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    Even as President Donald Trump again denounced the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to his campaign as a ‘witch hunt,’ federal prosecutors on Monday reached a plea bargain agreement with a Russian woman accused of illegal political activity in the U.S., and the Special Counsel’s office prepared to reveal details of alleged lies by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case suddenly scheduled a status hearing for Tuesday afternoon, as Robert Mueller’s office is expected to publicly file a redacted version of a report on what lies the government claims that Manafort told investigators, even after agreeing to cooperate with the Russia investigation. As he did with earlier procedural actions in a Washington federal courtroom, Manafort waived his right to be at the Tuesday hearing, again saying the time involved in being transported from prison to the D.C. courthouse was not worth the effort. List of things happening this week, so far: Manafort sentencing hearing – Tuesday Butina plea hearing – Wednesday Cohen sentencing hearing – Wednesday And the list will likely grow. — Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) December 10, 2018 While Manafort suddenly had a Tuesday court hearing scheduled, there were new developments on Monday in the case of 29 year old Maria Butina, who has been jailed since July, charged with illegal political activity in the United States, amid questions related to her ties to the National Rifle Association and the GOP. It was not immediately apparent what was involved in Butina’s change of heart, as a federal judge set a plea hearing for Wednesday afternoon, several hours after the scheduled sentencing in New York for former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Democrats continued Monday to raise questions about Butina and the NRA, as well as the broader issue of whether Russian money was funneled through the NRA and into the 2016 campaign for President. “Maria Butina is set to plead guilty based on her efforts to influence American politics through the NRA,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). “There is still a lot we don’t know about the NRA’s campaign spending and connections to the Kremlin.” “Another bad day for Individual-1 and his inner circle,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Dear @NRA: Now I know why you refused to answer the letter I wrote with other Members of Congress in March about Russian efforts to influence you. Will the Maria Butina plea expose what you are hiding in your clenched fist? Oh, and I have 3 words for you: January is coming. https://t.co/TPbshZtXDJ — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 10, 2018 Back in 2015, Butina happened to appear at a Q&A session with then candidate Donald Trump, and asked him a question about U.S. relations with Russia. The Butina case was not brought by Mueller, but instead by the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. – but it still could have an overall impact on the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign.
  • Three days after federal prosecutors in New York said the President directed his former personal lawyer to pay off two women in an effort to keep them quiet before the 2016 election, President Donald Trump rejected the assertion that the thousands of dollars funneled through Michael Cohen could be construed in any way as a violation of federal campaign election laws, a matter which some experts believe could put the President in legal jeopardy. “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun,” the President tweeted before sunrise on Monday. “So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution.” But in a sentencing memo released Friday evening, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York argued that Cohen ‘played a central role’ – in a plan directed and coordinated by the President – to suppress the stories of two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump, and “thereby prevent them from influencing the election.” “Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” the SDNY wrote in their sentencing memo. “Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments.” On Fox News, legal analyst Andrew McCarty – often a sympathetic voice for the President on the Russia investigation – left the hosts of ‘Fox and Friends’ stunned by openly predicting that President Trump would be indicted on that charge. “It’s clear that Trump is the target, and that he’ll be indicted eventually,” McCarthy said. In his Monday tweet – as in past tweets – the President denied the payoffs orchestrated by Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, had anything to do with his campaign. Back in May, the President characterized the payment going to Stormy Daniels as a non-disclosure agreement – a ‘private contract’ – similar to the language he used today, in calling it a ‘private transaction.’ But federal prosecutors allege it was all tied to the Trump Campaign, with the President fully involved in the decisions. “In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” the SDNY wrote, using the legal moniker for President Trump in court documents. The President ridiculed that notion. “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion.” @FoxNews That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution,… — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018 ….which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018 The President has repeatedly said that Cohen is lying to prosecutors, in order to get his sentenced reduced. Some critics of the President have said the SDNY evidence – from Cohen’s own guilty plea – basically makes the President an unindicted co-conspirator at this point. “It looks like a pretty good case,” said George Conway, the fierce Trump critic – and husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway.
  • House Republicans on Saturday released a transcript of their private interview on Friday with former FBI Director James Comey, detailing a lengthy closed door skirmish between Comey and GOP lawmakers over the origin of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and how Comey dealt with the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary of State. It was the first of two private sessions, as Comey is scheduled to return to Congress on December 17. Because there were no television cameras, the transcript is the only way to get a bead on what was said in the interview, which was not under oath, but where Comey was bluntly warned to be truthful. Under the agreement, Comey was allowed to speak out after the hearing – but lawmakers were not. Today wasn’t a search for truth, but a desperate attempt to find anything that can be used to attack the institutions of justice investigating this president. They came up empty today but will try again. In the long run, it'll make no difference because facts are stubborn things. — James Comey (@Comey) December 8, 2018 So what does the 235 pages of the transcript show? Here’s some tidbits to chew on. 1. When Comey hears “Russia investigation,” it’s two distinct probes. Asked by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) about the overall Russia probe, Comey indicated that he sees things differently than many. To him, there are two complimentary investigations going on: 1) dealing with Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and 2) the counterintelligence probes aimed at people with ties to the Trump campaign who were in touch with Russians or Russian government assets. “We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference effort. And those four Americans did not include the candidate,” Comey added. He did not identify the four who were under review, as Comey refused to answer a number of specific questions related to the Russia probe. 2. What does the term ‘collusion’ mean to Comey? In the back and forth between Comey and GOP lawmakers, at one point Comey was pressed to define the word ‘collusion,’ which has become a central flashpoint of the Russia investigation. Often supporters of the President point out that there is no crime called ‘collusion’ – and Comey says he’s not familiar with the term, either. “What is the crime of collusion? I do not know,” Comey said in response to a question from Rep. Gowdy. Comey then gives his review of what collusion means to him with regards to the Russia probe: “I think in terms of conspiracy or aiding and abetting.” Cummings asked Comey how serious it is that Flynn lied about foreign contacts. COMEY: 'The reason it's a big deal is you have an adversary nation attacking America. If Americans in our country are assisting them, it's aiding and abetting the enemy in attacking our country' — Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) December 8, 2018 3. Comey says Flynn did lie, even if he didn’t look it. Supporters of the President have made a big deal out of the evaluation of FBI agents that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn didn’t seem like he was lying about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador during the Trump transition. Pressed about that by Rep. Gowdy, Comey said it was clear that Flynn was lying. “I recall saying the agents observed no indicia of deception, physical manifestations, shiftiness, that sort of thing,” Comey testified, as he summed up by saying of Flynn, “There’s no doubt he was lying.” 4. Comey says he saw no bias from Strzok in Clinton probe. In an answer that is certain to leave many Republican critics fuming, Comey said he did not personally see any evidence that FBI official Peter Strzok was biased against President Trump. To buttress that argument, Comey talked about how Strzok helped draft the controversial letter that was sent to Congress just before the 2016 elections, which said the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails was being re-opened. “So it’s hard for me to see how he was on Team Clinton secretly at that time,” Comey said, as he also reiterated a point made by Strzok in his combative testimony – that Strzok was one of the few people who knew about the investigations into Trump-Russia links, and that Strzok never leaked that information to the press or public. Comey though did say that based on the texts from Strzok, he would have taken Strzok off the Trump-Russia investigation. Comey points out obvious: How could Pete Strzok be on team HRC if he helped draft the letter Comey sent to Congress on Oct. 28, 2016 – days before the election. Many folks think that letter damaged her chances to become president. pic.twitter.com/NOk9ulOu1j — Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) December 8, 2018 5. Comey: I’m not buddies with Robert Mueller. One refrain from President Trump is that Mueller can’t be trusted with his probe because he and Comey are friends. “Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest,” the President tweeted on Friday, just a few hours before Comey went to Capitol Hill for his closed door questioning. So, Democrats asked Comey – are you friends with Mueller? “I am not,” Comey said, telling lawmakers he doesn’t know Mueller’s phone number, and has no relation with him ‘in any social sense.’ But Comey made clear he is a believer in Mueller. “There are not many things I would bet my life on. I would bet my life that Bob Mueller will do things the right way, the way we would all want, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, the way Americans should want,” Comey said. X. Comey okayed leak investigation involving Giuliani. In the final stretch of the 2016 campaign, Comey testified that he was concerned by a ‘number of stories’ and leaks about Hillary Clinton, which he believed were coming from the New York Field Office of the FBI – and were going to people like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was a campaign booster for President Trump. “Mr. Giuliani was making statements that appeared to be based on his knowledge of workings inside the FBI New York,” Comey told lawmakers, as the former FBI chief said it seemed to him that the bureau had an ‘unauthorized disclosure problem’ – “so I asked that it be investigated.” Comey said he ordered a leak probe after Giuliani made public statements that indicated he had inside knowledge of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails https://t.co/4fJYZneWX7 — The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) December 9, 2018
  • In a trio of documents submitted to judges on Friday evening in New York and Washington, federal prosecutors accused President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort of lying repeatedly to investigators even after agreeing to cooperate in the Russia investigation, and suggested a four year prison term for the President’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, while acknowledging his extensive help in the Russia probe by the Special Counsel’s office. “Manafort told multiple discernible lies,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller told a judge, “these were not instances of memory lapses.” In a 10 page document, the Special Counsel also detailed how Manafort had been in contact with Trump Administration officials during 2018, even though he denied such contacts to investigators. “The evidence demonstrates that Manafort lied about his contacts,” the Special Counsel wrote, saying that Manafort had used texts, third parties, and other electronic communications for such contacts as recently as May 26, 2018. There were no details offered on what Manafort was discussing in those communications, or the identities of the Administration officials. For those critics of the President who were looking for a blizzard of new information about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any ties to the Trump campaign, the Special Counsel did not deliver, as part of the Manafort document was redacted, and other evidence was not publicly detailed. “If the defendant contends the government has not acted in good faith, the government is available to prove the false statements at a hearing,” Mueller’s team wrote. In between blacked out portions of the court filing on Manafort were phrases like this: + “Manafort lied repeatedly about…” + “Manafort provided different explanations…” + “Manafort first denied that he had…” + “Manafort then acknowledged…” + “After being told of such evidence, Manafort conceded…” Evidence to support the claim that Manafort made multiple false statements was filed under seal, to keep it secret. Meanwhile, the government’s submissions on Michael Cohen offered dueling legal portraits of the President’s former personal lawyer, who has flipped on Mr. Trump. Documents from federal prosecutors in New York and the Special Counsel’s office in Washington portrayed Cohen as someone who intentionally lied to deflect from investigations of the President, but who also is now cooperating with the feds on possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. “The defendant’s crime was serious, both in terms of the underlying conduct and its effect on multiple government investigations,” the office of Special Counsel argued, going over Cohen’s lies to Congress and investigators about the extent of contacts during the 2016 campaign between the Trump Organization and Russians. But as prosecutors from the Southern District of New York asked for a jail term around four years for Cohen, they made clear that while Cohen may be helping Mueller right now, he was not providing the same type of cooperation on investigations in Manhattan. “Cohen’s efforts,” the SDNY wrote “fell well short of cooperation, as that term is properly used in this District.” But Mueller’s office made clear that along with providing information on how women – who claimed they had an affair with President Trump were paid to keep silent – that Cohen has also provided insights into the Russia investigation. One item which kept popping up in the Cohen documents was the actions of “Individual-1,” which is the legal moniker for the President of the United States. The documents described how Cohen acted in concert, and at the direction of “Individual-1” in paying off two women before the 2016 election; they also described how Cohen lied to Congress in order to keep investigators from finding out that contacts between the Trump Organization and Russians about a major business project in Moscow had gone on deep into the 2016 campaign. “The defendant’s crime was serious,” the Special Counsel reported. “The defendant’s lies to Congress were deliberate and premeditated.” If there was any doubt about the identity of “Individual-1,” the feds spelled it out. “On approximately June 16, 2015, Individual-1, for whom Cohen worked at the time, began an ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States,” the document stated blandly. Back at the White House, the President had moved away from a tweet storm of attacks on Mueller from earlier in the day, as he wrapped things up with one quick thought. “Totally clears the President,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Thank you!” Critics of the President disagreed. “The United States Department of Justice filing today with the court leads to the unmistakable conclusion that President of the United States has committed felonies,” said Walter Dellinger, a former top Justice Department official during the Clinton Administration. “This will mark the beginning of the end.” “In trouble: Individual-1,” tweeted law professor Orin Kerr. “Also in trouble: John Barron,” Kerr added, using the fake name employed for years by Trump with reporters when he would cast himself as his own spokesman in phone conversations with journalists.
  • Amid reports that his White House Chief of Staff might be on his way out, President Donald Trump on Friday said he will nominate former U.S. Attorney General William Barr to serve in that post again, as the President also publicly insulted his former Secretary of State, hours after Rex Tillerson offered a less than flattering review of his time working in the Trump Cabinet. “A terrific person, a terrific man,” the President said of Barr, who served as Attorney General for the first President Bush. “He was my first choice from day one,” the President said. “Respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats.” Barr’s nomination back in the late 1991 generated no controversy, as the Senate approved his choice on a voice vote – that seems unlikely to be duplicated in 2019. “I think he will serve with great distinction,” the President added. While the President had high praise for Barr, he took no questions about the future of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as news reports indicated that Kelly’s future with the White House was tenuous at best. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump publicly unloaded on one former member of his Cabinet, calling his first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ‘dumb as a rock,’ and ‘lazy as hell.’ “I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough,” the President said in a tweet sent from aboard Air Force One. In a televised conversation last night in Texas with Bob Schieffer of CBS, Tillerson said the President was, ‘pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things.’ That predictably led to a stinging rebuke from the President via Twitter, as he flew back to Washington from an event in Kansas City. In a tweet from Air Force One, the President said Tiller was “was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell.” Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018 “I think he grew tired of me being the guy every day who said, ‘you can’t do that,'” Tillerson said.
  • In a filing made late Thursday night to the Federal Election Commission, the campaign of Republican Mark Harris of North Carolina, which has come under fire for possible absentee ballot fraud in the 2018 elections, listed a debt of $34,310 to an outside GOP consulting group which was tasked with absentee ballot work in Bladen County, the epicenter of fraud allegations in the race for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District. The submission, made at 10:12 pm on Thursday night by the Harris campaign, was the first public admission by the candidate that he had hired the Red Dome Group specifically to do work for him in Bladen County; Red Dome reportedly hired McCrae Dowless, the local political operative who seems to have been in charge of an illegal absentee ballot operation which helped Harris. News of the filing was first reported by the New York Times, further stirring the controversy over the fate of Harris, who defeated Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes in November. But in recent days, with more evidence surfacing of absentee ballot fraud, including the possible destruction of ballots from Democrats, McCready withdrew his concession on Thursday, accusing Harris of knowingly supporting ‘criminal activity.’ BREAKING: Dan McCready tells me he is officially withdrawing his concession. In an exclusive interview, he tells me he thinks Mark Harris knew what McCrae Dowless was doing and that Harris bankrolled 'criminal activity.' #ncpol #NC09 @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/m7LhB2vGnM — Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 6, 2018 The fast-moving events have led Democrats to openly say that Harris may not be seated when the 116th Congress convenes on January 3, 2019. “The House still retains the right to decide who is seated,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who expects to be Speaker in the next Congress. “As you know, it’s not just the Democrats who have a problem with how it went in North Carolina, the Republicans have a problem, too, because it affected their primary election,” Pelosi added. A look at the numbers from the GOP primary in North Carolina show that Harris won by an extraordinary margin in the absentee-by-mail results, with an edge of 437-17 over Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC). In recent days, Pittenger has raised more questions about the primary, as he has indicated his concern about what went on in Bladen County. “There’s some pretty unsavory people out, particularly in Bladen County,” Pittenger said in a local TV interview. “And I didn’t have anything to do with them.” It’s not clear when the North Carolina Board of Elections will take another step in the Harris-McCready election. Investigators have been seen in the field interviewing people who collected absentee ballots for Dowless, who was working for Red Dome on behalf of Harris. The board said it would hold a hearing by December 21.
  • A month after Election Day, Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) conceded defeat to challenger T.J. Cox on Thursday, as Republicans lost a seventh U.S. House seat to Democrats in California, pushing the party’s net gains to 40 seats in the 2018 mid-term elections, as Democrats triumphed in yet another Congressional district which had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. A three-term more moderate Republican, Valadao had led by almost eight points on the night of the elections, but mail-in ballots, absentees and provisionals ran against him in the weeks of slow election counting in California, as Cox took the lead last week and won by 862 votes in the final count. “There is no doubt that we are disappointed in the results,” Valadao said in a statement, in which he made no mention of any accusations of election fraud in his Central Valley district in California. “There are truly no words to express how grateful I am to my supporters,” Valadao added, one of seven Republicans who could not survive the Democratic wave in the Golden State. BREAKING: I received a call from Rep. Valadao conceding our election for #CA21. I'm thankful for his six years of service. As the Congressman knows well, it is a great honor to represent #CA21. We will work together to ensure a smooth transition for our constituents. — TJ Cox (@TJCoxCongress) December 6, 2018 Valadao was the 30th incumbent Republican in the House to lose in the mid-terms, the highest number of defeats since the 2010 Tea Party election, when 54 incumbents lost in the November election. Valadao’s defeat also means that of the 25 House Republicans who had won in 2016 in a district where Hillary Clinton had won more votes than Donald Trump, 22 of those seats went for a Democrat in the 2018 mid terms. Of those 25 seats, the only GOP survivors were Rep. John Katko in New York, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, and Rep. Will Hurd in Texas. Those setbacks were a prime reason why the GOP lost its majority in the House, as Democrats will take charge with at least 235 seats in the 116th Congress. And zero Republicans won over 55% in Clinton districts. Scores of the three who survived election night: #NY24: John Katko (53.1%) #PA01: Brian Fitzpatrick (51.3%) #TX23: Will Hurd (49.2%) https://t.co/PVacZ96rM1 — James Lambert (@hellofasandwich) November 29, 2018 There is one undecided U.S. House seat left, North Carolina’s 9th district, which was originally called for Republicans, but has been consumed by allegations of absentee ballot fraud, as the Democrat in race on Thursday withdrew his concession. “Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when,” said Democrat Dan McCready. Democrats on Thursday again made clear they would object to Harris being seated from North Carolina, and also raised the possibility that an objection would be made to Republican Rep. Ross Spano of Florida, who admitted in the last week that he broke federal election laws by taking $180,000 in loans during the campaign, and funneling most of the money into his campaign, by designating it as ‘personal funds.’ “The issue in Florida is one that we’re tracking as well,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said the issues at hand are serious. “This is about undermining the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.
  • With most work of the government interrupted this week by the ceremonies honoring the late President George H.W. Bush, the House and Senate on Thursday approved a two-week stop gap funding plan for part of the federal government, re-setting a partisal government shutdown deadline for December 21, as the two sides seem no closer to a deal on money that the President wants for his wall along the Mexican border. “The idea that the American taxpayer now has to foot the bill doesn’t make sense,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who mocked the President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chant that Mexico would pay for the wall, not the United States. House-Senate negotiators have already agreed to fund $1.6 billion again in 2019 for border security – but President Trump wants $5 billion – and for now, that’s a non-starter with top Democrats. In a news conference, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also rejected the idea of a deal where the President would get his wall money, in exchange for younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” gaining legal status in the U.S, as Pelosi labeled the border wall, ‘immoral, ineffective, and expensive.’ In a briefing earlier today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the Democrats will not trade votes for a DACA fix for border wall funding. She also called the wall 'immoral'. @OANN #DACA #BorderWall — Eddie McCoven (@EddieMcCovenTV) December 6, 2018 If no deal is reached by December 21, then there would be a partial government shutdown, as the Congress has already approved the 2019 funding plans for a big chunk of the government – the military, Congress, most health, education and labor programs, the VA, and military construction. But there is much more that lawmakers would like to finish before getting out of town for the Christmas break, and the end of the 115th Congress – some of those items include: + A revised major farm policy bill + Sexual harassment reforms in the Congress + A criminal justice reform bill backed by the President + A package of special tax breaks known as the ‘tax extenders’ But there is also the chance that much of that could get bogged down in the Legislative Mud at the end of this Congressional session, as Democrats get ready to take over the House in January. With a quick voice vote in the Senate, Congress has officially approved a two-week continuing resolution that will expire on Friday, December 21. The bill now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it. — Tess Hembree (@tchembree) December 6, 2018 One item added on to the two-week budget was a two-week extension for the federal flood insurance program; lawmakers had hoped to gain agreement on broader reforms, but that seems unlikely to happen – again – in 2018.
  • With allegations that absentee ballot fraud may have delivered victory to a new Republican lawmaker from North Carolina, and a newly-elected GOP member admitting he broke federal campaign fundraising laws during his 2018 election bid in Florida, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that it’s possible neither of the Republicans who won those races in November will be sworn-in when the 116th Congress convenes in January. “The House still retains the right to decide who is seated. That is one of the powers of the House of Representatives,” said Pelosi, who is in line to be Speaker of the House in the 116th Congress, which convenes on January 3, 2019. The election questions surround Republican Mark Harris, who won a 905 vote victory in North Carolina’s Ninth District, but has seen his victory questioned as examples of absentee ballot fraud surfaced in two counties – and Florida Republican Ross Spano, who admitted in recent days that he broke federal campaign laws by taking $180,000 in loans during 2018, and then funneled most of that money into his campaign by labeling it as ‘personal funds.’ Asked about NC-9, Pelosi appears to be holding on whatever comes of 12/21 deadline. “The House still retains the right to decide who is seated.” Added: “Only if it’s impossible to determine who the winner is, would we take the extraordinary step of calling for a new election.” — Lissandra Villa (@LissandraVilla) December 6, 2018 “It’s not just the Democrats that have a problem with what went on in North Carolina, it’s the Republicans, too,” Pelosi observed, noting that there is evidence of possible absentee ballot fraud in the GOP primary which led to the defeat of Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC). “This issue in Florida is one that we are tracking as well,” Pelosi added, as the Spano admission late last week that he broke federal election laws has also prompted complaints from some of the Republicans whom he defeated in the GOP primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. “This small man thinks he can break the law and get sent to Congress,” said GOP primary loser Neil Combee, who called Spano ‘a dirty criminal.’ While the victory by Harris in North Carolina has not yet been certified, Spano is planning on being in the 116th Congress – but that could change on January 3. “Any member-elect can object to the seating of another member-elect,” Pelosi noted about the North Carolina and Florida seats, as she said the House Administration Committee would be ready to investigate any election questions in the new Congress. Not only could those two Republican winners face objections, but that could also extend to newly-elected Democrat Jared Golden, who defeated GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine, where Republicans are still angry about losing in an instant runoff process known as ‘ranked choice voting.’ Poliquin and others in the GOP have complained that the ‘ranked choice voting’ process is unconstitutional – that runoff plan was approved twice by voters in statewide balloting in Maine. Pelosi made clear that she felt Republican complaints about the outcome in Maine was based on one thing – that the GOP lost. Pelosi on GOPers complaining about “ranked voting” which helped unseat Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME): If they had won, they would have no problem with the Constitutionality with that — Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 6, 2018 “We’re operating on three fronts, Pelosi said, referring to the possible challenges to the winners from North Carolina, Florida, and Maine. If any of those members face an objection on the floor, the House could set up a special panel to investigate; while there have been a series of minor challenges in the last 35 years, two election investigations in the House stand out from the rest: + In 1984, Republicans won Indiana’s 8th Congressional District by just 34 votes. Democrats in the U.S. House created a three member panel to review the race, and ruled after a recount that the Democrat had won by four votes. That result prompted a GOP walkout, and created partisan turmoil in the Congress. + In 1998, Rep. Bob Dornan (R-CA) bitterly contested his election defeat to Democrat Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). But a three member panel set up by the House GOP ruled against Dornan, who had charged that he lost due to voter fraud and illegally cast ballots.

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  • A polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona border is letting go of the sprawling building where its members worshipped, in the latest sign that the sect run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs is crumbling and losing control of the community it ruled for a century. The group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, now has nowhere to gather for worship services after the nearly 53,000 square-foot (4,900 square-meter) building was taken over last week as part of government-ordered evictions that have taken away about 200 homes and buildings from members who refuse to pay property taxes and $100-a-month occupancy fees. The meetinghouse with capacity for several thousand people is valued at $2.8 million and sits on about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) in the remote red rock community, on the Arizona side of the border. The building has a stage, a church-like setup for services and classrooms for religious education but has not been used for at least six months, Jeff Barlow said Monday. He is the executive director of a government-appointed organization that oversees a former church trust that has properties in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The FLDS doesn't have a spokesperson to comment about the development. The sect is experiencing a major leadership void with Warren Jeffs serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides and his brother Lyle Jeffs serving nearly a five-year sentence for his role in carrying out an elaborate food stamp fraud scheme and for escaping home confinement while awaiting trial. Members have said they have been worshipping at home on their own. The lack of local leaders meant nobody stepped up to take responsibility for the building when Barlow's organization warned an eviction was imminent, said Christine Katas, who lives in the community and serves as an intermediary between Barlow's organization and the FLDS. Rank-and-file members don't believe they have the authority to do so, she said. 'It's very sad for the FLDS. I've seen people cry over it,' Katas said. 'Both sides are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Everybody wishes there was a different outcome.' The evictions have led many FLDS members to take refuge in trailers around town or move away, while former members have purchased the homes and buildings and moved back. Group members don't believe they should have to pay for what belonged to a communal church trust that the state of Utah took over more than a decade ago amid mismanagement. The evictions are part of the shifting demographics in the sister cities of about 7,700 people. Non-sect members last year won control of the mayor's office and town council in Hildale, Utah and nearly did the same in municipal elections in Colorado City. The town government and police are being watched closely by court-appointed monitors after a jury found past town and police leaders guilty of civil rights violations. Sprawling homes that used to belong to Warren Jeffs have been converted into beds and breakfast and sober living centers. Members of the group still consider their leader and prophet to be Warren Jeffs, even though he has been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it. The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the eviction of the meetinghouse. Barlow said the board of the organization he runs, called the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, will meet on Jan. 5 in a public meeting to discuss what to do with the building, constructed in 1986, Barlow said. One possibility is converting it to a civic center, though that would likely require seeking grant funds, he said. The UEP board will make the final decision.
  • The 2018 college football bowl season kicks off with the fourth annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The game will feature champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences. In a rematch of the first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, the North Carolina A&T Aggies will go head-to-head with the Alcorn State Braves.  Starting at 11 a.m., Channel 2 WSB-TV presents a live half-hour program, “The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Countdown.”  Channel 2 anchors Fred Blankenship and Carol Sbarge host the pregame show for this event. Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein will break down the strategies of both teams, the players, coaches and each team’s strengths and weaknesses.  Following the countdown will be a special edition of Channel 2 Action News at 11:30 a.m. with weather, game day traffic and news of the day. At noon, the battle for the championship begins. In addition to the game, organizers will host the first annual “A Celebration of Service.” The service project will bring together “The Divine 9” Greek letter organizations to collect food donations that benefit Hosea Helps. Other attractions include a special fan experience and the ultimate HBCU Greek homecoming tailgate. MATCHUP Alcorn State (9-3, 6-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) vs. North Carolina A&T (9-2, 6-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). TIME/LOCATION Saturday at noon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Pregame coverage starts at 11 a.m., followed by the game at noon. TOP PLAYERS Alcorn State QB Noah Johnson has thrown for 2,079 yards and 15 touchdowns while also running for 960 yards and nine touchdowns. North Carolina A&T is led by veteran QB Lamar Raynard and a running game that's averaging close to 200 yards on the ground per game. NOTABLE The Braves are back in the Celebration Bowl for the first time since the inaugural game in 2015. Alcorn State is led by coach Fred McNair, the older brother of the late Steve McNair, who was a star quarterback for Alcorn State and in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. The Aggies are back in the Celebration Bowl for the third time in four seasons. North Carolina A&T beat Grambling 21-14 last year to give the MEAC a 2-1 edge in the game over the SWAC. LAST TIME North Carolina A&T 41, Alcorn State 34 on Dec. 19, 2015. BOWL HISTORY The Braves are in the Celebration Bowl for the second time. The Aggies are in the Celebration Bowl for the third time.
  • Companies seeking tax credits from Wisconsin's troubled job-creation agency would face less scrutiny under a provision Republicans included in a package of lame-duck legislation designed to weaken newly elected Democrats. The measure awaiting GOP Gov. Scott Walker's signature would loosen the reins on an agency he created, which has marred by allegations of failing to recover loans from some companies and handing out $126 million without a formal review. Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who ousted Walker in last month's election, would be blocked from overseeing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for nine months under another provision in the lame-duck package. It's one of several components in the legislation that would reduce the powers of Evers and the incoming Democratic attorney general. Current law requires the WEDC to annually verify payroll and employment data from tax credit recipients to make sure they're creating enough jobs to qualify. State auditors found last year that the agency isn't living up to that requirement and was accepting information recipients submitted as accurate and complete. The lame-duck legislation would erase those annual verification requirements. The agency instead would be required to have a third party verify a sampling of the information. Recipients also would have to send a signed statement to WEDC attesting to the accuracy of the information they submit. WEDC's chief executive officer, Mark Hogan, told reporters Monday that the agency can't possibly verify information about the tens of thousands of employees that work for the 300 or so credit recipients. The agency has been verifying data samples for years and the lame-duck bill simply codifies that practice into law, he said. 'You're never going to be able to independently verify over 200,000 employees,' Hogan said. 'It's a process that cannot work. The only solution was to change the statutes to codify what we're doing.' Hogan said changing the law has been his 'top priority' for three years. He tried to get lawmakers to pass the changes before the Legislature adjourned its two-year session this past spring, but legislators told him then it was too late. WEDC is a quasi-governmental agency Walker created in 2011 that hands out grants, loans and tax credits to businesses and other organizations. A May 2017 audit found the agency didn't require recipients to supply enough detailed information to determine how many jobs were created or retained as a result of the agency's award. WEDC officials played a key role in persuading Foxconn Technology Group to build a huge flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant. The agency administers an unprecedented $3 billion state incentives package that Walker and Republican lawmakers created for the manufacturer. Walker has promised that if Foxconn doesn't create jobs it won't receive state tax credits. 'Under Republican control, the WEDC has been plagued by scandals, mismanagement and under-performance,' Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said in a statement. 'The last thing that agency needs is less accountability measures.' The WEDC provisions are tucked into a wide-ranging package of legislation that also restricts early in-person voting to the two weeks before an election, prevents Evers from withdrawing from a multistate lawsuit challenging federal health care reform laws and eliminates the state Justice Department's solicitor general office. Walker has signaled his general support. His spokesman, Tom Evenson, said Monday that the governor was still reviewing the measures. ___ Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1 ___ This story has been corrected to reflect that Shilling is the minority leader, not the majority leader.
  • Channel 2 Action News has learned that investigators say there are currently more than 70,000 gang members across the state of Georgia. Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne was on hand Monday for the second meeting of the Georgia Anti-Gang Network. Officials told Winne that not only are they battling against inmates who are in gangs, but also corrections officers.  “Across the state, how many investigations do you have going on involving the corruption of corrections officers by gangs?” Winne asked Georgia Department of Correction Director Clay Nix.  “Numerous,” Nix answered.  Nix said Georgia’s prison system is not only battling against inmates who are in gangs, but also corrections officers, who are recruited after hiring. TRENDING STORIES: State government will delay opening Tuesday due to weather LIVE UPDATES: Atlanta United's championship parade and rally Search for missing Colorado mother intensifies; FBI assisting with investigation “Also, they reach out to other gang members who have no criminal record and encourage them to come to work for us,” Nix said.   “That’s happened?” Winne asked Nix.  “It has. Several times in the past,” Nix said.  Nix showed Winne pictures of a haul of suspected gang-related contraband that consisted of 61 homemade weapons, cellphones, suspected cocaine, suspected meth and marijuana.  “They control the contraband trade, which is very lucrative,” Nix said. The items were seized at the Macon state prison just hours before a meeting of the Georgia Anti-gang Network at state corrections headquarters, headed by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “Criminal street gangs represent America’s greatest public safety threat,” Cobb County District Attorney Mike Carlson said.  “And in Georgia?” Winne asked Carlson.  “Georgia as well,” Carlson said.  “And in metro Atlanta?” Winne asked.  “Absolutely,” Carlson said.  “The most frightening thing you've heard today?” Winne asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.  “The use of social media, the recruitment of young local neighborhood gangs as young as 9 and 13 years old,” Carr said.  The commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision said there are currently more than 13,000 gang members under active supervision across the state.  “We'll never be able to have parity in numbers with the 70,000-plus gang members in Georgia. But what we are able to do is finely tune the force packages we use to go after each one of these sets,” said Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.  Christine said a grand jury recently indicted dozens affiliated with the Ghostface Gangsters.  “It involves multiple jurisdictions and multiple counties,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly said.  “You've got a great group of folks that are focused on this issue, that aren't putting their heads in the sand and saying, 'We're going to protect the people of Georgia,'” Carr said.  Nix told Winne that without going into too many specifics, gang-related corruption cases pending against current or former corrections officers across the state range from charges up to and including homicide.
  • A five-game losing streak has assured the Atlanta Falcons of their first losing season since 2014, and the usually upbeat coach Dan Quinn said he's alarmed by the ugly results and looking for fixes. Quinn said all players and coaches are in the spotlight after Sunday's 34-20 loss at Green Bay locked in the losing season for the Falcons (4-9). It is a bitter reality for an Atlanta team only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The Falcons would have to win two of their last three just to match their last losing record, a 6-10 finish in 2014. Quinn has turned up the heat on his team as Atlanta prepares for a visit from Arizona on Sunday. 'Some of you may have questions regarding the program and staff and players,' Quinn said. 'As we're sitting here in week 15, we have four wins. So you better believe we're evaluating everything and doing anything to get it right.' Quinn complained about 'self-inflicted wounds,' including 13 penalties and two turnovers in the loss to the Packers. 'I thought our toughness was right but our focus is not,' he said. He said the errors and lack of focus are not new concerns. 'It hasn't been to the level that we needed to for a while,' he said. '... To have some of these inconsistencies show up over a period of time has definitely been something that has been at the forefront of my mind.' Quinn doesn't have an answer to why the focus has become an issue, saying, he 'can't tell you the amount of sleep' he has lost 'on that question alone.' Matt Ryan's second-quarter pass for Austin Hooper was intercepted by Bashaud Breeland and returned 22 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons also botched a shotgun snap in the red zone that was recovered by Green Bay. Quinn said those were among the mistakes 'that made me think lack of focus.' It was a mixed weekend for team owner Arthur Blank, who also owns the MLS Atlanta United. One day after watching Atlanta United win the MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Blank was in Green Bay for another Falcons loss. Blank gave Quinn a postgame hug one week after saying he still has confidence in the coach and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Quinn is 36-30 in his fourth season in Atlanta, including a 3-2 postseason mark. For the second straight week, Quinn tweaked his starting offensive line, inserting Ty Sambrailo at right tackle ahead of Ryan Schraeder. Zane Beadles made his second straight start at right guard. 'I've been waiting for the opportunity to go out and show what I can do,' Sambrailo said Monday. 'The opportunity came and I felt I did all right.' The line helped produce a much-needed boost in the running game . Atlanta ran for 107 yards, only its third 100-yard game of the season. Rookie Ito Smith had 11 carries for 60 yards as he continued to have a more prominent role. Tevin Coleman ran for 45 yards on 10 carries. There were other personnel moves. Rookie Isaiah Oliver shared time with cornerback Robert Alford. Brian Hill played at running back and fullback while fullback Ricky Ortiz was inactive. Defensive end Steven Means also returned to the playing rotation. More changes could come. 'Nobody is OK with this record,' Quinn said. NOTES: Quinn second-guessed himself for allowing Matt Bryant to attempt a 53-yard field goal into the wind in the first quarter. Bryant's kick was short. 'That would be one I'd like to have over,' Quinn said. ... Quinn said TE Austin Hooper avoided serious injury when he left the game with an apparent knee injury. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • The Latest on the effects of a wintry storm crossing the U.S. Southeast (all times local): 3:05 p.m. An overturned truck full of pigs is adding to traffic delays as western North Carolina digs out from a snow storm. The North Carolina Department of Transportation said the livestock truck overturned on Interstate 40 westbound near the Tennessee line. The westbound lanes were closed temporarily Monday so the pigs could be corralled, but at least one lane was reopened by midafternoon. Highway Patrol First Sgt. Mike Baker said that about 100 pigs were aboard the truck, and some died in the crash. Local farmers were helping to gather the rest. The Transportation Department posted a photo on Twitter of pigs wandering along a snowy shoulder next to a trooper's cruiser. Baker said it's not clear if weather played a role in the crash, and it may have had more to do with speed. He said the road was clear of snow and ice at the time. He said the driver suffered serious injuries. ___ 3:05 p.m. The North Carolina National Guard is out helping residents recover from a snowstorm, including relocating a baby from a snowed-in house. National Guard Lt. Col. Matthew DeVivo said the National Guard helped out a family Sunday after it lost power and couldn't drive due to heavy snowfall in Caldwell County. The National Guard posted a photo of a soldier carrying the baby down a snowy road swaddled in extra blankets. DeVivo said the baby is OK, and the family was taken to stay with relatives. Guard members also aided an ambulance stuck in the snow in Burke County, helping an elderly patient get to the hospital. The patient's condition Monday wasn't clear. ___ 1:30 p.m. Residents of southern West Virginia are digging out from a storm that dumped up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow. Forecasters had been uncertain about the storm's track and many residents were caught off guard by the high snow amounts. Forecasts initially had the storm avoiding most of the state and moving across the Southeast. Instead, the National Weather Service says the state became part of the storm's northern edge. More than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow fell across the far southern areas of the state. Schools were closed in at least 10 counties Monday. In places about an hour to the north such as Charleston and Huntington, no snow fell. ___ 12:35 p.m. Authorities in North Carolina are reporting a third snowstorm-related death after a truck driver died while working to free his rig that got stuck on an interstate. Yadkin County Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal says the driver had gotten stuck along Interstate 77 during the height of the storm Sunday and was shoveling out. Vestal said that shortly after shoveling, the man experienced chest pains and was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. Vestal said the death appears to be due to a heart attack and he considers it a storm-related death. The state emergency operations center attributes two other deaths to the storm. One man died Sunday when a tree fell on him in Mecklenburg County, while an ailing woman died in Haywood County when her oxygen was cut off due to power outages. ___ 11:45 a.m. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the worst of the wintery storm has passed most of the state but residents — particularly motorists — should keep watch for dangerous conditions. Cooper said at a news conference Monday that snow and ice that fell since the weekend could result in slick road conditions Tuesday morning as temperatures fall and moisture refreezes. The state emergency operations center attributes two deaths to the storm. One man died Sunday when a tree fell on him in Mecklenburg County, while an ailing woman died in Haywood County when her oxygen was cut off due to power outages. The governor says 144,000 utilities customers were still without power. ____ 7:20 a.m. A lingering storm keeps dumping immobilizing snow, sleet or freezing rain across five southern states, leaving dangerously icy roads and hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. Authorities urged people to stay home on Monday in areas where driving is dangerous. Accidents on snow-covered interstates caused major delays on Sunday, hundreds of flights were canceled and drivers in North Carolina and Virginia got stuck in snow or lost control on icy patches. But the commuters' nightmare provided pre-winter thrills for kids and the young at heart, who were able to go sledding and build snowmen in places that don't often see so much of the white stuff. The National Weather Service said a 'prolonged period of snow' began late Saturday and would last until Monday in the region, with the heaviest snow in northwest North Carolina and southern Virginia. Some areas of North Carolina and Virginia saw more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow by Sunday afternoon.