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National Politics

    Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump's campaign has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, according to several people familiar with Trump's transition organization.But the investigators did not directly request the records from Trump's still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to those familiar with the Trump transition organization.A transition attorney sent letters Saturday to two congressional committees saying the General Services Administration had improperly provided the transition records to Mueller's investigators. Kory Langhofer, general counsel for the transition group, wrote to the Republican chairmen of the House Oversight committee and the Senate Homeland Security committee about what the transition contends was an 'unauthorized' disclosure of its emails.The GSA has provided office space and other aid to presidential transitions in recent years and typically houses electronic transition records in its computer system. But Trump for America considers the records private and privileged and not government property.The people familiar with the transition organization spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the records' sensitivity.They said the materials included communications from more than a dozen senior Trump transition officials. Among the officials who used transition email accounts was former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements to FBI agents in January and is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation. Flynn was fired by Trump in February for misleading senior administration officials about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.It's unclear how revelatory the email accounts maintained by the GSA will be for Mueller. Several high-level Trump advisers sometimes used other email accounts to communicate about transition issues between Election Day and the inauguration.Mueller's spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to comment. Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump's personal legal team, referred questions to the transition group. Neither GSA representatives nor Flynn attorney Robert Kelner were immediately available to respond to AP's emailed requests for comment.Officials with Trump for America learned last Wednesday that GSA officials had turned over the massive cache of emails to Mueller's team. The transition group's top officials were alarmed because many of the emails that Mueller's investigators now have are sensitive records ranging from national security discussions about possible Trump international aims to candid assessments of candidates for top government posts, said those familiar with the transition.Officials with Trump for America had been bracing for months for the prospect that Mueller's team would demand its emails, but they had been assured that any requests to the GSA would be routed to the transition organization, which claims legal ownership of the records. According to those familiar with the transition group, a top GSA official informed Trump for America last June that any request from Mueller's office would be referred to the transition.On Sept. 1, after requests in late August from Mueller's office, the GSA turned over a flash drive containing tens of thousands of records without informing Trump for America of its move, those familiar with the transition said.Those records included emails sent and received by 13 senior Trump transition officials.The media site Axios first reported on the transfer of the emails to Mueller's team.
  • First-term Democratic Congressman Ruben Kihuen of Nevada, who is at the center of sexual harassment allegations, announced Saturday he won't seek re-election.Kihuen's announcement came a day after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into whether Kihuen 'may have engaged in sexual harassment' with a campaign aide and a lobbyist.'I want to state clearly again that I deny the allegations in question,' Kihuen said. 'I am committed to fully cooperating with the House Ethics Committee and I look forward to clearing my name.'The freshman congressman said the accusations would be distraction during a re-election campaign.'Therefore, it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to complete my term in Congress and not seek re-election,' Kihuen said.A former campaign aide said Kihuen propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections during his 2016 campaign. A lobbyist told the Nevada Independent that he touched her thighs and buttocks and made unwanted sexual advances while he was a state senator.The Ethics Committee Friday by the panel's Republican chairwoman and its ranking Democrat said the fact the committee was investigating the allegations does not indicate any violation has occurred and that the committee would make no further public statements pending completion of its initial review.Kihuen's decision may not be enough for some of his colleagues. The top House Democrat, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, has called on Kihuen to resign, a request that he has resisted. Kihuen also apologized after the first allegation was made public, but said he didn't remember the events the way the former campaign aide had described.A native of Mexico and the first Latino to represent Nevada in Congress, Kihuen represents the state's 4th Congressional District, which stretches north from the Las Vegas metro area into sparsely populated central Nevada.Kihuen is among a growing number of lawmakers whose political careers have been thrust into uncertainty or ended altogether by allegations of sexual misconduct. On Thursday, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said he would not seek re-election amid sexual harassment allegations that he has denied.Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., abruptly resigned last week over revelations that he'd asked two staff members to act as surrogates to have his child, offering one $5 million.Also, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., retired weeks after former aides shared stories of habitual sexual harassment. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced he would step down after he was accused of improper behavior by at least eight women and his support from fellow Democrats collapsed.
  • The Latest on the tax plan in Congress (all times local):4:10 p.m.President Donald Trump will be holding a series of weekend meetings with Cabinet members at Camp David.A White House spokeswoman said Saturday that Trump would meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as the Republican-led Congress plans to vote on its tax bill.Trump will also meet with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Housing and Urban Development head Ben Carson, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.Trump is set to return to the White House on Sunday afternoon.___1 p.m.President Donald Trump is defending the Republicans' tax cut plan, pushing back against criticism that it will benefit the wealthy more than the middle class.Speaking to reporters at the White House Saturday before leaving for Camp David, Trump said the middle class will benefit because the tax cut will draw companies back from overseas, creating jobs.The GOP plans to muscle the bill through Congress next week.Trump touted the nation's economy, predicting that it would 'start to rock' once the bill is passed.Trump also predicted that economic growth could go from the current 3 percent to '4, 5 and maybe even 6 percent ultimately.'Many economists doubt that even a sustained 4 percent growth rate is achievable.___3:10 a.m.Republicans seem to have secured the votes to pass a tax overhaul that President Donald Trump hopes to sign before Christmas.Here's what House Speaker Paul Ryan says: 'This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening.'It's the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax system in three decades and is expected to add $1.46 trillion to the nation's debt over a decade.The GOP plans to muscle it through Congress next week before its year-end break.Under the bill, today's 35 percent rate on corporations would fall to 21 percent. The legislation would lower taxes on the richest Americans. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller.
  • The Trump administration has issued a list of seven words and phrases that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are 'forbidden' from using in documents related to next year's budget, The Washington Post reported Friday.The list of banned words includes: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based and science-based, according to The Washington Post report. In certain cases, alternative phrasing was offered. CDC employees were encouraged to use the phrase, “the CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,' in place of “science-based” or “evidence-based” according to a source cited in The Washington Post report.  >> Read more trending news  It is not clear why the Trump administration issued such a directive, but The Washington Post notes that other federal agencies, like Health and Human Services, have altered language addressing sexual orientation in its documentation since Trump took office.The directive was met with an 'incredulous' reaction when it was announced at a meeting Thursday with CDC employees, The Washington Post reported. The White House has not released a response to The Washington Post report.
  • Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country, with one of the most evangelical electorates, is sending an abortion-rights supporter to the U.S. Senate, despite GOP efforts to paint Democrat Doug Jones as an unacceptable extremist on the issue.Certainly, any analysis of what Jones' upset over Roy Moore means for other races involves a caveat: The Republican nominee was twice ousted from the state Supreme Court and stood accused of sexual misconduct with minors, baggage that gave Jones an opening in a state that hadn't elected a Democratic senator since 1992.Yet Jones could not have won without crossover votes from conservative Republicans who oppose abortion, and that's just what he did.Exit polls show Jones won a third of voters who said abortion should be illegal in most cases, and 27 percent of those who want it outlawed completely.These numbers suggest that abortion may not necessarily be a defining issue in the 2018 midterm elections.Abortion is 'still a dividing line in American politics,' said Republican pollster Greg Strimple, who surveys voters for the Congressional Leadership Fund, the political action committee backed by Speaker Paul Ryan that is helping defend the GOP's House majority.But a candidate's stand on abortion mobilizes only slices of the two parties' bases, and for most every voter in between, 'it's a secondary issue,' Strimple said.There's an argument that this contest was unusually unsavory for conservatives, making them choose between a man accused of preying on girls, and a Democrat. But it's clear that Jones' support of legalized abortion wasn't a deal-breaker for just enough Republicans to give Democrats a 20,000-vote margin, out of more than 1.35 million votes cast.That's heartening for Democrats looking to dent Republican domination in Congress and statehouses by targeting voters dissatisfied with President Donald Trump and unhappy over Republican moves to roll back Democrats' 2010 health insurance expansion and push tax cuts tilted to corporations and wealthy individuals.'We are competing on a massive offensive battlefield, in districts that went for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and that are suburban, rural and urban,' said Meredith Kelly of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 'Regardless of where they are running, (our) candidates have no reason to compromise on their support for a woman's health care, her right to choose, and her economic security.'Nationwide, polling suggests that a majority of Americans avoid taking an absolutist stance on abortion. According to a Pew assessment in July, the largest plurality is the 33 percent of voters who say abortion should be legal in most cases. The next largest segment, at 25 percent, says it should be legal in all cases. Twenty-four percent say abortion should be illegal in most cases, while just 16 percent say it should be illegal in all cases.Of course, those voters aren't distributed proportionally across state and congressional boundaries, and partisan leanings are much more intense: 65 percent of self-identified Republicans say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 75 percent of Democrats say it should be legal in most or all cases. Independents lean in favor of access, with 60 percent saying it should be legal.Religious influence sharpens voters' leanings further. White evangelical protestants are the most likely religious group to oppose abortion rights: 70 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. Majorities of Catholics, black protestants and mainline protestants all support more access, while unaffiliated voters lean overwhelmingly toward legality.A state like Alabama, where Republican nominees usually win at least 60 percent of the vote and where half the population is white evangelical protestant (as opposed to a quarter nationally), is more fundamentally anti-abortion than many other states now under Republican control, such as Ohio or Wisconsin, which have far fewer evangelicals proportionally and are typically presidential battlegrounds.It's also true that nearly all the 91 House districts that national Democrats are targeting are less Republican than Alabama. Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats for a House majority. In the Senate, Republicans will have a narrow 51-49 advantage when Jones is sworn in, meaning they need a net gain of two seats to regain control. Democrats also must defend 10 seats in states where Trump won, but all these states are less conservative than Alabama, perhaps with the exception of North Dakota.In Alabama, Moore and his supporters certainly tried to make abortion a dividing line. Republicans circulated an interview in which Jones affirmed his position. After losing, Moore highlighted the issue again in a video to supporters explaining his refusal to concede. 'Abortion, sodomy and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' he said, lamenting that 'we have killed over 60 million of our unborn children.'Yet throughout the campaign, including the months before the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in early November, Jones stood his ground, certainly not emphasizing abortion rights, but not denying his views when asked.'Everyone felt like I needed to be someone I was not to try to get votes,' he told The Associated Press the day after his election. 'I promised myself I would not do that.'---Associated Press writer Kim Chandler contributed to this report. Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP.
  • After officially releasing the final details, Republicans in Congress set votes for next week in the House and Senate on a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code, as GOP leaders expressed confidence that they would have the votes to pass the first major tax reform package since 1986. “This is what the American people have been waiting for: more jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is now only two votes and a signature away from becoming the law of the land,” Ryan added, as Republicans said a vote would take place on Tuesday in the House. “I’m very excited about this moment,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the lead tax-writer as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act lets you keep more of your hard-earned money, meaning less of your paycheck will go to Washington. Period. pic.twitter.com/eBI303t0Ar — Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 16, 2017 If you want to read through the bill, and the basic explanation of what the provisions would do, then click here, and take a look at the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The first 500-plus pages is the bill text, followed by another almost 600 pages of explanation and financial charts about the legislation. Here’s some of the high points: 1. Final tax brackets more tax cuts than tax reform. The House plan envisioned just four tax brackets, instead of the current seven. But the final deal left the current system in place, and focused mainly on cutting the income tax rates. The current tax brackets are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. This GOP plan trims that to 0%, 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. Here’s a graphic from the bill on what the new system looks like: 2. Individual tax changes are temporary, most business tax changes are permanent. In order to hold down on the cost of this bill, Republicans set the plan so that almost all of the individual tax changes for individuals expire after 2025, in eight years. So, for example, the tax brackets listed above – if Congress does not act by the start of 2026, those tax cuts would then increase back to the previous 2017 level – this is exactly what happened with the Bush tax cuts of 2001/2003 and the “fiscal cliff” at the end of 2012. 3. Individual mandate tax penalty ends – but not in 2018. Added by the Senate, the provision that ends the tax penalty for not buying health insurance coverage under the Obama health law will be zeroed out, but not immediately. The final GOP plan allows the individual mandate to stay in effect in 2018 – so if you were thinking about rolling the dice and not getting insurance for next year, that would put you in the crosshairs of a tax penalty from the IRS. Share of Individual Mandate Penalty Payments by Income Level: •Under $50,000: 58% •$50,000 to $99,999: 28% •$100,000 or more: 14% (IRS, 2015) — Will Little (@Willy_fr_Philly) December 16, 2017 4. Some notable things that are NOT happening in the GOP bill. Some issues went away in the House-Senate negotiations. The final bill does not include provisions that would make tuition awards for graduate students into taxable income. The bill will not force people to pay taxes on employer provided tuition aid for people working at colleges and universities. The bill will not increase the amount of time that you need to own and occupy a principal residence in order to qualify for certain tax free gains on the sale of that home. And the deduction for teachers who buy school supplies, that was preserved at $250 (the Senate wanted to double it to $500, but that was not included in the final deal). Just in! #ReworkTheReform worked! #TaxCutsandJobsAct final text in: No tuition waiver tax. Student loan interest deduction, Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, and Employer Education Assistance are all preserved! #NAGPS4U #TaxReform #SaveGradEd @cmugsa @WSU_GPSA @Mizzou_GPC — NAGPS (@NAGPS) December 15, 2017 5. If you closed on your expensive home Friday, you’re in luck. The final GOP tax reform bill makes changes in how people can deduct mortgage interest payments. Current law states that such a mortgage deduction is limited to no more than a mortgage of $1,000,000 – this plan drops the upper limit to $750,000 (the House had proposed a $500,000 cap). Unlike other provisions, this $750,000 change has a retroactive component to it, as it plainly states that you had to have purchased your home by December 15, 2017 to qualify for the old $1 million limit. So, if you closed on your house on Friday with a mortgage of over $750,000, you will fare better on your tax return than someone who closes on that same home a day later.
  • Americans are painting a pessimistic view of the country and President Donald Trump as 2017 comes to a close.That's according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows less than a quarter of Americans think Trump has made good on the pledges he made to voters.Among Republicans, just half say Trump has kept his promises, which included vows to overhaul his predecessor's health care law, withdraw the U.S. from a nuclear accord with Iran and invest millions in new projects to fix the nation's aging infrastructure. None of those steps have been taken.Just three in 10 Americans said the U.S. is heading in the right direction, and 52 percent said the country is worse off since Trump became president.
  • Andrea Ramsey, a Kansas Democrat running for a House seat in 2018, has dropped out of the race amid sexual misconduct accusations, according to the Kansas City Star. >> Read more trending news The retired businesswoman — who was considered one of the Democratic Party’s brightest political prospects — was hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas’ 3rd District in the 2018 midterm elections. The Star reported on a 2005 lawsuit filed against LabOne, the company at which Ramsey worked as an executive vice president of human resources. One of Ramsey’s male subordinates, a man named Gary Funkhouser, alleged that she sexually harassed him and retaliated when he rejected her advances. Funkhouser claims Ramsey made “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments and innuendos” in September 2004 while he was a human resources manager. He also alleges that she made advances on a business trip in March 2005. Funkhouser was fired by Ramsey in April of the same year. Sources claim that the case was settled out-of-court and the alleged victim agreed to permanently dismiss the case. In the statement in which she announced she was dropping out of the race, Ramsey strongly denied the allegations. “My opponents have chosen to use these false allegations against me for political purposes, not only engaging in a whisper campaign, but also contacting political and news organizations,” Ramsey said. “These false allegations are disgraceful and demean the moment this country is in. For far too long, complaints of sexual harassment have been completely ignored. The timely and thorough investigation of complaints is a very good thing. We are seeing real change in how harassment is being handled from Topeka to Washington. We should always make it as safe as possible for people who have been wronged to come forward, and I have based my professional career as an employment lawyer and human resources executive on that principle.” Ramsey also said that after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated the allegations, they chose not to pursue them and and Funkhouser eventually dismissed the lawsuit voluntarily. “In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero-tolerance standard,” Ramsey said in her statement. “For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.” The DCCC, which is yet to endorse any of the candidates in the Democratic primary, released a statement about the accusations made against Ramsey. “Members and candidates must all be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office,” committee spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said.
  • Count commuters among the losers in the Republican tax bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on next week.The final bill agreed to by Republican negotiators and released late Friday eliminates the tax incentive for private employers that subsidize their employees' transit, parking and bicycle commuting expenses.Currently, companies can provide parking or transit passes worth up to $255 a month to employees as a benefit to help pay for their commuting expenses, and then deduct the costs from their corporate taxes. That amount was set to increase to $260 a month on Jan. 1.The reasoning behind the elimination of the deduction is that since the tax bill substantially lowers the corporate tax rate, smaller tax breaks that complicate the tax code are no longer necessary. Companies could still provide the parking and transit passes to employees, but they would no longer get the tax deduction. And employees who pay for their own transportation costs can still use pre-tax income.The elimination of the subsidy has transit agencies worried that fewer commuters will opt for transit.'It's clearly a negative for commuters who are spending a lot of money on public transportation,' said Rob Healy, vice president for governmental affairs at the American Public Transportation Association. The employer subsidies are generally more lucrative for commuters than the ability to use pre-tax income for transportation costs, he said.'The concern is that if employers can't write it off, they won't offer it. And if they don't offer it, it's a loss to the employees,' Healy said. 'It could ultimately hurt the ridership.'Businesses that provide their employees with $20 per month to cover the expense of commuting by bicycle would also no longer be able to write off the benefit under the tax bill. Without that incentive, the relatively few employers offering the benefit may discontinue it, said Ken McLeod, policy director for the League of American Bicyclists.Bicyclists can use the benefit to offset the cost of a new bicycle or pay for helmets, locks, lights or maintenance like new tires, McLeod said. The money doesn't count toward employee earnings, he said.Getting rid of the bicycle benefit, which was adopted in 2009, would save the government a relatively low $5 million a year, McLeod said. By comparison, the parking benefit costs the government about $7.3 billion a year in foregone taxes, according to a report by TransitCenter, a transit advocacy group.The House version of the tax bill retained the benefit, but the Senate version eliminated it even though more than 1,500 bicyclists contacted members of the Senate Finance Committee to try to persuade them to keep the write-off, he said.'Growth in commuting by bicycle contributes to reducing congestion, promoting good health and supporting a low-cost mode of transportation for all Americans,' 20 bicycle, community, and sports and outdoor industry groups said in a letter to the committee's chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and senior Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.What bothers bicyclists the most, McLeod said, isn't so much the money, but 'just that it feels like the federal government doesn't support biking.'I don't know if that is something the legislators meant to express,' he said, 'but that's something we're definitely hearing.'___Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy
  • The Republicans' tax package would boost traditional forms of energy such as oil and gas while also supporting renewable energy such as wind and solar power — and even extend a hand to buyers of electric cars.An agreement by House and Senate negotiators would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, while preserving tax credits for wind power and other clean energy. The bill also would extend a tax credit of up to $7,500 for purchases of plug-in electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt.Republicans rolled out the bill late Friday.Opening the remote Arctic refuge to oil and gas drilling is a longtime Republican priority that most Democrats fiercely oppose. The 19.6-million-acre refuge in northeastern Alaska is one of the most pristine areas in the United States and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife.Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans say drilling can be done safely with new technology, while ensuring a steady energy supply for West Coast refineries.Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said opening the refuge to drilling is 'the single-most important step we can take to strengthen our long-term energy security and create new wealth.'The House and Senate are expected to vote on the $1.5 trillion tax legislation next week as GOP leaders push the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in more than three decades.The bill preserves a phase-out of tax incentives for both the solar and wind industries passed in 2015. Tax credits for wind are set to expire in 2020, and solar credits in 2022.The wind-energy credits are popular with some Republicans, including Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who worked to defend them after they were curtailed in a version passed by the House.Electric cars comprise just about 1 percent of sales nationwide, but several states have mandates that such 'zero emission vehicles' make up a much larger portion of vehicle sales. Manufacturers worry that eliminating the tax credit would have made those targets virtually impossible to meet.The Arctic refuge has been the focus of a political fight for nearly four decades. Former President Bill Clinton vetoed a GOP plan to allow drilling in the refuge in 1995, and Democrats led by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell defeated a similar plan in 2005.Most congressional Republicans support the drilling plan, including veteran Alaska Rep. Don Young, one of the plan's negotiators. Young called drilling 'crucially important to the nation' and said it would decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil and create jobs for Alaskans.Democrats and environmental groups say the GOP plan risks spoiling one of the nation's most pristine areas and is especially unwise at a time when U.S. oil production is booming, with imports declining and exports reaching record levels.Lawmakers 'do not need to ruin a wildlife refuge and an ecosystem that is intact just to give tax breaks to big corporations,' Cantwell said. 'We can do better than this.

News

  • The 58-year-old Uber driver who allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl while taking her home did not have any red flags in his background that would have disqualified him from the ride hailing service.  Abdoulie Jagne, of College Park, had been driving for the company for several months. He was permanently banned from Uber after his arrest Thursday morning, according to a statement released by Uber.  The only blemish on his record was for not having evidence of auto registration in 2015 when he was living in California, according to California court records obtained by the AJC. RELATED: Pregnant woman: “I kept bleeding” after being attacked by Uber driver RELATED:Jailed ex-Uber driver faces additional burglary, peeping Tom charges RELATED: Uber driver carjacked at Cascade Road gas station According to Uber’s policies, that would not have automatically disqualified him from being a driver.  Drivers for the ride hailing app are automatically barred if they have more than three minor traffic violations in the past three years. Minor violations include speeding tickets and non-fatal accidents, among others.  A driver also cannot have had their license suspended or revoked in the last three years, or have received a ticket for DUI, speeding over 100 mph, reckless driving, or have been in a hit-and-run in the past seven years. Any conviction of a felony, driving-related offense, violent crime, sexual offense, or child abuse or endangerment in the past seven years would also disqualify a driver.  The company uses a third party, Checkr, for background checks, according to Uber. The process screens national, state, and local databases including the National Sex Offender website and the PACER database of court records.  “What’s reported here is horrifying beyond words. Our thoughts are with the rider and her family during this time.'  Any behavior involving violence, sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, or illegal activity while using Uber can result in immediate deactivation, according to driver policies.  That includes physical contact, touching or flirting, or inappropriate and abusive language, among other offenses.  Early Monday morning, Gwinnett County officers were dispatched to an apartment complex off Old Norcross Tucker Road in unincorporated Tucker. There, they found the 16-year-old girl who said she was sexually assaulted by her Uber driver.  The girl, who officers said was intoxicated, said she was at a local bar drinking with friends, when one of them scheduled an Uber ride to get her home.  When officers arrived on the scene, the 16-year-old’s pants were around her ankles. The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment and evaluation.  With information obtained by Uber, investigators determined the rape probably occurred somewhere on South Norcross Tucker Road between Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Old Norcross Tucker Road.  The victim’s friend, also a minor, helped police identify Jagne as a suspect. According to Cpl. Michele Pihera, there is no bond for Jagne and he is being held at the Gwinnett County Jail. He made his first court appearance Saturday and has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 27, Channel 2 Action News reported. Detectives want to know if any other woman has been sexually assaulted by Jagne. They are asked to call 770-513-5338.
  • A man is in jail after he struck and killed a crossing guard near a Cobb County school, police say. Channel 2 Action News received the mugshot of Lamonte Whitaker, who has been charged with vehicular homicide.    Police said he hit Edna Umeh in late November by Lindley Middle School in Mableton. RELATED STORIES: Students witness deadly accident involving school crossing guard Family demands action after school crossing guard killed by 'aggressive' driver Family pushing for change after crossing guard killed by hit-and-run driver  
  • A 7-year-old’s heartbreaking letter to Santa asking for a blanket, ball and food, brought in hundreds of donations to help her and other impoverished children at her school. >> Read more trending news “I have (been) good this day,” Crystal Pacheco wrote. “This Christmas I would like a ball and a food. I need a (blanket).” The letter was part of a classroom exercise by Monte Cristo Elementary School first-grade teacher Ruth Espiricueta, who asked them to list two wants and a need. “I started reading them and it's like, I did not expect her to say, ‘I need food. I want food, but I need a blanket more,'' Espiricueta told KGBT. 'And I asked, ‘Well, why do you need a blanket more than the food?’ ‘Well, I get to eat at school -- sometimes I may not have at home, but I get to eat at school. A blanket I have one, but it's not warm enough.’' Espiricueta posted the letter on social media, sparking hundreds of donations of blankets and other items to the school, according to KRGV.  'Unfortunately, there are other students that, as part of their needs, they included food, towels, blankets, pillows, bed, clothes, shoes and a stove,' Espiricueta told ABC News. 'Some of my students were not even excited about Christmas because they know that their parents cannot afford to buy a Christmas tree or gifts for them.' Crystal wrote the letter thinking about her brother, with whom she would use the ball, food for the family and the blanket because the house is too cold, her mother Maria Cortez told KRGV. “I'm just very emotional and proud of my children, because I raise them to appreciate the little that we have,' Cortez told KGBT. The school hopes to get 724 blankets to give to each student, so far they have 616.
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump's campaign has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, according to several people familiar with Trump's transition organization.But the investigators did not directly request the records from Trump's still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to those familiar with the Trump transition organization.A transition attorney sent letters Saturday to two congressional committees saying the General Services Administration had improperly provided the transition records to Mueller's investigators. Kory Langhofer, general counsel for the transition group, wrote to the Republican chairmen of the House Oversight committee and the Senate Homeland Security committee about what the transition contends was an 'unauthorized' disclosure of its emails.The GSA has provided office space and other aid to presidential transitions in recent years and typically houses electronic transition records in its computer system. But Trump for America considers the records private and privileged and not government property.The people familiar with the transition organization spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the records' sensitivity.They said the materials included communications from more than a dozen senior Trump transition officials. Among the officials who used transition email accounts was former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements to FBI agents in January and is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation. Flynn was fired by Trump in February for misleading senior administration officials about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.It's unclear how revelatory the email accounts maintained by the GSA will be for Mueller. Several high-level Trump advisers sometimes used other email accounts to communicate about transition issues between Election Day and the inauguration.Mueller's spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to comment. Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump's personal legal team, referred questions to the transition group. Neither GSA representatives nor Flynn attorney Robert Kelner were immediately available to respond to AP's emailed requests for comment.Officials with Trump for America learned last Wednesday that GSA officials had turned over the massive cache of emails to Mueller's team. The transition group's top officials were alarmed because many of the emails that Mueller's investigators now have are sensitive records ranging from national security discussions about possible Trump international aims to candid assessments of candidates for top government posts, said those familiar with the transition.Officials with Trump for America had been bracing for months for the prospect that Mueller's team would demand its emails, but they had been assured that any requests to the GSA would be routed to the transition organization, which claims legal ownership of the records. According to those familiar with the transition group, a top GSA official informed Trump for America last June that any request from Mueller's office would be referred to the transition.On Sept. 1, after requests in late August from Mueller's office, the GSA turned over a flash drive containing tens of thousands of records without informing Trump for America of its move, those familiar with the transition said.Those records included emails sent and received by 13 senior Trump transition officials.The media site Axios first reported on the transfer of the emails to Mueller's team.
  • The smallest KFC in the world, serving miniature $5 fill ups, opened Saturday in Portland.  >> Read more trending news Customers lined up for the free sample of the tiny fried chicken, biscuit, mashed potatoes with a small dollop of gravy, a finger-nail sized cookie and what could only be a sip of a soft drink. The novelty fast food restaurant was open until 4 p.m., according to The Oregonian.
  • Google recently released its list of the top search trends of 2017. Across the globe, people asked Google about subjects such as Hurricane Irma, April the Giraffe, the solar eclipse and more. According to Atlanta communications agency Jackson Spalding, which works with a multitude of companies, including Google, many of Atlanta’s top search results mirrored the nation's trends. Here are Atlanta’s top 10 most-Googled topics in 2017: 1. Hurricane Irma 2. Irma path 3. Tom Petty 4. Super Bowl 5. Aaron Hernandez 6. Atlanta Falcons 7. Solar eclipse 8. Las Vegas shooting 9. Charlie Murphy 10. Fidget spinner Google’s Year in Search 2017 lists are based on search terms that “had a high spike in traffic in 2017 as compared to 2016,” the company said. Information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.