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Georgia Politics

    The deadline to register to vote in Georgia’s primary election is Tuesday. The May 22 primary election will feature Republican and Democratic races for Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, the General Assembly and more. Georgia citizens can sign up to vote online at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov or through the GA SOS app for Apple and Android cellphones. In addition, voter registration applications can be submitted by mail. Tuesday is also the deadline for voters to update their addresses. “The right to vote for our public officials should never be taken for granted,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a statement. “In the Peach State, it is easy to vote and hard to cheat, and I strongly encourage all eligible voters to take part in these important contests.” Georgia 2018 election information List of candidates: Available at elections.sos.ga.gov/GAElection/CandidateDetails April 24: Deadline to register to vote April 30: In-person early voting begins May 22: Primary election July 24: Primary runoffs Nov 6: General election More information: Visit PoliticallyGeorgia.com for full coverage of Georgia’s key races.
  • Faced with hundreds of demonstrators rallying against a crowd of neo-Nazis in Newnan, local and state authorities turned to a little-known Georgia law adopted in 1951 to combat the Ku Klux Klan. The law, which makes it illegal to wear a mask at most public events, was cited in several of the arrests of counterdemonstrators who joined a protest Saturday against white supremacists. And the irony was not lost upon the organizers of the counterdemonstration, who were fuming Sunday that a law aimed at weakening white supremacists was used to arrest protesters who opposed a neo-Nazi rally. “They were trying to stop us, and we were trying to dial down the racist stuff,” said Jeremy Ortega, a 19-year-old who was among the counterprotesters charged with a misdemeanor for wearing a mask. He said many of the demonstrators wore masks to avoid being identified and threatened by white power groups. “We were peacefully protesting, yet they put guns in our faces and told us to take our masks off,” said Ortega, who added that he is considering filing a civil lawsuit. “It made no sense.” State and local authorities did not comment on specific allegations of abuse on Sunday. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the overwhelming security – nearly 700 law enforcement officers were on hand – helped prevent the clashes from escalating. “Making arrests in a volatile situation is never going to be pretty,” Keenan said. No one from the white supremacist group was arrested on Saturday, and they largely avoided confrontations with police or the counterdemonstration group. The two dozen white supremacists who attended the rally were separated from the group by an 8-foot fence – and hundreds of armed officers. ‘Remove your mask’ On Sunday, a coalition of counterprotest groups planned a vigil at the Coweta County Jail to criticize what they said was excessive violence by police. The Huffington Post reported that a contingent of officers approached a group of 50 counterdemonstrators before the rally and demanded they remove their masks or face arrests. The news outlet wrote that officers then “grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.” A video posted on social media by freelance journalist Daniel Shular appeared to show authorities scuffling with counterdemonstrators. Authorities demanded that the counterprotesters remove their masks, and the footage showed an officer raising his rifle at demonstrators. “Remove your mask, or you will be arrested,” said an officer in the video, which shows a ring of demonstrators standing with their hands raised aloft. Several are chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.” An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who attempted to report on the confrontation during the rally was obstructed by authorities. Several other counterdemonstrators faced violations that have nothing to do with the anti-mask law. Daniel Hanley was charged with obstruction of a pedestrian roadway after he said he nonviolently resisted a police officer who confronted him. He said he believes he was arrested because he was wielding a megaphone and leading chants against the white supremacists. “They were trying to find any pretext to shut us down,” said Hanley, 36, of the authorities. “The moment we stepped foot there, they intimated us and strategically tried to target people.” ‘Absolutely satisfied’ State law bans the wearing of masks, hoods or other devices that conceal a person’s identity if they’re on public property or on private property where the owner has not consented. It includes exceptions for holidays, theatrical productions, civil emergencies and sporting events. The laws have been adopted by about a dozen states, most aimed at weakening the KKK in the middle of the 20th century. The Georgia Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the state’s ban after a Klansman donned a hood on the Lawrenceville Square, citing his First Amendment rights. The law has mostly been used to target KKK demonstrations, though it has also been employed before to arrest demonstrators who are objecting to white power groups. At a 2016 rally, the law was used to arrest eight demonstrators protesting a white supremacist rally at Stone Mountain Park. In a strange turn, it was also was invoked ahead of a press conference last year at the Gold Dome, when supporters of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle threatened to hire performers in circus masks to interrupt a rival’s event. The clowns never showed up. Authorities said they were intent on enforcing that law and others as they studied how law enforcement officials handled white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 to prepare for the Newnan event. In Charlottesville, officers remained largely passive as bloody clashes raged around them, and the event soon spiraled out of control. One person was killed and dozens more were injured in the violence. “You have to have adequate resources and the intent to enforce the law,” said Keenan. “We had both.” He said officers made clear to both groups that masks and some weapons were not allowed. He said authorities found an abandoned backpack with smoke bombs at one checkpoint. State law allows demonstrators to carry firearms if they are licensed; on Saturday, several were spotted sporting firearms. “We maintained security. We would not let there be disorder. We didn’t have civil disorder, property damage. And we had just a few arrests,” Keenan said. “We are absolutely satisfied.” » RELATED: Reports from Newnan as the rally and counterprotest were underway » RELATED: How social media reacted » RELATED: In-depth look at how protest was contained
  • On Saturday, downtown Newnan was the uneasy host to a caustic mix of neo-Nazi demonstrators overwhelmed by counter-protesters and police. On Sunday, the city is set to stage an event organizers hope will help heal the community.  The “Peace in the Park” event will feature live music, speeches by local politicians and military veterans and a “Newnan Rocks” table where visitors can write inspirational messages on stones that will be hidden around the city, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.  The rally held Saturday was planned by the National Socialist Movement, a Detroit-based fascist organization that applied for a permit in March. City officials begrudgingly approved the request, though city and state leaders made clear they dreaded the event.  With nearly 700 law enforcement officers watching, about 25 neo-Nazis showed up an hour behind schedule to the rally. The group was separated from hundreds of protesters by an 8-foot fence and armed officers.  Read more: Overwhelming police presence mutes Newnan Nazi rally 
  • Atlanta Police are investigating a double shooting in Midtown Atlanta that left one person dead and another injured. The shooting took place shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday on 633 Parkway Drive.  Investigators told Channel 2 Action News they believe the shooting involved a gambling debt and that the other victim is being treated at Grady Memorial Hospital.   
  • About a half-million Piedmont Healthcare patients will have to find new healthcare providers to avoid out-of-network prices, after the the company and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia could not agree to new contract terms. The previous contract ended at midnight without a new deal, said Piedmont spokesman Matt Gove. The negotiations affected about a half-million current patients across the state. In recent days, a major group of customers received new insurance cards from Blue Cross with their doctor’s name replaced. More than 100 lawmakers received a letter Thursday from Piedmont suggesting that Blue Cross intended to end the contract. The insurance provider posted a note to its customers Friday detailing how they could be affected. Negotiations have gone down to the wire previously, but Piedmont has sued Blue Cross and its parent company, Anthem Inc., over a decision to no longer pay for some in-hospital MRIs and for emergency room visits the insurer deemed unwarranted. Read the full story here.
  • The last day of Georgia's 2018 legislative session, also known as Sine Die, is Thursday, March 29. All bills must pass before midnight to have a chance of becoming law. The day is known to be a frenzy, host Greg Bluestein said on the latest Politically Georgia podcast. “Lawmakers are notorious procrastinators. Every Sine Die seems like cramming before a final exam.” Guest and AJC veteran James Salzer estimated lawmakers vote more than 200 times on Sine Die, sometimes with only four minutes in-between, and compared the atmosphere in the chambers to that of a nightclub. “It’s very hectic. It means, inevitably, members are voting on things that they don’t read,” Salzer said. “I’ll go back and I’ll interview legislators and almost every year I hear, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was in there.’” Hear past Sine Die stories from Bluestein and Salzer and learn what to expect this year on this week’s episode.  Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher. You can also download or stream the episode below: Previous episodes: Everything you need to know about Georgia’s 2018 elections Amazon and Atlanta: The business and politics of Georgia’s HQ2 bid
  • A day after three former U.S. presidents paid tribute to Zell Miller, a pair of ex-governors presided over an executive state funeral for their friend at the state Capitol. Gov. Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue bid farewell Wednesday to the former U.S. senator and two-term governor who launched the state’s HOPE scholarship in a solemn ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. “To the family, let me just say thank you for being a part of his life, for being a part of the fabric that has made,” said Deal, who paused to fight back tears, “made our state great.” Perdue, who was elected to the first of two terms in 2002, said Miller’s rise in Georgia politics heralded “the beginning of a new era” for a state that was just muscling into its own. “Georgia was still really coming out of the old vestiges of the Depression, and many people still considered Georgia a backwater state,” said Perdue, who is now Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary. “He put Georgia on the rails to become a modern state.” It was the last of three memorials for Miller, who died Friday at the age of 86. He was honored at a ceremony in his hometown of Young Harris on Monday, and George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton each eulogized Miller Tuesday at an Atlanta church. Those services were emotional, but tinged with humor. Carter quipped about his “off and on” friendship with his sometimes-rival. And Bush joked about Miller’s high approval rating, saying “take it from me, that’s not typical for a politician.” The Wednesday service felt more formal. It was held in the Rotunda under tight security - Georgia State Patrol officers cordoned off parts of the building - and soft sobs could be heard when a bugler played “Taps” from a balcony. “In these sort of occasions, you like to tell funny stories and anecdotes about what happened. With Zell Miller, there weren’t many funny times – it was all business,” said Perdue. “If you were summoned to the second floor” – where the governor has his office – “you better be ready.” That happened to Perdue once when, as a state senator, he shifted money from a budget proposal that would have benefited the Savannah ports. Miller was furious. “I got called by the governor … that money got put back in as you might imagine.” The Capitol Rotunda was crowded with dignitaries who wanted to give Miller a last sendoff. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and former Sens. Sam Nunn and Max Cleland were there. So were former aides and advisers to Miller. Dozens of others in the quiet halls of the statehouse craned their necks to take in the ceremony. At the ceremony’s end, Miller’s wife Shirley and his son led a long procession out of the Capitol and into waiting cars, accompanied by music from a bagpipe. His remains were whisked to Cumming, where the family held one final service - this one, in private. Some back at the Capitol were left struggling for words. Said Perdue: “What do you say about the man who gave Georgia hope?” More recent AJC stories on Miller: The town that was everything in life to Zell Miller says goodbye  Three presidents lead a high-powered crowd at Zell Miller’s funeral  The 14 lessons Zell Miller wanted his family to know  Two Zell Miller stories that didn’t make his obit  An appreciation: How Zell Miller helped shape an AJC reporter’s life  
  • Gov. Nathan Deal gave a boost to a possible metro Atlanta transit expansion Tuesday, announcing the state will borrow up to $100 million for mass transit projects. The $100 million in transit bond money is included in the governor’s 2019 budget. It’s not clear from the announcement how the money will be spent. “In keeping up with the demands of a 21st-century economy and workforce, and in agreement with House and Senate leadership, we are allocating $100 million in bonds for transit funding,” the governor said in announcing the funding. “This investment will go a long way in reforming and addressing our transit system needs. Pending passage of a transportation bill I can sign, this funding will go into effect.” Deal’s announcement comes as a conference committee is hashing out legislation that could pave the way for the biggest transit expansion in metro Atlanta in decades. House Bill 930 and Senate Bill 386 would allow 13 metro counties to impose transit sales taxes of up to 1 percent. The bills also would create a board to oversee transit construction and funding in a 13-county area. The board would have the final say over the project lists that any county submitted for voter approval. Significant state funding of mass transit – the kind Deal announced Tuesday – would be a big incentive for counties to participate. Georgia ranks 27th among states in transit funding – spending about $14.5 million annually. In 2015 the state allocated $75 million in one-time grants for transit capital improvements. Deal also announced other budget initiatives, including an additional $167 million for K-12 education. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC's David Wickert keeps you updated on the latest in what’s happening with transportation in metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: Should Georgia crack down on distracted drivers? Pro and con Florida bridge collapse: GDOT says Georgia bridges are safe New MARTA CEO must juggle expansions, other challenges Never miss a minute of what's happening in Atlanta transportation news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.
  • Former Presidents George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton paid their final respects to former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller at his Tuesday funeral, lacing their speeches with emotional - and, at times, humorous - memories of the Democrat.   The three ex-presidents joined hundreds of mourners at the service at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. Bryan Miller, who launched an institute that fosters bipartisanship in his grandfather’s honor, preceded the three presidents by detailing the 14 lessons the politician shared with close relatives when he turned 70. The ceremony on Tuesday is the second in a trio of memorials for Miller, who died Friday at the age of 86. Hundreds gathered in his hometown of Young Harris to pay tribute to the politician, who engineered the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten program and later served in the U.S. Senate.  After the funeral, Miller’s remains were brought to the Capitol where he will lie in state until an executive state funeral on Wednesday. All the memorials are public. We’ll be providing live updates throughout the event below.  *** 12:51 p.m. - The funeral ended and friends, family and mourners filed out of the church. Carter and Bush left out of a side entrance, while Clinton kibitzed with the crowd for a few minutes. *** 12:30 p.m. - Shortly before the funeral ended, pastor Don Harp encouraged mourners to read the AJC column by Jim Galloway about how Miller made up with journalist Bill Shipp before his death. “Mending fences takes a lot of grace,” said Harp. Read it here. *** 12:05 p.m. - Clinton said he felt an immense “personal debt” to Miller, and he recounted a 1991 visit to the governor’s mansion where the two stayed up until 3 a.m. chatting about his presidential ambitions. Miller’s advice was two-fold: If you want to run for president, you need to call Paul Begala and James Carville. And you need to give shorter speeches. “Well, I took 50 percent of the advice,” he said to chuckles. “So began a long relationship. I never won a primary election until we got to Georgia.”  He added: “I not only liked Zell Miller, I admired him.”  Clinton urged mourners to look beyond the HOPE scholarship, beyond the pre-K program, beyond his stint in the U.S. Senate and his convention speeches and remember the simple fact that Miller “never forgot where he came from.” “A life in politics,” Clinton added, “is about other people.”  As he closed, he looked to Miller’s widow and said he hoped his speech has “somewhat repaid his gifts and kindness to me.” Turning to the casket, Clinton bid his old friend farewell.  “My friend, you are finally home. You fought the good fight.”  *** 11:55 a.m. - Carter, who had an often strained relationship with Miller, nodded to their tumultuous past almost as soon as he took the podium. “I’ve been friends with Zell Miller – off and on – for 55 years,” he said to laughs. He added: “Zell Miller was very outspoken as you know ... maybe if I got him to speak at my second convention, I would have been re-elected, too.”  Carter said Miller might be the most important governor for education policy in the state’s history, and that the two bonded in later years when they both served on Mercer University’s board.  “He was one of the best public servants we’ve ever seen in Georgia,” he said.  *** 11:45 a.m. - Bush opened his speech with a quip, wondering aloud how many governors have had three presidents eulogize their funeral. “He really was one of a kind,” said Bush. Then he gave some insight about why he trekked to Atlanta for the memorial. “In 2004, Zell stood up to speak for me,” said Bush, invoking his 2004 speech to the Republican National Convention. “Now it’s my honor to speak for him.” He talked about how Miller once wore blue jeans to the Atlanta Opera, how he got into politics because of his family’s love of politics, about his 85 percent approval rating after his stint in Georgia’s top office.  “Take it from me,” said Bush to laughter, “that’s not typical for a politician.” The ex-president said Miller asked for no favors or special treatment after he bucked his party to support Bush, aside from a spot on a national battlefield commission.  “He never forgot where he came from, or where he’s headed,” he said, adding: “His life is a testament to all that is good, and all that is possible to the country we love.” *** 11:35 a.m. -  Miller’s grandson, Bryan Miller, preceded the three presidents with an emotional speech that included a personal letter that his grandfather wrote to family members in February 2002 when he turned 70. Inside, were 14 lessons he wanted to share with those closest to him. Here are a few:  Do not be afraid to fail while going after something you really want. You will always learn from it. Never give up. Persistence will overcome everything else. I guarantee it.  If you listen more than you talk, you will not only learn more, but people will think you are smarter, not dumber, than you really are.  For every action there is a consequence – always. It can be a good consequence or a bad one, but it will come just as sure as night follows the day.  Use frequently but sincerely the words, “I’m sorry”, “Thank you”, and “I love you.”  Keep a good sense of humor, and laugh at yourself more than you do others.  And this punchy one: Those who teach lessons are not smart or know everything. They’ve just lived a long time.  *** 11:10 a.m. - Miller’s flag-draped casket was carried solemnly down the sanctuary’s center aisle as the funeral began.  Carter, Clinton and Bush sat beside each other in the front row, alongside Gov. Nathan Deal and his wife Sandra and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.  Behind them sat dozens of Georgia dignitaries and friends, relatives and students of Miller. On the opposite aisle, Miller’s closest family members and confidants sat front-and-center. *** 10:55 a.m. - The three former presidents walked together into the sanctuary minutes before the service began. Outside the church, traffic was disrupted as the procession began. *** 10:15 a.m. - A who’s who of Georgia political leaders is now gathering to pay last respects. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Gov. Nathan Deal, former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, U.S. Rep. David Scott, former U.S. Rep. John Barrow and Attorney General Chris Carr are among the dignitaries.  So are several candidates for governor, including Stacey Evans, a former Democratic state lawmaker, and Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp. More state officials and candidates are also expected at Wednesday’s event.  The arrangements for the three memorials are being handled by another politico: Bubba McDonald, the owner of a funeral home and a member of the Public Service Commission. In 1990, he ran as a Democrat against Miller for the party’s nomination with the support of Miller’s arch-rival: Then-House Speaker Tom Murphy. The two made up years ago; as governor, Miller appointed McDonald to a vacant seat on the PSC.  *** 9:45 a.m. - We just got a copy of the order of worship at Miller’s funeral. Bush, Carter and Clinton will speak in that order. Here’s a little more on that from our AJC colleague Jim Galloway:   “Amazing Grace” is on the program, a standard at Southern funerals well suited to a man more than conversant in the language of country music. But remember that Miller once proposed a program that issued every newborn a cassette tape or CD of Mozart or Bach, intended to stimulate nascent intellects. The final piece of music at today’s service: The “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah,” to be sung by the Georgia Boy Choir. Here’s betting that Miller himself had a hand in that choice. 9:30 a.m. - Miller was a close friend and adviser to Bill Clinton. He was an outspoken supporter of George W. Bush. He made nominating speeches for both of them at their party conventions.  But he had a far more strained relationship with the third ex-president who will speak at his Tuesday service in Atlanta. Find out why he and Jimmy Carter often tussled in the Morning Jolt.  *** 8:55 a.m. - Miller left a lasting imprint on plenty of reporters, too.  AJC investigative editor Ken Foskett, who once covered the statehouse, remembers Miller’s driven - and funny - side. Another ex-Atlanta reporter shared two stories too edgy to make his obituary. And I wrote about how he played a forceful role in shaping my life, even though I never met him.   

News

  • Jurors in the Tex McIver murder trial told Channel 2 Action News it took a lot of compromise to reach a verdict. The 12-person panel deliberated for four days before finally reaching a verdict Monday afternoon. They found the Atlanta attorney guilty of murdering his wife, Diane, as they rode in their SUV in September 2016. They also found him guilty of trying to influence a witness, Dani Jo Carter, who was driving the SUV at the time of the shooting. Earlier Monday it appeared that a verdict might never come when jurors told the judge they were deadlocked and couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on four of the five counts. The judge sent them back, telling them they needed to keep deliberating and continue to try for a verdict. RELATED STORIES: 5 things to know about Diane McIver Juror breakdown for the Tex McIver murder trial Tex McIver found guilty of murdering his wife A breakdown of the verdict in the Tex McIver trial After the trial ended, Channel 2 Action News spoke with some of the jurors outside the courthouse.  'It definitely took a lot of compromise on both sides of where we were with our deliberations,' juror Aubrey Gray said. 'There was definitely a point where we did not think we were going to get to guilt or innocence.” He said after the judge read them the Allen charge Monday afternoon, telling them they needed to keep deliberating and try to reach a verdict, they re-examined their positions and were able to come to a unanimous decision. “(We were able to) specifically look at the evidence, take away any emotion that we had, and that’s how we came up with our guilty verdict on four of the five counts,” Gray said. Gray said he was back and forth for much of deliberations. “I was in both camps for a while, flip-flopping sides, trying to come to a rational decision,” he said. Gray said there were several “gun experts” on the jury, who helped them talk through many of the questions. [SPECIAL SECTION: Tex McIver Trial] “That was one of our contingents the entire time, why was his hand, particularly his finger, on the trigger. And one of the key things for us, we had to look back at his statements to police when he said the gun just went off, and we finally decided that a gun just doesn’t go off,” Gray said. “It was not an accident. His hand was on the trigger. Guns just don’t go off.” Another juror, Lakeisha Boyd, said the deciding factor for her was also the finger on the trigger, and holding the gun inside the car. “We went back down to the vehicle. We were able to take the firearm to the vehicle and were able to test it out ourselves,” she said. Boyd said, at the end of the day, they did their job. “Justice was served,” she said.
  • The Latest on the White House visit of French President Emmanuel Macron (all times local): 1:20 p.m. President Donald Trump says U.S. troops will come home from Syria, but he wants to leave a 'strong and lasting footprint' in the region. Trump's comment signaled a softening in tone. Trump was insisting just a few weeks ago that he wanted to pull out U.S. troops and leave the job of rebuilding Syria to others in the region. Asked about his timeline for bringing the troops home, Trump reiterated his desire to exit Syria. But he also said that he and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that neither of them wants to give Iran more of an opening in the region. Trump said 'we'll see what happens but we're going to be coming home relatively soon.' He commented during a White House news conference Tuesday with Macron, who is on a state visit to the U.S. ___ 1:15 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says he's confident about the future of his country's trading relationship with the U.S. He says it's good when allies work together. Macron says in a joint news conference with President Donald Trump that trade is balanced between the two countries and he's suggesting all nations follow the rules of the World Trade Organization. The French president has been critical of Trump's protectionist moves on trade in recent weeks and has called upon the U.S. to exempt European nations from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. ___ 1 p.m. President Donald Trump is thanking French President Emmanuel Macron for his partnership on the recent missile strikes against chemical weapons in Syria and the fight against terrorism. Trump says at a joint White House news conference that he will soon be meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He says the U.S. won't 'repeat the mistakes of past administrations' and will pressure the North Korean regime. Macron is pointing to the need for the Iran nuclear deal. He says he wants to work on a new deal in the weeks and months ahead. Macron says any new agreement would need to block any nuclear activity in Iran through 2025, cease any uranium activity and put an end to the country's ballistic missiles program. ___ 12:16 p.m. A pair of designers is responsible for Melania Trump's white skirt suit and matching hat. The first lady's office says Michael Kors designed the two-piece suit that Mrs. Trump wore for Tuesday's White House arrival ceremony for President Emmanuel Macron of France and his wife, Brigitte. Mrs. Trump also wore the suit on an outing to the National Gallery of Art in Washington with Mrs. Macron. The first lady topped her outfit with a broad-brimmed white hat designed by Herve Pierre. Pierre designed the first lady's inaugural ball gown. The white hat quickly became the talk of the town, as well as on Twitter. Mrs. Trump typically doesn't wear hats. Still to come is Tuesday night's piece de resistance: the first lady's state dinner gown. ___ 10:40 a.m. President Donald Trump is warning that if Iran restarts its nuclear program it 'will have bigger problems than they have ever had before.' Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will be discussing the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday during their meetings at the White House. Macron wants Trump to maintain the deal. Trump is undecided but has called it 'a terrible deal.' Though Trump has warmly welcomed Macron to Washington, the two have disagreements to sort through, including Trump's decision to leave the multinational Paris climate change agreement. While with Macron, Trump refused to answer a reporter's question as to whether he is considering a pardon for his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose office was raided by the FBI. Trump called it 'a stupid question.' Cohen has not been charged. ___ 9:54 a.m. French President Emmanuel Macron is highlighting the close ties between his nation and the United States during his visit to the White House. Macron, standing alongside President Donald Trump Tuesday, said 'America represents endless possibilities for my country.' He also told Trump that 'France shares with your country an ideal of freedom and peace.' Macron touted how the French fought alongside George Washington during the American Revolution, which laid the blueprint for cooperation between the nations. The French president, who enjoys a closer relationship with Trump than many of his European peers, said that France works alongside the U.S. on challenges like terrorism, North Korea and Iran. He is expected to lobby Trump to maintain the Iran nuclear deal and reconsider the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. ___ 9:30 a.m. President Donald Trump is sending prayers to the Bush family and wishing former President George H.W. Bush a 'speedy recovery.' Trump is recognizing the former president as he greets French President Emmanuel Macron on the South Lawn of the White House. Bush has been hospitalized in Houston with an infection, just days after attending the funeral of his wife, Barbara Bush. Trump is also sending the nation's sympathies to the Canadian people following the 'horrendous tragedy' in Toronto. A driver plowed a rented van along a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 15 others. Trump says the nation's hearts are with the grieving families in Canada. ___ 9:25 a.m. President Donald Trump says the 'wonderful friendship' he has developed with French President Emmanuel Macron is a testament to two nations' enduring alliance. Trump is thanking Macron for his 'steadfast partnership' in responding to the recent chemical attack in Syria. The president is speaking at an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump and Macron are meeting Tuesday on a number of issues, including the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the crisis in Syria. The two leaders are holding a joint news conference later in the morning and then Macron will be honored with Trump's first state dinner. ___ 9 a.m. President Donald Trump is welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House in a formal arrival ceremony. The president and first lady are greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, on rolled-out red carpet on the South Lawn. The arrival is heavy on pomp, with nearly 500 U.S. service-members from all five military branches participating in the ceremonial welcome, which includes a 'Review of the Troops.' Vice President Mike Pence and several members of Trump's Cabinet, lawmakers, and military families are in attendance. The audience includes students from the Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Temple Hills, Maryland. The two leaders are spending the morning in meetings and then will hold a joint news conference. On Tuesday night, Macron will be feted at Trump's first state dinner. ___ 12:50 a.m. A sit-down between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron followed by a joint news conference highlight the business portion of the French leader's second day in Washington. The pageantry of Macron's official state visit, the first of the Trump presidency, comes Tuesday night with a lavish state dinner at the White House. About 150 guests are expected to dine on rack of lamb and nectarine tart and enjoy an after-dinner performance by the Washington National Opera. Monday night was more relaxed, featuring a helicopter tour of Washington landmarks and a trip to the Potomac River home of George Washington for dinner. Pomp and ceremony aside, Trump and Macron disagree on some fundamental issues. A prime dividing point is the multinational Iran nuclear deal, which Trump wants to abandon.
  • To the Trump administration, the recovered missile fragments were incontrovertible proof that Iran was illicitly arming Yemen's Houthi rebels. Yet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif brushed it off Tuesday as little more than cheese puffs. During a visit to New York, the Iranian diplomat accused U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of displaying fabricated evidence that missiles lobbed by the Houthis at civilian areas in Saudi Arabia originated in Iran. Though Tehran supports the Shiite rebel group, it firmly denies giving them missiles. But Haley has invited journalists and U.N. Security Council diplomats to inspect missile parts recovered after strikes on Saudi Arabia, bearing what U.S. military officials said were Iranian markings and characteristics. Zarif, in an Associated Press interview, said that one such logo was from the Standard Institute of Iran, which he said regulates consumer goods — not weapons. 'It's a sign of quality,' Zarif said. 'When people want to buy it, they look at whether it's been tested by the Standard Institute of Iran that your cheese puffs are good, your cheese puffs will not give you a stomach ache.' He laughed and added, 'I mean, nobody will put the logo of the Standard Institute of Iran on a piece of missile.' Zarif also pointed to a truck-size section of a missile that the U.S. said was recovered in Saudi Arabia and was transferred to a military base near Washington, where it was on display behind Haley for a photo-op. Zarif noted that the missile had been supposedly shot down in mid-air. 'I'm not saying Ambassador Haley is fabricating, but somebody is fabricating the evidence she is showing,' Zarif said. Some of the fragments Haley presented, if authentic, would seem to implicate Iran's military industry more directly, including some with the logo of Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense entity under U.S. sanctions. Haley said others had clear 'Iranian missile fingerprints,' such as short-range ballistic missiles that lacked large stabilizers — a feature she said only Iran's Qiam missiles have. 'Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London or Berlin,' Haley told reporters late last year. 'That's what we're talking about here.' Tehran's denials aside, there's broad agreement among the United Nations, Western countries and the Persian Gulf's Arab leaders that Iran has armed the Houthis with ballistic missiles, even though U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit it. With U.S. support, a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen's civil war has been bombing the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen. Yet Iran's opponents have struggled to provide foolproof evidence to back up their claims, creating an opening for Iran to deny. After Haley's presentations at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, some national security experts raised questions, even drawing parallels to Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003 speech to the U.N. making the case for the Iraq War. The fragments Haley presented were turned over to the U.S. by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — two of Iran's fiercest critics — and U.S. military officials had trouble tracing the fragments' chain of custody. Nor could they say when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis or in some cases precisely when they were launched.
  • A woman with multiple sclerosis says Delta Air Lines employees tied her to her wheelchair because she can’t sit up on her own and they didn’t have the chair she needed. >> Watch the news report here Maria Saliagas travels to Europe with her husband every year. When she was diagnosed with MS five years ago, she didn’t want to break her tradition of traveling with her husband. >> Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure She said Delta normally accommodates her by making sure staff members have a proper wheelchair that has straps to help her sit up straight. When she flew out of Atlanta on April 1 and arrived in Amsterdam, Delta didn’t have a chair with straps, so employees tied her to a regular wheelchair with someone else’s blanket, said her son, Nathan Saliagas. >> Memorial service held for woman killed during Southwest Airlines flight “They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it, and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying. That’s when that picture was taken,” Saliagas said. A Delta representative sent WSB-TV a statement about the incident, saying:  “We regret the perception our service has left on these customers. We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations.” >> Read more trending news  The family returns to Atlanta on April 30. When the family complained to Delta, they said the airline offered them 20,000 free SkyMiles, but they said that's not enough.  They want to see a policy change regarding how Delta handles passengers with disabilities.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.” Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. “As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017. Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan. The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated. “The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices. “It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote. THREAD 1. The backgrounds and perspectives of those articulating arguments against the travel ban in #TrumpvHawaii are remarkable in their breadth and diversity. Their chorus is deafening: the ban is unconstitutional, unprecedented, unnecessary and un-American. — Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) April 24, 2018 Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months. On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings. “DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision. Judge Bates (DDC) finds DACA rescission unlawful (but note the different remedy than in prior cases; Judge Bates vacates the rescission, but stays it for 90 days to allow admin to offer a justification that might support the policy): https://t.co/ZfPkiBciYr — Leah Litman (@LeahLitman) April 24, 2018 As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.
  • It took a big money push from the Republican Party, tweets by the president and the support of the state's current and former governors, but the GOP held onto an Arizona U.S. House seat they would have never considered endangered in any other year. Tuesday's narrow victory by Republican Debbie Lesko over a Democratic political newcomer sends a big message to Republicans nationwide: Even the reddest of districts in a red state can be in play this year. Early returns show Lesko winning by about 5 percentage points in Arizona's 8th Congressional District where Donald Trump won by 21 percentage points. The former state senator defeated Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician who had hoped to replicate surprising Democratic wins in Pennsylvania, Alabama and other states in a year where opposition to President Trump's policies have boosted the party's chances in Republican strongholds. Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin called Tuesday's special election margin 'not good' for national Republicans looking at their chances in November. 'They should clean house in this election,' said Coughlin, longtime adviser to former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. 'There's a drag on the midterms for Republican candidates that's being created by the national narrative. And it would be very hard to buck that trend if you're in swing districts, much less close districts, if you can't change that narrative between now and November.' Lesko replaces former Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican who resigned in December amid sexual misconduct allegations. A former aide told The Associated Press that he pressed her to carry his child as a surrogate and offered her $5 million. The district sprawls across western Phoenix suburbs, covering some of the most conservative areas of the red state, including the retirement community of Sun City. At a victory party in her Glendale neighborhood, Lesko greeted supporters and looked back in wonder. 'I've really come a long way and this is really quite overwhelming, it's very surreal,' she said. 'Twenty-five years ago I left an abusive husband and I sure as heck never would have dreamt in a million years that I would be running for Congress to be a congresswoman.' Brewer, who backed Lesko and was at her victory party, also warned that Republicans need to make changes if they want to hold the district and other seats in November elections. 'I think all Republicans need to wake up and listen to what the public wants,' she said. 'Before November, we're going to have to work very hard. We're going to have to listen to our constituents.' Tipirneni worked the district hard, making inroads rarely seen in an area that hadn't elected a Democrat since the early 1980s. She was seen as a fresh Democratic face with relatively moderate views that could get support in the district. Making a push for older voters, she had said Lesko would vote to go after entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts that mainly benefit the wealthy. She's pushed a plan to allow some people to buy into Medicare. Tipirneni said she plans to run in November's general election and told supporters not to give up the cause. She said that despite the big Republican advantage in the district, the results show people were ready for a change. 'We have a very short amount of time, and clearly Ms. Lesko she had the registration numbers a little bit in her favor and she also had the name recognition,' Tipirneni said. 'But given more time I know we can get more folks on our side.' The Associated Press called the race for Lesko after state officials released tallies of more than 155,000 mail-in ballots, which represent about 75 percent of the votes expected. National Republican groups spent big to back Lesko, pouring in more than $500,000 in the suburban Phoenix district for television and mail ads and phone calls to voters. On Election Day, Trump and current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey urged Republicans to go to the polls and vote for Lesko. National Democratic groups, meanwhile, didn't commit money to the race, a sign they didn't believe the seat was in play. Several Republican voters who spoke with AP said they backed Lesko primarily because she supported Trump's border security plans. David Hunt, a 64-year-old retired construction and warehouse worker from Glendale, said he cast his vote Tuesday for Lesko because he believed that immigrants in the country illegally are creating unfair competition for jobs for recent high school students in Arizona. 'She's the best candidate to deal with the porous border,' Hunt said. His views were echoed by Larry Bettis, a retiree from Glendale. 'Immigration - the fence,' Bettis said. 'That's all I really care about.' Democrats said they wanted to send a message to Trump and supported Democratic health care plans. 'I don't like the president and felt it was time to take a stand,' said Nikole Allen, a 45-year-old medical assistant from New York now living in Glendale. 'It's time for us to vote the Republicans out.