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National Govt & Politics
President Trump back in Washington as 2018 gets underway
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President Trump back in Washington as 2018 gets underway

President Trump back in Washington as 2018 gets underway
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

President Trump back in Washington as 2018 gets underway

President Donald Trump returned to the White House from his Florida holiday retreat on Monday evening, making clear that he's ready for upcoming policy fights in 2018, as the President vows to press for action in Congress on money for a wall along the Mexican border, immigration law changes, welfare reform, and other GOP legislative priorities.

"Much work to be done, but it will be a great New Year!" the President tweeted on New Year's morning, as he headed out for a seventh straight day of golf at his West Palm Beach, Florida club.

Here's some of what we can expect as 2018 unfolds:

1. Look for the President - and Republicans - to trumpet new tax cuts. It was their biggest accomplishment of 2017, and with key mid-term elections for Congress set for November, it's likely that Mr. Trump and GOP lawmakers in Congress will use the new tax law as their biggest point of advertising in coming months. Many Republicans said in late December that they hope approval of the tax changes will provide some momentum for other legislative work in 2018 - but with pressure from upcoming elections, it will be interesting to see what else GOP leaders can get through the House and Senate.

2. GOP edge shrinks in the Senate. As Congress starts the second session of the 115th Congress on Wednesday, Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama will be sworn into office, cutting the Republican majority in the Senate to 51-49. If you tuned out from the news over the holiday break, you missed Republican Roy Moore not only refusing to concede defeat, but filing a lawsuit to block Jones from being certified the winner of that Senate seat. The margin for Jones actually grew after military ballots, late absentees, and provisional ballots were tabulated, as Democrats will have their first Democratic Senator from the Yellowhammer State since Howell Heflin retired after the 1996 elections. The change makes it even more difficult for the GOP to get their agenda through the Senate.

3. Next government shutdown deadline - January 19. As lawmakers return to work - the Senate on Wednesday, and the House next week - they don't have much time to figure out a deal on funding government operations for the current fiscal year, which started in October. President Trump has made noise about forcing Congress to approve money for a wall along the Mexican border, but there still don't seem to be majorities in either the House or Senate for the border wall. Republicans want more money for the defense budget - as much as $54 billion more this year, and next year, as well. But Democrats have signaled that if the Pentagon is going to get more money, then they want extra for domestic programs as well. Since the GOP doesn't have 60 votes in the Senate, they can't push through a one-sided plan. It's not clear where this is going.

4. Legislative agenda for 2018 - welfare reform, infrastructure, and ?? With a package of GOP tax cuts for individuals and businesses now law, it's not exactly clear where Republicans and President Trump try to go next in the Congress. The President has talked about welfare reform - GOP leaders in the House have talked about cuts to entitlement programs like Medicaid; but both of those could be controversial. The President has talked about pushing for increased spending for new roads and bridges, but almost a year into the job, the GOP has not released an infrastructure plan, as many GOP lawmakers oppose the idea of such extra spending. It's not clear if Mr. Trump's campaign promise of $1 trillion in new infrastructure will get through Congress or not in 2018.

5. Will there be an immigration/DACA deal? Over the Christmas break, the President made clear that if there was going to be any legislative deal on illegal immigrant "Dreamers" who were protected under the Obama Administration's DACA program, then Democrats must accept some immigration measures that Republicans favor. For Mr. Trump and many other Republicans, three main issues are in play - money for a wall along the Mexican border, an end to so-called 'chain' migration, where extended family members are allowed to come to the United States to join someone who has been allowed in to the country legally, and what's known as the 'Diversity Visa Lottery" program. While Democrats aren't really interested in any of those, they don't have the leverage to force the President to just accept a plan to legalize the DACA Dreamers. This will be an interesting fight in the next two months.

6. A story you might have missed over the holiday break? As the Senate wrapped up work just before Christmas, dozens of nominations made by President Trump were returned to the White House by the Senate. While the Senate doesn't make public which Senators lodged an objection against which nominees, it was assumed in the halls of the Capitol that Democrats were responsible, as they have been locked in an endless struggle with the GOP over Trump nominations of all kinds. Most of the nominees weren't household names, but some were for big positions, like Alexander Azar to head the Department of Health and Human Services, and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to lead NASA. Starting Wednesday, once the second session of Congress convenes, then the President can re-submit those nominations, or find new picks for 100 different positions.

7. Russia investigation not going away anytime soon. With two indictments and two guilty pleas, Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems to only be at the beginning of his investigation. Probes of possible Russia links to the Trump campaign also continue in both the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The Inspector General of the Department of Justice is also reviewing how the FBI handled both the Clinton email investigation, and the start of the probe involving Russian interference in the U.S. elections in 2016. Meanwhile, two pairs of committees in the House are also looking at the FBI's conduct, the Trump dossier, the Clinton email probe, the Clinton Foundation, and the Uranium One deal during the Obama Administration. In other words, there is more than enough fuel to keep this story going for another year, no matter what supporters of the President may say.

8. Get ready for the 2018 mid-term elections. Democrats fully believe they can flip both the House and Senate in this year's elections, and most of the legislative tussling on Capitol Hill in coming months should be framed by the November elections. What we saw in 2017 was a big surge for Democratic turnout, and a slump in Republicans going to the polls - Alabama's Senate race is a perfect example. Poll after poll has shown an edge in the "generic ballot" for Congress, giving Democrats a double digit advantage, which should translate into large gains. A lot can still happen between now and November, but the conventional wisdom is that 2018 will be an uphill fight for Republicans in Congress, and President Trump. We'll see if that pans out, or not.

9. New Year begins with rising anger at press - from Democrats. One of the growing stories in recent months has been the growing discontent on the political left against the press. We already know the President believes there is a lot of "Fake News" written about him and his administration, a familiar talking point for Republicans. But now, more and more Democratic activists are joining the attacks on the press - their reasoning is a little different - as they feel the news media isn't being tough enough on the President. The focus of many of those feelings is the New York Times, which broke the Hillary Clinton email story, something that her backers feel should never have been a story worth a newspaper's ink. One side thinks we are too tough on President Trump. The other side thinks we aren't tough enough on President Trump. Here's an example from Brian Fallon, who was the national press secretary for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

10. Presidential golf was bad, then it was good. Let's establish one thing at the top - I am all for Presidents playing golf. I love the game of golf, and I think it's a great way for a President to get out of the White House and relax. But let's be honest. Even before he was a candidate for President - and then repeatedly during the 2016 campaign - Donald Trump ridiculed President Barack Obama for playing golf, instead of working on problems in Washington. "While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government!" Mr. Trump tweeted in 2016. During 2009, Mr. Obama played golf 27 times in his first year in office - in 2017, Mr. Trump more than tripled that. On his recent trip to his Florida retreat at Mar-a-Lago, the President played golf nine of the ten days he was gone from the White House. At this pace, Mr. Trump might play more golf in just four years than Mr. Obama played in eight years. President Trump probably won't catch Woodrow Wilson, who played an estimated 1,200 rounds while President - but the second place figure of Dwight Eisenhower (over 800 rounds) could be within reach. One thing of note that changed a bit this past week - the White House several times made public who was playing golf with Mr. Trump. That information was rarely disclosed in 2017.

Stay tuned. 2018 should be a busy year in U.S. politics.

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Local News

  • The man who hid the body of South Georgia beauty queen Tara Grinstead will spend the next 25 years in prison.  A jury convicted Bo Dukes on four counts, including two counts of making a false statement, hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealing the death of another.   A judge sentenced Dukes to the maximum amount asked by the prosecution. [READ: Who is Tara Grinstead?] Dukes spoke to the court before he was sentenced.  “I'm truly sorry your long suffering has been unimaginable. My actions were cowardly, callous and cruel,” Dukes said. We're talking to the Tara Grinstead's family about the sentencing, on Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 p.m. Grinstead's stepmother spoke for the family. “He knew she was never coming back, he could have at least told us back,” Connie Grinstead said. And Dukes’ mother told her son she loved him after turning to the Grinstead family. “I just want you to know that your queen will never be forgotten,” said Dixie Hudson. The judge told Dukes his time to come forward and long passed.  “I just can't quite wrap my head around what was done,” the judge said. Bo Dukes mother tells Grinstead family during sentencing “ I want you to know your Queen will never be forgotten.”then to Bo “ momma loves you ,baby” @wsbtv #taragrinstead pic.twitter.com/dFmQN7jGot — Tony Thomas (@TonyThomasWSB) March 22, 2019 It took the jury less than an hour to come back with the verdict. Dukes initially claimed he didn't know anything about the 2005 disappearance and death of Grinstead, a 30-year-old high school history teacher. Months later, Dukes confessed. He hadn't killed Grinstead, he told the GBI, but he had helped burn her body for two days on his family's pecan farm.  [READ MORE:  Bo Dukes, charged in Tara Grinstead case, in custody after 5-day manhunt, police say ] Dukes' friend, Ryan Duke, is charged with Grinstead's murder. His trial is set for April 1. RELATED STORIES: Leaked confession reveals motive behind Tara Grinstead's murder, GBI says Judge considers removing gag order in Tara Grinstead case Man accused of murdering former beauty queen talks about alleged 'confession'
  • The 2019 Alumni Weekend is underway at UGA: activities that began Thursday continue today and tomorrow at the University of Georgia. From the University of Georgia master calendar… The UGA Alumni Association wants to welcome alumni back to Athens and make them feel like students again. Come back to campus, relive the glory days with friends and loved ones, and experience what it's like to be a student in Athens today.Registration covers: * Thursday: Orientation Dinner with President Jere W. Morehead * Friday: Classes, meals, reception at Wall & Broad and TEDxUGA * Saturday: Commencement Brunch The University of Georgia’s curriculum committee meets today: it’s a 3:30 session at New College on Herty Drive in Athens. 
  • Georgia track and field’s Elija Godwin has been named the Southeastern Conference Men’s Freshman of the Week following his performance at the Yellow Jacket Invitational, according to a league announcement.   Godwin, a native of Covington, Ga., and graduate of Newton High School, is the Bulldogs’ first outdoor weekly award winner following the first collegiate outdoor meet of his career.   Godwin clocked a career best 10.47 into -0.4 wind to be the top 100-meter dash finisher in the 33-man field. This finish ranks No. 13 nationally (No. 8 nationally for wind-legal times under 2.0 meters/second), makes him the No. 4 freshman nationally and the No. 3 SEC performer in 2019. He returned to win the 200m with a 20.90, which is his fastest time of 2019 and second best of his career, to move to No. 3 nationally (No. 2 for wind-legal times) as the country’s top freshman and No. 2 competitor from the SEC.   Georgia trains through the coming weekend before splitting squads to the Florida Relays (March 28-30) and Raleigh Relays (March 29-30).
  • Barrow County Commissioners meet in a special session today: they’re scheduled to vote on a proposal that would place an ambulance station at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder. It’s a plan to end a dispute between the Barrow County government and the city of Winder over who provides ambulance service inside the Winder city limits. This morning’s Commission meeting is set for 8:15 in Winder.  The Franklin County School Board is sending to the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association the list of 32 candidates who have applied to be the next school superintendent in Carnesville. The Board is looking to replace Wayne Randall, who will retire at the end of the current school year. Randall was told by the Board that his contract would not be renewed.  The Hall County city of Oakwood is getting a new top cop: Tim Hatch is now the police chief in St. Mary’s; he’ll take over in Oakwood, replacing former Chief Randall Moon, who retired last month. Hatch’s resume’ includes time on the force with the University of Georgia campus police department and the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. 
  • The Georgia football team held its second practice of spring drills on Thursday on the Woodruff Practice Fields.   The Bulldogs practiced for approximately two hours in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. The practice was No. 2 of what is expected to be 15 during the spring, which will culminate with the annual G-Day Game on Saturday, April 20. The Bulldogs will return to the practice fields on Saturday.   Senior Charlie Woerner was asked how the transition is going for the tight ends with him as the elder statesman following the departures of Isaac Nauta and Jackson Harris and with the addition of new tight ends coach Todd Hartley.   “Things have started well,” Woerner said. “Day 2 is done, and we’re looking as good as we can two days in. I think we’re pretty far ahead on our installs. It’s a lot different (in the tight ends room), but it’s fine. We have a really good group, a lot of good guys in the room. It feels like it’s my time and I’m ready to have a big year, but I don’t feel any pressure. All I can do is my best for this team.”   Junior Jeremiah Holloman also finds himself in a potential leadership role on and off the field among the receivers since the Bulldogs said goodbye to the likes of Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Ahkil Crumpton.   “I feel like our whole room can step in and contribute,” Holloman said. “We have guys just waiting for a chance. I stepped in last year and made an impact (with 24 catches for 418 yards and five touchdowns), and we have plenty of guys like that. We have a load of guys capable of going out there and competing and making plays.”   On Wednesday, all 32 NFL teams were in attendance as the Bulldogs eligible for next month’s draft participated in Pro Day drills.   The G-Day Game is slated for Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. at Sanford Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia football practice No. 2 is in the books, the Bulldogs still working to establish a new identity and new leaders. There weren’t many clues in the open portion of practice on Thursday, but Kirby Smart will talk on Saturday and provide more insight into how he sees the Bulldogs developing. The early sentiment is this UGA team could throw the ball more, but it won’t come at the expense of being able to run the football. DawgNation reporters give their early takes on how Georgia is evolving in what will be Smart’s fourth season at the helm. Mike Griffith & Chip Towers   Georgia football practice headlines Kirby Smart sheds light on James Coley’s ‘balanced’ philosophy J.R. Reed puts NFL dreams on hold for title run Georgia football injury updates, Zamir White status James Coley ‘likes to throw more’ than Jim Chaney Offensive line, Brian Herrien look the part Complete Georgia early enrollee roster numbers   The post WATCH: DawgNation observations from Georgia football spring practice No. 2 appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The qualifier remains that “Georgia is going to be Georgia,” but it’s starting to sound more and like the Bulldogs are going to throw the football more in 2019. The Georgia players are all excited about James Coley taking over the offense from Jim Chaney. The consensus is that more of the playbook will be used, and more balls will fly through the air. The Bulldogs had the heaviest run ratio of any non-option team in 2017, and last season Georgia lead the SEC in rushing. But Coley could be a game-changer calling plays. “His first instinct would be to throw,” Bulldogs senior tight end Charlie Woerner said Thursday. “Just knowing him, every G-Day game (Coley) is the offensive coordinator on one team, and Chaney is the other, and you look at the stats and it’s a lot more pass-heavy on Coach Coley’s team than Chaney’s. “Chaney is just a little more old-school running the ball, which I didn’t mind that either, but (Coley) likes to throw more than Chaney.” Junior receiver J.J. Holloman agreed following Thursday’s practice. “I’m confident that he will throw the ball a lot more, and we’ll have more explosive plays to look forward to,” said Holloman, UGA’s leading returning receiver. Junior tailback D’Andre Swift is a returning 1,000-yard rusher and the Georgia offensive line is a powerful group capable or road-grading most any opponent. But Swift is also adept at catching the football out of the backfield, and that offensive line is talented in pass protection. Perhaps most importantly, Jake Fromm is a third-year starting quarterback, and Holloman said that factors in as much as Coley. “It’s a mix of both, (Fromm) having all the experience he has,’ Holloman said, “and Coley opening the playbook and making a lot of things happen.” Mecole Hardman is headed to the NFL, but the speedy junior receiver said he, too, expects more passing in the UGA offense. RELATED: NFL WR steal could be Georgia’s biggest loss “Probably a little more passing, I think Coley will bring a title bit more of that,” Hardman said after his pro day workout on Wednesday. “But they definitely are going to run the ball. “You got Swift back, Zamir (White) coming back from injury , (James) Cook here, and they just signed another running back, so it’s going to be a similar offense, we’ll play our brand of football, but probably a little bit more finesse, a little bit more passing there was well. I’m excited for Coley, I know he’s gong to do big things.” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday the updated definition of “balance” has less to do with run-pass ratio and more to do with the ability to do both effectively. “People think balance means 50/50 — balance is not 50/50,” Smart said. “Balance is being able to run the ball when you have to run the ball and being able to throw the ball when you have to throw the ball. “So can you do both? Yes, you can be successful at both. That might be 70-30 one game and then 30-70 the other way the next game.” Georgia TE Charlie Woerner   The post Georgia TE Charlie Woerner: James Coley ‘likes to throw more than (Jim) Chaney’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia has updated its roster to include all of the early enrollees football numbers with the Bulldogs this spring. The numbers are as follows: 2 QB D’Wan Mathis 4 LB Nolan Smith 7 DB Tyrique Stevenson 11 LB Jermaine Johnson 12 LB Rian Davis 13 QB Stetson Bennett 14 DB DJ Daniel 15 LB Trezmen Marshall 16 DB Lewis Cine 17 LB Nakobe Dean 60 OL Clay Webb 70 OL Warren McClendon 88 TE Ryland Goede 90 DL Tramel Walthour To recap, there were also number changes since last season: RB James Cook: No. 4, previously No. 6 WR Matt Landers: No. 5, previously No. 15 S Otis Reese: No. 6, previously No. 17 CB Divaad Wilson: No. 8, previously No. 16 OLB Azeez Ojulari: No. 13, previously No. 38 OLB Adam Anderson: No. 19. previously was No. 56 The post Complete Georgia football early enrollee roster numbers appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia redshirt junior Ben Cleveland was back running with the first team at right guard during Thursday’s limited media window of observation. The Bulldogs’ offensive linemen looked to have noticeably better body builds than their counterparts on defense, more than one of which appeared to have a weighty issue. Indeed, there’s a reason why some believe Georgia has the best O-Line in the country. As expected, the players working first team were: LT Andrew Thomas, LG Solomon Kindley, C Trey Hill, RG Cleveland, RT Isaiah Wilson. If there was a surprise in the depth chart, it was seeing Jamaree Salyer working as the backup right tackle with Cade Mays tucked inside at right guard. Offensive line coach is likely doing that to build depth at tackle, as Mays would surely be the first man in at either of the offensive tackle positions should a starter go down. Clay Webb appeared to be the No. 2 center, while Justin Shaffer was No. 2 at left guard and D’Marcus Hayes was No. 2 at left tackle for the purposes of drills. RB observations The most impressive physical transformation appeared to be Brian Herrien, who looked every bit the part of the power back Georgia will need him to be. Herrien, the most impressive UGA back in the Sugar Bowl, is listed at 6-foot, 210 pounds but looked bigger. D’Andre Swift was running at the front of all the drills, while James Cook was No. 3 behind Herrien. DB observations New Georgia secondary coach Charlton Warren very loud and frenetic, chastising cornerbacks for “wasting too much time” when the next ups weren’t ready to go in drills. “We’ve got 8 minutes to get better, men!” he yelled. “Eight minutes. Now quit wasting time!” Junior Ameer Speed continues to work with cornerbacks. He had a cast on his left hand but it did not seem limit him at all. Former UGA QB in attendance Former Georgia QB Faton Bauta, now an assistant at Monmouth, was among coaches observing Thursday’s practice. The post Georgia offensive line looks the part, Brian Herrien built for power game appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart has said before he doesn’t think there are many secrets in college football. That’s probably why Smart opened up Tuesday practice to the Oregon coaching staff, according to OregonLive.com. The Ducks’ staff, led by former Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal, was in Tuscaloosa on Monday and Athens, Ga., on Tuesday to watch practice and visit with staff members. Smart was at Alabama as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator for three seasons while Cristobal was there serving as the line coach. Georgia places heavy restrictions on the media presence at practice, even while opening up practice for the well-trained eyes of staff members they might ultimately face in the College Football Playoff or in a bowl game. That’s what happened in the Sugar Bowl, as Smart allowed Texas coach Tom Herman and his staff to attend the Bulldogs’ spring practices last year. “We took a trip out there this spring just to pick brains and talk shop a little bit,” Herman said leading up to the Longhorns’ 28-21 victory. Herman said when the Sugar Bowl matchup was announced that he didn’t see the Georgia run game as “anything too formidable.” The confident Texas coach proved correct against what was the SEC’s top rushing offense. The Bulldogs rushed for just   72 yards on 30 attempts after averaging 259.8 yards per game. Smart said his new offensive coordinator, James Coley, has been working to improve the offense and talked with other coaches. Chances are, Coley spoke with Cristobal about what the Ducks do on offense in addition to visiting other programs that Smart chose not to name. “We’ve been working on us and saying, okay, what can we do better, and I think James brings a lot of that to the table,” Smart said on Tuesday. “They’ve gone and visited with a lot of people to get new ideas.” The post One year after opening practice to Texas, Georgia allows Oregon to observe appeared first on DawgNation.