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National Govt & Politics
No end in sight for partial shutdown as new Congress convenes Thursday
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No end in sight for partial shutdown as new Congress convenes Thursday

No end in sight for partial shutdown as new Congress convenes Thursday
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

No end in sight for partial shutdown as new Congress convenes Thursday

A funding lapse for part of the federal government which started on December 22 shows no signs of ending in Washington, with President Donald Trump continuing to blame Democrats for not backing his plans for a wall along the Mexican border, as GOP leaders in Congress have no votes scheduled on the partial government shutdown, seemingly leaving the next step in this political battle to Democrats - who will take charge of the House when the 116th Congress convenes at 12 noon on January 3.

In a letter to House Democrats this weekend, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi said the first order of business before the House on Thursday would be a plan that includes both rules changes for the House, and funding for federal agencies now under a shutdown.

On New Year's Eve, Democrats released the text of an over 1,000 page bill, which would combine six different spending measures for 2019; the seventh spending bill - for the Department of Homeland Security - would be left on a short-term funding plan through February 8.

"Our legislation reopens government services, ensures workers get the paychecks they’ve earned and restores certainty to the lives of the American people," Pelosi said.

But there was one clear difference with the President.

"The legislation includes no new funding for President Trump’s border wall," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who will be the new head of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday afternoon.

Instead of going on a planned 16 day break at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, the President has been at the White House, jabbing at Democrats on Twitter, but making few public comments to reporters or television cameras about the shutdown battle.

"I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security," the President tweeted over the weekend, sending out a mix of messages tweaking Democrats about the shutdown, and venting his frustration with the Russia investigation.

There has been no legislative action at all in Congress on the shutdown since before Christmas - GOP leaders in the House and Senate did not keep those legislative bodies at work, as lawmakers and leaders alike went on their planned holiday vacations, or back home with family and friends.

For example on Sunday, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) - who will be the new Majority Whip of the Senate on Thursday - tweeted out a photo of himself on a pheasant hunt.

The Senate will return at 4 pm on Wednesday - just twenty hours before the new Congress convenes; no votes are on the schedule at this time about the shutdown, as the working assumption on Capitol Hill is that the 115th Congress will end without solving this funding dispute.

The House will also be back on Wednesday afternoon, but most of the work going on in the House right now is on the transition from Republican to Democratic Party control, as Nancy Pelosi gets ready to take the Speaker's gavel from Paul Ryan, who has been silent about the shutdown over the holiday break.

If no breakthrough occurs by noon on Thursday - when the 116th Congress convenes - then Democrats will push a funding plan through the House, and send that to the Senate, likely with no money for the President's border wall.

Because of rules on the filibuster, and budget laws which would require 60 votes for approval of any border wall funding, Republicans don't have enough votes to pass what the President wants done on immigration in the Senate.

But there also probably aren't enough votes to approve what Democrats will get through the House on Thursday.

The impact of the shutdown so far has been limited, but will ratchet up as the federal government goes back to work on Wednesday.

Most of the 800,000 federal workers hit by the partial shutdown were paid as scheduled at the end of December - though it took a late change by the Coast Guard for paychecks to go out - but those will be the last checks for those workers who have been furloughed, or who are still on the job as essential workers.

On Wednesday, all the of the Smithsonian Museums will close down - all of the Smithsonian facilities in Washington, D.C. have been kept open during the holiday break despite the funding lapse, drawing huge crowds of tourists in recent days.

But that will end on January 2.

Jamie Dupree
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shutdown21

Jamie Dupree

For federal workers who are impacted by the shutdown, it's a time of deep uncertainty when it comes to their personal finances, as they wonder when their next paycheck will arrive.

At this point, the answer seems to be simple - not any time soon.

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News

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller delivered the results of an investigation into possible collusion in the 2016 presidential election to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, ending a two-year saga that, at times, pitted the president against his own Justice Department.  On Sunday, the Department of Justice delivered a summary to the House Judicial Committee.  >> Barr: Mueller found no evidence of Trump-Russia conspiracy Update 7:00 p.m. EDT March 24: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement on Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report. Pelosi and Schumer said Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers.” The pair are calling for the Justice Department to release the full report. “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public,” Schumer said on social media. The statement calls into question Barr’s ability to be objective about the Mueller report. “Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report,” according to Pelosi and Schumer’s statement. “And most obviously, for the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” the statement said. Update 6:00 p.m. EDT March 24: The Mueller report is divided into two parts, according to the summary Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress Sunday. The first part of the report describes the Mueller team’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and outlines Russia’s attempts to influence the election, including the crimes committed by people associated with the Russian government, Barr said. A primary focus for the Mueller team was whether any Americans, and specifically associates of President Donald Trump, worked with the Russians in interfering with the election, which would be a federal crime. “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” according to the Mueller report. >> Related: Mueller report: Trump claims 'Complete and Total’ exoneration The second part of the report, according to Barr’s summary, focuses on whether Trump obstructed justice.  The Mueller report leaves “unresolved whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr said in his summary. “While the report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on obstruction allegations, Barr said. Mueller left a decision on obstruction of justice charges against Trump to the Justice Department. Barr confirmed he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided that Trump’s conduct did not constitute a crime. >> Related: What is in the Mueller report? Update 5:20 p.m. EDT March 24: The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, responded to President Donald Trump’s statement Sunday afternoon that the Mueller report offered him “complete and total exoneration.” Nadler disputed Trump’s characterization of the report, clarifying what Mueller actually said in the report. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” Nadler said Nadler also confirmed his plan to call Attorney General William Barr to testify before the committee. “In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before (the House Judiciary Committee) in the near future, Nadler said on Twitter. Update 5:10 p.m. EDT March 24: Attorney General William Barr detailed the resources special prosecutor Robert Mueller used during his two-year investigation in his summary of the report to Congress. Barr said the Mueller team “employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.” Barr said Mueller’s report also does not recommend any further indictments. Update 4:50 p.m. EDT March 24: President Donald Trump and members of his administration feel vindicated by the Mueller report. Trump just sent his first tweet on the report since Robert Mueller sent it to the Justice Department on Friday. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!,” the president wrote. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued this statement after Attorney General William Barr sent a summary of Mueller’s report to Congress Sunday afternoon. 'The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.” Update 4:15 p.m. EDT March 24: The summary included these points: -The investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller did not find President Donald Trump or any of his campaign team coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to a summary Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress Sunday. -The probe also did not find sufficient evidence that the president illegally obstructed justice, but the Mueller team stopped short of exonerating the president, according to The Associated Press.  -Barr’s summary said Mueller did not reach any conclusions on the president’s conduct. -Barr also said in the summary that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not consider constitutional questions relating to criminal charges against a sitting president in reaching their conclusion, the AP reported. UPDATE 3:30 p.m. EDT March 24: Rep. Jerry Nadler said the Department of Justice issued a letter saying it is “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement” in terms of the findings in the report. Related: What is in the Mueller report? Nadler tweeted quotes from the letter, which can be read in full here. UPDATE March 24 3:10 p.m. EDT: Congress has been told to expect a Mueller report summary with in the hour, The Associated Press reported, according to two unnamed sources familiar with plans from the Justice Department. UPDATE 2:30 p.m. EDT: President Donald Trump has been relatively quiet leading up to the release of the report, according to The Associated Press. Sources not authorized to speak publicly claim Trump is relieved no new indictments have come from the probe. The AP reported that Trump has been in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend, golfing and spending time with family. He’s also been less engaged on Twitter, only posting “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Sunday morning. UPDATE 9 p.m. EDT March 23:  Attorney General William Barr scoured special counsel Robert Mueller’s confidential report on the Russia investigation with his advisers Saturday, deciding how much Congress and the American public will get to see about the two-year probe into President Donald Trump and Moscow’s efforts to elect him, according to The Associated Press. Barr was on pace to release his first summary of Mueller’s findings on Sunday, people familiar with the process said. UPDATE 1:50 p.m. EDT March 23: Congress will not receive a summary of Mueller’s findings  Saturday, multiple media outlets have reported. The Washington Post cited a “senior Justice Department official” for this information, while Politico tweeted that “two sources familiar with the discussion” confirmed the news. President Trump flew Friday to his Mar-a-Lago resort with senior White House officials and lawyers, The Washington Post reported. Original report: The delivery of the report to Barr officially concludes the probe that has cast a shadow over the Trump administration from its earliest days. >> Read more trending news  Trump, who flew to Florida on Friday, has not yet commented on the report. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House would not be seeing the report -- at least not for now. Barr, in a one-page letter, told Congressional leaders he would be able to advise them of the “principal conclusions” of the report as soon as this weekend. In the letter, Barr confirmed that there was no requests made by Mueller to take a specific action – such as subpoenaing a witness – that was not granted by the DOJ. “There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.' Related: Read the letter William Barr sent to members of Congress It is up to Barr how much of the report Congress or the public will be able to see. Trump has said he would not care if the report was released to the public. According to an anonymous DOJ source, there will be no further indictments born out of the investigation, meaning Mueller’s work is done. Related: Who has Robert Mueller already indicted in his investigation? Since the investigation began in May of 2017, Mueller’s team of prosecutors has indicted or accepted plea deals from 35 people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, issued a joint statement, saying “it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress. . . . The American people have a right to the truth.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Instagram that he is retiring from football following the team's Super Bowl LIII win, ending his historic nine-year NFL career. >> Read more trending news  Gronkowski was selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Patriots, the team he spent his entire professional career with, following his collegiate career at Arizona. He quickly became a favorite target of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, hauling in 10 touchdowns on 42 receptions throughout his rookie campaign. He followed that up with a historic season, starting all 16 of the team's games in 2011 while compiling 17 touchdowns on 90 receptions for 1,327 yards. His season total for receiving yards stood tall in the record books until the 2018 season, where two tight ends surpassed the mark. Gronkowski battled injuries for multiple seasons throughout his career, but still managed to put together double-digit touchdown totals in five of his nine seasons in the league, the most by a tight end in NFL history. He also set the team record for overall touchdowns in his career, surpassing Stanley Morgan in both overall touchdowns and receiving touchdowns. The tight end won three Super Bowls in his career, helping the Patriots take down the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. He was also a part of the Super Bowl LI roster that put together an incredible comeback to win against the Atlanta Falcons, but did not play due to injury. >> Related: Mass. woman awaiting heart, kidney transplant meets Gronk The thing most Patriots fans will remember about Gronkowski, though, will be his personality. An ever-charismatic enigma, Gronkowski was a memorable quote machine, winning the hearts of fans around the country with his persona off the field. >> Related: Rob Gronkowski shaves his head for kids with cancer at Buzz Off event Whether it was a Dunkin' commercial with David Ortiz, appearances in movies, memorable moments during championship parades or his hilarious thoughts in press conferences and interviews, Gronkowski gained quite the reputation around New England with all of his antics off the field. Gronkowski also had an impact on the community when he wasn't dominating on the football field, winning the Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2016, named after the first player drafted by the team. Burton was known as a community leader, and the team said his 'widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field.' >> Related: Gronk announces he will play for the Patriots this season He also participated in many community events throughout his time in New England, and frequently 'buzzed off' his hair for kids with cancer at events during his summers. Gronkowski faced a lot of questions later in his career as injuries piled up, with retirement rumors swirling following the 2017 season.  However, Gronkowski decided to return to the field for the 2018 season, with his performance not meeting what many Patriots fans were used to throughout his career. His targets went down, he didn't find the end zone as much and things had changed. Following the season, Gronkowski decided he had done enough, wrapping up his career in a Patriots uniform with the final decision to hang up the cleats. With a faulty back and a body that's gone under the knife countless times over the last 15 years, Gronkowski is now forced to close the book on a Hall of Fame-worthy career. >> Related: Report: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to consider retirement again after playoffs From here on out, Gronkowski will enjoy an eternal spot as one of the league's all-time greats, a three-time Super Bowl champion and an unforgettable cog in New England's championship machine.
  • President Donald Trump said Sunday the release of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into possible collusion and Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election completely exonerated him of collusion and obstruction.  >> Read more trending news  “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” Trump tweeted Sunday.  >>Read Mueller report: DOJ releases summary U.S. Attorney General William Barr released the four-page letter Sunday.  Barr wrote that the special counsel stated 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
  • A brief summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was released Sunday.  >> Read more trending news  Here is the four-page letter Attorney General William Barr sent to members of Congress.
  • Two naked mannequins, part of a display placed in protest by a man in a dispute with the city over the height of his fence, were stolen. >> Read more trending news  Jason Windus was told by city officials his 6-foot fence was in violation of city ordinance and he had to lower it to 3 feet, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The city said someone complained about it. Windus said he was building the fence so his dogs could go in his backyard. Windus acquiesced and lowered the fence but he also added a garden party attended by five naked mannequins. Four of the dummies were seated on wicker furniture. Another was standing with shamrocks covering its breasts. 'They wanted me to tear down my fence to see inside my yard, and now they get to,' Windus said. He left a handwritten note atop a wooden barrel with a note that reads: 'Reserved seat for the nosey neighbor that complained about my fence to the city.' The city had not commented on the display or the theft, KGO reported. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • An Army Ranger based in Fort Benning died during a “routine military free-fall training,” the U.S. Army said.  Sgt. Ethan Carpenter, was killed during the parachute jump March 15 at a facility in Arizona. No other details were released. According to the U.S. Army, Carpenter was deployed to combat eight times—once to Iraq and seven times to Afghanistan. After his tours, he was assigned as a reconnaissance specialist with the Regimental Special Troops Battalion in 2017. Carpenter’s accolades included the military freefall parachutist badge, which is awarded to Army and U.S. Air Force personnel deemed high-altitude military parachute specialists. Carpenter was also a recipient of the Purple Heart, according to the Army. In other news: