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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    A man who was charged with sending explosive devices to a series of critics of President Donald Trump pleaded guilty on Thursday to the crimes, as federal prosecutors say Cesar Sayoc could spend the rest of his life in prison for mailing 16 improvised explosive devices to former President Obama, former Vice President Biden, as well as sitting Democratic lawmakers in Congress. 'For five days in October 2018, Cesar Sayoc rained terror across the country,' said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. 'Thankfully no one was hurt by these dangerous devices, but his actions left an air of fear and divisiveness in their wake.  'Sayoc has taken responsibility for his crimes, and will soon be sentenced to significant time in prison,' Berman added in a statement, as prosecutors labeled Sayoc's effort 'domestic terrorism.' 'Sayoc’s crimes were intended to incite fear among his targets and uncertainty among the general public,' said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney. Sayoc is scheduled for sentencing on September 12. In a statement issued by prosecutors, the feds said Sayoc pleaded guilty to 65 separate felony counts brought against him for his mail bomb flurry, which involved 16 identical looking padded envelopes sent from south Florida. 'Sayoc packed each IED with explosive material and glass shards that would function as shrapnel if the IED exploded,' the feds stated. 'Sayoc also attached to the outside of each IED a picture of the intended victim marked with a red 'X.'' Sayoc’s mail bombs were sent to former Vice President Joseph Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN, actor Robert De Niro, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), former Attorney General Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama, George Soros, Thomas Steyer, and Rep. Maxine Walters (D-CA).   When Sayoc was arrested, authorities found his van, which was plastered in pro-Trump and anti-Democratic Party stickers and placards.
  • Frustrated by opposition on some college campuses to conservative speakers, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order which threatens to take away federal research grant money from colleges and universities, if those schools don't guarantee First Amendment protections for those who want to speak on campus. 'We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,' President Trump said in a White House ceremony on Thursday. Flanked by conservative activists who have run afoul of protests at college and university campuses, Mr. Trump made clear that he wants new opportunities for their voices to be heard. 'Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech,' the President added. 'This order is part of the Trump Administration’s administrative and legislative efforts to support a focus on student outcomes and improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in postsecondary education,' the White House said in a statement. The President had raised this matter earlier in the month, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear how the Thursday signing would change the current landscape governing money being sent to schools by the feds, as there are already requirements to uphold the First Amendment. In a morning conference call with reporters, a senior administration official refused to give any hints about how the requirement would be enforced differently going forward. 'I won't get into implementation details,' the official said, repeatedly deflecting questions in a Thursday conference call with reporters about how the plan would work.  'But schools are already supposed to be following these rules,' as the official said 'the goal of the order is to promote free speech more broadly across college campuses.' The plan drew immediate fire from the President's critics. 'President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect,' said Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers union.
  • Apart from a few GOP voices in the U.S. House and Senate, most Republican lawmakers in Congress had little to say in recent days about President Donald Trump's continuing attacks on the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as the President used a speech in Ohio on Wednesday to launch an extended series of jabs as the former POW. 'I have to be honest - I've never liked him much,' Mr. Trump said at a speech at a tank production plant in Lima, Ohio. With Congress on break this week, many Republicans stayed away from the tide of remarks by the President, as only a handful of GOP officials stood up to tell Mr. Trump to back off, and leave the dead U.S. Senator alone. 'It’s deplorable what he said,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said of President Trump in a Wednesday radio interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting.  “That’s what I called it from the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out,' said Isakson, who has been one of McCain's few public defenders in the GOP to push back directly at Mr. Trump. 'John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,' said Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who now holds his seat in Congress - though McSally did not directly mention the President in her statement. But Rep. Peter King R-NY, and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) were outliers, as some supporters said the President was needlessly picking a fight - with a dead man - which he will never win. 'President 0. Dead Man 1,' wrote conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson. 'Let's be a little less coo-coo,' said Anthony Scaramucci on CNN Thursday morning, who served in the White House for a very short period of time in 2017, but remains a strong supporter of the President. Here's the President's full remarks about McCain from the Wednesday event: In a late night email sent to reporters on Wednesday, the McCain Institute pushed back - without mentioning the President by name - as the group defended the late GOP Senator, and one time Republican nominee for President in 2008. 'John McCain was held for 5 years in a Vietnamese prison and brutally tortured,' the group wrote, offering a laundry list of supportive items from his resume in the military and in Congress. 'John McCain always called on America to stand up for its values of freedom and democracy,' the group added, as even in death, McCain was still embroiled in battles with President Trump.
  • Using his veto pen for the first time in just over two years in office, President Donald Trump on Friday rejected a special resolution from Congress which would block his national emergency declaration to shift money into construction of a border wall, a day after the GOP Senate joined the Democratic House in rebuking the President. 'Congress’s vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality,' President Trump said in the Oval Office. 'It's against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis.' The measure now goes back to the House and Senate, where any effort to override the President's veto is far short of the necessary two-thirds super majority. 'On March 26, the House will once again act to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override his veto,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But the President sternly disagreed. Here's the text of the President's veto message, as sent back to the Congress: To the House of Representatives:   I am returning herewith without my approval H.J. Res. 46, a joint resolution that would terminate the national emergency I declared regarding the crisis on our southern border in Proclamation 9844 on February 15, 2019, pursuant to the National Emergencies Act.  As demonstrated by recent statistics published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and explained in testimony given by the Secretary of Homeland Security on March 6, 2019, before the House Committee on Homeland Security, our porous southern border continues to be a magnet for lawless migration and criminals and has created a border security and humanitarian crisis that endangers every American. Last month alone, CBP apprehended more than 76,000 aliens improperly attempting to enter the United States along the southern border -- the largest monthly total in the last 5 years. In fiscal year 2018, CBP seized more than 820,000 pounds of drugs at our southern border, including 24,000 pounds of cocaine, 64,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 5,000 pounds of heroin, and 1,800 pounds of fentanyl. In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, immigration officers nationwide made 266,000 arrests of aliens previously charged with or convicted of crimes. These crimes included approximately 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings. In other words, aliens coming across our border have injured or killed thousands of people, while drugs flowing through the border have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.   The current situation requires our frontline border enforcement personnel to vastly increase their humanitarian efforts. Along their dangerous trek to the United States, 1 in 3 migrant women experiences sexual abuse, and 7 in 10 migrants are victims of violence. Fifty migrants per day are referred for emergency medical care, and CBP rescues 4,300 people per year who are in danger and distress. The efforts to address this humanitarian catastrophe draw resources away from enforcing our Nation's immigration laws and protecting the border, and place border security personnel at increased risk.   As troubling as these statistics are, they reveal only part of the reality. The situation at the southern border is rapidly deteriorating because of who is arriving and how they are arriving. For many years, the majority of individuals who arrived illegally were single adults from Mexico. Under our existing laws, we could detain and quickly remove most of these aliens. More recently, however, illegal migrants have organized into caravans that include large numbers of families and unaccompanied children from Central American countries. Last year, for example, a record number of families crossed the border illegally. If the current trend holds, the number of families crossing in fiscal year 2019 will greatly surpass last year's record total. Criminal organizations are taking advantage of these large flows of families and unaccompanied minors to conduct dangerous illegal activity, including human trafficking, drug smuggling, and brutal killings.   Under current laws, court decisions, and resource constraints, the Government cannot detain families or undocumented alien children from Central American countries in significant numbers or quickly deport them. Instead, the Government is forced to release many of them into the interior of the United States, pending lengthy judicial proceedings. Although many fail ever to establish any legal right to remain in this country, they stay nonetheless.   This situation on our border cannot be described as anything other than a national emergency, and our Armed Forces are needed to help confront it.   My highest obligation as President is to protect the Nation and its people. Every day, the crisis on our border is deepening, and with new surges of migrants expected in the coming months, we are straining our border enforcement personnel and resources to the breaking point.   H.J. Res. 46 ignores these realities. It is a dangerous resolution that would undermine United States sovereignty and threaten the lives and safety of countless Americans. It is, therefore, my duty to return it to the House of Representatives without my approval.   DONALD J. TRUMP   THE WHITE HOUSE, March 15, 2019. 
  • Democrats in the U.S. House will try to send an unmistakable message to President Donald Trump on the issue of relations with Russia this week on Capitol Hill, bringing up a series of bills on the House floor dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin, including a plan which demands the public release of any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'This transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the people,' a series of key Democrats said about the resolution on the Mueller inquiry. The Russian legislative blitz comes as Democrats on a series of House committees have stepped up their requests for information from the White House and the Trump Administration on issues related to the Russia investigation and the Mueller probe. So far, Democrats say they aren't getting much in the way of help from the White House on any of their investigative efforts. 'It's like, zero,' said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). 'We can't get witnesses, they don't want us to talk to witnesses.' Among the Russia-related bills on the schedule this week in the House: + The 'KREMLIN Act,' a bipartisan bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence - already reportedly in hot water with the President for saying that North Korea probably wouldn't give up its nuclear arsenal - to submit to Congress a new round of intelligence assessments on Russia and its leaders. 'The Kremlin’s efforts to sabotage our democracy and those of our allies across Europe are undeniable,' said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who has sponsored this bill with fellow Intelligence Committee member Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT).  Earlier this year, DNI Dan Coats said of Russia: 'We assess that Moscow will continue pursuing a range of objectives to expand its reach, including undermining the US-led liberal international order, dividing Western political and security institutions, demonstrating Russia’s ability to shape global issues, and bolstering Putin’s domestic legitimacy.' + The Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill which again asks the U.S. Intelligence Community to weigh in with evidence about the Russian government, and expressing the sense of Congress 'that the United States should do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin.' 'I am proud to cosponsor this bill which aims to identify Putin and his allies for who they are: nefarious political actors undermining democracies,' said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who teamed up with Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on this measure. 'Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,' President Trump tweeted last July, after his controversial summit with Putin in Finland. 'They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!' + A bipartisan bill to block any move by the U.S. Government to recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is another measure meant to put public pressure on the President, who has been somewhat uneven in public statements on his feelings about Russia's move to take Crimea, as well as the ongoing proxy war being supported by Moscow in areas of eastern Ukraine, and how the U.S. should respond - even as his administration has leveled new economic sanctions against Moscow. In November of 2018, the President canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina, after Russian naval forces seized several Ukrainian ships and their crews. + A bipartisan resolution calling for 'accountability and justice' surrounding the assassination of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in Moscow in 2015. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the Trump Administration to sanction those involved in the murder, as the measure also calls for an international investigation into his death. 'Boris Nemtsov had a vision for a democratic and free Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Putin’s cross hairs,' said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). This not just a House effort, as there is a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). 'Putin's media and surrogates called Boris Nemtsov an 'enemy of the people,'' said Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, and a frequent critic of President Trump. + Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.  While the four previous legislative measures have bipartisan support, the final piece of this 'Russia' week in the U.S. House might create a bit of a tussle on the floor of the House, as Democrats move to put GOP lawmakers on the record about whether they want to make any report from the Special Counsel public.  Under the Special Counsel law, there is no guarantee that the Mueller report will ever see the light of day - the Special Counsel submits a report to the U.S. Attorney General - in this case, William Barr - who is then authorized to summarize that to Congress.  That's different than back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr was able to send Congress volumes and volumes of evidence - knowing that all of it would be made public. In testimony before the Senate earlier this year, Barr did not expressly commit to releasing any report, saying 'my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision.
  • As President Donald Trump sent Congress on Monday a $4.7 trillion budget proposal for 2020, the estimates of his own budget experts predict that this spending plan will result in four straight years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion, with no budget surplus until the mid-2030's. After a deficit of $779 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, the President's new budget plan forecasts four more years of even higher levels of red ink. 2019 - $1.092 trillion 2020 - $1.101 trillion 2021 - $1.068 trillion 2022 - $1.049 trillion The White House budget document shows the deficit dropping to an estimated $909 billion in 2023. The higher deficit figures come even as the White House projected a growing amount of revenues coming in for Uncle Sam as a result of the 2017 GOP tax cut plan, as officials said the problem is not taxes, but the level of government spending. 'We don't think the tax cuts are going to lead to anything other than economic growth over the next ten years,' a senior White House official told reporters on Monday morning. After revenues were basically flat from 2017 to 2018, the official predicted the feds would see growth of 6 percent in money coming into the Treasury in 2020, as compared to 2019. Part of the President’s 2020 budget plan would make the GOP tax cut permanent for individuals - the business part of that tax package was permanent, but the income tax cuts and other items impacting individual taxpayers end in 2025. Still, for the President - and his chief aides - the big problem is spending, not tax revenues, as the White House said the 2020 budget was a ‘fiscally responsible and pro-American budget.’ While GOP supporters of the President like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) touted today’s budget plan - the declaration that the Trump budget will result in a balanced budget won’t be happening anytime soon. In the next ten years, the 2020 Trump budget estimates that another $7.2 trillion would be added in deficits, pushing the national debt towards the $30 trillion mark. “Under reasonable economic assumptions, we find it would add about $10.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years,” said the watchdog group, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It's quite an achievement for the President's budget to have fantastical economic assumptions, massive & unprecedented cuts to domestic discretionary spending, and *still* manage to end up with trillion dollar deficits for the next four years,” tweeted Shaki Akabas, an economic expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
  • With over $2 trillion added to the federal debt since he took office just over two years ago, President Donald Trump will deliver a spending plan to the Congress on Monday which is certain to spur a sharp debate with Democrats over proposed cuts in domestic spending programs, but won't come close to producing a balanced budget for more than a decade. 'It is time for Congress to join the president in his commitment to cutting spending, reducing bloated deficits, and getting our national debt under control. America’s future generations are depending on them,' said Russ Vought, the acting chief of the White House budget office. But, so far, President Trump's time in office has seen the growth in the deficit accelerate, from $584 billion in President Obama's last full year in office in 2016, to $779 billion in 2018. As of January, the deficit in 2019 was running 77 percent higher than a year ago, as even White House budget estimates have forecast a yearly deficit over $1 trillion in coming years. Here's some of what to look for in Monday's budget submission, which is titled, 'A Budget for a Better America.' 1. Domestic spending cuts, back door increase for defense. With no deal as yet to avoid budget caps from a 2011 deficit law, spending in 2020 would be limited on defense to $576 billion, and $542 billion for domestic programs. But the President wants much more for the military, so the Trump Administration will reportedly propose spending a massive $174 billion for the 'Overseas Contingency Operations' fund - an increase of $106 billion - for a total military budget of $750 billion. Budget watchdog groups say the idea is a big, fat budgetary gimmick, nothing but a slush fund for the Pentagon. 2. Trump to request $8.6 billion for the border wall. With no confirmed details yet on how the President will shift around some $6.6 billion in the Pentagon budget to fund construction of his border wall, Mr. Trump will reportedly ask Congress to approve $8.6 billion for the wall in 2020. Democrats had a simple reaction on Sunday. 'No,' said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'No,' said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). 'Dead on arrival,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). Even after a 35 day partial government shutdown earlier this year, the President received $1.375 billion for barriers - but not a wall, and there seems to be little chance that dynamic will change for Democrats in the 2020 budget debate. 'Congress refused to fund his wall,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Sunday. 'The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.' 3. Goal for a balanced budget would be 2035. Even if President Trump serves two terms in office, his own White House doesn't forecast anything close to a balanced budget. The last official budget estimates from the White House in July of 2018 - which will be updated with this new budget proposal - predicted the deficit would peak over $1 trillion for three years, and then finally get below $500 billion by 2027, adding almost $8 trillion in deficts along the way. More conservative Republicans in the House aren't worried by those details, as they say the President has shown 'fiscally conservative leadership,' even though the debt has already increased by more than $2 trillion during his two plus years in office. 4. Not all the details, and already behind schedule. President Trump was supposed to have sent this budget to Congress by the first Monday in February - but today will only bring the basic highlights, not all the nitty gritty details of the proposal. Part of the reason is that the 35 day partial government shutdown delayed a lot of work in government agencies. All of the spending work is supposed to be done by Congress each year by September 30 - but that's only happened four times since the budget process was reformed in 1974. Congress has six and a half months until the deadline - it's hard to see how lawmakers avoid more stop gap funding plans - and maybe another shutdown as well. 5. A new dynamic with divided control of Congress. In the first two years of the Trump Presidency, Republicans in the House and Senate were in charge - but now, Democrats will have first crack at the President's budget, and they are certain to take a much different road. In a sense, that's a good thing for Mr. Trump, giving him the chance to battle it out with Democrats more clearly on budget priorities. But it also amplifies the chance for a government shutdown on October 1. Speaker Pelosi likes to say that a budget is a 'statement of values.' After the Trump budget gets delivered to Congress, the next move will be up to Democrats in the House, to forge their on budget outline for 2020. There are political pitfalls ahead for both sides.
  • The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee took the unusual step Friday of publicly releasing a 268 page interview transcript with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, confirming reports that Ohr forwarded material to the FBI from his wife, and that former British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele warned during the 2016 campaign that Russian intelligence believed they had President Donald Trump 'over a barrel.'  'He (Steele) told me that the former head of - or he had information that the former head of the Russian foreign intelligence service had said that they had Trump over a barrel,' said Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who funneled information from Steele to FBI investigators. 'My interpretation is that that meant that, if true, the Russian Government had some kind of compromising material on Donald Trump,' Ohr told lawmakers in the August 28, 2018 deposition, as he defended the quality of information Steele had provided the U.S. Government in the past. 'Chris Steele has, for a long time, been very concerned about Russian crime and corruption and what he sees as Russian malign acts around the world, in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere,' Ohr told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'And if he had information that he believed showed that the Russian Government was acting in a hostile way to the United States, he wanted to get that information to me.' In the deposition, Ohr acknowledged that he forwarded information not only from Steele to the FBI - but also from his wife, Nellie Ohr, who worked at Fusion GPS, the company which had hired Steele to do intelligence work on President Trump from Europe. Ohr said he realized during 2016 that his wife was researching 'some of the same people that I had heard about from Chris Steele,' and that she provided her husband with a thumb drive of information, which he then gave to FBI investigators.  Republicans found the chain of events described by Ohr to be a bit difficult to swallow. 'I'm trying to envision this cold start to a conversation with 'Here, honey, here's a thumb drive,'' said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) at one point. Ohr, an expert in Russian organized crime, said he never looked at any of the information. 'I didn't want to plug it into my machine at work,' Ohr testified. 'I just gave it to the FBI.' The transcript of the deposition was released by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on Friday; Collins said he took the unilateral action because he was frustrated that it was taking so long for the Trump Justice Department to make the transcript public. 'After many months, and little progress, our patience grows thin,' Collins said in a speech on the House floor on Friday morning. 'I intend to make other transcripts public soon,' Collins said, referring to interviews done with a variety of Justice Department and FBI figures when Republicans were in charge of the House in 2018. Collins said the transcripts were being held back because of questions over redactions, as he accused the Trump Justice Department of slow walking requests to make the testimony public. In 2018, House Republicans conducted a series of private interviews with different figures involved in the Russia investigation - not focusing on possible wrongdoing involving the Trump campaign - but instead looking at Justice Department and FBI officials, and how they came to start and conduct the initial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  Other than a two day closed door interview with former FBI Director James Comey - who requested the release of his closed door testimony - none of the other private transcripts had been released publicly until Collins did so on Friday. While Ohr's testimony was in private, some highlights were immediately leaked to a series of news organizations back in August of 2018. 'AP sources: Lawyer was told Russia had 'Trump over a barrel,'' the Associated Press reported. 'DOJ official told Russia had Trump 'over a barrel,'' was the CNN headline at the time. The GOP inquiries for Ohr repeatedly sought to raise questions about a broader conspiracy of actions by officials at the Justice Department, as Republicans tried to paint a picture of a group of government officials doing everything they could to investigate Mr. Trump and his allies. Republicans also found it hard to believe that Ohr's wife got a job from Fusion GPS without his involvement. 'I don't remember who made the contact, whether she spoke with Glenn Simpson directly or whether there was another party or someone else involved. I just know it wasn't me,' Ohr said of his wife's job. “So when she came home and said, 'Honey, I got a job with Glenn Simpson,' what did you say?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) at one point. In the interview, Ohr was asked about an email from Steele in which Steele wanted to talk about 'our favorite business tycoon’ - which GOP lawmakers seemed to believe was a certain U.S. candidate. But Ohr repeatedly said that description wasn't a reference to President Trump, but rather to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was owed money by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Republicans again and again pressed Ohr about how he handled information from Steele, and why he did not inform his bosses that he was handing over that material to the FBI. 'I have received information from different people about organized crime over the years, and in each case I've provided it to the FBI,' Ohr explained. Ohr said he did not have a personal relationship with Glenn Simpson, who had hired Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS, but that they had met several times through the years. Ohr defended his contacts with Steele, even after the FBI had terminated their relationship with the former British agent. “When I got a call from Chris Steele and he provided information, if it seemed like it was significant, I would provide it to the FBI,” Ohr said.
  • After three days of pointed debate, the House voted along party lines on Friday to approve a sweeping voting, elections, and government ethics reform package, as Democrats championed the changes as essential to democratic government, while Republicans denounced the details as nothing more than a political effort to tip the election scales against the GOP. 'We were sent to Washington with a sacred task to do everything in our power to reinstate Americans’ hope and faith in our democracy,' said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), one of dozens of new members elected in 2018, as Democrats filled the over 600 page bill with a laundry list of reforms to make it easier to vote, including making Election Day a national holiday. 'H.R. 1 will promote online registration, same day and automatic voter registration, because we should be making it easier, not harder, for people to vote,' said Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA). 'Every eligible voter should be able to cast a vote!' said Rep. Chrissy Houlihan (D-PA), another newly elected Democrat. The bill also includes a raft of ethics reforms to apply to government officials, lobbyists, and more in Washington, D.C., as backers proclaimed it would be the biggest changes since Watergate. 'The American people elected a new Congress to clean up corruption and make Washington work for them,' said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). While Democrats hailed the reforms, which included independent boards to draw Congressional district lines, as essential to the future of the United States, Republicans were furious, denouncing the measure as a big government, Socialist hodge podge of unworkable liberal ideas which would take away election decision-making by the states. 'This bill, as a whole, is nothing more than a charade to make permanent the Democratic majority that just came into existence just a few months ago,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), as Republicans fired wave after wave of attacks at Democrats about the bill, known as the 'For the People Act.' 'When Republicans were in the majority, we reserved H.R. 1 for legislation that actually benefited the American people,' said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA). 'It is not for the people,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'It is, instead, for the Democratic majority, by the Democratic majority, in hopes of maintaining the Democratic majority for many years to come.' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - who has already made clear that he won't bring the bill up for a vote - has labeled the plan, the 'Democrat Politician Protection Act.' On the House floor this week, Republicans openly chafed at a variety of provisions in the bill, like one which would force states to hold extra early voting hours and days - including Sunday. 'For my colleagues who may be unfamiliar, minority communities, particularly African American and Latino, use Sunday early voting to energize their communities to make their voices heard,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL). 'My own State tried to shut it down in 2012,' Crist added, as the House adopted a plan to include Sunday early voting as an election requirement.  'I don’t think the Federal Government should be involved in the minute details of early voting hours,' countered Rep. Davis. Some of the efforts by Democrats to further expand the bill fell flat with their own party - for example, the House voted 305-126 against an amendment which would have lowered the minimum voting age in federal elections to 16 years old. The House did vote on Friday to allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register ahead of their 18th birthday, to make sure they are ready to vote when they reach their 18th birthday, an idea which also was denounced by Republicans. Democrats had hoped to spend the entire week trumpeting their action on this measure, but it was almost completely overshadowed by the internal intrigue over anti-Semitic statements from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as the House interrupted debate on the bill Thursday to approve a resolution denouncing hatred against any groups. 'We're busy with our legislative work,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'despite what we might read in the press.' For those who want to look at the details - here is the link to the text of the 622 page bill before the House debate began. There is also a 446 page summary of the bill's actions.
  • Despite continuing signs of a strong economy, U.S. businesses created only 20,000 new jobs in the month of February, the Labor Department reported on Friday, the second worst monthly jobs report of the Trump Administration. Even with the slower jobs tally, the nation's unemployment dropped down to just 3.8 percent; it hit a historic low of 3.7 percent in September and November of last year. The figures continued a streak of job growth extending back to October of 2010, as this marked the 101st straight month of positive job numbers. 'In February, employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, health care, and wholesale trade, while construction employment declined,' the report stated. One of the big losers was the construction sector, which saw a drop of 31,000 jobs. While job creation slowed in February, wages continued to grow, as the average hourly pay hit $27.66 per hour last month - and up by 3.4 percent from the same point a year ago. 'The economy is very, very strong,' President Donald Trump said at the White House as he noted the increase in average wages for workers. 'So, we're obviously very happy with that.' Another good sign was the U6 unemployment rate - considered the broadest measure of joblessness - as it dropped almost one percent, going down to 7.3 percent in February, the lowest point for the U6 since March of 2001. After growing for four straight months, the size of the labor force declined slightly again in February, by 45,000 people, as the Labor Force Participation Rate remained at 63.2 percent.

Local News

  • 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.
  • From the Athens-Clarke County government website... The Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services Department will celebrate the arrival of their new Engine 25 with a traditional “push-in” ceremony to place the equipment into service at Fire Station #5 at 1090 Whit Davis Road on Friday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m. Engine 25 will replace a 19-year old model that will move into reserve status for the community. The 2018 E-One Cyclone Engine cost approximately $650,000 fully equipped. Some of its features include a modern thermal imaging for search and rescue, a 1250 gallon per minute pump and a 780 gallon water tank, an emission system that meets current regulations, and wireless headsets with an intercom system for Fire and Emergency Services personnel with connectivity to the 911 radio system. Due to this station’s location that serves rural portions of the territory with fewer streetlights, Engine 25 also has LED headlight technology and lights in the front and above the side doors to supplement the two telescoping scene lights. The public is invited to attend the 'push-in' ceremony, which will feature brief remarks, the 'push-in' of Engine 25, and refreshments. For more information, contact the ACC Fire and Emergency Services Department at 706-613-3360.

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.