Republican Party

 

August 18, 2018
New Yorker
John McCain and the End of Romantic Conservatism

Something about John McCain brings out the cruelty in Donald Trump. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said, early in his Presidential campaign. “I like people who weren’t captured.” McCain spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison, much of it awaiting torture or recovering from it, during a war that Trump avoided because of bone spurs; perhaps Trump wanted to suggest that suffering is futile. On Monday, Trump visited Fort Drum, in upstate New York, to sign the seven-hundred-billion-dollar National Defense Authorization Act that Congress named after McCain, who was at home, in Arizona, severely ill with brain cancer. Trump did not mention him. Afterward, Mark Salter, who, for three decades, has been McCain’s speechwriter and co-author, and one of his closest aides, wrote on Twitter, “For those asking whether I expected Trump to be an asshole today. No more than I expected it to be Monday.”

Plenty of people replied. One of them, a defender of Trump, recalling McCain’s decisive vote to protect the Affordable Care Act, last fall, wrote, “Vendetta over party, country and honor.” Salter replied, “You’re in a cult.” Of course, Salter, the lone practitioner of the bonsai-like craft of cultivating McCain’s legend, is in a cult of sorts, too, one that is smaller but also more romantic. McCain’s deepest idealism, which he reserves for nato and the defense of the West, is not much shared in the Republican Party now, subsumed as it is by Trump and nationalist retrenchment. Warm stories of and tributes to McCain have been unfurling this year: an HBO documentary, a final autobiographical book. But the homage has been so personal that it has obscured the political matters of why the President continues to make an enemy of him, and of what conservatism will lose when McCain is gone.

Late one afternoon this summer, I took the Washington Metro out to Alexandria, Virginia—old oak trees and pretty, densely packed single-story houses—to see Salter. He had spent much of the late spring filling in for the man whose cadences he has thoroughly mastered, making appearances to promote the latest book he’d written with McCain, because the senator was too sick to do so himself. Salter is sixty-three, with a square build and thick, wavy salt-and-pepper hair, and he arrived for lunch, at a little neighborhood restaurant, listening to a Washington Nationals game through a Bluetooth clipped to his ear. He is a dyspeptic chatterbox, prone to a gallows sensibility even in sunny times, and these were not. Talking about making the rounds for the book tour and travelling back and forth from Arizona, Salter said, “If I sat there and thought about it a little while, I’d have almost, like, an existential crisis—like, what am I going to do?”

The bond between Salter and McCain is partly literary. “Everyone talks about the Hemingway thing, but he loves Somerset Maugham,” Salter said. I asked him how he approached capturing McCain’s voice on the page. “I’ve worked for him for thirty years, I’ve listened to him so much. I can impersonate the guy,” Salter said. “In terms of pop-culture sensibility, it’s more Rat Pack—kind of smart-ass, a little bit of a wiseguy. But he can also be quite sentimental. He’s like a romantic cynic. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. It comes out of this grand-gesture sensibility.” McCain calls a minor topographical feature on his ranch Zebra Falls. “Technically, it’s water over rocks, but it’s like waist-high water,” Salter said. “The way McCain talks about it, it’s like cataracts.” Zebra Falls! “Like, ‘Life is a big adventure and I want to get in on it.’ He’s seen the very worst that humanity can produce and he expects it at any moment. And it gives him a sensibility—that’s why he can identify with these hopeless causes in Belorussia or wherever. He knows how to hold on to hope when it’s for suckers.”

For a while, McCain and Salter planned to call their final book “It’s Always Darkest Before It’s Completely Black.” But McCain pulled back—it was too much. “McCain never abandons all hope,” Salter said. “It’s not the country. It’s just this jackass.” I asked what, for McCain, had been the worst moment of Trump’s ascendance. “The Khans,” Salter said. In the summer of 2016, when Trump began attacking Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son was killed while serving in Iraq, Salter was driving from New Hampshire, where he had been consulting on Ken Burns’s Vietnam War documentary, to Maine. McCain called. “He was distraught,” Salter said. “He said, ‘Did you see that asshole?’ ” Salter went on, “I knew then that he would never go the distance. That he would formally say, ‘I can’t vote for him.’ ”

McCain went to Iraq and Afghanistan scores of times, but the event that stuck with him most, Salter said, was a reënlistment and naturalization ceremony that David Petraeus held in Iraq on the Fourth of July, in 2007, for soldiers who had yet to become citizens. “And there were two pairs of boots on two chairs,” Salter said. “Two guys who were about to become citizens but they were killed that week. And he’s told me that story a hundred times and he cries every time he tells that story. Petraeus had some line—‘They died for their country before it was their country.’ It was like a gut punch to him. That’s who the Khans’ son was to him.”

McCain spent the months after Trump’s Inauguration on an international reassurance tour, telling overseas allies the story that some Republicans in Washington were telling themselves—that Trump’s authoritarianism would be constrained by those around him, that this was a phase that would pass. “He has a lot of faith in Mattis,” Salter said, of James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense. In February, 2017, at the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of Western military officers and defense officials, McCain, without naming the President, delivered a broadside against Putin, Trump, and the national retrenchments across the West that struck some valedictory notes. “I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries,” McCain said. “I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it.”

Salter said, “That speech was really, ‘Hey, this thing we’ve done together is the greatest thing an alliance of nations has ever done in history. Be proud of it. It’s worth preserving. Don’t give up on us.’ ” Of course the nativism he so despised had taken hold of his own political party, and his choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential nominee marked an obvious pivot toward Trumpism. Always mustering for the civilizational fight, he had missed the extremists within his own army.

On a trip to Australia, in May, 2017, McCain got worn down, fatigued. At first, his entourage assumed it was just too much travel for an eighty-one-year-old. It turned out that he had cancer. This February, after several rounds of treatment, McCain wanted to return to Munich. Elaborate plans were drawn up to fly him on military transport, but his doctors balked. The risk of infection was too high. “You’re packed in this hotel—it’s almost like being in a subway tunnel with people,” Salter said. It fell to Salter and Rick Davis, another longtime aide, to inform McCain: “We told him, ‘If you get the flu, you’re not going to survive it, John.’ ”

For decades, McCain has led what has seemed to be a double life: one the quotidian existence of senatorial committees and partisan allegiances and spats, and the other an escalating suite of grand gestures that have made him among the most literary figures in American public life. By the late nineties, journalists had the outline of the character: the war hero possessed by regrets. “One of the traits McCain’s staff finds most maddening in their boss is his tendency to recall for journalists only his most damning moments,” Michael Lewis wrote, in 1997. “Ask him about Vietnam and he’ll tell you about the time he stole a washrag from the guy in the adjoining cell. Ask him about his first marriage and he’ll leap right to his adultery.” The McCain character was most fully realized in “Faith of My Fathers,” the campaign book that McCain and Salter published in 1999, which includes a detailed account of his torture (“On the third night, I lay in my own blood and waste . . . ”). McCain also recounted two suicide attempts and a false confession of war crimes that he signed and read on tape. “I couldn’t rationalize away my confession. I was ashamed. I felt faithless, and couldn’t control my despair,” he wrote. “One night I either heard or dreamed I heard myself confessing over the loudspeaker, thanking the North Vietnamese for medical treatment I did not deserve.” Conservatives could celebrate the extremity of McCain’s patriotism, and liberals could detect a recognition that war breaks men. McCain’s story was one small way that Americans reconciled themselves to the waste and failure of Vietnam, and it was this reconciliation that Trump went after when he said his own war heroes were the men who hadn’t been captured. Trump imagines war without suffering, which leaves no room for McCain.

The experience of prison gave McCain his deepest personal allegiances. Salter told me that the only person in whose presence McCain clams up and cedes the floor is the Russian-Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky, and he recalled McCain’s decades-long support for the dissidents of Belarus. The dictatorship is so enduring and its control of the country so taut that McCain could never get in, so he met with the Belarusian dissidents in Riga or some other Baltic city, year after year. “And it’s the same sad-sack guys every year. But every year they’re like, ‘This is our year! This is the year we’re going to get it!’ ” Salter said. “McCain goes, ‘That’s a hard thing to hold on to.’ But I think he respects it more than anything else.”

The closest thing that McCain has to an heir is the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who is a former military lawyer and shares McCain’s faith in American power, but who is also a more conventional partisan figure and has at times sided with Trump (including, most recently, about his decision to revoke the security clearance of former C.I.A. director John Brennan). The two senators often travelled together. I asked Salter how how deeply Graham shares McCain’s convictions. “Lindsey really believes,” Salter said. “But he always makes a joke of it—‘We’ve got to get out of here, they’re going to kill us.’ ”

I said, trying to get the contrast between McCain and Graham right, “So McCain’s the more—”

Salter cut me off. He said, “The more romantic.”    Source

August 10, 2018
The Inquirer
Death of hope: Here’s how Pa. Republicans picked gun lobbyists over domestic violence victims | Maria Panaritis

Republicans in suburban Philadelphia wanted it to become law. So did every single member of Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled state Senate from both parties. So did Democrat Gov. Wolf, advocates trying to keep domestic-violence victims alive, and just about anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together.

It was a GOP-backed bill that would order all alleged domestic abusers to give up their guns after being slapped with a protection-from-abuse order.

And as it appeared on the verge of passage this past June, Republican leaders in the House stopped it dead in its tracks.

It was a sickening display of swamp-like servitude to the gun lobby by a body whose committee and caucus leaders overwhelmingly hail from the more uber-conservative, rural districts in our state.

Instead of using their 120-83 Republican majority to help save a woman from a raging spouse or boyfriend with a Smith and Wesson, this group of elected state employees blew a kiss to the gun lobby.

They did it despite the fact that two of their own members, Republicans Sen. Tom Killion of Chester County, and Rep. Marguerite Quinn of Bucks County, were the sponsors.

They did it despite this being a common-sense change. They did it because it would have required standing up to the kooks in their caucus — and the lobbyists who think the right to bear arms includes having the right to kill your girlfriend with a gun, and pursue justice for the victim afterward.

No one will tell me exactly what happened — or at whose urging. I spent hours calling around Harrisburg and beyond, only to be left with that familiar pang of disgust you get when trying to force transparency in government.

To be completely honest,” Julie Bancroft of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence had warned me, “I don’t know that we have a full sense of what really went down.”

Let’s start with the locals.

Killion and Quinn pushed versions of this bill in the Senate and House, respectively. Both are Republicans from the Philadelphia suburbs and, as such, are now marginal players in state GOP politics. That’s because the state Republican House caucus is now home to some pretty loud tea party types.

Killion’s version passed the Senate unanimously this spring.

His bill would no longer allow alleged abusers to give up their guns to friends or family members after being hit with a final PFA order. The new law also would make it mandatory — and not up to a judge, as the law currently allows — for a PFA defendant’s guns to be taken away.

If you’re separately convicted in criminal court of misdemeanor domestic violence, Killion’s bill no longer gives you 60 days to turn in your guns. You get 48 hours.

The gun lobby did not oppose its passage in the Senate.

But then, not-good stuff happened.

The House Judiciary Committee, led by veteran conservative Rep. Ron Marsico, held unprecedented gun-control hearings on a large number of bills that resulted, unsurprisingly, in virtually zero legislative action. They were a dog-and-pony show following the Parkland, Fla., shootings.

Marsico’s committee then took action on a domestic-violence bill authored by Quinn. Staffers replaced the text with the Senate version.

So far, so good.

But then staffers rewrote a provision that, despite domestic-violence advocates warning it would make the gun lobby ballistic, did just that.

Instead of forcing convicted criminal abusers to relinquish their guns in 48 hours, as the Killion bill proposed, Marsico’s people changed that to 24 hours.

Marsico’s office would not make him or anyone on his committee available to publicly explain what happened. A spokesperson for House Republicans told me the change was intended to bring the gun-turnover period in line with the 24 hours currently given to PFA defendants. He was unclear about whether it had been done at any outsider’s behest.

This turned into a poison pill.

Just days after the bill passed out of committee on June 19, and within hours of an expected vote by the full House on June 25, gun lobbyist Kim Stolfer blitzed the General Assembly.

One of Stolfer’s messages, the leader of Firearms Owners Against Crime told me Thursday, was that the 24 hours to surrender a firearm was “ridiculous. … They knew from their prior work with us that 24 was not good.”

Stolfer said he texted his displeasure to Pittsburgh-area House Speaker Mike Turzai. Rank-and-file members got emails, too.

House leaders didn’t do what they get paid to do — whip their members behind a vote for a good bill.

They instead scotched it. With just 11 days left when the House reconvenes next month, the bill is viewed as all but dead.

“It is definitely the intention to bring this bill back up when we come back in September and October,” House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin told me on Thursday. “We wanted to give the members the opportunity this summer to fully ascertain what is and what isn’t in the bill. When members have a lot of questions, they usually vote no.”

There are no assurances it can pass.

Killion still calls this bill a “no-brainer.”

Quinn, who left the Capitol in June with unconcealed frustration, also sounds hamstrung.

I’m going to hope,” she told me, “that common sense prevails.”

This is no way to run a railroad, people.
Enough already.    Source
August 7, 2018
thehill.com
GOP fears steep losses in state legislatures
LOS ANGELES — Republicans hoping to hold on to their majorities in state legislative chambers across the country are nervously eyeing President Trump’s anemic approval rating, concerned that a wave of voter anger could undo years of gains.In interviews at the National Conference of State Legislators annual meetings last week, Republican leaders from purple and red states said they were worried that their members — most of whom are little-known even inside their own districts — are most vulnerable to an electoral atmosphere that even slightly benefits Democrats.“There is more Democratic enthusiasm than I have seen in the last few cycles. That’s a reality I can’t ignore,” said Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly. “Almost everybody has an opinion on national politics today. Even if you’re totally uninformed, you still have an opinion.”After notching major gains in 2010 and 2014, when Republican waves cost President Obama’s party about 1,000 state legislative seats across the country, Republicans control both legislative chambers in 31 states.They hold a total of 68 of the country’s 99 legislative chambers, including Nebraska, which is ostensibly nonpartisan, but is in practice controlled by Republicans.

Democrats, by contrast, control both the state House and Senate in just 15 states, and 25 legislative chambers overall, including Connecticut, where the Democratic lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes in the evenly-divided state Senate.

Party control of a substantial number of legislative chambers sit on a razor’s edge. Republicans control legislative chambers in swing states like Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin by five or fewer seats. They control chambers in Florida, Iowa, West Virginia and South Carolina by margins of five to ten seats.

Many legislators pointed to Trump, whose approval rating stands between 41 percent and 45 percent in recent reputable polls. While they praised Trump and his accomplishments on the record, many privately said his leadership style and polarizing nature would make their re-election bids more difficult.

State senators and representatives, who raise and spend just a fraction of the money spent on congressional or U.S. Senate races, are uniquely vulnerable to national trends, even if they ultimately have little say over federal policy or the president’s agenda.

“The drama around D.C. does sometimes weigh into the equation,” said Jeanette Nunez, a member of Florida’s House Republican leadership team. “There’s this air of anti-elected official, anti-career politician.”

Elijah Haahr, a member of Republican leadership in the Missouri House, said Trump will aid the GOP in certain districts — but that his members will have to talk about their own accomplishments in Jefferson City.

“We can go to voters and say, we cut your taxes and we did it in a fiscally conservative way,” Haahr said. “We have a broader coalition than we used to. That old school Reagan Democrat has returned to the fold.”

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which raises and spends money on these low-level races, has spotlighted state Senate chambers in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Florida; in those eight chambers, Democrats are just a combined 17 seats away from winning control.

A wave of special elections that Democrats have captured from Republicans in recent months has exacerbated the sense of dread among GOP leaders. Since President Trump took office, Democrats have won 24 seats formerly held by Republicans in special elections, while Republicans have flipped only four seats the other way.

“There’s always challenging environments out there, and you have the long-term historical trends that you have to be aware of,” said Matt Walter, who heads the Republican State Leadership Committee. “There are people who want to have a national conversation, to the extent that that ultimately winds up benefitting them.”

Some of those races that Democrats won came in deeply conservative districts Trump won by wide margins, including states like Georgia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin.

“There is unmatched Democratic volunteer enthusiasm out there,” said Jessica Post, who heads the DLCC.

Democrats cautioned they still have hard work to do in the three months before Election Day. Some said that Trump’s outsized presence in politics today will make his impact on the election unavoidable.

“Complacency is our number one enemy,” said Brian Egolf, the Democratic speaker of the New Mexico House. Trump “is historically unpopular. The more he keeps it up, the more people are encouraged to restrain him.

Others said they planned to avoid Trump as an electoral issue, focusing instead on kitchen table issues concerning everyday Americans.

“We have to continue to speak to average people about what average people care about,” said Jason Frierson, the Democratic speaker of the Nevada Assembly. “I’m not interested in talking about the president.”

And a few Democrats worry about some liberal issues that factions within the party are taking up, from offering Medicare for all to abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“There are a certain percentage of voters who will be scared away,” said Anthony Rendon, California’s Democratic Assembly Speaker. “We’re a pretty diverse party with a lot of cleavages.”

Republicans are not bereft of hope. Walter pointed to 400 seats held by GOP state legislators that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, a sign that Republicans can survive even in adverse conditions.

Democrats have their own narrow majorities to defend, albeit mostly in blue states like Connecticut, Washington, Oregon and Delaware. One exception is Nevada, a swing state that is the focus of tremendous outside money as the two parties battle over a governorship, a Senate seat and two open House seats.

Both sides said they will urge their candidates to look forward, and to offer voters solutions rather than re-litigating races past.

“We have the ability breakthrough some, not all, but some of the political division that we see these days,” Wisconsin’s Vos said. “Two-thirds of your campaign should be about discussing the future, and one-third should be about your past.”    Source

August 3, 2018
July 25, 2018
thehill.com
GOP lawmakers introduce articles of impeachment against Rosenstein
A group of conservative House lawmakers on Wednesdayintroduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the top Department of Justice (DOJ) official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.The introduction of the resolution is the latest sign of escalating efforts among conservatives to oust the DOJ’s No. 2 official.Conservative members led by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)  and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), along with nine co-sponsors, introduced the articles shortly after a meeting with DOJ officials concerning document production.”For 9 months we’ve warned them consequences were coming, and for 9 months we’ve heard the same excuses backed up by the same unacceptable conduct. Time is up and the consequences are here. It’s time to find a new Deputy Attorney General who is serious about accountability and transparency,” Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus and ally of President Trump, said in a statement.“The DOJ is keeping information from Congress. Enough is enough. It’s time to hold Mr. Rosenstein accountable for blocking Congress’s constitutional oversight role,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a statement.

The articles include a series of allegations against Rosenstein.

They charge that Rosenstein has a conflict of interest in Mueller’s probe, stating that he is a “witness” that could be called in the ongoing investigation into potential abuse since he signed off on an FBI surveillance renewal application to wiretap Carter Page, a former adviser to the Trump campaign.

“As such, his conduct in authorizing the FISA surveillance at issue in the joint congressional investigation makes him a fact witness central to the ongoing investigation of potential FISA abuse,” read the articles of impeachment.“Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s failure to recuse himself in light of this inherent conflict of interest and failure to recommend the appointment of a second Special Counsel constitute dereliction of duty. Wherefore, Rod Rosenstein, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.”

“Multiple times we’ve caught DOJ officials hiding information from Congress, withholding relevant documents, or even outright ignoring Congressional subpoenas — and now we have evidence that Mr. Rosenstein signed off on a document using unverified political opposition research as a cornerstone of a FISA application to spy on an American citizen working for the Trump campaign,” Meadows continued, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

They also allege that Rosenstein has “repeatedly failed to produce documents” requested by the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that are investigating FBI and DOJ decision-making during the 2016 presidential election.

Rosenstein, they allege, has also “attempted to conceal certain facts” by overly redacting documents they requested.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the articles of impeachment, but hours before they were introduced, DOJ officials told a far different story.

Shortly before the 4 p.m. meeting between the DOJ officials and House lawmakers took place, Justice Department officials on Wednesday described in detail the steps they are taking to complete the outstanding document requests as requested by the heads of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Republicans say the FBI and DOJ have not provided all the documents they are seeking to review as part of the GOP-led investigations into the email server Hillary Clinton used while she was serving as secretary of State, as well as the FBI’s decision to launch the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The DOJ officials, however, said Wednesday they have largely completed Congress’s document requests, noting they are working with the lawmakers and their staff to give them the information they still want to review.

So far, the DOJ officials say they have given lawmakers access to 880,000 pages they’ve requested, and they continue to accept requests for new information related to House GOP probes.

The officials listed three congressional subpoenas, issued by House Republicans, that they say have either been fulfilled or that they are close to fulfilling.

One DOJ official noted that while the requests are historically high, they are working to respond to the lawmaker’s records requests — and much of the responding is done quietly.   Source

July 22, 2018
latimes.com
Opinion
Calling my fellow Republicans: Trump is clearly unfit to remain in officeBy CHRISTINE TODD WHITMANPresident Trump’s disgraceful performance in Helsinki, Finland, and in the days since is an indication that he is not fit to remain in office. Trump’s 2016 “America First” platform might be more aptly named “Russia First” after the disaster that occurred last week.Trump’s turn toward Russia is indefensible. I am a lifelong Republican. I have campaigned and won as a member of the party, and I have served more than one Republican president. My Republican colleagues — once rightfully critical of President Obama’s engagement strategy with Russian leader Vladimir Putin — have to end their willful ignorance of the damage Trump is doing both domestically and internationally. We must put aside the GOP label, as hard as that may be, and demonstrate the leadership our country needs by calling on the president to step down.Trump’s sycophantic relationship with Putin is unsurprising given his previous comments about Russia and its dictator. What is shocking is how long he has possessed — and disregarded — hard evidence of Putin’s direct role in undermining our elections. According to New York Times reporting, he saw dispositive emails and texts early in January 2017.Trumps’ repeated public dismissals of the intelligence coming from his own deputies is deeply disturbing. Along with his walk back of statements last week, and then walking back the walk backs, it’s impossible to keep up, and his behavior warrants a fresh evaluation of whether the president can be trusted with the future of the United States. His apologists will argue that the current outcry is just another attempt by moderates and “establishment” Republicans to discredit the president. But what does this man have to say or do for his supporters to finally see that his actions are detrimental to the country?We must put aside the GOP label, as hard as that may be, and demonstrate the leadership our country needs.Trump’s avowed respect for the word of a dictator who has spent decades undermining the U.S. and its allies is utterly dangerous. Putin is not our ally. Despite the president’s dismal attempt to change the narrative by explaining that he misspoke in Helsinki, the pattern is clear: As a candidate and as president, he has constantly praised Putin just as he has constantly undercut the core institutions of our democracy — the courts, the media and the FBI. He has a history of discrediting members of his own Cabinet and the agencies they lead. These are not the actions of someone who should be navigating delicate diplomatic discussions and setting foreign policy.If the president did genuinely misspeak on Monday, it demonstrates his inability to articulate accurately U.S. foreign policy at the highest level, for the highest stakes. As the leader of the free world — as ridiculous as that title sounds when applied to Trump — his words matter. If he cannot take his place at a podium next to an adversarial foreign leader and stand up for America’s interests and principles, he should not be president.Trump has alienated our true allies in Europe and undermined the United States’ reputation as a consistent, reliable moral force for good in the world. He disdains democracies and admires dictatorships. What appears to matter to him is not what leaders represent but how they flatter him. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Putin have cracked that code and fan Trump’s ego in a way that respected heads of state do not.Yet many Republicans continue to defend him. In this election year, opposing Trump is risky for GOP candidates. Invoking the need to choose country over party is an overused trope. But it is essential now.

The Republican majority in Congress can fully implement promised sanctions against Russia to show its opposition to Russia’s meddling in our election. Putin needs economic growth in Russia because it benefits the oligarchy. Tougher, tangible sanctions would weaken him and hurt those who benefit from his power. House Speaker Paul Ryan indicated earlier this week that additional sanctions were on the table. This would be a start.

Congress can also ensure that the Robert S. Mueller III investigation is not compromised. Any interference in it after this week should raise many red flags. The special counsel and his team, who despite the president’s attacks show every sign of unbiased professionalism, need to finish their work without tampering.

Finally, even if the Russian efforts to undermine state voting systems were unsuccessful in 2016, this is a vulnerability that may be exploited in the future. With the help of Congress, states must strengthen their processes and security to stop future meddling from Russia or other foreign actors.

Republican voters, including those who supported Donald Trump, have the obligation to demand action from their elected officials. Vocal opposition is expected from Democrats, but it is Republicans’ disapproval that will have the most sway on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

Those members of the party in Congress who have stood up to the president should be commended. More must follow, with more than private talk and tepid tweets. Only bold leadership can put the United States back on a path that values freedom and democracy, and truly puts America first.

Christine Todd Whitman served as administrator of the EPA from January 2001 until June 2003 and as governor of New Jersey from 1994 until 2001. She is currently president of the Whitman Strategy Group, an energy and environmental consulting firm.   Source

July 19, 2018
chicagotribune.com
House GOP votes against renewing election security funding as Democrats fume

House Republicans on Thursday approved a spending bill that excludes new money for election security grants to states, provoking a furious reaction from Democratsamid a national controversy over Russian election interference.

The spending bill passed 217-199. Democrats’ bid to add hundreds of millions more in election spending was rejected 182-232 – as Republicans were unmoved by Democrats floor speeches decrying the funding changes and chanting “USA! USA!”

At issue is a grants program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission and aimed at helping states administer their elections and improve voting systems; Democrats want to continue grant funding through 2019, while Republicans say the program already has been fully funded.

Republicans argued strenuously in floor debate Wednesday that states had plenty of money from prior congressional allocations to spend on election improvements. But Democrats accused the Republicans of abetting President Donald Trump in his refusal to take a hard line against Russian President Vladimir Putin at this week’s summit in Helsinki.

July 17, 2018
NYT
How Republican Lawmakers Responded
to Trump’s Russian Meddling Denial

President Trump appeared on Monday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland. Mr. Trump was widely criticized for his performance, and especially for appearing to side with Mr. Putin over his own intelligence services on the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Denounced the President’s Comments

Some lawmakers specifically criticized the president and forcefully denounced his interactions with the Russian president.

Portrait: Senator Bob Corker
Senator Bob Corker Tenn.
[Putin] gained a tremendous amount. Here he has been ostracized on the world stage. … It was almost an approval, if you will, a public approval by the greatest nation on earth towards him. … I would guess he’s having caviar right now.
Portrait: Senator Jeff Flake
Senator Jeff Flake Ariz.
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.
Portrait: Senator Susan Collins
Senator Susan Collins Me.
The president’s statements today in Helsinki demonstrate his continued refusal to accept the unanimous conclusions of U.S. intelligence leaders and the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee. This position is untenable and at odds with the forceful response this moment demands.
Portrait: Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham S.C.
If it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.
Portrait: Senator Charles E. Grassley
Senator Charles E. Grassley Iowa
President Trump missed an opportunity to publicly press President Putin on whether he would agree to extradite the defendants to the United States to answer the allegations in court.
Portrait: Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain Ariz.
No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.
Portrait: Senator Rob Portman
Senator Rob Portman Ohio
The president’s comments in today’s press conference were troubling. He failed to stand up to Vladimir Putin on some of the most critical security issues facing our country and our allies.
Portrait: Senator Tim Scott
Senator Tim Scott S.C.
As Americans, we stand up for our interests and values abroad; but I fear today was a step backwards.
Portrait: Senator Ben Sasse
Senator Ben Sasse Neb.
This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.
Portrait: Senator Patrick J. Toomey
Senator Patrick J. Toomey Pa.
.@POTUS’ blindness to Putin’s hostile acts against the US and our allies—election meddling included—is very troubling.
Portrait: Senator Jerry Moran
Senator Jerry Moran Kan.
The president missed an opportunity to publicly condemn Russia for election interference or offer strong support for the NATO alliance. The problem with our relationship is not American actions but rather Russia’s duplicitous behavior.
Portrait: Senator Lisa Murkowski
Senator Lisa Murkowski Alaska
Sadly President Trump did not defend America to the Russian president, and for the world to see. Instead, what I saw today was not “America First,” it was simply a sad diminishment of our great nation.
Portrait: Senator Dan Sullivan
Senator Dan Sullivan Alaska
I disagree w/ President’s remarks following Helsinki Summit. Specifically, do I believe the professional and patriotic men and women of our intelligence community, including the Director of National Intelligence, or a mafia regime leader like Putin? It’s not even a close call.
Portrait: Rep. Paul D. Ryan
Rep. Paul D. Ryan Wis. 1stSpeaker of the House
The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.
Portrait: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Wash. 5thRepublican Conference Chairwoman
Russia is not a friend to the United States or our allies. There’s no question that they meddled in our election, and all evidence points to Putin’s direct involvement. In order to put America first, the president must hold Russia accountable for their adversarial actions and their continued efforts to undermine our democratic institutions.
Portrait: Rep. Ed Royce
Rep. Ed Royce Calif. 39thChairman, Foreign Affairs Committee
I disagree with the president’s comments. There is simply no comparing the actions of the United States and Vladimir Putin.
Portrait: Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte
Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte Va. 6thChairman, Judiciary Committee
U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed Russia’s actions, and the evidence is plentiful. Today’s summit was an opportunity to forcefully address this growing threat directly with President Putin. I am dismayed that we did not see that.

Supported

Mr. Trump’s defense from his Republican allies has so far been limited.

Portrait: Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul Ky.
I think it’s a good idea to have engagement, and I guess I don’t quite understand all of the people who have gone completely deranged criticizing the president.

Sidestepped or Did Not Denounce
the President’s Comments

Many Republicans tempered their remarks to affirm that Russia remains an adversary without criticizing Mr. Trump directly.

Portrait: Senator Deb Fischer
Senator Deb Fischer Neb.
Russia is not a friend to the U.S. They have interfered in our elections. They have murdered people. They have invaded other countries. And they have cheated on a nuclear treaty. Russia is not to be trusted.
Portrait: Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Senator Orrin G. Hatch Utah
Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Our nation’s top intelligence agencies all agree on that point.
Portrait: Senator Lamar Alexander
Senator Lamar Alexander Tenn.
There is no doubt that Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election.
Portrait: Senator Richard M. Burr
Senator Richard M. Burr N.C.
Vladimir Putin is not our friend and never has been. Nor does he want to be our friend. His regime’s actions prove it. We must make clear that the United States will not tolerate hostile Russian activities against us or our allies.
Portrait: Senator John Boozman
Senator John Boozman Ark.
Our nation’s intelligence community, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, is confident that Russia intervened in the 2016 elections. I agree w/ their assessment & believe our relationship w/ Russia must consistently be viewed through this lens. Russia is not our friend.
Portrait: Senator Bill Cassidy
Senator Bill Cassidy La.
It was a mistake for President Obama to give Putin more flexibility and treat him as a non-threat. President Trump should not make the same mistake. In the face of Putin’s aggression, America must be strong.
Portrait: Senator Tom Cotton
Senator Tom Cotton Ark.
U.S.-Russia relations remain at a historic low for one simple reason: Vladimir Putin is a committed adversary of the United States.
Portrait: Senator Steve Daines
Senator Steve Daines Mont.
I have the highest confidence in the men and women in our intelligence communities and their conclusive evidence regarding Russia’s deliberate efforts to interfere in our elections.
Portrait: Senator Joni Ernst
Senator Joni Ernst Iowa
I have the utmost faith in the U.S. intelligence community and their assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Portrait: Senator Johnny Isakson
Senator Johnny Isakson Ga.
Russia does not deserve our trust or special treatment, and my view remains unchanged after today’s mtg.
Portrait: Senator James Lankford
Senator James Lankford Okla.
I trust the assessments of Dan Coats, Gina Haspel & their teams more than I trust a former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin. U.S. Presidents should meet w/ foreign leaders. But we must unequivocally denounce Russia’s election interference attempts & human rights abuses around the world.
Portrait: Senator Mike Lee
Senator Mike Lee Utah
We’ve known for years that the Russians routinely try and influence U.S. elections. It is unfortunate that President Putin refuses to acknowledge these facts.
Portrait: Senator Mitch McConnell
Senator Mitch McConnell Ky.
The Russians are not our friends. I’ve said that repeatedly, I say it again today. And I have complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings that they have announced.
Portrait: Senator Pat Roberts
Senator Pat Roberts Kan.
Russia remains a threat to our national security. Our Intelligence Community has proven Russia attempted to interfere with our elections. We have to remain vigilant when dealing with this dangerous adversary.
Portrait: Senator Thom Tillis
Senator Thom Tillis N.C.
There cannot be any equivocation: Vladimir Putin is to blame for Russia’s poor relations with the United States and the rest of the free world.
Portrait: Senator Todd Young
Senator Todd Young Ind.
We must deal with Moscow from a position of strength and unity. I have no reason to doubt the clear conclusions of the intelligence community when it comes to Moscow’s attempts to undermine our democracy.
Portrait: Senator Roy Blunt
Senator Roy Blunt Mo.
Vladimir Putin is not an ally of the United States. He is a calculating adversary who is trying to exert all the influence he can anywhere he can.
Portrait: Senator John Cornyn
Senator John Cornyn Tex.
In the president’s mind, I think he’s conflating different things — the meddling and the collusion allegations for which there does not appear to be any evidence.
Portrait: Senator John Hoeven
Senator John Hoeven N.D.
We know Russia meddled in our election based on information from our intelligence agencies. That is not acceptable and we need to make clear to the Putin regime that we will keep our sanctions in place and work with our allies to increase pressure on Russia until its behavior changes.
Portrait: Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio Fla.
Foreign policy must be based on reality,not hyperbole or wishful thinking. And the reality is #Russia is an adversary. Because #Putin doesn’t believe in win/win scenarios & thinks only way to make Russia stronger is to make U.S. weaker. Any approach not based on this will fail.
Portrait: Senator John Barrasso
Senator John Barrasso Wyo.
It’s abundantly clear that the United States cannot and should not trust Russia. This is why President Trump and Congress have taken important and tough steps — including sanctions, expelling Russian diplomats and giving lethal arms to Ukraine. That said, I stand firmly behind the United States’ intelligence agencies that Russia did in fact interfere in our election. That interference should result in further consequences for President Putin and his regime.
Portrait: Senator Michael D. Crapo
Senator Michael D. Crapo Idaho
Like many Idahoans, I have also been deeply concerned by the behavior of the Russians the past few years. … My views remained unchanged. We need to see actions, not words, from Russia in order to keep our relationship moving forward.
Portrait: Senator Cory Gardner
Senator Cory Gardner Colo.
Whether it be chemical attacks on allied soil, the invasion of Ukraine, propping up the murderer Assad in Syria or meddling in our elections through cyberattacks, Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains an adversary to the United States.
Portrait: Senator James M. Inhofe
Senator James M. Inhofe Okla.
Each president since President H.W. Bush has met with Russian leadership in the hope of a new beginning in the relationship with Russia. Today was no different. While meeting privately earlier today, I hope that President Trump was clear with Vladimir Putin — his history of electoral abuses, human rights offenses, aggression across Eastern Europe and support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria are unacceptable.
Portrait: Senator Ron Johnson
Senator Ron Johnson Wis.
As much as I would prefer a better relationship with Russia, it can only happen as the result of improved Russian behavior. U.S. foreign policy should be uniformly directed to achieve that objective. I urge President Trump to forcefully and repeatedly demand that the Putin regime dramatically improve its behavior.
Portrait: Senator Jim Risch
Senator Jim Risch Idaho
My assessment has not changed; Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and is no friend of the United States. The United States must stand from a position of strength in our relationship with Russia and in defense of our allies and shared values.
Portrait: Senator Michael Rounds
Senator Michael Rounds S.D.
Make no mistake: Russia is not our friend. Our poor relations are a direct result of their continued destabilizing behavior throughout the world. It is clear that Russia attempted to directly influence the 2016 election process. There is value in seeking to improve relations with Russia, but the U.S. must make clear that their irresponsible behavior on the world stage will not be tolerated.
Portrait: Senator John Thune
Senator John Thune S.D.
Despite Russia’s repeated denials, we know they meddled in our election, based on the analysis from our trusted intel community. Russia must be held accountable for attempting to disrupt our democracy, & we must continue to strongly convey the message that it won’t be tolerated.
Portrait: Senator Dean Heller
Senator Dean Heller Nev.
While I am not opposed to a dialogue between the two leaders, I trust our intelligence community’s assessment on Russian interference, not Vladimir Putin’s. He is no friend of the United States and I don’t trust him.
Portrait: Senator Shelley Moore Capito
Senator Shelley Moore Capito W.Va.
I trust our intelligence community in their assessment of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election. Preserving the integrity of our electoral system is critical to our democracy. … Russia is an adversary of the United States, and we must continue efforts to hold them accountable.
Portrait: Rep. Trey Gowdy
Rep. Trey Gowdy S.C. 4thChairman, Oversight Committee
Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans.
Portrait: Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy Calif. 23rdMajority Leader
The intelligence community, including the House Intelligence Committee, has looked extensively into Russian election meddling in the United States. I fully support their findings and their work to hold those responsible to account. These findings confirm that it has undoubtedly been Russia’s objective to sow unrest within our democratic institutions.
Source
July 13, 2018
TPM
PHOTOS: Woman Charged For Acting As Russian Agent Mingled With NRA Execs, GOP Pols

Twitter

Russian gun activist Mariia Butina was arrested on Sunday and charged with “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government” over her alleged effort to promote Russia’s interests by establishing relationships with political figures in the U.S.

Though the affidavit made public on Monday does not name the National Rifle Association (NRA), it appears that references to “Gun Rights Organization” in the document refer to the NRA.

Indeed, photos found on Butina’s Facebook page and elsewhere show that she mixed and mingled with NRA leaders and American politicians. Check out the photo opportunities Butina managed below:

Butina poses with NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre.
Butina is seen with David Keene, former NRA president and chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that runs the annual CPAC conference attended by prominent Republicans.
Butina with former NRA President Jim Porter at the NRA convention in 2014.
Butina and Alexander Torshin, a top Russian official, meet GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Butina is seen in this Instagram post with former GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Butina is pictured here with former Pennsylvania GOP U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
In this CNN footage, Butina asks Trump a question about his philosophy on U.S.-Russia relations at a Las Vegas town hall a month before he started his presidential run.   Source
July 12, 2018
cnn.com
Insults, fighting, shouting: Strzok hearing boils over

Washington (CNN)Even by the clown show standards of the House of Representatives, this was not democracy’s finest hour.

A hearing starring Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who presided over the start of the Russia probe, degenerated Thursday into a theatrical display of sanctimony, mock outrage, all-out partisan bickering and character assassination as grandstanding members on both sides of the aisle played to the TV cameras.
Republicans, posing as grave prosecutors of a state crime, sought to paint Strzok’s anti-Trump political commentary in texts to a former lover as a symptom of institutionalized bias that should invalidate special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — from which Strzok has been removed.
Democrats battled to defend him from attack after attack, and to turn the focus back onto alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
And Strzok, who often wore a bemused smirk as lawmakers squabbled and talked over one another, barged into the hearing loaded for bear. He shouted back at his inquisitors as they bellowed at him and drove them to distraction by refusing to answer questions. He also delivered a passionate and angry defense of the FBI from a GOP attack that he said “deeply corrodes” the bureau.
“I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity,” Strzok told members of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees.
“I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt,” he said.
Though Strzok expressed “significant regret” for the way his texts to former FBI lawyer Lisa Page had hurt his family and the FBI, no one would describe Strzok as an unapologetic witness. For hours in the hot seat, he gave as good as he got, demanding time to answer Republican attacks, drawing frequent reprimands from the chair with the words “the witness will suspend.”
Strzok drove Republicans on the committee into ostentatious displays of frustration with variations of his line that his counsel had advised him not to answer certain questions.
“I would like to answer your question … but at the direction of the FBI I cannot discuss the content,” Strzok told GOP Rep. Jim Jordan in one example.

Political polarization

If the hearing uncovered any significant revelations about the conduct of the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump investigations it was not immediately obvious amid the hoopla.
But as an example of the mind-blowing rabbit holes and political polarization spawned by Russia’s election meddling operation it was priceless.
As Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois put it “OK, Kremlin, another good day for you.”
For sure, Strzok’s texts, read aloud by GOP members of the committee were damning and challenged his claim his dislike for the “horrible, disgusting behavior” of Trump did not mean he could not run a fair investigation.
“You have come in here and said ‘I have no bias,’” said Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. “And you do it with a straight face and I watched you in the private testimony you gave and I told some of the other guys, ‘he’s really good, he’s lying and we know he’s lying and he can probably pass the polygraph.’”
Moments later the hearing threatened to spin completely out of control when Gohmert accused Strzok of embarrassing himself and other FBI agents.
“I can’t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa,” Gohmert said.
“Mr. Chairman, it is outrageous,” one Democrat shouted. Another, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey asked: “What is wrong with us? You need your medication.”
While Republicans repeatedly accused Strzok of bias, Democrats pointed to his failure to expose alleged Russian collusion before the election as proof that his dislike of Trump did not taint the investigation.
Almost every Democrat tried to divert attention from Strzok’s texts — some used their questions to refer to all the people who have pleaded guilty in the Russia probe so far, or to refer to what they see as the President’s sins.
Gutierrez tried to prove that Strzok could have hurt Trump if he wanted to.
“You did have almost a magical bullet in your hand to derail the Donald Trump investigation and did you use it?”
“No sir,” Strzok said.
Rep. Gowdy grills Strzok over text messages
The committee was repeatedly interrupted by cries of “regular order” as the hearing descended into low comedy and farce.
“Stop badgering him” one Democrat told Jordan as he took aim at Strzok. “Stop interrupting him” shouted another.
Later, when Jordan came back for yet another round of questioning, Strzok greeted him with an amused smile.
At one point, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte read out one of Strozk’s texts in which he told Page he had just been to a Walmart in southern Virginia and could smell the support for Trump.
“What does Trump support smell like, Mr. Strzok?” asked Goodlatte, drawing a barely credible answer.
“That’s an expression of speech. What I was commenting on living in Northern Virginia — what I mean by that living in Northern Virginia, having traveled 100, 150 miles within the same state I was struck by the extraordinary difference in the expression of political opinion and belief amongst the community there from where I live,” Strzok said.
Watson Coleman sliced through the contentious partisan fervor boiling in the committee room with an attack on Rep. Trey Gowdy.
“If you can’t control yourself, how do you expect this committee to control itself? You’ve been out of control since you’ve been on this committee,” she said.
“Why don’t you leave it alone, this is not Benghazi.”  Source with Videos here
July 4, 2018
cbsnews
Ex-wrestlers say powerful GOP Rep. Jim Jordan knew of alleged Ohio State abuse 
An Ohio congressman isn’t being truthful when asserting he was unaware of allegations that a now-dead team doctor was abusing athletes, according to two former university wrestlers.U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a former standout college wrestler at the University of Wisconsin and later a coach at Ohio State, knew when he was at the university that the doctor was groping male wrestlers, said ex-wrestlers Mike DiSabato and Dunyasha Yetts.The wrestlers’ allegations were first reported Tuesday by NBC. Jordan, a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion, denies them.”Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State,” a Jordan spokesman told CBS News.Jordan himself also rejected the allegations. “We knew of no abuse. Never heard of abuse. If we had, we would have reported it,” he said Wednesday.Jordan, a founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress and a potential contender for speaker. He’s taken leading roles in fighting the Affordable Care Act and in pushing back against the government’s Russia investigation, most recently interrogating Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in committee.Male athletes from 14 sports at Ohio State have reported alleged sexual misconduct by Richard Strauss, who was on the faculty and medical staff and published a variety of research. Strauss died in 2005, and it was ruled a suicide.Ohio State has not released details about the claims but said more than 150 former students and witnesses have been interviewed so far. The school has urged anyone with information about Strauss to contact the independent investigators from Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie.Perkins Coie also is reviewing whether Strauss examined high school students.Yetts, 47, of Steubenville, said Strauss groped him at least three times during routine exams when he wrestled in the early to mid-1990s. Jordan was Yetts’ weight-class coach at the time, and the two spoke frequently about Strauss, he said. Jordan was among the people Yetts told about groping the first time in happened in 1992, Yetts told The Associated Press Tuesday.”He’d even make comments, ‘This guy better not touch me,'” Yetts said.Beginning in 2007, Yetts served 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal mail fraud charges. Yetts was accused of bilking investors out of $1.8 million as part of an investment scheme he ran from 1998 to 2001.Yetts, an operations manager for a gas drilling company, said Tuesday he has paid his debt for past mistakes. He said the fraud case has nothing to do with what he went through as a student-athlete.DiSabato, of Dublin in suburban Columbus, also told the AP that Jordan had direct knowledge of the Strauss allegations. DiSabato, 50, said he was moved to tell Ohio State of Strauss’ actions after hearing accounts last year of gymnasts sexually abused by sports doctor Larry Nassar. DiSabato says he’s angered that Jordan hasn’t acknowledged the abuse.Jordan’s spokesman said he would assist investigators in any way he could.”He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice,” said spokesman Ian Fury.

Late Tuesday, a law firm representing Ohio State contradicted that statement. An investigative legal team looking into the allegations against Strauss previously contacted Jordan’s office by phone and email requesting he participate in an interview, but Jordan did not respond, said Kathleen Trafford of Porter Wright in Columbus.

“The investigative team is continuing its efforts to schedule an interview with Rep. Jordan, as well as other individuals with potential knowledge relating to the allegations,” Trafford said.

Fury said the office can’t find a record of those requests but remains willing to assist investigators.

The U.S. House speaker’s office on Tuesday called the allegations against Jordan “serious.”

Doug Andres, a spokesman for GOP Speaker Paul Ryan, said the university has “rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter” and the speaker will “await the findings of that inquiry.”

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise of treatment and was caught with child pornography. He is serving three prison sentences that likely will keep him locked up for life.   Source

June 26, 2018
Politico
Republican tax law hits churches
Some nonprofits could start paying taxes for the first time.Republicans have quietly imposed a new tax on churches, synagogues and other nonprofits, a little-noticed and surprising change that could cost some groups tens of thousands of dollars.Their recent tax-code rewrite requires churches, hospitals, colleges, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees.That could force thousands of groups that have long had little contact with the IRS to suddenly begin filing returns and paying taxes for the first time.Many organizations are stunned to learn of the tax — part of a broader Republican effort to strip the code of tax breaks for employee benefits like parking and meals — and say it will be a significant financial and administrative burden.It also means political peril for lawmakers, many of whom were surely unaware of the provision when they approved the tax plan. Churches’ tax-exempt status, in particular, has long been considered sacrosanct and Republicans are relying on the faithful to back them in the November elections.Though many organizations are still unaware of the tax, more than 600 churches and other groups have already signed a petition demanding it be repealed.“There’s going to be huge headaches,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of evangelical Christian organizations. “The cost of compliance, especially for churches that have small staffs or maybe volunteer accountants and bookkeepers — we don’t need this kind of hassle.”The Jewish Federations of North America is looking at a new $75,000 tax bill this year because of the change.“A lot of people are just finding out about it and the more people find out about it, the more pressure there will be on Treasury and Congress to either delay implementation or consider changing this,” said Steven Woolf, senior tax policy counsel for the group.At least one Republican lawmaker is now proposing to rescind the tax, though House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady — one of the architects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — is defending the provision.It will simplify the code when it comes to how workers are compensated, Brady said through a spokesman.The debate comes as Republicans celebrate the six-month milestone of the law’s enactment. They’ve emphasized the benefits of its big cuts in taxes on businesses and individuals.But to help defray the budgetary cost of those changes, Republicans simultaneously pared tax breaks for workers’ fringe benefits, which is projected to raise around $40 billion over the next decade.They were mainly trimming deductions companies have long taken for entertaining clients and providing meals for employees.But Republicans also wanted to treat nonprofits equally, which proved challenging.Because those organizations don’t pay income taxes, lawmakers couldn’t take away fringe-benefit deductions. So instead they created a 21 percent tax on the value of some of nonprofit employees’ benefits.

The main benefits affected are transportation-related, like free parking in a lot or a garage and subway and bus passes. It also targets meals provided to workers and, in some circumstances, may affect gym memberships.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included provisions that provided grater parity in the tax treatment of different types of employee compensation,” said Rob Damschen, a Brady spokesman. “These provisions apply to both employers that are taxable entities and those that are tax-exempt entities.”

“Providing this greater parity helps to reduce the extent to which decisions about the elements included in the employee compensation package are driven by tax considerations,” he said in an email.

The proposal got virtually no attention when the legislation was making its way through Congress late last year, and many groups are outraged to now learn of the requirement.

“What we’re talking about is an income tax on the church for providing parking to its employees — that’s what we’re talking about,” said Mike Batts, chairman of the board of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which is circulating the petition denouncing the tax. “It’s absurd.”

He scoffs at the idea of treating businesses and nonprofits equally.

“The whole idea of tax exemption for nonprofit organizations that are doing charitable, religious and educational work is for them not to be on the same playing field as for-profit businesses when it comes to taxes, in order to incentivize the good work they do to make our society better,” said Batts, who is also managing partner of an accounting firm that specializes in religious nonprofits.

He and others complain that, thanks to nonprofits’ tax-exempt status, many don’t have experts on staff who can help them understand the provisions. They also note that while companies also lost fringe-benefit breaks, they simultaneously got big cuts in their tax rates and new incentives for investments that more than made up for the lost deductions.

Many nonprofits say they are confused over how exactly the tax is supposed to work.

Churches and other groups want to know how they are supposed to go about calculating the value of things like parking spaces for employees. Some wonder if the garages provided as part of clergy residences are now taxable.

Other nonprofits have their own questions.

Universities want to know if the bus services they provide for faculty and students are taxable and how they figure out how much they owe. Orchestras want to know how to treat musicians who may perform in different locations.

“At what point is something a travel reimbursement? And at what point is it a commuter benefit?” said Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy at the League of American Orchestras.

Treasury is now working on regulations spelling out the details of how the tax will work, though the groups are supposed to have already been paying the tax. It took effect Jan. 1 and nonprofits are supposed to pay it quarterly.

A host of groups, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Goodwill Industries, the YMCA and the National Council of Nonprofits are demanding the tax at least be delayed, saying it is unfair to ask them to be paying a levy they don’t understand.

Earlier this month, Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) introduced legislation to kill the tax.  Source

June 18, 2018
medium.com
The GOP’s “pro-life, pro-family” hypocrisy destroys lives and ravages families

My parents lived in the shadows of a different generation, where children were stolen from their parents and put in camps in Germany. I was raised to believe that my privilege and my responsibility was to speak out, and say never again. Never again can we allow such atrocities to happen to families, and never again can we let such hate win.

We are now in another moment that my parents warned me was coming. As families cross the border seeking asylum, this administration is ripping children out of loving parents’ arms, setting the precedent that they will take kids away from their parents at the border. Thousands of children have been separated from their families, and today the Department of Health and Human Services admitted it has no plans for reuniting them. It is inhumane, it is evil, and we must call it for what it is — torture.

Despite Trump’s lies to the contrary, these children are being separated from their families and placed in cages as a direct result of policies put in place by his administration. Trump, the GOP Congress that refuses to stand up to him, and their followers’ weak attempts to claim the “pro-life” and “pro-family” mantle dissolve in the face of this latest dictate (and countless preceding it). Not only do they believe the lives of immigrant and brown children don’t matter, they campaign on racism and use these children as pawns.

Last year, NARAL spoke out and fought against this same administration for holding young undocumented women against their will because they wanted to terminate their pregnancies from the unimaginable situations they were fleeing. Administration officials tried to deny them access to abortion care, despite the fact that they had secured funds and sponsors and travel to and from the clinic. Scott Lloyd, who leads the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, personally intervened, calling and flying across country to berate these women. And in one particularly egregious moment even dragged one woman to a fake women’s health centerin lieu of getting her medical care.

Their morally abject hypocrisy was already on display then with their practice of detaining pregnant immigrants, forcing them to sleep on floors of internment camps and denying them access to essential healthcare. We’ve always known this is about control, not family. And their admission that they are now using children as a tool in their war against immigrants demolishes any last shred of moral credibility not only of Trump and his administration but of anyone who claims to be pro-life and has not denounced these actions.

NARAL members and millions of others across the country are speaking out, and joining groups like Families Belong Together and mobilizing to end these atrocities so we can start the long work of digging out of this mess and building toward the freedom, justice, and equality that is the promise of democracy.

If you ever asked yourself what you would do when this moment came, it is here. And it is on all of us. We must step up. It is about all of us taking actions, large and small, whatever we can do every single day. Because evil only wins when they outlast us. They will not outlast us.

This time my family and I, like so many of NARAL’s members, are not the ones in the direct crosshairs. That privilege comes with great responsibility. We must be a megaphone for those whose voices are being silenced and whose hearts are broken.

It breaks my heart to hear my children cry, and I can’t imagine the pain of mothers and fathers who heard their children crying in the next room, or can no longer hear them any more. So every day, wake up and ask yourself what you’re going to do today to outlast them, and make the promise of never againa lasting reality.

Psalm 146:9 reminds us that the LORD protects the sojourners; He sustains the fatherless and the widow, but the ways of the wicked He frustrates. Exodus 23:9 states clearly “Do not oppress a foreign resident, since you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners; for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” A consistent theme in religion and literature is that we will all be strangers in a strange land and we will be judged by our treatment of the sojourner.

This is the beginning of the end of them. Because our love and endurance in the face of cruelty is more powerful than their evil. This is not the first time our country has separated children from parents, but through our collective voices and actions, let it be the last — in detention centers, in camps, in prisons, and on reservations.   Source

June 12, 2018
Rolling Stone
Republicans Are Straining Themselves to Praise Trump’s North Korea Meeting
Conservatives are caught between a rock and hypocrisy
Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump cozying up to one of the world’s most ruthless dictators is a tough one to swallow for Republicans. Most conservative lawmakers condemned President Obama’s willingness to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, which would seem – if one were being generous – as somewhat analogous to Trump’s decision to sit down with Kim Jong-un. But many of these same lawmakers have also hitched their political future to the Trump Train, making it difficult to praise the president for legitimizing the North Korean dictator without coming off as hypocritical. This doesn’t mean they didn’t try.

The hottest post-summit take came from Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who told Hugh Hewitt Tuesday morning that Kim Jong-un warranted the respect of the United States because North Korea already has a nuclear arsenal.

Elana Schor

@eschor

Sen. Cotton to Hugh Hewitt this morning, on the optics of Singapore.

According to Cotton, if a nation has nuclear weapons, it is therefore legitimized in the eyes of the United States, which essentially incentivizes nuclear proliferation. Iran better get to work enriching that uranium if it wants to work out a deal to have American economic sanctions lifted.

Outside of criticizing Trump, Cotton had no other choice than to attempt such daring mental gymnastics. When President Obama was negotiating the Iran deal in 2015, Cotton penned a letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that if they were to strike a deal with the United States, Congress or a future president could easily reverse it. The letter was signed by 46 Republican senators, including Marco Rubio who also defended the president’s sit down with Kim.

Marco Rubio

@marcorubio

Presidents meeting with exposed incredible hypocrisy of many in media. When Obama did these things,he was described as enlightened. When Trump does it he is reckless & foolish. 1 yr ago they attacked Trump for leading us towards war,now attack for being too quick for peace

Marco Rubio

@marcorubio

Should be skeptical of any deal with Limits to future strategic weapons instead of eliminating current program not an acceptable outcome. Hope I’m wrong but still believe they will never give up nukes & ICBM’s unless believe failure to do so triggers regime ending reaction

Here we see Rubio tweeting about how Trump is moving toward peace with North Korea, and then seven minutes later writing that he doesn’t believe North Korea would do away with its nuclear arsenal unless if felt the United States was about to blow the entire nation into oblivion. If this is the case, “peace” is impossible and the president’s meeting with Kim was pointless, as was his decision to put an end to America’s joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for vague assurances that North Korea would seek to denuclearize. As the New York Times points out, North Korea doing so would be far more difficult than it was for Iran, or any other nation with nuclear capabilities.

Samantha Power

@SamanthaJPower

Handy @nytimes chart on the steps required to achieve denuclearization

Speaking of hypocrisy, here’s what Rubio wrote in 2015 after Obama made the Iran deal: “Most alarming of all is the realization that President Obama decided to elevate an evil and illegitimate third-rate autocracy.” Imagine how Republicans – many of which shared Rubio’s views regarding Obama’s negotiations with Iran – would have reacted if in addition to “elevating” the regime, Obama breathlessly gushed about talented the ayatollah is, how they’ve formed a “special bond” and how a White House invitation should be imminent.

Other Republican lawmakers have taken a wait-and-see approach while simultaneously praising the summit as a sign of progress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the meeting a “historic first step” while calling for “maximum pressure” if Kim doesn’t make good on his promise to denuclearize. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who as of late has been uncharacteristically critical of Trump, warned that “We must always be clear that we are dealing with a brutal regime with a long history of deceit,” but made sure to “commend” Trump for sitting down with Kim. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is hoping Trump will back his recently introduced marijuana bill, noted that the summit “must be followed by multiple meetings to test North Korea’s promises of denuclearization.” Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has pushed back against Trump perhaps more than any other Republican senator, was bluntly critical of the summit. “It is difficult to determine what of concrete nature has occurred,” he said.

The Republican party itself was even more optimistic than its lawmakers, tweeting that summit deserves to be chiseled in the history books next to Ronald Reagan’s 1987 call to the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

If Reagan at any point called Gorbachev a “funny guy” with “a great personality,” it happened behind closed doors.   Source

May 3, 2018
Penn Live
Pa. House GOP leader wants to open up primaries to independent voters, make other government reforms
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, is using his final six months in the House to beat the drum for an election reform, redistricting reform, and term limits for House committee chairmanships.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, is using his final six months in the House to beat the drum for an election reform, redistricting reform, and term limits for House committee chairmanships. (File photo/PennLive.com)

A top leader in the House of Representatives wants to give independent and third-party voters a reason to go to the polls on primary election days, change the way the redistricting process is done, and put term limits on House committee chairmanships.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, began on Wednesday circulating a memo among his legislative colleagues seeking support for those three government reforms.

Reed, who is not seeking re-election, indicated that he sees these changes as part of an ongoing long-term effort to restore faith in government. A Franklin & Marshall College Poll conducted in March identified government and politicians as the most important problem that voters see facing the state.

In the memo, Reed noted that the House has passed a package of bills to bring transparency and spending limits to the state budget process, create an independent Office of Inspector General, increase penalties in the law regulating lobbyists, and reducing the size of the Legislature.

“There is still more which needs to be done,” the memo states.

Reed told Capitol reporters on Tuesday he wants to throw his ideas on the table to try to spur a broader long-term discussion about them within the Legislature as well as outside the Capitol.

After all, he said, “True change begins with citizens electing folks committed to change.”

Reed is proposing to remove the exclusion of independent or non-affiliated voters from the  primary by allowing those voters to choose whether they want to cast votes in the Republican or Democratic primary.

With nearly 750,000 voters registered as independents or non-affiliated, he said giving these voters a voice in the primary could have a big impact, particularly in local elections which oftentimes draw only candidates from one party and a race gets decided in the primary.

As for redistricting reform, he proposes an alternative to the notion of establishing an independent commission populated by people picked by politicians to draw electoral boundaries of legislative and congressional districts every 10 years. Reed wants to throw open eligibility for commission membership to all registered voters.

He is proposing selecting commission members in the same random way juries are selected with the members seated in a way to preserve party and geographic balance.

While those chosen could defer their selection, Reed said, “If you start with the entire set of eligible folks that meet the requirement, you have less of a chance of people gaming that system and more of a chance a truly independent commission.”

Pennsylvania's new Congressional districts: A user's guide

Pennsylvania’s new Congressional districts: A user’s guide

What does this transition to a new Congressional map mean to you?

A third reform he is proposing would limit House members’ service as a committee chairman of a particular committee to three two-year terms, a model similar to one used by Congress. Currently in the state House, chairmanship selections are based on seniority with no term limits.

“It provides an opportunity for new ideas to get into that process, new perspectives,” Reed said. “I think the time has come for maybe consideration of that in Pennsylvania as well.”

Once introduced, Reed’s legislation likely would be referred to the House State Government Committee, where it has been some reform proposals, particularly those offered by Democrats, go to die.

The committee’s Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, publicly stated on Facebook that he would “block all substantive Democrat legislation sent to my committee and advance good Republican legislation!”

Metcalfe demonstrated that by twice leading the Republicans’ effort to alter Democratic redistricting reform proposals that called for creating an 11-member independent citizens commission to instead create a six-member commission of legislative appointees.

Metcalfe did not return a call on Wednesday afternoon seeking comment about Reed’s proposals and their prospects of receiving consideration by his committee.

Rep. Matt Bradford of Montgomery County, the ranking Democrat on the state government committee, said, “In light of some of the clearly partisan attempts to undermine the prior redistricting reform proposals seen out of the Republican majority in the House State Government Committee, I’m glad to see Leader Reed as he is leaving the Legislature realize that certain reforms need to be looked at and potentially implemented to bring a level of openness to the system.”  Source

May 10, 2018
wskg.org
PA Dems’ Attempt To Outflank Republican Dominated House Committee

House State Government Committee Chairman Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(WSKG) — Frustrated by their proposals consistently failing to pass a key GOP-controlled state House committee, Democrats are appealing to the speaker to help them circumvent it.

Their plea appears to have little chance of success.

Republican Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County has run the State Government Committee since 2011. In that time, he’s made clear his aversion to legislation sponsored by Democrats–once writing in a Facebook post that he “block[s] all substantive Democrat legislation sent to my committee and advance[s] good Republican legislation.”

House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton acknowledged, Metcalfe can technically do what he wants with the proposals, and the Democratic caucus doesn’t have official recourse.

But he insisted, the situation is out of hand.

“We looked up all eight years. In that time, there have been hundreds of democratic-sponsored bills sent to that committee by the speaker. Only one of them ever came out of that committee,” he said.

The one bill in question? A land use measure in 2014.

House Democratic leaders re-introduced more than 80 stalled bills this week, and are asking Speaker Mike Turzai to route them to different committees.

Turzai spokesman Neal Lesher suggested the proposals’ initial failure may not be Metcalfe’s fault.

“I mean anybody could just file a bunch of bills, sit around and do nothing, and then say, ‘oh they didn’t move my bills,” Lesher said.

Lesher also noted, when Democrats held the House majority, they let through about the same overall number of across-the-aisle bills as Republicans are now.

Patton didn’t dispute that, but said this situation is different.

“Never before has there been one committee chairman who has bottled up hundreds of bills over a period of years simply because they’re sponsored by members of the other party,” he said. “That is unprecedented.”   Source

May 7, 2018
fortune.com
Facebook Found 3,000 Russia-Linked Election Ads. Now House Democrats Are Planning to Release Them

By NATASHA BACH

May 7, 2018

Ever wondered what those Facebook ads Kremlin-linked groups ran during the 2016 presidential election looked like?

Soon you can find out. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are preparing to release 3,000 of them, giving the biggest illustration to date of how Facebook (FB, +0.76%) was used in an attempt to manipulate citizens during the election.

The ads may be released as early as this week, according to The Wall Street Journal, but first Facebook and Democrats must determine what and how much user data will be retracted ahead of the release.

“We have been in ongoing discussions with Facebook and hope to have the final redacted ads in our possession within a matter of days,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is leading the effort, told The Hill on Sunday. “As soon as we receive them, it is our intention to share them with the public.”

The ads have been in Congress’ possession since last year, at which time they made fewer than 50 available to the public. Facebook had identified the extent of the ads as of last September. It found 470 accounts linked to the Internet Research Company, “that bought the 3,000 ads during a two-year period intended to amplify social and political tensions during and after the 2016 presidential elections,” according to The WSJ.

Despite the abundance of ads created, Facebook has claimed that only 75% of those reached an audience—25% of the ads were allegedly never shown to users.

Democratic efforts to release the ads follows the end to the bipartisan probe into Russia’s activity during the election that found no collusionbetween the Trump campaign and the Russians Source

May 2, 2018
witf.org
House GOP Leader announces he wants to reform redistricting

01reed.jpg

House Majority Leader Dave Reed speaks to reporters. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) — In recent weeks, proponents of overhauling Pennsylvania’s redistricting process with an independent citizens’ commission have been frustrated as their bills have been repeatedly gutted by the Republican majority in a prominent state House committee.

But now, those advocates may be getting an unexpected new ally in House GOP Leader Dave Reed, who told reporters Tuesday, this is an issue he wants to address before he departs the legislature at the end of this year.

Currently, congressional redistricting is done by the legislature, and the governor signs off on it.

Reform proponents say that makes the process too partisan, and argue an independent panel of citizens would be more representative.

Opponents, like House State Government Committee Chair Daryl Metcalfe–who has made a project of quickly blocking the bills–say the legislature itself is perfectly representative.

The independent commission effort has been recently championed by the Democratic minority, who stand to gain more through reform.

But Reed argued, it’s not a fundamentally partisan issue.

“I’ve heard a lot of comments from a lot of folks across the state with frustrations with our current redistricting process, and you know to be honest, I agree,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the greatest process in the world. It’s served us for the last couple hundred years, but I think it could be better.”

He plans to circulate his own bill soon, and said he has been discussing the matter with other lawmakers on and off for about a year.

He has serious reservations about a number of already-introduced bills on the subject, saying they leave the panel-selection process too open to political tampering.

“I think maybe we should look at it more like how we look at a jury selection process, where everybody gets put into the pool…you have less of a chance of folks gaming that system, and more of a chance of a truly independent commission,” he said.

He also wants to include specific guidelines on what districts should look like.

The bill likely has to pass by July 6th to move forward as a constitutional amendment this session–and Reed noted, it’s a short time frame.

He also acknowledged, his impending retirement means other lawmakers will have to finish the effort.

“That can all be a discussion,” he said. “But we’re running out of time, and I think it’s a topic that merits serious consideration, just where things are at electorally in this country.”

Short of calling for a limited constitutional convention–which Reed indicated he isn’t opposed to–any bill he comes up with would have to garner enough support to get through Metcalfe’s committee.

“The majority leader and I have worked on a number of issues together,” he said. “So if the majority leader introduces legislation and it’s referred to my committee–as it should be if it’s dealing with redistricting reform–I’d certainly be willing to take a look at it and work with the majority leader on his idea.”  Source

May 1, 2018
witf.org
GOP guts another independent redistricting commission bill

remedial plan image.jpgThe state Supreme Court redrew the commonwealth’s congressional map after ruling it had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered by Republicans. Lawmakers are deadlocked over how to reform the process.

 

(Harrisburg) – For the second time this month, a state House panel has stripped a bill that would have established an independent redistricting commission made up of citizens, and replaced it with language that gives the legislature even more power over the process.

GOP House State Government Committee Chair Daryl Metcalfe called the surprise meeting Monday, because the bill’s supporters were trying to circumvent his panel to get the measure to the House floor.

A number of lawmakers complained they were only given about ten minutes’ notice of the amendment.

Metcalfe’s version of the bill would put six lawmakers in charge of the redistricting process. That’s one more than current law allows.

It would also get rid of the governor’s ability to sign or veto the maps, and it would allow the Commonwealth Court to be a final arbiter of disputes, not the state Supreme Court.

After changing the language, Metcalfe quickly adjourned the meeting without calling a vote to pass the measure.

The Butler County Republican said if a version of the bill comes up again, he’ll do the same thing.

“If they want to debate a proposal, they will debate this proposal in this committee,” he said.

Proponents of an independent commission say it would make the redistricting process less partisan, and therefore represent the people of Pennsylvania better.

But Metcalfe, and a number of other Republicans, argue the legislature itself is more representative.

“The sponsors are open about their admiration of this California commission on which it’s based,” he said. “But in California, every single commissioner had an advanced degree…It’s like, there is no blue-collar worker that’s represented here.”

The original version of the redistricting bill had 110 cosponsors. More than 50 percent of the legislature–Republicans as well as Democrats–supported it.

But Metcalfe noted, that’s not enough to dislodge it from his committee.

“I have fifteen votes for this bill in the committee,” he said.

And as for the bill’s supporters?

“Well, most of them are Democrats to begin with, and they’re in the minority so they’re not governing,” he said. “There’s not that many Republicans, and some of the Republicans I know have been browbeaten…by activists that are the arm of the League of Women Voters.”

Democratic Representative Steve Samuelson, of Northampton County, sponsored the bill that was gutted a few weeks ago.

He contested the claim that Republicans had been “browbeaten.”

“The sponsors of this bill have been contacted by average citizens across Pennsylvania,” he said. “Legislators have told me they sponsored this bill because they met with citizens from their home communities.”

Samuelson said he and other supporters are still trying to push the bill onto the floor, one way or another.

Democratic House State Government Committee chair Matt Bradford, of Montgomery County, was less optimistic. He said he can only think of one sure way to get it passed:

“There’s an election in November,” he said. “And I hope people turn out in historic numbers and have the same level of frustration I have with the circumventing of our democratic process.”

The Senate is holding hearings on a similar redistricting measure.  Source

Published in NewsState House Sound Bites

May 1, 2018
Inquirer
Time to pop the cork on reform bills bottled up in Harrisburg | Editorial
Folmer-Metcalfe-27042018-0001

State Sen. Mike Folmer, left, and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Republican chairmen of the State Government Committees in their chambers, have bottled up 10 bills that would reform how legislators accept and report gifts, and set limits for campaign contributions.

This is The Agenda, an ongoing series examining key issues facing the region and Pennsylvania. Talk to us at agenda@phillynews.com.

Pennsylvania voters entrust state legislators with plenty of power. They can help or hinder people, industries, and special interests. They can also exploit that power, accepting gifts, side jobs, and unlimited campaign contributions.

Why do we put up with this embarrassment?

State senators and representatives can accept gifts of up to $249 in value without having to publicly report who paid for them.

Members of the nation’s largest full-time legislature can hold side jobs without reporting those salaries on their annual statements of financial interests.

Pennsylvania also is one of just 11 states with no limits for campaign contributions for state elected offices.

It’s all so cozy, with little to break the amorous embrace of legislators and generous gift-givers. And it comes in all sizes. Pennsylvania legislators have been tripped up in criminal cases for gifts worth thousands of dollars and, in one instance, $750 in money orders. It leaves the General Assembly with a sullied reputation for corruption.

Gov. Wolf has banned members of his administration from accepting gifts. But legislative leaders routinely block efforts by senators and representatives pushing for reforms.

Legislation to regulate gifts, increase scrutiny for side jobs, and limit campaign contributions were sent last year to the State Government Committees in the House and Senate. And then? Nothing.

The chairman of those committees, State Sen. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon) and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), have bottled up those reform efforts. The two Republicans take different tacks when queried about a combined 10 reform measures stalled in their committees.

Folmer pleads a hectic committee schedule, and vows to move on the bills if he can find time before the legislative session ends in December.

Metcalfe, who blustered on Facebook on April 20 that he would never move substantive Democratic legislation, refused through spokesmen to even discuss the legislation, some of which was proposed by fellow Republicans.

So what are Folmer and Metcalfe stonewalling?

Senate Bill 388 would ban members from accepting cash gifts while Senate Bill 517 and Senate Bill 131 would drop from $250 to $50 in value the threshold for requiring the public reporting of gifts.

These three bills have a combined 22 cosponsors — 15 Republicans and seven Democrats. That’s nearly half the Senate’s 50 members. So, an appetite for reform clearly exits.

In Metcalfe’s committee, House Bill 568 would drop the gift threshold to $25; House Bill 570 drops it to $50; and House Bill 774 to $100.

House Bill 949 would require members to report salaries for side jobs with eight ranges of income, starting at $1,000 to $74,999 and topping off at more than $1 million.

Senate Bill 868 would remove an exemption allowing legislators to leave gifts from “friends” off their statements of financial interests.

Meanwhile, on campaign finance reforms, Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 1332 would create limits on the amount of money candidates could collect.

These are important reforms with bipartisan support. If you agree, now is the time to tell Metcalfe and Folmer. Call Metcalfe at 717-783-1707 and Folmer at 717-787-5708.  Source

April 22, 2018
lancasteronline.com
Forum was an example of democracy in actionOn April 7, Lancaster County high school students hosted a “Town Hall for Our Lives” public forum around gun violence and invited all elected officials and candidates running for office from Lancaster County.It was notable that, in addition to me, the only elected officials or candidates who came were state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-96th District, and state House Democratic candidates Michele Wherley, Sue Walker and Dana Hamp Gulick.This was a missed opportunity for our democracy and our community.The student forum was truly a bipartisan conversation. National Rifle Association members, Republicans, independents and Democrats were in attendance. The students planned the entire gathering. It was productive and civil. Students masterfully facilitated, including cutting off elected officials 40 years their senior to remind them of the rule of “one microphone at a time.” I was one of the last people to leave the coffee hour that followed the forum, along with a group of conservative constituents who stayed to the very end.The gathering was a face-to-face forum to discuss a life-and-death matter that our youth are keeping front and center this election season. Earlier that week, students at Franklin & Marshall College invited Congressman Lloyd Smucker and me to a forum on gun violence that he also declined to attend. So I fielded questions from the audience for more than an hour by myself.I believe that running for office to represent this community means showing up and hearing from people who may disagree with me. To date, we’ve hosted more than 50 public events to talk with voters, and about as many house parties and community events. Is it easy to show up for debate and dialogue in the public sphere? From my experience as a first-time candidate, it is not easy at all. Is it part of the job? Absolutely.I’d like to extend an invitation to groups, even those that may disagree with my stances, to host public discussions for those of us running to represent this community in the U.S. House of Representatives. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss and debate faith, family and values in houses of worship, economic development and business policy with business groups, education policy with our schools, and 21st-century gun policy with the NRA.After all, the title of the job is “representative,” which includes showing up and hearing from diverse constituencies. Smucker has been in office for more than 460 days and has yet to hold a public, nonticketed event where political questions and discussion are allowed. If he can’t show up to talk with groups of constituents at home, how can we expect that he’ll reach across the aisle in Washington to advocate for policies that work for all of us?Our Founding Fathers designed our government as a deliberative democracy — requiring it to include reflection, reason and responsiveness to the public to work effectively. Differences of opinion were meant to be worked out through dialogue, debate and engagement in the public sphere. Smucker owes the public some discourse on the issues discussed at the April 7 forum. Because most Americans support comprehensive background checks prior to obtaining a firearm, he should explain his positions on the matter and why the corporate firearms lobby spent more than $200,000 to help him get elected. But rather than speaking to his constituents directly, he defends his positions in one-sided op-eds in LNP, like his March 4 “We need common sense, not hyperbole, to guide guns debate.” It misled voters about how much the NRA actually spends to keep status quo gun legislation and sell more guns (he said $1 million, when it actually spent more than 50 times that influencing elections).At the end of the student-led forum, I asked an NRA member who attended what his takeaways were. He shared candidly that he was surprised by the commonsense perspectives of the panelists (all Democrats, as no Republicans accepted the students’ invitation). He came in expecting that we’d each have “radical” positions, but left saying he has a lot of respect for the positions he heard and could even envision supporting them. To me, this is what democracy looks like. We engage in more public, in-person conversations and step away from our partisan echo chambers to hear what others are truly saying, why they’re saying those things, and leave with a deeper sense of what we hold in common.Jess King is a Democrat running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 11th District. She lives in Lancaster.  Source
April 23, 2018
cnn.com
The 2018 election is going to be a referendum on Hillary Clinton????

Washington (CNN)A new story on Fox News Channel carries this intriguing headline: “Hillary Clinton, not on ballot, is star of GOP midterm plan.”

Intriguing!
Here’s the key bit:
“Clinton is starring in the Republican Party’s 2018 midterm strategy. With no Democrat to attack in the White House for the first time in nearly a decade, Republicans are betting big that the ghost of Clinton will serve them well in 2018.
“Even if she avoids the spotlight moving forward, the Republican Party plans to evoke her early and often in key congressional races, particularly in regions Trump won, which feature most of the midterm season’s competitive races.” 
And, there’s some evidence to back up the Clinton focus within the GOP. Witness the new ad by Don Blankenship, a Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia.
“We don’t need to investigate our president,” says the ad’s narrator. “We need to arrest Hillary.”
It’s not clear what Blankenship wants to arrest Clinton for — email server? Uranium One deal? — just that he wants to make sure she is incarcerated.
There’s a BIG difference between Republican candidates and committees running ads featuring Clinton and those ads actually working to turn the 2018 midterm election into a referendum on the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
The former could well happen. What special elections since Trump’s 2016 victory have shown is that the Democratic base is hugely energized — largely by their dislike for Trump and their disgust with the decisions he has made as president. Meanwhile, the Republican base is fat and happy; their side control the White House, the Senate, the House, the majority of governor’s mansions and the majority of state legislatures in the country.
That sort of disparity in energy between the two party bases is bad news for the side suffering from the passion deficit. Midterm elections tend to be battles between the bases so if one side is much more enthusiastic, it can lead to major seat losses for the other side.
How do you motivate the GOP base? You find the equivalent of Donald Trump for the left. The problem, of course, is that there is no equivalent on the right for how the left regards Donald Trump. Trump is president. Hillary Clinton is a private citizen. It’s just not the same.
Which doesn’t mean, of course, that raising the specter of Clinton in ads won’t work for some Republican candidates hoping to rev up the base. Republicans loathe Clinton and some — many — could have a Pavlovian reaction to the mention of her name and a picture of her on their TV screen. (In a September 2017 CNN national poll conducted by SSRS, 91% of Republicans had an unfavorable impression of Clinton; her overall unfavorable rating was 52%.)
The problem with the we-will-make-this-election-all-about-Hillary logic is that it has no logical end. Clinton isn’t in office. She isn’t in charge of much of anything. She will not run again for any national office and she likely wouldn’t win if she did.
How, then, do you raise the stakes of voting for a Democrat who is in the same party as Clinton? Like, if, say, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin gets re-elected in West Virginia, is he going to somehow find a way to install Clinton as president or work to enact her agenda? Um, no.
History tells us that midterm elections are always a referendum on the president and his party. Since World War I, there have been only three elections — 1934, 1998 and 2002 — in which the president’s party has not lost seats in a midterm election. In all three of those cases, there was a cataclysmic event that intervened: The Great Depression, Bill Clinton’s impeachment and the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, respectively.
Short of something that major happening, the Republican Party is assured of losing seats in the House this fall — the only question is whether they lose the 23 that would reinstall Democrats to the majority.
The reality is that voters make decisions based on the politicians in office, the elected officials who can impact their lives — often, in their mind, in a negative way. Clinton simply isn’t that. She is gone from office, never to return. Whether or not she is a visible presence on the campaign trail or fundraising circuit this fall — my guess is she might do some money raising but isn’t likely to be a hot commodity on the stump — won’t change the fact that she’s out of office, and staying there.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, will be president through (at least) 2020.
April 22, 2018
Pennsylvania Lawmaker Slammed As ‘Lying Homosexual’ By Colleague
Daryl Metcalfe’s war of words with fellow state Rep. Brian Sims has been ongoing for years.

 

Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) took aim at his Democratic colleagues, whom he deemed “liberal losers,” in a blistering, eyebrow-raising Facebook post on Friday.

An outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ causes,  Metcalfe had particularly harsh words for Democratic Rep. Brian Sims, whom he’s been clashing with for years.

In the post, he blasted Sims ― who became his state’s first openly gay elected state legislator in 2012 ― as a “lying homosexual.”

Metcalfe didn’t back down from his comments in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday. He told the AP he mentioned Sims’ sexuality because he believes being gay is “immoral behavior.”

On Friday, Sims shot back at Metcalfe with a cheeky tweet inspired by an iconic moment in “Mean Girls.”

Brian Sims

@BrianSimsPA

My most infamously bigoted colleague, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe took to his “burn book” to attack my colleagues of color and myself call me a “lying homosexual.” I could use your help as I go up against this type of blatant homophobia and bigotry in the Capital. https://bit.ly/2vuXLO6 

In a lengthier Facebook post Saturday, he deemed Metcalfe “a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, bigot.”

“Those of us in Pennsylvania have known this for a long time,” he wrote. “All of those words have definitions. His behavior, his public statements, and his legislation over the years all clearly rise to the level of those definitions.”

Metcalfe’s war of words with Sims has been ongoing for years. In 2013, he invoked a legislative rule to keep Sims from talking about same-sex marriage, because he believed the representative’s words would have been “an open rebellion against Almighty God and God’s word.”

In July of last year, Metcalfe complained that Sims called him an “ignorant, racist bigot” after a legislative dispute. In a YouTube video titled “The Intolerant Left,” Metcalfe also referred to a “crimson-faced and emotionally unhinged” lawmaker who he later identified as Sims.

Metcalfe found himself in hot water once again last December when he accosted another Democratic lawmaker with homophobic language for tapping him on his arm.

“Look, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife,” Metcalfe told Democratic state Rep. Matt Bradford. “I don’t like men, as you might. But stop touching me all the time.”
Source & Video

April 16, 2018
mcclatchydc.com
Trump businesses made millions off Republican groups and federal agencies, report says

 

April 13, 2018
PENN LIVE
Pro-family? Here’s what’s really behind the House GOP’s sham abortion ban

| John L. Micek

They weren’t even pretending.On Wednesday, Republicans who control the state House efficiently batted aside family-friendly amendments to a bill they fraudulently claimed was an attempt to help disabled kids and their families — but was really just another sham attempt by culture warriors to restrict a woman’s right to choose.”Republicans are pro-life until birth, then you’re on your own,” fumed Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, who saw his attempt to amend a bill banning abortion because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome, frustrated by the GOP majority.The Allentown lawmaker wanted to delay implementation of the legislation sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, until the state passed paid sick leave for parents who need to stay home with a Down syndrome child.Yes, there’s as much chance of the Legislature doing that as there is President Donald Trump suddenly abandoning Twitter. But the symbolism of Schweyer’s gesture was crystal clear.That majority Republicans “would not even consider the opportunity for parents to stay home with a sick child without losing their income is contrary to [the GOP’s] stated goals of caring for the lives of children with Down syndrome,” Schweyer said.It’s also entirely unsurprising.In each attempt this legislative session to chip away at abortion rights, GOP culture warriors have mouthed platitudes about wanting to put women and children first; to safeguard families, and to protect the interests of the state’s most vulnerable residents.”We care about the moms too,” Turzai said last year as he plugged ultimately vetoed legislation that would have banned abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, imposing one of the strictest such laws in the country. “We care about the dignity of life.”That is a conclusion absolutely not supported by the available evidence.Only a handful of Republicans who supported that 20-week ban also supported legislation that would make it easier for new and expectant mothers to care for their kids.And even as they touted the Down syndrome bill, which would jail doctors who perform such procedures, Republicans have moved to shrink the state’s safety net.That includes medical assistance, as Medicaid is known in Pennsylvania, which provides the largest share of support for the disabled.To their credit, Republicans did vote to approve Wolf administration language increasing state funding for intellectual disability programs.But those same Republicans also floated the idea of cutting Pennsylvania’s Medicaid contribution to balance the state’s books.Turzai’s bill “isn’t about helping children and families. This measure is about exploiting vulnerable families and chipping away at a woman’s reproductive rights and access to safe, legal abortion services,” Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates, said in an email.It’s also an exercise in election year politics, and it’s one that has unfolded in other states across the country, as Republicans try to mobilize movement conservatives in the face of what is likely to be a banner year for Democrats.Abortion briefly emerged as an issue in this spring’s Republican gubernatorial primary, as candidates Scott Wagner and Paul Mango each tried to outdo each other in proving who was the more opposed to abortion rights.But polling data suggests that voters don’t want to see much of a change. A Gallup poll showing voters support abortion remaining legal under most – or all – circumstances has hung steady for a decade.”Of all the things on their plate right now,” from gun-control to the looming debate over the state budget, ” there’s little percentage for lawmakers in reopening the culture wars, veteran Franklin & Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna said.Yet Republicans in the House seem intent in pressing forward. The bill could come to a final vote as soon as Monday, without so much as a hearing or a syllable of testimony from physicians, disability rights’ advocates and others affected by the bill.If past is precedent, the bill could, like the 20-week abortion ban, move through the Senate on a nearly party-line vote.Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has not explicitly said he would veto the bill. But through a spokesman, Wolf said he’s been “clear that a woman’s health decisions should be made by a woman and a doctor, not a politician in Harrisburg.”And even if the bill does make it onto Wolf’s desk, it’s unlikely to survive the legal challenge that would almost certainly follow it.Last month, a federal judge blocked Ohio’s version of the bill, just a week before it was to go into effect. Conservative lawmakers in other states have been pushing similar bans.U.S. District Judge Timothy Black wrote that federal law is “crystal clear that a state may not prohibit a woman from deciding to terminate a pregnancy before viability, WOSU-FM reported. Opponents were “highly likely” to successfully argue the law is unconstitutional, Black said, according to WOSU-FM.The Pennsylvania legislation is “blatantly unconstitutional,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said during a conference call with reporters this week.”That’s why every court has held that these laws are unconstitutional and then blocked them from going into effect,” said Kolbi-Molinas, who served as a co-counsel on the challenge to the Ohio statute.But the person perhaps best suited to get the last word here is Jennifer Schrad of Bryn Mawr, Delaware County. She’s a mom to an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome.And while that choice was the right one for her and her family – it was also just that, her choice.It was not one that she says she’d presume to make for anyone else. And nor should policymakers – who’d be more effective in making sure families like hers get the support they need, she said.”Women who receive a diagnosis [of Down syndrome] are deserving of our compassion, not a command [to have a baby],” she said.Yet Republicans, who are so aghast at other unfunded mandates, seem just fine with this one.
Source
April 6, 2018
Pennlive.com
Pa. gubernatorial candidate refuses to yank attack ad despite plea from GOP chairman
GOP gubernatorial candidates Paul Mango (left) said he has no intention of pulling his attack ad on primary opponent Scott Wagner despite Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio's call to do so.
GOP gubernatorial candidates Paul Mango (left) said he has no intention of pulling his attack ad on primary opponent Scott Wagner despite Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio’s call to do so. (File photos/PennLive.com)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango is rebuffing state GOP Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio’s call for him to pull his attack ad on party-endorsed opponent Scott Wagner.

No, he won’t take it down, said Mango’s campaign adviser Matt Beynon.

In fact, he said the campaign increased the ad buy Friday morning “due to the overwhelmingly positive response.”

Mango and Wagner, along with GOP candidate Laura Ellsworth, are involved in a three-way contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the May 15 primary. The winner will challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in the fall.

Beynon went on: “Paul Mango warned Scott Wagner that if he didn’t stop his false and misleading attack ads we would be forced to expose his long record of character flaws, disqualifying him as a serious candidate for governor. The fact that Party leaders like Chairman DiGiorgio never asked Wagner to pull his ads attacking Paul’s campaign, but are now asking Paul Mango to remove his, reveals they are concerned about the voters and state committee members learning the full truth about Wagner’s decades of embarrassing actions.

“If Scott Wagner’s personal record cannot stand up to scrutiny during the Republican primary, clearly Wagner gives our party the worst chance of defeating Governor Wolf in the fall.  This ad, like all of our ads, have included full documentation for the press and voters to see. We view the chairman’s comments as encouragement that our message exposing Wagner’s record as a Harrisburg insider with serious character flaws is resonating with voters.”

Here is Mango’s attack ad on Wagner followed by the one that Wagner ran that Mango asked him to take down.

Now Wagner’s attack ad:

DiGiorgio issued a statement on Friday asking Mango to taken down the ads, saying he was surprised and disappointed “he would go to these depths to assail a fellow Republican.”

He said it is time to rise above the personal attacks for the sake of the party.

“Personal attacks like this hurt our democratic process and will only serve to undermine the chances of achieving what must be our shared goal – defeating Tom Wolf, America’s most liberal governor,” DiGiorgio said.

Wagner told PennLive on Thursday that the ad is a sign of desperation due to internal polling that shows Mango’s falling support.   Source

March 27, 2018
Instagram
Chester County GOP
When did the CCGOP become gay friendly??
March 20, 2018
philly.com
Nearly 100 people are running for Congress in Pa. Here’s how the races are shaping up.Nearly 100 people filed to run for Congress in Pennsylvania by the deadline Tuesday, a surge that reflected the political volatility in the state and nation.Democrats across the country have been raring to send a political message to President Trump in November, and the landscape is especially wide open in Pennsylvania, where a wave of incumbents are leaving office and new congressional maps increased the number of competitive battlegrounds.In all, 59 Democrats and 35 Republicans filed to run for the state’s 18 House seats as of 5:40 p.m., or 40 minutes after the deadline, according to the Department of State. That was a few dozen more than the peak of the last major election wave, the 75 candidates who registered to run in what became the GOP landslide of 2010.As during that midterm election, incumbents this time around also face stiff challenges — including many from within their own parties — and open seats have drawn swarms sensing opportunity.“You pair the redistricting and the enhanced competitiveness in the new districts with a number of open seats, and you have the recipe for a flood of candidates giving it a shot,” said Christopher Borick, a pollster at Muhlenberg College.The surge of Democrats came as the party tries to build off a special election upset in Southwestern Pennsylvania last week and looks to the Philadelphia suburbs as a key to winning control of the House.But the large roster of candidates also foreshadows an unpredictable and potentially divisive primary season in a party where pragmatists and fiery liberals have vied for influence. Fourteen Democrats and two Republicans filed to run for one seat based in Delaware County, where the longtime incumbent, Republican Rep. Pat Meehan, is retiring after using taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim from a former aide.“Primaries could be messy, especially crowded ones, and they could end up with candidates who may not be the best general election candidate for a party,” Borick said.Republicans, meanwhile, face stiff headwinds, due to Trump’s poor poll numbers and a history of midterm losses for the party in power. Their road got even tougher when the Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court imposed new congressional maps just last month.“Our president has inspired the Democratic Party base and even more broadly independents and independent-thinking Republicans,” said Jack Hanna, the party’s interim chair in Pennsylvania. “More and more people within the party are involved and want to challenge the status quo, and that’s being reflected by the number of candidates running in the primary.”In a the most visible sign of the GOP’s uncertain footing, Rep. Ryan Costello of Chester County filed petitions to get on the ballot Tuesday, but has not committed to actually running for reelection. He has warned GOP leaders in recent weeks that he is considering retiring, but has not decided.Costello, a two-term incumbent, represents one of the country’s most hotly contested districts, the newly reconfigured Sixth, and is facing a challenge from Democrat Chrissy Houlahan. If he were to retire, election analysts say, the GOP would likely lose the seat.“Congressman Costello’s going to have to make a final determination, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Val DiGiorgio, chair of both the Pennsylvania and Chester County Republican Parties. “I have not heard definitively one way or the other. I know he’s filing his petitions and doing all the things a candidate would do, so I’m proceeding under the assumption that he’s running.”If Costello wins the May 15 primary and then drops out, Republicans could replace him with a choice picked by the state party. He also faces a primary challenge from Chadds Ford lawyer Gregory Michael McCauley Sr., which could complicate that scenario.Conor Lamb, the Democrat who apparently scored a major upset in the special election outside Pittsburgh, filed to run another difficult race, against Rep. Keith Rothfus in the new Pennsylvania 17th — even though Lamb has not yet been sworn in to the seat he likely won. Lamb’s home is in the new district.While a matchup with Rothfus could be one of the fall’s most competitive, Lamb, who defied Democratic orthodoxy on issues such as guns and the minimum wage, first faces two primary opponents.Other incumbents, including Philadelphia Democrats Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle and Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, drew primary challengers. Democrats also have a primary fight for the nomination to challenge Fitzpatrick.Boyle, however, avoided one primary challenger: Almost exactly 24 hours before Tuesday’s deadline, School Reform Commission member Bill Green told the Inquirer and Daily News that he was dropping his campaign against the incumbent.Much of the chaos stems from congressional departures affecting six of 18 seats: One, Republican Tim Murphy, resigned last year, four others are retiring, and one, Republican Lou Barletta, is running for U.S. Senate.In the Lehigh Valley-based Seventh District, six Democrats and two Republicans filed to run to replace Rep. Charlie Dent, another retiring GOP congressman.Four Democrats and one Republican filed in a new district centered on Montgomery County.The new congressional boundaries, imposed Feb. 19 by the state Supreme Court, changed the political landscape. The court dismissed a previous map, drawn by Republicans, as unconstitutionally slanted to favor the GOP, and later imposed a new version that resulted in a more even split statewide, turning several GOP-leaning districts into ones likely to favor Democrats.“The chaos that the Supreme Court has sown is more than a little troubling,” DiGiorgio said. “People don’t know who represents them and candidates are still deciding at this late date if they are running.”On Monday, a day before the primary filing deadline, the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal court in Pennsylvania rejected Republican challenges to the new map.The fallout continued Tuesday, when the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House, Republican Dave Reed of Indiana County, announced that he was dropping a bid for Congress and leaving leaving elective politics. He blamed his decision on the new lines that put him in the same district as an incumbent Republican congressman, Glenn Thompson.The new configuration has added to GOP concerns as they face what could be a brutal election environment, given the long history of midterm losses for the party in power and Trump’s poor approval ratings, particularly in the competitive suburbs.“The party’s got to be unified,” DiGiorgio said of the GOP. “There was not unity in that race in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and we have to be unified given this year given the challenges we face with a midterm election.”He said Republicans would emphasize that they are up against “a far-left Democratic Party that is for socialism, sanctuary cities, and single-payer health care.”He also predicted that the GOP tax cut from last year will gain in popularity and help at the polls.This story contains information from the Associated Press.   Source
March 19, 2018
Chicagotribune
Supreme Court refuses to stop new congressional maps in PennsylvaniaThe Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Pennsylvania Republican legislative leaders to block the implementation of a redrawn congressional map that creates more parity between the political parties in the state.It was the second time that the court declined to get involved in the partisan battle that has roiled Pennsylvania politics. The commonwealth’s highest court earlier this year ruled that a map drawn by the Republicans leaders in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Pennsylvania constitution.The U.S. Supreme Court deliberated nearly two weeks before turning down the request to stop the map from being used in this fall’s elections. Generally the justices stay out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.The practical impact is the 2018 elections are likely to be held under a map much more favorable to Democrats, who scored a surprising victory last week in a special election. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.Under a new map drawn by a nonpartisan expert and adopted by Democratic justices of Pennsylvania’s elected supreme court, analysts say Republicans start with an edge in 10 of the 18 districts. Pennsylvania traditionally is a purple state, and currently has a legislature controlled by Republicans, a governor who is a Democrat and a U.S. senator from each party.Political analysts say the changes in Pennsylvania might aid national Democrats in their attempt to flip the House from Republican control. Democrats need to take about two dozen seats to win the majority, and Pennsylvania could provide some of that total. Six incumbents, five of them Republicans, have said they will not be on the fall ballot.

Pennsylvania’s top Republicans have fought the imposition of a new plan since the state supreme court ruled. They have received encouragement from President Trump, who tweeted they should challenge the new map “all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.”

“Your Original was correct!” Trump tweeted. “Don’t let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. turned down the state’s first request on Feb. 5, after the state supreme court ordered a new map.

After the map was adopted, the legislative leaders were back, renewing their plea that the Pennsylvania justices were taking away the power that rightfully belongs to the state legislature to draw congressional lines.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court-drawn map,” said state House Speaker Michael C. Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati III.

But those who challenged the 2011 map as an improper partisan gerrymander said the state was making arguments the U.S. Supreme Court already has rejected.

“Their latest stay application is just another ploy to preserve congressional districts that violate Pennsylvania’s Constitution for one more election cycle,” said a brief for the League of Women Voters, adding, “It would be unprecedented for this Court to interfere with the state court’s determination about its own state’s law.”

The challengers pointed out that qualifying has already begun under the new map, and “at least 150 candidates in all 18 new districts have begun collecting voter signatures on nomination petitions” for May 15 primaries.

Pennsylvania election officials have said changing the process again would require postponing the primaries and could cost the commonwealth $20 million.

The victory in Pennsylvania for opponents of partisan gerrymandering suggest a new mode of attack, by challenging redistricting in state courts under state constitutions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never thrown out a state’s redistricting plan because it has found it so infected with partisan bias that it violates voters’ constitutional rights.

But the court has on its current docket two cases — one from Wisconsin and one from Maryland — that raise the question.   Source

March 18, 2018
nytimes.com
How Top Republicans Reacted, or Didn’t, to Trump’s Tweets on Mueller

President Trump, ignoring the advice of his own lawyers, lashed out on Twitter over the weekend at the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, raising questions about whether he is laying the groundwork to try to fire him.

The president’s tweets alarmed some Republicans, who spoke out on Sunday morning talk shows. To assess reaction within the party, The New York Times reached out to Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate, as well as Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and other leading Republicans.


Republican congressional leadership

Speaker Paul D. Ryan

His spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, released the following statement: “As the speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.”

Representative Steve Scalise

The Republican whip, from Louisiana

“I agree with the House Intelligence Committee’s report concluding that there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the 2016 election, and I think there are credibility concerns the Mueller investigation needs to address so they can dispel the fears that this is becoming a partisan witch hunt.

“The credibility of the Mueller investigation will be in doubt unless we get to the bottom of the many serious questions regarding the F.B.I.’s handling of their investigation of the Trump campaign, as well as their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s negligent transmission of classified material over her unauthorized email server. That’s why I agree with the many others who have called for the appointment of an additional special counsel who, unlike Mueller, has the authority to look into the potential abuses of the FISA system that allowed the Democrat-funded Steele dossier to serve as the basis for the initial F.B.I. investigation.

“The addition of an outside special counsel will ensure our ability to have full faith in our investigations into the very serious threats Putin’s rogue government poses to our elections and nation as a whole.”

Have not commented

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader


Congressional Intelligence Committees

The Times reached out to every Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Some appeared on television Sunday morning.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida

“I remain confident that the special counsel is going to — is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth and is — and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going,” he said on “Meet the Press” on NBC.

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma

“The clearest thing that I can explain from that is the president’s exceptionally frustrated, that he wants to be able to see this investigation come to an end,” Mr. Lankford said on the ABC program “This Week.”

Mr. Lankford added: “So it’s not that Mueller has found nothing, it’s that the president seems to be very, very frustrated that they’ve not connected anything to him and they — he wants to be able to move on. I would say the best thing the special counsel can do is to finish the investigation, gather all the information that’s needed, come to a conclusion so the American people can make their own decisions.”

Have not commented

Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri

Senator Susan Collins of Maine

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas

Senator Jim Risch of Idaho

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee


Chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees

Have not commented

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee


Other prominent Republican lawmakers

Senator John McCain of Arizona

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona

“People see that as a massive red line that can’t be crossed,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to any move to fire Mr. Mueller. He added that he hoped Mr. Trump’s advisers would prevail on him not to do that. “We have confidence in Mueller.”

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” he said on “State of the Union,” also referring to firing Mr. Mueller. “When it comes to Mr. Mueller, he is following the evidence where it takes him, and I think it’s very important he be allowed to do his job without interference, and there are many Republicans who share my view.”

Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina

“I would just counsel the president — it’s going to be a very, very long, bad 2018, and it’s going to be distracting from other things that he wants to do and he was elected do,” Mr. Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Let it play out its course. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg covers Congress. Since joining The Times in 1997, she has been a science correspondent, White House correspondent, Washington features writer and national correspondent, focusing on gender, race and social issues. @SherylNYT

Source
March 19, 2018
cnn.com
As Trump lashes out at Mueller, Congress at standstill on shielding special counsel

While some Republicans issued sharp warnings Sunday to President Donald Trump against firing special counsel Robert Mueller, recent efforts in Congress to protect the special counsel have stalled.

Republican leaders have said they see no reason to intervene given what they considered good cooperation between the White House and the Mueller team.
But that was before this weekend.
Tensions escalated after Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, issued a prayer Saturday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would “bring an end” to Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russians in Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.
That was followed by unprecedented tweets from the President going after Mueller by name, an approach he’s avoided as he’s sought to appear accommodating in the investigation.
“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” he tweeted Saturday.
Trump followed this Sunday morning with another tweet more directly condemning Mueller’s team.
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Trump wrote. “Another Dem recently added … does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”
Reacting to the backlash over Trump and Dowd’s remarks, White House special counsel Ty Cobb emphasized in a statement Sunday night that the President is not considering firing Mueller.
“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.

How did Republicans react?

Republican lawmakers on Sunday sought to warn the President that any action against Mueller would not be tolerated by Congress.
“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona made similar remarks on the show.
“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” he said.
House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, himself a former federal prosecutor, also defended Mueller.
“I think the President’s attorney frankly does him a disservice when he says that, and when he frames the investigation that way,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added later: “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”
Their comments potentially signal stepped up action by Congress as lawmakers return this week to the most serious threat they’ve faced of possible action by the White House against Mueller.
But it’s unclear whether Congress will make any moves. Lawmakers face a must-pass spending bill amid other major action in the Senate on sex trafficking and a war authorization — all before they leave town Friday night for a two-week recess.

Stalled bills to protect special counsel

Concerns about Trump trying to push out Mueller have been brewing since the former FBI director was appointed to the job last May. CNN reported in January that Trump wanted Mueller fired last June, but White House counsel Don McGahn refused to order the Justice Department to let the special prosecutor go. The New York Times first reported the incident, citing four people who were told of the matter; Trump denied that he moved to have Mueller fired.
Senators introduced two bipartisan bills last year aimed at protecting a special counsel from political pressure from the White House. The “Special Counsel Integrity Act,” introduced by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, would allow a special counsel to be fired only for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of DOJ policies.”
Another bill, the “Special Counsel Independence Protection Act,” was introduced by Graham and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and would require a federal judge to first sign off on any action to discipline or fire a special counsel.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in September that looked at the two bills, but the legislation has gone nowhere since then.

The reaction by GOP leadership

In January, after the news broke that Trump had tried to get Mueller fired, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Trump to let Mueller’s investigation “work its course” and said he was “open” to considering the legislation that would shield the special counsel from political pressure.
“I just don’t think the President — as unpredictable as he is — would fire Mueller, and I take the view, and I said so maybe not directly to the President, but indirectly to the President: Just let this work its course,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said in an interview with CNN.
At around the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he saw no efforts underway at the White House to undermine the Mueller investigation.
“I don’t feel any particular need to reach out to protect someone who seems to need no protection,” McConnell told reporters. A spokesman for the majority leader did not have anything to add Sunday.
Grassley said he wanted the two bills to be reconciled and then he would examine any potential constitutional concerns about the separation of powers.
His spokesman, Taylor Foy, did not comment directly Sunday on whether the committee will move forward with the legislation, but said, “Chairman Grassley has said on many occasions that the special counsel’s investigation should be allowed to continue uninterrupted.”
Coons issued a statement Sunday calling for more senators to support his bill with Tillis.
“Any attempt by the President to obstruct or remove the special counsel would create a constitutional crisis and represent an attack on the core American principle that nobody, including the President of the United States, is above the law,” he said.
A spokesman for Tillis did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday on whether the senator will try to bring more attention around his bill given the events over the weekend. In January, Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin said the bill didn’t have the support it needed to move through Congress, in part because the President’s team was showing signs of cooperation with the special counsel at the time.
Tillis and Graham also joined with Grassley last week to call for a second special counsel to investigate alleged abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department’s handling of the Trump-Russia investigation up until the appointment of Mueller — a move that backs up complaints made by Trump about the Justice Department.
Responding to Trump’s tweets this weekend, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, tweeted Sunday that “the President must cease and desist with these attacks.”
She was one of several other Democrats who took to Twitter this weekend to defend Mueller, while Republicans were largely silent aside from those who appeared on the Sunday morning shows.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan did not comment directly on the question of whether Congress should move forward with legislation to safeguard Mueller. But when asked about the President’s tweets this weekend, AshLee Strong said, “As the speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.”
March 19, 2018
cnn.com
As Trump lashes out at Mueller, Congress at standstill on shielding special counsel

While some Republicans issued sharp warnings Sunday to President Donald Trump against firing special counsel Robert Mueller, recent efforts in Congress to protect the special counsel have stalled.

Republican leaders have said they see no reason to intervene given what they considered good cooperation between the White House and the Mueller team.
But that was before this weekend.

Tensions escalated after Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, issued a prayer Saturday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would “bring an end” to Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russians in Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

That was followed by unprecedented tweets from the President going after Mueller by name, an approach he’s avoided as he’s sought to appear accommodating in the investigation.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” he tweeted Saturday.

Trump followed this Sunday morning with another tweet more directly condemning Mueller’s team.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Trump wrote. “Another Dem recently added … does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Reacting to the backlash over Trump and Dowd’s remarks, White House special counsel Ty Cobb emphasized in a statement Sunday night that the President is not considering firing Mueller.

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Cobb said.

How did Republicans react?

Republican lawmakers on Sunday sought to warn the President that any action against Mueller would not be tolerated by Congress.

“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona made similar remarks on the show.

“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” he said.

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, himself a former federal prosecutor, also defended Mueller.

“I think the President’s attorney frankly does him a disservice when he says that, and when he frames the investigation that way,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added later: “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.”

Their comments potentially signal stepped up action by Congress as lawmakers return this week to the most serious threat they’ve faced of possible action by the White House against Mueller.

But it’s unclear whether Congress will make any moves. Lawmakers face a must-pass spending bill amid other major action in the Senate on sex trafficking and a war authorization — all before they leave town Friday night for a two-week recess.

Stalled bills to protect special counsel

Concerns about Trump trying to push out Mueller have been brewing since the former FBI director was appointed to the job last May. CNN reported in January that Trump wanted Mueller fired last June, but White House counsel Don McGahn refused to order the Justice Department to let the special prosecutor go. The New York Times first reported the incident, citing four people who were told of the matter; Trump denied that he moved to have Mueller fired.
Senators introduced two bipartisan bills last year aimed at protecting a special counsel from political pressure from the White House. The “Special Counsel Integrity Act,” introduced by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, would allow a special counsel to be fired only for “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of DOJ policies.”

Another bill, the “Special Counsel Independence Protection Act,” was introduced by Graham and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and would require a federal judge to first sign off on any action to discipline or fire a special counsel.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in September that looked at the two bills, but the legislation has gone nowhere since then.

The reaction by GOP leadership

In January, after the news broke that Trump had tried to get Mueller fired, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Trump to let Mueller’s investigation “work its course” and said he was “open” to considering the legislation that would shield the special counsel from political pressure.

“I just don’t think the President — as unpredictable as he is — would fire Mueller, and I take the view, and I said so maybe not directly to the President, but indirectly to the President: Just let this work its course,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said in an interview with CNN.
At around the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he saw no efforts underway at the White House to undermine the Mueller investigation.

“I don’t feel any particular need to reach out to protect someone who seems to need no protection,” McConnell told reporters. A spokesman for the majority leader did not have anything to add Sunday.

Grassley said he wanted the two bills to be reconciled and then he would examine any potential constitutional concerns about the separation of powers.

His spokesman, Taylor Foy, did not comment directly Sunday on whether the committee will move forward with the legislation, but said, “Chairman Grassley has said on many occasions that the special counsel’s investigation should be allowed to continue uninterrupted.”

Coons issued a statement Sunday calling for more senators to support his bill with Tillis.

“Any attempt by the President to obstruct or remove the special counsel would create a constitutional crisis and represent an attack on the core American principle that nobody, including the President of the United States, is above the law,” he said.

A spokesman for Tillis did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday on whether the senator will try to bring more attention around his bill given the events over the weekend. In January, Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin said the bill didn’t have the support it needed to move through Congress, in part because the President’s team was showing signs of cooperation with the special counsel at the time.

Tillis and Graham also joined with Grassley last week to call for a second special counsel to investigate alleged abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department’s handling of the Trump-Russia investigation up until the appointment of Mueller — a move that backs up complaints made by Trump about the Justice Department.

Responding to Trump’s tweets this weekend, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, tweeted Sunday that “the President must cease and desist with these attacks.”

She was one of several other Democrats who took to Twitter this weekend to defend Mueller, while Republicans were largely silent aside from those who appeared on the Sunday morning shows.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan did not comment directly on the question of whether Congress should move forward with legislation to safeguard Mueller. But when asked about the President’s tweets this weekend, AshLee Strong said, “As the speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.”

March 12, 2018
Politico
Pennsylvania GOP chairman says Tuesday special election is in ‘Democrat district’The chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party said Monday the special election in which Democrat Conor Lamb is running neck-and-neck with Republican Rick Saccone is in a “Democrat district,” even though it was represented by a Republican for more than a decade and President Donald Trump won it handily in 2016.“The other reason it’s so tight is, you have to remember, this is a Democrat district, notwithstanding the fact that the president won this by 20 points,” Pennsylvania GOP chairman Val DiGiorgio told Fox News on Monday. “And Conor Lamb is running at least trying to portray himself as a moderate who goes along with the Republicans on conservative issues. But when you drill down, you realize that’s not really true.”  Watch video hereThat Lamb has run so close to Saccone in a district long held by a Republican has been cited as evidence of a possible wave of Democratic success in next November’s midterm elections. In 2017, Democrats running in special elections lost closer-than-expected races in Georgia, Montana and Kansas and won the Alabama Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.Republicans, meanwhile, have been bracing for a defeat in Tuesday’s special election, complaining that Saccone is a weak candidate.A spokesman for the Pennsylvania GOP did not immediately respond to a request Monday to elaborate on DiGiorgio’s comments. He did predict a win for Saccone, for whom Trump hosted a rally last Saturday night, though DiGiorgio also said in the Fox News interview that the party in control of the White House often struggles to maintain voter enthusiasm in the subsequent midterm elections.Trump won the 18th congressional district, located in the southwestern part of the state, by 19 percentage points in the 2016 election, and former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy had represented the district in Congress since 2003. He won reelection unopposed in 2016.Murphy, a staunch anti-abortion advocate, resigned in October after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that he had asked a woman with whom he was romantically involved to have an abortion.The district is home to more registered Democrats than Republicans, 46 percent to 41 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight. But the Cook Political Report’s 2017 Partisan Voting Index gave Pennsylvania’s 18th district a rating of R+11, meaning it performed 11 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole over the last two presidential elections.  Source
March 6, 2018
WJAC
Second brief filed by Republicans to try to halt new congressional mapHARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Republicans have filed a second brief to try and stop the implementation of the newly drawn congressional map.The brief was filed Monday by the Pennsylvania GOP party in support of a previous brief filed by House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Joe Scarnati.“We’re hopeful and believe that our amicus filing today on behalf of the PA GOP clearly sets forth the harm that will be sustained by our congressional candidates as well as the citizens of PA should this map be implemented before our upcoming elections,” said counsel to the Pennsylvania GOP, Joel Frank.The state Supreme Court released its newly drawn map Feb. 19 after they said in a Jan. 22 order the previous map was unconstitutional.State Republicans have contended that by the court drawing the map, it overstepped its boundaries and has led to a “constitutional crisis.”Days after the new map was released, Scarnati, Turzai and numerous other Republicans took legal action to try to halt the map going into effect this election cycle.The new map has changed district lines and would see in some areas incumbent congressmen overseeing new areas.The new map would likely also see Democrats claim more seats. Currently, Republicans have 13 of the 18 congressional seats.     Source
Jan 10, 2017
York Daily Record
Anonymous mailings draw attention to Scott WagnerThis story was originally published in September 2013.Before Scott Wagner announced he was running for a state Senate seat, someone anonymously sent out court documents outlining some aspects of the candidate’s dealings with a temporary protection-from-abuse order and child support.Chairmen of the local Republican and Democratic parties, state lawmakers, some York County judges, reporters and others were listed as recipients, although it is not clear how many of them actually received the documents.“Thought these items would be of interest to you,” the unsigned letter read.Wagner, a 57-year-old businessman from Spring Garden Township, referred to whoever sent out the documents as “very cowardly.”“There is an attempt by someone out there to trash me,” Wagner said during an interview at a Penn Waste Inc. office in East Manchester Township Tuesday.Wagner, the primary owner and founder of Penn Waste, said last week that he is seeking the Republican nomination in the 2014 primary to replace outgoing state Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury Township. He declined to speculate on who sent the documents.Although some others have expressed interest in the seat, no one but Wagner has formally announced and committed to running.The anonymous documents don’t tell the whole story in the cases.Here’s a look at the documents involved, what additional court documents show and Wagner’s responses:Protection from abuse petitionKatharine Wagner, one of Wagner’s daughters, requested a protection-from-abuse order on June 2, 2006, according to court documents.In the petition, she said that on May 31, 2006, at about 7 p.m., Scott Wagner came to her grandparents’ home, where she was staying. She said that her father put both his hands around her neck, squeezed and shook her to the point where she was having trouble breathing.She also alleged that when Scott Wagner let go of her neck, he quickly grabbed both of her wrists, holding them together and pushing her up against a kitchen counter. She said in the petition that her back was hurt because of that, and she missed two days of work.The documents sent out anonymously didn’t include the following action in the case:A temporary protection from abuse order was granted, but a judge dismissed it a little more than a week later when the plaintiff did not appear for a hearing, according to court documents.Katharine Wagner said on Tuesday she was 18 at the time.“All I’ll say is, at the time, I was making some poor decisions,” she said. “And I have a child of my own now, and I can understand why it reached the level it did.”She said she has worked for her father the past seven years. She’s also helping with her father’s campaign.“We have a great relationship now,” she said.Scott Wagner said on Tuesday that his daughter had been involved in an accident before the May 31, 2006, incident. He said she was taken to a hospital. And he showed a picture of her from that time, which he described as her on a ventilator and “fighting for her life.”Scott Wagner said she was released a couple of days later and was staying at her grandparents’ home.“I went over and tried to encourage her to seek some counseling. …We got into a heated argument,” Scott Wagner said.He disputes details in the protection from abuse petition, but he declined to recount in detail what happened that evening.“It was a very heated argument. … Yeah, there was touching involved. But … some of the touching involved is inaccurate,” he said.“It’s seven years ago,” he added. “It’s a dead issue.”In the 2006 petition, Katharine Wagner said police spoke with Scott Wagner.He said Tuesday no charges were filed.Dispute over moneyAnother set of documents involves a 2012 decision by Dauphin County Judge Jeannine Turgeon involving his now-ex-wife Silvia Wagner seeking child support and temporary alimony from Scott Wagner.The couple were married in August 1991, according to the judge’s opinion accompanying the order. They have one daughter together, Cristina, who was born in December 1992.During the marriage, Scott Wagner also adopted the wife’s child from her previous marriage, according to court documents. Katharine Wagner is his daughter from another marriage.The couple separated in May 2008.The judge described the dispute over child support and temporary alimony as an “economically complex matter,” where the main issue was determining the husband’s “income for the purposes of calculating his support obligations.”The documents that were sent anonymously highlight parts suggesting Wagner owed hundreds of thousands in child support and temporary alimony. The 2012 opinion said Wagner’s total “arrearage is approximately $800,000.”The opinion notes that the figure includes a $300,000 credit that the parties agreed to grant Scott Wagner on Aug. 29, 2011, but the opinion also states the figure did not include any other credits that might exist for direct payments made under an initial order of Oct. 8, 2008.John J. Connelly Jr., Scott Wagner’s attorney in the case, said Scott Wagner began making voluntary payments from the time the separation began in May 2008.Court documents also show Wagner made payments as the legal proceeding was ongoing. The amount he was ordered to pay through interim orders changed during the process. Arrearage was determined retroactively, not because of missed payments, Connelly said.“He paid every payment on time,” Connelly said. “…And at the end of the line, when the case was concluded, he received a credit that wiped out all arrears. And we settled the matter as part of a property settlement agreement.”That 2012 order for payments was terminated in July effective June 28, 2012, because the parties reached a settlement of all issues including temporary alimony, arrears and child support arrears.A divorce decree was granted July 4, 2012.Connelly said the process that happened in Scott Wagner’s case is similar to other ones with large amounts of money involved.Connelly said both sides never ultimately agreed to a total sum that was owed but settled the case. He said both sides agreed to confidentiality conditions as part of the settlement agreement, which prevent him from describing details.The attorney for Silvia Wagner in the case, John C. Howett Jr., was unavailable for comment, an official with his office said.Attempts to reach Silvia Wagner directly were unsuccessful.About the campaignScott Wagner on Tuesday said he did not think the disputes and documents should matter to voters.“This is all about trashing someone and dirty politics. … And I’m not going to engage in this, honestly,” he said.He said his campaign is going to focus on economic issues and jobs.He said the state has crumbling bridges and crumbling roads, and York County has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state.

He said York County has lost a lot of good manufacturing jobs, which are being replaced by jobs that pay less.

“I’m a businessman that has created jobs. I’ve created thousands of jobs over the last 30 years,” he said. “…If everybody’s happy (with) Harrisburg, you know, believe whatever is said about me, and just vote for the same old people.”

What political figures had to say

The list of recipients of the anonymous documents about Scott Wagner included Bob Wilson, chairman of the York County Republican Committee; state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus; York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister; and Bob Kefauver, chairman of the Democratic Party of York County.

Wilson, Miller and Chronister all said they received them.

Kefauver said he had heard talk about the documents but that he did not receive them.

All four said they didn’t know who sent them.

Here’s what else the three Republicans had to say:

· Wilson said he doesn’t condone sending out the documents. But he said it’s part of the political process.

“It’s just what happens. There are always going to be other individuals who dig into somebody’s past and try to find those things that may persuade the voters in some way,” Wilson said.

· Miller said he didn’t know whether the documents would matter to voters.

“As public figures, you basically live in a fishbowl,” he said. “So whether or not that becomes something that the public gets involved with, I don’t know.”

Miller has said he’s considering running for state Senate for 2014, but he said he isn’t ready to announce anything.

“For years, the conventional wisdom was you didn’t start the next campaign until the November general election was complete,” Miller said.

· Chronister said he threw away the documents about Wagner when he received them.

“What he’s doing with his personal life, I think is his business,” Chronister said. “If the voters want to look at it differently, that’s up to them.”

He also called Wagner a “good-hearted person.”

About Wagner

Scott Wagner, 57, of Spring Garden Township, founded Penn Waste Inc. in 2000, according to information from his state Senate campaign.

The company has more than 350 employees with a fleet of more than 100 trucks, according to the campaign. He purchased KBS Inc., a trucking company, in 2005, and it employs 75 people and has a fleet of 70 trucks.

He has contributed to political campaigns in the past, but this is his first time running for public office.
Source

March 3, 2018
National Review
The Missing Republican Agenda
When Paul Ryan launched his “Better Way” agenda in 2016, the idea was to provide a blueprint for the next Republican administration. The man who would lead that administration was skeptical, to say the least. The Ryan agenda, focusing on health care, taxes, military spending, and welfare reform, was resisted and belittled by Donald Trump’s populist-nationalist supporters. But a funny thing happened when Trump won the presidency. It was Ryan’s priorities that shaped Trump’s first year in office.That’s no longer the case. After the failed attempt to replace Obamacare, the passage of the Trump tax cut, and the agreement over a two-year spending deal that ended the defense sequester, congressional Republicans do not expect to accomplish much during the remainder of 2018. They blame the filibuster, which allows Senate Democrats to block any legislation that doesn’t have 60 votes. Fiscal measures could pass by a simple majority, but only through the process called budget reconciliation. And that process is unlikely to happen, since there are only 51 Senate Republicans, and two of them are often absent due to illness.
When you talk to people on Capitol Hill, many say they wouldn’t be surprised if the agriculture bill turns out to be the sole piece of legislation that reaches the president’s desk this year. Shepherded by Representative Mike Conaway of Texas, the bill is expected to be the vehicle for welfare reform — excuse me, “workforce development.” But any workforce-development measure that could pass Congress likely would fall short of conservative expectations. We are in a legislative Catch-22: The Senate is too divided to take up the bills the House passes, and the House is too conservative for the sort of mushy-middle legislation that could overcome the filibuster. (A possible exception: Changes to Dodd-Frank enjoy the backing of red-state Democrats up for reelection.)The lack of a 2018 agenda has had several consequences. It’s meant that Republicans are gambling their majority on the tax cut, which will be close to a year old when polls open in November. Republican leaders return to the tax cut whenever they are asked what their message will be this fall. It’s their safe space. Now, it’s true that support for the tax cut is increasing as the economy reaches full employment. But just as attitudes toward the plan changed once, they may change again. And surely it would help Republican candidates if they had more than one accomplishment.Without Ryan and McConnell pressing a legislative program, the White House and President Trump have the initiative. The classic Trump issues of immigration and trade are in the foreground, along with the traveling circus of palace intrigue, presidential tweets, and the ongoing Mueller investigation. The unpredictability and volatility of Trump was on display at Wednesday’s meeting on guns with congressmen and senators. The president seemed unaware of the details of various pieces of legislation, chided Republican lawmakers, including Pat Toomey (!) for being “afraid of the NRA,” and said of gun violence restraining orders, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” One can only imagine what was going on at NRA headquarters as the president triangulated live on cable TV. But I can guess what Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, was thinking: She looked like she was about to burst into laughter as the president disagreed with Republicans such as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — a victim of gun violence — and Vice President Pence.A third consequence of the missing Republican agenda is that it reveals the underlying divisions and stasis of conservative thought. Marco Rubio has embraced a novel proposal to allow families to draw early from Social Security for parental leave, but has encountered resistance from the same conservative institutions that fought his increase in the child tax credit. Representative Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, has a tough and effective immigration bill that can’t reach 218 votes in the House because of opposition from business, especially agriculture. Even John Cornyn’s bipartisan improvement of the background-check system, a bill the NRA supports, faces Republican opposition, as Chuck Schumer rubs his hands together over GOP infighting.If I had any say in the matter, Republicans would spend the rest of 2018 on health care. It was the top priority of voters in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election. Key voting blocs, such as married women and independents, are telling focus group conveners that health care is an important factor in their votes. Republicans have had some successes on health care. The Department of Health and Human Services loosened the rules on association health plans. Congress repealed the individual mandate and the much-maligned IPAB regulatory body. But these actions, while laudable, are not the same as addressing the cost drivers that inflate health-insurance premiums.There’s more work to be done. Representative Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania and Senator Susan Collins of Maine are negotiating over a bill to improve reinsurance programs. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia has another bill that increases price transparency. What remains is for Congress to pass this legislation, publicize its efforts to reduce health-care costs and increase portability, and explain to the public the necessity of repealing and replacing Obamacare in the next Congress.Sounds fantastic, I know. But Republicans need to give their people a reason to vote for them in the coming months, and the historical record shows that a growing economy is not enough. Then again, if the tax cut won’t do the trick on its own, maybe a Supreme Court vacancy will.
Source

March 1, 2018
York Daily Record
Republican debate for Pa. governor’s race confrontational between Wagner, Mang

HARRISBURG (AP) — A debate between the three Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in November’s election quickly became confrontational Thursday night, as former health care systems consultant Paul Mango relentlessly attacked the party’s endorsed candidate, state Sen. Scott Wagner.

The hour-long, live-broadcast debate at Harrisburg Area Community College came as the campaigns collect signatures to get on the ballot in the primary election, less than 11 weeks away.

More: State Sen. Scott Wagner, Pa. governor candidate, says ‘we will kill’ school shooters

More: 2018 Pa. governor’s race: Who is Scott Wagner?

Perhaps the toughest exchange came in response to a question on education tax credit programs that Mango turned into an attack on Wagner over the hot-button “bathroom bill” issue that social conservatives say will open up bathrooms to transgender people.

Mango — who suggested he is the most conservative candidate in the race — accused Wagner of supporting legislation in 2016 that would permit “anyone” to walk into girls’ locker rooms in schools.

“He is not keeping our kids safe and secure,” Mango said. “As I said, he is a dangerous, ineffective liberal insider just as Tom Wolf is.”

Wagner, in response, said “this is the best time to call him ‘lying Paul'” and said he would not sign a bathroom bill as governor. The bill he supported, he said, was about banning discrimination in housing and employment.

Despite support from Wolf, most Republicans opposed the bill and it died in the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2016 without a floor vote in either chamber. It would have added the categories of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression to a law that empowers the state Human Relations Commission to investigate complaints of discrimination in employment and housing because of someone’s race, sex, religion, age or disability.

It had broad support from Democrats and the business community, but — in an echo of a high-profile fight that played out in North Carolina — opponents warned it could compromise religious freedoms and personal privacy in places like public bathrooms.

It was one of several clashes initiated by Mango that drew a rebuke in the debate’s closing moments by the third candidate in the race, lawyer Laura Ellsworth.

She is, she said, “an experienced problem-solver and somebody who has a track record of getting things done, without all of the name-calling and shouting and yelling and finger-pointing and characterization that gets in the way of smart, intelligent governing.”

She, like, Mango, also maintained that Wagner is not the kind of political outsider the state needs. Later, Wagner — who started the $65 million York-based waster-hauler Penn Waste Inc. in 2000 — said “trust me, I’m far from an insider” and played up the waves he has made in the state Legislature since beating the GOP’s endorsed candidate in his 2014 campaign for Senate.

More: Scott Wagner, Paul Mango put millions in Pennsylvania gubernatorial runs

More: Pa. governor race: Pittsburgh lawyer Laura Ellsworth shows independent streak in GOP forum

On a question about gun control, none of the candidates changed their position to advocate for greater gun-control measures, even ideas supported by Republican President Donald Trump this week following the Florida school shooting that killed 17.

Ellsworth said she would push for metal detectors and swipe cards in Pennsylvania’s school buildings, while Mango said he would advocate for stronger school security plans, funnel more money into screening for mental illness and prevent those diagnosed from getting their hands on guns.

Wagner said he would put armed, trained officers in every school — Pennsylvania has about 3,000 school buildings, according to state figures — and ensure background checks are being done properly for prospective gun owners. He did not repeat a statement he made Monday that he would pursue a mandatory death penalty for any school shooter who kills someone, something legal analysts said has been unconstitutional for decades.

Asked whether they would refuse campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, Wagner and Mango said no. Ellsworth said yes.

Journalists from Pennlive and WHP-TV of Harrisburg moderated the debate.

The primary election is May 15.  Source

Feb 9, 2018
Politics PA
GOP Releases Redrawn Maps

The state Senate and House GOP released the redrawn Congressional map they are submitting to the Governor for his approval or as a starting point for negotiations ahead of the February 15th deadline.

“The Republican Legislative Leaders in the House and Senate have agreed to a Congressional District Map that complies fully with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order and opinion.  We will be submitting our map to the Governor this evening,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai said in a release.

The submission comes hours before the deadline the state Supreme Court set for the legislature to draw a new map after it ruled the current map unconstitutional.

Governor Wolf said in a statement he will review the map submitted.

“While the Court’s order did not appear to allow for two individuals to draw a map on behalf of the entire General Assembly, Governor Wolf will review Speaker Turzai and President Scarnati’s submission in consultation with the experts retained by the administration to determine his next course of action,” Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said in a statement.

You can view the map obtained first by the Morning Call below.  Source

Nov 17, 2016
mcclatchydc.com
The strange tale of a congressman’s fight to build a U.S. listening post in the Azores

A powerful California congressman of Portuguese descent has pushed for years for the installation of a costly U.S. intelligence facility in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic.

On Thursday, Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, the Republican chair of the House intelligence committee, kept at his campaign, confronting two senior Pentagon officials and the top U.S. intelligence chief over why they favored a site in England.

“Are you aware that the Azores Islands are a popular vacation spot for people from the U.S. and Europe and have daily flights?” Nunes asked National Intelligence Director James Clapper, seeking to knock down arguments that the archipelago is backward or out of the way.

“No, I’m not,” responded Clapper.

“Do we have trouble getting people to move to Hawaii?” Nunes asked.

“Actually, we do because there are issues there with compensation for the very high cost of living,” Clapper said. “Living there permanently, supporting a family, that sort of thing. I spent two tours in Hawaii, and it’s quite expensive.”

SO THE AZORES IS ALSO A VACATION SPOT AND IT HAS THE CHEAPEST COST OF LIVING IN WESTERN EUROPE. WHY WOULD THAT NOT BE A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE WOULD GO?

Rep. Devin Nunes, chair of House intelligence committee

“So the Azores is also a vacation spot and it has the cheapest cost of living in Western Europe. Why would that not be a place where people would go?” Nunes asked.

“Well, in Hawaii there are high schools, and there are medical facilities, and there are PXs and commissaries, and that’s kind of lacking right now in Lajes (air base),” Clapper said, referring to a NATO facility on Terceira Island in the Azores.

Nunes, whose forebears came from the Azores, represents California’s 22nd district in the heart of the fertile Central Valley, winding around Fresno from the north to the southeast. The area has a high concentration of Portuguese-Americans, with ancestors who arrived on whaling ships to settle in California in the mid-1800s.

Despite fierce opposition by Nunes, and to a lesser extent other legislators, the Pentagon has moved ahead with plans to build a major intelligence complex at a Royal Air Force base 70 miles northwest of London. The site at Croughton would anchor U.S. intelligence operations of the U.S. military’s European Command.

But Nunes accused the Pentagon of fast-tracking Croughton and not giving sufficient consideration to 15 other potential locations, especially Lajes Air Base in the Azores, where a U.S. military contingent already exists.

The rare open session of the intelligence committee began on a curious note, with Nunes asking the officials about their views of Wikipedia, then dropping a zinger: Sections of a Pentagon document responding to queries from his committee about the matter had been lifted from Wikipedia, he said.

“I’m just alarmed, Secretary Work, that you would rely on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that is famously known for high school students plagiarizing their homework,” Nunes said, ripping into Robert O. Work, the deputy secretary of defense.

I WOULD SAY THAT I’M SURPRISED THAT THIS COMES DIRECTLY FROM A WIKIPEDIA PAGE.

Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense

“I would say that I’m surprised that this comes directly from a Wikipedia page,” Work said, leading into a back and forth over whether the Pentagon had withheld information from the House committee over the intelligence complex because it didn’t like the “tone” of an inquiry from Nunes and the House panel, an allegation that Work rejected.

In early 2015, the Pentagon announced a downsizing at Lajes, saying it would reduce a contingent of 650 airmen and other personnel to 168. The reduction sent shockwaves across the Azores, which has played a major role as a defense outpost since World War II. Nunes, a member of the congressional Portuguese-American Caucus, has visited the islands and sought to reverse the decision.

Government Accountability Office report Sept. 30 cited “shortcomings” in how the Pentagon selected a site for the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex. A separate inspector general probe is ongoing into whether cost estimates for the various locations were doctored to favor RAF Cloughton.

Clearly irritated, Nunes said the Pentagon had not cooperated in answering questions.

“Why for nine months did your department decide not to provide information to this committee?” Nunes asked Work.

WE BELIEVE WE’VE BEEN EXTRAORDINARILY RESPONSIVE.

Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense

“We’ve provided over 1,000 pages of documents,” Work said. “We believe we’ve been extraordinarily responsive.”

Nunes peppered Clapper with questions about the complex, asking if the Pentagon chose locations “based on where employees want to live.”

Clapper confirmed that morale was an issue and that employees would probably not move their families to the Azores.

“These are older people, you know, that have children in schools, particularly high school age, and the general reaction to that, to move to an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, was not very positive,” Clapper said.

Before adjourning the hearing, Nunes got in the last word, saying the committee had looked into the Azores and “I don’t think there’s anything lacking there.”      Source

Feb 1, 2018
CNN
Schiff Accuses Nunes of altering memo before sending to White House

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff is accusing chairman Devin Nunes of sending a different version of the memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses to the White House than what the committee approved.

In a letter to Nunes, Schiff said that his staff discovered Wednesday evening that the memo sent to the White House was “materially different” than the version on which the committee voted.
The White House is currently reviewing the four-page classified memo after the committee voted on Monday night to make it public.
“It is now imperative that the Committee Majority immediately withdraw the document that it sent to the White House,” Schiff wrote. “If the Majority remains intent on releasing its document to the public, despite repeated warnings from DOJ and the FBI, it must hold a new vote to release to the public its modified document.”
A spokesman for Nunes responded to Schiff’s letter by calling it an “increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo,” saying changes were made that were “minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves.”
“The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said. “To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves.”
But senior Democratic committee official disputed that characterization of the alterations to the memo and said they did not resolve the factual problems that have been raised by the FBI or Justice Department.
“The changes are not cosmetic and almost all of them are unrelated to concerns about sensitive information. Instead, they try to water down some of the Majority’s assertions,” the official said. “While the Minority has continually pointed out flaws in the majority document, we have not requested any changes because we feel the whole document is fundamentally flawed.”
Earlier Wednesday, a transcript of the meeting where House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted to release their memo was released, which showed Nunes playing hardball with Democratic efforts to delay the vote and refusing to say if the White House had any involvement in his efforts.
In the transcript, Nunes clashed with Democrats over whether his staff was talking to the White House about the memo. The hour-long meeting Monday broke sharply along partisan lines, with even one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, joining Nunes in voting down Democratic motions, including to allow the Justice Department and FBI to review the classified four-page memo and brief their panel before its release.
Schiff said he had spoken to FBI Director Chris Wray about his concerns with the document — which alleges abuses of the FISA law connected with obtaining a surveillance warrant on a member of Trump’s campaign team — but Nunes rejected the motion.
“I would say to the gentleman that the Department of Justice and the FBI have been under investigation by this committee for many, many months for FISA abuse and other matters,” Nunes said. “That investigation continues. And I would urge my colleagues to vote no, we are not going to be briefed by people that are under investigation by this committee.”
The committee’s dispute with the FBI escalated on Wednesday as the bureau issued a statement expressing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Nunes responded Wednesday in a statement dismissing their “spurious objections” to the memo. But the same fight was already playing out behind closed doors on Monday. At the meeting, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California asked Nunes what the FBI had told him about releasing the memo publicly.
“Our goal as to make sure that we were not going to disclose any issues of national security, and we believe we have met that threshold,” Nunes said.
Democrats warned Republicans they were playing with fire by voting to invoke a never-before-used committee rule to bypass the declassification process to make the memo public.
“Believe me, if it turns out that the majority memo is wrong, there will be hell to pay,” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat.
Nunes and the committee’s Democrats clashed over whether there was a formal committee investigation of the Justice Department and FBI, and both Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois and Schiff demanded to know why Democrats were not informed about the investigation. Under committee rules, the minority party is required to be consulted under the rules when launching an investigation.
“It is one thing to subpoena government officials for information as part of an investigation. It is another to say that those very entities are under investigation,” Schiff argued. “So this is a revelation for us.”
Nunes said the committee issued several subpoenas opposed by Democrats, and told Quigley “every member of this House can conduct (investigations) — you have always had my strong support to investigate, review anything under our jurisdiction.”
Nunes and Quigley also had a heated exchange in which Quigley pressed whether Nunes had “conversations or consultations with anyone in the White House” about the memo.
“I would just answer, as far as I know, no,” Nunes responded.
Quigley then pushed about whether any of Nunes staff consulted with the White House, which prompted Nunes to say: “The chair is not going to entertain … a question by another member.”
“Does that mean just questions you don’t like or questions in general, sir?” Quigley shot back.
Nunes ignored the question and moved onto the next member.  Source
Jan 29, 2018
nytimes.com
House Republicans Vote to Release Secret Memo on Russia Inquiry

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that it has been a “sad day” for the committee and that Republicans had voted “to politicize the intelligence process.” Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, disregarding Justice Department warnings that their actions would be “extraordinarily reckless,” voted Monday evening to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the F.B.I. of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.

The vote, made along party lines, threw fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia’s brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo that they had compiled. It was an extraordinary maneuver, cheered on by President Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and a sham.

Committee Republicans said the memo’s release would shed useful light on potential political bias that may have warped the early stages of the Russia investigation without compromising intelligence gathering. Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, a senior Republican on the committee, said on Monday that he was confident the Republican memo itself would not present a national security risk and was complete and fair as written.

Democrats called the three-and-a-half-page document a dangerous effort to build a narrative to undercut the department’s continuing Russia investigation, using cherry-picked facts assembled with little or no context. Speaking to reporters after the closed-door vote, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, said Republicans had voted “to politicize the intelligence process.”

“Sadly, we expect that the president of the United States will not put the national interest over his own personal interest,” Mr. Schiff said. “But it is a sad day indeed when that is also true of our own committee.”

Mr. Schiff said the committee had opened new avenues to investigate the Justice Department and F.B.I., a characterization disputed by Mr. Conaway.

What comes next was less clear. Under the obscure House rule invoked by the committee, Mr. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to try to block it from going public. The White House has repeatedly indicated that it wants the memo out, but Mr. Trump’s Justice Department had been working to slow or block its release.

Shortly after Monday’s vote, the memo was taken to the White House, where it was being reviewed by White House lawyers, according to a person familiar with the review.

Voting as a bloc, Democrats tried to advance a series of motions on Monday that they said would help put the Republican memo in context. All but one of those motions failed along party lines. The committee did make a Democratic memo rebutting the Republican version available to the full House, but Republicans said they wanted time for members to review the document before considering its public release.

The Republican memo, which was made available to all members of the House, is said to contend that officials from the two agencies were not forthcoming to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge. Republicans accuse the agencies of not properly disclosing that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign helped finance research that was used to obtain a warrant for surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. The research presented to the judge was assembled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.

The memo is not limited to actions taken by the Obama administration, though. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a top Trump appointee, signed off an application to extend the surveillance of Mr. Page shortly after taking office last spring. The renewal shows that the Justice Department under Mr. Trump saw reason to believe that Mr. Page was acting as a Russian agent.

The inclusion of Mr. Rosenstein’s action in the memo could expose him to a torrent of criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from conservatives in the news media who have seized on the surveillance to argue that the Russia investigation may have been tainted from the start. Mr. Rosenstein is overseeing that investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. It was Mr. Rosenstein who appointed Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel.

Mr. Page, a former Moscow-based investment banker who went on to found a New York investment company, was on the F.B.I.’s radar for years. A trip hetook to Russia in July 2016 while working for Mr. Trump’s campaign caught the bureau’s attention again, and by the fall of 2016, shortly after he left the campaign, American law enforcement officials began conducting surveillance on him.

To obtain the surveillance warrant, the government would have had to demonstrate probable cause that he was acting as an agent of Russia. Investigators must seek approval from the Justice Department for such a warrant, and then prosecutors take it to a surveillance court judge.

People familiar with the underlying application have portrayed the Republican memo as misleading in part, they say, because Mr. Steele’s information was insufficient to meet the standard for a FISA warrant. They said the application drew on other intelligence material that the Republican memo selectively omits. That other information remains highly sensitive, and releasing it would risk burning other sources and methods of intelligence-gathering about Russia.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully on Monday to push forward a motion for the F.B.I. and the Justice Department to brief the entire House in a private session on that material before the release of the Republican memo so that they could make a more informed judgment about its contents.

There is no known precedent for the Republicans’ action. Though House rules allow the Intelligence Committee to vote to disclose classified information if it is deemed to be in the public interest, the rule is not thought to have ever been used. Typically, lawmakers wishing to make public secretive information classified by the executive branch spend months, if not years, fighting with the White House and the intelligence community over what they can release.

Until this past weekend, the committee had refused to let anyone from the Justice Department or the F.B.I., who provided the materials underlying the memo, review it. Representative Devin Nunes of California relented on Sunday, allowing Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, to review the document. But Mr. Schiff said later in the day that Mr. Wray had conveyed to him that he still had concerns about its release.

In a letter last week to Mr. Nunes, the committee’s Republican chairman, Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, said it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release a memo drawing on classified information without official review. He said the department is “unaware of any wrongdoing related to the FISA process.”

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin largely stayed out of the dispute, deferring to Mr. Nunes and the committee on how to proceed.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, was not so circumspect.

“Clearly, House Republicans’ desire to protect President Trump has clouded their judgment and caused them to lose sight of what’s at stake: the security and integrity of our elections,” her office said in a statement.

Jan 28, 2018
The Sentinel
Republicans seeing lion’s share of turnover in Legislature
Pennsylvania State Capitol

HARRISBURG — Retirements and other departures are poised to hit Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature particularly hard this year, as most of those who have already announced they are leaving belong to the GOP.

The party that has wielded broad power in the General Assembly in recent years, thanks to strong majorities in both chambers, looks to also have far more open seats to defend in 2018.

At least eight state House Republicans are running for Congress or state Senate, and the party is also losing several veteran committee chairs to retirement. In all, 15 of the 16 representatives who have said for certain they are not seeking re-election this year are Republicans.

In the state Senate, all four who are definitely leaving are Republicans.

Some may return to the House or Senate if they lose or drop out of races for other elective positions. But it’s entirely possible that more than 30 newcomers will take legislative seats early next year.

Republicans currently control the Senate 34-16, and the House 120-81 with two vacancies, one from each party.

Pending court challenges to the state’s congressional map could have a domino effect, as candidates who want to run for Congress might change their minds, depending on what map is in eventually in place for the May 15 primary.

Openings at the top

The state House’s two highest ranking members, Speaker Mike Turzai, of Allegheny County, and Majority Leader Dave Reed, of Indiana County, both Republicans, are running for other offices. Turzai is a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and he’s said that if he wins the primary he won’t also try to retain his House seat. Reed, seeking the nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, has ruled out returning to the state House.

Changes in Senate

Among Turzai’s primary opponents in the governor’s race this year is York County Republican Sen. Scott Wagner, who is giving up his seat in the Senate. Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, is not seeking re-election as he pursues the nomination for Shuster’s congressional seat. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, is not running for a fourth term. Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, has said he may run for Congress in the Philadelphia suburbs but has not decided — his Senate seat is not up until 2020. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is retiring.

Ambitious members

Rep. Judy Ward, R-Blair, wants Eichelberger’s spot in the Senate. Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, is running to succeed Wagner. Both have said they don’t plan to run for House and Senate at the same time.

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh, has said he is not seeking re-election as he pursues the nomination for the congressional seat opening with the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, is part of a crowded field running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Dean is simultaneously running to keep her House seat. Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, is running in the March 13 special election for a vacant congressional seat, held most recently by Republican Tim Murphy. Saccone is not seeking another state House term.

Rep. Steve Bloom, R-Cumberland, wants the seat that Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is giving up as he runs for U.S. Senate. Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, is battling with Barletta for the Senate nomination and is not simultaneously running for another state House term. Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, has announced plans to run against Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks, while seeking re-election to the House at the same time.

House retirees

This year’s retirements include 18-term state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery; Rep. Harry Lewis, R-Chester; Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland; Rep. John McGinnis, R-Blair; Rep. Ron Marsico; R-Dauphin, Rep. Will Tallman, R-York; Rep. C. Adam Harris, R-Juniata; and Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks. Another notable retirement is 17-term Rep. John Taylor, one of only two remaining Republicans in the Philadelphia delegation and chairman of the Transportation Committee. Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Allegheny, is seriously considering retiring and plans to announce a decision in the coming days.

Absenteeism

A state representative under fire for missing many session days and votes told the Scranton Times-Tribune this week he is not seeking another term. Rep. Kevin Haggerty, a Democrat, had explained his poor attendance record by saying he needed to be with his children as he and his wife were divorcing.   Source

Jan 27, 2018
Reading Eagle
GOP grapples with fallout over U.S. Rep. Pat MeehanA day after U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan announced he will not seek re-election, party leaders were working on a plan-B to help them hold on to the suddenly vulnerable seat in the 7th Congressional District.A Delaware County Republican who represents part of Berks County, Meehan dropped out of the race amidst the outcry over reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint lodged by a former aide. He abandoned his campaign three days after the state Supreme Court ordered state lawmakers to draw new boundaries for Pennsylvania’s congressional districts in time for the 2018 primary.”The timing is terrible,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, an Allentown Republican representing part of Berks County.”The redistricting will complicate matters because of the uncertainty that has been injected into the situation,” Dent said. “If they draw a new map, people will have very little time to make up their mind if they are going to run.”Val Digiorgio, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, called it an unprecedented challenge for Republicans, brought on by a hyper-partisan judiciary.
“You have a compressed amount of time to see if there is someone interested and vetted enough to be endorsed – someone with a good resume and ties to the community. With the right candidate, we have a good chance of holding on to the seat.” Digiorgio said.The state GOP will file an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court next week asking it to issue a stay in redistricting until after the 2018 election, Digiorgio said.’It’s just disappointing’A former federal prosecutor, Meehan had planned to run for a fifth term. But last week, Meehan lost his seat on the House Ethics Committee after The New York Times reported on the settlement of a sexual harassment claim. The committee has launched an investigation of Meehan and House Speaker Paul Ryan said Meehan should repay any taxpayer money used in the settlement.Initially, Meehan said he was still going to run despite the controversy and some calls for his resignation.But in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Meehan described the former aide as his “soul mate” and acknowledged he had strong feelings for her. He said he never pursued her romantically and denied ever harassing her. Nonetheless, political analysts said the interview and a letter he released describing his fondness for his former aide derailed his chances of weathering the storm.”Before the interview maybe he could have survived,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. The “soul mate” comment made it appear he was smitten with her, Madonna said.Meehan, 62, a married father of three, announced Thursday night he would not seek re-election.”That is a personal choice. He knows the details behind the decision better than anyone else,” said state Sen. Bob Mensch, a Montgomery County Republican. “It is not necessarily a sign of guilt.”Dent said it is appropriate for the Ethics Committee to investigate Meehan and he would let that process take its course. Dent is retiring and not seeking re-election, leaving his long-held Republican seat in the 15th District also without an incumbent. Now, two of the four congressional districts in Berks County won’t have incumbents on the ticket in November.”I’ve been a friend of (Meehan’s) for 30-years. He has been a friend on many issues,” said Dent. “The situation is what it is. He has been a guy I’ve grown to respect and admire. We have worked together on a number of matters.”U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster County Republican who represents part of Berks County, said in an email statement that Meehan made the right decision to not seek another term.”It was disturbing to learn of Congressman Meehan’s behavior, and frankly it’s just disappointing. Everyone needs to be treated with respect at all times, and members of Congress should be setting that example,” Smucker wrote.Joe Rudderow, chairman of the Berks County Republican Committee, had a similar message in an email statement.”The Berks County Republican Committee believes that our elected officials need to always preserve the public trust and be good financial stewards of the offices that they hold. Without exception, their actions and deeds need to always be honorable and forthright. Congressman Meehan’s decision not to seek re-election is the right decision for himself, his family and the voters of the 7th Congressional district,” Rudderow write.U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, a Chester County Republican who represents part of Berks County, said he does not want to pile on to the situation, but it should be investigated by the Ethics Committee.”Obviously the situation is a serious issue,” Costello said. “I do think that when you look at his 30 years of public service, he did a lot of good as district attorney of Delaware County, as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District, and he has been an effective legislator.”The 7th Congressional race is unpredictable not only because there is a short time to find a candidate, Costello said, but the state Supreme Court decision to invalidate the map also causes additional confusion about what the district might ultimately look like.Across the state, candidates may have invested time and money into running and could find, after a new map is drawn, that they live in a different district and face a new incumbent.The 7th district is now a prime target to be reshaped, Madonna said, because Republicans have no incumbent to protect.”Given the state Supreme Court’s order that to redistrict you can’t create all these funny fingers (on the map), there is a good likelihood that the district will have more Democrats,” Madonna said.In the spring, Joseph Billie of Aston Township in Delaware County filed as a Republican primary challenger to Meehan. He didn’t get too much attention but suddenly his phone is ringing off the hook.”People are reaching out to me,” said Billie, 45, a machine operator working in paper manufacturing. “I’ve been running for months and I’ve had people come to me quietly. Now people from the party had been meeting with me. I had been getting a little bit of support but nothing like now.”Billie was at an event for U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Hazelton Republican, Thursday night when he learned that Meehan is out of the race.”I kind of expected it, but not now,” Billie said. “I thought it would happen later. My whole game plan is changed now. I’m still in the process of waiting to see who will come in. We will deal with that in May.”Sean Gale, a Plymouth Township attorney, is exploring a run for the Republican nomination. Gale is the brother of Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale.”I’m very happy Pat Meehan has decided not to run,” Gale said.”If Pat was going to run, I was going to run. I always thought he was a fraud. He runs like a Republican and votes like a Democrat,” Gale, 26, said.Gale is going to wait to see how redistricting goes and to see if there is a candidate he can get behind.Digiorgio said the party will sit down with interested candidates and pick the best one to endorse.There are five Democratic candidates vying for the party’s nomination: attorney Dan Muroff of Springfield Township, Montgomery County; Molly Sheehan, 31, a biochemistry researcher from Delaware County; Elizabeth Moro, a Chester County real estate agent; Drew McGinty of Jenkintown, who works in Information Technology; and state Rep. Daylin Leach of Upper Merion Township.Leach was recently accused of sexual harassment and said he was stepping back from his campaign but he has not dropped out of the race.  Source
Jan 23, 2018
philly.com
Top Pa. Republicans give Pat Meehan benefit of the doubt
Top Pennsylvania Republicans are giving U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan the benefit of the doubt as he tries to chart a path forward in the face of a report that he used thousands of taxpayer dollars to quietly settle a sexual harassment claim.While a number of Democrats have called on the Delaware County Republican to step down, key GOP leaders acknowledge the report is troubling, while arguing in the next breath that there may be more to the story, if only it could be revealed.Republican leaders’ responses give Meehan space to consider his next move and decide whether he can ride out the political furor as he faces what was already expected to be a difficult reelection campaign in a battleground suburban district.The GOP comments mirrored the tactic Meehan used over the weekend: raise questions by suggesting that a full airing of the facts might reveal more, while offering no hard information to contradict the initial story, which the New York Times reported Saturday, citing 10 people familiar with the situation.Meehan instead issued a statement denying the harassment allegations and requested that his accuser, a former Congressional aide, agree to release them both from a confidentiality agreement.Republican state party chairman Val DiGiorgio said in a statement Monday that the organization “is troubled by the claims against Congressman Meehan” and that they “must be treated seriously and fully investigated.”
But he also called the congressman “a dedicated public servant for over three decades” and echoed Meehan’s call to lift the non-disclosure pact. Like Meehan, DiGiorgio criticized Congress’ system for handling harassment, saying it “denies transparency for both the complainant and the accused.”As the congressman ponders his political future, one local Republican leader suggested that Meehan, who passed on a rumored Senate run this year, may have been unsure about running for a fifth House term even before the explosive story.  Read more here
Jan 22, 2018
Republican Party of PA website

PA GOP Statement on Congressional Map Ruling by PA Supreme Court

 

HARRISBURG — Today, Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio released the following statement on the congressional map ruling made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s politically motivated decision is a partisan attempt to overturn the will of the legislature, which approved these congressional maps with Democrat votes in 2011. Back in 2010, this same court said these district lines were constitutional — the only things that have changed between then and now are makeup of the court and Democrats being dissatisfied with the results.

“This decision by judicial activists contradicts two-hundred years of precedent along with the findings of their own fact-finder, Judge Brobson. By legislating from the bench, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is throwing our elections into chaos and confusion. We intend to support efforts to secure a stay from the United States Supreme Court, similar to the recent stay granted in North Carolina.”

— Val DiGiorgio, Chairman, Republican Party of Pennsylvania
Source

Jan 23, 2018
Media Line Times
GOP: Keep an open mind on Meehan scandal allegations
Delaware County Republicans on Monday urged voters not to jump to conclusions regarding allegations that U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint from a former staffer.
“There are always two sides to a story,” said Michael Puppio, the Springfield Republican Party chairman and chairman of Meehan’s election campaigns. “Hopefully the constituents of the 7th Congressional District will not rush to judgment on reports that were based on unnamed sources and wait until the facts are available for public view before coming to a conclusion.”The New York Times published a story Saturday alleging Meehan used office funds to settle the complaint last year after a former aide accused him of making unwanted romantic overtures toward her.Meehan, a married father of three who has served in Washington since 2011, denied the harassment claim in a statement, but indicated he is bound by the conditions of a confidentiality agreement from commenting further.Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Andy Reilly said he had not heard anything of the matter until someone forwarded him the Times story Saturday and he had not spoken with Meehan or his staff by Monday afternoon.“Hopefully there will be a process for both Pat and the staffer to get due process,” said Reilly. “He is entitled to due process, as is the former employee, and there will be a House investigation and I think Pat’s going to cooperate with that.”Reilly said it is up to Meehan whether he wants to run for re-election, but Delco Republicans will not hold endorsement meetings until mid-February. He said there are typically a few Republicans eying a congressional run and the party will keep the nominating and endorsement process open.“This is all new and the senator is shocked, quite frankly,” said Michael Rader, a spokesman for state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield. “Congressman Meehan has been a dedicated public servant for over 30 years and has denied the factual allegations of any type of harassment. All such allegations do need to be taken very seriously while understanding that every individual, even in this very judgmental environment, is entitled to due process and an ability to present their side of the story.”Meehan spokesman John Elizandro did not have an update Monday. He referred to an initial statement denying the allegations Saturday that called for reform of the process to resolve complaints. Both parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement.“At Congressman Meehan’s request, the congressional attorneys handling the case have asked the complainant’s counsel to release all parties from the confidentiality requirements of the agreement to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts,” Elizandro said. “The congressman is hopeful that they will agree to this request for full transparency.”An attorney for the former staffer, who was reportedly not a source for the Times story, has indicated her client does not wish for that to happen.Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Democrats in the race have meanwhile called for Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. attorney for eastern Pennsylvania, to step down. Information technology consultant Drew McGinty said the settlement “is just another example of Washington’s incompetence when handling issues related to sexual misconduct,” while attorney Dan Muroff said House leadership should strip Meehan of his committee assignments if he does not resign.“That Meehan was allowed to remain a member of the House Ethics Committee while working to settle his own sexual harassment claims, with taxpayer money, demonstrates a stunning lack of personal ethics and is an absolute disgrace,” said Muroff.U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, removed Meehan from the House Ethics Committee Saturday and launched an investigation. Source
Jan 18, 2018
Arkansas Times

Activists say Tom Cotton has issued do-not-call-or-write notice to some constituents. UPDATE. Such letters sent in ‘extreme circumstances’ says Cotton’s office.

by 

 

img_1632.jpg

Ozark Indivisible, the activist group that has been pressing members of Congress from Arkansas on health care, immigration and other issues, reported on its Twitter account last night that people calling Sen. Tom Cotton’s office had received cease-and-desist letters and posted the image above.

The letter:

 This letter is immediate notification that all communication must cease and desist immediately with all offices of US Senator Tom Cotton.

All other contact will be deemed harassment and will be reported to the United States Capitol Police.

The Office of US Senator Tom Cotton.

I’ve placed a phone call and sent an email to Cotton’s press aide to ask if this is legitimate and, if so, what prompted the letter. She has not responded.

Billy Fleming, a Times contributor, also sent me a copy of the image and an account from a person who reportedly received the letter. That person wrote:I received a letter from the office of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas after calling and expressing my grave concerns over his actions and support of this administration’s agenda concerning a wide variety of subjects from the attack on our healthcare, DACA and immigration issues, to national security, to the rise of white nationalist fascism, to the environment, the gutting of our State Department, the attack on the free press…and similar deeply troubling actions & motives I’ve seen Senator Cotton support & condone. It was odd to receive this letter as I’ve called other Members of Congress to express my strong thoughts and opinions about their actions and thought this to be not only my duty as an American citizen but my First Amendment right granted all U.S. citizens by our U.S. Constitution, the foundation of our Democracy.

I believe if Tom Cotton’s office were to respond as to why they sent this letter, I think they just honestly don’t want to listen to any citizen’s opposing view or hear the numerous grave concerns U.S. citizens have about the serious & ongoing attack on our Democracy and past election cycle in which a foreign, hostile Russian government interfered, they don’t want U.S. citizens to call and speak their mind and truth in a very direct manner and they obviously don’t want to be held accountable for their words and actions while serving all the people in this nation. I may have used unprofessional and unbecoming language at times as the anxiety and stress of what I’m witnessing is at times too great a burden to control and I have vehemently expressed my righteous anger at Senator Cotton’s complicitness with this harmful regime.

Fleming said he knew several people who’d received such a letter. He said he believed they all had made repeated phone calls to deliver similar talking points, but he said they were unlikely to have made rude or disparaging remarks.

The lobbying HAS gotten heated.

Circulating yesterday was the film of an effort some months ago by a Boone County activist to pose questions to Rep. Steve Womack. She was persistent. He was not amused.

Yesterday, demonstrators — self-identified as being from “shithole countries” — were asked to leave Cotton’s Washington office after a noisy encounter with staff members who told them they’d be arrested for unlawful entry if they didn’t leave. They did, chanting “Dream Act Now.”

Democracy can be a noisy thing. It seems to have some impact on members of Congress, too.

UPDATE: Cotton’s office, in keeping with custom, refused to respond to our requests for information. But Michael Buckner of KTHV was able to get a  seeming
confirmation
of the letter from Caroline Tabler, Cotton’s press aide.

 Tabler said that these letters are rare and only used “under extreme circumstances.”

“If an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section,” Tabler said.

Still more from the Washington Examiner:

 A spokesperson for Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Thursday that cease and desist letters sent to an unspecified number of individuals in October were sent because staffers were being harassed and have nothing to do with activists who have been protesting outside the senator’s office this week or payback for constituents simply voicing opposing views.

Cotton’s communications director Caroline Rabbitt Tabler told the Washington Examiner the practice of sending these types of letters is “rare” and “only used under extreme circumstances” when previous warnings have not been successful.

“Senator Cotton is always happy to hear from Arkansans and encourages everyone to contact his offices to express their thoughts, concerns, and opinions. In order to maintain a safe work environment, if an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in accordance with their guidance, send a cease and desist letter to the individual making the harassing or threatening communication,” Rabbitt Tabler said in a statement.

Rabbitt Tabler did not share the actions that prompted Cotton’s office to take these actions or the identities of the individuals.

John Noonan, counselor to Cotton on military and defense affairs, said the letter was sent to a constituent who threatened a 19-year-old intern.

“Letter went out in October. To one constituent, who called one of our 19 year old interns a c*** and threatened her physically,” Noonan tweeted.

On Wednesday, activists who had gathered outside Cotton’s office to protest his opposition to the Dream Act were asked to leave.

Later that day, liberal activist group Ozark Indivisible tweeted that its members had been sent cease and desist letters.

“This letter is immediate notification that all communication must cease and desist immediately with all offices of US Senator Tom Cotton. All other contact will be deemed harassment and will be reported to the United States Capitol Police,” the letter states.

FURTHER UPDATE: Noonan is now backing off his initial Tweeting. From his Twitter account:

 update: tone was threatening, no threats made. But c-word invoked.

He also claims there was only one letter. My sources say that’s not true and they are also disputing Noonan’s account of the talk with the intern.  Source

Jan 17, 2018
The Hill
Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ lead with CNN, ABC’s Ross, NY Times’ KrugmanThe Republican National Committee unveiled the “winners” of President Trump’s “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday night with a list that includes frequent Trump targets in the media as well as a surprise website crash.The awards list New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as the top winner.Also awarded: CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.“2017 was a year of unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news. Studies have shown that over 90 percent of the media’s coverage of President Trump is negative,” according to the announcement.The awards, hosted on the GOP’s national website, were unavailable immediately following Trump’s tweet announcing them, likely from a traffic overload.“The site is temporarily offline, we are working to bring it back up. Please try back later,” it read for nearly an hour after Trump sent out a tweet to the site.“The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover,” according to the GOP-hosted website. Krugman’s No. 1 listing is contrasted with a headline that shows the Dow hitting a record high.No. 2 on the list says “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.” ABC News was required to correct a report in December when Ross incorrectly reported that Trump directed a campaign aide to make contact with Russians during the campaign. The network later corrected the report to say it was during the transition, after Trump had already been elected. Ross was suspended for the error.No. 3 blasts CNN for “FALSELY” reporting that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks. CNN also corrected that report in December.No. 4: “TIME FALSELY reported that President Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.” That incident was a January tweet by a Time Magazine reporter. The reporter sent out more than a dozen tweets correcting the mistake and apologizing immediately following the first tweet that reported a bust had been removed.No. 5 blames the Washington Post for reporting that “the President’s massive sold-out rally in Pensacola, Florida was empty. Dishonest reporter showed picture of empty arena HOURS before crowd started pouring in.” That reporter also apologized in a subsequent tweet, saying he was “confused” by another user’s shared images.The list also “awards” CNN for making it appear that Trump “defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister” even though the “Japanese prime minister actually led the way with the feeding.”CNN also gets attention for reporting about former White House communications director “Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with a Russian.” CNN retracted and apologized for that June story.CNN is also blamed on the list for reporting that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute Trump’s claim “that he was told he is not under investigation.” Comey confirmed that claim in congressional testimony.The awards also blame Newsweek for reporting that Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda did not shake President Trump’s hand. A video that appeared to capture the missed handshake went viral on social media at the time.The New York Times also “falsely claimed on the front page that the Trump administration had hidden a climate report,” the awards say. The report was actually publicly available at the time and the paper was forced to issue a correction.Finally, the “Fake News Awards” note that “Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!” Trump has repeatedly maintained that, despite an investigation into allegations that his campaign colluded with Moscow-linked hackers during the 2016 election, his campaign was never involved.The awards go on to cite what appears to be a recent study by the conservative Media Research Center, which showed “the media spent 90 percent of the time focused on negative coverage or fake news, the President has been getting results,” according to the awards page.It goes on to list accomplishments that Trump frequently touts from his first year in office, related to job and wealth creation, the minority unemployment rate, and legislative and regulatory successes such as tax cut reform being passed, Obama-era regulations cut, Keystone pipeline approval, as well as the ISIS retreat in Iraq and Syria, Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel, and Neil Gorsuch being named to the Supreme Court.The “Fake News Awards” are another example of Trump’s ongoing war on the media. The president frequently refers to some unfavorable or inaccurate stories about him or the administration as “fake news.”In October, for example, the president slammed NBC News after it reported that Trump had suggested increasing the nation’s nuclear arms stockpile “tenfold” during a closed-door meeting with his cabinet.“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Trump tweeted.The president also recently suggested taking “a very, very strong look” at libel laws in order to ensure false claims by the press have “meaningful recourse in our courts.”“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values and American fairness,” he told reporters. “We’re going to take a very, very strong look at that.”A string of media mistakes at the end of the year provided more fodder for Trump’s criticism, as did a recent Pew Research year-end analysis of media coverage that showed the president received just five percent positive coverage in 2017.In contrast, President Obama’s coverage in his first year was 20 percent negative. Overall, Trump received more than three times more negative coverage than his predecessor, according to Pew.A Harvard study found that CNN’s and NBC’s coverage of Trump was negative 93 percent of the time over the course of his first 100 days in office. The New York Times coverage in the same study was 87 percent negative, while the Washington Post’s was 82 percent in that direction.One of Trump’s favorite targets is CNN.CNN’s Jim Acosta has engaged in daily debates with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her predecessor, Sean Spicer, who departed in August. Critics have accused Acosta of grandstanding in making himself the story, while supporters say he’s holding the administration accountable.It was also almost one year ago that Trump as president-elect called Acosta “rude” and blasted the network as “fake news.”“Your organization is terrible,” Trump told Acosta on Jan. 11, 2017, when he repeatedly attempted to ask a question.“You’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Acosta replied.“Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump responded, before calling on another reporter.CNN responded in October with a “#FactsFirst” ad campaign mocking the president for telling falsehoods.“This is an apple,” the ad’s narrator begins over a photo of an apple. “Some people might try to tell you it’s a banana.”“They might scream ‘banana, banana, banana,’ over and over and over again. They might put ‘banana’ in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple,” it continues.The Washington Post launched a new slogan in February, shortly after the president took office: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”The New York Times launched a “truth” ad campaign, also in February. “The truth is our nation is more divided than ever,” the ads say. “The truth is alternative facts are lies,” it continues.“The truth is … The truth is hard. The truth is more important now than ever.”A November Quinnipiac poll found American voters disapprove of media coverage of the president by a 20-point margin. However, 54 percent said they trust the media to tell the truth about important issues more than Trump, while 34 percent said they trusted the president more.  Source
Jan 17, 2018
nytimes
Politics
With Trump’s Visit to Pennsylvania, G.O.P. Scrambles to Save a House Seat

Campaign workers in Canonsburg, Pa., made calls this week to drum up support for Rick Saccone, a Republican candidate for the House. Credit Michael Henninger for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Republicans are scrambling to save a heavily conservative House seat in western Pennsylvania, dispatching President Trump to the district on Thursday while preparing a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to stave off another embarrassing special election defeat in a district that was gerrymandered to stay Republican.

When Representative Tim Murphy was pushed out of the House last year after the revelation that he encouraged a mistress to have an abortion, Republican leaders gave scant thought to his successor. The odd-shaped district in the southwestern corner of the state was drawn to skirt Democratic Pittsburgh and concentrate conservative-leaning, steel and coal country voters.

But since then, Democratic enthusiasm has surged, especially after the improbable Senate victory of Doug Jones last month in Alabama, and Republicans continue to lose lower-profile special elections in friendly districts — the latest in a Wisconsin State Senate race on Tuesday.

That has raised alarms in the White House and among Republican leaders anxiously eyeing the House special election on March 13. Holding just a 24-seat majority, with retirements of veteran lawmakers piling up, House Republicans can scarcely allow Democrats to snatch a seat they have not even competed for in recent elections.

And Mr. Trump is loath to suffer another electoral humiliation, particularly in a district that he carried by 19 percentage points in 2016.

So a constellation of conservative groups are planning an extensive intervention to carry the Republican nominee, Rick Saccone, a state representative and former Air Force officer, across the line in a House seat that has been in the party’s hands for 16 years, but where internal polls from both parties now reveal a single-digit race.

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Mr. Trump will appear at an industrial equipment sales and repair company to trumpet both Mr. Saccone and the recently passed tax overhaul.

Vice President Mike Pence will follow on Feb. 2, according to Republican officials familiar with the planning, attending a similar, policy-oriented event before hosting a fund-raiser for Mr. Saccone. And Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence both may make additional visits, according to party officials.

National Republicans worry that Mr. Saccone, 59, is proving to be a lackluster candidate, an assessment that was reinforced when he raised only $200,000 as of the end of the year, nearly half of it in cash transfers from House lawmakers eager to preserve their majority.

To prop him up, the House Republican campaign arm hosted a fund-raiser Wednesday evening in Washington with Mr. Saccone; Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; and each of the Republican winners of special House elections last year.

Mr. Saccone will return to Washington next month for a fund-raiser featuring the entire roster of House Republican leaders including Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Further, a group of well-financed outside Republican groups is planning to unleash a biting advertising campaign against Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee and a Marine Corps veteran. A pair of conservative organizations have already broadcast about $700,000 worth of commercials in the district and the best-funded House “super PAC,” the Congressional Leadership Fund, is preparing to go on the air next week with a spot blistering Mr. Lamb.

“We will attack Conor Lamb, we will define Conor Lamb, and we will explain why he is a Nancy Pelosi rubber stamp,” vowed Corry Bliss, who runs the Congressional Leadership Fund and had already opened two field offices in the district, referring to the House Democratic leader.

But Mr. Lamb, a former prosecutor, may not be so easy to link to Ms. Pelosi.

“They can throw anything they want at him, but he’s already said he’s not voting for Pelosi as speaker,” said Marcel L. Groen, the Pennsylvania Democratic chairman.

Mr. Lamb, 33, hails from a prominent Pennsylvania political family — his grandfather was once the Democratic leader in the State Senate — and has indicated he wants to run a local race.

With the possible exception of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., few high-profile Democrats would help Mr. Lamb by dipping into the district, which includes affluent precincts around Pittsburgh and more working-class enclaves along the West Virginia and Ohio border.

To date, the House Democratic campaign arm has kept its distance and is unlikely to pour money into the race, preferring to husband its resources for less Trump-friendly terrain up for grabs in November. But Mr. Lamb still outraised Mr. Saccone in the last quarter of 2017, bringing in more than $550,000.

And some members of the Pennsylvania Democratic delegation are making the case for Mr. Lamb. A group of them hosted a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser for him in Washington on Wednesday.

“I’m more bullish on our chances than I think the consensus,” said Representative Brendan Boyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “While it would be an upset, we can win it in this environment. The Wisconsin results last night show that.”

Already buffeted by the announcements last week by Representatives Ed Royce and Darrell Issa of their retirements from their highly competitive California districts, Republicans absorbed another body blow on Tuesday when Wisconsin Democrats captured a State Senate seat that Republicans had held for 17 years.

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Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for the House, has said that he will push for new party leadership if the Democratic Party wins a majority in the House this year. Credit Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

In the state’s first special election of 2018, Patty Schachtner, a Democrat and the medical examiner for St. Croix County, beat Representative Adam Jarchow, a Republican member of the State Assembly, by 11 points, flipping a seat in a rural district near the Minnesota border.

“Everything is in play now,” Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said on Wednesday. “This is a district that has been a very red district for a long time, and the numbers last night were very blue.”

Gov. Scott Walker, the state’s Republican chief executive, all but agreed.

“Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin,” Mr. Walker, who is facing re-election this fall, wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. “Can’t presume that voters know we are getting positive things done in Wisconsin.”

The defeat was ominous for Republicans chiefly because it came in the sort of exurban and rural stretch of the Midwest where Mr. Trump romped in 2016. Even as he won Wisconsin by less than a point, he carried St. Croix County, the population center of the district, by 17 percentage points.

The day after her victory, Ms. Schachtner said she was overwhelmed by the results, barely able to keep track of the phone calls and emails coming in.

When she first entered the race only months ago, the local Democratic Party was grateful but not confident that she could beat a Republican in the district.

“It was, ‘Thank you for stepping up,’ that type of conversation,” she said. “They said the G.O.P. kind of owns this area, but it’s good to have a name we know.”   Source

Jan 16, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democrats grab key Wisconsin Senate seat in Tuesday’s special elections

MADISON – Democrats snagged a GOP-leaning state Senate seat in western Wisconsin on Tuesday, buoying progressive hopes that they could ride a wave of victory this fall.

Patty Schachtner, the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, will take the seat that had been held for 17 years by former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Harsdorf stepped down in November to take a job as GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s agriculture secretary.

In an interview, Schachtner said she thought she beat state Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) because the race had turned nasty in mailings from groups outside the district.

“It wasn’t nice. It was mean,” she said of the campaign literature. “People just said, ‘You know what? We’re nicer than that.’”

In a post on Twitter, Jarchow said he had called Schachtner to congratulate her.

“I look forward to working with her as our new state Senator,” he wrote in his tweet. “Thank you to all who worked so hard for our campaign.”

Also Tuesday, in special elections for the state Assembly, voters in Washington County chose a Republican and voters in Racine County chose a Democrat, according to unofficial results.

But the focus Tuesday was on the 10th Senate District, which consists of parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, Pierce and Dunn counties along Minnesota’s border.

Schachtner’s win gives Democrats momentum, but they remain deep in the minority. Once she is seated, Republican will hold an 18-14 advantage, with one district vacant. That seat belonged to Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), who joined Walker’s administration last month, and won’t be decided until November, when 17 of the state’s 33 Senate districts are up for election.

Schachtner said once she joins the Senate she hopes to focus on improving access to health care and helping drug addicts get treatment.

She sidestepped a question about whether she thought opposition to President Donald Trump helped her win.

“I’m just worried about western Wisconsin right now,” she said. “Right now, in western Wisconsin, Wisconsin values is what keeps us going.”

The district has not been good to Democrats in the past. Mitt Romney won the district in 2012 even though he lost the presidential race in Wisconsin and nationally to Barack Obama. Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in the district in the 2016 presidential election and John McCain almost won the district in 2008, despite Obama’s easy statewide victory.

Democrats saw Tuesday’s victory as a sign they were taking hold of the energy that benefited their party in special elections last year in Alabama, Virginia and Oklahoma.

A former emergency medical technician who a decade ago appeared on the show “Wife Swap,” Schachtner serves on the board of the Somerset School District and has served on the town board for Star Prairie.   Source

Jan 16, 2018
The Hill
Democrats search for 51st net neutrality vote
Senate Democrats are hunting for one more Republican vote to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from repealing net neutrality rules.Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that all 49 Democrats have endorsed legislation to preserve the rules. With Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) already on board, Democrats need the support of just one more Republican to ensure the legislation is sent to the House.The bill, which will be introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would use a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the FCC’s vote last month scrapping the 2015 net neutrality rules. The rules have required internet service providers (ISP) to treat all web traffic equally, and supporters say they’re essential to preventing companies such as Comcast and Verizon from abusing their control over internet access.The Democrats plan to use procedural rules under the CRA to force a vote on their bill in the coming months.Even though the bill is unlikely to pass the House or be signed by President Trump, Democrats see an opportunity to capitalize on the outcry surrounding the FCC repeal and force Republicans to vote on net neutrality ahead of the midterm elections.“With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options,” Schumer said in a statement Tuesday.He added, “When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress will — for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.”On the House side, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) announced Tuesday that he had lined up 82 co-sponsors for his companion CRA bill, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But the procedural rules for CRA bills are different in the House; Democrats do not have the power to force a vote by securing co-sponsors.That’s left the Senate as the primary venue for the net neutrality fight.Supporters of the rules looking for the 51st vote for the CRA bill could have several targets.Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), for example, who made headlines last year by bucking the administration on a handful of judicial nominees, said last week that he is undecided on Markey’s bill.“There a lot of nuances, and there are very good arguments on both sides,” Kennedy said to reporters, according to the National Journal. “I’m honestly undecided. Right now, to me, it’s a very, very close call.”Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who’s seen as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in this year’s midterm election, is another possible target in the net neutrality push. Spokespeople for Kennedy and Heller did not respond to requests for comment.Still, Republicans have largely opposed the Obama-era rules as heavy-handed regulation that has stifled investment from broadband companies. They say existing antitrust and consumer protection laws are already sufficient to secure an open internet.Democrats and their allies disagree and think Republicans will pay a political price for that stance.Fight for the Future, a group that helped rally internet users to protest the FCC vote, has already launched an online scorecard to track members’ positions on the CRA, directing supporters to reach out to their representatives.“Net neutrality is going to be an election issue in 2018 and every member of Congress knows it,” Evan Greer, the group’s campaign director, said in a statement.“The CRA is steamrolling through the Senate because lawmakers are reading the writing on the wall that it’s the only viable legislation on the table. Cleanly reversing the FCC’s unpopular and illegitimate decision is, on substance, the correct policy move, and the only one that has support from voters,” Greer said.It could be months before the net neutrality bill reaches the Senate floor. The FCC’s final order still needs to receive approval from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and must be published in the Federal Register before Congress can review it. At that point, lawmakers will have 60 legislative days to take up the CRA bills.Even if the effort in Congress fails, as expected, the FCC’s repeal order will be facing court challenges for years to come. That will allow Democrats to extend the shelf life of a political battle in which they see themselves on the winning side.“Republicans now have a clear choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit,” Markey said in a statement Tuesday. “I urge them to join the majority of Americans, embrace the bipartisanship of net neutrality, and support this resolution.”   Source
Jan 16, 2018
The Hill
Week ahead: GOP looks to overhaul natural gas, utilities laws
Week ahead: GOP looks to overhaul natural gas, utilities laws
© Getty Images
A House panel will meet in the coming week to debate three Republican-backed bills meant to overhaul how federal regulators oversee liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and electric utilities.The hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Energy subcommittee is part of the GOP’s ongoing drive to “modernize” the nation’s energy laws, bringing them out of an energy scarcity framework.Two of the bills being debated Friday, both from Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), aim to ease the permitting process for companies wishing to export LNG.Currently, companies must get approval for their export facilities from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and then Department of Energy (DOE) approval to export the gas to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States.The Unlocking Our Domestic LNG Potential Act would remove the DOE from the process, so that once FERC approves a facility, exports could begin.The Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act, meanwhile, would make approvals to export up to 140 million cubic feet of gas per day mandatory and automatic.Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Mich.) PURPA Modernization Act would overhaul the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, the main law governing electric utility regulation by states.Walberg’s bill would ease the standards that require utilities to purchase small amounts of electricity and allow that requirement to be eliminated if a state agency approves, among other changes long sought by utilities.Elsewhere in the House, the Natural Resources Committee’s energy and mineral resources panel is planning a series of hearings on how the Trump administration oversees energy production.First, in a Thursday hearing, the panel will look into the administration’s efforts to ease energy production on public land.The next day, lawmakers will host a hearing on permitting problems for offshore oil and natural gas seismic surveys, which companies use to estimate resource potential.Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, will be in Washington, D.C., in the coming week for the U.S. launch on Tuesday of the agency’s annual World Energy Outlook, an extensive report on the status of energy across the world in 2017.That will take place at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp., which introduce him.Earlier Tuesday morning, Birol will testify at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the global and domestic energy outlook.Also on Tuesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center will host an event to discuss Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants, which FERC recently rejected.  Source
Dec 1, 2017
Business Insider
Top Republican who led Benghazi panel used $150,000 of taxpayer money to settle claim with a fired staffer
trey gowdy benghazi committee
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina reportedly settled a veteran discrimination and retaliation claim from a former aide for $150,000 in taxpayer funds, according to a Washington Post report published Friday.The confidential settlement was identified in an Office of Compliance report released on Friday. The Post said it was able to link a mention about the settlements contained in the documents to the claims made by Bradley Podliska, the former staffer, identified by The Post.Podliska, who was fired in 2015 from the House Benghazi committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, alleged that he was wrongfully terminated in part for his unwillingness to engage in what he believed was a partisan investigation into Hillary Clinton’s time as US secretary of state. Podliska alleged that the high-profile investigation focused its attention on Clinton and the State Department after discovering she had used a private email server to conduct government business.As part of his veteran-discrimination claim, Podliska, an Air Force Reserves officer, alleged that he was discriminated against when he took leave for his service-related obligations.In October 2015, Gowdy claimed that Podliska was fired for mishandling classified information. Podliska alleged that Gowdy had defamed him and harmed his career prospects, according to the Associated Press. The case was eventually settled in 2016, and the terms of the settlement were reportedly secret at the time.Peter Romer-Friedman, Podliska’s attorney, declined to discuss details of the settlement when contacted by The Post, but he noted that he was unaware of any similar cases that had been settled within the last five years.  Source
Jan 12, 2018
Vanity Fair
THE REPUBLICAN EXODUS IS BECOMING A DELUGE
And the White House is struggling to respond. 

When Roy Moore unexpectedly lost the Alabama special election just a month after Democrat Ralph Northam triumphed in Virginia, Democrats emerged from their burrows to sniff hopefully at the air. Pundits proffered dire predictions of a Democratic wave in 2018, warning that Moore, despite the messy scandal he embodied, was not an outlier.

So following the surprise resignation of Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, the White House seems to have decided that there is no such thing as overcompensation. In the next few weeks, Donald Trumpwill visit the district, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet members, to campaign on behalf of Rick Saccone, their preferred replacement candidate. Their outside allies in the R.N.C., the N.R.C.C., and the smattering of PACs in conservative donor world, plan on spending over a million dollars in the district—a district, it should be said, that Trump won by 20 points. “It should go Republican,” G.O.P. Congressman Charlie Dent told Politico, “but in this environment, one can never take anything for granted.”

Both Murphy and Dent belong to the growing group of Republicans who will vacate their seats for a bevy of reasons, potentially throwing G.O.P. control of the House into jeopardy. Their number swelled to 31 on Wednesday, when veteran representative Darrell Issa announced that he would not seek re-election. Most are leaving for reasons similar to Issa’s: the powerful congressman barely won re-election in 2016, and saw his Orange County district tilt alarmingly in Hillary Clinton’s favor. And one, Trent Franks,was swept up in the recent sexual harassment dragnet, forced to resign after allegations of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers.

But in one way or another, all face the political reality of belonging to a wildly unpopular party, led by the most unpopular president in the modern era. Worse, they face an energized grassroots Democrat electorate, which has so far turned races for even surefire Republican seats into contests that are uncomfortably close. Meanwhile, talk of a Democratic resurgence has reached a fever pitch: “You can’t really look at tonight’s results and conclude that Democrats are anything other than the current favorites to pick up the U.S. House in 2018,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, the House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, after Northam’s win.

For the G.O.P., it remains maddeningly unclear how the White House, and the Republican party at large, will respond to the exodus. The administration’s political office, which is overseen by Bill Stepien,recently underwent a shake-up to address last year’s legislative and political failures. But insiders have suggested that the organization is still hopelessly directionless, and that “nobody knows what the f— [Stepien has] done or is doing to advance the president’s agenda politically.” (Politico implied that the Trump White House only understood the grave importance of the Pennsylvania race after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a presentation about it during a party huddle at Camp David last week.) As such, Republicans may be right to pour undue resources into a House race they’d normally take for granted—should they lose the election, they may be helpless to stop the ensuing tide of fleeing congressmen.
Source

Jan 11, 2017
The Hill
GOP angst over midterms growFor some Republicans, it’s starting to feel like 2006 — a wave election year that swept Democrats back into power in the House and Senate.The retirement of two longtime California Republicans this week — just the latest in a string of House Republicans heading for the exits — has caused panic among some in the GOP who say it’s yet another sign that an anti-Trump, Democratic wave is forming.“It’s a tough election cycle for Republicans; we know that going in,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who is not running for reelection after representing a heavily Hispanic Miami district for nearly 30 years.“It’s starting to feel very scary for moderate Republicans,” she said.Rep. Darrell Issa, who won reelection by a slim 1,621-vote margin in 2016, said Wednesday this term would be his last, despite insisting for months that he was running for reelection.The stunning announcement from the former Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman came just two days after another veteran Republican from Southern California, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, also called it quits.
Asked for his reaction to Issa’s retirement, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) paused, smiled, then exclaimed: “We’re gonna win the House back!”The pair of retirements in California has altered the 2018 midterms landscape, forcing the House GOP’s campaign arm to decide whether it will defend two districts that overwhelmingly voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 or shift resources elsewhere.Winning both districts could be costly. San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who’s led a campaign to impeach President Trump, this week pledged $30 million to help Democrats take back the House and said he would specifically target Issa.Republicans have other reasons to be worried about the elections, including Trump’s approval rating, which sits in the high 30s.History shows that a president’s party typically loses an average of 32 House seats during a midterm election. But Ros-Lehtinen said Trump might be a bigger liability than past GOP presidents in many parts of the country.“In many districts like Darrell’s and mine, having President Trump an ever-present figure is a drag on the ticket,” she said. “In many districts, he’s a positive, but in districts like mine, it doesn’t help the Republican candidate.“The Trump symbol, the Trump brand and Mr. Trump himself is a drag on moderate districts.”The wave of GOP retirements in competitive districts also has set off alarm bells among some senior Republican strategists.“I’m alarmed, but we should have already been alarmed. It’s a tough environment, and there’s a chance the Republicans can lose control of the House,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP political strategist who has worked on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) reelection campaigns.“It’s starting to feel like 2006 to me,” he added, “which was a bad year for Republicans.”Democrats picked up 31 House seats in 2006, a victory that propelled them forward to win complete control of Washington in 2008.This year, House Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to win back the majority. And the path to that new majority runs right through Orange County and San Diego, where traditional Republican districts like Royce’s and Issa’s have been getting more diverse and trending bluer. Read more
Jan 9, 2018
Philadelphia Weekly
All the Pennsylvania political dramas you need to know about in 2018
Politics2018
As Pennsylvania gears up for another (likely bruising) political season in 2018, here are some top people and trends to keep an eye on. (Photo: City of Philadelphia/Flickr)

This time last year, Democrats were locked in a hopeless stupor following the upset election of Donald Trump, with no clear path forward – while Republicans looked to add even more power in the Commonwealth.

Several gerrymandering lawsuits were floating through various courtrooms with no clear timeline or immediate relevance. Mike Stack and Daylin Leach, at least to much of the general public, were just a couple of relatively uncontroversial state-level electeds.

To say the least, much has changed – except for the state’s grim financial prospects. As Pennsylvania gears up for another (likely bruising) political season in 2018, here are some top people and trends to keep an eye on.

“The Wave Year”

Not so long ago, Pennsylvania Republicans had dreams of adding the Commonwealth’s other U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s mansion to the growing list of elected offices held by the party. But today, many inside the GOP view the challenges against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf as increasingly uphill battles. Worse, in a midterm election that will serve as a referendum on the popularity of President Donald Trump, both incumbents could wind up facing presidential surrogates.

Former Congressman Lou Barletta, who built a political base in part off of an anti-immigrant platform and his relationship with Trump, is widely expected to secure his party’s nomination for the Senate race. State Sen. Scott Wagner, an arch-conservative polemic who also draws comparisons to Trump, is a top contender in a gubernatorial primary field that includes House Speaker Mike Turzai and businessman Paul Mango.

Some politicos on the right are privately expressing concerns about even staving off first-timers like Conor Lamb, a Democrat running in the socially conservative 18th Congressional District. That special election, which will be held in March, will be a critical bellwether for the staying power of a conservative surge that helped deliver PA for Trump in 2016. Lamb, a moderate Democrat, will face state Rep. Rick Saccone, yet another far-right Republican who has highlighted his similarities to Trump.

The outcome of that early race could impact how willing donors will be to finance other hotly contested Congressional seats. Virtually all of the House seats in Southeastern PA are up for grabs, with Democrats looking for wins against US Reps. Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan. Dent and US Rep. Bill Shuster both notably announced their retirement – although the latter was unlikely to face serious Democratic opposition.

Those second-tier races – not to mention numerous others for state House and Senate seats – could complicate costly Republican quests for Casey’s seat and the governor’s mansion. Some on the right were already concerned with the pace of fundraising for Barletta’s campaign, which had also struggled to find a permanent campaign manager.

“If the Barletta campaign is anemic, that’s a problem,” said Democratic consultant Ken Snyder. “What happened to Roy Moore in Alabama takes the wind out of his sails. If he has Republicans grumbling that they made a bad bet on a flawed candidate who was too far right down south, in Pennsylvania, they must be thinking twice.”

Not all Democrats are cheering next year’s contests. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady was rocked by a scandal over a payout to a past electoral challenger that disabled two of his top campaign aides. He will face a primary test in former deputy mayor Nina Ahmad – his first real challenger in years – and indicted traffic court judge Willie Singletary. More are likely to come.

Worse than losing his top two advisors may be a resurgent interest in ward politics by younger voters who helped put outsider candidates Larry Krasner and Rebecca Rhynhart into office. Events priming newcomers to run for committee person slots in 2018 sold out last year – a trend that may not work in the Democratic City Committee chair’s favor.

A Whole New Playing Field

Some still believe that at least one lawsuit over Pennsylvania’s infamously gerrymandered political districts could change the status quo.

There are many variables at play. In a state lawsuit that holds districts drawn in 2011 in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson recently ruled that the current map does indeed benefit Republicans, but stopped short of ruling the districting unconstitutional. However, the case will now be fast-tracked through the state Supreme Court, which is dominated by Democrats.

Both sides of the suit, initially sponsored by the League of Women Voters, claimed victory. State Senate leadership, which has loudly opposed the suit, praised the decision for finding that the petitioners had failed to demonstrate that politicized gerrymandering was actually unconstitutional. But some Democrats viewed Brobson’s decision – which endorsed key findings presented by petitioners – as setting the stage for the Supreme Court to establish a new precedent.

However, the timing is extraordinarily tight to impact impending midterm elections and Republicans have intimated that they would fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are also separate cases winding through the nation’s highest court filed in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere that could potentially have their own far-reaching ramifications if the justices decide to wade into an issue traditionally left to the states.

Of course, changes will eventually be coming to PA’s congressional map no matter what. Redrawing will commence with or without a new system in place, while the impending 2020 census looks primed to cost the Keystone State another House seat.

The End of the Boys’ Club

With revelations that both Congress and the state House have dedicated – and used – protocols to settle sexual harassment charges leveled at elected officials, some pols are likely more worried about getting taken out by their own past transgressions toward women than by an electoral challenger.

In the last month alone, congressional candidate and state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, state fire commissioner Tim Solobay, state Senate security chief Justin Ferrante, and state education chair Larry Wittig have all been confronted by media reports of harassment or other sexual misconduct towards women. That same month, LancasterOnline uncovered some $8 million paid out to settle state trooper harassment charges and, in November, Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams was hit by multiple sexual harassment suits.

Leach, Caltagirone and Williams seem determined to continue with their political careers, but the other state officials named in recent reports have all stepped down. The furor is unlikely to die down soon – the continued scandals have spurred bills to bar anonymous sexual harassment settlements and restrict the use of state funds for such payouts.

Others say that there are still more scandals to come. Many women who have worked in Harrisburg and other political circles have noted that these revelations are hardly surprising given the infamous culture of sexism that pervades the male-dominated statehouse – or the Commonwealth’s all-male congressional delegation’s home away from home on Capitol Hill.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Race (yes, really)

As bettings odds for Wolf’s reelection swing in his favor, an increasing number of candidates seem to think Lt. Gov. Mike Stack is on his way out. The scandal-plagued second banana was hit by allegations he abused his state employees and, perhaps, his office expense account.

Those debacles – which are still unfolding – spotlighted a long-tense relationship between Wolf and Stack, who will face no fewer than five challengers in his bid for reelection: Iraq war vet Aryanna Berringer, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, State Rep. Madeleine Dean, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman.

The race can seem like much ado about nothing. The lieutenant governor has few official duties beyond staying alive in the event that the governor keels over – principally, overseeing the state Senate, where he can cast the deciding vote in case of a tie, and performing the same function with the Board of Parole.

But for many of the declared Democratic candidates, it’s a statewide platform that serves as a stepping stone to higher office. Fetterman has talked openly about his interest in challenging U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Even the current officeholder was, prior to the abuse scandal, reportedly eyeing the governor’s mansion himself.

There is also more political intrigue than just the high-profile governor’s race. Many Senate Democrats took the unusual step of publicly backing Stack last month – which one source said was aimed as a show of support for a loyal Democrat and telegraphing that Gov. Tom Wolf ought to avoid meddling in the race. Wolf has said repeatedly that he is staying out of the race, but Senate staff grumbled that he has privately favored Dean.

On the GOP side, candidates will be forced to choose between influential Republican gubernatorial candidates – Wagner and Turzai  – without knowing which will ultimately triumph. The field continues to grow, as Otto Voit recently joined Jeff Bartos and Gordon Denlinger in the primary, while state Sen. Dave Argall is still rumored to be waiting in the wings.

The billion-dollar question

No one likes the state budget process. Despite public rhetoric, most electeds on both sides of the aisle hate cutting services or raising taxes. Everyone, voters included, hates following the endless and internecine horsetrading that has marked the last several years of budgeting in Harrisburg.

Despite Republican calls to force a more expeditious budgeting process, the oft-delayed fiscal deals are the product of long-term issues with no easy solutions. Deficits, like the estimated $3 billion hole faced by officials for the 2018 budget, are likely to become perennial features in a state with a moribund economy, stagnant tax revenues, growing pension obligations and little hope of aid from Washington.

Budgeting has been complicated by hesitancy to make additional cuts to the state budget and general opposition from a GOP majority to tax hikes – which has led to several rounds of boutique tax hikes and borrowing to patch recent budgets. These strategies have led to a radical expansion of gambling and liberalization of liquor sales as more traditional revenue generators become tapped out.

For 2018, Republicans have already made clear they have their sights set on welfare reform. Democrats, reduced to a vocal opposition party after years of electoral losses in Harrisburg, are still calling for a natural gas severance tax. But both efforts have fallen flat in past years and pols will be even more on edge with tough elections on the horizon.  Read more

Jan 2, 2018
New York Times
Opinion
The Republicans’ Fake Investigations

Credit Harry Campbell

A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.

We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.

Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?

What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.

We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.

After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power. We did not, however, share the dossier with BuzzFeed, which to our dismay published it last January.

We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment.

It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.  Source

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