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    Just a few years after boasting that tickets for his appearance on Saturday Night Live were the “hardest to get in the history of this great show,” President Donald Trump on Sunday morning again expressed his unhappiness with his portrayal on the long time NBC comedy program, as he issued a familiar blast, saying the “RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.” “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC,” the President tweeted early on Sunday morning, before he left his Florida retreat at Mar-a-Lago for a round of golf, as Mr. Trump again complained about his treatment by the press. “Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution?” the President tweeted. While Mr. Trump did not specify what had earned his ire, Saturday Night Live began its latest show with actor Alec Baldwin portraying the President at his Friday news conference, where the President announced a national emergency to funnel money from the Pentagon into a border wall. It was a different story for President Trump back in November of 2015, when his appearance helped the show’s ratings. “Thank you to all of those who gave me such wonderful reviews for my performance,” the President said a few days after his NBC appearance – before many people gave him a serious chance to win the White House. But by October of 2016 – as the election approached – the President did not like what he was seeing on Saturday Night Live, and that has kept going in 2017 and 2018 as well, no matter how many times he’s tuned in, or seen highlights aimed at him. Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me.Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016 I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all. Equal time for us? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016 Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can't get any worse. Sad — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016 . @NBCNews is bad but Saturday Night Live is the worst of NBC. Not funny, cast is terrible, always a complete hit job. Really bad television! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2017 Like many, I don’t watch Saturday Night Live (even though I past hosted it) – no longer funny, no talent or charm. It is just a political ad for the Dems. Word is that Kanye West, who put on a MAGA hat after the show (despite being told “no”), was great. He’s leading the charge! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2018 A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2018 Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2019 The President’s last two tweets – on Sunday morning, and back in December, both used the word “Collusion” in his attacks on Saturday Night Live as well. It was different when he was Candidate Trump – in November of 2015. Thank you to all of those who gave me such wonderful reviews for my performance on @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live. Best ratings in 4 years! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2015 They are saying that tickets to tonight's Saturday Night Live are the hardest to get in the history of this great show! Off to a good start! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2015
  • As President Donald Trump on Friday announced a pair of executive actions and declared a national emergency to funnel more money into border security, lawmakers in both parties in Congress were left in the dark on how the Pentagon would deal with the largest part of the President’s declaration, carving $3.6 billion out of military construction projects authorized and funded by the U.S. House and Senate. “I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), whose district is home to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which received $116 million in 2019 for construction of a new building for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. “We certainly cannot allow him to rob our military of $3.5 billion for critical construction projects that serve our troops, support our allies, and deter our adversaries,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction for Fiscal Year 2019, doling out money to dozens of domestic and overseas military facilities, projects which are often prized as bring-home-the-bacon items for Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress. The list of military construction projects in each year’s budget runs the gamut of military needs – from an F-35 maintenance hangar at Camp Pendleton in California, to a training facility at the Mayport Naval Base near Jacksonville, Florida, to a reserve training center at Fort Benning in Georgia, to a dry dock facility at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and much more. In all, military construction money was approved last fall by lawmakers for defense installations in 38 different states, and at least 14 overseas locations, some of those U.S. possessions. You can read through the list of projects from the bill here. A quick look at the list of military facilities with 2019 funding shows that many of them are located in House districts held by Republican lawmakers – who could find money for their local military project in jeopardy, as the President tries to funnel more money to his signature border wall. Democrats from around the country were quick to issue statements asking that their home state military construction projects be spared from any cuts, and challenging their GOP colleagues to do the same. Trump’s “National Emergency” strips billlions of dollars from base housing construction. Martha will you join me in opposing this farce? Who is more important the military spouses or your obedience to the President? https://t.co/Z56pZ9VRYr — Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) February 15, 2019 The President's unconstitutional action threatens to take money away from construction at Nellis Air Force Base, and local national security activities that keep Nevada families safe. I will support the House’s actions to restore order and protect Nevadans. — Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) February 15, 2019 Since Trump reportedly plans to take money from existing military construction projects for his #nationalemergency, this could steal millions in approved & necessary funding away from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. #mepolitics My full statement on his authoritarian power grab pic.twitter.com/djQdIcHmub — Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) February 15, 2019 The Pentagon and the White House had no answers for reporters on Friday on which military construction projects would be put on hold, whether from the 2019 budget, or from money approved by Congress, but not yet spent from previous years. “We would be looking at lower priority military construction projects,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Friday conference call before the President’s announcement. That official – and another senior White House official on the call – both downplayed the amount of money being taken from military construction, with one saying the budget was ‘substantially’ more than the $3.6 billion being diverted by the President. But that’s not the case. “I sit on the committee that funds Military Construction,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) tweeted on Friday. “Trump is taking $3.5 billion out of the $10 billion that’s in the account. That’s 35%.” Earlier this month, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee specifically said his biggest concern about an emergency would be taking money out of military construction, a point Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) emphasized again this week. “As I heard in a hearing yesterday, military housing and all military installations are facing disrepair and poor conditions,” Inhofe said. “We cannot afford to allow them to be further impacted.”
  • President Donald Trump will use a combination of executive actions and one national emergency declaration to funnel over $6 billion in funds not directly approved Congress for security efforts along the border with Mexico, tapping money from both the Treasury Department and the Pentagon, with a goal of building a minimum of 234 new miles of border barriers, White House officials said on Friday. “With the declaration of a national emergency, the President will have access to roughly $8 billion worth of money that can be used to secure the southern border,” said Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, in a phone call with reporters before the President’s announcement. Mulvaney said the money will come from several sources, as a national declaration will be used in one instance – to take $3.6 billion in military construction money already approved by Congress for other projects – and re-direct that to border security. “It shouldn’t surprise anybody that the President under certain circumstances has the right to use military construction dollars in order to build things to help defend the nation,” Mulvaney said. Mulvaney said the President will also use executive actions to grab money from a Pentagon fund which deals with counter-drug activities, and a Treasury Department forfeiture fund. When combined with the $1.375 billion in border security funding approved on Thursday by the Congress, these actions would give the President close to $8 billion for border security measures in 2019. Asked about President Trump setting a precedent which could be exploited by future Democrats in the White House, Mulvaney sharply criticized such evaluations as incorrect. “It actually creates zero precedent, this is authority given to the President in law 0already,” Mulvaney said, as he rejected talk by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others that it would allow Democrats to declare emergencies on gun violence or other issues. “That’s completely false,” Mulvaney said. “If the Democrats could have figured out a way to do that, they would have done that already.” Maybe the most contentious part of the President’s decision will be over the $3.6 billion being taken out of military construction, which has a budget in 2019 of $10.3 billion. Asked for specifics on what projects would be deferred, senior administration officials had no answers for reporters. The authority for the action on military construction money comes from Title X, Section 2808, which allows a President to re-direct such funds under a national emergency – also allows the Congress to try to block the move. “Yanking money from the Military Construction budget is a violation of the law and the constitution, and an abdication of our obligation to responsibly fund the military,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), as members of both parties have weighed in against the idea.
  • The House and Senate moved swiftly on Thursday to approve a package of unfinished spending bills for 2019, as President Donald Trump signaled that he would sign the measures into law in order to avoid a second partial government shutdown on Friday night, but the White House said the President would go a step further and declare a national emergency to funnel more money into his campaign pledge for a border wall. “President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. While there were sharp differences on the use of executive powers by the President to fund his signature campaign promise, there was much more bipartisan agreement on finishing work on seven different bills which fund about one-quarter of the federal government. The Senate passed the plan 86-13, while the House gave it overwhelming approval a few hours later. As for the national emergency, it was not immediately clear what emergency laws or procedures the President would use, or what pots of money Mr. Trump would try to tap in order to divert more resources to border security efforts, which he felt were underfunded in the House-Senate deal, which gave $1.375 billion to border barriers – Mr. Trump had requested $5.7 billion. While many Republicans also wanted more money, a number had strong reservations about the President going around Congress to take money from other areas to fund construction of a wall. . @marcorubio on Trump going ahead with an emergency declaration for the border wall: “Depends how he structures it but i generally don’t think it’s a good idea.” — Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) February 14, 2019 “President Trump is opening the door for any future President to act alone without Congressional approval,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). But GOP leaders in both the House and Senate signaled that they would support the President on executive action to get more money for a wall. “I support the President in declaring a national emergency,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “I support President Trump using constitutional executive action to build the wall and keep our country safe,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA). As for Democrats, they spared little in their in their denunciations of the President’s emergency plan. “If Trump circumvents Congress to declare a National Emergency, it would be grounds for impeachment,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI). “If the President declares a national emergency tonight, we must challenge it in court tomorrow,” said Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO). “Declaring a national emergency is irresponsible,” said Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA). “Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer in a joint statement. Things that warrant a #NationalEmergency declaration: The attack on Pearl Harbor; the 9/11 terrorist attacks; Hurricane Katrina. Things that DO NOT warrant a #NationalEmergency declaration: Not getting your way in a democracy. — Senator Tom Carper (@SenatorCarper) February 14, 2019 “The President’s emergency declaration is irresponsible, counterproductive, and an overreach of his constitutional authority,” said Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI). GOP supporters of an executive ’emergency declaration’ said Congress had given the President a series of legitimate options. “There’s three different statutes,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the House Freedom Caucus, who has fully endorsed the idea of unilateral action by Mr. Trump. One example is Section 2808 of Title X, covering military construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or national emergency – there is also another section, 284, which deals with powers to combat counter drug activities. Democrats vowed to immediately force votes in the House and Senate to overturn any emergency declaration, and threatened court action as well, as they said what Mr. Trump was planning to do was an attack on the Constitution. “This isn’t about building or stopping the wall; it’s about defending the Constitution,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ).
  • After leaving lawmakers in both parties in suspense about a House-Senate deal on border security funding, the Senate’s top Republican said Thursday afternoon that President Donald Trump had agreed to sign that measure into law, but that the President would then immediately declare a ‘national emergency’ in order to funnel money from other projects into additional border security measures, a move that’s certain to draw an immediate legal challenge. “I’ve just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who assured his fellow Republicans in a short speech on the Senate floor that the President would sign the funding deal, avoiding a second partial government shutdown starting on Friday night. “He’s prepared to sign the bill – he will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time,” McConnell added, as the Kentucky Republican then announced he would switch his views on that move, and support such a declaration – after previously making clear he opposed such executive action. . @senatemajldr: 'I've just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump…he's prepared to sign the bill. He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time.' pic.twitter.com/iukGKjmoZ8 — CSPAN (@cspan) February 14, 2019 The Senate then quickly moved to vote on the House-Senate deal, which was unveiled just after midnight, ending weeks of difficult negotiations between key lawmakers in both parties. “We have a full blown crisis of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs crossing the southern border,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), a key ally of the President on Capitol Hill. “The four Presidents from George H.W. Bush, all the way to President Obama have built border barriers,” Perdue said in a Senate floor speech, “because they all agree that this is a crisis.” To recap: -Last February, the WH requested $1.6B for 65 miles of “border wall system' -In June, Senate Approps approved $1.6B on a 26-5 vote -Trump then asked for $5B -There was a 35-day partial shutdown over this fight -This bill would approve $1.375B for 55 miles of barriers https://t.co/uxPG4yxryV — Jennifer Shutt (@JenniferShutt) February 12, 2019
  • After a debate clouded by how the Justice Department will handle the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the Senate voted mainly along party lines Thursday to confirm William Barr for the post of Attorney General, as Barr returns to the Justice Department almost 28 years after holding the same position. The Senate vote was 54-45. “The President made an outstanding choice with Mr. Barr,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD). “He was unanimously confirmed as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush in a Democrat-controlled Senate.” “We know that he can faithfully execute the duties of the office because he has done it before,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Only one GOP Senator voted against Barr’s nomination – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). President Trump forced out his original Attorney General, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, just after the November 2018 elections, after months of expressing frustration that Sessions did not do enough to shield Mr. Trump from the Russia probe. Among William Barr’s likely first tasks as attorney general: Wrestling with whether to release the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation. https://t.co/EsA7XJsuWr — Capital Journal (@WSJPolitics) February 14, 2019 At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the vote a ‘major victory for justice and the rule of law in America.” In debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Senators repeatedly said that Barr was certainly qualified to again take the job of Attorney General, but most of them focused on Barr’s unsolicited memo to the White House which was critical of the Mueller investigation, as reason enough to oppose the nomination. “I find Mr. Barr’s actions in the months leading up to his nomination to be deeply disturbing,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). “The President believes William Barr will be an Attorney General who will protect him,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). “Barr’s record shows that he is not the Attorney General America desperately needs,” added Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). William Barr may be the Attorney General that Pres Trump wants: – someone to shield him from questions about abuse of power – someone who believes a president should be able to do whatever he or she wants But Mr. Barr is certainly not the Attorney General this country needs. pic.twitter.com/7NLbZpb2h0 — Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) February 14, 2019 The Senate vote to confirm Barr filled one Cabinet vacancy for the President – but other major posts in the Trump administration remain unfilled, occupied by officials in an ‘acting’ capacity: + Patrick Shanahan is the Acting Secretary of Defense. + David Bernhardt is the Acting Secretary of Interior. + Andrew Wheeler is the Acting head of the EPA. + Jonathan Cohen is the Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. + Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is Acting White House Chief of Staff. The vote on Barr Thursday was much different than his first confirmation for Attorney General in November of 1991 – then, the Senate approved him on a voice vote, with no opposition. Barr joins a very short list of people who have served twice as U.S. Attorney General. John Crittenden was Attorney General twice in the first half of the 19th century. Richard Thornburgh served one very short stint as an Acting Attorney General, and then later was the Attorney General before Barr for the first President Bush.
  • Facing a Friday night deadline to avoid a second partial government shutdown, lawmakers in Congress and officials at the White House were busily digesting the details of a sweeping legislative funding package unveiled just after midnight, as House and Senate leaders prepared for swift action on the plan to finish budget work for Fiscal Year 2019. While the headlines are all about the specifics of the agreement on how money in this deal can be spent on border security – and rightly so – Congress is actually voting on seven government funding bills all rolled into one giant legislative package. Before we get to some of the details, here are your links: The text of the “Consolidated Appropriations” bill for Fiscal Year 2019 can be found here. There is also a separate document which goes into more explanatory detail about the spending bills. Now, to some of what’s in this plan. 1. Over 1,600 pages for seven different funding bills. This package is more than just funding for border security, as it fully funds – through September 30 – a series of major departments and agencies, like Agriculture, Commerce, EPA, the Justice Department, NASA, the National Park Service, State Department, transportation programs, housing, and dozens of smaller federal programs. There are 12 funding bills which the Congress is supposed to approve each year by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The last time Congress got their work done on time was in 1996. For one negotiator involved in the border security negotiations, it was too much to swallow. Here's my first look at the final conference report and supporting language. A total of 7 funding bills. With 30 minutes notice, I was allowed 1 hour to review and had to make a choice. I could not sign off. pic.twitter.com/kwwmZwLFv8 — Tom Graves (@RepTomGraves) February 14, 2019 2. Congress overrides President Trump on federal pay raise. The plan specifically rolls back a plan approved by the President – during the partial government shutdown – blocking a scheduled pay raise for federal civilian employees. While members of the military will get a 2.6 percent pay hike, this plan gives regular federal workers an increase of 1.9 percent. One interesting note from this legislative package is that the pay raise gets extra mention only in the section of the bill about the Department of Homeland Security, where an increase in money is specifically set out a number of times in the report language for how much money will go to the 2019 pay raise for the Border Patrol, ICE, TSA, Coast Guard, Secret Service, FEMA, U.S. immigration services and more. It seemed to be an effort to make sure the Trump Administration couldn’t siphon that money away for other border security needs. Spending bill 'overrides President Trump’s pay freeze for federal employees and provides a 1.9 percent pay raise for calendar year 2019' #shutdown — Jane Norman (@JaneNorman) February 14, 2019 3. Death payment to the widow of Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). As is custom in the House and Senate, when a lawmaker dies while in office, the Congress pays one year of salary to the surviving spouse of that member. Rep. Walter Jones died on Sunday – but a payment to him was right up on the fourth page of the bill, as his wife Jo Anne Jones will get a full year of salary from the Congress, $174,000. The funeral for the late Congressman is today (Thursday), and it’s possible lawmakers will return to the Capitol and then vote on this provision, and the rest of the massive funding bill. 4. Special highway designations at the end of the bill. If you make it all the way through the 1,159 pages of legislative text of this ‘Consolidated Appropriations’ bill, you will be rewarded with an interesting piece of legislative text on the transportation of sugar beets on a specific set of roads in Oregon. I’m not kidding. Section 423 of the Transportation and Housing Division of the bill amends Section 31112(c) of title 49, United States Code, which deals with “Propery-carrying” limitations. In that section of federal law, there are special rules for very specific transportation issues on certain roads in Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. Now, Oregon will get its own special treatment section, dealing with the transportation of sugar beets, and exemptions from current truck length restrictions in federal law. If you go back a few pages to Section 421 of this part of the bill, you will also find changes in truck weight exemptions in Kentucky. 5. The last minute rush to finish. As usual, in the rush to get legislative and report language out to lawmakers and the public, the copy of the bill put out on the internet late Wednesday night included a series of instructions for the Government Publishing Office – when I was young, it was called the Government Printing Office – indicating what tables should go where, and how the bill needed to be formatted, etc. While there were no handwritten sections or additions, you can certainly find a number of little extras in the margins of the bill. Here’s my graphics collage:
  • Setting up a vote in the full House later this month, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Wednesday evening to approve a bill to extend background checks on gun sales to all private gun transactions, along with a separate measure to give law enforcement more time to deal with background check investigations, as Democrats moved forward on one of their prime agenda items now that their party controls the U.S. House. “This is common sense legislation to protect the public,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) said of the bill to extend the requirement for background checks to all gun sales, even private transactions between individuals, whether in person, or over the internet. “For far too long, Congress has offered moments of silence instead of action in the wake of gun tragedies,” Johnson added after the committee’s vote. “That era is over.” “A huge volume of guns is sold with no questions asked,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “It is time to close this dangerous loophole,” as Democrats argued more complete background checks would help stem gun violence. “Even Justice Scalia in the Heller decision said that Second Amendment rights are not absolute,” Nadler added. 'For my son Jordan Davis, I vote aye,' says freshman Rep. @lucymcbath, who lost her son to gun violence, while casting vote to advance bill in House Judiciary Committee to expand background checks for gun sales. She later breaks into tears, as fellow Dems come over to give hugs — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) February 14, 2019 The votes came over ten hours after the committee had convened, as GOP lawmakers prolonged by the debate by offering a number of amendments in an extended debate, forcing Democrats to repeatedly vote down a series of Republican proposals. “This isn’t a debate, it’s a show,” complained Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Universal background checks for all gun sales are common sense.” “The NRA is getting their money’s worth today,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), as Democrats said Republicans were simply filibustering to slow work on the background checks issue. Unable to stop the bill, GOP lawmakers charged the Democratic plans would do nothing to rein in gun violence. “I think it sorts of makes us feel better without addressing the problem,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) of the bill backed by most Democrats and a smaller group of Republicans. “It doesn’t really seem to be about background checks.” “It’s a bill that’s unenforceable on its face,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). “In the clamor to do something to combat mass violence, you and your colleagues crafted a bill that manages to do nothing,” argued Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). We know many tragedies of mass violence are punctuated by missed opportunities for law enforcement to respond to mental illness or known threats. I’m sad the bill before us represents another missed opportunity to prevent violence in our communities. #HR8 pic.twitter.com/Sjhhl9hrHR — Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) February 13, 2019 Under the plan going to the House floor, any private gun transaction would require a background check – Republicans complained that could then subject them to government fees to cover the cost of that check, such as the $125 tab for a background check in Washington, D.C. “You shouldn’t have to come in and pay $250 in Washington to swap guns,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who said the plan amounted to an unconstitutional “poll tax” on the Second Amendment. A GOP effort to reduce the fee for a background check to zero was defeated, as Democrats countered that the fees are used to run the instant check system. The committee vote came almost one year to the day of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which occurred on Valentine’s Day in 2018, where 17 students and staff members were killed by a lone gunman. The committee also approved a second bill to address what has become known as the “Charleston Loophole” – where a gun sale can proceed if a background check is not finished within three days. BREAKING: @HouseJudiciary just passed #HR1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act. This bill addresses a loophole that contributed to the tragic hate-crime murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC in 2015. #EndGunViolence — House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) February 14, 2019 Instead, Democrats want to extend that to ten days, to insure that disqualifying evidence in background checks isn’t missed simply because of a time deadline. The provision refers to the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, where the gunman was able to buy a weapon after three days, even though the FBI had not been able to gather all relevant evidence, which would have disqualified Dylan Roof from buying a handgun due to a previous conviction for drug possession.
  • A federal judge in Washington ruled on Wednesday that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort – while he was cooperating with an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign – intentionally made false statements to the FBI, Special Counsel, and a federal grand jury, as Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that prosecutors were no longer bound by their plea bargain agreement with Manafort, opening the door to a longer term in prison. In her ruling, Judge Jackson found that of five allegations raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, the ‘preponderance’ of evidence in three of the areas of dispute showed that Manafort intentionally did not tell the truth. “Therefore, the Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level in the calculation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility,” Jackson wrote in an order released on Wednesday evening. Manafort is currently in jail, awaiting sentencing. Specifically, the judge found that Manafort ‘made multiple false statements’ about ‘his interactions and communications’ with his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, regarded by investigators as someone who has ties to Russian intelligence. In heavily redacted documents submitted to the court in December, the Special Counsel’s office alleged that Manafort had not told the truth repeatedly about his interactions with Kilimnik. A separate filing by Manafort’s lawyers – which included botched redactions – revealed that one question was whether Manafort had given campaign polling data about the Presidential election to Kilimnik during the campaign. Judge Jackson ruled against the Special Counsel in two of five areas where Manafort’s testimony was questioned, including one where she said that Manafort had not lied intentionally about “Kilimnik’s role in the obstruction of justice conspiracy.” At this point, Manafort is scheduled for sentencing on March 13; but it’s not clear if that will change in the wake of these findings by the judge.
  • At almost the same moment that Vice President Mike Pence was calling for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Omar tangled Wednesday with the Trump Administration’s special envoy on Venezuela, bringing up a guilty plea made by Elliot Abrams in 1991 for misleading the Congress about details of the Iran-Contra affair. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful,” Omar said to a somewhat stunned Abrams, who was testifying at a House hearing on the situation in Venezuela. When Abrams demanded the chance to respond, Omar said, “That was a not a question,” as she and Abrams talked over each other. “It is not right,” Abrams said, visibly irritated by Omar’s verbal broadside. “Members of this committee can’t attack a witness who is not permitted to reply.” . @IlhanMN on Elliott Abrams' role in Iran-Contra: 'I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.' (Abrams gets mad) Omar: 'That was not a question. Thank you for your participation.' pic.twitter.com/QBagSpOQXs — Frank Dale (@fwdale) February 13, 2019 In October of 1991, Abrams plead guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra affair. In the plea, Abrams acknowledged that he was aware of contacts by made Reagan National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Oliver North with people supplying the Contra rebels, a U.S. backed group in Nicaragua, but admitted that he misled two different House committees about information linked to the scandal which enveloped the Reagan Administration between 1986 and 1988. The exchange in the House Foreign Affairs hearing came a day after President Donald Trump had condemned her tweets from earlier in the week, which drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats and Republicans in the Congress. “Congressman Omar, it’s terrible what she said and I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” the President told reporters on Tuesday. When one reporter, Manu Raju of CNN, tried to ask the Minnesota Democrat on Wednesday about the President’s comment, Omar was not pleased. Rep. Ilhan Omar in no mood to talk about her controversies this week. First, she said: “No thank you” when asked to comment on Trump saying she should resign. Second time I saw her, she yelled: “Are you serious?” when I tried to question her. — Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 13, 2019 From across the Atlantic in Europe, Vice President Mike Pence used an interview with NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell to make the case against Omar as well. “At minimum, Democratic leaders should remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” the Vice President said, as his office tweeted out video of the interview. Unless Representative Omar resigns from Congress, at minimum Democrat leaders should remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. pic.twitter.com/xivvu45pSs — Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 13, 2019 As for the President’s verbal rebuke, Omar responded on Twitter with a jab of her own. “You have trafficked in hate your whole life — against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more,” Omar said. “I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?”

News

  • A marriage proposal in a room filled with swine may not seem ideal, but a Texas man was perfectly willing to hog the attention away from the pigs Sunday morning. >> Read more trending news  Will Hussey made his “pig-posal” to Kate Jimerson at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, KSAT reported. Hussey’s marriage proposal came four years after they met at the show’s swine barn, the television station reported. Jimerson thought her family was at the Stock Show to watch her younger sister compete in the barrow show, but Hussey surprised her. 'He got down on one knee and said, 'This is where I met you four years ago. I knew then I wanted to marry you.'” Jimerson told KSAT. “So then he asked me and I started crying.” 'The Stock Show already holds a special place for both of us, so why not make it something we can tell our kids about someday,' Hussey told the television station. The couple has not set a wedding date, but they already have next year’s Stock Show on their calendar, KSAT reported.
  • When he made the announcement he was declaring a national emergency, President Donald Trump said he expected to be sued over the move. So far, a handful of activists and even state attorneys general have said they are looking at taking the president to court or have filed a lawsuit already.  Take a look at the lawsuits that are currently pending or will soon be filed. Public Citizen Public Citizen is an advocacy group that filed a suit Friday after the president’s Rose Garden announcement. The group is filing on behalf of three Texas landowners and an environmental group to block the emergency decree. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported. >>Read: Can Congress repeal the national emergency declaration? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington hasn’t filed suit directly on Trump but instead is suing the Justice Department, claiming documents were not provided, including legal opinions and communications, related to Trump’s decision, USA Today reported. The group is using a Freedom of Information Act request submitted concerning the proposed border barrier. Center for Biological Diversity Center for Biological Diversity is an environmental group. It claims the president did not identify a legal authority to declare the emergency. The group said the wall will block wildlife from its natural habitat “and could result in the extirpation of jaguars, ocelots and other endangered species within the United States,” according to the Post. >>Read: Trump signs funding bill to avoid government shutdown, declares emergency to build border wall American Civil Liberties Union The ACLU has not yet filed but is preparing a suit that says that Trump can’t redirect the money paid by taxpayers unless it is for construction that directly supports the military, the Post reported. ACLU officials said the suit will be filed early this week, saying, “There is no emergency. Members of Congress from both parties, security experts, and Americans who live at the border have all said so. What the president is doing is yet another illegal and dangerous power grab in the service of his anti-immigrant agenda.” The group called the declaration an “abuse of power” and says it “violates the constitutional checks and balances that protect us.” >>Read the latest from our Washington Insider Jamie Dupree The ACLU is using the president’s own words against him from when he said, “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.” >> Read more trending news  California attorney general Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, will be joined by New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii and Connecticut in trying to stop the emergency declaration from proceeding. >>Read: National emergency likely to be blocked by courts, DOJ tells White House: reports “We’re confident there are at least 8 billion ways that we can prove harm. And once we are all clear, all the different states are clear, what pots of money that taxpayers sent to D.C. he’s going to raid, which Congress dedicated to different types of services -- whether it’s emergency response services or whether it’s fires or mudslides in California or maybe tornadoes and floods in other parts of the country or whether it’s our military men and women and their families who live on military installations that might -- that might have money taken away from them, or whether it’s money taken away from drug interdiction efforts in places like California, a number of states, and certainly Americans, will be harmed. And we’re all going to be prepared,” Becerra said on ABC News’ “This Week.”  >>Read: Trump's border wall: What is a national emergency? A spokesperson for the attorney general of Colorado, Phil Weiser, said his state will also be joining the suit, KDVR reported. The spokesperson said Weiser decided that the state will be hurt if money is transferred from military installations to the wall, according to KDVR.
  • From a court watcher’s perspective it’s apparent to most that the upcoming trial of Ryan Duke, charged with the 2005 murder of South Georgia high school teacher Tara Grinstead is sure to be nothing short of a spectacle of epic proportions. We got a preview of things to come during - of all things - a bond hearing where Duke asked, for the first time in two years, to be released on bond. It wasn’t the denial of bond, nor the fact that Duke asked for bond that is particularly noteworthy. It’s what the bond hearing devolved into that raised eyebrows. Despite losing the motion, the defense unexpectedly was able to depose the lead GBI investigator on a wide range of topics in a dress rehearsal for what promises to be a most controversial trial.  To start, let’s have a look at what a bond hearing is supposed to be.  It’s uncommon for bond to be set in murder cases but it’s not unheard of. Courts are supposed to consider the following factors in making bond decisions and the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that he:  Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;  Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;  Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial; and  Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.  Probable cause is not an issue and of course neither is guilt or innocence. A bond hearing is not a trial.  The Duke bond hearing started out as most bond hearings do. The defense called Duke’s brother to testify regarding each of the factors set out above. But then it started a downward spiral into the surreal when the prosecutor called the lead GBI case agent as a witness - presumably as a rebuttal to the defense. A state’s witness, such as an investigator, can occasionally testify - to a point - about “what happened” because that’s relevant - to a point - for the court to determine whether the person poses a danger to the community. But in this case, the testimony was literally all over the place and went into minute detail about many things that have never been heard before. The “bond hearing” was effectively transformed into a deposition - a legal luxury not normally available to a criminal defendant in Georgia.  So just what did we learn from this “bond” hearing? We learned that DNA from the bodily fluid of a police officer was mixed with the victim’s blood on some bedding and that “touch DNA” from Grinstead and Duke (along with DNA from at least two other people) was on a latex glove found outside her residence. “Touch DNA” has its own share of problems in terms of reliability and we can safely expect the defense to explore those problems at trial. Some of that other unidentified DNA from the glove could have come from Bo Dukes - the person accused of helping cover up the murder - and who the defense claims is the actual killer.  We learned there were many investigative steps that could have been taken to verify statements made by both Duke and Dukes. The defense will argue that these follow up steps point to a biased investigation. This could have a huge impact in a trial where the defense will claim that the defendants confession was a false confession.  We learned the GBI, in a breach of protocol and constitutional law, interviewed / talked with Duke twice after he had a lawyer. These interviews were undocumented in the GBI case file. They were not recorded. The DA apparently was unaware at the time that this tactic was being employed by the GBI until the defense raised it with them. The agent didn’t even sign in at the jail. We can only speculate as to why not.  On top of all this, an abundance of otherwise inadmissible evidence consisting of hearsay and innuendo managed to come out publicly at a bond hearing. Most of this wouldn’t have seen the light of day at a trial. As the prosecution correctly pointed out “hearsay” may be admissible at a bond hearing, but it still has to be reliable evidence - not a regurgitation of all the salacious rumors from 2005. And it must be relevant to the issue of bond. It may turn out that the DA made a great tactical mistake by calling their lead case agent to testify and turn this bond hearing into an evidentiary free-for-all with no apparent boundaries. At a minimum it was surely heartbreaking for friends and family of the victim to have to re-live all the pain of the last 13 years by having old wounds reopened in such painful detail.  I’ve previously written about why the venue for this trial really needs to be changed. Now more than ever the jury pool is really tainted - as if it weren’t already. Philip Holloway, WSB legal analyst, is a criminal lawyer who heads his own firm in Cobb County, Georgia. A former prosecutor and adjunct professor of criminal justice, he is former president of the Cobb County Bar Association's criminal law section. Follow him on Twitter: @PhilHollowayEsq The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 
  • Police in Kansas City, Kansas, arrested a man Sunday suspected of carjacking a vehicle, stealing the driver’s phone and taking off with two children in the car, the The Kansas City Star reported. >> Read more trending news  Police said a woman was making a delivery in the area when the suspect, armed with a rifle, took the vehicle, WDAF reported.  The woman ran to a store to call police, the Star reported. “It was as bad as you would think if someone had your kids,” the store manager, Robert Edwards, told the newspaper. “She was as stressed as you would imagine. I’m glad she got the kids back.” The two children, 4 and 7, had been taken out of the car and were found by a neighbor, who called police the Star reported. The children were not injured and were returned to their mother, the newspaper reported. According to Kansas City police, the suspect returned to the scene, leaving the original vehicle and then stole a second car at gunpoint, WDAF reported. Police were able to catch the suspect, who was driving a blue SUV, and returned it to its owner, the Star reported.
  • At the same time President Donald Trump was making a Rose Garden announcement Friday declaring a national emergency to fund a wall along the country’s southern border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they would fight Trump’s declaration “using every remedy available.” >> Read more trending news Pelosi and Schumer did not lay out specific remedies they might employ to stop the president from diverting funds from other projects to use to construct a border wall, but several Democrats members of Congress have promised a joint resolution of disapproval aimed at repealing the declaration and stopping Trump’s plans. Would Congress be successful in passing a resolution that would hamper the president’s bid to fund border security by declaring a national emergency? It’s possible, but not likely. >>Trump's border wall: What is a national emergency? Here’s a look at what could happen. A resolution of disapprovalCongress could approve a resolution that contests the status of the national emergency Trump has declared. They can do so under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. The resolution, if passed, would stop the plan to divert money from other government programs to build the border wall. The resolution could pass with a simple majority vote in the House and Senate – 218 votes in the House and 51 in the Senate. There is a Democrat majority in the House where a resolution could easily pass. There are 48 Democrat members of the Senate. Democrats would need four Republicans to vote with them to pass a joint resolution. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, have said they will introduce a bill in the House to block the declaration. By Friday afternoon, Castro told The Washington Post he had gathered more than 60 co-sponsors for the resolution. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, told ABC's “This Week” that she believes the Senate has enough votes for such a resolution. 'I think we do,' she said. 'Now, whether we have enough for an override and veto, that's a different story. But frankly, I think there's enough people in the Senate who are concerned that what he's doing is robbing from the military and the DOD to go build this wall.' If a resolution should pass both chambers of Congress, it would go to the president’s desk for a signature. The president would almost certainly veto the resolution, marking the first time in his term he has used the veto power. If he does veto the resolution, it would go back to Congress where it would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to override the veto. In the House, 290 votes would be needed. In the Senate, the number would be 67. A lawsuit – or several of them The president has broad powers under the National Emergencies Act, so until the provisions of Trump’s declaration are made public, it’s unclear what someone could sue him over concerning the declaration. But sued he will be -- some suits are already in the works  -- and here is where those suits could come from: Congress: It’s likely that House Democrats would sue on grounds that the president overreached his powers by bypassing the power Congress has to control funding for government programs and projects. However, Democrats in Congress would have to first establish that they have the right to sue the White House, and that can be difficult since the president was given the authority to declare a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act in 1976. The House could challenge Trump's definition of an emergency, but the definition in the National Emergency Act is vague, leaving what is a national emergency pretty much up to the president. Activist groups: The American Civil Liberties Union said on Friday it plans to sue the president over what they call his “unconstitutional power grab that hurts American communities.” Landowners: Those who own land along the area where the president has proposed a border wall could file suit over the seizure of their property if that happens. However, the government is generally allowed to buy up private property for public use – such as when privately-held land is taken to make room for a freeway. The practice is called eminent domain. It is often an uphill fight for landowners. States: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has promised that he will file a suit against the White House claiming that his state will be harmed if Trump diverts funds from other projects to build a wall. He said that four other states, New Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Minnesota will join his state in the pending lawsuit.Nevada’s attorney general has also threatened a suit.
  • A man has been targeting dessert shops in a Texas town, committing four robberies -- two in the same business, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  The Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt shop in Cypress was robbed Jan. 15, the television station reported. Surveillance cameras caught a bald man with a goatee, who walked up to the cash register, yanked it open and took the money, KHOU reported. 'I saw him and I saw what he was doing,' store manager Debra Santos told the television station. 'You just don't know people now a days. I didn't know if he had a gun or a weapon.' On Feb. 14, the bald bandit struck again, robbing a different Orange Leaf in Cypress, KHOU reported. Later that day, the man robbed Shipley’s Donuts in Cypress. The manager chased the thief, but the man sped away in a white car, the television station reported. On Feb. 16, the thief returned to the Orange Leaf he had robbed a month earlier, taking the store’s second cash register, according to KHOU.  'He said, ‘I'm sorry I have to do this,’ and he ripped the cables and took off again,' Santos told the television station. Santos said she hopes the thief’s robbery pattern will trip him up. 'I hope they catch him soon,' Santos told KHOU. 'He seems to be repetitive, so hopefully he'll have a break in his pattern and they'll catch him.