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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    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.
  • After days of internal wrangling among Democrats over how to respond to statements about Israel by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) which infuriated Jewish lawmakers in both parties, the U.S. House on Thursday approved a wide-ranging resolution denouncing hatred and bigotry against a variety of groups, but not directly naming and rebuking Omar for her comments. 'The words spoken by our colleague from Minnesota touched a very real, a very raw place for me,' said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who joined others in making clear they wanted a more specific message to Omar, who was just elected in November. 'One thing we are all reminded of this week is that words have power, and divisive words have pain,' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). 'This resolution doesn't need to be seven pages. It's just wordy,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as GOP lawmakers said Democrats had twisted themselves into a legislative pretzel, instead of just addressing what was said by Omar. 'It didn't have to be this hard,' said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), after Democrats made several last minute changes to the resolution. The vote on the resolution was 407 to 23, with one member voting ‘Present.’  All the votes against the measure were from Republicans. “Yes, I voted against a sham resolution, which while condemning anti-semitism, was designed to cover Rep. Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic statements,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX). “If the Democratic Caucus wants to truly condemn hatred, they would take action by formally condemning Rep. Omar by name and by removing her from her committees,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), another one of the “No” votes. “Without naming the offender, the chastisement is an empty gesture,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).  “I voted “no” to the watered down resolution.” “I voted for this watered down resolution condemning all hate,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) wrote on Twitter.  “But the remarks by their members deserve to be specifically called out & voted on.” Omar did not join in the debate; she did vote for the resolution. 'We are here today because of anti-Semitic rhetoric said by one member of this chamber, again and again and again,' said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who was one of almost two dozen Republicans who voted against the resolution, desiring something more direct. 'We now have a pattern,' said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) about statements by Omar about Israel. “We are having this debate right now because of objections by Democrats about something said by a Democrat,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). On the House floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the controversy should serve as a reminder to lawmakers, that “our words are weightier, once we cross the threshold into Congress.”
  • A day after giving more testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump sued the Trump Organization for nearly $2 million in legal fees, charging the President's family business stopped payments about the time that Michael Cohen began working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'As of January 25, 2019, unreimbursed attorneys’ fees and costs incurred on behalf of Mr. Cohen in connection with the Matters subject to his indemnification agreement with the Trump Organization exceeded $1.9 million,' Cohen's lawyers wrote in a 22 page legal document made public on Thursday. The papers give a timeline of how Cohen worked under a joint defense agreement with the Trump Organization and the President's lawyers - until Cohen made the decision to begin cooperating with the Mueller probe - documenting positive statements from the President and his own legal team. 'On April 26, 2018, in a call-in interview with the FOX News television program “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump stated that Mr. Cohen was a “good person” and “great guy,' the lawsuit states. But Cohen’s lawsuit says the tone of the President, and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, changed abruptly, once it became clear that Cohen was going to be assisting the Special Counsel. The lawsuit says just over $1 million is owed to Cohen’s original lawyer. Cohen says what happened was a simple breach of contract between himself, the President, and the Trump Organization. “Attorneys’ fees and costs subject to the Trump Organization’s indemnification agreement continue to accrue,” the suit states.
  • Democrats in the Congress on Wednesday spent another day grappling among themselves over how best to put out political fires sparked by several of their new members, wrestling with perceived anti-Semitic statements by one, promises by another to force action on impeachment of the President, and continued fallout from the climate change proposals of a third new member of the House. As the U.S. House began debate Wednesday afternoon on a sweeping bill chock full of reforms in elections, voting, and government ethics, Democratic lawmakers were fielding questions instead about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whose statements with regards to Israel have repeatedly put her colleagues on the defensive in recent weeks, spurring talk of a House vote designed to admonish Omar. But with no agreement on what kind of resolution to draw up - and with some Democrats pushing back against the idea of punishing Omar - House Democrats engaged in a vigorous closed door tussle over Omar on Wednesday morning, emerging with no consensus on how best to move forward, as Republicans lobbed verbal grenades with glee from the sidelines. 'There is no room for anti-Semitism anywhere in this chamber,' said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who has gone after Omar on social media over her statements, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders struggled to figure out their next step. Worried by public bickering among Democrats over Omar on social media, senior lawmakers used their Wednesday meeting to urge their newer members to talk to each other directly, as a way to defuse tension over Omar. 'Stay off Twitter,' was the advice from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). 'Everybody is against the bigotry,' said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL). 'There's just some difference of opinion on how to move forward,' as Democrats acknowledged that the issue was getting in the way of their legislative message. 'What do we do when we have this robust public agenda, and then we are also asked to superintend all of these comments breaking out all over the country of an objectionable nature?' asked Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who rattled off to reporters a series of high profile issues like voting rights and the cost of prescription drugs which were being shoved into the background. While Omar's future was in limbo, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) was back in the impeachment business, as she announced she would file impeachment articles in coming weeks against President Trump. Tlaib - whose previous call to impeach President Trump landed her in hot water because of her choice to add in a certain vulgar term - joined with more liberal activists who were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words, 'TICK TOCK INDIVIDUAL 1,' using the reference to President Trump in legal documents about the Russia investigation.  'The people at home are frustrated and want the criminal schemes to stop, especially those from the Oval Office,' Tlaib argued. 'Our democracy must be protected,' Tlaib said, as some party activists openly worry that Speaker Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are going to take no action at all against the President. Under the rules of the House, any member can offer impeachment articles against a President - as there's no guarantee that any hearings or vote must be taken on those type of charges. But with the current atmosphere surrounding President Trump, Tlaib's promise to file impeachment charges was another reminder to party leaders that the 'I-word' remains a potent force, even as House Democratic leaders are nowhere near making such a politically explosive decision. The third thorn in the side for Democratic leaders has been the 'Green New Deal' unveiled several weeks ago on climate change, as Republicans around the nation have quickly made it into boilerplate attack on Democrats at all levels of government. The proposal - a simple non-binding resolution on climate change - wasn't really the source of the problem; instead it was a separate document posted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) containing all sorts of climate policy changes, which has energized Republicans in both the House and Senate. 'Braun Compares 'Green New Deal' to 'Unaffordable Care Act,'' read the headline happily put out on social media by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN). 'The Green New Deal is not serious policy; it’s a fantasy,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). 'The more you look at the Green New Deal, the worse it looks,' said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).  Those statements hit Twitter in just a 15 minute span on Wednesday, as the Green New Deal has swiftly become Republican shorthand for budget busting, big Government, tree-hugging, climate-change-crazed, liberal Democrats. The various troubles over Omar, impeachment, and the Green New Deal might not seem like much from outside - but on Capitol Hill, the combination threatens to overshadow the legislative achievements of Democrats. By the end of Wednesday, the Speaker's office was trying to get back on message, slamming the President for refusing to turn over documents to a series of House committees, and trying to stay ahead of restless supporters back home. 'What is President Trump Hiding?' Pelosi asked in a statement, defending the investigations launched in recent days by Democrats, and their legislative agenda. 'House Democrats will be relentless in our pursuit to get the answers the American people deserve, clean up the corruption in Washington, and enact reforms that address the most pressing challenges facing our nation,' Pelosi said. A few hours earlier, the Speaker had been on the House floor to back H.R. 1, the signature reform package of House Democrats. But out in the Speaker’s Lobby, reporters were mainly asking about other topics, as the energized progressive wing of the party makes waves on Capitol Hill.

Local News

  • Thousands of jobs will soon be coming to Georgia, thanks to a new $1.7 billion battery plant.  SK Innovation, a Korean developer and manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, will begin construction this year.  The project is being called the 'largest single investment and job-creating project in Georgia's history' and will create 2,000 new jobs.  Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach is in Jackson County, where Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp attended the groundbreaking ceremony.  We'll show you what the futuristic plant will look like and what Gov. Kemp had to say about the project, on Channel 2 Action News at 4 p.m. The Governor @BrianKempGA joined by US Secretary of Commerce for groundbreaking in Jackson County for SK Battery plant w/ $1.7 Billion investment and 2,000 new jobs pic.twitter.com/gOCIAL8dDl — Steve Gehlbach (@SteveGWSB) March 19, 2019 TRENDING STORIES: Tyler Perry steps in to help family of woman killed in bank shooting College student hospitalized after roommate pours bleach in her eyes, police say Georgia restaurant picked for having best BBQ in the South The plant will cover almost 300 acres along Interstate 85 in Commerce and will build batteries to power electric cars. KIA, Mercedes, Hyundai and BMW have brought their operations to the South in recent years, which is a reason SK picked this location. SK Innovations plans to invest up to $5 billion in Georiga over the next decade and jobs could also grow up to 5,000 or 6,000 during that time. 
  • Gwinnett County Police say two Athens men, missing since December, were shot to death. The bodies of Joshua Jackson and Derrick Ruff were found in a storage unit off Lawrenceville Highway in Gwinnett County.  Gwinnett Police have identified two suspects in the murders of Jackson and Ruff; one is in custody, the other was, at last report, still at-large. From the Gwinnett County Police Department... The Gwinnett County Police Department is actively investigating a double homicide in coordination with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.    The bodies of two adult men were found inside a storage unit at the Extra Space Storage located at 2040 Lawrenceville Highway in unincorporated Lawrenceville on Sunday, March 17. As of now, the bodies have been preliminarily identified as Derrick D. Ruff (age 25) and Joshua L. Jackson (age 25). Notification has been made to the victims’ families.   Derrick and Joshua were reported missing through the Athens-Clarke County Police Department in mid-December. They were last seen on December 18 at around 10pm in a Ford Expedition.    The Ford Expedition was eventually found abandoned in a neighborhood off Monfort Road in unincorporated Lawrenceville on December 21, 2018.    On Sunday, March 17, GCPD along with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force focused their efforts along an area of Lawrenceville Highway near Clearwater Place. Cadaver dogs with the Alpha Team K9 Search and Rescue were brought in to aid in the search. The dogs alerted to a storage unit inside the Extra Space Storage facility.    After the investigators assigned to the Homicide Unit opened the unit’s garage door, the victims were found. It appears that they died of gunshot wounds.    The investigators are in the process of identifying all the suspects in this case. As of now, two people have been charged in relation to this crime.  Lesley Chappell Green (age 30, Stone Mountain) is currently in custody at the Gwinnett County Jail. He is being charged with two counts of Concealing the Death of Another.   Robert Maurice Carlisle (age 32, Lithonia) has two active warrants for Concealing the Death of Another. Carlisle is not in police custody. His whereabouts are unknown.    From the Athens-Clarke County Police Department... Over the last three months, investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies have worked tirelessly on the case of Joshua Jackson and Derrick Ruff, reported missing in December 2018. Our hopes were to find the two men alive. Unfortunately, on Sunday, March 17, 2019, the bodies of Joshua Jackson and Derrick Ruff were located in Gwinnett County. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the two men. Investigators from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Athens FBI Safe Streets, Atlanta FBI Safe Streets, Gwinnett County Police Department, Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Corrections, with the assistance of Alpha Team K9 Search and Rescue, searched approximately 100 acres in Gwinnett County and located the bodies. The Gwinnett County Police Department is working this case as a Homicide. Any questions concerning the Homicide investigation should be directed to the Gwinnett County Police Department. The Athens-Clarke County Police Department will continue to assist Gwinnett County in their investigation
  • The Hall County Sheriff’s Office reports a big marijuana bust in Buford: four people have been charged in what is described as a marijuana grow house operation, with more than 250 pot plants and another 100 pounds of processed weed found in a basement.  The Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad said its agents served a search warrant at the home on the 6000 block of Old Wood Hollow Way in Buford on March 13. The approximate street value of the seized drugs was $706,000. Authorities arrested Tuan Le Khac, 39, of Buford, James Thanh Nguyen, 52, of Lawrenceville, Thu Loan Phan, 44, of Montezuma, and Vinh Thein Tran, 54, of Lawrenceville.  The suspects were booked into the Hall County Jail on manufacturing marijuana, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and felony possession of marijuana charges.
  • Georgia Bulldog basketball coach Tom Crean said attrition is part of transforming a program, and on Monday Teshaun Hightower announced he’s leaving the Dogs. Hightower, a 6-foot-5 guard from Lithonia, scored a season-high 18 points in UGA’s 98-88 win over Texas this season. The Bulldogs lose six seniors from the 2018-19 team that went 11-21 overall and 2-16 in the SEC. Crean has four Top 100 prospects headed to Athens in the 2019 class. Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards, the top shooting guard in the country, is expected to be part of the April signing period haul. Edwards factors heavily into what figures to be a reloaded backcourt with Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump possibly returning for their senior seasons. Georgia now awaits the pivotal decision of sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton, who has said he’s exploring his options. Hightower started 17 of the 29 games he played this season, averaging 6.6 points per game. Hightower did not play in three of the final four games.  
  • The Georgia Bulldog football team begins spring practice today: workouts culminate with the April 20 G-Day game in Sanford Stadium. The Dogs begin the 2019 season in 165 days, August 31 in Nashville against the Vanderbilt Commodores.  From Mike Griffith, AJC DawgNation.. Georgia coach Kirby Smart has emphasized several times in several ways that championship football requires all units working together. Indeed, much of the Bulldogs’ offensive and defensive scheming is predicated on Smart and his staff analyzing strengths and weaknesses and arriving at core alignments and plays. The sooner Georgia knows itself, the better, and that makes the Bulldogs’ 15 spring practice dates pivotal. Here’s a way-too-early positional group ranking, an order that could be affected by an updated injury report or the emergence of a newcomer. 1. Offensive line The lock: Junior left tackle Andrew Thomas, Outland Trophy candidate. The question: Sophomore Cade Mays, where does he fit in? 2. Defensive backs The lock: Senior safety J.R. Reed, team leader of defense. The question: Sophomore Tyson Campbell, will skills match elite speed and ideal length? 3. Specialists The lock: Senior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. The question: Can Georgia adequately replace Mecole Hardman in return game? 4. Quarterbacks The lock: Junior Jake Fromm, third-year starter, offense on his shoulders. The question: How much of the offense can freshman Dwan Mathis pick up? 5. Linebackers The lock: None. The question: Can senior Tae Crowder become the playmaker Georgia lacked last year? 6. Running backs The lock: Junior tailback D’Andre Swift, Hesiman Trophy candidate The question (s): Will production match 5-star ratings of James Cook and Zamir White in 2019? 7. Receivers/tight ends The lock: Junior receiver J.J. Holloman is the go-to target. The question: Can graduate transfer tight end Eli Wolf fill the void left by Isaac Nauta? 8. Defensive linemen The lock: None.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — His first spring he went toe-to-toe with an incumbent starter. His second year he competed with a 5-star signee ranked as the top quarterback in the country. Now a rising junior with 29 games under his belt as Georgia’s quarterback, Jake Fromm said he is entering his third spring with the Bulldogs with the exact same mentality he went into those other two. “It doesn’t change my preparation at all,” said Fromm, speaking with reporters a couple of hours before the Bulldogs took the field for spring practice. “I’m still technically competing for a job. I’m always going to strive to get better. Whether I’m competing against somebody specifically or competing with my self, I’m always going to strive to be the best I can be.” Fromm has faced the highest degree of competition from the moment he walked onto Georgia’s campus as an early enrollee in January of 2017. He played second fiddle to Jacob Eason that first year and then had to beat out Justin Fields in Year 2 even though he’d led the Bulldogs into the national championship game just three months earlier. Now Eason (Washington) and Fields (Ohio State) play for different teams. And the only others in the quarterback meeting room with him are walkon-turned-JUCO-transfer Stetson Bennett, 4-star signee and early enrollee Dwan Mathis and third-year walkon John Seter. The dynamic is decidedly different, but Fromm said his attitude remains the same. “I’m kind of in the role of a slight mentor,” Fromm said of his role. “I’m going to teach those guys things that I’ve learned from experience. Hopefully I can help those guys out, teach them how to communicate how to learn to learn, as far as the playbook. There’s a lot of things going on, a lot of things being thrown at them. I’m there. I’m a shoulder to lean on sometimes. I can’t wait to see those guys go out there and throw the football around.” There have been several other significant changes on offense. The main one is the absence of offensive coordinator and veteran play-caller Jim Chaney. With Chaney’s departure for a significant pay raise at Tennessee, James Coley has been promoted into the role of sole offensive coordinator. Coley, who had been a coordinator at Miami and Florida State previously, was Fromm’s position coach last year while also serving as c0-coordinator. So while much will stay the same, Fromm expects there will be a lot of different as well. And for Fromm, different is good. “For me, I want to learn new things,” Fromm said. “If we changed up the terminology every single year, I wouldn’t be opposed to that, because I like learning. I want to be the best I can at everything. It offers a different twist. It makes me come in every day hungry and on the edge.” So solid is Fromm’s position on the team that coach Kirby Smart spent all of 10 seconds talking about him during his 25-minute spring practice news conference on Tuesday. “Excited about Jake and the growth he’s been able to give us. He’s been a tremendous help with the other two quarterbacks that are here. Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in Jake in our offensive system and his understanding of running the thing.” Yes, at this point Fromm has accumulated quite a body of work. He enters his third spring having completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 5,364 yards with 54 TDs and 13 interceptions. His career efficiency rating finishing fifth in the nation last season at 171..21 is a hardy 166.90. As ever, though, Fromm’s plan is to be even better. To do that, he hopes to improve in the area of mobility and quarterback run while creating even more explosive plays as a passer. No reason at this point to think Fromm won’t make that happen. “I want to make my teammates the best I can, the team the best I can, I want to be successful,” he said. “I want to win a lot of football games, I want to win the SEC Championship, I want to win the national championship, I want to be great. So I’m going to come in and compete and strive to be the best I can be every day.” The post Georgia QB Jake Fromm’s plan: ‘To be great’ and ‘win a national championship’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Alabama football Nick Saban gave no indication he had any issues with Kirby Smart when interviewed by AJC-DawgNation at the CFP press conference in San Jose, Calif., last January. “We certainly have a lot of respect for Kirby and what he’s done at Georgia, and the very difficult games we’ve had playing them the last couple of years,” Saban said in the days leading up to the College Football Playoff Championship Game. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum recently suggested Saban has a strained relationship with Smart, who since leaving his side as Alabama’s defensive coordinator has grown into the biggest threat to dethrone the Tide. Smart was asked if his relationship with Saban was damaged during Georgia’s Tuesday press conference and essentially laughed it off. RELATED: Kirby Smart discusses relationship dynamics with Saban Saban said a lot of people confuse the competitive element with relationships. “It’s really not personal, you still have a certain amount of respect and admiration for them as people, the kind of person they are, the kind of values they have,” Saban said. “You appreciate what they’ve done to help you be successful, and you understand what they are trying to do to be successful, and you have a respect for that, and I don’t think that’s unhealthy in any way shape or form.” Saban used his relationship with Bill Belichick as an example, having worked as an assistant coach under Belichick with the Cleveland Browns en route to facing him from the opposite sideline in the NFL. “We were in the same division and we played two times a year,” said Saban, who coached the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East after Belichick had become the New England Patriots coach. “It’s not personal  …. when you compete against somebody, you want to do the best you can to try to help your team be successful and you respect them because they’re gonna do the same thing for their team.” Saban admits it’s tough to face former assistants who know the ins and outs of his program, but he said that’s part of the coaching business. “No doubt, they get to pick and choose which parts of what we do to utilize,” Saban said. “I did the same thing when I was coming up, whether it was George Perles at Michigan State or Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns. “That’s knowledge and experience, and that’s how you gain it.” Alabama football coach Nick Saban The post WATCH: Nick Saban asked about Kirby Smart competition, ‘It’s not personal’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart laughed when asked if he and Alabama coach Nick Saban had a strained relationship. “Absolutely not,” Smart said at the Bulldogs’ opening spring football press conference on Tuesday. “I don’t have any issue or any problem with any relationship with Nick. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s done anything but grown with more respect since we played them twice.” Alabama beat Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game two years ago, and again in the SEC Championship Game last December. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum had indicated there were issues between Saban and Smart this offseason. “We have a great relationship,” Smart said of his friendship with Saban. “We’re not texting and calling buddy buddy, but I don’t do that with anybody. “I have a lot of respect for him, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and there’s no problem with our relationship.” More Georgia football spring 2019 Way-too-early UGA spring football position group rankings  Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart strongly denies relationship issue with Nick Saban appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Kirby Smart said Georgia redshirt freshman tailback Zamir White will be out for spring drills. “Zamir is coming back, but he won’t be doing spring (drills) other than running on the side,” Smart said on Tuesday, “so he won’t be cleared.” White was injured in August drills playing on special teams while covering a punt. “Any time you have a non-contact ACL, and then you have a second one, you have to be careful,” Smart said. “When that happens, it makes you wonder if the kid can progress as fast as he did last time. “He’s running really well, he’s just not going to be involved in he scrimmage. I probably won’ know until early fall camp. He’s being re-habbing really well.” Smart also said the following players will be out: DL Michail Carter (shoulder surgery) LB Rian Davis, (knee surgery) TE Ryland Goede (knee surgery) RB Prather Hudson (shoulder surgery) DL David Marshall (foot surgery) LB Trezman Marshall (shoulder surgery) DL Julian Rochester (knee surgery) “We’ve also had a few hamstring injuries,” Smart said. Smart added that tailback James Cook has been cleared after suffering a severe ankle injury that required surgery.   The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart updates injury list, Zamir White appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart elaborated on Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann being promoted to defensive coordinator and co-defensive coordinator at Tuesday’s opening spring football press conference. “I’ve had a lot of confidence in Dan and Glenn, not everyone knows what goes on behind the scenes,” Smart said on Tuesday. “But as head coach you are in all those meetings, and you know how involved Dan and Glenn are, and I have a lot of confidence in those two guys.” Lanning was promoted to defensive coordinator on Feb. 15, some six weeks after Mel Tucker was hired to become Colorado’s new head coach. Smart was conspicuously silent on Lanning’s promotion at the time, later saying it was “probably overrated.” RELATED: Leadership questions arise from Kirby Smart offseason interview Smart explained that he’s in control of all of the units, and that what matters is how the staff works together. “When you sit in the seat that I sit in, we’re responsible for both sides of the ball and special teams,” Smart said on a radio interview with 690 The Fan. “So if you sit in those meetings, obviously it’s important to have good leadership but it’s done by a group of men who do it together.” Lanning received a raise from $325,000 to $750,000 in adding the defensive coordinator title to his inside linebacker coaching duties. RELATED: Dan Lanning a thrifty, promising hire for Kirby Smart Schumann, who will continue to work with the outside linebackers, received a raise from $325,000 to $550,000 to add the co-defensive coordinator title. More Georgia football spring 2019 Way-too-early UGA spring football position group rankings  Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post New Georgia DC Dan Lanning getting it done ‘behind the scenes’ appeared first on DawgNation.