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Georgia Politics

    A majority of Georgians disapprove of President Donald Trump’s performance in the White House and he appears to be facing a hard fight against each of the five top Democratic candidates seeking to replace him, according to an exclusive Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll. In head-to-head matchups, former Vice President Joe Biden ran strongest against Trump, leading the president 51% to 43%, fueled by solid support from women and independents. Other matchups against South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are much tighter. The findings provide an early snapshot of the developing race in Georgia one year out from the election and strengthens claims that the state will be a 2020 battleground. » Interactive: See poll results » Related: How — and why — we conducted this poll » Related: Georgians support impeachment inquiry, split on Trump ouster » PDF: Complete poll crosstabs The poll highlighted the sharp degree of polarization around Trump, who is the focus of public impeachment hearings that begin Wednesday. About 54% of registered Georgia voters disapprove of his record while 44% approve. It also shows the unsettled nature of U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s quest for a second term in 2020. Though about 50% of Georgians approve of his job performance, only about one-third say they’d support him in next year’s election. A bigger group — 41% — say their choice depends on who the Democratic nominee is. The findings help illustrate the political challenges facing both parties as Democrats target Georgia as a 2020 battleground, aiming to flip both U.S. Senate seats up for grabs next year and carry the state in a presidential election for the first time since Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory. The poll was conducted Oct. 30 to Nov. 8 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. For Democrats, the most encouraging finding might be the shift of independents, a largely white bloc of voters that has traditionally leaned Republican. A majority of independents support the impeachment inquiry, and about 60% disapprove of Trump’s job performance. Republicans are buoyed by signs that Trump is further consolidating GOP support, with 87% of Republicans contributing to an increase in his overall favorability rating to 42%. A broad majority of conservatives also opposes the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. And Gov. Brian Kemp’s popularity continues to rise: Some 54% of Georgia voters give him a favorable review one year since he won the election, up from 46% in April and 37% in January. That includes most women and about one-fifth of Democrats. His job approval rating was about the same. That echoes a generally positive view of Georgia’s direction. While about 61% of voters say they’re not satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. — including one-third who are “very” dissatisfied — voters are sunnier about Georgia’s outlook: About 60% are keen on the way things are going. Still, many voters fear darker economic clouds are threatening. About 55% of voters describe the economy as “excellent” or “good,” and one-third say it’s “fair.” But a majority – 54% — worry that a recession is likely in the next year. Not ‘perfect’ Those concerns join a swirl of other factors that will influence next year’s race for president, but Trump might loom largest. Democrats remain overwhelmingly opposed to the president, with about 90% “strongly” disapproving of him. Among them is Albert Ross of Savannah, who is leaning toward Biden but said he’s willing to support anyone else on the ballot to ensure Trump is a one-term president. “I wouldn’t vote for him if he was giving reparations,” said Ross, who is black. At the same time, Republican support appears to be strengthening for the president. In April, an AJC poll found 83% of GOP voters had a favorable impression of Trump. In November, that rose to roughly 87% of voters who strongly or somewhat approve of him. Beverly Hales, a retired preschool teacher from Canton, said she plans to support Trump because of low unemployment rates and support for the military — and she is willing to overlook what she considers his shortcomings. “I know he is not a perfect person; none of them are,” Hales said. “But I think he has done good for the country.” Each of the five potential Democratic presidential candidates tested in the AJC poll had strong support among women and voters under age 45, areas of traditional strength for Democrats in Georgia. But Biden fared better than his counterparts among independents, with 46% of the vote, and with white voters, tallying 34% of the vote. He and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders also performed best with men, each notching 42% of the male vote in hypothetical matchups against Trump. Apart from Biden’s 8-point edge in the head-to-head matchups, none of the other Democrats tested in the AJC survey have clear leads over Trump. The poll also suggests that Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive, could face a tight race. In a contest against an unnamed Democratic opponent, about 35% of voters back Perdue, including about three-quarters of Republicans. One-fifth of voters will back the Democrat. But the plurality of voters say they are in wait-and-see mode depending on who his Democratic opponent is. That includes two-thirds of independents and a majority of voters who consider themselves moderates or slightly conservative. Who Perdue will face remains an open question: Four well-known Democrats are competing for the nomination, and more candidates could join the contest before the May primary. ‘Pretty cautious’ The poll points to deep unpopularity of the Medicare for All plan to provide government-funded health care, which some Democrats say can be achieved without raising taxes on middle-class Americans. Both Sanders and Warren have made Medicare for All a main focus of their plans. Only 40% of Georgia voters support the idea, compared with 53% who oppose it. Independent voters are almost evenly split on the issue, and nearly one-third of Democrats say it’s a bad idea. Republicans, on the other hand, are nearly united in their opposition, with more than 80% against it. The lean toward more government programs factors into Anthony Quadagno’s 2020 calculus. He considers himself a “Reagan conservative” and is concerned with some of Trump’s behavior, but he plans to vote for him in 2020. “He backpedals a lot,” said Quadagno, who lives in Marietta. “I don’t know if I believe him. But I just think the Democratic candidates, they’re leaning way toward socialism and that scares me.” Democrats, meanwhile, are careful not to let a sense of enthusiasm about defeating Trump get to their heads. Flannery Williams, a gerontology student from Lilburn, described a tentative mood going into next year’s election. “It could go either way, but I’m pretty cautious about 2020,” she said. “I’d love to think it’s going great, but I thought the last election was going great — and I was very surprised when Trump won.”
  • A majority of Georgia voters approve of the Democratic-led impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, but they are more divided over whether he should be ousted from office, according to an exclusive Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Tuesday. The poll found that nearly 54% of registered Georgia voters approve of the impeachment inquiry into whether Trump tried to enlist Ukraine to open investigations into his political opponents. That’s compared with 44% of voters who oppose and 2% who don’t know or refused to answer. Asked whether he should be removed from office, Georgians were almost evenly split: About 47% say he should be removed, about 47% say he should not, and about 6% did not answer or didn’t know. Those are the findings from the latest AJC poll, which was conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs amid the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into the president. » Interactive: See poll results » Related: How — and why — we conducted this poll » Related: Trump faces tough re-election fight in Georgia » PDF: Complete poll crosstabs It mirrors a growing collection of national polls that show the country is divided along political lines on impeachment, an issue that will attract even more attention Wednesday when the U.S. House holds the first in a series of public hearings after weeks of closed-door testimony. The poll, which was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8, has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. The findings reflected the partisan warfare that’s dominated the public discussion about removing Trump from office. Support for impeachment is overwhelming among Georgia Democrats, with 94% in favor and only 6% opposed. Among Republicans, the opposition to impeachment is almost as strong, with 86% opposing impeachment and about 13% in favor. Independents are more split: About 55% approve of the inquiry and 43% disapprove. The results tighten when voters are pressed on whether Trump should be removed from office after impeachment. About 88% of Democrats say he should be ousted, a slightly lower proportion than support impeachment, while a higher percentage of Republicans say Trump should remain in office. The poll found 90% of Republicans oppose removing him from office, while 8% support it. A slim majority of independents also oppose Trump’s ouster, with 51% against removing him and 40% in support. ‘Strife and stress’ That sharp divide is no mystery to Flannery Williams, a gerontology student from Lilburn who begrudgingly admires Trump’s deep reservoir of support. She marvels at Trump’s “my way or the highway” mentality, which she said helps cocoon him from fallout over impeachment. “He’s broken many, many laws over the course of his presidency,” she said. “And the fact that he is president has given him leeway to do it.” The president’s Georgia backers echoed the rhetoric from many Republican politicians by describing impeachment as a politicized attempt to thwart Trump. Darryl Douglass, an information technology worker from Jonesboro, said he’s seen no evidence yet warranting Trump’s removal from office. “It’s all a political stunt because the Democrats have a hard time grasping that they’re losing the 2020 election,” he said. “Over the next couple of years, they’re going to come to grips with the fact that Trump will be sitting in the Oval Office in 2021 — and they can’t do anything about it.” Some Georgia voters are rallying behind Democrats who are leading the inquiry. Deby Glidden, an Atlanta consultant, is among the independents who say Trump should be removed from office. “He’s run afoul of everything this country stands for, including requesting political interference from other countries. I think that’s treason,” said Glidden, who once considered herself a Republican. “And there’s basis for impeachment with all of the testimony that’s been given so far.” Others worry that Congress is too focused on impeaching Trump while ignoring other demanding issues. Vivian E. Johnson, a college chaplain, said she wants Congress to expand health care access and create new ways to help recent graduates find work. “Impeachment is not going to make any difference. There are so many other things that we need to be focused on, and impeachment will divert us,” she said. “It’s causing a lot of strife and stress out there. This is just not the time.”
  • Three years after challenging black voters to shrug off support for Democrats and back him, President Donald Trump used Atlanta as a staging ground for a new African American outreach initiative that he said would be a key part of his 2020 re-election bid.  Surrounded by roughly 400 supporters, including some who were from out of state, the president on Friday invoked the refrain he repeated so often during the 2016 campaign in front of largely white crowds as an appeal to African American voters: “What the hell do you have to lose?”  Those who took the gamble and supported him, Trump said, were rewarded with criminal justice initiatives, low black unemployment rates and staunch opposition to abortion, he said at the launch of his Black Voices for Trump group. Democrats, he countered, can only come up with empty promises.  “Under Democratic politicians, African Americans have become forgotten — literally forgotten — Americans,” Trump told the crowd, a mostly black audience that also included much of the Georgia GOP’s top leadership. “Under my administration, they’ve become forgotten no longer.” Photos: Donald Trump visits Georgia More: Demonstrators take to Atlanta streets Friday to protest Trump visit More: Here’s what ‘Black Voices for Trump’ supporters are saying about Trump’s Atlanta visit Outside the cramped Georgia World Congress Center, hundreds gathered to protest the president, waving signs mocking his agenda or supporting his impeachment. Some got into shouting matches with Trump supporters. And earlier in the day, several of Georgia’s most prominent Democratic leaders assailed his presidency.  State Sen. Nikema Williams, the Atlanta-based chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Trump was bringing his “backward agenda to Georgia to pretend like his actions haven’t been a disaster for the black community and marginalized communities across this entire country.”  “In Georgia, we know better on issues from health care to criminal justice to education to basic respect, Donald Trump has failed to be a president for all Americans, especially Americans from marginalized backgrounds,” Williams said Friday morning.  Trump is trying to improve on dismal support among black voters. Just 8% of them cast ballots for him nationwide in 2016. And a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that only 4% of African Americans think Trump’s actions and policies have benefited black people.  Angeline Payne, who lives in South Fulton, said she attended the event to support Trump and “rally and recruit” black voters. More African Americans need to get engaged in politics and stop letting others tell them how to vote, she said.  “If you live in America, you’re involved,” said Payne, 58. “So you should get educated. Find out about the parties, where the parties came from, how they represent you, and then make a decision on what party you want to be and don’t let somebody tell you what party you’re in.”  Payne, who teaches financial literacy, said when voters aren’t engaged they just align with a party by default. “And if you’re not looking at the other side and seeing what they’re doing,” she said, “do you really want to be represented by that?” ‘Awfully bad’  The event was nothing like the last time Trump appeared at the Georgia World Congress Center, when thousands of his supporters thronged a vast concrete ballroom in 2016 for a rally memorable in part because the lights briefly went out.  Friday’s event was held in a far smaller room in the convention center and was open to only those who had invitations, leaving some of the president’s backers waiting outside for a chance to see him speak.  It started with an excerpt of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem that’s often referred to as the black national anthem, which caused a stir on social media with critics who called it disingenuous.  Trump was preceded by Vice President Mike Pence, who told the crowd of the sweep of black Republicans who were elected to office during the Reconstruction era and said that the GOP, from Abraham Lincoln to Dwight Eisenhower, has advocated for black Americans.  Then came U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the only African American member of Trump’s Cabinet, who drew a rousing ovation when he told the crowd that if “Trump is a racist, he’s an awfully bad one.”  That contrasted with the message from Williams and other Democratic legislators, who blasted the president’s play for black voters and said their party is best positioned to meet the needs of communities of color. The Rev. Timothy McDonald, a civil rights leader and pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, closed the news conference Friday morning with a scathing rebuke of Trump’s latest effort to woo black voters.  “To launch a program that he thinks is going to cause black people to vote for him is outrageous, it is insane and it is a slap in the face of all Americans of goodwill,” McDonald said. “This man’s rhetoric and his agenda have taken our country backward, not forward, to a time when there was much pain that existed.” ‘Why not?’  Although Trump’s event targeted black voters, the audience was peppered with influential white politicians from Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, and U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, Buddy Carter and Jody Hice were all in the building. Each was also singled out by Trump.  The crowd was also dotted with local black conservatives. Among the attendees was Herman Cain, the former presidential hopeful; Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Melvin Everson, a former state legislator.  The event served as a reunion of sorts for black Trump supporters from across the nation. Political adviser Katrina Pierson named over a dozen states she said attendees hailed from, including Georgia, Florida, Ohio and Texas. “You forgot Arkansas!” a few people shouted.  Trump gave one of the most prominent speaking slots, though, to a lesser-known supporter: Kelvin King, an Atlanta contractor and Air Force veteran who credited Trump’s economic agenda for helping his business thrive and thanked the president for “making the black community a priority.”  “Our future success depends on our success in ignoring the distractions we see on a daily basis,” King said. “Don’t sit on the sidelines because of emotions or feelings.”  David Solomon, who came to the event from Miami, is the type of voter that Trump is hoping to win over. He said he was drawn to Trump because of his support for school choice and opposition to abortion, and that he plans to challenge other black voters to question their party ideology.  “Why not try something different?” he said. “We’ve already given them a shot for 50-some-odd years, and what have they done for us?” Bria Felicien contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump is headed to Atlanta on Friday for a one-day trip that includes a roundtable discussion with donors who signed six-figure checks, a fundraiser to boost U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s re-election bid and the rollout of a campaign initiative targeting black voters. Trump is set to touch down at Dobbins Air Reserve Base around 11 a.m., head to the roundtable and fundraiser in Buckhead for lunch and then go downtown to the Georgia World Congress Center for his midafternoon speech before returning to Dobbins. Expect major traffic snarls throughout the city. Here’s what to know about the day: ‘Black Voices for Trump’ The headline-grabbing event of the day will be the unveiling of the “Black Voices for Trump” coalition in downtown Atlanta. The president is set to speak after 2 p.m. at the invite-only event, along with Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Trump is expected to highlight recent statistics that show low unemployment rates for black workers as well as an opportunity zone program that Republicans tucked into their 2017 tax-cut legislation to encourage investors to pump money into struggling areas. But Republicans face a daunting challenge wooing black voters in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams and other Democrats won the African American electorate by a huge margin in 2018. Exit polls showed 94% of black voters backed Abrams over Republican Brian Kemp in last year’s race for governor. The national data for Trump is grim, too. In 2016, only 8% of black voters cast ballots for Trump and, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, only 8% of black voters identify in some way with the Republican Party. There’s much buzz about how many black Republicans will show up at Trump’s kickoff at the downtown convention center and which Georgians will be tapped to lead the new group. He has several prominent African American conservatives to choose from, including Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Bruce Levell, a Dunwoody jeweler who was a leader in Trump’s black outreach group in 2016; and Ashley Bell, a White House policy adviser. Senate speculation Word that Trump will arrive in Atlanta on Air Force One with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins in tow has sparked a frenzy of rumors in Georgia political circles that the Gainesville Republican will be Gov. Brian Kemp’s pick for the U.S. Senate. Collins remains one of the best-known contenders for the office, but unless there’s a drastic change of plans, Kemp is not expected to announce his appointment for the soon-to-be vacated U.S. Senate seat in time for Trump’s visit. More than 500 people have submitted resumes since the governor posted his online “help wanted” sign for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down at year’s end for health reasons. The list is studded with well-known names — including current and former officeholders, business executives, a U.S. ambassador, decorated military veterans and radio commentators. A sitting Democratic state senator even raised his hand for the job. Still, the president might use the event to drop a hint about whom he favors — increasing the pressure on Kemp. As the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Collins has been one of Trump’s top defenders in Congress. And last month, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., headlined a fundraiser that raised about $300,000 for Collins and called him “the kind of fighter we need in the Senate.” Trump’s Atlanta events will be filled, too, with other potential Senate appointees who may try to quietly make their case for the position. Promoting Perdue Trump is preparing to host a high-dollar fundraiser in Atlanta to help defend Perdue, one of the staunchest critics of the Democratic-led impeachment effort. The president recently set up a joint fundraising committee with the Republican in time for Friday’s fundraiser at an undisclosed Atlanta locale that will run attendees $2,800 to get in the door and a six-figure check to attend a roundtable. The money-in-politics tracker reports that Perdue is the first congressional candidate to directly receive support from a Trump-backed fundraising committee. Perdue is one of Trump’s most ardent defenders in the U.S. Senate and was standing by him at Game 5 of the World Series last week when baseball fans at Nationals Park in Washington greeted the president with boos and chants of “Lock him up!” Four Democrats running for Perdue’s seat have tried to paint him as a Trump stooge too blinded by his loyalty to do what’s best for his constituents. At a campaign event on Saturday, Democrat Teresa Tomlinson labeled Perdue “the enabler, the influencer, the co-pilot of this president.” Attendees will have to dig deep into their wallets: A place at the roundtable will cost supporters a $100,000 check. It follows with a luncheon that will run attendees $2,800 for a seat at the table — and at least $35,000 for a photo with the president. Protests and counterprogramming The president’s critics plan to make his one-day trip to Atlanta as uncomfortable as possible. One group is planning his “biggest UNwelcome yet” to start at Centennial Park at 2 p.m., just before Trump is set to speak at the Georgia World Congress Center. Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff is spoofing Trump’s invite to announce his own counterprogramming event: a happy hour Friday evening at Manuel’s Tavern, a hangout for cops, journalists and politicos. And state Democrats will hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. at the Georgia Capitol to highlight how Trump’s agenda “hurts Georgia’s black community.”
  • A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday asked a judge to require quick notification to Georgia voters when their absentee ballots are rejected, giving them time to correct problems and have their votes counted. The lawsuit, filed by the Democratic Party, said voters often aren’t told about mismatched or missing signatures on their absentee ballots until it’s too late. “Every Georgian should have the right to cast their vote and make sure it counts,” said Nikema Williams, chairwoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Our elections need clear and fair standards to ensure that no one is disenfranchised and that no community is unfairly targeted.” Election officials threw out 8,157 absentee ballots in last November’s election, about 3% of all absentee ballots returned by mail. Many of those rejections occurred in Gwinnett County, which imposed strict standards for accepting absentee ballots and rejected 1,733 of them. State law requires election officials to “promptly notify” voters of problems with their signatures, but some voters who mailed their ballots near Election Day weren’t informed in time to submit a revised provisional ballot along with identification information. Voters have three days after Election Day to correct issues with an absentee ballot, according to a new state law. Election officials should notify voters of missing signatures by phone, email or text messages within one day after receiving their absentee ballots, according to the lawsuit by the Democratic Party of Georgia, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The lawsuit also wants Gwinnett to change the design on its absentee ballot envelopes, which included small type. Gwinnett officials declined to comment on the pending litigation.
  • A month after a federal judge temporarily blocked Georgia’s new anti-abortion law from taking effect, a group that opposes the procedure plans to display graphic images and videos of aborted fetuses at four public universities this week, starting Monday at Georgia Tech. Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year signed legislation that would have outlawed most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity — usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.  “A preborn child is no less human than a born child,” Mark Harrington, president of the group, Created Equal, said in a news release. “Thus, to treat the preborn in a way we’d never treat a born person is a grievous violation of human equality. College students deserve to see the victims of this injustice and to know the science and reasoning behind defending the preborn.”  Created Equal has permits to visit Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Kennesaw State universities and the University of Georgia. The group plans to use a Jumbotron at various locations at the schools to display images to make “the case that abortion is age discrimination.”  All four schools, along with the University System of Georgia, said in statements that the organization properly completed paperwork to appear under their various freedom of expression policies.  “We are aware of Created Equal’s plans and have been in contact with organizers,” Georgia Tech said in a statement. “We have reserved space for this outside group in a designated outdoor area, which is consistent with how we handle all requests like this one. As a public university, we are committed to supporting freedom of expression on our campus.”  Georgia State sent a message to students alerting them about the organization’s planned presence on its main campus Wednesday in downtown Atlanta. The message was clear that the university is not excited about the upcoming appearance.  “You may wonder why your university would allow speech that is hateful or mean-spirited,” the message said. “However, the university has an important constitutional duty to uphold the free speech rights of all people, without regard to the content of their speech.”  The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia sued the state, saying the new anti-abortion law violates a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion as determined by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.  States across the country passed bills similar to Georgia’s this year, which anti-abortion activists said they hope will overturn the Supreme Court ruling. Federal judges in each state have temporarily blocked the respective laws from going into effect.  Lawyers will likely return to court early next year to argue the specifics of Georgia’s law. Attorneys for the ACLU said the new law is essentially a ban on abortions, but lawyers for the state said the procedure still could be performed before cardiac activity is detected. Created Equal conducted similar events at some Michigan schools about three weeks ago. Telephone calls to the organization Friday were not immediately returned.
  • After months of planning and fraught political debate, Gov. Brian Kemp is set to detail a proposal that may pave the way for a limited Medicaid expansion that could add thousands of residents to the state’s rolls. The governor has long ruled out a full expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, something he campaigned against during the 2018 race. But he has said he’s open to a more scaled-back effort to grow the program in a way “that’s focused on Georgia.” He has not made the plans public yet, but he has frequently alluded to health care plans that could help “hardworking Georgians.” The Republican is set to outline the policy Monday at the Georgia Capitol. Several health care advocacy groups calling for a full expansion of Medicaid have announced plans to hold their own press conference. And the Department of Community Health has set a specially called board meeting after Kemp’s event to vote on his “Georgia Pathways” proposal. His Medicaid policy is meant to harmonize with a separate set of proposals he introduced Thursday that seek to lower insurance premiums and undercut the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law championed by then-President Barack Obama that Kemp and other Republicans see as too costly and inefficient. Those plans seek to lower insurance premiums by setting aside more than $300 million in public money that the government could pay insurance firms to cover high-cost claims, and shifting $2.7 billion in federal subsidies from federal to state control to reduce costs to lower-income policyholders. All the waiver proposals would have to withstand scrutiny from the federal government before they are implemented — no certainty despite Kemp’s ties to President Donald Trump. Kemp’s advisers have said they’re in frequent contact with White House officials and are confident the plans will win approval. And any money required to run the waiver programs would have to come through the state’s Legislature. A delicate balance Kemp is pushing the health care changes despite pushback from Democrats, who staunchly opposed legislation that passed this year restoring the governor’s power to pursue the waivers. The party’s top officials said they support nothing short of full-scale Medicaid expansion, which analysts say would add more than 500,000 Georgians to the state’s rolls. House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said it’s the “most cost-effective way” to help struggling Georgians access health care. “The waiver represents a deliberate decision not to cover many Georgians who would be covered by Medicaid expansion,” Trammell said. “Bottom line, the waiver costs more per person, covers fewer people and takes longer to get started than a straightforward expansion of Medicaid,” he said. The cost of the plan, too, will play a major factor in next year’s legislative session. State Rep. Terry England, the chairman of the House’s budget-writing committee, said he’s not yet been fully briefed on either proposal but that he doesn’t oppose devoting more state dollars to pay for health coverage for more adults through Medicaid. But he said that budget request, along with Kemp’s separate plan to spend at least $104 million to lower insurance premiums, would have to compete with other priorities. They include a promised teacher pay increase of $2,000 and tax-cutting proposals. “I mean, there’s so many things going on,” England said, nodding to hopes that the economy could soon heat up. “So if it were to do that, then you know it gives us a lot of options. If it doesn’t, of course, the number of options we have are extremely limited.” Medicaid details to come The law explicitly forbade Kemp from pursuing a full Medicaid expansion — which he has opposed as too costly in the long term in any case — and gave the governor a deadline of June 2020 to apply for the waiver. His administration has said it aims to submit the proposals by the year’s end. An estimate prepared by state analysts earlier this year pegged the cost of full Medicaid expansion at about $200 million a year. That amount would be matched 9-to-1 by the federal government, potentially pouring billions of federal dollars into the state’s health care industry. But Kemp, echoing other Georgia conservatives, has said that such a move would reduce access to quality care, lead to “sky-high premiums” and allow an expansion of government. On the campaign trail, Kemp outlined plans to stop premiums on the health insurance exchange market from rising so fast. But the possibility of a Medicaid waiver — an idea that Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t forcefully pursue — only emerged after Kemp’s election last year. While he’s said he’s open to a range of options, Kemp has dropped hints that his proposal could adopt elements of other waivers from other Republican-led states, such as an attempt to tie eligibility to a requirement that recipients have jobs, are enrolled in school or are engaged in community service. Such requirements will run into opposition from many advocates who say they create a reporting bureaucracy and aren’t productive. And legally, threading that needle will be difficult, in light of a spate of federal lawsuits that have forced states to revamp how they handle health plans that link benefits with employment. Federal judges have blocked or stalled work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. And officials in Arizona and Indiana voluntarily moved away from compelling poor people to work in order to qualify for their Medicaid programs.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled a set of waiver proposals Thursday that would remake the individual health insurance market in Georgia, aiming to lower premiums and undo federal control of the Affordable Care Act’s exchange system. The proposals, which Kemp’s aides describe as the first of its kind, involves an ambitious set of components that each must be approved by the federal government to take effect. One part would set aside more than $300 million in public money that the government could pay insurance companies to cover high-cost claims — thus hoping to lower premium prices. A separate and more contentious effort would take on the structure of the ACA exchange market by moving it from federal to state control — bringing with it the $2.7 billion in federal subsidies that reduce costs to lower-income policyholders. 'We live in a divided country and in a diverse state,' Kemp said, outlining the proposal in his Capitol office before a bank of TV cameras. 'But it's safe to say that Republicans, Democrats and independents agree on one thing: The insurance premiums are too dang high.' As a part of the overhaul, Georgians could no longer access the federal website at to enroll in ACA programs. The website would guide residents to private web brokers or encourage them to register directly with insurance companies, which is something they can’t do now. “No one has done this yet,” said Katie Keith, a professor of health law at Georgetown University. “This is exactly what the Trump administration encouraged states to do, and no one yet has taken them up on it. So this is going to be a really big deal.” Related: The fragile state of Georgia health care Related: By the numbers: Health care in Georgia Related: Sometimes, Georgia health care costs are a simple matter of location There’s no guarantee that Donald Trump’s administration will sign off on the plan despite Kemp’s ties to the president. But the governor and his advisers have expressed confidence that it will pass muster, and they stress that they’ve been in direct contact with the White House throughout the process. Democrats, who broadly opposed legislation that empowered Kemp to seek the waiver, criticized the governor’s plans to cut state spending by $500 million over the next two years and blasted his opposition to expanding Medicaid, which he sees as too costly in the long run. “While I’m glad that Governor Kemp is beginning to understand what Democrats have been saying for years, his plan doesn’t go far enough,” said state Sen. Gloria Butler, who said Kemp’s proposal would still leave hundreds of thousands of Georgians without adequate health insurance. “We need to get politics out of health care,” she said. Why reinsurance? The wide-ranging proposals that Kemp outlined are not even the most closely watched facet of his health care policy. That will come Monday when he details another waiver proposal that could pave the way for a limited expansion of Medicaid. But this separate program he rolled out Thursday, known as a 1332 waiver, would still affect hundreds of thousands of private insurance plans sold to individuals, both on and off the ACA exchange. Those people, Kemp pointed out, have endured soaring premium prices and out-of-pocket costs. The first piece of his plan, a government program to subsidize insurance coverage, is seen by some health analysts and politicians as a way to combat that. Related: Kemp backs new health plan for rural Georgians Related: Georgia adds 36,000 to uninsured rolls, ranks third worst in U.S. Related: Proposed budget cuts could have big impact on health care in Georgia The ACA exchange nationwide started with such subsidies at the federal level, in fact, and experts say part of the reason prices began to spike afterward was that the program ended. Since then, such programs have been suggested for individual states that wanted to stabilize their markets and lower consumer prices. Twelve states have applied and received federal approval. Experts that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution consulted said Georgia’s plan would be among the best-financed of those programs, and therefore more likely to have an impact for consumers. Kemp’s aides said they expected the program to take $104 million in state dollars and $264 million in federal dollars the first year. Those dollars would go directly to insurance companies, to satisfy up to 80% of the value of eligible claims filed. Georgia’s Legislature is full of lawmakers who identify as fiscal conservatives. One of them, House Speaker Jan Jones, R-Milton, stood with Kemp at his announcement. Asked afterward about the $300 million in public money, she said, “I haven’t seen the details yet ... but I’m confident it’s going to give Georgians more affordable options.” Taking aim at premiums Georgia’s market has stabilized on its own, but premiums are still sky-high. Kemp’s aides estimate that by taking the burden of many larger claims off of the insurance companies, they can lower premiums by as much as 25% for some people in rural or underserved parts of the state. The program carves the state into 16 regions, doling out heftier subsidies to areas with higher premiums. Southwest Georgia, where a spate of hospitals have struggled or closed, would receive more subsidies than metro Atlanta, which benefits from more competition. . The decreases would benefit higher-income people the most. People who have income up to 400% of the federal poverty level already receive federal subsidies to lower their premiums. That’s about 90% of the people who buy plans on the exchange. People at the lower end can often pay premiums that, after subsidies, cost less than $100 a month. Related: State House panel grapples with Georgia maternal mortality crisis Related: Georgia faces rural doctor shortage Related: Georgia Legislature’s impact on health care this year was ‘pretty big’ Those who are at least at 400% of the poverty level — $103,000 per year for a family of four — currently receive no subsidy and pay full price. If the estimates bear out, some of those families could save hundreds of dollars a month. Some advocates for privatization cheered the move. Kyle Wingfield, the president of the conservative Georgia Public Policy Foundation, has long suggested adding adding subsidies for insurers as part of Georgia’s exchange, and he welcomed the Kemp initiative on Thursday.  'If you’ve got a program that is going to lower costs overall and help people afford their own insurance and you end up with an overall better health market, it’s probably worth paying that money,” he said. Reinvent the market Far more controversial will be the governor’s plan to reinvent Georgia’s individual insurance market. Kemp has long said he hoped Georgia could even set an example for other states. His proposal seeks to do that by putting some of the Trump administration’s most conservative suggestions into action. Lower- and middle-income Georgians currently receive about $2.7 billion in subsidies from the ACA exchange market, Kemp aides said. Under their plan, Georgia would take control of that money, change how to distribute it, and loosen controls on who gets it. Right now, only a plan that complies with the ACA’s coverage mandates is eligible for federal premium subsidies. Kemp’s plan would allow subsidies for plans that cover less. Pre-existing conditions would have to be covered, aides said, and plans couldn’t charge more for customers who suffer from them. But the plans wouldn’t have to cover all “essential health benefits” identified in the ACA — such as emergency care and mental health services — if the customer decides to risk it and buy a plan without them. Other people who would be eligible for subsidies are employees of small businesses whose employers give them a bonus to buy their own health coverage. A new web portal Right now those skimpier plans are not available on the federal exchange website, Under Kemp’s plan, Georgians who tried to access that site would be routed to a page that gave them options including private web brokers that can list plans that cover less. Some ACA supporters were concerned about revoking the option to use, a neutral platform, and pushing consumers into choosing a web broker they’re not familiar with. Some may steer people to plans that aren’t what they really want, they said. One web broker,, is held in high regard by Kemp’s administration and some health care advocates. But not all are as well functioning technically or as clear to consumers in their presentation. Some advocates worry that customers might assume they’re purchasing plans that cover a broad array of health benefits when they’re not. “Some of these plans that don’t offer full essential health benefits, their marketing is very confusing,” said Laura Colbert, the director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “I would worry a lot that consumers would buy a plan that doesn’t actually work for them.” If approved by the federal government, the plans would require a tremendous amount of work that is currently done at the federal level, necessitating an expansion of a health oversight agency in Kemp’s office. Aides said that detailed questions about implementation, however, were premature.
  • A Cobb County lawmaker wants to make it a felony for medical professionals to help a minor with gender transition. State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, said the legislation aims to protect children from having irreversible procedures done when they are young. Current law requires a parent to consent to surgery or for a minor to be prescribed medication. While the bill is still being drafted, Ehrhart said Georgia medical providers who perform surgeries or administer or prescribe medications that assist minors with gender transition could be charged with a felony. The legislation would not affect doctors working with adults who seek to undergo gender transition. “We’re talking about children that can’t get a tattoo or smoke a cigar or a cigarette in the state of Georgia but can be castrated and get sterilized,” she said. Ehrhart last year defeated Democratic opponent Jen Slipakoff, who often spoke of her transgender daughter during campaign events. Jeff Graham, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights organization Georgia Equality, called Ehrhart’s proposal “shameful.” “This legislation would criminalize decisions that are made carefully within families in consultation with medical professionals and mental health professionals,” he said. “Supporting children in recognizing their gender identity is not only humane, it saves lives and strengthens families.” Specific procedures that Ehrhart said would be banned — if the measure is approved by the General Assembly — include “mastectomy, vasectomy, castration and other forms of genital mutilation” for the purpose of gender transition. Banned medications would include giving minors “puberty-blocking drugs to stop or delay normal puberty and cross-sex hormone therapy.” “The removal of otherwise healthy or non-diseased body parts from minor children would also be prohibited,” her press release states. The pending bill is in line with legislation supported by Ehrhart’s husband, Earl Ehrhart, who served the same Cobb County district in the state House for 30 years before choosing not to seek re-election last year. For example, Earl Ehrhart made headlines in 2016 when he opposed the inclusion of the word “sex” in a civil rights law, saying he didn’t want to make people who are transgender a protected class. Ginny Ehrhart said she was motivated to draft the bill in response to a battle between divorced parents in Texas over a 7-year-old child whose mother says identifies as a girl. The child’s father was seeking to be the child’s sole decision-maker and says the 7-year-old “acts like a boy” around him and that his ex-wife is forcing the child to transition to a girl. A judge last week ruled that the parents would continue to make joint decisions about the child. The case has been shared widely on social media and conservative news sites in recent weeks. Ehrhart said she may include language that could punish parents for allowing a child to undergo gender transition. “There may be some implication for the responsibility of the parent to subject the child to this sort of dangerous medical intervention,” she said. Dr. Izzy Lowell, who runs the Decatur-based gender transition practice Queer Med, called the legislation absurd. Lowell said minors make up about about 25% of Queer Med’s practice. “The five major medical guideline generators that encompass most of the doctors in the country support gender affirming therapy and surgical intervention,” Lowell said. “To criminalize that would criminalize medical treatment backed by all of the major medical associations.” In her press release, Ehrhart included quotes from an Atlanta-based pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Quentin Van Meter, who said the proposal is needed to protect children from “medical experimentation based on wishful social theory.” “These children are suffering from a psychological condition without biologic basis,” he said. “Using the bludgeon of threatened suicide as justification is first of all cruel, and secondly, not supported by valid published studies.” Van Meter is president of the American College of Pediatricians, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Graham said banning children from aligning physically with their gender identity is troubling. “(Ehrhart’s) contention that this is damaging to children or society is without merit and is a result of the dangerous trend from the most conservative forces to demonize and strip transgender individuals of their humanity,” he said.
  • About 330,000 voter registrations in Georgia could soon be canceled because registrants haven’t participated in elections for several years. The purge comes after Georgia canceled 534,119 registrations in July 2017, the largest single removal of voters in U.S. history. Under a new state law, election officials will notify voters before canceling their registrations, a step that didn’t exist two years ago. The voter list cleanup, announced Monday by the secretary of state’s office, reinforces Georgia’s role as a voting rights and political battleground ahead of next year’s elections for president and two U.S. Senate seats. Last year, voting rights helped define the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, who won by 1.4 percentage points. Opponents of Georgia’s cancellations say they disenfranchise voters who haven’t participated in elections in recent years but might do so in the 2020 presidential election. “Voters should not lose their right to vote simply because they have decided not to express that right in recent elections,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, the CEO for Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Abrams that is suing the state over voting issues. “Having a long history of voter suppression, the Georgia secretary of state’s office has a responsibility to guarantee that not a single voter is wrongly included on the purge list.” State election officials say many inactive voters have moved out of state, and it’s important to maintain up-to-date registration lists. Georgia Elections Director Chris Harvey said notifications will be sent in early November to the last known addresses of each of the inactive voters. If they don’t respond within 30 days, their names will be removed from the voter rolls in December. Voters who return a postage-paid form will remain registered. They can also change their addresses or re-register online, mail a paper registration form or vote on Nov. 5. RELATED: View a sample Georgia voter cancellation notice “Accurate voter lists limit confusion and delays at polling places on Election Day, and make sure voters get to vote the complete ballot to which they are entitled,” Harvey said. “Accurate voters lists also allow county election offices to plan for polling place equipment and staffing needs. Accurate voter lists reduce the opportunities for mistakes or fraud.” Though some voters will save their registrations from cancellation, eliminating roughly 300,000 of Georgia’s 7.4 million registered voters would represent a 4% reduction in the state’s voter rolls. That rate of cancellations makes sense to David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, which advocates for accurate voter lists and secure election technology. He said the removals are reasonable because they’re lower than the number of people projected to have moved out of state in the past two years. “People don’t usually call their state and tell them to take them off their voting list,” Becker said. “The numbers by themselves don’t raise any concerns.” Removing about 300,000 inactive voters who have accumulated over the past two years somewhat aligns with the state’s previous cancellation of more than 500,000 voters in 2017 that had built up over the previous four years. Becker said Georgia’s voting registration practices put it ahead of most other states. Georgia has automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices and online voter registration. It also recently enrolled in a 29-state organization called the Electronic Registration Information Center, which shares information about voters who have moved. Becker is an ERIC board member. Georgia is still finalizing its data-sharing processes with ERIC before using it to update voting lists. Since 2012, Georgia election officials have removed about 1.4 million people from the voting rolls because they died, moved out of state, were convicted of felonies — or stayed home during elections. States should keep accurate voter lists, but they must exercise caution to make sure legitimate voters aren’t inadvertently canceled, said Myrna Pérez, the director for the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. The federal lawsuit filed by Fair Fight Action alleges that Georgia’s elections kept voters from the polls because of canceled or missing registrations, along with other issues such as precinct closures, long lines and malfunctioning voting equipment. “There were a lot of people showing up on Election Day and not finding themselves on the rolls and not understanding why,” Pérez said. “When mistakes are made, we feel it on Election Day. That’s the last place you want to feel it.” The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 upheld similar voter registration cancellation practices used in Ohio. Ohio election officials released the names of 235,000 voters it planned to purge this year but soon learned from voting rights groups that about 40,000 of them shouldn’t have been targeted. The Georgia secretary of state’s office hasn’t decided whether it will release its purge list in advance. Georgia voters facing cancellation were declared “inactive” after three years in which they failed to participate in elections, contact election officials, respond to election officials’ mail or update their registrations. A change in state law this year lengthens the period before voters become “inactive,” from three years to five years. Then if voters don’t cast a ballot in the next two general elections after they become inactive, their registrations can be canceled. That means for most of the 330,000 Georgia voters who could be canceled, the last time they voted or registered to vote was at least six years ago. Voters who participated in elections more recently could also be canceled if mail from county election offices was returned as undeliverable.


  • A jury found Roger Stone guilty Friday of obstruction, giving false statements to Congress and tampering with witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news  The verdict came on the second day of jury deliberations. Stone had denied any wrongdoing and framed the charges as politically motivated. Update 12:20 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Jurors found Stone guilty Friday of all seven counts against him, including one charge of obstruction, one charge of witness tampering and five charges of making false statements connected to his pursuit stolen emails damaging to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman set a February 6 sentencing date for Stone, Fox News reported. Until then, Berman allowed Stone to be released on his own recognizance. Stone, who did not take the stand during his trial, is the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The president slammed the jury's verdict Friday, questioning in a tweet whether Stone fell victim to 'a double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country.' Original report: Jury deliberations in the case against Roger Stone, a political consultant and confidant of President Donald Trump, extended into a second day Friday after jurors failed to reach a verdict on whether he lied to Congress about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election. Jurors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson two questions Thursday during their six hours of deliberations, Reuters reported. The questions were about what was considered testimony in the case and a request for a clarification of the charges, according to the Courthouse News Service. Authorities arrested Stone in January on charges brought by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, who headed the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Stone was charged with obstruction, giving false statements and witness tampering. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said Stone lied to protect the Trump campaign from embarrassment and scrutiny in its quest for emails hacked by Russian officials and disseminated by WikiLeaks, according to The Washington Post. Attorneys for Stone claimed he never intentionally deceived Congress and that he was simply wrong in his testimony after committee members unexpectedly peppered him with WikiLeaks-related questions. 'There was nothing illegal about the campaign being interested in information that WikiLeaks was going to be putting out,' defense attorney Bruce S. Rogow said, according to the Post. 'This is what happens in a campaign. … It happens in every campaign.' In testimony, several witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about the more than 19,000 emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to WikiLeaks. Former campaign CEO Steve Bannon reluctantly testified last week and told jurors Trump's campaign saw Stone as an 'access point' to WikiLeaks. He said Stone boasted about his ties to the anti-secrecy group and its founder, Julian Assange. Bannon said campaign officials tried to use Stone to get advanced word about hacked emails damaging to Trump's rival in the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rick Gates, who served as a campaign aide for Trump, told jurors Stone asked him in June 2016 for the contact information of Trump's son-in-law and then-senior campaign adviser, Jared Kushner. Stone wanted to 'debrief' him on developments about the hacked emails, Gates said. Stone has proclaimed his innocence and accused Mueller's team of targeting him because of his politics. He could face up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A newborn’s body was found on a pile of rocks on the side of the road Tuesday night, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  The infant was found lying in the fetal position with the umbilical cord still attached in freezing temperatures, News12 reported. Investigators are interviewing the child’s mother. Charges have not been filed and there have been no arrests, WPVI reported. Her identity has not been released. 
  • Roger Stone was one of the key figures of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling, accused fo trying to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race, NBC News reported. Stone was found guilty of all charges he faced including making false statements to Congress and obstruction of justice. Stone's lawyers said that any misstatements their client made to lawmakers were unintentional, the Washington Post reported shortly after his arrest. Who is Roger Stone? Stone was born in 1952 and was raised in Lewisboro, New York. His mother was a newspaper writer and his father was a well digger. Stone started his conservative leanings when a neighbor gave him a book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” written by Barry Goldwater. It was given to him before he turned 13. Shortly after, he started working on the mayoral campaign for William F. Buckley Jr. in New York on weekends in 1965, The New Yorker uncovered in an article published in 2008.  He attended George Washington University but didn’t graduate because he got into politics, working with Republican candidates for more than 40 years, according to The New Yorker. >> Read more trending news  He was only 19 when Watergate happened, and he, under the name Jason Rainier, made contributions to Pete McCloskey, who was challenging President Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination. Stone, as Rainier, made the contributions through the Young Socialist Alliance and then released the receipt to a newspaper to show that McCloskey was a left-wing candidate, according to The New Yorker. Stone also hired another person to work in  George McGovern’s Democratic presidential campaign. Both events were uncovered during the Watergate hearings in 1973. He lost a job on the staff of Republican Bob Dole because of the hearings and started the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which backed Republicans Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Dan Quayle in Indiana. Stone also worked twice on the Republican presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan -- once in 1976, when Reagan didn’t win, and again in 1980, when he did -- then as political director for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, The New Yorker reported. After Reagan took office, Stone stayed in the private sector, creating a political consulting and lobbying firm that went under different names, including Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater.  The firm worked for corporations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to lobby former co-workers in the Reagan campaign who held jobs in the administration. It also served clients like Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, The New Yorker found. Focusing more on political campaigns as a solo entity instead of lobbying as part of a group, Stone worked as a senior consultant for the successful campaign of George H.W. Bush and worked three campaigns for Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. He also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Dole’s 1996 quest for president. He was brought in when the 2000 presidential recount started in Florida. He played the political game on radio stations in southern Florida, saying that the recount was Al Gore’s left-wing power grab, The New Yorker reported. His efforts, along with other Republican assets, empowered George W. Bush’s Republican supporters to protest the second recount. Stone wanted, and got, the recount in Miami shut down in what became the “Brooks Brothers riot,” The Washington Post and The New Yorker reported. Stone also worked on  the younger Bush’s re-election campaign. It is believed documents obtained by CBS News that showed that Bush got out of military service for Vietnam were actually fake and that Stone was the person who created the documents, The New Yorker reported. Stone was one of President Donald Trump’s panel of long-time advisors, The Washington Post reported. He was connected to Trump when the now-president floated the idea of running in 2000.  Then, Trump said, “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” who “always takes credit for things he never did,” according to The New Yorker. Despite the harsh words then-private sector member Trump had for Stone, he used Stone for his campaign not once, but twice, teaming up in 2011 when Trump toyed with, but eventually decided against a presidential run. They went their different ways in August 2015, the Times reported.  But who pulled the plug on Stone’s tenure on the Trump campaign? Stone said he resigned and Trump’s campaign officials said he had been fired, The New York Times reported. Trump said of the firing, “I hardly ever spoke to the guy; he was just there. He played no role of any kind,” the Times reported in 2015. But Stone was listed on Federal Election Commission filings as being on the campaign payroll and he used Twitter to defend Trump during the campaign, according to the Times. What is his connection to Trump? Stone has been scrutinized for having ties to WikiLeaks by using an associate as an intermediary between himself and people associated with WikiLeaks, CNN reported. Stone spoke about having “back channel communications” with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, during the campaign. Stone later said the “back channel” was really a New York radio host, Randy Credico, who allegedly shared only information gleaned from interviews with Assange, CNN reported. Stone also predicted releases of information by WikiLeaks in the final days of the campaign between Trump and his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, CNN reported.  Stone said in a column for Breitbart, the website run by former Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon, that it wasn’t the Russians who hacked the servers containing the emails leaked by WikiLeaks, but it was actually a hacker who went by the name Guccifer 2.0.  >>Read: Russian hackers indicted: Who is Guccifer 2.0? Here are 15 things to know Despite Stone’s assertions in the column, some have linked Guccifer 2.0 to Russian web services, Foreign Policy reported.  In July 2016, the Times reported that intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the email leaks and that Guccifer 2.0 was in reality an agent of the Russian military intelligence service, or GRU. Mueller’s team is investigating whether there were other connections between Stone and WikiLeaks. That connection could come in the form of Jerome Corsi, another associate of Stone’s who said this week that he expects to be indicted by Mueller for “giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury,” CNN reported. If Corsi’s prediction comes true, he could face charges from perjury to making false claims and even obstruction of justice, all related to false statements he made about his alleged connection between WikiLeaks and Stone, CNN reported. Stone, however, said he was truthful in previous testimony before a congressional panel. >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Here’s what the DOJ says happened “My attorneys have fully reviewed all my written communications with Dr. Corsi,” Stone wrote in a statement to CNN. “When those aren’t viewed out of context they prove everything I have said under oath regarding my interaction with Dr. Corsi is true.” Stone went on to write, “I stand by my statement to the House Intelligence Committee and can prove it is truthful if need be. I have passed two polygraph tests administered and analyzed by two of the nation's leading experts to prove I have (been) truthful.” >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Military officials accused of hacking DNC, stealing voter info Corsi said Stone warned that there would be trouble for Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta after Corsi published an article for InfoWars. After Stone’s statement, WikiLeaks released thousands of hacked emails from Podesta, CNN reported.  >>Read: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers Stone tweeted “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” six weeks before WikiLeaks published the emails, The Washington Post reported. >>Read: Julian Assange: WikiLeaks source was 'not the Russian government' Stone said he did not tell Trump that WikiLeaks was going to release the hacked emails and denied working with Russia, CNN reported. But Stone did say in a recent opinion piece for The Daily Caller, that he emailed Bannon during the campaign, CNN reported. Stone, in the column, clarified that the information he shared with Bannon was publicly available. Stone said the statements he made during the campaign were exaggerations or tips only and that he didn’t know details of WikiLeaks’ plans before the document drops, the Post reported.
  • The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is testifying Friday in the second public hearing in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. >> Read more trending news  Marie Yovanovitch will appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to answers questions about her time as ambassador in Ukraine and how she believed she was driven out of that position by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer. The hearing, which begins at 9 a.m. ET, will be broadcast live on CSPAN, CNN, Fox News and other cable news channels. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, (D-California), and the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, (R-California), will question Yovanovitch in 45-minute segments each then committee members will have five minutes each to question Yovanovitch. Watch the live stream of Friday’s hearing here Live updates Republicans begin asking questions 12:32 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Nunes asks Yovanovitch if she was present for the July 26 call between Trump and Zelensky, she answers no. He asks if she was present or had talked to other White House officials concerning Ukraine. She says she had not. Nunes then recognizes Rep. Elise Stefanik to ask questions. Stefanik attempts to ask a question but Schiff cuts her off, saying she has not been recognized. Nunes and Schiff argue about who can yield time to a committee member. Schiff says she cannot ask questions at this time and Nunes then yields to Steve Castor, the counsel for the Republicans. The hearing has resumed 12:22 p.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing has resumed and Republicans are asking questions. In a break 10:45 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing has been suspended for a short recess for House members to vote.  Trump tweets, Yovanovitch defends herself  10:30 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff read a tweet from Trump this morning disparaging Yovanovitch’s service. Trump said that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” Schiff asks if she wants to address the tweet. Yovanovitch answered, “I don’t think I have such powers,” but went on to say that her work “demonstrably made things better, both for the US and for the countries I’ve served in.” Fearing a tweet 10:24 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Goldman asks Yovanovitch if she was given a vote of support from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She said she was not. He asked if she knew why not. She said the department feared that the president would post a tweet contradicting any support. ‘Devastated' by Trump's Ukraine call 10:15 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch said she was “shocked” and “devastated” by the White House memo on Trump’s call with Zelensky. The transcript included the phrase that Yovanovitch is “bad news.” “A person who saw me actually reading the transcript said the color drained from my face,” Yovanovitch told Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York who is the counsel for the Democrats. She said Trump’s comment that she was “going to go through some things,” in his call with Zelensky, “felt like a vague threat.” ‘Big hit for morale’ 10 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff asked Yovanovitch how her recall was received by colleagues in the State Department. Yovanovitch said, 'Well, it's been a big hit for morale, both at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and also more broadly in the State Department.' She also that it’s fair to say that her firing affected morale of other ambassadors. Yovanovitch's opening statement 9:33 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch is giving her opening statement, talking about the sometime dangers of foreign service. She opened her statement by recounting her family’s history. They fled the Soviet Union. She says she has served in several “hardship” posts as a diplomat.  She talked about her work in Ukraine. 'Not all Ukrainians embraced our anti-corruption work. Thus, perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me. What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. Ambassador. How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?' She says she never tried to work against Trump or for Clinton. She said she has never met Hunter Biden but did know former Vice President Joe Biden. Nunes’ turn 9:20 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Rep. Nunes is speaking now. He says five of the members of the Intelligence Committee voted to impeach Trump before he ever made the July 26 phone call. He complains that the Democrats met secretly with the whistleblower and that Republicans have been threatened if they try to find out the person’s name and release it. He also said Democrats went after nude photos of Trump. He is reading the just-released transcript into the record. The hearing has begun 9:10 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Schiff is giving his opening statement. He is praising Yovanovitch’s qualifications and her anti-corruption work in Ukraine. He's asking why Trump wanted to recall Yovanovitch from her post. Phone call transcript released 9:05 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The White House has released the transcript of the first phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That phone call took place in April. This is not the phone call the whistleblower reported on. People are getting to their seats 9 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: House Intelligence Committee members, the press and spectators are coming into the room for the start of the hearing. $3 million in donations 8:55 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale announced on Thursday that the Trump campaign raised more than $3 million on Wednesday during the first public impeachment hearings. A case of bribery? 8:47 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, accused Trump of bribery. Pelosi pointed out at her weekly press conference that bribery is “in the Constitution” as a reason for impeaching a president. Yovanovitch has arrived 8:38 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch has arrived at Capitol Hill with her attorneys and is entering the building. One public hearing and two in private8:35 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: While Yovanovitch will testify in public Friday, David Holmes will appear before the committee afterward in a closed-door session. Holmes is a State Department employee who claims to have overheard a phone conversation about Ukraine between Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Trump. On Saturday, Mark Sandy, an office of Management and Budget official, will testify before the committee in private. Sandy will be the first OMB official to agree to testify before the committee. How the hearing will go 8:15 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: The hearing will be conducted in the same way as Wednesday’s hearing with William Taylor and George Kent was conducted. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, and the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-California, will question Taylor and Kent in 45-minute segments each. Those 45 minutes can be delegated to the staff lawyers or other committee members. After the extended 45-minute periods, the committee will go back to its usual format of five-minute rounds of questions for committee members. Let’s get started 8 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Good morning and welcome to live updates from the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. The hearing begins in an hour, at 9 a.m. ET. Live updates coming 6 a.m. ET Nov. 15, 2019: Live updates of Marie Yovanovitch's testimony will begin at 8 a.m. ET. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. ET [Summary]
  • A brake fluid leak on certain Nissan cars and SUVs could lead to risk of fire prompting the automaker to recall about 394,000 vehicles in the United States. >> Read more trending news  An antilock brake actuator pump can leak onto a circuit board, causing electrical shorts and fires. Because of the risk, Nissan recommends owners park the vehicles outside and away from buildings if the antilock brake light is on for more than 10 seconds.  The recall covers 2015 to 2018 Nissan Murano SUVs, 2016 to 2018 Maxima sedans and 2017 to 2019 Infiniti QX60 and Nissan Pathfinder SUVs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is the second recall for some of the same vehicles. In 2018, Nissan dealers inspected parts but did not replace the pumps if fluid wasn’t leaking. Dealers will now replace pumps on all of the vehicles. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
  • An Arkansas paramedic is charged with felony theft after authorities allege she cut a 1.7-carat diamond ring off a dead patient’s finger last month and pawned it for $45. Lisa Darlene Glaze, 50, of Hot Springs Village, is charged with theft by receiving and misdemeanor transfer of stolen property to a pawn shop, according to Garland County court records. Arrested Monday, she has since been released on $4,500 bond. >> Read more trending news  The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs reported that Glaze, a paramedic at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, was one of the paramedics who attended to Gloria Farrar Robinson on Oct. 16 when the 72-year-old Whie Hall woman suffered a medical emergency. A probable cause affidavit obtained by the newspaper stated Robinson was taken to CHI St. Vincent, where she later died. After Robinson died, her personal effects were given to her husband, identified in her obituary as Leonard Robinson, and her sister, Alesia Massey. Massey asked Glaze about three of Robinson’s rings that were missing. Glaze “did not answer her and walked away,” according to the affidavit. Robinson’s husband and sister went to Fuller Hale South Funeral Home in Pine Bluff two days later to make funeral arrangements, at which time they were given a bag with two of the missing rings, the Sentinel-Record reported. A 1.7-carat diamond, gold solitaire ring was still missing. The ring, which was adorned with a marquise-cut diamond, had been cut off Robinson’s finger, according to the affidavit. On Oct. 24, eight days after Robinson died, Glaze went to Hot Springs Classic Guns and Loan with a marquise-cut, solitaire diamond ring with a gold band. She sold the ring, which the pawnshop worker noted had a cut in the band, for $45, the court documents allege. Glaze used her driver’s license for identification during the transaction, the Sentinel-Record reported. Five days after the sale, a Montgomery County investigator went to the pawnshop and took photos of the ring, sending the images to Robinson’s husband and sister. Both identified the ring as belonging to the deceased woman, the affidavit said. The pawnshop employee who bought the ring identified Glaze in a photo as the woman who sold the piece of jewelry, the Sentinel-Record reported. Massey, Robinson’s sister, retrieved the ring from the pawnshop and had it appraised. The ring was determined to be worth nearly $8,000. Robinson’s son, Ben Ellis, castigated Glaze in a Facebook post Wednesday, calling her an expletive before questioning her care of his dying mother. “You stole my mother’s rings off her hands after she died?” Ellis wrote. “Did you let my mother die so you could steal her jewelry?” A woman named Diane McAlister offered Ellis her condolences. “Gloria was a wonderful, hardworking person. She respected everyone,” McAlister wrote. “I hope this person is prosecuted to the highest degree.” According to her obituary, Robinson worked as a payroll officer at Southeast Arkansas College for more than 20 years. Glaze has been placed on administrative leave with pay by the hospital, which issued a statement to the Sentinel-Record about the case. “CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs places a priority on the safety and well-being of our patients and our healing ministry is committed to their security while in our care,” the statement read. The hospital is continuing to cooperate with the investigation, officials said. If convicted, Glaze faces up to 10 years in prison on the felony theft charge and up to a year in county jail for the charge of selling stolen property to the pawnshop, the newspaper said.