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National Politics

  • The Latest on President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims of wiretapping (all times local): 7:50 a.m. Sen. John McCain says it is 'disturbing' that the chairman of the House intelligence committee is publicly airing often-secret information. McCain spoke Thursday on NBC's 'Today Show,' responding to Republican Rep. Devin Nunes' statements that Trump transition officials' communications may have been scooped up in legal surveillance and then improperly distributed. McCain said no new information has come out to refute FBI Director James Comey, who this week rejected President Donald Trump's claims that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the election. Of the investigation into the Trump campaign's connections with Russia, McCain said that in situations like this: 'There's always additional information that comes out before it's concluded.' Looking ahead, McCain says that a special committee is needed to review the matter. ___ 3:30 a.m. The chairman of the House intelligence committee says private communications of Donald Trump and his presidential transition team may have been scooped up by American intelligence officials monitoring other targets and improperly distributed throughout spy agencies. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes' extraordinary public airing Wednesday of often-secret information brought swift protests from Democrats. The committee's ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, renewed his party's calls for an independent probe of Trump campaign links to Russia in addition to the GOP-led panel's investigation. Schiff also said he had seen 'more than circumstantial evidence' that Trump associates colluded with Russia.

Local Politics

  • Former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton filed another lawsuit Tuesday against the DeKalb Board of Ethics, saying it should be dissolved. Sutton’s lawsuit accuses DeKalb Ethics Officer Stacey Kalberman of improperly advocating for legislation to change the appointment process of Board of Ethics members. Rep. Vernon Jones, D-Lithonia, made similar allegations against Kalberman in an ethics complaint filed last week. Sutton originally sued the Board of Ethics in November 2015 as she faced ethics charges alleging she misspent public money. A judge hasn’t yet ruled on the first lawsuit, which argues that Board of Ethics members shouldn’t be appointed by private organizations. Kalberman and the board’s attorney, Darren Summerville, declined to comment Tuesday.

Latest from Jamie Dupree

Georgia Politics

  • His Republican rivals call him “Darth Vader,” a “lightweight liberal” and a “puppet of the left.” Fellow Democrats vow to block his “coronation” and paint him as an outsider. More than $1 million has already been spent to bog down his candidacy. Democrat Jon Ossoff has transformed the race for suburban Atlanta’s 6th Congressional District, and his soaring donations and groundswell of support from energized Democrats have fast painted a shiny target on his back as he scrambles to flip Tom Price’s ruby-red turf. Just about every candidate in the crowded April 18 special election to represent the district, which spans from east Cobb County to north DeKalb County, has assailed the 30-year-old former congressional aide. And Republicans determined to keep a GOP stronghold are readying more attacks. But even Ossoff’s Republican adversaries marvel about his campaign’s field operations and the more than $3 million he’s raised in 10 weeks — and worry about their own fractured field of 11 GOP candidates battling each other for their own slice of the electorate. All 18 candidates in the race are on the same ballot, and if none get a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters will square off in a June 20 runoff. Some worry Ossoff could win the race, upending the national debate about President Donald Trump’s popularity in one of the first votes since his election. “If we have 65 percent of the GOP vote and spread it out over 11 candidates — do the math,” Michael Fitzgerald, the district’s GOP chairman, said in sobering remarks to Republicans at a recent forum. “The question is: Are we going to resist these outsiders taking over our district?” Bruce LeVell, running on a pro-Trump platform, took it a giant step further, saying Ossoff embodied the very essence of evil: “His party is from the Dark Side — Darth Vader.” Ossoff has largely stuck to his talking points, hoping to deprive Republicans of red-meat attacks. He’s pivoted toward the House GOP’s beleaguered health care plan, criticizing funding cuts to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that could hit a disease-fighting initiative. And he and his supporters talk increasingly of landing a knockout punch: the long odds of winning the race outright in April. After all, a runoff against a unifying Republican with the full weight of the party behind him or her would neutralize many of Ossoff’s advantages. “The only way to approach any election is to try to win it outright,” Ossoff said. “That’s what my team and I are trying to do every day.” ‘Make Trump Furious’ A virtual unknown in Georgia political circles, Ossoff jumped in the race in January with the endorsements of U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson and more than $250,000 in cash commitments — instantly making him the leading Democratic contender. Since then, he’s become a national Democratic darling with his “Make Trump Furious” mantra and support from the liberal Daily Kos website, which has raised more than $1.2 million for him from more than 70,000 donors. The seat has been in GOP hands since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, launching Newt Gingrich, Johnny Isakson and Price to higher orbits. But Democrats hope to capitalize on Trump’s struggles here — he carried the district by 1 point in November — in the most competitive contest since the president’s election. Operatives on both sides of the aisle know that the race could prove a template for how congressional candidates wage campaigns in the era of Trump. And Republicans have sprayed a scattered-shot wave of attacks seeking to cripple his campaign. “We’ve now almost given him a spot in the runoff. A month out, everyone is fighting for that other spot,” said GOP strategist Chip Lake, who is not working for any candidate in the race. “Whether or not Ossoff wins, this should be a wake-up call to the Republicans nationally about how energized the Democratic base is against this president.” The bulk of them paint Ossoff as a naïve newcomer. Bob Gray, a former Johns Creek city councilman and GOP candidate in the race, called him an “embarrassment” with little experience. Another Republican contender, businessman David Abroms, said voters should “fight fire with fire” against Ossoff and turn to another youthful outsider. A House GOP super PAC unleashed a $1.1 million ad campaign featuring footage of him dressed as Han Solo while at Georgetown University — and claims he “lied about his resume” by asserting he worked for five years as a national security staffer with top security clearances. Ossoff and his campaign said he was granted those privileges working for Johnson after his 2006 election, while the super PAC said he’s claiming time spent as a junior staffer as part of that calculation. More recently, Republicans have probed for other weaknesses. Georgia GOP Chairman John Padgett seized on a fundraiser that U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held for Ossoff last week in Washington, declaring him a “puppet of the left.” And former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, the biggest GOP name in the race, used her debut ad to slam his investigative film company’s work for Al-Jazeera, a Qatar-based network described by critics as a propaganda outlet. Ossoff has struggled to keep up with the swirling attacks. He rushed out a trio of TV and radio spots — spending more than $1 million in advertising buys — depicting himself as a can-do public servant with support from Lewis and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes. He and his campaign have declined to comment on some of the criticism. Others they label as “absurd” or describe as cheap shots. “Jon condemns partisan attacks that appeal to fear,” his campaign said of the Al-Jazeera focus, “and stands by his work as a journalist and businessman.” No ‘coronation’ Ossoff has found little safe quarter with fellow Democrats. A recent forum featuring the five Democrats in the race opened with one little-known candidate, Ragin Edwards, asking the crowd of more than 400 voters to raise their hands if they lived in the district. Ossoff’s hand was one of the few not to alight. It was a reminder of another issue that could plague his campaign. He lives south of the district’s border with his girlfriend of 12 years, an Emory University medical student, so they can be within walking distance of her work. Members of Congress don’t have to live in their districts, and Ossoff said he will move to the 6th after she graduates. But that’s left an opening for opponents to peg him as an outsider. Former state Sen. Ron Slotin has tried to exploit that gap by calling himself the “adult” on the Democratic side of the race. He criticized Ossoff for “not having a business in the United States,” a reference to his London-based firm, and said Ossoff is doomed to fail. “This is not going to be a coronation. You have to earn it,” Slotin said. “He stands no chance against a Republican in the runoff. And that’s what I’m letting people know. The party shouldn’t pick favorites.” Ossoff has tried to brush off the criticism while contending his rivals are getting “dragged into partisan politics.” “I grew up in this district. I grew up in this community,” the north DeKalb native said. “Folks want decent representation, not partisan representation. I will offer effectiveness, integrity, humility and responsiveness.” He’s likely to remain a low-risk target for Republicans who remain largely wary of criticizing each other. That was on vivid display at a recent Republican breakfast in Johns Creek, where a string of candidates took the stage — and then took aim at the Democrat. “I am going to challenge Jon Ossoff. I’m not going to be scared,” said Amy Kremer, a tea party activist and cable news pundit. “We have to be bold about what we stand for. Now is the time for fighting.” After the plates had been cleared and the coffee cups trashed, there was much hand-wringing from veteran Republicans worried Ossoff could actually win. Greg Williams, a Republican activist, said he’s been sounding the alarm bells for weeks that the Democrat is legit. “We are not going to be caught sleeping,” he said. “We are not going to have a repeat where they sneak in and steal a seat.”

News

  • An off-duty Fulton County police officer shot a man after a chase in Atlanta Wednesday morning, the GBI says. The officer, whose name has not been released, was in his personal vehicle about 11 a.m., when he responded to a theft at a T-Mobile store on Mount Zion Parkway in Morrow, GBI spokesman Rich Bahan said.  The officer followed the suspect’s car into the city limits of Atlanta while reporting the incident to 911, Bahan said. At some point near Alyson Court, the two cars collided and when the driver got out of his car the off-duty officer shot him with his service weapon, Bahan said.   MORE:  Sheriff: Man out on bond for murder arrested after fighting victim’s family Ex-NFL player jailed after allegedly attacking woman in front of kids Police: Men brought ‘bag of bullets’ to shootout with alleged gang members Witness Jay Mitchell told Channel 2 Action News he thinks the man was shot in the stomach area after the police officer chased him and tried to pull him over. The suspect kept driving even after he was shot, Bahan said, and Atlanta police stopped him in the 1700 block of Lakewood Avenue. Whether the off-duty Fulton County officer stayed on the scene was not released, but his car was found parked at a store on Cleveland Avenue, Channel 2 reported. The man who was shot was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, Bahan said. The shooting is the fourth in less than a week involving a Georgia officer. A Georgia State Patrol trooper fatally shot a man after a chase early Saturday in Polk County. Jason Dennis Watkins, 36, was taken to Polk County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. RELATED: GSP trooper fatally shoots man after chase Willie Ivy III, 29, of Atlanta, died after a Fulton County police officer and an armed security guard shot him early Saturday in College Park, the GBI said.  RELATED: Man dead in police-involved shooting incident in College Park A Pickens County sheriff’s sergeant on Tuesday shot and critically injured Gary Lee Castle after he “moved aggressively” toward the official “with a large metal pipe in his hand,” the sheriff’s office said. RELATED: Sergeant shoots, critically injures man, Pickens County sheriff says In January and February, the GBI conducted 17 officer-involved shooting investigations, agency spokeswoman Nelly Miles said. RELATED: OVER THE LINE: Police shootings in Georgia The GBI investigated 78 police shootings in the state last year. In other news:
  • A middle school bus driver in the Valdosta area is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol while students were on her bus, according to the Lowndes County sheriff. Amanda Mullinax, 41, registered more than twice the legal limit, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said. A school resource officer at Hahira Middle School smelled alcohol on Mullinax, and a student said she had been drinking, the Macon Telegraph reported. The night before, deputies were called to a domestic dispute at Mullinax’s home and found she had been drinking heavily, Paulk said. RELATED: School bus driver charged in accident that injured child She could face multiple counts of child endangerment since there were about 44 students on the bus, the newspaper reported. Read more of the story here. In other news:
  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch vowed to uphold the law if confirmed to the nation’s highest court, not tipping his hand as he sidestepped controversial political subjects, as Gorsuch directly pushed back against President Donald Trump’s criticism of federal judges. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening; I find that demoralizing,” Gorsuch said in response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “Anyone including the President of the United States?” Blumenthal pressed. “Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch replied. In a day of testimony that stretched for almost twelve hours, Gorsuch parried most questions from Democrats, who tried in vain to get him to reveal his views on issues like abortion, and items that might come before the Supreme Court, like President Trump’s travel ban. Gorsuch repeatedly refused to take the bait. “I can’t get involved in politics, and I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes,” Gorsuch said. Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gorsuch was asked what he had discussed with President Trump on the issue of abortion. “In that interview did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v Wade?” Graham asked. “No, Senator,” Gorsuch replied, adding that if the President had asked that question, “I would have walked out the door.” Gorsuch was pressed about the President in a number of different ways, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that, “nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the President of the United States.” With Republicans strongly in support of Gorsuch, there was already maneuvering behind the scenes over the expected floor fight in the Senate, as Democrats have made clear they think the GOP should be forced to get 60 votes for his nomination. That has prompted GOP leaders to criticize the threat of a filibuster. “If there aren’t 60 votes for a nominee like Neil Gorsuch it’s appropriate to ask the question is there any nominee any Republican president could make that Democrats would approve,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gorsuch’s lengthy day of testimony ended on a light note, as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested to Gorsuch that he have a cocktail before bed. “Just don’t drink vodka,” Kennedy said to chuckles from the audience. Kennedy then drew even more laughter by adding in one more surprise. “You never been to Russia, have you?” “I’ve never been to Russia,” a smiling Gorsuch said.
  • Donald Trump Jr. is facing criticism for tweeting in the hours after Wednesday's London attack a months-old comment from London Mayor Sadiq Khan that terror attacks are part of living in a big city. Trump Jr. tweeted : 'You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.' The tweet included a link to a Sept. 22 story from Britain's Independent newspaper that includes the quote from Khan, who was asking Londoners to be vigilant following a bombing in New York City. British Member of Parliament Wes Streeting was among numerous Britons who responded to the tweet with criticism. He called Trump Jr. 'a disgrace' and accused him of using a terrorist attack for 'political gain.' When asked about Trump Jr. on Thursday, Khan told CNN: 'I'm not going to respond to a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. I've been doing far more important things over the past 24 hours.' He added that 'terrorists hate the fact' that cities including London, New York and Paris have 'diverse communities living together peacefully.