspondent for ABC News, is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and Mount Vernon College in Washington.
  • The Latest on events honoring former President George H.W. Bush (all times local): 5:25 p.m. Texas A&M says the private, graveside service for George H.W. Bush's family members has ended and the former president has been buried. Thursday evening's ceremony concludes days of funeral activities honoring the 41st president. After lying in state at the U.S. Capitol and a funeral at Washington's National Cathedral, Bush had a funeral at the Houston church where his family worshipped. His remains then rode on a special funeral train to College Station, where he was buried at his presidential library at Texas A&M University. Prior to the closed service, about 2,100 cadets in dress uniforms lined the road to the graveside and saluted as the motorcade passed. Family spokesman Jim McGrath says President George W. Bush has left the library and other relatives have, too. ___ 4:40 p.m. President Donald Trump says the memorial service in Washington this week for former President George H.W. Bush was a 'beautiful tribute' to an extraordinary life. Trump on Thursday noted Bush's passing at the start of a Hanukkah reception at the White House. He and first lady Melania Trump attended Bush's state funeral service on Wednesday sitting next to the other living former presidents. Trump called Bush a 'wonderful man' and a 'beloved American patriot.' He made the remarks as a special funeral train carrying Bush's casket approached its final stop near Bush's presidential library in Texas. Bush will be buried on the library grounds. ___ 4:30 p.m. The Navy has honored former President George H.W. Bush with a 21-plane flyover in a missing man formation before he's laid to rest alongside his wife and daughter. The 41st president will be buried Thursday at a private service on the grounds of his presidential library in College Station, Texas. Bush will also be honored with a 21-cannon salute and the sounding of 'Taps.' The flyover was performed as an honor guard, close friends and relatives accompanied Bush's casket to his family's burial plot. The flag draped over the casket will be presented to Bush's daughter, Doro Bush Koch. ___ 4:15 p.m. Former President George H.W. Bush's casket has arrived for burial in his family's plot on the grounds of his presidential library in Texas. Bush will be buried during a private service Thursday, ending nearly a week of services honoring the life of the 41st president. He will be laid to rest alongside his wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin, who died at age 3 of leukemia in 1953. Bush died last week at age 94. Nearly 1,200 people attended a funeral service for him earlier Thursday in Houston before his body was transported by a special funeral train to College Station, where the presidential library is located on the grounds of Texas A&M University. Large crowds lined the roughly 70-mile (115-kilometer) train route to pay tribute to Bush. ___ 4:05 p.m. More than 1,000 student cadets have lined the route of the motorcade carrying former President George H.W. Bush to his final resting place. An honor guard Thursday carried Bush's casket down the steps of a special funeral train that arrived in College Station after a roughly 70-mile (115-kilometer) trip from suburban Houston. Former President George W. Bush and other family members stood on the Texas A&M University campus as a band played the school's 'Aggie War Hymn' fight song. The casket was loaded into a hearse bound for his nearby presidential library, where Bush will be buried following a private graveside ceremony. ___ 3:45 p.m. A special funeral train carrying the casket of former President George H.W. Bush has rolled to a final stop near his burial site in Texas. The blue-and-gray locomotive painted to resemble Air Force One arrived Thursday in College Station after a roughly 70-mile (115-kilometer) trip from suburban Houston. Thousands of people lined the train route to pay their respects to the 41st president. The 12-car train also carried Bush's close friends and family, including former President George W. Bush. They will now head to the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University for a private burial service. Bush will be laid to rest alongside his wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin, who died at age 3 of leukemia in 1953. It was the eighth funeral train in U.S. history and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower's death nearly a half-century ago. ___ 2:30 p.m. People who turned out to pay tribute to former President George H.W. Bush as a special funeral train carries his body to the city where he'll be buried are leaving coins on the tracks to be flattened into keepsakes. Fifty-five-year-old Doug Allen of Cypress left eight coins on the tracks before the train passed through the small town of Pinehurst. The train left his three quarters, three dimes and two pennies flattened and slightly discolored. He says he only thought of the idea a few moments before the train passed and his wife and her friend found the coins in their bags. He says, 'It's something we'll always keep.' Officials have been warning the excited crowds to stay off the tracks as the train approaches. At one point, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flew overhead and told people to get off the tracks. Bush will be buried later Thursday during a private service on the grounds of his presidential library in College Station. ___ 2:05 p.m. A 54-year-old Texan who served in the U.S. Air Force during 'Operation Desert Storm' is among the many people who turned out to watch the special funeral train carry former President George H.W. Bush to his final resting place. Kevin Gulley, who lives in Cypress, traveled to nearby Pinehurst on Thursday to see the train carrying the casket of his former commander-in-chief. It is taking Bush's body for burial in the family plot at his presidential library in College Station. Gulley wore a blue jacket with 'U.S. Air Force' embroidered in gold lettering on the back and had a button reading 'Looking Great for '88' on his lapel. He said he wanted to pay his respects to Bush. Gulley stood waiting next to his son's former football coach, 56-year-old Bill Powers. The two ran into each other here waiting for the train. Powers says, 'It's what he wanted because he wanted everybody to be together.' ___ 1:45 p.m. Crowds have lined the route of the special funeral train that is taking former President George H.W. Bush to the city where he'll be laid to rest. People waved American flags and cheered as the number '4141' train passed by on its roughly 70-mile (115-kilometer) journey from the Houston suburb of Spring to College Station. The casket of the 41st president is visible through large windows on the side of the train car. Among those paying tribute to Bush was 38-year-old Andy Gordon, of Magnolia, who took his two young daughters to see the train as it passed through nearby Pinehurst. He says, 'Hopefully, my children will remember the significance and the meaning of today.' Bush will be buried later Thursday during a private service in the family's plot on the grounds of his presidential library. ___ 12:50 p.m. A special funeral train carrying the casket of former President George H.W. Bush has begun its journey to College Station, where he will be buried during a private service in the family plot on the grounds of his presidential library. The number '4141' train that left the Houston suburb of Spring during a light rain Thursday afternoon was painted to resemble Air Force One. It will take 41st president's casket, family and close friends about 70 miles (115 kilometers) through five small towns on a journey that's expected to take about two-and-a-half hours. About 1,200 people attended a funeral service for the 41st president earlier Thursday at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, which is where the family worships. Bush will be laid to rest alongside his wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953. ___ 12:40 p.m. The hearse carrying the body of former President George H.W. Bush has arrived at a Union Pacific facility north of Houston, where his casket will be placed on a special train that will take him to the city where he'll be laid to rest. People lined the route from St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston to the train facility in Spring to pay tribute to the 41st president, who died last week at age 94. Bush was remembered during a funeral service Thursday morning as a deeply religious family man. The train will take his casket, family and closest friends about 70 miles (115 kilometers) to College Station, where Bush will be buried later Thursday during a private service at his presidential library. Bush will be laid to rest alongside his wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953. ___ 12:25 p.m. A procession carrying the body of former President H.W. Bush is slowly making its way through Houston following a funeral at his family's church. As the motorcade made its way through Houston early Thursday afternoon, police officers on horseback saluted, construction workers paused and truckers honked as the hearse drove by. The motorcade is headed to a Union Pacific facility north of Houston, where a special funeral train will take Bush's casket, family and close friends to College Station for a private burial service at his presidential library. The journey through five small Texas towns was expected to take about two-and-a-half hours. ___ 12:15 p.m. A Secret Service detail is accompanying the hearse that's carrying former President George H.W. Bush to his burial site. Jim McGrath, a spokesman for the Bush family, says a Secret Service car is following the hearse as it travels from Houston to the city of Spring, where the casket will be placed on a special funeral train that's headed to Bush's presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station. McGrath says Bush's Secret Service detail will remain with him until 6 a.m. Friday. The train is expected to arrive in College Station by mid-afternoon, and a private burial ceremony will follow. ___ 11:45 a.m. The family of George H.W. Bush is headed to a Union Pacific facility to join a special train that will carry the former president's casket to his final resting place. Bush's relatives, including son George W. Bush and his family, left St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston following a funeral that was attended by about 1,200 mourners. The family is headed to a facility in Spring, Texas, where a special funeral train will depart with a final destination of College Station. It will be the eighth presidential funeral train in U.S. history and the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower's body traveled from the National Cathedral in Washington through seven states to his Kansas hometown of Abilene 49 years ago. Abraham Lincoln's funeral train was the first, in 1865. ___ 11:35 a.m. Country music star Reba McEntire has sung 'The Lord's Prayer' at the Houston funeral service of former President George H.W. Bush. The Grammy winner on Thursday followed the Oak Ridge Boys, who were one of the president's favorite musical acts and who sang 'Amazing Grace' during the service at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston. The church where the Bush family worships was filled with celebrities for the final public farewell to the 41st president. Bush will be buried during a private service later Thursday at his family plot on the Bush presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. ___ 11:10 a.m. George H.W. Bush is being remembered at his longtime church as a man of faith who taught Sunday School, served coffee and watched his children perform in a Christmas pageant. The Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr. told mourners Thursday that Bush had a 'resolute faith' and once asked what heaven would be like. He told those gathered at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church that he imagined Bush was greeted in heaven by his wife, Barbara Bush, 'with her hands on her hips, saying 'What took you so long?'' Levenson said it was OK to cry because George H.W. Bush was never afraid to shed tears himself. Bush's longtime pastor ended the homily with the same prayer used at the president's 1989 inauguration. ___ 10:45 a.m. The only member of the Bush dynasty still in public office says he and former President George H.W. Bush's 16 other grandchildren grew up in awe of the man they knew as 'gampy.' George P. Bush told mourners Thursday that the former president would challenge his grandkids to games like 'the first to sleep award.' The line drew laughs at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, where the Bush family worshipped. The 42-year-old George P. Bush holds the office of Texas land commissioner. He joined former Secretary of State James Baker in eulogizing the 41st president, who died last week at age 94. George P. Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He was easily re-elected in November to a second four-year term in Texas. ___ 10:40 a.m. Former Secretary of State James Baker remembered his longtime friend George H.W. Bush as having 'had the courage of a warrior but the greater courage of a peacemaker' during an emotional eulogy at Bush's funeral in Houston. Baker began the eulogy Thursday with an apology. Using the nickname 'Jefe,' which is Spanish for 'boss,' Baker said he was going to brag about Bush, even though the former president hated boasting. He called Bush the 'best one-term president' in the nation's history. He also praised Bush's grace after the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that Bush understood that humility toward a fallen adversary 'is the very best path.' Bush will be buried during a private ceremony later Thursday at his presidential library in College Station. ___ 10:25 a.m. An honor guard has escorted the flag-draped casket of George H.W. Bush to the altar of the church where his funeral is being held in Texas. After the casket reached the altar , attendees stood and sang 'The Star-Spangled Banner' during the Thursday morning funeral for Bush in Houston. The funeral at St. Martin's Episcopal Church is also expected to include music from country music's Reba McEntire and the Oak Ridge Boys. Following the service, Bush's casket will be escorted by train to his presidential library in College Station for burial. ___ 10:15 a.m. The Houston funeral for George H.W. Bush has opened with an anthem sung at his inauguration. The St. Martin's Parish Choir performed 'This is My Country' at Thursday's funeral, which is the last public remembrance for the 41st president before his burial later Thursday during a private service at his presidential library in College Station. The funeral at St. Martin's Episcopal Church also included the hymn 'O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.' Bush's longtime friend and secretary of state, James Baker, is set to give a eulogy, along with Bush's grandson, George P. Bush. ___ 10 a.m. Funeral services have begun at a Houston church for George H.W. Bush, the last public remembrance for the former president who will be laid to rest Thursday. About 1,200 mourners were expected at St. Martin's Episcopal Church for the service, which will include eulogies from Bush's secretary of state, James Baker, and his grandson, George P. Bush. The funeral follows three days of events in Washington honoring the 41st president. After the Houston funeral, a special train painted to resemble Air Force One will carry Bush's casket, family and close friends about 70 miles (115 kilometers) to College Station, where he will be buried in a private service alongside his late wife, Barbara Bush, and their daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
  • Thousands waved and cheered along the route as funeral train No. 4141 — for the 41st president — carried George H.W. Bush's remains to their final resting place on Thursday, his last journey as a week of national remembrance took on a decidedly personal feel in an emotional home state farewell. Some people laid coins along the tracks that wound through small town Texas so a 420,000-pound locomotive pulling the nation's first funeral train in nearly half a century could crunch them into souvenirs. Others snapped pictures or crowded for views so close that police helicopters overhead had to warn them back. Elementary students hoisted a banner simply reading 'THANK YOU.' The scenes reminiscent of a bygone era followed the more somber tone of a funeral service at a Houston church, where Bush's former secretary of state and confidant for decades, James Baker, addressed him as 'jefe,' Spanish for 'boss.' At times choking back tears, Baker praised Bush as 'a beautiful human being' who had 'the courage of a warrior. But when the time came for prudence, he maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker.' Baker also offered Bush as a contrast to today's divisive, sometimes vitriolic politics, saying that his 'wish for a kinder, gentler nation was not a cynical political slogan. It came honest and unguarded from his soul.' 'The world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years,' said Baker. As the post-funeral motorcade carrying Bush's remains later sped down a closed highway from the church to the train station, construction workers on all levels of an unfinished building paused to watch. A man sitting on a Ferris wheel near the aquarium waved. Bush's body was later loaded onto a special train fitted with clear sides so people could catch a glimpse of the casket as it rumbled by. The train traveled about 70 miles — the first presidential funeral train journey since Dwight D. Eisenhower's remains went from Washington to his native Kansas 49 years ago — to the family plot on the grounds of Bush's presidential library at Texas A&M University. Bush's final resting place is alongside his wife, Barbara, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia at age 3. In the town of Pinehurst, 55-year-old Doug Allen left eight coins on the tracks before the train passed — three quarters, three dimes and two pennies. The train left the coins flattened and slightly discolored. 'It's something we'll always keep,' Allen said.  Andy Gordon, 38, took his 6-year-old daughter, Addison, out of school so she and her 3-year-old sister, Ashtyn, could see the train pass. 'Hopefully, my children will remember the significance and the meaning of today,' Gordon said. Addison was carrying two small American flags in her hand. The train arrived in College Station in the late afternoon with a military band playing 'Hail to the Chief' and then Texas A&M's 'Aggie War Hymn.' About 2,100 cadets in their tan dress uniforms with jackets and ties and knee-high boots waited for hours on a cold, gray day to line the road —known as Barbara Bush Drive— to the Bush library's front doors. The U.S. Navy conducted a 21 strike fighter flyover, a salute to the World War II Navy pilot, followed by a 21-gun cannon salute on the ground.  At the earlier service at Houston's St. Martin's Episcopal Church, where Bush and his family regularly worshipped, the choir sang 'This is My Country,' which was also sung at Bush's presidential inauguration in 1989. Those gathered heard a prayer stressing the importance of service and selflessness that the president himself offered for the country at the start of his term. There were rousing renditions of the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' and 'Onward Christian Soldiers,' and also performances from some of Bush's country favorites. The Oak Ridge Boys recalled playing for him for decades — sometimes at the White House — and joked that Bush 'fancied himself to be a good bass singer. He was not.' They then sang 'Amazing Grace,' and Reba McEntire offered a musical version of 'The Lord's Prayer.' Thursday's flavor was distinctly Texan, unlike three days of Washington celebrations that had more of a national feel. In place of most federal dignitaries were top Houston athletes including the NFL Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt — showing Bush's love for sports — and Chuck Norris, who played TV's 'Walker, Texas Ranger.' Grandson George P. Bush, the only member of the political dynasty still holding elected office, as Texas land commissioner, used his eulogy to praise the man the younger generations called 'gampy.' 'He left a simple, yet profound legacy to his children, to his grandchildren and to his country: service,' George P. Bush said. The church's pastor, the Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., recalled the Bushes often attending services and offering to give up their seats to others on days when the church was particularly crowded. 'He was ready for heaven, and heaven was ready for him,' Levenson said of Bush who was in declining health in recent years. The minister suggested that when the former president died, he met his wife of 73 years in heaven and Barbara Bush playfully demanded, 'What took you so long?' Indeed, the funeral occurred at the same church where services were held in April for Barbara Bush. Those are remembered for an emotional scene when the former president gazed from his wheelchair up at her casket, then shook hands with well-wishers. Wednesday night, more than 11,000 people paid their respects as Bush lay in repose at the church all night. Earlier Wednesday, at Washington National Cathedral in the nation's capital, there was high praise for the last of the presidents to have fought in World War II — and a hefty dose of humor about a man whose speaking delivery was once described as a cross between Mister Rogers and John Wayne. Three other former presidents and Donald Trump watched as George W. Bush eulogized his father as 'the brightest of a thousand points of light.' President Trump, who once mocked the late president's 'points of light' call to volunteerism, had nothing but favorable words Thursday. 'He was a wonderful man. We will always remember this great statesman and beloved American patriot,' Trump said. 'He really was very special.' The cathedral service in Washington was a tribute to the patriarch of one of the nation's most powerful political families — they occupied the White House for a dozen years — and to a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility. Like Baker's address Thursday, it included indirect comparisons to Trump but was not consumed by them, as speakers focused on Bush's public life and character — with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too. 'He was a man of such great humility,' said Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming. Those who travel 'the high road of humility in Washington, D.C.,' he added pointedly, 'are not bothered by heavy traffic.' Trump sat Wednesday with his wife, the trio of ex-presidents and their wives, several of them sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe. Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Trump and the others. George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost and his mother. He took comfort in knowing 'Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom's hand again.' ___ Associated Press writer David J. Phillip contributed to this report.
  • Republican leaders in Kentucky have restored a state lawmaker to his leadership position more than a year after he signed a secret sexual harassment settlement. State Rep. Michael Meredith was one of four Republican lawmakers who signed the $110,000 settlement in 2017 with a woman who once worked for the House Republican Caucus. The lawmakers did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, but all four ended up losing their leadership positions, including Jeff Hoover, who stepped down as House speaker. Republican leaders restored Meredith on Wednesday as chairman of the House Local Government Committee, which vets proposed legislation about local roads, police and fire departments and other local matters. 'With these appointments, we are putting our best foot forward for the people of Kentucky,' incoming GOP House Speaker David Osborne said in a news release announcing the committee leaders. Meredith did not return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment. Osborne, through a spokesman, did not directly answer questions about why Meredith was returned to his leadership role. 'We took into account a variety of different factors, including geographic balance, seniority, and the focused areas of expertise within our caucus,' Osborne said. The settlement came to light during the height of the #metoo movement, when multiple prominent men in entertainment, media and politics were exposed for inappropriate behavior toward women in the workplace. At the time, Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called on all four lawmakers to resign from the legislature. A spokeswoman for Bevin did not respond to a phone and email message on Wednesday seeking comment about Meredith. Meredith's restoration comes one week after Republicans elected Osborne to replace Hoover as Kentucky's next House speaker. One of the new GOP leadership team's first acts was to fire Communications Director Daisy Olivo, who was the supervisor of the woman who made the sexual harassment allegations. Olivo has a pending lawsuit against the state, alleging she was punished for reporting the harassment. Meredith has never spoken publicly about the settlement, which was handled outside of court, paid for with private funds and required everyone to keep it a secret. But he did face a complaint before the Legislative Ethics Commission after the settlement was revealed by an article in the Courier Journal. An investigator told the commission Meredith was included in the settlement because he made a 'vulgar statement' to the woman. The commission then voted to dismiss the complaint against him. Since then, the woman who originally made the accusations has testified as part of Olivo's civil lawsuit. Leslie Vose, an attorney for Meredith, Hoover and DeCesare, persuaded a judge to temporarily keep portions of the woman's testimony hidden from the public. Vose is now attempting to cross-examine the woman to rebut some of her claims. A hearing on that issue is scheduled for later this month. Hoover has denied accusations of sexual harassment but said he did send the woman inappropriate but consensual text messages. Linder and DeCesare did not run for re-election in November. Hoover and Meredith were both re-elected in November. Hoover did not face opposition. Meredith defeated a Democrat with more than 61 percent of the vote.

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  • A woman is recovering, after being shot during an attempted home invasion on the Westside. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says four or five men tried to force their way in to a home on Melvin Road, when the man inside opened the door to let his girlfriend in. That man says the suspects fled when they were not able to get inside, according to JSO. During this incident, JSO says the woman was shot in the back and arm, although it’s unclear from the information that’s been released so far where in the  process shots were fired. The woman’s injuries are not considered life threatening. There is no description of the suspects available at this time. JSO is investigating.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is investigating the  death of a 2-month-old in the San Jose Forest area. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department called JSO to San Sabastian Avenue- off St. Augustine Road- early Sunday morning, after JFRD responded to a report of an unresponsive two-month-old. The infant was taken to the hospital, but JSO says it could not be revived. The circumstances around the baby’s death are under investigation by Homicide and Crime Scene detectives at this time.
  • President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Sunday morning that he would be reviewing the case of a former special forces officer and Afghanistan war veteran who is facing a murder charge. He said the review is being done “at the request of many.” >> Read more trending news  The Washington Post reported that the Army notified former Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn Thursday that he will face one murder charge. He is accused of killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker without permission in 2010, while in Afghanistan. The military has been investigating him since 2011, when officials said he confessed to the killing during a polygraph test that was part of a CIA job interview. Phillip Stackhouse, Golsteyn’s attorney, disputed the characterization of his client’s comments during the interview. “At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder,” Trump tweeted. “He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas.” Golsteyn told Fox News in 2016 he killed the suspected bomb maker. “There’s limits on how long you can hold guys,” he said at the time. “You realize quickly that you make things worse. It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed.” That interview led the investigation to be reopened after a series of on-and-off investigations, Fox News reported. It had previously been dropped in 2014. The Washington Post reported that Trump’s tweeted statement could impact Golsteyn’s military prosecution. It is expected that the commander chief does not make statements that would influence an open case.
  • Facing a Friday night funding deadline for dozens of federal agencies, the Congress has no obvious solution for how lawmakers will handle President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund construction of his wall along the border with Mexico, as Republicans don’t seem to have enough votes in the House or Senate to back up the President’s call for action on border wall money. “They do not have the votes to pass the President’s proposal,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said of the $5 billion wall plan. Instead of scheduling a vote on the President’s $5 billion in funding for the wall, GOP leaders last Thursday sent the House home for six days, telling lawmakers not to return until Wednesday evening – about 54 hours before funding runs out for about a quarter of the federal government. “Our schedule for next week remains fluid and subject to change,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), offering no clues as to how the GOP will deal with the possible partial shutdown. The political battle over a shutdown became more heated last week, after President Trump sparred with top Democrats in an Oval Office meeting, as the President said he would be fine with a shutdown. Oval Office: Here are the fiery exchanges you missed from Tuesday's meeting between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer pic.twitter.com/pQkz6e8fcu — TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) December 12, 2018 “If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government,” the President said, making clear he was happy to be blamed for any lapse in funding. But if there is a shutdown, it would be much more limited than usual, because funding bills have already been approved for about 75 percent of the federal budget, including the military, Congress, energy and water programs, the VA, military construction, and more. There are seven funding bills still to be dealt with by Congress and the President, they cover the following areas: + Agriculture – deals with farm programs, Food and Drug Administration, food safety and inspection services, WIC, and SNAP (food stamps) + Commerce, Justice, Science – funds the Justice Department, FBI, Commerce Department, National Weather Service, NASA, and other agencies. + Financial Services – This bill funds the IRS, Treasury Department, FCC, Small Business Administration, the federal courts, the government of the District of Columbia, and more. + Homeland Security – This is the bill which would contain money for the President’s border wall. The House never voted on it, because the GOP didn’t have the votes for the $5 billion in wall funding. The bill funds the Border Patrol, immigration and customs operations, Coast Guard, TSA, FEMA, and other agencies. + Interior – This bill has money for Wildfire prevention, the EPA, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife, Smithsonian museums and more. + State & Foreign Operations – This bill funds the State Department, and foreign aid programs. Quick, guess how much money the feds spend on this funding bill, as part of an over $4 trillion budget. Time’s up. If you said $47 billion, you win. + Transportation and Housing – This bill funds the Department of Transportation, FAA, Amtrak, and federal housing programs at HUD. For some like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), it’s no big deal if those agencies go unfunded, and into shutdown status. If Congress doesn’t pass an Omnibus by Dec. 21st, we won’t have a government #shutdown. It’d be hard to even characterize it as a government slowdown! I made this graphic to show what shuts down (less than 10%) and what keeps going (over 90%!). The media isn’t telling you this! pic.twitter.com/LlB8KeoD74 — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 14, 2018 There would seem to be several options for lawmakers at this point: + Ignore the President’s border wall demands, approve the final seven spending bills, and adjourn the 116th Congress. + Ignore the President’s border wall demands, and just punt the whole battle into the new year with a temporary funding plan for a few weeks, kicking it into 2019. + Approve six of the seven spending bills, and keep the Homeland Security Department on a short term, temporary funding plan, delaying a showdown over border wall money into 2019. + Gridlock – bringing about a partial shutdown involving the bills listed above. The President is reportedly scheduled to spend 16 days at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida retreat in Palm Beach – it’s not clear if he would change his plans if there is a partial shutdown. The Senate returns to session on Monday afternoon; the House is not back until Wednesday evening.
  • A Texas judge has sentenced a mom to 40 years in prison for the hot car deaths of her two toddler daughters. According to the Kerrville Daily Times, Amanda Hawkins, 20, was sentenced Wednesday, about three months after she pleaded guilty to child abandonment and endangerment charges in the June 2017 deaths of her daughters, Brynn Hawkins, 1, and Addyson Overgard-Eddy, 2, in Kerrville. >> Texas mother charged, accused of intentionally leaving toddlers in hot car to die Authorities said Hawkins left the girls in the car outside a Kerrville home overnight as she socialized and smoked marijuana with friends June 6 to 7, 2017, The Associated Press reported. Outdoor temperatures hit 85 degrees, according to the Daily Times. Prosecutors said the girls had been in the car about 15 hours when Hawkins retrieved them, bathing them and Googling heat stroke treatments before taking them to a hospital, the Daily Times reported. Hawkins initially told hospital workers that the girls had collapsed while smelling flowers, but her story 'wasn't quite adding up,' physician Daniel Gebhard said.  >> Read more trending news  Doctors pronounced the girls dead June 8. “There’s not a day that goes by that I think about what I should have done,” Hawkins said before she was sentenced. “It’s heartbreaking, and it will affect me for the rest of my life.” Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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