Former Guatemalan minister hid in Colombia ambassador's home

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – A former Guatemalan economy minister was on the run again after hiding out for 24 hours in the home of Colombia’s ambassador to the country, authorities said Thursday.
Acisclo Valladares Urruela, who left office and thus lost his immunity last week at the conclusion of President Jimmy Morales’ term, had appeared in court and promised to stay put to respond to corruption accusations.
But when the court issued an arrest warrant and police went to detain him, Valladares had disappeared.

Juan Francisco Sandoval, head of the special prosecutor’s office against impunity, said Colombia Amb. Juan Hurtado Cano confirmed to him that Valladares had been in his home.
Hurtado said Thursday that Valladares had been there, but left Wednesday after his request for political asylum was denied by the Colombian government. He said that he told Guatemalan authorities they were welcome to search his residence to assure that Valladares was not there.

Prosecutors accuse Valladares of providing money to bribe lawmakers to pass legislation while he was legal counsel for the telecommunications company TIGO.

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Lawsuit: Ex-prison worker from Pakistan called 'terrorist'

A former Missouri prison worker who was born in Pakistan alleges in a lawsuit that she was frequently called a “terrorist” by her coworkers and was sometimes asked if she was “a suicide bomber.”
Sana MacClugage, who moved to the U.S. in 2004 and became a U.S. citizen in 2013, filed the discrimination lawsuit this week against the Missouri Department of Corrections.
The 32-year-old worked for the Jefferson City Correctional Center from November 2014 to June 2019, The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports. Her suit says that her supervisor retaliated after she complained about discrimination, including assigning her to “inappropriate tasks” such as collecting prisoners’ laundry, which normally is done by other prisoners. The suit also says that other corrections officers tipped off a prisoner about her complaints, putting her safety at risk.

The corrections department has spent millions settling discrimination lawsuits in recent years. Many involve female guards who alleged that male coworkers had sexually harassed them.

The Missouri Department of Corrections, which has been making significant management staffing changes, didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM, to visit the White House on Jan. 28

Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House next week, the Trump administration said Thursday.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mr. Netanyahu will be accompanied on Tuesday by Benjamin Gantz, the chairman of the Blue and White Party.
“The United States and Israel are strong partners, and the prime minister’s visit is an opportunity to discuss our shared regional and national security interests,” Ms. Grisham said.

Mr. Netanyahu was indicted on charges of breach of trust, bribery and fraud in November, forcing him to resign from ministry positions.
Still, Mr. Netanyahu, who’s been prime minister since 2009, has forged a close relationship with President Trump, who’s positioned himself as staunchly pro-Israel.
Vice President Mike Pence extended the White House invitation in person.
Speaking in Jerusalem, Mr. Pence on Thursday said Mr. Trump asked him to invite Mr. Netanyahu to Washington to discuss “regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land.”
Mr. Netanyahu said he would “gladly accept.”

“I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security it deserves,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

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Senate GOP unmoved by Dems' impeachment message: 'Not changing our opinion'

Sen. Joni Ernst said the chamber’s Republicans are wondering when the House impeachment managers will get around to presenting the “overwhelming evidence” they promised.
Ms. Ernst, an Iowa Republican up for reelection this year, said the impeachment trial against President Trump so far has been “a lot of the same.”
The senators, who are the jury for the impeachment trial, often chat during their breaks and many feel they aren’t hearing any new information after hearing roughly 15 hours of arguments by the House Democrats who are serving as prosecutors.

“It’s like it is on repeat. I keep hearing the same message coming from the House members and I am still waiting to hear their overwhelming evidence,” said Ms. Ernst.
Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, agreed.
“I’m looking for a bombshell, I just haven’t heard it,” he said.
Mr. Trump is on trial for two articles of impeachment, abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate political rival former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and obstruction of Congress for not cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry.
Ms. Ernst went on to tell reporters the House managers keep showing the same clips during their presentation, suggesting senators are ready to see something fresh.
“We are getting the same little clips over and over and over again. One clip — you will see it three times, maybe we will see it five more times today. It’s not really changing our opinion,” she told The Washington Times.

Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and one of the House impeachment managers, has worked video clips of the president during press conferences and some sound bites from witnesses that appeared at House hearings, which were televised for the public last year, into his arguments as he tries to convince the upper chamber that the president abused his power and obstructed Congress.
The impeachment charges stem from a July 25 phone call where President Trump requested the Ukrainian president look into conduct linked to a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
Democrats argue the president’s administration withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the investigation.
An investigation was never announced by Ukrainian officials, but the aid was released in September.

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Panel advances bill requiring armed officers at schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – A bill to require that police officers assigned to Kentucky schools be armed won approval Thursday from the Senate Education Committee.
The committee action, advancing the measure to the full Senate, came on the second anniversary of the shooting at Marshall County High School in western Kentucky. Two 15-year-old students were killed and more than a dozen others were injured.
The bill is a follow-up to last year’s school safety law, which did not specify whether school police officers needed to carry a weapon. The new bill would add the requirement that all school-based officers be armed.

“Government has the responsibility of public safety,” said Sen. Max Wise, the bill’s lead sponsor. “And I think it is only common sense that we take this approach.”
Wise has mentioned the state’s largest school district for spurring the proposed state requirement to arm officers. In Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, the local school board has been divided over whether to arm officers while crafting plans for a district-managed police force.

The safety law enacted last year is intended to boost police protection and counseling but came with no money. Lawmakers put off funding decisions until considering a new state budget this year.

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Joe Biden's reaction to CBS reporter Ed O'Keefe goes viral: 'Why, why, why, why, why'

Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden told a CBS News reporter to “calm down” in an exchange Wednesday that has gone viral.
In a video tweeted by CBS News, Mr. Biden appeared visibly agitated after reporter Ed O’Keefe repeatedly asked him at a campaign event in Mason City, Iowa, about his latest spat with rival candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
“Yesterday, you said you accepted Bernie’s apology, now you’re attacking him — why are you doing that?” Mr. O’Keefe asked Mr. Biden as the former vice president made his way through a group of reporters.

“Why wasn’t his apology enough, Mr. Vice President?” Mr. O’Keefe continued. “Why attack Sanders?”
That’s when a wide-eyed Mr. Biden turned to the reporter.
“Why, why, why, why, why, why, why,” he said while shaking his hands excitedly and placing them on the reporter’s chest. “You’re getting nervous, man! Calm down.”
A more composed Mr. Biden continued, “He apologized for saying that I was corrupt. He didn’t mention anything about whether or not I was telling the truth about Social Security.”
Mr. O’Keefe smiled nervously as Mr. Biden took his left fist and gently bumped the reporter’s chest before walking away.

WATCH: After a campaign event in Mason City, Iowa, @joebiden reacts to @edokeefe’s question about his ongoing feud with @berniesanders: “Calm down, it’s okay.” https://t.co/a2hmMbnjnf pic.twitter.com/ymOMWRR2zP
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 22, 2020
Mr. O’Keefe was referring to Mr. Sanders‘ apology for one of his supporters calling Mr. Biden corrupt in a recent op-ed. Mr. Biden said that he accepted the apology before proceeding to blast the senator for comments criticizing his past views on Social Security.
The CBS video of Wednesday’s exchange with Mr. O’Keefe has racked up more than 1.2 million views and counting. Mr. O’Keefe later addressed the incident on “CBS This Morning.”
“We ask the candidates questions. How they respond is up to them,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “And clearly, in this case, Biden [is] a little touchy because he’s sensitive to this charge that he wants to change up Social Security.”

Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden continue to trade fire over Social Security.@edokeefe caught up with the former VP in Iowa: https://t.co/0kVuGwUngq pic.twitter.com/qDPQkg3AQ8
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) January 23, 2020

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Marianne Williamson: 'Lending my support' to Andrew Yang in Iowa

Marianne Williamson, who ended her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this month, says she plans to support onetime rival Andrew Yang ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.
She said she admires Sens. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, but that they’ll make it “past Iowa and beyond” and that they don’t need her help right now.
“I’m lending my support to Andrew in Iowa, hopefully to help him get past the early primaries & remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. We need that this year,” Ms. Williamson, the author and self-help guru, said on Instagram overnight Wednesday.

She said she wasn’t officially endorsing anyone at this point.
“Andrew’s personality is like a tuning fork realigning us with something we need to retrieve, taking us back to a more innocent time, making us remember to chuckle,” she said.
She said Mr. Yang, a tech entrepreneur, is “light in tone, but he is deep in substance.”
“I know from first hand experience the breadth of his intellect and the expansiveness of his heart,” she said.
The caucuses are structured so that supporters of candidates who don’t win 15% support after the first “alignment” can switch their allegiance to someone else.
So with the proper organization, supporters of a candidate who fails to hit 15% after the first round can convince enough people to join their cause so their candidate becomes “viable” after the second and final “alignment” of the night and gets awarded delegates.

Mr. Yang, who has outlasted a host of more seasoned politicians in his upstart bid for the White House, is currently running in sixth place in Iowa with about 4% support in the latest Real Clear Politics average.

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New Lebanese minister says he won't permit attacks on police

BEIRUT (AP) –
Lebanon’s new interior minister said Thursday he won’t permit attacks on security forces amid angry rioting that has gripped the country’s capital amid a deepening economic crisis.
Mohammed Fahmi spoke during a handover ceremony from the outgoing minister, two days after an emergency government was formed. That ended a three-month political vacuum on the heels of nationwide protests against the country’s long serving political class.

“I will not allow the attack on security forces who are carrying out their duties” to protect the country’s laws and properties, he said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International called on the new government to “immediately rein in” security forces, which it said unlawfully used rubber bullets at close range against the protesters, injuring hundreds over the weekend before Fahmi took office. On Wednesday, the security forces did not use rubber bullets.
The new government is made up of appointees nominated by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies, raising questions about the Cabinet’s ability to drum up the international support needed to avoid economic collapse.
Parliament still must vote on the new government, although it is expected to approve the new Cabinet.
Many protesters have rejected the new government, saying it is still backed by the same traditional political powers they accuse of corruption.
Fahmi said he would guarantee that security forces won’t attack protesters and will protect their rights to freely express their opinion. He vowed to investigate any security forces violations “if they happen.”

Over the weekend, Beirut saw some of the most violent clashes between protesters and security forces yet. More than 500 people, including over 100 security forces, were injured in clashes outside the parliament building. Protesters hurled stones, firecrackers and flares at security forces who responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon. Several protesters were hit in their eyes.
On Wednesday, hours after the emergency government held its first meeting, hundreds of protesters gathered again outside parliament, attempting to break through security barriers and hurling stones. Clashes lasted late into the night, as security forces chased protesters down the streets.
Amnesty said with protests likely to continue over the next weeks, Lebanon’s newly formed government must “as a matter of urgency” prioritize reining in security forces and investigate the unlawful and excessive use of force.
It said security forces “shoot-to-harm,” causing serious injuries in the head, face, chin and mouth. At least three protesters were hit directly in the eye with rubber bullets. Amnesty said police also threatened two female protesters with rape.
Red Cross said at least 409 protesters were injured in clashes over the weekend.
“The new minister of interior must immediately rein in the (Internal Security Forces) and order them to comply with international standards and respect the right to assembly,” Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa regional director at Amnesty said. “Acts of violence by a minority of protesters does not justify a violent dispersal but should have been dealt with in a targeted manner.”
Morayef called for an investigation to provide “redress for the victims and send a strong signal that violence will not be tolerated.”

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Bernie Sanders builds double-digit lead in New Hampshire: Poll

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont holds a 12-point lead over his nearest 2020 Democratic presidential rival in New Hampshire, according to a WBUR poll released on Thursday.
Mr. Sanders was the top choice of 29% of likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at 17%, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden at 14%, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 13%, according to the poll.
“I wouldn’t take these numbers to the bank,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the poll. “But you’ve got to be feeling pretty good about where you stand right at this moment if you’re the Sanders campaign.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was next at 6%, followed by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 5% apiece. No other candidate topped 2% support.
In a WBUR poll released in December, Mr. Buttigieg had been in the lead with 18% support, followed by Mr. Biden at 17%, Mr. Sanders at 15% and Ms. Warren at 12%.
Mr. Sanders cruised to victory in New Hampshire in 2016 over Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic presidential nominee who went on to lose to President Trump in the general election.

The survey of 426 likely primary voters was taken from Jan. 17-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

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Migrant caravan crosses into Mexico, walks along highway

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) – Hundreds of Central American migrants crossed the Guatemala-Mexico border at dawn Thursday without resistance and began walking up a rural highway.
Some carried banners arguing that migrants were not the problem, but rather the result of poor governing.
It was a resurgence of a migrant caravan that had been diminishing since its last concerted attempt to cross the border Monday was turned back by Mexican National Guardsmen posted along Suchiate river, which forms the border here.

Mexico began flying and busing members of the caravan back to Honduras on Tuesday.
Seven more buses left Mexico for Honduras on Wednesday, carrying 240 migrants back home, and two flights left with an additional 220 Hondurans, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said. By Wednesday, the number of people outside the Casa del Migrante in Tecun Uman was perhaps half of what it was at its peak Sunday night.

In previous caravans, Mexican authorities have allowed caravans to walk for awhile, seemingly to tire them out, and then closed their path.

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El-Sissi dubs Egypt 'oasis of stability' amid clampdown

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said Thursday his country has become “an oasis of security and stability” under his rule, amid reports of a new clampdown on dissent in the lead-up to the eighth anniversary of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising.
El-Sissi, who became president in 2014, spoke at the annual ceremony celebrating Police Day, which falls on Jan. 25. That’s the same date that thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to begin a sweeping revolt that forced longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak to step down in 2011.
Meanwhile, human rights activists have complained that authorities are randomly stopping people in downtown Cairo, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, for fear that similar demonstrations could erupt.

“The whole world has seen how Egypt has turned into an oasis of security and stability in only a few years,” el-Sissi told a large audience of government officials, commanders in the country’s security apparatus and religious leaders in the lavish auditorium of Egypt’s police academy in eastern Cairo.
“I will always value and take pride in the fact that you and your fellows in the armed forces are facing a fierce battle against dark terrorism,” he said.
In 2013, el-Sissi, then defense minister, led the military’s overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, an elected but divisive president who hailed from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. The nation’s oldest and largest Islamist organization was outlawed and branded a terrorist group the same year. Since then, el-Sissi’s government has been battling an Islamic insurgency, mainly in the Sinai Peninsula.
Last fall, thousands were arrested, including prominent academics, journalists and politicians following rare protests that erupted on Sept. 20 following corruption allegations leveled by a self-exiled businessman against the president and his military. Hundreds were subsequently released.
On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry issued a statement alleging that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was plotting to “spread chaos” and “undermine the country’s stability” by using cyberspace to call for protests and rioting on Jan 25. The statement said authorities had arrested members of the Muslim Brotherhood and discovered several weapon caches. Plotters were coordinating their efforts with fugitive militants who reside in Turkey, the statement added.
In recent weeks, there have been calls on social media to take to the streets Saturday to protest el-Sissi’s rule. More than the usual number of police vehicles have been been seen in and near downtown Cairo since last week.

“Downtown Cairo has turned into a military barrack. It is full of secret police who would stop anyone,” said Mohamed Zaree, a human rights activist with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He said police were checking the smart phones of those arrested for any possible incendiary political content.
“What is going on definitely has to do with the upcoming anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution,” said Zaree. “The regime is always scared that the Jan. 25 scenario might get repeated.”
Since el-Sissi’s ascent to power, state officials and state-controlled media have spread the narrative that the 2011 uprising was the outcome of a conspiracy by the Brotherhood and its regional allies, namely Turkey and Qatar. His government even renamed the Jan. 25 national holiday as Police Day instead of The Revolution Day, in a move widely seen by the regime’s critics as an attempt to erase the memory of that day.
However, in his Thursday speech, el-Sissi hailed the anniversary of the 2011 pro-democracy rallies as “a precious occasion.”
“Today coincides with the anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution with its noble demands that the Egyptian citizen would lead a dignified life,” he said.

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Pete Buttigieg: Democrats should get more comfortable owning deficit issue

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said Democrats should get more “comfortable” owning the issue of deficits, as he looks to draw a contrast with his more liberal rivals in the closing stretch ahead of Iowa.
Mr. Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said he’s being “careful” with what he’s promising on issues like health care “to make sure it is paid for.”
He said that in his lifetime, Republican presidents have racked up budget deficits while Democrats have trimmed them.

“My party ought to get more comfortable owning this issue,” he said in an interview with the Sioux City Journal’s Editorial Board published Wednesday
“Look at it right now, we’ve got a $1 trillion deficit under President [Donald] Trump. You know, the reason I think my party hesitates to talk about [the deficit] is because we’re used to it being invoked as an excuse against making investments in health care and infrastructure, other things that are important,” he said.
Racking up federal spending has become a popular bipartisan exercise on Capitol Hill, with both parties in recent years eager to work around fiscal guardrails President Obama and Congress agreed to a decade ago.
Mr. Buttigieg also said he was opposed to decreasing benefits in entitlement programs such as Social Security. Budget analysts across the political spectrum say spending on such entitlement programs such as Medicare is the chief driver of a runaway national debt.

Mr. Buttigieg has portrayed the “Medicare for All” health plan being pushed by Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont as too costly and disruptive. Mr. Buttigieg and other Democratic candidates like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden have pushed a public health insurance option that would compete with private plans.

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Donald Trump says Democrats' impeachment arguments 'loaded with lies' at start of trial

President Trump said Thursday that the opening arguments of the House Democratic impeachment managers in his impeachment trial were “loaded with lies and misrepresentations,” saying that former President Barack Obama withheld foreign aid without consequences.
“The Democrats & Shifty Schiff, whose presentation to the Senate was loaded with lies and misrepresentations, are refusing to state that the Obama Administration withheld aid from many countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, Honduras, & Mexico. Witch Hunt!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The trial began in earnest in the Senate on Wednesday. Lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam B. Schiff described Mr. Trump as a serial election “cheat” who must be removed from office before the November contest.

The president also criticized Democrats for demanding witnesses in the trial after they “would not give us lawyers, or not one witness” in the House impeachment inquiry last year.
“No matter what you give to the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, it will never be enough!” he said.

“They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!”

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Tulsi Gabbard: I won't let Hillary Clinton 'intimidate' me into silence

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on Thursday said she’s not going to let failed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “intimidate” her into “silence,” a day after she filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Mrs. Clinton defamed her last fall.
“For Hillary Clinton and her powerful allies to attempt to smear me and accuse me — really implying that I’m a traitor to the country that I love — is something that I cannot allow to go unchecked,” Ms. Gabbard, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said on “Fox & Friends.”
“I’m filing this lawsuit because I will not allow her or anyone to try to intimidate me or other patriotic Americans into silence,” she said.

The lawsuit said Mrs. Clinton falsely called Ms. Gabbard a “Russian asset” in a podcast interview last fall and said the statements have cost the congresswoman more than $50 million in damages.
It alleges that the comments were part of a revenge plot on the part of Mrs. Clinton after Ms. Gabbard resigned her post as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont for president in February 2016.
A Clinton spokesman responded to the lawsuit by saying: “That’s ridiculous.”
Ms. Gabbard has been going all-in on New Hampshire in her long-shot bid for the White House and has the luxury of campaigning while four of her rivals are stuck in Washington, D.C., for the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.
But she said impeachment isn’t as high a priority for voters as other issues.
“Very rarely does the issue of impeachment come up,” she said. “The issues that are coming up here in New Hampshire especially are issues like the opioid crisis that is still devastating so many families.”

She also cited education, national security, health care, immigration and the economy as issues surfacing on the campaign trail.
Ms. Gabbard drew the ire of some fellow Democrats when she voted “present” on the two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump last month.
Democrats are accusing the president of improperly withholding military aid to Ukraine unless the country’s leaders agreed to announce politically beneficial investigations, including into potential 2020 presidential rival Joseph R. Biden.

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Pro-Trump PAC creates 'witch hunt' timeline to show deep-state path to president's impeachment

The pro-Trump super PAC America First Action has compiled what it’s billing as the first comprehensive timeline of the “witch hunt” against President Trump, posted online to show Americans “the road to a sham impeachment.”
The timeline, which can be viewed at www.impeachment-hoax.com, begins on March 21, 2016, with the hiring of Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who would become the target of FBI surveillance.
It takes readers through developments and players in the FBI’s debunked “Russian-collusion” probe of the Trump campaign and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, such as former FBI Director James B. Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe. It also chronicles multiple insider leaks from the administration after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

The timeline ends with the opening of the Senate’s impeachment trial of the president this week. There’s also a link to click for donations.
America First Communications Director Kelly Sadler said the timeline “follows the genesis and development of the deep state’s witch hunt against President Donald J. Trump, a monstrous conspiracy against the American people and the American system of government.”

“The American people are witnessing a political scandal that dwarfs anything in the history of the United States, all while impeachment proceedings continue this week,” she said. “A mountain of evidence reveals federal law enforcement officers, intelligence agencies, and government bureaucrats engaged in a shocking effort to influence the 2016 election, crush the Trump campaign, and cripple our elected president.”

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Royals star catcher Salvador Perez to become US citizen

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Kansas City Royals star catcher Salvador Perez is about to become a U.S. citizen.
Perez passed his citizenship exam earlier this month and will be be joined by Chief U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips on the Royals FanFest main stage Friday to take the oath of allegiance, the Royals said in a news release.
“I am grateful to this country for the many opportunities I have been given; including the ability to play professional baseball,” Perez said in the release. “I thank God, my mother, my family, the Royals, and all those who have supported me during this process towards becoming a United States citizen.”

Perez signed with the Royals as a 16-year-old prospect from Venezuela, but shot through the minor league system. He made his big league debut in 2011 and was named the Most Valuable Player in the Royals‘ five-game World Series win over the New York Mets in 2015.
Perez was sidelined last season by Tommy John surgery but is preparing to return to the roster this year.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore said the “entire organization and the community of Kansas City look forward to celebrating this historic and special moment.”

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Michael Bloomberg surpasses quarter-billion-dollar mark in spending on 2020 campaign

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has surpassed the quarter-billion-dollar mark in spending on his presidential campaign — a total that easily dwarfs the amount of money his 2020 Democratic presidential rivals have sunk into their campaigns.
Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign has spent more than $209 million on broadcast TV, about $14 million on cable, $1.1 million on radio and more than $27 million on digital, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
Mr. Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $56 billion, has spent about $116 million more than billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont was next-closest at about $27 million of purchased media.

Mr. Bloomberg’s personal largesse has allowed him to hire a wave of staffers as he banks on a strong performance in the Super Tuesday primary contests on March 3.
The former New York City mayor is currently in fifth place nationally in the latest Real Clear Politics average.
But Mr. Bloomberg is declining to accept donations, so he won’t meet the Democratic National Committee’s fundraising requirement to qualify for the debates.
That means he would have to win at least one pledged delegate in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 if he wants to qualify for the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire.

But he’s essentially conceding Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to focus on states that vote later on.

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Poland to hold final vote on politicians punishing judges

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s lawmakers are scheduled Thursday to take a final vote on a proposed law that would allow politicians to fire judges who criticize their decisions, a change that European legal experts warn will undermine judicial independence.
Proposed by Poland’s right-wing ruling party, which seeks more control over the judiciary, the law has been condemned by European and Polish legal experts, by Poland’s opposition and by some judges.
They say it violates European Union principles and the democratic separation of powers.

The bill was rejected by the Senate last week. The lower house of Poland’s parliament, which is controlled by the ruling Law and Justice party, is expected to give its final approval in Thursday’s vote. The party has argued the law is needed to prevent “anarchy” among judges, some of whom are critical of the party’s policies.
The law would prohibit judges from engaging in any public activities that could be seen as politically motivated. It curbs the right of judges to form independent judicial bodies and requires them to declare all group affiliations, including any political affiliation from Poland’s pre-1989 communist era.
The legislation also bans judges from evaluating or criticizing new judicial appointments or powers of state authorities. The punishment for non-compliance ranges from fines to dismissal.
The law is part of changes the ruling party has made to the judiciary since it came to power in 2015. The Law and Justice government argues the judicial system needs to be made more efficient.
Critics agree improvement is needed but say the changes amount to putting judges under political control.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has spoken in favor of the bill and is expected to sign it into law.

The vote planned for Thursday evening comes as the Polish Supreme Court was meeting to assess whether some of its judges, who were appointed under new rules and with the participation of the parliament, are enjoying full independence.

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Migrant parents separated from kids since 2018 return to US

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Nine parents who were deported as the Trump administration separated thousands of migrant families landed back into the U.S. late Wednesday to reunite with children they had not seen in a year and a half.
The group arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Guatemala City in a trip arranged under the order of a federal judge who found the U.S. government had unlawfully prevented them from seeking asylum. An asylum advocate confirmed the nine parents were all aboard the flight.
Some of the children were at the airport to greet them, including David Xol’s 9-year-old son Byron.

David fell to one knee and tearfully embraced Byron for about three minutes, patting the back of his son’s head.
“He was small,” David said after rising to his feet. He looked at his attorney – who accompanied him on the flight – raised his hand about chest-high and said, “He grew a lot.”
David, Byron and his attorney, Ricardo de Anda, then embraced in a three-way hug and exchanged words in their huddle. Byron was all smiles. Father, son, attorney and family sponsor eagerly left the airport for their hotel.
The reunion was a powerful reminder of the lasting effects of Trump’s separation policy, even as attention and outrage has faded amid impeachment proceedings and tensions with Iran. But it also underscored that hundreds, potentially thousands, of other parents and children are still apart nearly two years after the zero-tolerance policy on unauthorized border crossings took effect.
“They all kind of hit the lottery,” said Linda Grimm, an attorney who represents one of the parents returning to the U.S. “There are so many people out there who have been traumatized by the family separation policy whose pain is not going to be redressed.”
More than 4,000 children are known to have been separated from their parents before and during the official start of zero tolerance in spring 2018. Under the policy, border agents charged parents en masse with illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, then placed their children in government facilities, including some “tender-age shelters” set up for infants.

The U.S. has acknowledged that agents separated families long before they enforced zero tolerance across the entire southern border, its agencies did not properly record separations, and some detention centers were overcrowded and undersupplied, with families denied food, water or medical care.
In June 2018, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to stop separating families and reunite parents and children.
At least 470 parents were deported without their children. Some of the kids were held in U.S. government facilities and ultimately placed with sponsors. Others were deported to their home countries.
Accounts emerged of many parents being told to sign paperwork they couldn’t read or understand or being denied a chance to request asylum in ways that violated federal law.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security referred a request for comment to the Justice Department, which did not respond.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the original family separation lawsuit before Sabraw, asked the judge to order the return of a small group of parents whose children remained in the U.S. In September, Sabraw required the U.S. to allow 11 parents to come back and denied relief to seven others.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said Sabraw made clear he would only order the return of people “who were misled or coerced into giving up their asylum rights.” That will leave other parents who fled violence, poverty and persecution to decide whether to have their children return to their home countries or remain in the U.S. without them.
“Many are going to make the decision that generations of immigrant parents have made – to leave their child in the U.S. and endure the hardship of separation, but to do it for their child’s own safety,” Gelernt said.
Xol said that after he and his then-7-year-old son, Byron, crossed the border, they were taken to a U.S. Border Patrol processing center in South Texas. Xol was charged with illegal entry on May 19, 2018.
Two days later, Xol said an officer told him to sign a document that would allow him and Byron to be deported together. If he didn’t sign, Byron would be given up for adoption and Xol would be detained for at least two years.
Xol signed the document, only to have Byron taken away and then get deported to Guatemala. Byron was placed in government facilities for 11 months.
The family’s attorney, Ricardo de Anda, persuaded a federal court to force the U.S. to let a Texas family take in Byron. Since May 2019, Byron has lived with Holly and Matthew Sewell and their two children, with regular video calls to his family.
Holly Sewell brought Byron, now 9, to meet his father at the airport. They planned to go back to Texas to pack and prepare for Byron to move in with his father once Xol is settled in California. Before the reunion, Byron kept asking Sewell, his caretaker, when his father would clear immigration authorities.
“They’re almost here, you’re doing great,” she said. “Count to 1,000.”
“999,” Byron responded.
She said she was thrilled Byron could see his dad again but sharply criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of asylum-seekers.
Esvin Fernando Arredondo was expected to be on the plane. The father from Guatemala was separated from one of his daughters, Andrea Arredondo – then 12 years old and now 13, after they turned themselves in on May 16, 2018, at a Texas crossing and sought asylum legally, according to Grimm, his lawyer. He failed an initial screening and agreed to go back to Guatemala.
According to Sabraw’s ruling, the government deported Arredondo even after the judge had ordered families reunited and subsequently prohibited U.S. officials from removing any parent separated from their child. He’s now being given a second chance at asylum under the court order.
Andrea was separated from all family for about a month, living in a shelter as the government struggled to connect children with their parents because they lacked adequate tracking systems. She was finally reunited with her mother, who had turned herself in at the Texas crossing with the other two daughters four days earlier than her husband, on May 12, 2018.
She and her two daughters passed the initial screening interview for asylum, unlike her husband, even though they were fleeing for the same reason. Their son Marco, 17, was shot and killed by suspected gang members in Guatemala City.
Arredondo’s wife, Cleivi Jerez, 41, arrived at LAX less than an hour before the flight landed with their three daughters in tow, ages 17, 13 and 7.
“Lots of nerves, last night I couldn’t sleep,” she said in Spanish in an interview after the flight landed.
Jerez said she planned to stay up late catching up with her husband. She planned to rest at their Los Angeles home tomorrow as well, catching up on their 17 months apart before he has to report to an ICE office Friday in San Diego. Alison Arredondo, 7, said she missed going to the park with her father and she wanted to go to one with him in LA.
While the U.S. has stopped the large-scale separations, it has implemented policies to prevent many asylum-seekers from entering the country. Under its “Remain in Mexico” policy, more than 50,000 people have been told to wait there for weeks or months for U.S. court dates. The Trump administration also is ramping up deportations of Central Americans to other countries in the region to seek asylum there.
“People want to make this a heartwarming story, but it’s not. It’s devastating,” Sewell said. “There is just no good reason why we had to do this to this child and this family. And he symbolizes thousands of others who have been put in this exact same position.”
___
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat contributed to this report. Merchant reported from Houston.

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'Birth tourism' faces new restrictions from State Department

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration is coming out with new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a coveted U.S. passport.
Visa applicants deemed by consular officers to be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth will now be treated like other foreigners coming to the U.S. for medical treatment, according to State Department guidance sent Wednesday and viewed by The Associated Press. The applicants will have to prove they are coming for medical treatment and they have the money to pay for it.
The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, according to two officials with knowledge of the plans who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The rules will take effect Friday.

The practice of coming to the U.S. to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.
The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship – anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. He has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.
Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with, and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she may be just by looking at her.
Consular officers right don’t have to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the U.S. and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the U.S. The U.S. has been c racking down on the practice since before Trump took office.
There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.

The draft rule is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department spokesperson said.
___
Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.

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Bullhead City OKs sanctuary measure supporting gun rights

BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. (AP) – Bullhead City is declaring itself a sanctuary city that stands in support of gun rights.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt a resolution affirming support for Second Amendment rights and pledging to take any action it can “to support and defend the rights and liberties for individuals to keep and bear arms as guaranteed” by the state and federal constitutions.
According to the Mohave Valley Daily News, the resolution also states the council won’t spend public money or use other government resources to enforce laws “determined by lawful processes to unconstitutionally infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors adopted a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution on Nov. 4.

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UN court orders Myanmar to prevent Rohingya genocide

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – In a sweeping legal victory for members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the United Nations‘ top court on Thursday ordered Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya people.
The court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the International Court of Justice “is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable.”
The court added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding “and creates international legal obligations” on Myanmar.

At the end of an hour-long sitting in the court’s wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice, judges also ordered Myanmar to report to them in four months on what measures the country has taken to comply with the order and then to report every six months as the case moves slowly through the world court.
Rights activists immediately welcomed the unanimous decision.
“The ICJ order to Myanmar to take concrete steps to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya is a landmark step to stop further atrocities against one of the world’s most persecuted people,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Concerned governments and U.N. bodies should now weigh in to ensure that the order is enforced as the genocide case moves forward.”
The world court order for what it calls provisional measures came in a case brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of an organization of Muslim nations that accuses Myanmar of genocide in its crackdown on the Rohingya.
At public hearings last month, lawyers for Myanmar’s accusers used maps, satellite images and graphic photos to detail what they call a campaign of murder, rape and destruction amounting to genocide perpetrated by Myanmar’s military.
The hearings drew intense scrutiny as Myanmar’s former pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi defended the campaign by military forces that once held her under house arrest for 15 years.

Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor heads the government, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and human rights under Myanmar’s then-ruling junta. She wasn’t present in court for Thursday’s hearing.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.
Suu Kyi told world court judges in December that the exodus was a tragic consequence of the military’s response to “coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks” by Rohingya insurgents.
She urged judges to drop the genocide case and allow Myanmar’s military justice system to deal with any abuses.
Thursday’s ruling came two days after an independent commission established by Myanmar’s government concluded there are reasons to believe security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations against the Rohingya, but that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out.
The report drew criticism from rights activists. Pending release of the full report, Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, said the panel’s findings were “what would have been expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government.”
At December’s public hearings, Paul Reichler, a lawyer for Gambia, cited a U.N. fact-finding mission report at hearings last month that said military “clearance operations” in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state spared nobody. “Mothers, infants, pregnant women, the old and infirm. They all fell victim to this ruthless campaign,” he said.
Gambia’s Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the world court to act immediately and “tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people.”
The world court’s orders are legally binding but it relies on the United Nations to add political pressure, if necessary, to enforce them.
The court is expected to take years to issue a final ruling in the case.

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US, other leading powers flag in fight against corruption

BERLIN (AP) – The U.S. and several other leading industrial powers are struggling to keep up the momentum in the fight against corruption, according to a report Thursday that urged governments to address problems with political party financing.
Watchdog group Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceived public-sector corruption in 180 nations. It uses a scale on which 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt.
The United States’ score of 69 was two points lower than a year earlier and its worst score for eight years, Transparency International said. The U.S. was ranked 23rd, a one-place drop from last year.

The report cited challenges including “threats to its system of checks and balances” and “the ever-increasing influence of special interests in government.” It also noted the launching of impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump.
Denmark, last year’s top performer, was joined in a tie for first place this time by New Zealand. Both had 87 points. They were followed closely by Finland. Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland tied for fourth. Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany and Luxembourg – tied for ninth – completed the top 10.
Canada lost four points to 77, placing 12th. It tied with Britain, which lost three points – as did France, which tied with the U.S.
Of the other countries in the Group of Seven leading industrial powers, Germany and Japan, which ranked 20th, were static, while only Italy gained one point to 53, putting it in 51st place.
More than two-thirds of countries around the world scored below 50 and the average score was only 43, Transparency International said. It said countries that perform well on the index have stronger enforcement of campaign-finance regulations.
“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said the group’s head, Delia Ferreira Rubio. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”

The report also noted that “integrity at home does not always translate into integrity abroad, and multiple scandals in 2019 demonstrated that transnational corruption is often facilitated, enabled and perpetuated by seemingly clean Nordic countries.”
Notable gains were made this year by Armenia and Angola, which each gained seven points – to 42 (77th place) and 26 (146th) respectively.
Bottom place again went to Somalia, with just nine points. South Sudan, Syria and Yemen finished above it, behind a group of countries sharing 173rd place that included Afghanistan and Venezuela.

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Impeachment trial not ready for broadcast prime time

NEW YORK (AP) – The first night of arguments in favor of President Donald Trump’s impeachment before the U.S. Senate was judged not ready for prime time by many of the nation’s television executives.
ABC, CBS and NBC all stuck with regularly scheduled programs like “Chicago Med,” “Criminal Minds” and “Modern Family” Wednesday evening instead of showing the House managers’ evening session at the impeachment trial. That lasted about two hours, 15 minutes.
CNN and MSNBC carried the trial in full. Fox News Channel, after showing Rep. Adam Schiff speak for about a half hour, interrupted for a story about a child support case involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and never returned.

Even two PBS stations in the New York area showed science programming and “Antiques Roadshow” instead of the trial Wednesday evening. PBS said it gave its local stations the option to show the trial or not.
The calls Wednesday night are significant because if the top networks decided not to pre-empt programming on the first full night the case against Trump was laid out, chances are they won’t reverse course later unless the unexpected happens.
Daytime was an intriguing contrast, since the top three broadcasters and cable news outlets all carried Schiff’s initial stand at the podium, which lasted more than two hours.
It was rare for anyone in today’s media world to command full television attention to that extent. The Senate’s rules for the trial, which required using a single camera on the speaker and didn’t allow reaction shots of senators, only served to accentuate Schiff’s message.
Meanwhile, Trump was setting a record for sending out the most tweets in a single day since he’s been president.
For the television networks, however, prime time is a different animal altogether, with more viewers and advertising revenue available.

After pulling away from House managers Wednesday evening, Fox News personalities spent much of their time ridiculing the proceedings. Fox mostly kept a postage stamp-size picture of the speaker soundlessly mouthing words in a corner of the screen, with an invitation for viewers to go online if they wanted to hear the arguments.
Fox’s Tucker Carlson ran clips of TV commentators on other network personalities who praised Schiff’s afternoon speech, calling the comments “pornographic.” He said Trump wasn’t the only victim of the impeachment trial – suggesting viewers were, too. He brought on a former Republican congressman to talk about alleged crimes in the Obama administration and Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to assess the trial.
“Today was really boring and the president’s defense team is very happy,” Ratcliffe said.
Carlson also interviewed Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, with the host saying Hawley had “stepped out of the trial” to talk on television and criticize House managers.
Similarly, Fox’s Sean Hannity labeled the impeachment trial the “Schumer Schiff Sham Show” and attacked Schiff for his afternoon speech.
“He is a lunatic,” Hannity said. “If you watched him talk he was totally unhinged. He looked like a lunatic who has lost his mind.”
Wrapping up his evening argument a half-hour later, Schiff also used the word “sham,” but in a much different context, as a description for Trump’s attempts to get the Ukraine to investigate the activities of Hunter Biden.
It wasn’t heard on Fox, however. At the time Hannity was interviewing lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump’s impeachment defense team.

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Dalhi Myers, black South Carolina lawmaker, switches support to Sanders

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president – whose support in the state is considered deep — as “a compromise choice.”
Dalhi Myers told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders’ strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election.
“I looked at that, and I thought, ‘He’s right,’” said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. “He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic. … I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America – for the least, the fallen, the left behind.”

Sanders, a Vermont senator, frequently calls out what he sees as Trump’s dishonesty, referring on the campaign trail to the president as a “pathological liar.” Biden, whose relationships in South Carolina go back decades, has led polling in the state, particularly among the black voters who make up most of the state’s Democratic primary electorate.
Sanders, whose 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 in South Carolina blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters, has focused on strengthening his ties in the state’s black community.
In December, Myers, a corporate lawyer in Columbia, was among more than a dozen South Carolina elected officials to endorse Biden, saying at the time in a release from the Biden campaign that he was “the only candidate with the broad and diverse coalition of support we need to win” against Trump in the general election. Initially, Myers said she backed Biden because she saw him as a candidate who could possibly appeal to Republican voters disenfranchised by the president.
“It was a compromise choice,” she said. “I didn’t find anybody’s candidacy electrifying, but I did find Joe Biden’s candidacy to be reassuring in a sort of normal, American kind of way.”
But over the ensuing weeks, Myers said she started to feel that Biden’s candidacy, while familiar and perhaps comfortable, wasn’t going to be enough to inspire the young voters whom she sees as necessary to a Democratic general election win.
When questioned how someone who considered herself a conservative Democrat could support a candidate like Sanders, whose proposals including “Medicare for All” suggest government growth on an as-yet unknown scale, Myers said she did have some concerns but expressed doubt that such measures would ever become law without changes.

“Medicare for All will have to go through Congress,” she said. “He’s not going to pull a Donald Trump.”
Ultimately, Myers said her decision wasn’t necessarily about her personal preferences.
“I’m a 50-year-old-black woman, and I tend to be middle of the road,” Myers said. “I’m voting what I think is best for all of us, not just me. … I’m not a left-wing liberal. I’m not even a left-wing Democrat. But I am a realist.”

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Senate staffers amplify bosses' messages on social media during impeachment trial

Senators are not letting the impeachment trial’s restrictions on modern technology stop them. From Apple Watches to staffs’ rapid response efforts on Twitter, the senators are finding ways to use technology around the all-consuming trial.
Rules applying to the impeachment trial of President Trump mean that senators cannot use electronic devices such as cellphones on the Senate floor during the trial. When Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter account began showing tweets during the trial, left-leaning political opponents criticized him.
In response to former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart requesting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey investigate the Texas Republican’s social media use, Mr. Cruz’s Twitter account responded in a tweet with a Texan meme including the words “Come And Take It.”

Mr. Cruz’s staff later confirmed that it was tweeting on behalf of the senator.
“Sen. Cruz’s staff can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Cruz spokeswoman Lauren Aronson. “Sen. Cruz is all about winning hearts and minds through humor on social media.”
His team is not just using social media to needle political adversaries, but also to solicit feedback about how to approach the impeachment proceedings. He is recording a daily podcast published to YouTube during the trial dubbed “Verdict with Ted Cruz.”
“Anyone listening to this let me say if you have a question that you think needs to be asked — needs to be asked to the House managers or needs to be asked of the White House team, use Twitter,” Mr. Cruz said on the podcast. “I’m @TedCruz and just use the hashtag ‘verdict’ and we’re going to be watching Twitter to get ideas from you.”
Senators on both sides of the aisle are using social media to amplify their message about impeachment in real-time. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s official Senate Twitter account — separate from the one she uses on the Democratic presidential campaign trail — is being operated entirely by staff during the impeachment trial.
The Massachusetts Democrat tweeted that she was “handing over the keys” to her social media during the trial because of the Senate ban on phones in the chamber. Her team has not been afraid to engage in the political scrum surrounding the impeachment in her immediate absence online, however.

“The rules that Senator McConnell & the Republicans rammed through the Senate [Wednesday] are designed to protect President Trump — not guarantee a fair & honest trial,” Ms. Warren’s account tweeted. “The rules are rigged.”
It’s not clear how strict or flexible the rules are about electronics and technology on the Senate floor. As many as eight senators were spotted sporting Apple Watches during Tuesday’s opening impeachment proceedings, according to a Roll Call report that discovered six Republican and two Democratic lawmakers with the wearable technology.
While Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has admonished House managers and the White House team’s bitter attacks on one another, senators with wearable tech have not been criticized — yet.

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Inside the Beltway: Voters now cringe over feminist candidates

So have you ever heard of “Femocrats?” The term has been around since the late 1980s and designates “a female government official who advocates feminist policies” according to the Oxford Dictionary, or alternatively, “Women who vote for a female candidate regardless of platform or position, because she is female” — this according to the Urban Dictionary. But wait. The cultural and political influence of this designation could be on the wane as weary voters cringe over feminist rhetoric which may not yield much.
Now comes a timely new essay from Amber Athey, White House correspondent for the Daily Caller. It is titled “The sad death of the Femocrats” and makes the case that the novelty of a female presidential candidate has worn thin, and that being a woman is no longer the primary qualification.
“You also have to be good enough to win,” Ms. Athey writes in Spectator USA, referring primarily to the Democratic ladies who are indeed running for U.S. president at the moment.

“None of these women will be prepared to go up against the brash and unfiltered Trump, and Democratic voters are getting sick of watching so-called empowered women explain away their failures as bigotry. The Femocrats have used their gender to avoid grappling with the fact that their political styles and personalities have largely fallen out of favor with the average Democratic voter,” writes Ms. Athey.
“Thus middle-aged establishment female Democrats have mirrored the decline of the Women’s March, which disappointed so many last weekend. In 2020, a power woman with all the correct opinions and a well-tailored suit jacket may earn a shiny news cut in Elle magazine, but she will not capture the White House,” she observes.
IMPEACHMENT GOES HOLLYWOOD
Deadline Hollywood reports that FX — a Disney-owned cable channel — is producing “American Crime Story: Impeachment,” which will dwell on former president Bill Clinton’s impeachment and his involvement with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The production, which should premier late this year, will be based on CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin’s 1999 book “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.”
The industry source also notes the cast: “Beanie Feldstein will star as Lewinsky, Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones and Billy Eichner as journalist Matt Drudge.”

And one more thing: Ms. Lewinsky, the news organization says, is one of the producers.
AN AVALANCHE OF LIBERAL BIAS
There is so much biased reporting emanating from the impeachment “process’ against President Trump that the Media Research Center has designated an entire new section to chronicle all the liberal rants by major news organizations and individual journalists alike. The section now contains some 600 analytical reports from the conservative media watchdog’s very canny and tireless staff. Some of the reports are not just disquieting — they are downright alarming.
“The impeachment trial of Donald Trump should begin with an indictment of the media. The alleged crime committed by President Trump revolves around his request that the president of Ukraine investigate the shady business dealings of Hunter Biden with a corrupt Ukrainian oil and gas company. That investigation might have been unnecessary had the news media chosen to do what they’re supposed to be doing: investigative journalism,” write Brent Bozell, founder of the organization, and Tim Graham, the center’s director of media analysis.
“Why would Trump have to ask a foreign official for an investigation into Biden sleaze? Because when politicians have a (D) next to their name, the idea of the press ‘holding people accountable’ goes out the window. It is unfathomable that the American news media would choose not to investigate the activities,” the two learned gents note.
ROMNEY’S MOMENT OF CLARITY
One Utah Republican has a prudent warning for Democratic lawmakers who get too dramatic in their demands or fail to check their personal behavior as the Senate impeachment trial continues.
“The Democrats are making a mistake when they cry outrage time and time again. If everything is an outrage, then nothing is an outrage,” Sen. Mitt Romney tells CNN.
FOX NEWS WEBSITE: 19.5 BILLION VISITORS
Fox News remains the most watched network in the cable realm, and it has bested close rivals MSNBC and CNN in the ratings for 18 consecutive years. Now comes another media victory: 2019 was a very good year for Fox News online, and it wasn’t even an election year.
The nation’s leading cable news network enjoyed a record 19.5 billion visits to its website last year. Yes, that is billion with a “b” — making Fox News the most visited news organization in the world according to industry numbers from Comscore Media Matrix and other sources.
Yes, the world. That online popularity increased by 12% over 2018, by the way.
Among its competitors, Fox News slipped by CNN, which drew a total of 18.6 billion visits last year, the New York Times (13.1 billion) and the Washington Post (6.1 billion.).
“Our enterprise reporting propelled Fox News Digital to its best year ever, averaging over 100 million monthly unique visitors for the first time in history,” says Porter Berry, Fox News Digital editor-in-chief — who also lauds the dedication of staffers who consistently and quickly produce “compelling and informative content.”
And what about all the social media? For the 64th consecutive month, Fox News remained the top “most engaged news brand” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well.
POLL DU JOUR
• 58% of Democratic voters say they could still change their mind about which candidate to support in the presidential election.
• 58% want a candidate who would advocate for policies that have a good chance of becoming law.
• 57% want the Democratic Party to nominate the candidate with the best chance of beating President Trump.
• 42% have definitely picked a particular candidate to support.
• 36% want a candidate who favors policies that would result in “big changes.”
• 35% say they want a candidate who shares their views on major issues.
Source: A CNN/SSRS poll of 500 registered Democratic voters conducted Jan. 16-19.
• Helpful information to [email protected]

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Amtrak ends policy resulting in $25,000 bill for activists

CHICAGO (AP) – Amtrak announced Wednesday the suspension of a pricing policy that resulted in a $25,000 travel bill for a group of wheelchair-bound activists heading to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois from Chicago for a conference and rally on disability rights.
The passenger rail agency told Chicago-based Access Living its policy was to charge extra to reconfigure train cars to accommodate wheelchair users.
“It was never meant to be applied to this situation and we apologize for that mistake,” said the statement emailed by Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. ”We are glad it has all worked out and we were able to accommodate our customers’ trip. We will do better next time. We are America’s Railroad and we want to provide more trips, not fewer.”

On Monday, Amtrak apologized to Access Living and agreed to accommodate everyone at the regular rate of $16 per person.,
Access Living spokeswoman Bridget Hayman says five members of the group got “royal treatment’’ on their trip Wednesday.
“Makes you wonder what the hubbub was about,” Hayman told the Chicago Sun-Times.
An Amtrak sales agent had informed Access Living of a new pricing policy meant they would be charged for seats that have to be removed to fit more wheelchairs, resulting in the $25,000 bill.

News of the policy sparked an outcry led by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who uses a wheelchair due to injuries suffered in combat in Iraq. She requested a meeting with Amtrak executives over the charge she said was “outrageous.”

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Man charged with trading heroin for grenade launchers

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A U.S. citizen living in Tijuana is charged in federal court in Los Angeles with allegedly trading heroin and fentanyl for guns and grenade launchers, federal officials said Wednesday.
Pedro Roberto Hernandez-Gomez, 31, faces multiple charges including possessing machine guns, attempting to transport explosives and distributing drugs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
It wasn’t immediately known if he has an attorney.

During an ATF sting in December, Hernandez-Gomez allegedly agreed to provide heroin and fentanyl in exchange for various guns, grenade launchers and grenades, the bureau said in a news release. Hernandez-Gomez believed he was negotiating with traffickers who were actually ATF agents.

He was arrested Jan. 7 when he came to Los Angeles to deliver more than two 2 pounds (0.91 kilos) each of heroin and fentanyl to undercover agents.

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Martha McSally channels Donald Trump in fight to hold Arizona Senate seat

Without President Trump on the ballot, Martha McSally lost a close Senate election in Arizona in 2018, surrendering one of two seats the GOP lost in the upper chamber that year.
But Ms. McSally was then appointed to the state’s other seat — the one previously held by the late Sen. John McCain — and is now running in 2020 to hold onto it what is again shaping up to be the GOP’s toughest hold of the new election cycle.
This time, though, Mr. Trump will be in the ballot with the 53-year-old Republican, and Ms. McSally is already adopting a Trump-like approach to campaigning, after a terse exchange with a CNN report last week went viral.

“You’re a liberal hack, buddy,” the senator told Manu Raju, a senior congressional correspondent for CNN, as she refused to answer his questions about the impeachment process.
Fellow reporters rallied to the defense of Mr. Raju, a well-liked member of the press corps, complaining that it was unfair to attack him in that way. Critics quickly pointed out that other reporters, particularly from publications deemed to be conservative, have faced similar jeers from some Democrats for years.
Ms. McSally, unperturbed, released video of the encounter then leaned even further into the flap, registering liberalhack.com and offering t-shirts emblazoned with the slam against Mr. Raju for a $35 donation to her campaign.
Liberals, though, rallied to Ms. McSally’s likely Democratic opponent, former astronaut Mark Kelley.
MoveOn.org, an organization created to oppose the impeachment of President Clinton in the 1990s but which is not a vociferous proponent of impeaching Mr. Trump, said Wednesday that nearly 5,000 of its members responded to a plea to help out Mr. Kelly after the CNN scuffle, donating nearly $100,000 to his campaign.
“Voters want accountability and are fired up to elect leaders who will act as a check on this lawless and corrupt president,” said Rahna Epting, MoveOn’s executive director. “We’ll see Senator McSally at the ballot box this November.”

Reached Wednesday, the McSally campaign didn’t comment on MoveOn’s announcement.
The way things are going, Mr. Kelly may not need the boost.
He released fundraising numbers showing he collected more than $20 million for his campaign last year and had $13.6 million in the bank. That outdistanced Ms. McSally’s $12 million raised and $7.6 million on hand.
For her 2018, Ms. McSally raised $21.6 million, close to the $22.2 million raised by then-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat who ended up winning the seat vacated by former Sen. Jeff Flake.
Mike Noble, chief researcher at OH Predictive Insights, an Arizona-based polling firm, said Ms. McSally lost the 2018 race in the outer suburbs of Phoenix.
Dozens of precincts in Maricopa County that voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 voted for Ms. Sinema two years later, and 118 precincts statewide went for Mr. Trump then for Ms. Sinema.
By contrast Ms. McSally only flipped two Clinton-won precincts, both in Pima County.
“If you were to ask me where is it McSally needs to focus and do better — Maricopa County. It’s pretty straightforward,” Mr. Noble said.
In that last race it was health care that really dented Ms. McSally. Her vote for the repeal of Obamacare, and her zeal for it — “Let’s get this [expletive] thing done,” she told her GOP colleagues ahead of the vote — hurt her with too many voters.
Mr. Noble says he could see that play out in a couple areas of Maricopa County that are home to major seniors communities that often go GOP, but rebelled against Ms. McSally.
“She was bleeding from that,” he said.
The Obamacare issue dinged Republicans nationwide.
So far in 2020, though, it’s been less prominent an issue, for a number of reasons.
Mr. Kelly, whose campaign didn’t respond to messages from The Washington Times, is running on a standard Democratic message and a unique personal story.
His NASA experience is front-and-center in his campaign, as is his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat whose career in Congress was ended by a gunman who opened fire on her outdoor town hall in a Tucson parking lot in 2011. She retired and became a gun-control activist.
Mr. Noble said in his most recent polling from last month, Ms. McSally trailed Mr. Kelly by 3 points.
Her favorability rating was slightly underwater, at 46% favorable and 47% unfavorable. Mr. Kelly showed at 46% favorable and only 27% unfavorable. It’s not that voters don’t know him, but 20% said they have no opinion yet.
“McSally is incredibly defined. Not a ton of room to go, and she’s pretty much split,” Mr Noble said. “He’s defined as more favorable as compared to unfavorable, however he hasn’t really been attacked yet.”
Impeachment — the issue the CNN reporter was prodding Ms. McSally over — looms large in the race at this point. The senator is a staunch defender of the president, while Ms. Sinema is viewed as one of three Democrats who might break with her party and vote to acquit Mr. Trump.
That could give Ms. McSally cover.
Indeed, Mr. Kelly hasn’t said how he would vote were he already in the Senate, insisting he wanted to see how the Senate trial played out.
Mr. Trump, who won Arizona by 3.5 percentage points in 2016, led potential Democratic opponents in Mr. Noble’s December polling, though a matchup with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was close.
With Ms. McSally trailing Mr. Kelly in the same survey, that means there are some Trump-Kelly voters out there. If they follow through on Election Day, Arizona could be looking at two Democratic senators for the first time since 1953, when Barry Goldwater won a seat.
“The Republicans got caught flat-footed last election cycle,” Mr. Noble said. “This one will be an absolute barn-burner.”

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NJ inmates to be counted as residents of their district

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Inmates in New Jersey will now be counted as residents of their most recent address when it comes to drawing the state’s legislative districts.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law Tuesday that will change how the state’s political power is distributed when it comes to prisoners.
New Jersey became the seventh U.S. state to enact such a law.

Before the bill was enacted, prisoners in the Garden State counted as residents of wherever they were incarcerated but now will be counted as residents of their last known address.
Progressive Democrats like Murphy have worked hard to end what they describe as “prison gerrymandering.”

“In most cases, incarceration is only temporary,” said state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, a sponsor of the measure. “It is unfair for inmates to be considered part of a community where they’ll likely never live as a free citizen.”

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Illinois Editorial Roundup:

January 18, 2020
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan
Keep the fresh ideas coming in order to improve education

We can all agree that we should appreciate what our teachers do for our children throughout the region, right?
After all, teachers play a large hand in molding our youth. Most are underpaid. Most are underappreciated.
Two stories published in The Southern recently stood out to us: One highlighted what rural schools are doing to recruit former students back to their home districts to teach. And the other looked at what Herrin is doing with instructional coaches, who are helping teachers in the classroom.
It’s no secret that Illinois has a population crisis on its hands. Well, the same goes for teachers. Here in Illinois, the period 2010 to 2016 saw a 53% decline in graduates from teacher preparation programs, outpacing even the national downturn among young people.
And it’s probably even worse in rural areas.
That’s why recruiting was a major point in both stories. Two superintendents who talked to The Southern likened the process to running a football program.

“I played college football, and it’s a little recruiting, letting people know they’re loved and appreciated, and the impact they could have on our schools,” said Hardin County Schools Superintendent Andy Edmondson.
Added Herrin Community Unit District 4 Superintendent Terry Ryker: After the University of Alabama recruits its top players, the coaches don’t turn them loose and say, “It’s all yours from here on out. We don’t need to coach you.”
We get it. Recruiting will get the best and brightest to our region to teach. But another thing that is happening in Herrin – and elsewhere – is our teachers are getting coached, too. We think that is a great thing.
For the 2018-19 academic year, the Herrin school district named eight instructional coaches, recruiting all of them from within its own ranks. The idea is simple: These are teachers who are designated to help coach other teachers, so that those teachers can, in turn, better coach their own students.
If done correctly, it’s one of those rare occurrences in life where it is a win-win situation. Who wouldn’t be for that?
So far, in Herrin, it’s going very well.
Last year, before the coaches were put in place, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) labeled Herrin’s elementary and junior high schools as “underperforming” based on standardized test scores, poor attendance rates and other factors.
Instead of wallowing over the label, Herrin teachers and administrators did the commendable thing: They went to work. “We really just kind of embraced that underperforming category and took a close look at all of the pieces and developed a plan,” said Herrin Elementary School Principal Bobbi Bigler.
The result: Herrin Elementary School received an “exemplary” designation, meaning the school, where two of every three students comes from a low-income family, ranked in the top 10% of schools statewide. Herrin Junior High also grew to “commendable” – the passing label assigned to about 80% of Illinois’ schools.
This shows us that the coaching can work, and we think it’d help other school districts that don’t currently use them.
Instructional coaches aren’t new to Illinois schools, but they are rare among Southern Illinois’ districts. Last year, the Regional Office of Education No. 21, which serves school districts in Williamson, Franklin, Johnson and Massac counties, offered its first instructional coaching training program for area educators. And several districts participated in addition to Herrin’s.
It should be noted that Herrin’s effort to provide teaching coaches was a result of the evidence-based funding system passed at the state level in 2017, which redistributed money to districts that struggle financially. Herrin’s success story shows that the increased funding is having its intended effect here in Southern Illinois. As legislators consider ways to ease the burden of property taxes – which make up the bulk of education funding – they continue to talk about how the state can provide even more funding to local districts. The infusion of cash already injected into local districts is clearly working, and more state money for education will help even more.
We encourage other school districts to follow suit with some of these ideas. We also encourage them to keep thinking of fresh ways to improve and maintain education in Southern Illinois. We have a long ways to go to fix education in the region and state, but fresh ideas like these are only going to help.
___
January 19, 2020
The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Gov. Pritzker’s tough talk
Talk can be cheap, and it often is, particularly when Illinois politicians give one of their periodic sermons about the need to clean up government in this state.
Despite that admonition, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been and continues to be strong – both in word and deed – about the need to address what he calls this state’s “poisonous” political culture.
With the state’s political class (Chicago, Cook County and Springfield) swamped in pending criminal investigations and recent news stories about sickening business as usual by political high fliers, his words are – to say the least – as timely as they are pointed.
“Every person in Springfield needs to take a good, hard look at themselves and ask what their role has been in creating this culture, the availability of engaging in corruption, that’s the culture I’m talking about that’s so poisonous. And we have to ask the question, and they should ask the question of themselves – have they been contributing to that culture or have they been working, as I am, to improve the culture, to get that out of Springfield?” he said.
Although it could stand grammatical improvement, his statement was, on one hand, on target, and on the other, stunningly naive.
The people who contribute so generously to this state’s long-standing culture of corruption got into politics to take personal advantage of that culture, not eliminate it.
Pritzker, a multi-billionaire, certainly didn’t enter politics to boost his net worth, but many movers and shakers did.
That’s why the feds have so many criminal investigations under way. That’s why a load of state legislators have been or will be charged criminally. That’s why authorities are investigating links between Exelon/Commomwealth Edison and Michael McClain, a company lobbyist who is extremely close to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. That’s why authorities are looking especially hard at Madigan’s massive political and governmental operations.
Speaking of McClain, Pritzker publicly urged him to cooperate with the federal investigation, something that McClain had said earlier in the week that he will not do.
That’s bad advice McClain will reject out of hand. Cooperation for those in his shoes can be the key to the jailhouse door.
And, speaking of Madigan, the governor was notably circumspect in his comments about the all-powerful speaker of the House when he was asked if Madigan is a net positive or negative for Illinois.
“Look, I am the leader of this state. I’m the governor of the state. And I set an agenda, and I have gone to the Legislature and to the leaders of the Legislature with that agenda. And for the most part, we have passed much of the agenda that I put forward for last year,” Pritzker said. “And so I intend to keep working with whoever is holding those offices going forward. I believe that it is a positive that I am getting my agenda through, and I’m looking forward to continuing the progress that we’ve made and to bring a greater optimism and success to our state, as we did over the last year.”
Those who read carefully will note that Pritzker neither answered the question nor stated Madigan’s name. He clearly is treading carefully when it comes to the veteran Chicago politician.
That reticence is a two-edged sword. Pritzker has to go easy because he needs Madigan’s cooperation to pass his legislative proposal. But his reluctance to acknowledge the elephant in the room will strike many as evidence of hypocrisy, timid and lack of credibility.
___
January 17, 2020
Chicago Tribune
Repeating: Democrats, it’s time for Madigan to go
Decades of incompetent budgeting and enormous but unfunded promises shove state government into insolvency, unable to pay bills as they come due. Parents watch in chagrin as young people by the tens of thousands join an Illinois Exodus and build their futures elsewhere. Tax gouges relentlessly expand, but never enough to sate the ruling Democrats – as always, they want more money to spend, this time via higher income taxes.
Each word of that paragraph was true on July 2, 2017, when we first urged House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to resign from their leadership posts. And each word of that paragraph is true today, although not the end of the story. Add two years of fresh crises for Illinois Democrats, first with disgusting #MeToo scandals in Madigan’s realm, more recently with FBI agents and federal prosecutors incrementally identifying Illinois governance and politics as a vast criminal enterprise.
Cullerton is retiring from the Senate. But Democrats from Gov. J.B. Pritzker on down look paralyzed, unwilling or unable to challenge the presence of Madigan as the head of their state party and the kingpin of their House caucus. The feds have accused Madigan of no wrongdoing, and he reliably dodges responsibility for the misdeeds that others around him allegedly have committed.
What’s hiding in plain sight, though, is the entitlement – the impunity – with which those close to Madigan have concluded they can operate. In one case among many, impunity likely explains why Madigan crony Michael McClain could have the hubris to casually invoke rape and ghost payrolling when McClain emailed top aides to a governor, seeking protection for a state employee in a disciplinary case.
Madigan says he knew nothing about any of McClain’s maneuvering. Not the email, not the rape reference, not the ghost payrollers, not the veiled suggestion that McClain had dirt on the administration of then-Gov. Pat Quinn, so Quinn’s aides had better take notice.
For the most part, as their Madigan-related embarrassments pile up like cordwood, Illinois Democrats have condemned the sins, but they’ve not demanded that Madigan resign as speaker. Nor are they pressuring him en-masse to abdicate his throne in the Illinois Democratic Party.
One reason for the Democrats’ fealty: The Tribune reports that as of Jan. 1, four campaign funds Madigan controls have $21.1 million in cash on hand. A whole lot of Democratic politicians would rather wait in line for more porridge from Madigan than invoke their self-proclaimed principles.
We argued in 2017, and reiterate today, that Madigan’s tenure as speaker coincides with Illinois’ downward spiral.
His legislature – anybody want to argue with that phrase? – for decades has intentionally failed to give the people of Illinois solutions to the long-term crises of a tax-hobbled economy and high-overhead government:
No solutions for rising property taxes and workers’ compensation costs, for regulations and mandates that wave off employers, for party patronage, for runaway retirement costs, for that roster of 7,000 local governments … you know the list. Year upon year, Illinois’ crises endure. And as Democrats genuflect, Madigan too endures.
But we reached that verdict before allegations of sexual harassment and a rape cover-up struck Madigan’s fortress. Two years ago, a former aide to his political organization went public with accusations that a top Madigan operative had harassed her. She had tried to get Madigan to take her allegations seriously. She was largely ignored.
Our previous calls for Madigan’s resignation also came before he failed, repeatedly, to take responsibility for a culture of sexism and bullying within his own organization that eventually led to the firing of top Madigan aides.
Our push for Madigan’s departure came before we understood the extent of ethics cover-ups in Springfield. We didn’t fully grasp the farce of accountability in the General Assembly until the departing inspector general, in a commentary published by the Tribune, explained how deeply the system of investigating allegations of sexual harassment is broken – by design.
We didn’t know then that Madigan’s top lobbyist, McClain, would secretly arrange payments to support one alleged sexual harasser, Kevin Quinn, despite a growing #MeToo movement – and despite assurances from Madigan that he cares so deeply about the dignity of women who work in his realm.
Our recommendation came before Madigan’s campaign fund settled a civil lawsuit with the woman who brought those complaints forward, and long before the disclosure of McClain’s disturbing email, with its still unresolved allusion to the cover-up of a rape case.
So now, to members and elected officers of the Illinois Democratic Party, beginning with you, Gov. Pritzker: Isn’t all of this enough to have you pressure Michael Madigan to leave his leadership posts in the General Assembly and in your political party? Or rather, why isn’t it enough? Are you helpless? Feckless? Intimidated?
Any one of the shameful events that have unfolded under Madigan’s rule would justify a change at the top of any private sector, military, civic, educational or charitable organization: Vast indebtedness. Unbalanced budgets. A pension system threatening to implode. Federal corruption investigations of allies galore. Tolerance of sexual harassment. Cover-ups.
Yet proud Democrats in this state who are so quick to pounce on others’ mistakes, to puff out their own righteous chests, continue to enable – to protect – the man who offers no explanation except, I didn’t know. The man who displays no accountability except, I should have done better.
With all those Democrats propped up as his human shields, Madigan will not resign as chairman of their party or speaker of their lower chamber. Instead, he could well be rewarded with reelections to both posts.
Why? Primarily because he offers campaign money and a staff to handhold Democrats through their own election campaigns. For openly squandering the principles they mouth, that is their prize.
What hypocrisy.

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Colorado judge rules ICE violated law by withholding records

DENVER (AP) – Immigration and customs officials violated federal law by refusing to release documents about people who are not citizens, a Colorado federal court judge said.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement used the rule to deny the release of records at least 333 times between July 2017 and April 2019, The Denver Post reports.
The court ordered ICE to change its nationwide standard operating procedure and comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

The case started in 2013 in Glenwood Springs when attorney Jennifer Smith requested documents about her client, but ICE refused to release them because the client was deemed a fugitive, authorities said.
Releasing the documents could help people evade immigration enforcement, ICE officials said.
Smith believed there was not a lawful reason to withhold documents and she appealed two years after receiving the denial and filed a lawsuit in 2016, she said.
Smith received the documents shortly after filing the lawsuit, but she and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado continued the case, she said.

ICE officials can no longer impede attorneys from advocating for their clients by refusing to disclose documents they are entitled to by law, ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said.

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Arizona bill would make building private border wall easier

PHOENIX (AP) – The Arizona Legislature would let property owners along the U.S.-Mexico border build a wall without seeking a city or county construction permit under a measure that advanced Wednesday.
Republicans on the House Federal Relations Committee approved the measure in a 4-3 party-line vote, saying state and local officials shouldn’t be able to throw up barriers if they’re philosophically opposed to building a border wall, a signature promise of President Donald Trump.
“We all know President Trump can’t do everything on his own,” said Rep. Warren Petersen, a Gilbert Republican and the House majority leader who sponsored the legislation. “There’s private companies, private property owners who are willing to help build the wall on their property.”

Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado Republican congressman and high-profile anti-illegal immigration advocate, pointed to a nonprofit organization that encountered red tape from local officials when it built a border wall on private land near the New Mexico-Texas state line. Tancredo is an advisory board member for the group, We Build the Wall.
Art Del Cueto, vice president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, also urged lawmakers to advance the bill.
Most of Arizona’s borderlands are publicly owned and would not be subject to the streamlined permitting process. But Democrats questioned whether it was worth eliminating local control over construction projects to advance a barrier they say is ineffective at stopping drug traffickers.
“I don’t believe a border wall, no matter how tall you build it, is going to stop anything,” said Rep. Alma Hernandez, a Democrat from Tucson.
There’s no indication that state or local regulations have prevented Arizona landowners from building a wall on their own property, said Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat from Laveen.
The same committee also voted to require approval of the governor and Legislature before land could be sold to the federal government.

Rep. Mark Finchem, an Oro Valley Republican who sponsored the bill, said it would prevent the erosion of the property tax base, which pays for a variety of state and local government services. The federal government does not pay taxes on property it owns, which represents about 40 percent of the land in Arizona, according to state data.
Critics, including environmental and sportsman groups, said public lands provide recreational opportunities enjoyed by many Arizona residents and visitors.

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Donald Trump second-term agenda features middle-class tax cuts, expanded travel ban

President Trump is crafting a second-term agenda that is a defiantly bigger version of his first term, outlining in the midst of his impeachment trial election-year plans for deeper tax cuts for the middle class and an expansion of the travel ban that embroiled the administration in a lengthy court battle.
The president also promised more hard-fought trade deals using the threat of tariffs, coming on the heels of his new agreement with China. And surprisingly, he opened the door to entitlement cuts in his second term, after vowing in 2016 never to touch Social Security.
“At the right time, we will take a look at that,” the president told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “That’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look. We also have assets that we’ve never had. I mean, we’ve never had growth like this.”

At a press conference wrapping up two days of high-level diplomatic meetings and salesmanship in Davos, Mr. Trump confirmed that he will soon announce an expanded travel ban to build on the immigration crackdown that he instituted in January 2017 against seven predominantly Muslim nations. Opponents challenged that action all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld a modified version of the president’s ban in June 2018.
“We’re adding a couple of countries to it,” the president told reporters. “Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world. So we have a very strong travel ban, and we’ll be adding a few countries to it.”
The president didn’t reveal which countries would be added to the list, which now restricts travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea. Among the nations under consideration are Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
Expanding the ban should provide voters with a stark contrast between Mr. Trump and his eventual Democrat opponent this fall. At every campaign rally, the president accuses Democrats of promoting “open borders” and sanctuary cities that harbor illegal immigrants.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the administration had no new announcements about changing the current ban, which he called “profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”
“Common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures,” Mr. Gidley said. “We do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States.”

The administration also is coming out with new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can obtain a coveted U.S. passport.
The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, two officials with knowledge of the plans told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The rules would make it more difficult for pregnant women to travel on a tourist visa and possibly require them to convince a consular officer that they have an additional legitimate reason to travel to the U.S.
Mr. Trump has been agitating publicly since fall 2018 to address birth tourism.
The president also promised Wednesday to release a “very big” plan to cut taxes for the middle class within 90 days.
“We’re going to be doing a middle-class tax cut, very big one,” Mr. Trump said on Fox Business at the Davos conference. “We’re going to be doing that. We have to win the House. And I think we can.”
He predicted that the ongoing “impeachment hoax” by House Democrats “really helps us in terms of the House.”
The Democratic majority in the House is highly unlikely to approve another tax cut this year. Mr. Trump called it “very important.”
Republicans would need a net gain of 18 seats to win the House majority, but at least 25 GOP lawmakers are giving up their seats this year. Seven House Democrats are retiring.
The plan is expected to cut tax rates for workers earning between $30,000 to $100,000, who pay in the range of 24% to 28%, down to roughly 15%. The president told Maria Bartiromo that he would also like to make permanent the tax cuts of 2017, but that effort has “a long way to go.”
His 90-day timetable for the tax cut plan would put the announcement around the April 15 deadline for filing income tax returns with the IRS. The president made a similar promise of tax cuts prior to the 2018 midterm elections, but Democrats won control of the House and little more was heard of the plan.
Pushing for a new tax cut plan would give Mr. Trump another campaign contrast with Democrats. The GOP is accusing Democratic candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, in particular, of proposing costly agendas that would require massive tax increases.
Budget deficits topping $1 trillion annually would complicate the president’s tax-cut plans, however.
Candidates usually shy away from talk of entitlement trimming, but Mr. Trump said Tuesday that he’ll address the costly social safety net of programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in a second term. Democrats quickly criticized him.
“Donald Trump is now directly saying what he’s previously only signaled in budget documents and anonymous reports: He will cut Medicare and Social Security if re-elected, and he’s not hiding it anymore,” said Kyle Morse, a spokesman for the liberal super PAC American Bridge. “While this is the latest in a long line of broken promises from the president, the stakes of a second Trump term just got much higher for hardworking families and seniors struggling to get by across the country.”
The president also said Wednesday the U.S. will seek a trade deal with the European Union, now that he has signed a phase-one deal with China and negotiated the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, reissuing his threat to impose tariffs on European auto imports if they don’t come to the table.
Mr. Trump discussed a trade deal with Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, on the sidelines of the Davos forum.
“I suspect we’re going to be able to make a deal. Otherwise, we’ll have to do something else,” the president said, referring to the threat of tariffs. “They have tariffs all over the place. They make it impossible. They haven’t wanted to negotiate with past presidents, but they’re going to negotiate with me.”
Boosted trade, rather than the promise of future tax relief, is more likely to affect Mr. Trump’s reelection prospects. While the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.5%, job creation in the U.S. slowed from 2.7 million in 2018 to 2.1 million in 2019.
Economic output in the fourth quarter of 2019 should come in around 2%, also a slowdown from 2.9% in 2018. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the president’s trade deals with China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and others “have inspired a lot of confidence among large and small businesses.”
“I think it’s going to add at least a half a point to GDP this year,” he said. “I think we’re going to be moving into the 3% zone.”
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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'Schumer is the devil,' impeachment protester yells

One protester erupted inside the Senate chamber on Wednesday during President Trump’s impeachment trial, yelling that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is the “devil.”
The man, who the press was restricted from viewing, was promptly arrested.
Capitol Hill staff identified him as Rive Miller Gorgan, a preacher and anti-abortion activist, who climbed a tree during President Obama’s inauguration and refused to come down.

He is known for bizarre outbursts and stunts at the Capitol, having been arrested many times and banned until recently.
A police officer told Capitol staff the man had said he would not act up, but upon entering the chamber began screaming.
Reporters inside the chamber at the time said before the man was escorted out he yelled, “dismiss the charges,” referencing the two impeachment charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said the outburst was startling.
“We didn’t see it coming. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of it,” he said.
“There are a lot of crazies out there — and I’m not saying they aren’t well-intentioned but it is disruptive when it happens and I think our security has done a good job.”

There has been a noticeable absence of protesters around Capitol Hill during the impeachment trial so far, drawing stark comparisons to the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018, which resulted in hundreds of arrests.

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Virginia Senate passes transgender birth certificate bill

RICHMOND, Va. — The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.
Senate Bill 657 would allow a person to receive a new birth certificate to reflect the a change of sex, without the requirement of surgery. The individual seeking a new birth certificate also may list a new name if they provide a certified copy of a court order of the name change.
“I just think it’s important to try to make life easier for people without being discriminated (against) or bullied,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. “Allowing an individual who is transgender to change their birth certificate without having to go through the full surgery allows them to live the life that they are due to have.”

The bill requires proof from a health care provider that the individual went through “clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.” The assessment and treatment, according to Boysko’s office, is up to the medical provider. There is not a specific standard approach for an individual’s transition. Treatment could include any of the following: counseling, hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, or a patient-specific approach from the medical provider.
A similair process is required to obtain a passport after change of sex, according to the State Department.
Once the paperwork is complete, it is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health vital records department, Boysko said.
Boysko said her constituents have reported issues when they need to show legal documents in situations like leasing apartments, opening a bank account or applying for jobs.
This is the third year that Boysko has introduced the bill. Neither bill made it out of subcommittee in previous years, but Boysko believes the bill has a better chance of becoming law this year.
“I believe that we have a more open and accepting General Assembly then we’ve had in the past, where people are more comfortable working with the LGBTQ community and have expressed more of an interest in addressing some of these long overdue changes,” Boysko said.

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality, said the organization is “really pleased that this bill is moving through.”
“This bill is really important for the transgender community,” Lamneck said. “Right now many transgendered people do not have identity documents … this is really problematic when people apply for jobs or try to open a bank account.”
There are 22 other states in America that have adopted legislation similar to this, including the District of Columbia, Boysko said. The senator said that “it’s time for Virginia to move forward and be the 23rd state.”
The Senate also passed Tuesday Boysko’s bill requiring the Department of Education to develop policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools, along with a bill outlawing conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age.
The bills now advance to the House, where they must pass before heading to the governor’s desk.

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Trump breaks own presidential tweet record as impeachment trial opens

WASHINGTON — President Trump set a presidential record for activity on his favorite social media platform Wednesday, tweeting and retweeting at length about the Senate impeachment trial, the Democrats who want to replace him and much, much more.
By 4:25 p.m. ET, Trump had barreled through his previous record of 123 Twitter postings in a day that he set a little over a month ago, according to Factba.se, a service that compiles and analyzes data on Trump’s presidency.
Trump’s previous record for tweets on a single day during his time in the White House was set on Dec. 12, 2019, the day the House Judiciary Committee opened its marathon session to approve two articles of impeachment against the president.

Trump’ set his all-time record for tweets in a day before he became president, with 161 posts in January 2015, according to Factba.se. Most of his tweeting that day was dedicated to plugging his reality television show.
Trump, who began his day in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum, started his Wednesday morning by hammering out 41 tweets between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. ET (6 a.m. to 7 a.m. in Davos).
The vast majority of his postings to his more than 71 million followers were retweets of messages, videos and images from Republican lawmakers and other backers haranguing Democrats over the impeachment trial.

His barrage of tweets included plenty of incendiary posts excoriating Rep. Adam Schiff, one of the House Democratic impeachment managers, and a retweet of a provocative image posted by White House social media director Dan Scavino that shows Trump walking in front of a fiery scene meant to symbolize the incineration of the “Deep State.”

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University of Maryland to end long-standing Chinese government-supported program

The longest-operating Confucius Institute in the U.S. is set to close nearly a year after Congress passed legislation that would restrict federal funds if the Chinese government-supported program continued.
The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed amid heightened tensions with China, included language that required U.S. universities to either continue their Confucius Institute or receive financial support from the Defense Department.
“After evaluating the impact of this legislation on UMD, it became evident that we can no longer host CIM,” wrote University of Maryland President Wallace Loh on January 17.

He explained the university had alerted the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing that the college would be ending the agreement, which began in 2004.
According to the organization’s website, “Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM) promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.”
The Confucius Institute provided Chinese language teachers and educational materials to members of the organization, but did not offer college credit for the work.
The CIM is just one of 90 programs in universities across the country who face the decision of losing federal funds or maintaining the program.

“The U.S.-China relationship is of global and strategic importance,” Mr. Loh wrote. “UMD remains committed to education and scholarship in Chinese language and culture.”

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Michael Avenatti trial: Judge refuses Trump, Stormy Daniels ban

NEW YORK — There’s no keeping porn star Stormy Daniels and President Donald Trump out of California attorney Michael Avenatti’s extortion case, a judge said Wednesday as he ordered the trial to commence Monday and refused the government’s insistence that he ban mention of Daniels and Trump.
The protests of a spirited but eventually frustrated prosecutor – Daniel Richenthal – were overruled by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe during a hearing that set some boundaries for a Manhattan trial slated to last up to three weeks.
Richenthal insisted it would politicize the trial if Daniels and Trump were mentioned to jurors by lawyers trying to explain why Avenatti is famous.

The judge said nothing would make him happier than to keep the names out of a trial pertaining to allegations that Avenatti tried to extort between $15 million and $25 million from apparel giant Nike.
“But I can’t pretend there was sort of an immaculate conception here where Mr. Avenatti suddenly became this incredibly public lawyer magically,” Gardephe said.
The judge said he tried to think during a 20-minute break in the nearly five-hour hearing of a lawyer with more notoriety and could not.
“We’re deeply troubled,” Richenthal said. “This case has nothing to do with politics in any way, shape or form.”
Avenatti has repeatedly spoken out against the Trump administration and the Justice Department, saying he was targeted for criticizing the president. Besides the Nike case, he also faces trial in April on charges that he cheated Daniels out of book deal proceeds and a May trial in Los Angeles on charges he ripped off others, including clients.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. A week ago, he was arrested in Los Angeles after authorities there alleged that he violated the conditions of his bail by moving money around illegally since his initial arrest last spring.

On Wednesday, he sat in court in his prison blue uniform and orange slippers. Repeatedly, the bespectacled Avenatti ran his fingers across the stubble on his chin and cheeks as he studied documents or passed notes to his lawyers.
Richenthal said he feared that letting the names of Daniels and the president into the trial would cause the defense to politicize the case.
“The suggestion this case was brought because the administration doesn’t like this defendant is frivolous,” he said. “And it is improper.”
The prosecutor said that if Avenatti’s lawyers go too far in talking about Daniels or the president, it might lead prosecutors to introduce evidence to show that Avenatti eventually defrauded Daniels or committed other crimes.
The judge said it was a warning defense lawyers should heed.
Gardephe rejected a defense request that he delay the trial another week after defense attorney Scott Srebnick said Avenatti remained in solitary confinement and it was affecting his “mental state” and his “ability to work with us.”
The judge said he was “deeply disturbed” when he read a letter from Srebnick on Monday that said Avenatti was so isolated that he was separated by a partition from his lawyers when they met with him and he was spending his nights alone in a cold cell.
Gardephe said he was committed to making sure Avenatti had appropriate access to his lawyers and would intervene with prison officials if he must.
On Tuesday, a prison warden told the judge that Avenatti was being kept isolated for his own safety because of his notoriety and his high-profile case.

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Delaware ghost gun measure clears first legislative hurdle

DOVER, Del. (AP) – A proposal by Democratic lawmakers in Delaware to outlaw homemade “ghost guns,” which can’t be traced by law enforcement agents because they don’t have serial numbers or are fashioned from parts created with 3-D printers, has cleared its first legislative hurdle.
A Democrat-led House committee voted to release the bill Wednesday after an hourlong public hearing, although its chief sponsor, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, said she plans to amend the bill after meeting Tuesday with representatives of the National Rifle Association.
Longhurst said her amendments would include a phase-in date by which owners of existing guns would have to obtain serial numbers for their weapons, exempting muzzle loaders and replicas of antique firearms, and allowing licensed firearms dealers to legally handle gun parts that do not have serial numbers.

“The issue of a weapon that could not be detected by metal detectors has existed for years, but not ghost guns,” said Longhurst, D-Bear.
The bill makes it a felony to possess or manufacture an “untraceable” firearm.
It also criminalizes “covert firearms” designed to not resemble a firearm, as well as “undetectable” firearms made of nonmetal substances so as not to set off metal detectors.
Possession of an unfinished firearm frame or receiver without a serial number would also be a felony.
“Ghost guns” is a term used to describe homemade weapons constructed from component parts that do not have serial numbers or other identifying markings that can enable authorities to identify their manufacture, sale, or original owner.
Under federal law, only the receiver, a component of a gun which houses the firing mechanism, is considered a firearm. But the law allows individuals to bypass criminal background checks required for firearm purchases by buying “unfinished” receivers, which do not have serial numbers and can be made fully functional with additional machine or tool work.

Gun opponents criticized the bill as “feel-good” legislation that targets law-abiding citizens and will do nothing to protect the public from criminals who already are prohibited from having guns – with or without serial numbers.
“How many crimes have been committed in this state with ghost guns? I haven’t seen a report on that,” said Terry Baker, a bill opponent. “Go after the criminals within this state, and leave the law-abiding alone.”
Bill supporters urged lawmakers to outlaw ghost guns now rather than waiting to act after a homemade gun is used in a shooting.
“This is commonsense legislation that should be passed by both houses and to be put into law,” said Dennis Greenhouse, a leader of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence. “Delaware should be proactive before a tragedy happens.”
Jeff Hague, a lobbyist for the NRA and the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, welcomed Longhurst’s planned amendments but said he was disappointed in the approach lawmakers are taking.
“We’re not concentrating on the person. We’re looking at an object,” said Hague, who also noted that ghost guns are already addressed by federal law.
“We’re going to solve the problem of gun violence by looking at the person,” he added. “The object is not the problem. It’s the person behind the object.”

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Joe Biden slaps down possible impeachment trial testimony swap

OSAGE, Iowa — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., said Wednesday he won’t agree to appear as a witness before the Senate as part of a testimony swap with Republicans in President Trump’s impeachment trial.
Mr. Biden was asked at a town hall event here whether he has considered calling the “Republicans’ bluff” by agreeing to testify in the Senate as long as Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo testified before him.
“They are playing this game,” Mr. Biden said. “What Trump has done his whole career, whenever he is in trouble, he tries to blame somebody else, divert attention.”

“This is a constitutional issue and we are not going to turn it into a farce — some kind of political theater,” he said. “They are trying to turn it into a political theater.”
Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter, have emerged as central figures in the debate over witnesses in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.
The impeachment articles charge Mr. Trump with using his power to prod Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who held a cushy job on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden once again defended his son’s activity.

“He said it was a mistake for him having done it because he didn’t count on thugs like [Rudy] Guilliani and others using it as a means to hurt his father,” Mr. Biden said.

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William Barr: No repeat single-sourced Crossfire Hurricanes

Attorney General William Barr has tightened the procedure for opening a criminal probe into a presidential campaign after the Justice Department inspector general found the FBI’s momentous decision on July 31, 2016, to target Trump aides never reached the top.
Mr. Barr has decreed that both the attorney general and the FBI director must sign off on such investigations, steps not taken when the FBI counterintelligence unit opened Crossfire Hurricane, a Trump-Russia election probe.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s Dec. 9 report found that the decision-making process over four days never reached then-FBI Director James B. Comey or then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

The decision produced a nearly three-year FBI probe that shifted in May 2017 to special counsel Robert Mueller, who said he didn’t find a Trump-Russia conspiracy. No Trump associate was charged in election collusion.
The Washington Times reported on Jan. 12 that the FBI never gained any evidence of a conspiracy — such as emails, texts, whistleblowers or spies — outside of the discredited Democratic Party-financed dossier.
The Horowitz findings highlight the ongoing next moves in the Trump-Russia saga.
Mr. Barr is disturbed by the FBI’s predicate for starting Crossfire Hurricane. In May, he tapped John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to launch an inquiry into how the process started.
Perhaps telling, when Mr. Horowitz determined the FBI was justified in opening the probe, given the low-evidence threshold to do so, Mr. Durham took the unusual step of releasing a statement saying he disagreed.
Mr. Barr said on Fox News that by the time Mr. Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, it was clear there was no conspiracy to help the Russians hack into Democratic Party computers and launch an anti-Hillary Clinton social media campaign.

The FBI trigger was a wine-room social setting between Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Alexander Downer, the Australian ambassador in London.
Papadopoulos had begun discussions with Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who told him upon returning from Moscow that Russia owned thousands of Clinton emails. In some form, Papadopoulos passed that information to Mr. Downer over drinks on May 10, 2016.
After WikiLeaks dumped thousands of Democratic emails that July, Mr. Downer notified the U.S.
Said Mr. Barr: “To lead to the conclusion that it showed knowledge of a later hack into the DNC was a pretty aggressive conclusion. I just think that by the time the president entered office — around that time — it was becoming clear that there was no basis to these allegations — not just the dossier falling apart, but the information that they were relying [on] as to … Papadopoulos.”
The Mueller probe found no evidence that Papadopoulos sought Clinton emails or told the campaign in New York.
The 35-page dossier was a Kremlin-sourced collection of felony charges aimed at President Trump. It was complied by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was funded by the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. Clinton operatives spread its claims all over Washington, and its memos reached the Crossfire Hurricane team on Sept. 19, 2016.
The Mueller and Horowitz reports effectively refuted Mr. Steele’s reporting, which had received wide backing from Democrats and liberal media.
For the first time, the Horowitz report laid out the players of and the chronology for opening Crossfire Hurricane.
Upon hearing the WikiLeaks news and recalling his May conversation with Papadopoulos, Mr. Downer (not identified by name in the report) contacted a U.S. official in London. That person then summoned an FBI legal attache to provide the ambassador’s tip.
The FBI attache was unsure about what to do with the information and contacted a former legal attache in the Philadelphia field office. The agent then sent a formal “electronic communication” to Philadelphia. That office passed the communication to the cyber counterintelligence coordination section at Washington headquarters, which was investigating Russian hacking.
The electronic communication prompted an intense discussion over four days, July 28-31, inside the counterintelligence unit led by special agent Bill Priestap and agent Peter Strzok. They brought in the general counsel’s office, including Principal Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson.
Mr. Priestap said he may have talked to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe but not to Mr. Comey.
The Horowitz report said: “Comey told the [Office of the Inspector General] that he did not recall being briefed on the [Downer] information until after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was opened, and that he was not involved in the decision to open the case.”
Mr. McCabe told the inspector general that the decision to launch Crossfire Hurricane was unanimous among the agents and his counsel, Lisa Page.
The report said: “He also said that when the FBI received the [Downer] information it was a ‘tipping point’ in terms of opening a counterintelligence investigation regarding Russia’s attempts to influence and interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections because not only was there information that Russia was targeting U.S. political institutions, but now the FBI had received an allegation from a trusted partner that there had been some sort of contact between the Russians and the Trump campaign.”
Mr. Priestap said he considered giving the Trump campaign a defensive briefing, such as the one agents provided to the Clinton campaign, instead of opening Crossfire Hurricane. But he decided not to. He opened a “full” investigation, as opposed to an initial inquiry.
All FBI witnesses said they obtained no additional information from any other source, including intelligence agencies, on a possible Trump connection. Mr. Downer was the sole source for starting the probe.
“All of them told us that there was no such information and that predication for the case was based solely on the FFG information,” the report said.
Post-Horowitz report, Mr. Barr bristled at the lack of sourcing.
“They jumped right into a full-scale investigation before they even went to talk to the foreign officials about exactly what was said,” Mr. Barr told NBC News in December of the Papadopoulos-Downer meeting.
In the end, he said, “There was and never has been any evidence of collusion, and yet this campaign and the president’s administration has been dominated by this investigation into what turns out to be completely baseless.”
Mr. Horowitz, the inspector general, asked agents about statements from former CIA Director John O. Brennan, who claimed that he provided the FBI with Russia-Trump contacts before the agency opened the investigation. All witnesses said this was not true.
Mr. Brennan emerged as a fierce Trump critic on MSNBC and implied repeatedly that Mr. Trump was a Russian asset. Mr. Brennan predicted that a number of Trump aides would be indicted on charges of election conspiracy. When they were not, he said he must have been misinformed.
“Comey told us that while Brennan shared intelligence on the overarching efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, Brennan did not provide any information that predicated or prompted the FBI to open Crossfire Hurricane,” the inspector general’s report said.
On Jan. 13, Mr. Barr declared, “The opening of a counterintelligence investigation of a presidential campaign would be something that the director of the FBI would have to sign off on and the attorney general would have to sign off on.”

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Trump plans to attend the annual March for Life, first president to do so

He’s delivering his pro-life message of support in person this time. President Trump will attend the upcoming March for Life on the National Mall on Friday, a massive annual event which has drawn as many as 500,000 participants in past years.
“We are deeply honored to welcome President Trump to the 47th annual March for Life. He will be the first president in history to attend and we are so excited for him to experience in person how passionate our marchers are about life and protecting the unborn,” said March for Life president Jeanne Mancini in a statement released late Wednesday.
I previous years, Mr. Trump has offered a cordial video message for the march, which annually marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

“From the appointment of pro-life judges and federal workers, to cutting taxpayer funding for abortions here and abroad, to calling for an end to late-term abortions, President Trump and his administration have been consistent champions for life and their support for the March for Life has been unwavering. We are grateful for all these pro-life accomplishments and look forward to gaining more victories for life in the future,” Ms. Mancini said.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, are also among the many speakers for the event.

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Illinois assesses damage from mistaken voter registrations

CHICAGO (AP) – At least three of 16 Illinois residents who cast ballots after being mistakenly registered to vote are U.S. citizens after all, election officials said Wednesday in assessing the damage caused by an error in the state’s automatic voter registration system.
Secretary of State Jesse White’s office, a key player in the system because it oversees driver’s licenses, said the data of 574 people who self-identified as noncitizens was mistakenly forwarded to elections officials to be registered to vote. Election officials said 545 of them were registered and 16 voted in 2018 and 2019 elections.
While those who checked a box on an electronic pad indicating they weren’t U.S. citizens should never have been registered, it turned out at least three from central Illinois counties are citizens. State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said it appeared another two – who have long voting histories – were also likely citizens. Elections officials suggested one explanation was that the registrants may have been confused during the process.

The error has left state officials to track down hundreds of people to determine who may still be eligible to vote and raised questions about the integrity of the system.
Illinois Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, attended a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol to call for a suspension of the program and for someone to be fired. State House Republicans have called for legislative hearings..
“This issue … is deeply concerning even to us at the federal level,” said Davis, who planned a congressional listening session on automatic voter registration. “We hope to get answers.”
Voter rights groups, which have criticized White’s office for a slow rollout of the multi-faceted automatic voter registration program, blamed the office for endangering noncitizens. The registrations were believed to involve green card holders, people who have legal permission to live in the country.
State and federal law bars noncitizens from voting.
“’We are deeply concerned that this careless and needless set of circumstances has put so many of our neighbors at risk,” said Lawrence Benito, head of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “While we want every Illinois resident to be engaged in civic life, we remind everyone who is not a citizen that even if they are registered by mistake, they cannot legally vote and can face deportation if they do.”

White’s spokesman, Dave Druker, said the office sent letters to all those affected taking ownership of the mistake. He said no one had been fired and there were no plans to put the program on hold.
“We’ve taken full responsibility for the error,” he said. “We think the automatic voter registration program is a good one.”
The registrations were for people who visited secretary of state offices between July 2018 and December 2019. Druker said the office discovered the error last month and contacted election officials. The office publicly acknowledged the error this week.
Over 150 registrations have been canceled, election officials said.
Separately, Illinois allows immigrants living in the country without legal permission to get temporary drivers licenses through a different process not linked to voter registration.
___
Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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Connecticut to join other states to block 3D gun blueprints

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – The attorney general of Connecticut, a state that last year placed strict limitations on “ghost guns,” announced Wednesday that his office will join 20 other states in suing the federal government to prevent the release of 3D-printed gun files online.
Democrat William Tong said the federal lawsuit will be filed once Republican Donald Trump’s administration publishes new rules that would transfer federal regulation of 3D-printed guns and other weapons, a move he contends would effectively allow for “unlimited distribution” of unregistered, untraceable and undetectable guns.
The lawsuit is being led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, also a Democrat, who first announced the planned legal action Monday.

“Release of these 3D-printed gun files would allow for the creation and proliferation of 3D-printed guns across Connecticut and across the country, which are able to bypass metal detectors and background checks safeguards,” Tong said of the weapons, which are typically all or mostly made of plastic.
Jeremy Stein, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said police in Connecticut are coming across 3D guns.
“This is what has to be stopped in Connecticut and the rest of the country,” he said. “We cannot have these things in the hands of people who are going to be a danger to to our families, to themselves and others.”
Connecticut was part of a previous multi-state lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Trump administration over its decision to allow a Texas company, Defense Distributed, to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun. The federal government ultimately lost that lawsuit and the administration is now attempting to transfer regulation from the State Department to the Department of Commerce.
Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, predicted the states’ planned lawsuit will ultimately be unsuccessful this time. He argued that the states don’t have legal standing to challenge the federal rule change, speculating they are “hoping for some kind of foothold” and maybe outlast Trump.

“I don’t think they expect to win this one,” he said. “I think it’s just good politics. I get why they’re doing it.”

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Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren vie to break glass ceiling

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg could be on the losing side of the debate over whether a woman or a gay person is more likely to shatter the glass ceiling in presidential politics.
The political message of the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor is hitting home with Democrats across Iowa, particularly in the more conservative areas of the state that are worried about the party moving too far left.
Mr. Buttigieg’s homosexuality, though, is giving many Iowans cold feet.

Grant Dyer said Mr. Buttigieg is his favorite candidate but acknowledged worries that the former mayor can’t beat President Trump in an election “because he’s gay.”
“I really admire Pete, but I just don’t think he can win,” said Mr. Dyer, who is leaning toward supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “There’s too many people who think that is a horrible, awful, thing — ‘Oh my God.’”
His wife, Susan, nodded in agreement. “A lot of people aren’t ready for it,” she said.
Overshadowing the question of whether the nation is ready for a gay president has been a debate over gender and electability. Ms. Warren thrust the subject to the forefront by accusing Sen. Bernard Sanders of telling her in private that a woman could not win the White House.
With the first round of voting just over the horizon, Ms. Warren and her allies are leaning into her womanhood, betting she has more to gain than lose from playing the sex card.
“Elizabeth Warren runs through airports and runs through train stations, and she is a woman on a mission,” Rep. Debra A. Haaland, New Mexico Democrat, told the crowd that came out to see Ms. Warren at a recent event in Newton. “She is a woman who will win the White House.”

Ms. Warren has repeatedly said, “I will do everything, and I love saying this, a president can do all by herself.”
Mr. Buttigieg isn’t emphasizing his sexuality.
Instead, he wraps it into broader messages about freedom, the power of politics and the role that Iowa plays in political history — including in 2009 when the state Supreme Court made Iowa the third state in the U.S. and the first in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage.
“I am standing here in a state that 10 years ago — sending a message from right here in the American heartland — made it possible for my marriage to exist, and with your help I might be standing in the state that will make history by making me the next nominee and next president of the United States,” Mr. Buttigieg said at a recent campaign stop.
The strategy makes sense.
An analysis of likely Iowa caucusgoers found that 40% of voters said Mr. Buttigieg’s homosexuality would make it difficult for him to win the presidency, compared with 32% of voters who said gender bias hurts Ms. Warren’s chances.
“The raw numbers would suggest that fewer people in Iowa think being a woman makes it more difficult than being gay makes it to win, and that difference is substantial,” said the study’s author, David Redlawsk, a political science professor at the University of Delaware and co-author of “Why Iowa?”
He said the evidence is clear that Iowa voters see being gay as more of a barrier than being a woman.
Mr. Buttigieg has been fading in Iowa polls since the beginning of the year and sits in fourth place a little over two weeks before the caucuses, according to the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.
Ms. Warren also has been sliding. Some voters attribute her declining numbers to sexism.
“There is the ‘woman’ thing,” said Joy Olsen, a 41-year-old Warren supporter. “Misogyny is an issue.”
Still, it is easy to come across voters backing Ms. Warren not in spite of, but because of, her gender.
“When the caucuses started, I looked at the candidates and I instantly eliminated the men, honestly,” said Taylor Blair, a member of the Iowa State University College Democrats. “I like all the women who are in the race, then I narrowed it down, and I like Warren because she is the most progressive.”
Mr. Blair said Ms. Warren likely started emphasizing her gender in the hopes of tapping into the lingering frustration from 2016, when voters put it all on the line for Hillary Clinton.
“I think a lot of people feel like after 2016 that there was unfinished business when it comes to electing the first woman president,” he said.
Larry Anderson, another Warren supporter, described her gender as “great plus” in his decision-making process.
“I think the last election cycle proved that a woman could get enough votes to win, and I think Elizabeth is a stronger candidate than Clinton was,” the 68-year-old said.
The nomination race, however, could be decided by voters who are mulling over whether Mr. Trump’s no-holds-barred approach to politics could be too much for Mr. Buttigieg.
“At one point, Trump is going to come out and call him a fairy or something like that, and that could work against him,” 75-year-old Rush Holder said at a recent Buttigieg rally in Sioux City.
Perry Miller praised Mr. Buttigieg after seeing him at a rally. He likened the candidate’s youth and vigor to that of John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president.
“He is going to have trouble with the whole gay thing,” he warned.
“A lot of people have trouble getting over that. I personally don’t,” the 60-year-old said after attending a Buttigieg rally. “How is it going to be introducing the first man in the White House?
“I see that as a hurdle,” Mr. Miller said. “I hope he can clear that hurdle, but it is a high hurdle. It is not a low hurdle.”

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W.Va. Senate calls for term limits in U.S. Constitution

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday called for a Constitutional convention to write congressional term limits into the country’s founding document.
The resolution, approved 20-10, draws on Article V of the U.S. Constitution to call for a convention of the states to set a limit on the number of terms someone can serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.
Sen. Randy Smith, a Republican who sponsored the measure, told lawmakers that “Congress is out of control.”

“We’ve got every right to use it to send a message to our representatives in Washington that we’re watching you and we want something done,” he said.
Two-thirds of the country’s state legislatures would have to call for a Constitutional convention for such a meeting to be held. Then three-fourths of the states would need to approve any changes to the Constitution proposed at the convention.
Some opponents of the measure cautioned that calling for a convention could lead to a host of unforeseen changes to the Constitution.
“We’re not playing with the amount of time people can spend in Congress, we’re playing with fire,” Sen. Michael Romano, a Democrat.

The resolution now heads to the House of Delegates.

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Former Baltimore lawmaker pleads guilty to bribery, fraud

BALTIMORE (AP) – A former Maryland state lawmaker pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribery and fraud charges after being accused of accepting more than $33,000 in exchange for granting various legislative favors.
Cheryl Diane Glenn, who represented the city of Baltimore, entered her plea in federal court on charges of honest services wire fraud and bribery. The veteran Democratic lawmaker abruptly resigned her job as a state delegate days before her charges were unsealed Dec. 23. She silently walked out of the courtroom, and neither she nor her attorney would answer questions from reporters.
Among other accusations, a uthorities allege that in March 2018 she agreed to vote in favor of a bill that would help an out-of-state company get a medical marijuana license in exchange for $3,000 in cash. They say she received the money after the measure passed both chambers and used it to pay outstanding property taxes.

Glenn had become a leading advocate for legalizing marijuana in Maryland.
The bill, designed to improve diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry, became law. It increased the number of grower licenses from 15 to as many as 22. The legislation also increased the number of processor licenses from 15 to 28.
Glenn was charged by information, which is a type of charging document prosecutors use when a defendant has waived being indicted by a grand jury.

Glenn faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the honest services wire fraud charge and five years for the bribery charge.

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