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National Govt & Politics
Dem leader: Infrastructure bills must tackle climate change
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Dem leader: Infrastructure bills must tackle climate change

Dem leader: Infrastructure bills must tackle climate change
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leaves a closed-door security briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the involvement of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Dem leader: Infrastructure bills must tackle climate change

Democratic leaders in Congress demanded Friday that major legislation on roads, bridges and other infrastructure include efforts to curb global warming, complicating prospects for a deal with President Donald Trump on a jobs-boosting bill that both parties have targeted as a priority.

Schumer said Friday in a letter to Trump that climate change will cause "untold human suffering and significant damage to the U.S. economy" if left unchecked. The New York Democrat called for permanent tax credits to boost production of wind and solar energy and to make homes and offices more energy efficient. He also urged loans to communities that would invest in projects that limit damage caused by hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The letter comes as liberal groups and lawmakers —including Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York— push to ensure that policies to address climate change remain at the top of the Democrats' legislative agenda. Ocasio-Cortez, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives are calling for a "Green New Deal" that would ramp up efforts to install solar panels and wind turbines and manufacture more electric vehicles.

Trump and congressional leaders from both parties have singled out infrastructure investment as an issue that Republicans and Democrats could potentially rally around next year after Democrats assume control of the House. But Trump has made it a priority to undo his predecessor's efforts to curb global warming, voicing concerns that they get in the way of a strong economy.

Trump also has rejected a central conclusion of a dire report on the economic costs of climate change released by his own administration. The report, issued last month, warned that natural disasters are worsening in the United States because of global warming, with costs approaching $400 billion since 2015.

"I don't believe it," Trump said.

Lawmakers are already expected to struggle with the question of how to pay for an infrastructure bill, which is likely to cost hundreds of billions of dollars even as federal budget deficits are expected to soar above $1 trillion this year. Using the infrastructure bill to address environmental concerns is certain to add additional tensions to the mix.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is seeking to become speaker in January, has indicated she will likely reinstate a special committee on climate change, although exact details have not been finalized. Pelosi created the committee when she became speaker in 2007, but it was disbanded after Republicans won back the House in 2010. Pelosi said Democrats will rebuild America with "with clean energy, smart technology and resilient infrastructure."

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  • Facing investigations by the Justice Department, his own Inspector General, and Democrats in the U.S. House, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave his post by the end of this year, President Donald Trump announced on Saturday, continuing the high profile staff changes since the elections in his administration. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation,” the President tweeted, not mentioning the investigations Zinke faced, covering excessive travel costs, improper political activities, and potential conflicts of interest. Zinke – like others in the Trump Cabinet – also faced the prospect of actual aggressive oversight in the Congress, with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives in January. The lawmaker who would lead most of those questions is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), whom Zinke said a few weeks ago was nothing but a drunk. “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke tweeted from his official account. My thoughts on Rep. Grijalva’s opinion piece. #TuneInnForMore pic.twitter.com/VMGxdtHwvU — Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 30, 2018 “This is no kind of victory, but I’m hopeful that it is a genuine turning of the page,” Grijalva said on Saturday. Among the investigations into Zinke, the internal watchdog at the Interior Department found that he had taken a security detail with him for a vacation with his wife to Turkey and Greece, costing taxpayers $25,000. Zinke also spent $12,375 on a chartered flight to take him from Las Vegas back to his home of Kalispell, Montana. During some of the Inspector General investigations of Zinke, the Trump Administration tried to move an appointed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development into the IG office at Interior; after complaints and questions about the legitimacy of the move, the change did not occur. Democrats in Congress, who often compared Zinke’s ethics questions to those of former Trump EPA chief Scott Pruitt, had nothing good to say about Zinke, who arrived at the Interior Department for his first day of work in Washington, on his horse. “Glad to see that Interior Secretary Zinke is being forced out,” tweeted Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “Tired of Trump Administration officials who use their office for personal gain.” “Ryan Zinke kept zero of his promises and used our public lands as handouts to his fossil fuel cronies,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “Ryan Zinke’s tenure at Interior was a never-ending stream of terrible management decisions,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “I will not miss him.” Good riddance to Ryan Zinke and the horse he literally rode in on. pic.twitter.com/triFovIXPZ — Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) December 15, 2018 The President’s announcement about Zinke’s future came a day after the President announced that his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, would be Acting White House Chief of Staff starting in 2019. Other Trump Cabinet officials also could be on their way out in coming weeks, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Thank u, next,” tweeted Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).
  • Insuring that North Carolina’s Ninth District seat will be vacant when the 116th Congress convenes in January, the North Carolina state elections board on Friday set a hearing for January 11, 2019, where officials will receive evidence on election irregularities focused on absentee ballot fraud which seemingly benefited Republican Mark Harris. “State investigators are awaiting additional documents from parties subpoenaed in this matter and finalizing the investigation prior to the hearing,” the State Board of Elections and Ethics said in a statement. Originally, the board had planned a hearing before December 21. In an interview with WBTV on Friday, Harris denied knowing that McRae Dowless – hired to run an absentee ballot operation in Bladen County – was doing anything which was illegal. “No, absolutely not,” Harris said in his first interview since allegations of election fraud began to surface after the November elections. This means Mark Harris will not be sworn in on January 3. #NC09 #ncpol — Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 14, 2018 “In the Marines, I learned what it means to fight for our democracy,” tweeted Democrat Dan McCready, who lost to Harris by 905 votes. “I never imagined I would watch our democracy come under attack right here at home,” McCready added. It’s not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will also investigate the possible fraud in the Ninth District race, which possibly involved ballot fraud and discarded ballots. The North Carolina board could still order a new election, which may involve a new primary as well, as some Republicans would like to get Harris out of the race for the seat in Congress, worried that he will be too tainted by the charges of election fraud. . @NCSBE will hold public hearing into 9th CD irregularities on Jan. 11. Notice below. #ncpol #ncga pic.twitter.com/5TYZOFhJYC — NCSBE (@NCSBE) December 14, 2018 The decision to extend the investigation of any election fraud into 2019 means that the U.S. House will start the 116th Congress with Democrats holding a 235-199 edge in the House – with the one vacancy from North Carolina.
  • Eleven Nigerian nationals have been federally indicted for duping a Jacksonville business- and many others across the country- into handing over personal information of employees, so they could use that information to defraud millions from the IRS. The indictment says multiple US businesses were targeted in the email phishing scam, where the suspects would spoof the email address of a high-level manager in the company and ask for the IRS Form W-2 for employees. That form contains personal identifying information for the employees, information that was then used to file false federal income tax returns. Using tens of thousands of W-2 Forms, the suspects falsely claimed millions of dollars in refunds, according to the US Attorney’s Office. In order to get the refunds, the defendants allegedly developed online relationships with Americans, and then used them to accept the money, to then send to Lagos, Nigeria. Specifically in Jacksonville, prosecutors say a transportation services and logistics company with headquarters in Jacksonville was targeted, which resulted in the information of more than 1,300 employees being compromised. The charges stem from actions in early 2016, but the joint indictment was returned this month. The suspects are all charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud- 29-year-old Badmus Yusuff Abayomi, 30-year-old Omo Oba Adekunle Abayomi, 27-year-old Yusuf Adesoji Adris, 25-year-old Abayomi Habeeb Ojo, 23-year-old Olaymei Afolabi Ojo, 28-year-old Akanni Fatai Olaiya, 28-year-old Seriki Abdulramon Oluwaseun, 29-year-old Adetayo Adekunle Oyemade, 34-year-old Edgar Ramos Ozil, 26-year-old Emmanuel Pius Osebomen, and 40-year-ols Olaide Fatai Tijani. Ojo has also been indicted for wire fraud. None of the 11 suspects are in custody. Each could face up to 20 years in prison is captured and ultimately convicted. The IRS says phishing has increased up to 400% in recent years, and this business email compromise scam specifically has become more prevalent.
  • A Lieutenant at Naval Station Mayport has pleaded guilty to using the internet to try to entire a child for sexual activity. WOKV first reported in August about the arrest of 31-year-old Michael McNeil. He has now admitted to communicating online with someone he thought was a family member of a 12-year-old handicapped child, while expressing interest in having sex with that child. McNeil further asked for photos of the child, sent an explicit photo of himself, and asked specific questions about the child’s sexual experience and abilities, according to the US Attorney’s Office. The person he was communicating with was actually a detective with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. He ultimately traveled to a coffee shop in Orange Park to meet the child for sex, which is when he was arrested. The US Attorney’s Office says McNeil faces a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison, with a possibility of being sentenced to life.
  • Update 5:23 p.m. EDT Dec. 14: In a tweet Friday, President Donald Trump named Mick Mulvaney, the current Director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting White House Chief of Staff. Trump deemed Mulvaney his “acting chief of staff” but it was not immediately clear what that meant for the length of his tenure. >> Read more trending news President Donald Trump said Saturday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his position by the end of the year. The president’s first choice was Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, who bowed out after being unable to come to an agreement on how long he would serve in the post. Read the original report below. Trump announced last week that Kelly, who served in the post for more than a year, would soon be departing. Rumors have swirled off-and-on for months that Kelly, a retired four-star general, planned to leave his post. >> Related: Who is Gen. John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff?  Sources with knowledge of the inner workings of the West Wing told CNN that President Donald Trump and Kelly have recently stopped speaking. He reportedly clashed with several members of the administration, including national security adviser John Bolton, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Politico reported. Tension between Bolton and Kelly spilled out into the public earlier this year when The Washington Post reported Kelly stormed out of the White House after getting into a shouting match with Bolton over immigration. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that Kelly expected to make his exit over the summer, but the newspaper later reported that he agreed to stay on through the 2020 election at the president’s request. Reports indicate that the relationship between Trump and Kelly has long been fraught with tension. Former FBI director James Comey said in his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” that Kelly was “sick about my firing” in May 2017 and that he intended to quit in protest of Trump’s decision. Comey said he urged Kelly not to quit. >> 'A Higher Loyalty:' Here’s some of what James Comey says about Trump NBC News reported in April that Kelly called Trump “an idiot” who he needed to “save from himself” during a tense meeting on immigration. Kelly later denied making such a statement and claimed he and the president had “an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” according to NBC News. Kelly faced criticism earlier this year after two of former staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse. Porter denied the allegations, but submitted his resignation Feb. 7 amid public outcry. >> White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says In a statement released after the revelations first surfaced, Kelly stood behind Porter, who he called “a man of true integrity and honor.” He appeared to walk back his comments in a subsequent statement, amid criticism based on reports that the White House knew of the allegations long before Porter’s resignation. The allegations held up the security clearance process for Porter, who was only ever issued a temporary clearance. Amid the media furor, Kelly moved to end or downgrade temporary clearances for all staff members, including some, like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had regular access to top secret U.S. documents. Kelly joined the Trump Administration as the secretary of Homeland Security in January 2017. Six months later, he was appointed as chief of staff after Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Preibus, submitted his resignation amid tension with Trump. >> Reince Priebus out: Trump names new chief of staff Reuters reported in February that Kelly and Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster were considering leaving their posts because of the way they were treated by Trump in public. Unidentified sources told Reuters that 'Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting.' The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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