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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    Democrats on Sunday denounced President Donald Trump, the Justice Department, and the acting Director of National Intelligence, accusing the Trump Administration of violating federal law by withholding information from a whistleblower inside the U.S. Intelligence Community, as the top Democrat in Congress said this could dramatically escalate the standoff over various investigations of the President. 'If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to fellow Democrats on Sunday. Her letter came as critics of the President said Mr. Trump had used a phone call with the new leader of Ukraine to urge him to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, who did work for a Ukrainian gas company. 'We must be sure that the President and his Administration are always conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people, not the President’s personal or political interest,' Speaker Pelosi added. Democrats said the Justice Department and the Acting Director of National Intelligence - who took over in that position just last month when two other top officials were pushed out - were violating federal law by withholding the whistleblower information, evidently about President Trump and Ukraine. By referring to a 'new stage of investigation' involving the President in her letter to fellow Democrats, Speaker Pelosi immediately raised questions about whether she might change her mind on the idea of impeachment proceedings. 'Republicans, it's time to stop making excuses for Trump,' said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). 'Enough is enough.' 'No one is above the law, not even President Trump,' said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). 'The DNI needs to refer this complaint to Congress immediately.' 'Trump wants to bury a whistleblower complaint that the Inspector General has deemed urgent,' said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). 'It’s the law,' said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). 'It’s. The. Law.' tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). At issue is what's known as the 'Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act,' which says if an internal complaint is judged to be urgent by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community - then it is sent to the Congressional intelligence committees. The Inspector General has ruled exactly that - but the Trump Administration refuses to turn over the information. The law does include a provision that if the Director of National Intelligence refuses to give Congress the material, the whistleblower could do it on his or her own. On Sunday, President Trump told reporters his conversation with the President of Ukraine had been a 'beautiful' one, and did not involve any wrongdoing on his part. 'Well, this whistleblower - or whoever it was - because it sounds like it’s not a whistleblower,' the President told reporters.  'You can’t have that happen to a President of the United States,' he said.
  • The White House campaign of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) teetered on the edge of being abandoned in coming days, as the candidate on Saturday publicly confirmed the existence of an internal memo which bluntly said that unless Booker could get a surge of donations in the next ten days, his 2020 campaign was doomed. 'I want people to see where we are and understand that we have a pathway to victory,' Booker wrote on Twitter Saturday morning, 'but I can’t walk it alone.' Booker's comments came soon after NBC News had reported that the campaign's top aide told the candidate and staff that a major infusion of money was needed to keep Booker's campaign going. 'This isn’t an end-of-quarter stunt or one of those memos from a campaign trying to spin the press,' said Addisu Demissie. Booker's predicament in the Democratic race is much like a large number of other candidates right now - they are mired in low single digits in most polls, and have shown no ability to break out of that group to challenge the leaders in the race. For example, in the latest national poll from Fox News on the Democratic race, Booker is a 3 percent - that's where he was in August, June, and May. Others who have shown little to no ability to jump up in recent polls would include Marianne Williamson, Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Julian Castro, John Delaney and Michael Bennet. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was also in that group - he officially quit the race on Friday. Others stuck in the polls have been Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O'Rourke - and even Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris - who while they are above most of those in the race, the two have been unable to make up ground on the Democratic Party leaders. Harris encountered rough waters in the last week as repeated stories reported that her campaign was going to focus much more on Iowa - a decision which is often a signal of broader difficulty for a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders seem locked in to the top three spots in the Democratic race, with little evidence that any of the other Democrats were going to be able to pull them down at this point. And for Booker - it's been a bridge too far. “Now or Never,” his campaign chief wrote.
  • Led by California, almost two dozen states filed a federal lawsuit on Friday to stop the Trump Administration from revoking a waiver which has allowed California and other states to set tougher auto emission standards than required by the federal government. “California won’t bend to the President’s reckless and politically motivated attacks on our clean car waiver,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has clashed with the President on a variety of policy fronts.  'The Administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health,' added California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. But under federal law, California had the right to ask for a waiver to permit tighter emission controls on new cars - and the state had been doing so for nearly 50 years.  A number of others states had joined in accepting those same requirements. The Trump Administration argues there should only be a single national standard for emissions and gas mileage. The change by the feds 'will insure there is one - and only one - set of national fuel economy standards, as Congress mandated and intended,' said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Thursday. The lawsuit can be seen here.
  • While saying he does not know the identity of a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community who lodged a complaint about unknown actions involving the President and another world leader, President Donald Trump on Friday blasted the unidentified accuser, labeling the episode a 'political hack job.' Asked if he had discussed the ability of the government of Ukraine to start an investigation related to Democratic Party front runner Joe Biden and his family, the President brushed off the query, as he ridiculed the press corps in the Oval Office. 'It doesn't matter what I discussed,' as he called the media a 'joke,' and the 'laughing stock of the world.' The comments came in the wake of reports in recent days that the Trump Administration was preventing the Congress from finding out details behind a whistle blower complaint. The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community had judged the issue to be of 'urgent concern,' but instead of following established federal law - which requires notifying Congress - the Justice Department and the acting Director of National Intelligence had refused to pass on the material. The President argued that it was all politics. 'I just hear that it's a partisan person,' Mr. Trump said, who was asked specifically if he had requested the help of the government in Ukraine to investigate someone who might be his opponents in 2020. 'This is all impeachable,' said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'Not a close call. We need more facts, but we would be derelict in our duties not to pursue the facts wherever they lead,' he added. 'Everybody's read it,' President Trump said of the whistle blower's complaint, without confirming any details. 'They laugh at it.' 'It doesn't matter what I discussed,' the President said of his conversation with another world leader - presumably of Ukraine. 'But I will say this, somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement,' as Mr. Trump all but confirmed his desire for a foreign country to help investigate the Democratic Party leader for 2020. On Capitol Hill, top Democrats said the President was clearly not following the law. “The President and Acting DNI’s stonewalling must end immediately, and the whistleblower must be provided with every protection guaranteed by the law to defend the integrity of our government and ensure accountability and trust,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • Unable to make any substantive impact on the 2020 race for President, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday that he was giving up his bid for the Democratic Party nomination for the White House, saying it was obviously not his moment. In a series of appearances on news programs from New York, the mayor of America's biggest city acknowledged that he was never able to break out of a group of candidates consistently mired at the bottom of the polls, and far behind Democratic leaders. “It’s true: I’m ending my candidacy for president,” de Blasio said.  “But our fight on behalf of working people is far from over.” “I feel like I've contributed all I can to this primary election and it's clearly not my time,” the Mayor said. DeBlasio's two Democratic Party debates left little in the way of memorable moments for him. In the second debate in Detroit, de Blasio tried a unique tactical move on stage, using his time to direct questions at front runner Joe Biden, in an effort to confront the race leader. But the effort did little to change the dynamic of the race, where de Blasio and other candidates were unable to qualify for future debates, and had become asterisks in the 2020 race. The news gave President Trump a target which he could not resist. The latest national poll on the Democratic field, from Fox News, showed de Blasio far back in the pack - along with a number of other Democrats.
  • In the first hearing by Congress in a quarter century on the subject, leaders from the nation's capital urged a House committee on Thursday to make the District of Columbia into the nation's 51st state, as Democrats said the current political setup for the over 700,000 residents of the nation's capital wrongly denies them proper voting representation in the Congress. 'I'm not here to talk about one person, but about 702,000 Americans who deserve full representation in this House,' said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. 'What's more we pay more federal taxes per capita than any state,' the Mayor added. 'And we pay more federal taxes - total - than 22 states.' It was the first time since 1993 that Congress held hearings on the idea of making Washington, D.C. into the 51st state - it's something routinely backed by Democrats, but receives folded arms and furrowed brows from many in the GOP. Supporters of the idea point to numbers which show the District has more people - over 700,000 - than the states of Vermont and Wyoming, and about 20,000 less than Alaska. While some calls for D.C. statehood have been bipartisan in the past, that was not the case on Thursday, as the reaction of GOP lawmakers at the hearing on D.C. statehood was basically one of furrowed eyebrows. 'I think our Founders wisely gave us a Federal City,' said Rep. Jodi Hice (R-GA), who joined other Republicans in saying the only way a change could be made is by a Constitutional Amendment. 'At the end of the day, we are dealing with a Constitutional issue,' Hice said at the hearing. Republicans not only harped on what they said was a requirement for a Constitutional amendment, but they also cited political corruption in the city as a reason to not consider the idea. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) went back to 1995, when the D.C. budget was running large amounts of red ink, and Congress had to step in to create a special financial board. 'The federal government had to take control of the D.C. budget,' Jordan said - though a top city financial official said since then, the District has had 24 straight years of balanced budgets. Jordan also raised the name for former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, rattling off the names of other politicians who were caught up in corruption investigations. 'We cannot ignore these facts,' Jordan added. It's not clear if Democrats will try to bring a D.C. Statehood bill to the House floor in the 116th Congress.  Even if it could get through the House, it would be unlikely to make the agenda in the GOP Senate.
  • Democrats in Congress demanded more information from the Director of National Intelligence on Thursday about an 'urgent' whistle blower complaint from inside the U.S. Intelligence Community, which the Trump Administration has refused to detail for key lawmakers, while the President said he had done nothing wrong. 'Another Fake News story out there,' President Donald Trump tweeted from the White House. 'It never ends!' In a series of tweets, the President ridiculed the idea that he would say something inappropriate, or give away confidential intelligence information to another world leader. 'I would only do what is right anyway,' as the President finished with a familiar tweet. 'Presidential Harassment!' he wrote. But in a letter from the Inspector General of the U.S. Intelligence Community, internal watchdog Michael Atkinson told lawmakers that an action - defined under law as an 'urgent concern' - had been brought to his attention by an unnamed person, but was never forwarded to the Congress as required by law. In his letter, which was released by the House Intelligence Committee, Atkinson gave no details about the allegation, or any hints of who was involved - but made clear, he had decided to alert the House and Senate Intelligence Committees because of the serious nature of the information involved. 'I determined that the Complainant's disclosure met the definition of an urgent concern,' Atkinson wrote, describing it as a 'serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of the law or Executive order' - involving classified information. In a second letter released by the House Intelligence Committee, Atkinson said he was at an 'impasse' with the Acting DNI over action on the whistle blower complaint. “The Director of National Intelligence has made the unprecedented decision not to share the complaint with Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as he emerged from an over four hour closed door briefing with the internal watchdog of the Intelligence Community. Schiff shared no details with reporters - indicating that lawmakers themselves still don't know anything about the alleged incident, which the Washington Post reported on Thursday may have involved a phone call between the President and another world leader. Schiff has already set a public hearing for next Thursday with the Acting Director of National Intelligence on the matter. “I believe that there is an effort to prevent this information getting to Congress,” Schiff told reporters, as he was pressed on what was at issue. “At one level or another, it likely involves the President or people around him,” Schiff said.
  • After the Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it was cutting interest rates for the second time in two months, President Donald Trump skewered the Fed for not being aggressive enough to help the economy, while the Fed chair said too much economic uncertainty was being created by President Trump's various trade fights. 'This is a time of difficult judgments,' Fed chair Jerome Powell told reporters at a Washington news conference, as he indicated that trade gyrations involving the US, China, and other nations, is not helping with domestic economic growth. 'We do feel that trade uncertainty is having an effect,' Powell told reporters. 'We see it in weak business investment, weak exports.' 'Trade policy is not the business of the Fed,' Powell said. 'It's the business of the Congress and of the Administration.' While the President has said further rate cuts would spur even more growth, the Fed continues to forecast that overall economic growth will be just over two percent this year, down from 2018. Democrats in Congress pointed the finger of blame straight at President Trump for creating economic uncertainty, especially for farmers. “Our family farmers need stability right now - not more uncertainty,” said Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN).  “I don’t agree with the reckless trade war we’ve created without a coherent strategy.” Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers were at odds over how to deal with President Trump's second bailout for farmers, who have been hit hard by retaliatory tariffs from China and other nations. In a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), raised questions as to where the money was going to come from for the $28 billion in farm bailout payments announced by the President over the last two years. 'For context, that amount is larger than the entire discretionary budget Congress appropriates to USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) each fiscal year,' DeLauro wrote. While Democrats had initially threatened to block approval of that extra money, now party leaders were demanding to know where that bailout money was going. 'That lack of transparency regarding a $28 billion federal program is outrageous,' DeLauro wrote. 'Maybe an accounting of who is getting the money up to this point would be a start,' said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as Democrats said the GOP was resisting efforts for a public accounting of the farm bailout billions.
  • In the face of strong opposition from California elected officials and parts of the auto industry, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that his administration will revoke a special waiver which has allowed California to set stricter auto emission and fuel mileage standards than the federal government. 'The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,' President Trump announced in a series of tweets from California. The announcement drew immediate condemnation from California officials and Democrats in the Congress. 'The President is completely wrong,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). California officials expressed outrage at the President's plans, arguing the main impact would be to create more pollution in the Golden State. 'You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,' California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. 'We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend; we’ll see you in court if you stand in our way,' Becerra added. The authority for California comes from the federal Clean Air Act, which allowed the feds to grant waivers to states that wanted to set tougher emission standards than the federal government. The announcement opens a second legal fight with the Golden State over auto emission standards, as last week the Trump Administration said it would investigate agreements made between California and major automakers about those standards. 'This investigation appears to be nothing more than a politically motivated act of intimidation,' Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General.
  • A week after ousting top aide John Bolton, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter that he was naming Robert O'Brien to replace Bolton, choosing the State Department's top hostage negotiator to fill that important White House post. 'I have worked long and hard with Robert,' the President tweeted from California, where he is currently on a western campaign swing. 'Robert O'Brien is a great choice to be National Security Advisor,' said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who labeled the choice an 'exceptional pick.'  'He is a high energy, low ego individual who will do fantastic in this role,' the Congressman added. O'Brien's most recent high profile diplomatic effort was in Sweden, where he headlined U.S. efforts to free rapper A$AP. O'Brien's official title at the State Department was, 'Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.' O'Brien will be the fourth National Security Adviser for President Trump, going through former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn, Army General H.R. McMaster, and then Bolton. Last week, Mr. Trump said Bolton had disagreed with him on a number of major foreign policy issues.

News

  • They take their football seriously in Philadelphia. Even scholarly types can go overboard when their beloved Eagles lose. >> Read more trending news  During the fourth quarter of Philadelphia's 27-24 televised loss to the Detroit Lions, the Fox network handling the broadcast showed an angry Eagles fan shouting as the telecast broke for a commercial. The angry fan was identified as Eric Furda, the University of Pennsylvania's dean of admissions since 2008, according to the The Philadelphia Inquirer. The clip quickly went viral, as it resonated with other angry Eagles fans. Furda admitted he was the culprit on Twitter, but only after he posted Sunday that he was 'not sure what the refs were looking at today.' Furda took a more apologetic tone Monday morning. 'After further review of the play I will take the 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct,' Furda tweeted. 'But I will not lose my passion for Philadelphia and Penn sports!' The Eagles, who have lost two straight games after beating Washington in their season opener, travel to Green Bay to face the Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
  • A Michigan toddler died last week after authorities said her head became stuck in a car's power window in Detroit. >> Read more trending news  According to WXYZ-TV, Kierre Allen, 2, was inside the parked 2005 Mazda 3 with her father, who had fallen asleep, last Monday when the window somehow closed on her head, authorities said. The 21-year-old man awoke to find the child caught in the window, he told police. Kierre's uncle took the pair to a nearby hospital as the father tried to revive the girl, WJBK-TV reported. Doctors said she was dead when she arrived. Police arrested the girl's father, who had outstanding traffic warrants, authorities said. He has not been charged in connection with Kierre's death, the Detroit News reported.
  • A Cobb County school nurse was arrested Thursday after administrators noticed students’ medications were missing. Lindsey Waggoner, 38, is accused of stealing more than $1,500 of medication from Barber Middle School in Acworth, according to an arrest warrant obtained Monday by AJC.com. Cobb County school police allegedly found her in possession of 209 pills, including Adderall, generic forms of Ritalin and Focalin, and Evekeo. The drugs are commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. Principal Tia Amlett sent a letter home to parents alerting them to the investigation and arrest of a staff member, although the employee was not named.  “We have made contact with families who were directly affected by this situation and will continue to pursue policies that ensure such behavior does not go unnoticed,” she said. It was not immediately clear if Waggoner was fired following her arrest. As of Monday morning, she was still listed on Barber’s website. Amlett said she was being dealt with “according to district policy and state laws.” Waggoner, who is from Kennesaw, is facing a single felony charge of theft by taking. She was booked into the county jail Thursday afternoon and released a few hours later on a $15,000 bond.  In other news: 
  • The 178-year-old tour company Thomas Cook has shut down, potentially stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers who booked their trips with the company stranded across the globe. Thomas Cook was known for the package tour industry, The Associated Press reported. It had four airlines and 21,000 employees in 16 countries. All of the employees have been laid off and will lose their jobs. The ripple effect of Thomas Cook's collapse is expected to be felt across all of Europe and North Africa, the AP reported.  Officials at hotels are now worried about confirmed bookings that had been made for winter. About 600,000 people had been scheduled to travel with Thomas Cook through Sunday. Some subsidiaries were trying to get local connections to get people home, the AP reported.  The British government has stepped in to get 150,000 U.K. customers back to their homes starting Monday. The government has hired charter planes to get people home free of charge, and officials expect the process to fly everyone back to the U.K. will take about two weeks, the AP reported. >> Read more trending news  There are 50,000 people stranded in Greece, up to 30,000 in Spain's Canary Islands, 21,000 in Turkey and 15,000 in Cyprus all trying to find a way home, the AP reported. Thomas Cook officials blame competition from budget airlines and travelers booking their trips themselves though the internet as to why the company struggled financially and eventually shut down, the AP reported. The uncertainty also was brought on by Brexit and the drop in the pound that made it more expensive for British travelers to afford trips abroad, the AP reported. Despite the fact they no longer are being paid for their work, some Thomas Cook employees are still reporting for their shifts to help make sure those who are stranded can return home, Metro reported. One now-former employee said on Twitter that she will be at her post to help stranded customers. Employees at a different Thomas Cook location also posted a sign on their location saying they would open Monday morning to help customers, Metro reported. 
  • A second-year Georgia Tech student was confirmed dead Sunday after a swimming accident in the Chattahoochee River. James Strock was last seen Saturday afternoon swimming in the area of the West Palisades Trail at Paces Mill Park, according to school officials. Teams searched through dusk before turning to recovery efforts Sunday morning, dean of students John M. Stein said in a letter to the Georgia Tech community. A Georgia Tech spokeswoman confirmed Strock’s death Sunday evening. It is unknown if his body was recovered from the river. Strock was pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and was interested in robotics and quantum computing, according to his LinkedIn page. He was set to graduate in 2022. According to Tech officials, Strock was from Uganda and moved to the United States at age 16. He was an active member of the campus community, attended a campus ministry and could often be found in the recreational center. Strock completed a co-op program with DataPath, a communications and computer software company, in Lawrenceville over the summer. “On behalf of Georgia Tech, we offer our deepest condolences to James’ family and friends during this difficult time,” Stein said in the letter to students, faculty and staff, which was shared on Reddit. “I have been in constant contact with his family and will continue to be there to support them.” Grief counseling is available on campus from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the week at the campus Counseling Center and in the student services building. Students may also call 404-894-2575 for support after hours. — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: 
  • A federal judge will hear the arguments Monday for the first time from opponents of Georgia’s new anti-abortion law as they ask him to stop the measure from going into effect. Gov. Brian Kemp in May signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, outlawing the procedure in most cases once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity. It is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has asked U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones to stop the law from going into effect while the case makes its way through the court system. The ACLU argued in a June complaint that the law violates a woman’s constitutional right of access to abortion until about 24 weeks of pregnancy, as established in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. The ACLU has argued that “politicians should not be second-guessing women’s health care decisions.” In its response, the state said Georgia’s new anti-abortion law is “constitutional and justified” and asked Jones to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the measure. “Defendants deny all allegations in the complaint that killing a living unborn child constitutes ‘medical care’ or ‘health care,’” attorneys wrote. The state hired Virginia-based attorney to represent Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, members of the Georgia Composite Medical Board and its executive director. ACLU is representing SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast and other abortion rights advocates and providers.