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Past US Headline News March 2019 Page 2

March 2019: Get the latest monthly headline news from multiple news sources and news links. Get real facts, real news from major news originations.  

Michael Sánchez, the brother of Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sánchez, reportedly received $200,000 from American Media Inc.
By Dominique Mosbergen

Contrary to Jeff Bezos’ suspicions, it wasn’t the White House, Saudi Arabia or hackers who provided the National Enquirer with the cache of racy text messages that the Amazon founder sent to his girlfriend. Instead, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal, it was her brother who shared the private messages with the tabloid — after being paid an alleged $200,000 by the magazine’s publisher. Michael Sánchez, a talent agent and Lauren Sánchez’s brother, was a longtime source for the Enquirer, the Journal reported Monday. He’d started talking to the tabloid last fall about his sister’s relationship with Bezos, the paper said, citing unnamed sources. The Enquirer had already been trailing and photographing Bezos and Sánchez at the time of those conversations. David Pecker, American Media Inc.’s CEO, reportedly approved the payment to Sánchez so the tabloid could acquire the sexually charged text messages that the couple had sent to each other. The Journal’s investigation corroborates a February report by The Daily Beast that had identified Michael Sánchez as the source of the text message leak. Sánchez refuted the allegation at the time. He told the Bezos-owned Washington Post that he did not share the text messages with the Enquirer; instead, he suggested that spies for foreign governments, “rival tech companies or ‘deep state’ actors within the U.S. government” could be the culprit. The Enquirer published an 11-page spread on Bezos’ affair with TV personality and helicopter pilot Lauren Sánchez in January. The tabloid published photographs showing the couple together, as well as quotes from their private text messages. The magazine alleged the couple had been dating for at least eight months. Bezos and his wife of 25 years, Mackenzie Bezos, announced on Jan. 9 that they were getting divorced. According to the Journal, the announcement came 48 hours after the Enquirer approached the billionaire entrepreneur for comment for their story. The exposé kickstarted an ugly — and public — fight between Bezos and the tabloid. The Amazon chief hired an investigator, Gavin de Becker, to look into how the Enquirer had obtained his personal text messages. De Becker told the Post last month that Sanchez was a subject of his investigation. Bezos claimed in a blog post last month that Pecker was furious about the probe and had attempted to blackmail him. The American Media Inc. chairman threatened to publish more of his text messages and images including a “dick pic,” Bezos alleged.  “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos wrote.

By Tucker Higgins, Dan Mangan

Special counsel Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant targeting President Donald Trump’s then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen in July 2017, more than a half year before a raid on Cohen’s home and office. Mueller obtained a warrant for one of Cohen’s Gmail accounts on July 18, 2017, according to partially unsealed documents released on Tuesday. The special counsel obtained another warrants for “content stored in the iCloud account” associated with Cohen’s Apple ID in August of that year. The documents show that Mueller obtained a search warrant for emails “sent or received” by an account belonging to Cohen stretching back to June 2015, the same month that Trump announced his candidacy for president. Mueller’s office referred “certain aspects of its investigation” to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan months after it obtained the warrants, according to the documents. The FBI raided Cohen’s home and office in April 2018 as part of the probe by federal prosecutors in Manhattan that led months later to the now-disbarred lawyer pleading guilty to multiple crimes. The filing partially unsealed and released Tuesday shows that Mueller was eyeing Cohen for a crime that has not been previously disclosed: Acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Cohen was never charged with such a crime. Mueller was also investigating Cohen for false bank entries, false statement to a financial institution, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, the documents show. Those other areas were known to be subject matters of interest to the special counsel. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to five counts of tax fraud, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of making unlawful campaign contributions, a single count of excessive campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress. The campaign crimes relate to Cohen facilitating hush money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, in exchange for their silence about their alleged affairs with Trump.

By Amie Parnes

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) has faced sharp backlash from progressives in the days since his presidential campaign launched to great fanfare last week. Left-leaning Democrats have criticized O’Rourke for a string of comments made in a Vanity Fair story preceding the opening of his campaign and in his subsequent days on the trail.  Some of the remarks — such as O’Rourke’s statement to Vanity Fair, referring to the presidential race, that he was “just born to be in it” — have fanned complaints that the Texan is blinded by “white privilege.” Others have brought charges of sexism or male privilege.O’Rourke’s nonchalant quip that his wife cares for the couple’s three children “sometimes with my help” irked a number of the former Texas congressman’s critics, who saw it as belittling. Separately, O’Rourke was forced to apologize for a “really hateful” murder fantasy he penned as a teenager in which he wrote about running down children in a street. On the bright side, O’Rourke reported raising $6.1 million in his campaign’s first 24 hours, a remarkable number that suggests he can be in the Democratic battle for the long haul. But that good news has been overshadowed by the stumbles, which have signaled the enmity in some quarters of the Democratic Party for O’Rourke, while underlining questions about his readiness. “Fundraising aside, I can’t think of a worse start for a presidential candidate,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked for recent presidential campaigns and is currently unaffiliated with a campaign. The criticism is somewhat surprising given that O’Rourke last summer and fall was seen as a liberal hero as he ran against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in Texas. O’Rourke became a national figure during that campaign, and when he narrowly lost to Cruz, it immediately sparked calls for him to enter the presidential race. But that fight was in Texas, and it gave the former punk rocker an opponent in Cruz who is widely detested on the left.  In the presidential primary, O'Rourke is entering a crowded race that includes progressive heroes with their own deep wells of support, from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Much of the criticism of O’Rourke, while specific to the comments he has made, also revolve around his status as a 40-something white male running in a party increasingly leaning on minorities and women for support.  There are other white male candidates in the race, but O’Rourke is the newer-to-the-scene figure in that lane along with two of the race’s heavyweights: Sanders, who lost the Democratic primary in 2016, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is widely expected to enter the race in April. “In the heart of 'Me Too,' how is this guy anything this party represents?” said the Democratic strategist critical of O’Rourke. “He’s the opposite of progressive.” Tracy Sefl, a Democratic consultant who served as a surrogate to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, summed it up by calling it “the tyranny of bro culture.”


By Olivia Beavers

The head of the House Judiciary Committee says he is "encouraged" by the response he's received on the deadline of his panel's sprawling Trump documents request, part of its oversight investigation into President Trump's administration, campaign and businesses. "I am encouraged by the responses we have received since sending these initial letters two weeks ago," Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Monday, the deadline for the requested documents to be turned over. According to the panel's press release, many of the 81 people and entities named in the documents request have told the panel they plan to cooperate, while others have already turned over tens of thousands of documents as part of the request. "At this point, the Committee has heard from a large number of the recipients, many of whom have either sent or agreed to send documents to the Committee," the press release said. Nadler said there are others who have asked for the panel to issue a friendly subpoena so they have cover to cooperate with the committee. "It is my hope that we will receive cooperation from the remainder of the list, and will be working to find an appropriate accommodation with any individual who may be reluctant to cooperate with our investigation," the statement said. Nadler also noted last week that a "handful" of people have indicated will "fight" the request. He suggested that who they are and what information they may know will help determine whether they would be hit with a subpoena in response. Earlier this month, Nadler announced his panel had issued document requests to 81 individuals and entities as part of a sweeping investigation into Trump's campaign, businesses and administration. The probe, Nadler said at the time, is focusing on obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuses of power. The scope of Nadler's documents request is expansive, and the White House and Republicans in Congress have vilified Nadler and Democrats for their investigations, arguing they are all about politics. The committee has asked for materials related to several key events and areas of interest, including the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer, the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and payments or discussions about payments in connection with women who alleged having affairs with Trump.

The House Judiciary Committee set a Monday deadline for 81 people, government agencies, and private organizations to submit material.
By Asawin Suebsaeng, Spencer Ackerman

President Trump’s personal legal team is telling a crucial House committee seeking documents from dozens of Trumpworld associates that it has nothing to turn over–an early signal that both sides are gearing up for a confrontation. Monday is the deadline set by the House Judiciary committee for 81 people, government agencies and private organizations to voluntarily submit substantial amounts of written material relevant to a practically omnibus House Democratic investigation. The Judiciary Democrats are after far more than just the ties to Russia that their Intelligence Committee members are investigating. They want material speaking to abuses of official power, public corruption, and obstruction of justice. In what they characterized on March 4 as an opening salvo, the Judiciary Committee said that recipients of their document requests could, to facilitate production, begin turning over the material they may have already provided to the criminal investigations into Trumpworld run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. But the president’s lawyers believe they’ve got the committee caught in a logic trap. According to a source with knowledge of the response, Trump’s team of outside attorneys informed Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and his committee that they would not be handing over any documents. The brief letter, sent by Trump attorney Jane Raskin, lays out that Jay Sekulow—the Trump lawyer who received the documents request early this month—and the current team never turned over anything pertinent to the document request to Mueller’s office or the Southern District. Hence, the source said, when Nadler asked Trump’s outside counsel for such documents, the attorneys’ position is that the House Democrat was asking for something that didn’t exist. It’s not just the president’s non-White House legal team. At least one former Trump adviser has already signaled his willingness to poke Democratic lawmakers on the committee in the eye. Earlier this month, an attorney for Michael Caputo, a Republican strategist and former 2016 Trump campaign aide, sent a letter informing the Judiciary Committee that he does not plan to testify or cooperate with its inquiry. “My attorney responded to the House Judiciary document request within 24 hours—we have none of the requested documents,” Caputo told The Daily Beast on Monday. “I have testified three times under oath, answering the same questions each time, paying $20,000 to $30,000 each time. I have not yet been invited to testify a fourth time. If I am, I will decline. If I am subpoenaed, I will assert my Fifth Amendment rights. Enough is enough.” - Trump in 2016: The mob takes the Fifth. If Caputo plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right what did he do that is so incriminating? What is Caputo hiding and who might is he protecting?

Democrats are asking the FBI to probe former massage parlor owner Li “Cindy” Yang over her extensive connections with Republican figures and her alleged role in getting Chinese businessmen into political fundraisers, The Miami Herald reports. In a Friday letter, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees reportedly called for “criminal and counterintelligence investigations” into allegations of “potential human trafficking... unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities” against Yang. Yang, who often posted pictures of herself with Republican figures on social media, also reportedly arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 GOP fundraiser and is “part of a network of organizations” advocating for China to control Taiwan. She also reportedly founded the massage parlor where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paid for sexual services. While Yang has not been charged with any crimes related to the massage parlor or connections, lawmakers reportedly wrote that her access to Republican figures could enable her and others to “acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes.”

From hand jobs to grip and grins with Donald Trump, the scandal is fraught with potential for blackmail.
By David Rothkopf

If the President of the United States is letting a Chinese madam sell access at Mar-a-Lago to Chinese business people while his friends are getting serviced at businesses she started, he is making himself and the country vulnerable to massive blackmail risk. It is a textbook story of how foreign actors gain leverage over senior officials. That point should not be lost amid the eye-popping prurience that runs through this tale, tempting though that might be. We’re talking about Florida, right? It has long been established that Florida is where the crazy goes to happen in America. It is where the rich go to play, the old go to die, political candidates claim they have been abducted by aliens, and everyone seems to want to rob the local convenience store with the aid of their pet alligator. So, when a story about a billionaire being arrested at a Jupiter, Florida strip mall sex spa breaks, our reflex is to snicker and write it off as another case of too many Sunshine State UV rays. And if that story were soon to develop to reveal that the billionaire was a friend of POTUS and that the founder of the spa also was a Mar-a-Lago regular who actually ran a business selling Chinese business people access to the president and his family, we might say, “Well, take Florida and add our zany, sleazemonster of a president and what do you expect?” But don’t shrug it off. And don’t let the crazy details of the story lead you to speculate wildly about what else might be going on with Cindy Yang, Donald Trump, the Orchids of Asia massage parlor or Yang’s other venture, GY US Investments. Just take what we know now, thanks to the great reporting of the Miami Herald and Mother Jones, both of which have broken a series of important stories about this tangled web of creeps trying to make a buck in the worst ways possible: Cindy Yang founded a chain of massage parlors. One of those was busted by Florida police. Robert Kraft, owner of the perennial Super Bowl champions New England Patriots was arrested for what he allegedly did at that spa, as were other prominent men according to several reports. Set aside the gut-wrenchingly horrific details of the sex trafficking that is at the heart of this story for a moment, and you might even see a choice irony in a madam who moved on from selling hand jobs to selling grip-and-grins with a president who himself has made pimping out his high office a signature part of his job.

The retired general’s brother and sister are fanning the flames. His son is a public skeptic.
By Will Sommer

Michael Flynn’s family members appear to be at war with each other over the QAnon conspiracy theory and whether Flynn himself is playing a role in it. Flynn, who served briefly as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, became a martyr figure for QAnon believers after taking a plea deal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller for lying about his Russia contacts. Many QAnon fans, who have seized on a series of internet clues posted by the anonymous Q to imagine a world in which Trump is engaged in a secret war against high-ranking Democratic pedophiles, think Flynn is, in fact, secretly working with Mueller to help Trump defeat the deep state. The most ardent of those fans add three “star” emojis to their Twitter handles, a reference to Flynn’s status as a retired three-star general. Some even claim that Flynn himself is “Q.” “They think he’s an essential part of the story, they think that he actually didn’t do anything wrong,” said Travis View, a researcher who studies the QAnon phenomenon. Because of Flynn’s role in QAnon lore, believers of the conspiracy theory are desperate for him to confirm that QAnon is real. But Flynn has never discussed the conspiracy theory publicly. Into that void, his family members have stepped—but not with a unified voice. Instead, they’ve come down on opposite sides of the conspiracy, with his siblings Joseph Flynn and Barbara Redgate eagerly signaling support to QAnon believers, and his son Michael Flynn Jr. becoming a vocal QAnon skeptic. The family divide came into sharp focus last week, when Joseph Flynn tweeted just one letter, “Q,” prompting QAnon believers to rejoice. His Twitter mentions subsequently filled up with happy QAnon fans, who posted Q memes and “#WWG1WGA,” a reference to the conspiracy theory’s motto, “Where we go one, we go all.” Flynn later deleted the tweet, claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. But even in backing away, he gave a nod to QAnon believers, saying he may have been hacked by “the team”—a seeming reference to the theory that Q is aided by the “Q team,” a mythical group of hackers working on Trump’s behalf.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump spent the weekend venting venom at a bewildering list of targets -- even as much of the rest of the world was still trying to come to terms with a true outrage -- the carnage wrought against Muslims in New Zealand. In a stunning display of personal grievances aired on Twitter, Trump demanded the return of a supportive Fox News host who was missing from her usual spot on Saturday after verbally attacking an American Muslim lawmaker. He escalated his beyond-the-grave feud with late Sen. John McCain. He complained at being lampooned by NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Trump also fulminated against the Russia investigation, "Radical Left Democrats" and took shots at an Ohio union boss before demanding a now-closed GM plant in Ohio be reopened or sold. It isn't that it is unusual for this most unconventional of Presidents to hit out at his foes on Twitter. But this weekend's tirade came across as even more jarring given his tepid tone on Friday when he said that he didn't think white supremacy was a growing global problem after the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50. And Trump did little to follow through on a request by Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, that he show love and sympathy to all Muslims. The President's refusal to be pushed into a more vehement condemnation of white supremacists, after a history of racially charged and anti-Muslim rhetoric put the administration on the defensive. "I don't think anybody can say the President is anti-Muslim," acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said when confronted with evidence like Trump's demand to ban all Muslim immigration during the 2016 campaign and a remark that "Islam hates us." Mulvaney, speaking on CBS "Face the Nation" on Sunday pushed back on the idea that "every time something bad happens ... folks who don't like Donald Trump, blame it on Donald Trump." On "Fox News Sunday" Mulvaney said: "The President is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that."

The six deaths drew attention on social media and speculation among activists that something sinister was at play.
By Associated Press

FERGUSON, Mo. — Two young men were found dead inside torched cars. Three others died of apparent suicides. Another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose. Six deaths, all involving men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, drew attention on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister was at play. Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and that only two were homicides with no known link to the protests. But some activists say their concerns about a possible connection arise out of a culture of fear that persists in Ferguson 4 ½ years after Brown’s death, citing threats — mostly anonymous — that protest leaders continue to receive. The Rev. Darryl Gray said he found a box inside his car. When the bomb squad arrived, no explosives were found but a 6-foot python was inside. “Everybody is on pins and needles,” Gray said of his fellow activists. No arrests have been made in the two homicides. St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said witnesses have simply refused to come forward, leaving detectives with no answers for why the men were targeted. “We don’t believe either one was connected to each other,” McGuire said, but adding, “It’s tough to come up with a motive without a suspect.” Ferguson erupted in protests in August 2014 after officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown during a street confrontation. Brown was unarmed, but Wilson said he fired in self-defense when the black teenager came at him menacingly.

Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts twist the lawmaker’s comments in the montage.
By Lee Moran

Multiple Fox News hosts distorted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) latest comments about climate change in a new montage. Media Matters for America, the progressive watchdog group, released a supercut Tuesday showing the conservative network’s anchors twisting Ocasio-Cortez’s statement about young people and global warming that she made during an Instagram livestream. What the freshman lawmaker said was: “Our planet is going to be a disaster if we don’t turn this ship around, and so it’s basically, like, there’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, should ― is it OK to still have children?” However, Fox anchors including Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity put their own spin on her comments.

By Caroline Kelly and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump again attacked late Sen. John McCain Saturday -- prompting the Arizona Republican's daughter Meghan McCain to respond that "no one will ever love" Trump the way they loved her father. Trump's recent attack on McCain, who passed away in August, is the latest in his years-long offensive feud against the late senator, this time targeting McCain's ties to the controversial Russia dossier and his vote against repealing Obamacare. "Spreading the fake and totally discredited Dossier 'is unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain,'" Trump tweeted, quoting Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated then-President Bill Clinton. Starr called the dossier "a very dark stain" against McCain in an interview Saturday on Fox News, but also called McCain "a great man" and "an American hero." The comments referred to a series of memos written in 2016 by retired British spy Christopher Steele. They alleged a widespread conspiracy of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which both sides deny. The most salacious and damning allegations in the dossier remain unverified to this day. But the claims that form the bulk of the memos have held up over time, or at least proved to be partially true. McCain associate and former State Department diplomat David Kramer received copies of the dossier in 2016 and shared it with a reporter at BuzzFeed, according to court records. BuzzFeed then published the dossier in full, following CNN reports that President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump had been briefed about it. McCain denied giving the dossier to BuzzFeed in a 2017 interview with the Daily Callerbut did acknowledge providing it to the FBI. He provided a copy of the unconfirmed memos to then-FBI Director James Comey.

President Truman denounced the use of "socialism" as a "scare word ... for almost anything that helps all the people." In early 2019, several progressive Democratic politicians who were frequent headline subjects — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Sen. Bernie Senators of Vermont, and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — were often tagged by critics with the word “socialist,” used as a pejorative. At the recently concluded Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), for example, Republicans warned of “radical” Democrats “embracing socialism.” News accounts proclaimed that “Republicans are determined to paint Democrats as out-of-control, out-of-their minds socialists.” That political climate touched off the online circulation of a memetic quote from 33rd U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who purportedly fended off similar attacks on Democrats in 1952 by declaring that “socialism” was a “scare word [Republicans] have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years”

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) Once again, President Donald Trump is having a tough time calling out far right-wing white nationalism.
His response to the carnage in New Zealand, where 49 people died in an attack on two mosques, is also raising fresh questions about his attitude toward Islam following a long history of anti-Muslim rhetoric -- and about the extent to which the President has a responsibility to moderate his language given the rise in white supremacy movements across the world. On Twitter and in remarks in the Oval Office, Trump was clear in condemning the killings. But he did not deliver a message of empathy and support to American Muslims, who may feel scared as security is stepped up at US mosques. "I spoke with Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand to express the sorrow of our entire nation following the monstrous terror attacks at two mosques," Trump said in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon after first condemning the attack as "a horrible massacre in the Mosques" on Twitter. "These sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing," the President said. "We've all seen what went on. It's a horrible, horrible thing." But asked whether he saw a worrying rise in white supremacy movements around the world, Trump said he did not, blaming a small group of people "with very, very serious problems." He also told reporters that he had not seen the manifesto linked to by a social media account that's believed to belong to one of the attackers, which mentioned Trump by name and saw him as a symbol of renewed white identity. While the President did not reach out to Muslims around the world, his daughter offered the kind of language that might have been expected from a more conventional commander in chief. "We join New Zealand and Muslim communities around the world in condemnation of this evil as we pray for the families of each victim and grieve together," Ivanka Trump tweeted on Friday morning.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called the Christchurch killings a "vicious attack of hate," though she did not specifically mention that the attack was against Muslims. Trump's failure to do more to point out that the worshipers who died in Christchurch were Muslim represents a double standard, given that he has been much clearer in ascribing a religious motivation to other killings. Last year, after an attack on a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh, Trump spoke of an "anti-Semitic" motive in the attack, which itself sparked a debate over whether his inflammatory rhetoric was to blame for a rise in hate crimes. When 28 Coptic Christians died in suicide bombings in Egypt in May 2017, the President decried the "merciless slaughter of Christians" and warned that the "bloodletting of Christians must end." As a candidate, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims" entering the United States, and as President he eventually succeeded in using executive power to ban travel to the US by citizens of seven nations, five of them mainly Muslim. Trump has often been quick to wade in when a Muslim extremist has been a perpetrator of an attack and Muslims are not the victims, or to use such attacks to further his political arguments.

One day after a mass shooting in two New Zealand mosques that left 49 people dead and dozen injured, President Donald Trump said he does not see white nationalism as a rising global threat. “Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?” ABC senior national correspondent Terry Morgan asked after the president vetoed the congressional resolution to blocking his national emergency declaration on the southern border. “I don’t. I don’t really. It’s a small group of people...But it is a terrible thing,” Trump answered. The Thursday night terror attack in Christchurch, which New Zealand prime minister described as “darkest day,” has been linked to a 28-year-old man who wrote a manifesto in which he calls himself a racist. Trump is also named in the 74-page document as "a symbol of white identity." I was just in the Oval Office, and asked President Trump: “Do you see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?” Trump answered: “I don’t. I don’t really. It’s a small group of people...But it is a terrible thing.” pic.twitter.com/dzsBepRug6  — Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 15, 2019. - Trump is wrong U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.

By Sarah Mervosh
When a white newspaper editor in Alabama drew widespread condemnation for an editorial that called for the Ku Klux Klan to ride again, only to be replaced by a black woman who hoped to take the newspaper in a new direction, it seemed like a symbolic moment. The new editor and publisher, Elecia R. Dexter, said she wanted to make the newspaper, The Democrat-Reporter, more reflective of the community it serves in Linden, a small town in western Alabama that is about 59 percent white and 41 percent black. But now, after only a few weeks, Ms. Dexter has stepped down. Her departure this week, which she attributed to continuing interference from the editor she was meant to replace, complicates the future of the weekly newspaper, which was once hailed for its journalism, and reflects the thorny reality that healing from racially hurtful acts is rarely a once-and-done process. “I would have liked it to turn out a different way, but it didn’t,” Ms. Dexter, 46, said in an interview Friday. “This is a hard one because it’s sad — so much good could have come out of this.” Her predecessor, Goodloe Sutton, came under intense criticism last month after he wrote an editorial that railed against “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats” and called for the return of the most infamous white supremacist group in the nation’s history. In an interview with The Montgomery Advertiser, he went even further, suggesting that the Klan “go up there and clean out D.C.” Though The Democrat-Reporter has a circulation of only a few thousand, the editorial landed with a thud at a time when the nation was reckoning with the hurt of politicians who had worn blackface and old yearbooks containing racist slurs. Representative Terri A. Sewell, a Democrat whose congressional district includes Linden, called on Mr. Sutton to step down, and universities quickly rescinded past journalism honors given to Mr. Sutton, who had been recognized, along with his late wife, for exposing corruption in the local sheriff’s department in the 1990s. The incendiary editorial was the latest in a series of pieces in The Democrat-Reporter in recent years that were seen as racially insensitive. An editorial in May 2015 referred repeatedly to black people as “thugs.” And in 2017, during the national debate over football players kneeling in protest of police brutality, the paper published an editorial titled “Let football boys kneel.” “That’s what black folks were taught to do two hundred years ago, kneel before a white man,” it read. “Is that it? Let them kneel!” Amid the controversy last month, Mr. Sutton, 80, offered to hand the paper over to Ms. Dexter, who had been working there as an office clerk. Though she did not have journalism experience, she said she was excited about the opportunity to make a difference in the community. “People have stopped by or they saw me in the store,” she said last month. “Now they feel like it’s going to be a true reflection of everyone.” But in the weeks since, Ms. Dexter said she ran into problems with Mr. Sutton, who retained ownership of the paper, which had been in his family for decades. The U.S.-Mexico border is a daily headline. A political football. And also home to millions of people. Every week for the next few months, we'll bring you their stories, far from the tug-of-war of Washington politics. She said he emailed an altered version of the Feb. 28 issue of the paper to local news outlets and advertisers. She shared copies of both versions of the front page with The New York Times, which showed that an article about his retirement had been replaced with one defending the editorial and criticizing The Advertiser for its coverage.

By Will Yakowicz and Carter Coudriet, Forbes Staff

Les Wexner, the billionaire who controls Victoria’s Secret, didn’t go to Harvard. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1959. But he started donating to Harvard in 1989 and gave the nation’s top-ranked university $1.5 million to $2.1 million a year from 2003 to 2012. In 2013, Wexner’s charitable foundation upped its gift dramatically, donating $8.5 million to the university, as part of a long-planned building endowment. It also happened to be the year the first of his four children started as a Harvard freshman. The giving kept going. His foundation awarded $26 million to Harvard in 2014, $7 million in 2015 and $14.5 million in 2016. Wexner’s three other children enrolled at the university in 2014, 2015, and 2017. His children are no slouches—one is a second-team All-Ivy League rower, another is pursuing a graduate degree in education (at Harvard) and another attends the university’s Kennedy School of Government. But in the ultra-competitive Ivy League environment, where even the most qualified students can get rejected, having the last name “Wexner” at the university where your dad has regularly donated surely doesn’t hurt. Wexner’s monetary transfers exemplify a common billionaire behavior. Unlike those caught up in the FBI college admissions sting this week, America’s billionaires don’t have to break the law to help their children get into the best universities—they can and often do wield their legacy and money instead. And they’ve been doing so for generations. Perhaps one of the most high-profile examples of a billionaire family donating to a school before their child attended involves a member of President Donald Trump’s family. In 1998, real estate mogul Charles Kushner, a graduate of NYU, reportedly pledged $2.5 million to Harvard before his son Jared Kushner, who is now a senior advisor to his father-in-law President Trump, was admitted to the university. The Kushner episode was first reported by journalist Daniel Golden, who wrote the book “Price of Admission” about how the rich “buy” their children admission into the country’s most elite academic institutions. The Kushners have long denied the allegation.

By David Nakamura

President Trump’s claims that reduced tensions with North Korea resulting from his personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un demonstrated progress toward a nuclear deal were undercut Friday as Pyongyang lashed out at the administration’s “gangster-like” tactics and blamed his top aides for the failed summit last month. In the latest sign of mounting hostilities since disarmament talks collapsed in Hanoi, a top North Korean official also declared that leader Kim Jong Un is weighing cutting off bilateral dialogue with the United States. The threat came amid evidence that the regime had recently rebuilt a space-rocket and missile-launch site and raised doubts about the future of the negotiations. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui emphasized at a news conference in Pyongyang that the two leaders maintain a good relationship after the summit ended without a deal. And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down tensions, responding in Washington that he expected that the two sides would continue “very professional conversations.”Yet behind the scenes, Trump aides have struggled to articulate a path to bridge the wide gaps between Washington’s demands that the North fully dismantle its nuclear weapons program and Pyongyang’s insistence that the United States ease punishing economic sanctions in exchange for incremental steps.In a private briefing in Washington this week, one White House official told foreign-policy analysts that Trump’s talks with Kim last month convinced the president that the regime is unwilling to surrender its nuclear program, said Sue Mi Terry, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who attended the briefing. “What he was saying is that everybody knew North Korea would not give up its nukes, but Trump was not sure,” she said. “And, most significantly, that Trump finally gets that fact, and it’s not easily solvable.”

Pro-Trump hate groups are praising Russia and its ‘macho’ leader after the president’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
By Kelly Weill

While President Donald Trump pals around with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the U.S.’s racist right is making open overtures to Russian white supremacists. One day after Trump’s disastrous summit with Putin last week, the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group, announced that it would launch a Russian-language site. The southern secessionist group’s crush on Russia is the latest appeal by U.S. white supremacists to Russia and Putin—an alliance that has strengthened during the Trump presidency. “Russia is our friend,” a group of torch-waving racists chanted during an October rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The South will rise again.” The event was headed by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who has been stumping for Russia before Trump took office. Spencer, who advocates for “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” has promoted Russia as the kind of ethnostate he wants to create, calling it “the sole white power in the world” in 2016. Until October 2016, Spencer was married to Nina Kouprianova, a Putin apologist who translates the writings of Russian fascist Alexander Dugin. The white supremacists’ chant of “Russia is our friend. The South will rise again,” summarized several years of neo-Confederate flirtation with Russia. Despite groups like League of the South decrying “globalism,” the movement’s leaders have long looked to Russia as an ideological ally.

By Louis Jacobson

Sometimes people don’t wait for the fact-checkers to ask. Sometimes they just shout their corrections in real time. This happened on March 13, during remarks on the steps of the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. It came when Kevin Downing, the attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, addressed reporters and onlookers moments after his client had been sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to an additional 43 months in prison for illegal lobbying and hiding the proceeds. The sentencing by Jackson was Manafort’s second in just a few days. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis earlier handed down a 47-month sentence in a separate case tried in Virginia. In his remarks outside the D.C. courthouse, Downing said, "Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case. So that makes two courts. Two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russians." Observers on the scene were having none of it. "That’s not what she said!" said someone as Downing continued speaking. "You guys aren’t lawyers, man, you’re liars!" Wow -- Manafort's attorney, Kevin Downing, is shouted down outside the courthouse after he falsely claims "2 courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russians." "Liar! That's not what she said!" someone yells. pic.twitter.com/gGqdrP2ihJ — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 13, 2019. Really? We found that the hecklers were correct in saying that Downing misquoted and misinterpreted the judge’s words. (We reached out to Downing but didn’t hear back.)

By Jacob Pramuk

President Donald Trump said Friday that “there should be no” report from special counsel Robert Mueller on his Russia investigation. His comments come a day after the House unanimously passed a symbolic resolution calling for public release of the report Mueller gives to the Justice Department about his probe. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tried to bring the measure up in his chamber on Thursday, but Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., blocked it. The former FBI director is looking into the Kremlin’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Mueller is reportedly winding down the probe, which has dogged Trump at every turn since the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017. Mueller has to send his confidential conclusions to the Justice Department. Then, Attorney General William Barr will send his own report to Congress. He can decide what information to give to lawmakers or the public. In a series of tweets, Trump said the special counsel “should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report.” He also claimed Mueller’s investigation was “an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime.” “THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!” he added. Trump has repeatedly railed against the investigation, which he has called an illegal “witch hunt,” as it moves closer to him. The probe has contributed to guilty pleas from several former members of Trump’s inner circle and charges against numerous Russian nationals and companies. For instance, federal prosecutors have said Trump directed his ex-lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to commit campaign finance violations ahead of the 2016 election. They say Cohen paid off two women who claimed to have affairs with Trump in order to influence the election’s result. Cohen pleaded guilty to those charges and others after Mueller’s team referred the case to U.S. attorneys. Still, the charges against some in the president’s orbit, such as his former campaign chief Paul Manafort, did not directly relate to work for the Trump campaign. The president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) For President Donald Trump, a bad defeat is simply a spark for a future fight. The President reacted with characteristic defiance to Congress' repudiation of the national emergency declared in the cause of funding his border wall. "VETO!" he tweeted, promising to crush the insubordination of lawmakers who had tried, where many others had failed, to rein in his quest for power and contempt for constitutional norms. Trump's crisis management reveals defining attributes of this most unique of political careers: The irrepressible energy of a force of nature personality, a refusal to accept a loss and an instinctive reflex to seek a new opening. But it also showcases less positive traits, including his willingness to trample the truth for his own benefit, a selfish streak for which friendly foreign leaders sometimes pay the price and even a shockingly casual way of talking about political violence. His full political arsenal was on display in a Trumpian masterclass of a photo-op in the Oval Office Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. A historian 100 years hence could pull the tape of the 16-minute tour de force and learn everything they needed to know about the Trump presidency. Trump's behavior on Thursday offered pointers to how he will attempt to ride out political crosswinds using the unique political tools that made his late-in-life transition from business to Washington so successful. Thursday's rebuke from Congress came amid a spell that would have been disastrous for any conventional politician, as legal and congressional probes suggest tough challenges ahead as special counsel Robert Mueller's final report looms. Unusually, it also included a slap from some Republicans who have been loath to challenge their leader in the first two years of his presidency. Trump's refusal to show weakness or humility in defeat allied with a brazen, relentless temperament and an indifference to shame helps explain why he is so hard to bring down. Showing off sometimes diabolical but compelling political skills, Trump was audacious, provocative and spiteful. He made outrageous boasts about his own success and hinted at his acute sense of human nature and feral appreciation of weakness and discomfort in a political opponent. Trump also showed his indifference, or rude disregard for the political plights of allied leaders, indulged his willingness to trade in falsehoods, and betrayed his obsessions with his predecessor President Barack Obama.

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Only one in five U.S. taxpayers expect to pay less income tax this year as a result of the tax reform law passed in 2017 by Republicans who promised big savings for everyday Americans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Friday. The poll suggested that the tax overhaul, mostly geared to helping businesses, may not be as strong a 2020 campaign talking point as Republicans and President Donald Trump had hoped. Just prior to approval of the tax reform by the Republican-controlled Congress, Trump said, “This is going to be one of the great gifts to the middle-income people of this country that they’ve ever gotten for Christmas.” The tax overhaul lowered federal income tax rates for individuals as well as for corporations, but it also capped certain deductions, such as for state and local taxes, which could mean that some people will wind up paying more. The March 6-11 survey found about 21 percent of adults who had either filed their taxes or planned to said “the new tax plan that Congress recently passed” would let them pay less this year; about 29 percent said they would pay more; 27 percent said there would be no impact; 24 percent said they were not sure. The responses differed along party lines, with Republican taxpayers more likely than others to expect a tax benefit. According to the poll, about 33 percent of Republicans said they would pay less tax; 17 percent said they would pay more. Among Democrats, about 8 percent said they would pay less; about 45 percent said they would pay more. The $10,000 cap imposed on the deduction of state and local taxes, which was previously unlimited, has been seen having the greatest effect on taxpayers in high-tax states, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, which are all largely Democratic. The Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,755 people, including 1,439 who said they either “already filed” or “will file” an income tax return. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 5 percentage points.

(The Hill) Former President Reagan's budget director David Stockman told Hill.TV on Friday that the vast majority of what President Trump says about the economy is "baloney," taking aim specifically at his 2020 budget proposal. "People ought to recognize that almost everything that Trump is saying about the economy is totally baloney," Stockman, a frequent Trump critic, told hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on "Rising." "We're in deep trouble. We're at the end of a long business cycle that has been very weak, and that he's proposed a catastrophe of a fiscal plan," he continued. Stockman pinpointed Trump's proposed budget, calling the plan unrealistic. "When you look at it, it's an insult to fiscal intelligence, to say nothing of common sense," he said. "He's proposing to add $4 trillion to the deficit just in the next four years." "I think that is nuts at this late stage in the business cycle. In fact, if you look at it, it will cover month 123 to month 171 of this expansion, which began in June of 2009," he added. "The reason I dwell on that is there has never been in the history of the United States been a business cycle that lasted more than 119 months, and that was the tech boom of the 1990s." Trump's proposed budget request includes large cuts to domestic spending, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, while boosting defense spending and requesting $8.6 billion in new funding for a border wall. The budget is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled House, though it sets the stage for another shutdown battle later this year. Trump regularly touts the state of the economy under his administration, pointing to low unemployment and steady job growth.

By Kevin Breuninger

Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations,” special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing Friday. The joint report from Mueller and Gates’ attorney, which asks a federal judge for 60 more days before providing the next update on Gates’ status, comes amid increasing speculation that the special counsel’s Russia probe is coming to an end. The filing also arrives two days after Gates’ longtime business partner and former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, received his final prison sentence on charges lodged by Mueller in federal court. Gates, alongside Manafort, had initially been charged by Mueller’s prosecutors with money laundering, misleading investigators and other crimes. In February 2018, Gates struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to two criminal counts including conspiracy and lying to FBI agents. Since then, Gates appears to have cooperated extensively with Mueller’s team. His most visible role as a cooperating witness came in August, when he testified against Manafort in his tax and bank fraud trial in Virginia federal court. Manafort was convicted on eight of the 18 counts lodged against him in that case. He struck his own plea deal on the eve of a second Mueller trial in Washington, D.C., federal court. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Trump has denied collusion or any other wrongdoing.

Analysis by Lauren Dezenski, CNN

Washington (CNN)First, Donald Trump's former campaign chair was sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in federal prison for a decade's worth of financial and lobbying crimes, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. If you'll recall, these charges stem from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, though they do not involve collusion or conspiracy related to the election. Manafort's judge, Amy Berman Jackson, addressed the court today, saying Manafort "is not public enemy No. 1. He's not a victim, either." While Manafort's legal team -- and people such as President Donald Trump -- say the case proves there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Berman Jackson says that is "simply a non sequitur." And despite Manafort's apologies to the courtroom in Washington, his lawyers' arguments about the absence of any charges directly linked to collusion were "just one more thing that's inconsistent with the notion of any genuine acceptance of responsibility," Berman Jackson said. Less than an HOUR later, Manafort got a one-two punch, of sorts, when the Manhattan district attorney announced state fraud charges against him. The district attorney in New York charged Manafort with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. Manafort has not yet entered a plea in that case.

By Angelo Fichera

Q: Did House passage of H.R. 1 allow noncitizens to vote?

A: No. That bill would enact a host of changes to election laws, but it does not permit noncitizens to vote.
FULL QUESTION

Is it true that the Democrats in the House of Representatives voted for the right of illegal immigrants to vote in the US?
FULL ANSWER

When Democrats reclaimed control of the House in January, they introduced H.R. 1 — a bill number designated to signal the importance of this legislation, which is designed to combat political corruption and increase voter participation. The bill, known as For the People Act, keeps a campaign pledge from the midterm election. The bill passed the House along party lines on March 8, but it’s unlikely to move forward. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said the Republican-controlled chamber would not take it up. Even so, the measure has generated confusion among readers and social media users, where distortions and falsehoods about the bill have spread.

By Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman

Before he pleaded guilty and began assisting federal prosecutors last summer, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer, spoke with a lawyer who agreed to reach out to the president’s legal team on his behalf. The lawyer, Robert J. Costello, had about a dozen conversations with Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to emails and documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with people involved in the matter. In one email, the discussions were characterized as a “back channel of communication.” During one of the conversations last April, Mr. Costello said in an interview, he asked whether Mr. Trump might put a pardon “on the table” for Mr. Cohen, who was under federal investigation for a variety of possible crimes, including arranging hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. Mr. Giuliani told Mr. Costello that the president was unwilling to discuss pardons at that time, Mr. Costello said in the interview, and they did not discuss it again. Now federal prosecutors have requested the emails and documents from Mr. Costello, according to a copy of the request, which cited an investigation into “possible violations of federal criminal law” but offered no further detail. The request, sent last week, was for any documents related to Mr. Cohen as well as any bills Mr. Costello had sent him. In one of the emails, sent by Mr. Costello in April 2018 after a conversation with Mr. Giuliani, he assured Mr. Cohen, “Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.” He added, in a postscript: “Some very positive comments about you from the White House. Rudy noted how that followed my chat with him last night.” A spokesman for the federal prosecutors, from the United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan, declined to comment.

By Gloria Borger and Jeremy Herb, CNN

Washington (CNN) An attorney who said he was speaking with President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani reassured Michael Cohen in an April 2018 email that Cohen could "sleep well tonight" because he had "friends in high places," according to a copy of an email obtained by CNN. Two emails -- both dated April 21, 2018, and among documents provided to Congress by the President's former attorney and fixer -- do not specifically mention a pardon. Cohen, in his closed-door congressional testimony, has provided these emails in an effort to corroborate his claim that a pardon was dangled before he decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors, according to sources familiar with his testimony. But the attorney who wrote those emails, Robert Costello, told CNN that Cohen's interpretation of events is "utter nonsense." Costello said that Cohen asked him to raise the issue of a pardon with Giuliani. "Does dangled mean that he (Cohen) raised it and I mentioned it to Giuliani, and Giuliani said the President is not going to discuss pardons with anybody? If that's dangling it, that's dangling it for about 15 seconds," said Costello, who has a four-decade long relationship with Giuliani and was exploring potentially representing Cohen. "The first time I kind of danced around the issue because Michael brought it up with me and I told him, 'Look, this is way too premature. ... But if you want me to bring it up, I will bring it up.' And I did." A source with knowledge of Cohen's thinking at the time disputes Costello's version of events and insists it was Costello who was pushing his relationship with Giuliani. Another source familiar with the emails said that Trump's legal team was trying to keep Cohen in the fold as a way to keep him quiet, hinting that a pardon could be in the mix at some point. But Trump's team says it was Cohen and his lawyers who were bringing up a prospect of a pardon. The two completely contradictory narratives come as congressional committees grapple with the issue of a pardon and Cohen, specifically who initiated the pardon conversations and how far they progressed. Cohen's testimony has sparked a full-blown fight with Republicans accusing Cohen of lying when he said he "never asked for, nor would I accept" a pardon from Trump. Giuliani told CNN the emails Cohen provided to Congress weren't about pardons. "That was about Michael Cohen thinking that the President was mad at him," Giuliani told CNN. "I called (Costello) to reassure him that the President was not mad. It wasn't long after the raid and the President felt bad for him." Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney and spokesman, told CNN that he couldn't comment on the matter if it involved documents provided to the intelligence committees. "However, as a general matter from my own past experience, it is impossible to deny or try to spin your way out of what documents say. For example, Michael Cohen in his public testimony did not ask anyone to rely on what he was saying alone. He provided documents that speak for themselves to corroborate what he was saying," Davis said.

By Jordain Carney

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled on Tuesday that he is open to changing the president's national emergency powers as support grows within the GOP caucus for amending the National Emergencies Act. "We're looking at some ways to revisit the law. There's a lot of discomfort with the law. ... Was it too broad back in the '70s when it was passed? So yeah, we're discussing altering that," McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference. A growing number of Republican senators have expressed interest in amending the National Emergencies Act to make it easier for Congress to terminate a national emergency. The discussion is focused on future national emergencies but comes days before the Senate will vote on a House-passed resolution of disapproval blocking Trump's emergency declaration at the border. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is expected to introduce legislation that would require Congress to vote to approve future national emergency declarations within 30 days before they automatically expire. McConnell, asked if he would support Lee's legislation, told reporters that he "may well" back it. Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), another member of GOP leadership, has said he's co-sponsoring Lee's bill. Trump's emergency declaration has sparked an intense, lengthy debate among Republicans about separation of powers. Though Republicans largely support Trump's desire to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, they are worried about the precedent his actions could set for a future Democratic president to force through proposals on issues such as climate change and gun control. Senators say they are in talks with the White House about changes to the National Emergencies Act. Vice President Pence met earlier Tuesday with a handful of Republican senators who are undecided on the resolution of disapproval, though members of leadership have expressed skepticism that an eleventh-hour agreement would be enough sink the resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration. Even if they aren't able to get a deal, GOP senators said they expect the caucus debate over changing the National Emergencies Act will continue after this week.

By Ian Austen and Selam Gebrekidan

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jets flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia. The Federal Aviation Administration had for days resisted calls to ground the plane even as safety regulators in some 42 countries had banned flights by the jets. As recently as Tuesday, the agency said it had seen “no systemic performance issues” that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet. “The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the White House.

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 killed all 157 people on board, and took place just minutes after takeoff. In October, a 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air, an Indonesian carrier, crashed in similar circumstances and 189 people were killed. The order came hours after Canada’s transport minister said that newly available satellite-tracking data suggested similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and another accident last October. In a statement released after Mr. Trump’s announcement, the F.A.A. also cited “newly refined satellite data” as supporting the decision to ground the jets. Marc Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, had said that satellite tracing data of the vertical path of the Ethiopian jet at take off and comparable data from the Lion Air crash showed similar “vertical fluctuations” and “oscillations.”

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr.
Turns out that wealthy people including actresses, actors and business folks have been involved in a scandal that includes all kinds of crazy allegations to get their children into prestigious institutions. But it looks like the president’s son-in-law, holder of Ivanka’s hand and a security clearance he didn’t earn, was ahead of the curve. Author Daniel Golden put Jared Kushner’s game on front street in his 2006 book, The Price of Admission, where he questioned how Kushner, a mediocre student at best, was accepted to one of America’s most prestigious institutions: Harvard. “My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their underachieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations,” Golden wrote for the Guardian in 2016. “It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school, which at the time accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of 20).”

A former official at the Frisch School in Paramus, N.J., where Kushner attended, told Golden that there was no way that Kushner was going to Harvard on merits alone. “His GPA [grade point average] did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.’’ Golden wasn’t even digging up info on Kushner back in 2006 when his book was published. He was actually looking for a connection between Harvard donors and their children’s admission into the school. Golden found that out of the list of 400 donors—excluding those who  didn’t have children—half of the list had at least one child who  attended the prestigious university. Golden notes that because Big  Kushner had received jail time for tax violations, illegal campaign  donations and retaliating against a witness in 2004, they weren’t eager  to associate with him, but they didn’t have any problem taking his money  which was paid in annual installments of $250,000. So, yes, Jared Kushner is a product of wealthy parents funding his education and marrying up.

By William K. Rashbaum

Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes. News of the indictment came shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced to his second federal prison term in two weeks; he now faces a combined sentence of more than seven years for tax and bank fraud and conspiracy in two related cases brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases. While Mr. Trump has not said he intends to pardon his former campaign chairman, he has often spoken of his power to pardon and has defended Mr. Manafort on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.” Later on Wednesday, the president said, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” and that he had “not thought about” a pardon for him. The new state charges against Mr. Manafort are contained in a 16-count indictment that alleges a yearlong scheme in which he falsified business records to obtain millions of dollars in loans, Mr. Vance said in a news release after the federal sentencing. “No one is beyond the law in New York,” he said, adding that the investigation by the prosecutors in his office had “yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.” The indictment grew out of an investigation that began in 2017, when the Manhattan prosecutors began examining loans Mr. Manafort received from two banks. Last week, a grand jury hearing evidence in the case voted to charge Mr. Manafort with residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records and other charges. A lawyer for Mr. Manafort could not immediately be reached for comment. Earlier this month, Mr. Manafort, 69, was sentenced in Virginia to nearly four years in prison on one of his two federal cases, far less time than prosecutors had requested; on Wednesday, he was sentenced in Washington, D.C., to serve an additional three and a half years. He could face up to 25 years in New York state prison if convicted of the most serious charges in the new indictment, which is expected to be announced later on Wednesday.

By Matter of Fact

Native American women are murdered ten times more than non-Native women. Most disappear without a trace, leaving their families searching for justice on their own. It’s a story that has gotten very little national media attention. Some of the women whose daughters have vanished say they’ve never spoken out about their anguish before but are doing so now in the hopes of raising awareness of these crimes.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort received a total sentence of about 7 1/2 years in federal prison on Wednesday following the guilty plea in his Washington, D.C., conspiracy case. Judge Amy Berman Jackson effectively added about 3 1/2 years in prison to the sentence Manafort received last week from a different judge in the Eastern District of Virginia. Jackson said Manafort could serve some of the prison sentence at the same time he was serving in prison for his other case. But the judge in Washington ultimately increased the total amount of prison time. A federal judge in Virginia had sentenced Manafort to just under four years in federal prison and ordered that he pay $24.8 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine.

Charges in New York City
Separately on Wednesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that a grand jury in New York City had returned an indictment of its own against Manafort. Vance's statement described "a yearlong residential mortgage fraud scheme through which Manafort and others falsified business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars." The New York City case not only added to Manafort's legal woes but also multiplied them. If convicted and imprisoned in New York, a presidential pardon could not provide him clemency on the state charges. The New York City case not only added to Manafort's legal woes but also multiplied them. If convicted and imprisoned in New York, a presidential pardon could not provide him clemency on the state charges.

By Tony Platt

For the second time in a week, Paul Manafort on Wednesday will face a judge for sentencing. Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III decided President Trump’s former campaign manager deserved just 47 months in prison for defrauding banks and avoiding taxes, not the 19 to 25 years that federal guidelines called for. Now it’s U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s turn, in a separate case in which Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy involving more bank and tax fraud and assorted similar crimes. If Jackson hands out another comparatively light sentence, she’ll be right in line with the practices in most U.S. courtrooms. Corporate and financial criminals typically do not serve even one day in a prison cell. Baggy pants and a barbecue in the frontyard might get you jail time if you live in a place like Ferguson, Mo.; but, if you’re a global bank such as HSBC, laundering money for a Mexican cartel implicated in thousands of murders (among other skulduggery) yields a fine that sounds high but is actually just the equivalent to four weeks of profits. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can get you stopped, frisked and arrested — as federal investigators said the Baltimore police did to about 250,000 mostly African American suspects from 2010 to 2015. However, engaging in systematic corporate fraud against millions of clients, as the Los Angeles Times discovered Wells Fargo did, results in corner office resignations, firing of low-level employees, and fines that were more than compensated for by the Trump administration’s tax cuts. No executive did any time.

By Richard Winton
They include Hollywood actresses, former CEOs, a famed parenting book writer, a fashion icon, a Newport Beach college counselor and university athletic officials. In a college admissions scandal brought to light Tuesday, federal prosecutors allege wealthy parents paid to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools, including UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown. Here is a full list of those charged:

Christina Wilkie, White House reporter for CNBC.com, talks with Rachel Maddow about her reporting on how a Paul Manafort lie led to the discovery of an apparent kickback scheme in the Donald Trump campaign's largest PAC, and the new questions that have followed.

By Madeleine Aggeler

Today, in news items that sound like Mad Libs but aren’t, because this is simply the reality we inhabit now: Nearly 50 people have been charged with taking part in a nationwide college admissions cheating plot, including, uh … actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Justice Department officials said in a press conference in Boston on Tuesday that the case is the biggest college admissions scandal they’ve ever prosecuted. In addition to Huffman and Aunt Becky, dozens of high-powered executives also allegedly took part in the scheme, paying up to $6 million to assure their children’s acceptance to competitive universities like Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Southern California. The operation was reportedly run by a man who created a for-profit (duh) college admissions company based in Newport Beach, California, and began around 2011. According to Justice officials, parents would pay a predetermined amount of money that would go to either bribing SAT or ACT administrators into letting them alter students’ test scores (in some cases by having someone pose as the student and take the test, in other cases by correcting the students’ answers after they finish) or, it would go to bribing college athletic coaches, who would allegedly create a fake profile of the student as an athlete, regardless of their athletic ability.

While the whole story makes me feel like I’ve taken a big, heady whiff of glue, here are some of the most bizarre details so far:
Huffman seemingly shows preferential treatment to one daughter, writes “Ruh Ro!” According to the complaint, Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy (for reasons that remain unclear, he has not yet been charged) “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 … to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter. Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.” Hm, is it more upsetting to find out your mother is facing federal charges for cheating to get you into college, or more upsetting to find out that your mother is facing federal charges for cheating to get your sister into college, and not you? She also used the phrase “Ruh Ro!” in an email.

By Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff
The Trump administration is preparing to shutter all 21 international offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a move that could slow the processing of family visa applications, foreign adoptions and citizenship petitions from members of the military. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said in an email to staff Tuesday that he is working to transfer those duties — now performed by employees worldwide — to domestic offices and the State Department’s embassies and consulates. He wrote that if the State Department agrees, the agency would move to close its international field offices in coming months “in an effort to maximize our agency’s finite resources.” “I believe by doing so, we will better leverage our funds to address backlogs in the United States while also leveraging existing Department of State resources at post,” he wrote. “Change can be difficult and can cause consternation. I want to assure you we will work to make this as smooth a transition as possible for each of our USCIS staff while also ensuring that those utilizing our services may continue to do so and our agency operations continue undisrupted.” The shift will ripple to offices in New Delhi, Port-au-Prince, Rome and numerous other cities where the agency has offices that handle emergencies, smooth backlogs in immigration petitions, and provide direct information in foreign languages. USCIS foreign offices also investigate fraud. Generally, the offices facilitate applications from potential immigrants to the United States; closing the offices would reassign about 70 USCIS staffers across the world who the agency’s website says provide “valuable information services” and solve a wide array of problems, from aiding someone who lost their green card to helping widows of American citizens and members of the military obtain legal documents.

By Dale Kasler and Michael McGough

William Rick Singer, the man at the heart of the nationwide college admissions scandal that exploded Tuesday, appears to have gotten his start in the business helping high school kids in the Sacramento area. Singer, 59, identified in court papers as formerly of Sacramento and Newport Beach, was indicted by federal prosecutors in Boston on charges of running an elaborate scheme to bribe university admissions officers. Prosecutors also said he arranged for phony test takers to take the ACT and SAT college admission tests on behalf of the children of his clients. According to the indictment, parents paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have the front take the admissions tests. In one instance, the tests were taken at a school in Los Angeles; in another, the test was administered in Houston. According to a rival college-prep consultant in the Sacramento area, Singer was well-known on the college-prep circuit, steering high school juniors and seniors through the application process. “For a long time, he was the go-to person in Sacramento,” this consultant said. She agreed to speak only on condition on anonymity.

By Justin Wise

Former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie predicted that Democratic lawmakers will eventually move to impeach President Trump.  "I see that's where these Democrats are headed," Bossie, who remains part of Trump's orbit, said on ABC News's podcast, "The Investigation" on Tuesday. "We are headed to impeachment." Bossie made the comments in response to being asked whether he thought the White House was prepared for a possible onslaught of investigations from House Democrats.  "I would say you're never ready enough," Bossie said. "I'm just a guy who wants to make sure that you control every aspect of everything. So you know what's coming. You see around corners." "So do I think the White House is ready? From a staff standpoint — I would say no, today," he added. "Do I believe they are in the process of getting ready? Yes." Bossie spoke about the possibility of Trump's impeachment after talking with Republican House minority leaders, according to ABC News.  The former Trump campaign official said he told the lawmakers to get a "bigger staff and a bigger budget" as a way to prepare for potential investigations.

By Ben Mathis-Lilley

Nearly 50 people, including actress Felicity Huffman, have been charged in a college admissions bribery and cheating scheme that federal authorities say involved parents paying large sums to a middleman who helped their kids get into college by cheating on the SATs and attaining other fraudulent credentials. Huffman, it turns out, once sent a tweet that could now be read ironically in light of the allegations, and one of the people who took the opportunity to “dunk” on her tweet was our president’s son Donald Trump Jr. I’m learning some new ones as we speak. Stay tuned. https://t.co/ftJjYtMUxt. — Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 12, 2019. It’s been reported that Donald Trump Senior’s admission into the University of Pennsylvania (he transferred from Fordham) was facilitated by an admissions officer who got him in as a favor to his older brother.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Washington (CNN)The New York attorney general's office issued subpoenas on Monday to two banks for records relating to the funding of several Trump Organization projects, The New York Times reported. Citing an unnamed source briefed on the subpoenas, the Times reported that the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James opened a new inquiry based on the testimony of Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen before Congress last month. The inquiry is a civil investigation, not a criminal probe, the Times said, adding that its scope and focus were unclear. Cohen testified that Trump inflated his assets and presented copies of financial statements he said were provided to Deutsche Bank. Investigators requested financial records from the German lender related to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the Trump National Doral outside Miami, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, and an unsuccessful effort to buy the NFL Buffalo Bills, the Times reported. Investors Bank, based in New Jersey, "was subpoenaed for records relating to Trump Park Avenue" in Manhattan, the Times said. CNN has reached out to the New York attorney general's office and Investors Bank. Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Deutsche Bank is already the subject of a joint investigation between the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees into Trump's businesses and money laundering involving Russia.

Members of the military, HIV testing and border security fare well; not so favored are health programs, farmers and food stamp recipients.
By JENNIFER SCHOLTES

The Trump administration's fiscal 2020 budget proposal won't become law, but the "Budget for a Better America" does make clear which programs the president backs and which ones are on the outs. Members of the military, HIV testing and border security fare well; not so favored are health programs, farmers and food stamp recipients. Here are some nuggets from the budget:

The scheme involved students who attended or were seeking to attend Georgetown University, Stanford University, Yale and other top colleges.
By Tom Winter, Pete Williams, Julia Ainsley and Rich Schapiro

Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among at least 40 people charged in a $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday. The alleged scheme focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment unsealed in Boston. Loughlin, best known for her role in the sitcom "Full House," and Huffman, who starred in the ABC hit show "Desperate Housewives," were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. The FBI recorded phone calls involving the celebrities and a cooperating witness, according to the criminal complaint. Representatives for Loughlin and Huffman did not immediately return requests for comment. The plot involved students who attended or were seeking to attend Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale, according to federal prosecutors. There's no indication that the schools were involved in any of the wrong-doing. In all, 44 people, some of them college coaches, have been charged thus far.

Associated Press

LEWISTON, Maine — The mayor of Maine’s second-largest city resigned Friday in the wake of a controversy over his leaked text messages, one of which included a racist remark, and authorities confirmed he’s being investigated by the state attorney general’s office and the city police. Republican Shane Bouchard stepped down as Lewiston’s mayor effective immediately. Text messages made public by a woman who said she had an affair with Bouchard when he was a mayoral candidate revealed a racist remark he sent her while the two were working to undermine a political opponent. The woman, Heather Berube Everly, has said that she was the source of emails the Maine GOP used to attack Democratic opponent Ben Chin. A website created by Maine Republican Party leader Jason Savage published emails from Chin’s campaign, including one in which Chin said he’s run into “a bunch of racists.” Bouchard went on to defeat Chin in the December 2017 runoff. The Sun Journal reported Everly has now made public more than 150 text exchanges with Bouchard. In one, Bouchard describes elderly black people as “antique farm equipment.” Bouchard apologized after the texts became public. He said he says “stupid things and stupid jokes occasionally.” He then held a brief press conference on Friday in which he said he’s “not a perfect person” and blamed the news media in part for his troubles. “It has become clear to me that the media does not acknowledge personal space and reports on nothing more than rumor in many cases. In this political climate where the media does not discriminate between fact and rumors, it is hard to be a public figure,” he said. The investigation division of the Office of the Attorney General is working with the Lewiston Police Department on an investigation of the allegations against the now-former mayor, said Marc Malon, a spokesman for the office. He declined to comment further. City Council President Kristen Cloutier will take over as mayor until the election in November. She also said she doesn’t plan to run for the office. Cloutier said she’d heard some of the rumors concerning Bouchard’s campaign. “The campaign was fraught with those rumors. A lot of people had heard some of them,” she said. Bouchard has described the allegations of his affair with Everly as a rumor that was dealt with months ago. Everly hasn’t responded to e-mails seeking comment. The Lewiston Republican City Committee said in a statement Friday that it “offers its prayers to the mayor, his family, the Lewiston City Council, city officials, citizens and neighbors.”

The special counsel isn’t only looking for crimes: He continues the counterintelligence investigation that started with suspicious Trump-Russia contacts in 2016.
By Nelson W. Cunningham

Breathless media alerts notwithstanding, there is reason to be skeptical that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report is imminent. There are just too many loose ends, including the just-begun Roger Stone prosecution and the not-yet-finished litigation over “Corporation A” and other grand jury witnesses, not to mention the glaring absence of any testimony yet from Donald Trump himself. There may certainly be signs the Mueller investigation is entering its final phases—just not this week. Still, it’s clearly time to consider the shape of what Mueller will produce as he finishes. The reporting requirements of the special counsel regulations have been exhaustively picked over. What must Mueller report to the attorney general? What may the attorney general do with the report? Will Congress and the public ever see it? The ins and outs of the special counsel report regulations played a significant role in Attorney General William Barr’s January confirmation hearings. But we may be focusing on the wrong report. There may in fact be two Mueller reports. This is because from the very beginning, Mueller has worn two hats and borne two missions relating to the Russia investigation. The most public and familiar one is as a criminal investigator under the special counsel regulations. But Mueller has also carried a second charge, as a counterintelligence expert, with a much broader charge to determine and report the scope of any interference and any links to the Trump campaign—what Trump himself might refer to as “collusion.” In March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the Russia investigation was commenced “as part of our counterintelligence mission . . . also includ[ing] an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s May 17, 2017 order appointing Mueller special counsel specifically and carefully incorporated this announced scope and mission. From the start, then, Mueller has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation, while “also” assessing whether any crimes were committed. Not the other way around.

By Aris Folley

President Trump directed his former chief of staff John Kelly to “get rid of” Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner shortly after the general joined the White House, and send them back to New York, according to the revelations in a new book. “Kushner Inc.” claims that Trump wanted Kelly to remove his son-in-law and his eldest daughter from the White House because his children “didn’t know how to play the game,” the books states, according to a report by The New York Times on Monday. According to The Times, the book authored by journalist Vicky Ward claims Trump used to complain about his children generating waves of negative press. Kelly allegedly told Trump at the time that it would be difficult to fire his children but later agreed with Trump they “would make life difficult enough to force the pair to offer their resignations,” The Times reported.  Associates familiar with the matter told The Times that the pair have since outlasted those plans and added that the president’s desire for his children to leave the White House has “come and gone in waves.” Kelly resigned as chief of staff last December. Since his resignation, both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have gained influence. Kushner even scored a legislative victory last year with the passage of a criminal justice reform bill he had championed.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN)The only thing worse than the near extinction of press briefings in the Trump White House might be actually having a briefing.
In her first appearance behind her iconic podium in 42 days, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Monday did nothing to answer questions boiling up about President Donald Trump, the administration and associated scandals during her long absence. But Sanders was more than happy to use reporters' questions to spread the latest toxin injected into Washington's political bloodstream by the President -- the ideas that Democrats want to kill babies and they hate Jews. Pressed for answers in her first briefing since Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen's blockbuster testimony on Capitol Hill, Sanders deflected on explosive new details about Trump's hush money payments to women before the 2016 election. "I'm not aware of those specific, uh, checks," Sanders said. She also couldn't say when the President will install a permanent defense secretary -- at a time when the US remains at war across the globe. "When the President's ready to make an announcement on that front, he certainly will," said Sanders, who was preceded at the podium by Acting Budget Director Russell Vought. She dodged answering about claims Trump had tried to use the Justice Department to block the AT&T merger with Time Warner, the parent company of CNN -- a possible abuse of power. "I'm not aware of any conversations around that matter," she told CNN's Jim Acosta. But she quickly took the chance to reignite controversy over Trump's comment last week that Democrats are an "anti-Jewish party" following remarks critical of Israel's American supporters by Muslim Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. "Frankly, I think you should ask Democrats what their position is," Sanders said, seizing on a chance to deepen divides between the Democratic leadership and a Washington neophyte who was chastised by her party bosses.

By Katie Rogers

WASHINGTON — On Friday, the White House announced that Karen Pence, the second lady, would lead a delegation to the United Arab Emirates in support of disabled American athletes at the Special Olympics. On Monday, the White House’s budget proposed striking $17.6 million in grants to expand the event. What a difference a few days can make. The Trump administration’s annual budget proposal on Monday envisioned a series of cuts that contrasted with the president’s own words of support for both programs and people — including some groups that make up his political base. To help make way for more military and border spending, it would slash programs large and small, from Medicaid and Medicare — which President Trump as a candidate promised to protect — to safety nets for farmers. Democrats, who control the House, immediately announced the budget proposal dead on arrival, and many of its ideas stand little chance of passing Congress. But it lays down a marker that could help chart the political course ahead, albeit a course that sometimes seems at odds with Mr. Trump’s own pronouncements. Here are a few of the more visible contradictions:

Cuts That Would Affect Farmers.
On Twitter and in speeches, Mr. Trump has made much of the bright future he believes he is securing for farmers. “We’ve had so many good weeks and good days,” Mr. Trump said at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention in January, “and it’s only going to get better because we’re doing trade deals that are going to get you so much business, you’re not even going to believe it.” But America’s farmers, a key component of the president’s base and a group suffering the effects of his trade war with China, could be among those the budget would squeeze: The White House wants to ax 15 percent, or $3.6 billion, from the Agriculture Department’s budget. According to budget documents, officials plan to “efficiently use taxpayer resources” to find savings by eliminating “overly generous subsidy programs” and examining other safety nets.

By John Hudson

The Trump administration has taken a harder-line approach to denuclearizing North Korea since the summit in Vietnam last month, raising doubts about whether the two sides will reach a deal on the centerpiece of President Trump’s foreign policy. In remarks Monday, a top U.S. envoy said the United States would not lift sanctions on North Korea until it completely dismantles its nuclear and ballistic missiles. The United States is also seeking an end to Pyongyang’s chemical and biological weapons, he said. “We are not going to do de­nuclearization incrementally. The president has been clear on that,” Stephen Biegun, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea, said at a forum hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Biegun added that there was “complete unity” inside the Trump administration on that approach. North Korea has long insisted that any steps it takes to denuclearize must be met with corresponding measures from the United States, including relief from economic sanctions. The Trump administration’s apparent rejection of that approach has left analysts baffled over where the two sides might find room to negotiate an eventual deal. “If we’re going to stay firm on the maximalist position, it’s hard to see where we go from here because there’s no way Kim is going to accept this,” said Vipin Narang, a North Korea expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In advance of Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, U.S. negotiators considered a more modest deal that would trade some sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, said diplomats familiar with the negotiations.

Analysis: The president said he'd eliminate the debt. Instead, he borrowed trillions more. But he's betting the red ink won't stain him in 2020.
By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's budget is the confession of a broken promise. As a candidate, Trump famously vowed to eliminate the national debt in eight years. But under the spending blueprint he released Monday — which has "promises kept" in its title — the federal government wouldn't start paying down debt for 15 years. Until then, even under the rosy projections of Trump's budget-writers, Washington would run annual deficits adding to a red-ink total that already stands at more than $22 trillion. Of course, Trump's initial promise was fantastical. But his tax cuts and defense buildup ushered in a new era of trillion-dollar annual deficits. His own budget projects that next year's deficit will weigh in at $1.1 trillion. That's despite calling for massive cuts to entitlement programs, headlined by a plan to force recipients of Medicaid, food stamps and federal housing subsidies to work or otherwise engage in their communities. There was no way, given the state of the national debt or of his preferred policies, that Trump could begin to entertain the idea that he would be able to campaign in 2020 on having kept the promise that he would eliminate the national debt.

Instead, what he's setting up to do with this budget is fight with — and blame — members of Congress as he frames his re-election message. The fiscal failure is their fault because they didn't follow his lead, his allies say. "Congress just hasn’t been willing to play ball," Russ Vought, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Monday at a White House press conference. The deficits in Trump's early years in office were necessary, Vought said, "to get the economy going," which was essentially the reasoning for the deficit-financed Obama stimulus plan a decade ago. Now, administration officials and Trump allies say, it's time for Congress to make trade-offs that reflect Trump's priorities. Democrats say he's asking them to harm the poor and the middle-class to maintain low tax rates for individuals and corporations and to continue building up the Pentagon at the expense of non-defense agencies, which would see a 5 percent cut in discretionary spending. "The cruel and shortsighted cuts in President Trump’s budget request are a roadmap to a sicker, weaker America," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "House Democrats will reject this toxic, destructive budget request which would hollow out our national strength and fail to meet the needs of the American people."

By Science News Staff

For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump’s administration has unveiled a budget request to Congress that calls for deep spending cuts at many federal science agencies, including a 13% cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a 12% cut for the National Science Foundation (NSF), while providing hefty increases for the military. But the $4.7 trillion request for the 2020 fiscal year that begins 1 October, released today, is already drawing bipartisan pushback from lawmakers in Congress and—as with past Trump administration requests—many of the cuts are unlikely to be enacted into law. The president’s science adviser, Kelvin Droegemeier, calls the request “an important down payment on America’s future.” A statement from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which he leads, says the president’s budget “promotes responsible spending [by] prioritizing high-impact programs that have been shown to be effective.” The OSTP statement cites artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science, wireless 5G communications, and advanced manufacturing as administration priorities. It says the request would allocate $850 million for AI development and $430 million for quantum science across several agencies. But it’s impossible to tell whether that level of investment is higher or lower than current spending. What is clear, however, is that those investments would be part of a diminished federal research enterprise. The OSTP statement says the president’s 2020 request represents an overall federal investment of $134 billion in R&D. That figure, if enacted, would be 11% lower than the estimated $151.5 billion being spent this year on R&D. Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS (which publishes ScienceInsider) in Washington, D.C., says a reduction of that magnitude “would derail our nation’s science enterprise.” The president’s 2020 budget doesn’t match the administration’s rhetoric on the importance of research in preserving a healthy U.S. economy, says Holt, who calls on Congress to reverse the cuts, as it has done since Trump took office.

By JANIE HAR Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ernest Quintana's family knew he was dying of chronic lung disease when he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, unable to breathe. But they were devastated when a robot machine rolled into his room in the intensive care unit that night and a doctor told the 78-year-old patient by video call he would likely die within days. "If you're coming to tell us normal news, that's fine, but if you're coming to tell us there's no lung left and we want to put you on a morphine drip until you die, it should be done by a human being and not a machine," his daughter Catherine Quintana said Friday. Ernest Quintana died Tuesday, two days after being taken to the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center emergency department in Fremont. Michelle Gaskill-Hames, senior vice president of Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County, called the situation highly unusual and said officials "regret falling short" of the patient's expectations.But the hospital also defended its use of telemedicine and said its policy is to have a nurse or doctor in the room at the time of remote consultations. "The evening video tele-visit was a follow-up to earlier physician visits," Gaskill-Hames said in a written response. "It did not replace previous conversations with patient and family members and was not used in the delivery of the initial diagnosis." Hospital officials say the technology doesn't replace in-person conversations with the patient and loved ones. Granddaughter Annalisia Wilharm, 33, was alone with Quintana when a nurse popped in to say a doctor would be making his rounds. A robot rolled in and a doctor appeared on the video screen. Wilharm figured the visit was routine. She was astonished by what the doctor started saying. "This guy cannot breathe, and he's got this robot trying to talk to him," she said. "Meanwhile, this guy is telling him, 'So we've got your results back, and there's no lung left. There's no lung to work with.'" Wilharm said she had to repeat what the doctor said to her grandfather, because he was hard of hearing in his right ear and the machine couldn't get to the other side of the bed. "So he's saying that maybe your next step is going to hospice at home," Wilharm is heard saying in a video she recorded of the visit. "Right?" "You know, I don't know if he's going to get home," the doctor says.

Thom Patterson, CNN

(CNN) Two  US airlines fly the 737 MAX 8 -- the type of jet that crashed last year  in Indonesia killing 189 people and on Sunday in Ethiopia killing all  157 on board. American  Airlines -- which flies 24 of the new planes -- said in a statement to  CNN on Monday that it is monitoring the investigation in Ethiopia and  following last year's Federal Aviation Administration directive after the crash in Indonesia of Lion Air Flight 610. The  airline "continues to collaborate with the FAA and other regulatory  authorities" and it has "full confidence in the aircraft," the statement  said. The crashes  of two new jets during such a short time period has focused  extraordinary attention on the 737 MAX 8, its operators and national  regulators -- so much so that Ethiopian Airlines, China and Indonesia have grounded all planes of that type, nationwide. In the Caribbean, Cayman Airways has decided to ground its 737 MAX 8s. Southwest  -- which includes 34 737 MAX 8s in its fleet -- said in a statement it  doesn't plan to change its operational policies or procedures and it  remains confident in the safety of its entire fleet. "We  have been in contact with Boeing and will continue to stay close to the  investigation as it progresses," Southwest said in the statement.

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business)In the same week that Fox News is holding a big event for advertisers to promote its news brand, the network is battling multiple controversies about offensive remarks made by its right-wing hosts. In one of the cases, Fox is distancing itself from Jeanine Pirro's remarks about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's Islamic religious beliefs. But so far the network is not commenting on the case involving Tucker Carlson, who was called out by a progressive group for a history of misogynistic comments about women. In the years before Carlson became a Fox host, he called into the "Bubba the Love Sponge" radio show and delighted the shock jock by saying all sorts of crude things. Media Matters for America, a progressive press watchdog which campaigns against Fox, obtained and published some of the audio clips on Sunday. "During those conversations, Carlson diminished the actions of Warren Jeffs, then on the FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted Fugitives' list for his involvement in arranging illegal marriages between adults and underage girls, talked about sex and young girls, and defended statutory rape," Media Matters wrote. The radio segments are from 2006 to 2011. In one of the clips, Carlson said of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, "I feel sorry for unattractive women. I mean, it's nothing they did, you know. Nobody deserves that. And men are just mean." He spoke about a colleague at the time, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, as "saucy and cute." He described Hillary Clinton as "anti-penis" and said "you look at Hillary and you know in your heart that if she could castrate you, she would." The list goes on.

Republicans' estimates that the climate plan would cost $93 trillion are based on a think tank study that doesn't endorse that total.
By ZACK COLMAN

Republicans claim the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion — a number that would dwarf the economic output of every nation on Earth.
The figure is bogus. But that isn’t stopping the eye-popping total from turning up on the Senate floor, the Conservative Political Action Conference and even “Saturday Night Live” as the progressive Democrats’ sweeping-yet-vague vision statement amps up the political conversation around climate change. The number originated with a report by a conservative think tank, American Action Forum, that made huge assumptions about how exactly Democrats would go about implementing their plan. But the $93 trillion figure does not appear anywhere in the think tank’s report — and AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin confessed he has no idea how much exactly the Green New Deal would cost. “Is it billions or trillions?” asked Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “Any precision past that is illusory." The Green New Deal isn’t even a plan yet — at the moment it’s a non-binding resolution that calls for major action to stop greenhouse gas pollution while reducing income inequality and creating "millions of good, high-wage jobs." But top Republicans have embraced the $93 trillion price tag, using it to argue that the climate plan would bankrupt the United States. Democrats say Republicans are using the number to try to dodge responsibility for decades of denying climate science, while the White House continues to disregard the evidence linking human activity to rising temperatures and extreme weather. To come up with the $93 million total, Republicans added together the cost estimates that the AAF report's authors had placed on various aspects of a Green New Deal platform. Most of those were based on assumptions about universal healthcare and jobs programs rather than the costs of transitioning to carbon-free electricity and transportation. “There’s a race for think-tankers, analysts and academia to be the first to come up with a number, and you can see why — look at how many people latched onto that $93 trillion number,” said Nick Loris, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “A lot of times you just see the number and you don’t get a lot of the backstory behind the number.”

‘The fact is they work at a place that has done tremendous damage to this country,’ the CNN president said at SXSW.
By Matt Wilstein

AUSTIN, Texas—After the Democratic National Committee said it would not be granting a Democratic primary debate to Fox News during the 2020 cycle, the network put out a statement that read in part, “We hope the D.N.C. will reconsider its decision to bar Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, all of whom embody the ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism, from moderating a Democratic presidential debate.” CNN president Jeff Zucker isn’t buying it. During a Q&A with Vanity Fair media reporter Joe Pompeo at the South by Southwest festival on Saturday, Zucker said it’s not like networks have a “right” to host debates. “I think the consternation about this is a little misplaced,” he said. “They don’t have to give one to CNN, they don’t have to give one to NBC. They have no obligation to give one to Fox.” Calling Fox a “propaganda” outlet, Zucker said, “I think the question should be, is Fox state-run TV or is the White House state-run government by Fox TV?” As for Fox News’ response singling out its more legitimate news anchors, Zucker said, “They chose to work at Fox and they don’t get to hide behind the fact that they’re excellent journalists or anchors. The fact is they work at a place that has done tremendous damage to this country.”

By Julian Zelizer, CNN Political Analyst

(CNN) Congresswoman Ilhan Omar took a shot against former President Barack Obama. During an interview with Politico, the controversial congresswoman was critical of Obama for working within a broken system, pointing to his immigration and drone policies as examples of when Democrats in the past made huge errors that created the path to the problems of today. Omar was quoted as saying: "We can't be only upset with Trump. ... His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was." She also said, "And that's not what we should be looking for anymore. We don't want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile." Importantly, Omar did distinguish what President Trump has done from his predecessor. Everything is not the same. But her bigger point is a familiar argument that we have heard from the left, including from Bernie Sanders in 2016, that unless there are structural changes in public policy and the organization of government, the differences that will result from one party or the other controlling the branches of government will be limited. Having younger members criticize party elders is not new, nor is it always a bad thing. Throughout American history, generational change within Congress has produced fresh voices who are willing to say tough things about revered senior party leaders. President Franklin Roosevelt came under fire from liberals who thought he didn't go far enough to reform capitalism, while civil rights advocates often felt that President Lyndon Johnson was too timid on racial justice and too invested in a bad war in Vietnam. This kind of criticism, no matter how unpleasant, can have beneficial effects by pushing new ideas that make the party stronger and, if successful, help the nation improve. But historically, there is always a danger that the left goes too far in flattening any differences between its own party and its opponents. This was the kind of thinking that produced support for Ralph Nader's third-party campaign in 2000. "The only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock," Nader said during a stop in the 2000 campaign. The danger of this logic is that the mavericks unintentionally dampen the enthusiasm of younger voters whose energy and ideas will be essential to victory. This "Tweedledee" and "Tweedledum" world view can cause some to miss the fundamental issues that are at stake.

Every House Democrat voted for a broadly worded resolution condemning “hateful expressions of intolerance,” but 23 Republicans voted no.
By Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson

WASHINGTON — The House passed a resolution on Thursday that condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. The resolution, written by House Democrats, began as an implicit response to comments made by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, that were widely deemed anti-Semitic, but when some Democrats objected to singling her out, the resolution was broadened to condemn other forms of hatred. Earlier this year, House Republicans unanimously endorsed a resolution that condemned white nationalism and white supremacy after Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, asked when the term “white supremacy” had become controversial, capping years of bigoted comments that had gone unpunished. This time, they were not so united, and some Democrats demanded to know why. Where’s the outrage over the 23 GOP members who voted NO on a resolution condemning bigotry today? Oh, there’s none? Did they get called out, raked over, ambushed in halls and relentlessly asked why not? No? Okay. Got it. — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 8, 2019. Here is their answer: “The frustration on the Republican side was that they watered down the amendment,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, said at a news conference on Friday. (Mr. McCarthy voted for the resolution; one of his top lieutenants, Representative Liz Cheney, voted against it.)

By John Wagner

As part of an ongoing effort to convince the public that his campaign did not collude with Russia, President Trump on Friday dramatically misrepresented comments made by the judge who presided over the sentencing of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort was sentenced to nearly four years in prison on Thursday for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud. The case was prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office but was unrelated to his core mission of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. During Thursday’s proceedings in a courtroom in Alexandria, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III noted the distinction, saying that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.” In a tweet and later when talking to reporters, Trump incorrectly suggested that Ellis’s comments had cleared his campaign of wrongdoing. “Both [Manafort’s] lawyer, a very respected man, and a highly respected judge, the judge said there was no collusion with Russia,” Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to Alabama to view tornado damage. Trump said he was “very honored” by the judge’s words, adding: “It’s a collusion hoax. It’s a collusion witch hoax. I don’t collude with Russia.” A tweet sent earlier Friday morning sought to make the same point.     Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia. But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019. “Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia,” Trump wrote. “But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!” Trump’s tweet and comments to reporters referenced Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing, who told reporters outside the courthouse that “there is absolutely no evidence Paul Manafort worked in collusion with any government official from Russia.” Trump’s tweet prompted immediate pushback from lawmakers, including Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). “This case doesn’t prove there was no collusion because that wasn’t the subject of the trial,” King said during an appearance on CNN. At a trial last year, Manafort was found guilty of hiding millions he made lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians in overseas bank accounts, then falsifying his finances to get loans when his patrons lost power. Prosecutors highlighted his lavish lifestyle, saying his crimes were used to pay for high-end clothes and multiple properties.

By Alexandra Hutzler

Before Donald Trump was even confirmed as the Republican Party’s nominee for the White House in the summer of 2016, he was besieged with threats of impeachment for his rabble-rousing rhetoric on the campaign trail. Then he actually became president. Now, just over two years since he entered the Oval Office, calls for his removal are verging on deafening. Billionaire activist Tom Steyer has promised to spend a further of $40 million in order to get rid of Trump in an effort to flood the airwaves and the halls of Congress. A newly elected Democratic representative, just hours after being sworn into Congress, enthusiastically told her supporters that “We’re going to impeach this motherf***er.” Just this week another Democrat insisted that impeachment must begin before the country gets distracted by the necessity of the 2020 election. Even a man who once proudly exclaimed that he'd take a bullet for Trump couldn’t hold back on the alleged criminality of his former boss. “He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Trump's former lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen told lawmakers, under penalty of perjury, in incendiary testimony on Capitol Hill last week. The accusation was enough to put impeachment advocates into a tailspin.  But Harvard Law constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe wants people to know that impeachment can be a double-edged sword. “Impeachment is neither a magic wand nor a doomsday device,” Tribe writes in his book To End a Presidency, which hit shelves last year and got a paperback release featuring a new epilogue this week. "Instead, it is an imperfect and unwieldy constitutional power that exists to defend democracy from tyrannical presidents." The book, written with attorney Joshua Matz, offers a guide to the process of removing a president from office, the potential consequences and what role impeachment plays in our current state of partisan politics.

By Julie Small

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. government to identify thousands more migrant families separated at the border before the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy was announced in 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw's ruling vastly expanded the number of migrant families potentially eligible for relief under a federal class action lawsuit that challenged the legality of the practice, and ultimately banned further family separation. On June 26 of last year, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the affected families. At the time, the government was holding some 2,800 children separated from parents in shelters nationwide. Since the June ruling, immigration officials have reunited nearly all of those children with parents, or released them to relatives or sponsors in the U.S. In his order expanding the class, Sabraw cited a recent report by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that found the government had initiated family separations at least a year earlier than the court knew. The inspector general said, "thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court." The IG's investigation also revealed that inconsistent record keeping of those separations meant there was no way to know the total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities. Attorneys with the ACLU who represent migrant parents called the OIG's report a bombshell.

By Deanna Paul

Since taking control of the House, Democrats have launched wide-ranging investigations into President Trump, his campaign, his administration and his family business operations. Republicans in Congress have criticized the moves as part of an effort to disrupt Trump’s presidency and argued that they cover the same ground as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe. But by conducting their own investigations, Democrats are taking the exact course of action two of Trump’s most prominent nominees previously proposed. During Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Brett M. Kavanaugh and William P. Barr argued that waiting on the counsel’s report would be an abdication of Congress’s constitutional duty. Both men unequivocally supported rigorous congressional oversight apart from — or perhaps even instead of — a counsel investigation. But with Trump in office, Republicans have spent two years defying that very argument. “When Congress learns of a serious allegation against a president, it must quickly determine whether the president is to remain in office,” Kavanaugh wrote for The Washington Post in a piece that ran Feb. 26, 1999, under the headline “First Let Congress Do Its Job.” Kavanaugh, then a top lawyer for the Starr investigation, was averse to the idea of a badly behaved president and the independent counsel statute. For Congress to sit idly by and defer to the counsel’s investigation, he said, is “not what the Constitution contemplated.” “There simply was no need for this mess to have occupied the country for 13 months,” Kavanaugh suggested, because Congress could have “gotten to the truth” much faster.

By Benjamin Goggin

Earlier this week, The New Yorker reported that former Fox News editor Ken LaCorte killed former Fox News reporter Diana Falzone's story about Donald Trump's hush money payments to adult actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. Jane Mayer reported that LaCorte told Falzone, "Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert [Murdoch] wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go." LaCorte has denied the veracity of this aspect of Mayer's reporting and told Business Insider he was joining Falzone's call for Fox News to lift the non-disclosure agreement. He also said "at least two other editors that were involved" who still work at Fox News, and who he believes may be under NDA. "I would love to have a full discussion about it in lieu of anonymous leaks and sniping lawyers," LaCorte said via email, referring to a statement released by Falzone's attorney on Saturday that similarly called to lift Falzone's NDA while also accusing LaCorte and Fox New media reporter Howard Kurtz of defamation.  On Friday, LaCorte published his own account of killing the story on Mediaite, writing that it was shot down because of a lack of evidence and proper sourcing rather than because of political bias or concerns pertaining to Murdoch. Kurtz has repeated those claims on Fox News. In response to a question about Falzone's call to lift her NDA, LaCorte said, "I 100% support Diana Falzone being allowed to talk about this incident. I'd go further and encourage the company to allow the other editors who worked on this story to speak publicly and to release all correspondence related to it." Fox News did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. Mayer cites a single unnamed, secondhand source in her discussion about what LaCorte told Falzone. LaCorte says other editors who were involved would corroborate his version of the story, if the network would allow them to talk openly about the incident. "At least two other editors were involved, neither of whom encouraged me to run the story and both of whom still work at Fox," he said.

'Sure looks like Erik Prince committed perjury,' congressman says
By Tom Embury-Dennis

Donald Trump ally Erik Prince may have committed perjury, a congressman has said, after the former Navy Seal said for the first time he held a meeting with one of the US president’s sons to discuss “Iran policy”.  Mr Prince, founder of controversial military contractor Blackwater USA, admitted he met Donald Trump Jr and an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Trump Tower ahead of the presidential election. The admission comes more than a year after the 49-year-old, brother of US education secretary Betsy DeVos, failed to disclose the meeting under oath to the House intelligence committee, according to a public transcript. According to The New York Times, Mr Prince organised the August 2016 meeting with Mr Trump’s eldest son and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who reportedly revealed Saudi Arabia and the UAE wanted to help Mr Trump in his bid for the presidency. The meeting also reportedly included Stephen Miller, now Mr Trump’s senior policy adviser, and an Israeli social media expert called Joel Zamel. During the devastating televised interview with Al Jazeeera' Mehdi Hasan, which was aired on Friday, Mr Prince acknowledged the meeting happened, but said he was not asked about contacts with the Trump campaign by the House committee. Facing intense and meticulous interrogation from Hasan, he later changed tack, suggesting he did reveal the meeting during the testimony to lawmakers. According to the transcript, Republican congressman Tom Rooney asked Mr Prince, “So there was no other formal communications or contact with the campaign?” in reference to the Trump campaign. Mr Prince replied: “Correct.”  Pressed by Mr Hasan, Mr Prince suggested they “may have got the transcript wrong”, to audible laughs from the studio audience. “I don’t know, I certainly remember discussing it with the investigators,” Mr Prince added. Ted Lieu, a congressman for California and a frequent Trump critic, shared footage of the interview on Twitter, and wrote: “Sure looks like Erik Prince committed perjury.”

By Jeff Daniels

The Trump administration is refusing to pay more than $300 million in federal funds California sought to repair the Oroville Dam, which suffered a spillway crisis in 2017 after heavy rains that led to nearly 200,000 residents getting evacuated downstream from the nation’s tallest earthen dam. State officials worked to plug a hole in the flood-control spillway and put the estimate to repair the dam at about $1.1 billion back in 2018. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to reimburse California for only $333 million of the cost, instead of the $639 million sought by the state. The administration’s rejection of $306 million in costs for the Oroville Dam means the federal government would pay less than one third of the total cost the state was forced to spend on the emergency repairs. According to the California Department of Water Resources, FEMA notified the state this week that “it does not consider some spillway construction to be eligible for reimbursement based on information submitted by DWR to date. DWR will work with FEMA to provide further information to support the department’s assertion that all reconstruction work should be eligible for reimbursement.”

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote the letter on Nov. 22, 2017 for Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber. Read it here.
By Betsy Woodruff

After it claimed no such document existed, the Justice Department just unearthed a letter Matt Whitaker delivered to the Utah U.S. attorney directing a review of how the department handled the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One issues. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote the letter on Nov. 22, 2017 for Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber. Matt Whitaker, who was Sessions’ chief of staff at the time, emailed the letter to Huber that day, writing, “As we discussed.” He also sent Huber a copy of a letter the Justice Department’s Congressional affairs chief sent to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 13 of that year. The existence of a letter documenting Sessions’ directive that the DOJ revisit probes of Trump’s top political foe is a surprise because a department lawyer said in court last year that senior officials insisted it didn’t exist. The liberal nonprofit American Oversight obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request they filed on Nov. 22, 2017––the same day Whitaker emailed Sessions’ letter to Huber. The request asked for documentation of the directions Sessions gave Huber about the review of the Clinton investigations. After DOJ failed to produce any written directions, American Oversight sued. And on Nov. 16, 2018, Senior Counsel in the Office of Information Policy Vanessa Brinkmann, who handles FOIA Requests, said a lawyer in Sessions’ office told her no such letter existed. That lawyer spoke with Huber and Whitaker, she said in a declaration filed in federal court, and then told her that “when the Attorney General directed Mr. Huber to evaluate these matters, no written guidance or directives were issued to Mr. Huber in connection with this directive, either by the Attorney General, or by other senior leadership office staff.” That wasn’t correct. On Wednesday of last week, a DOJ lawyer told American Oversight that they had found the document that kicked off Huber’s work.

From hand jobs to grip and grins with Donald Trump, the scandal is fraught with potential for blackmail.
By David Rothkopf

If the president of the United States is letting a Chinese madam sell access at Mar-a-Lago to Chinese business people while his friends are getting serviced at businesses she started, he is making himself and the country vulnerable to massive blackmail risk. It is a textbook story of how foreign actors gain leverage over senior officials. That point should not be lost amid the eye-popping prurience that runs through this tale, tempting though that might be. We’re talking about Florida, right? It has long been established that Florida is where the crazy goes to happen in America. It is where the rich go to play, the old go to die, political candidates claim they have been abducted by aliens, and everyone seems to want to rob the local convenience store with the aid of their pet alligator. So, when a story about a billionaire being arrested at a Jupiter, Florida strip mall sex spa breaks, our reflex is to snicker and write it off as another case of too many Sunshine State UV rays. And if that story were soon to develop to reveal that the billionaire was a friend of the President of the United States and that the founder of the spa also was a Mar-a-Lago regular who actually ran a business selling Chinese business people access to the president and his family, we might say, “Well, take Florida and add our zany, sleazemonster of a president and what do you expect?”  Set aside the gut-wrenchingly horrific details of the sex trafficking that is at the heart of this story for a moment, and you might even see a choice irony in a madam who moved on from selling hand jobs to selling grip-and-grins with a president who himself has made pimping out his high office a signature part of his job.

The strange, swampy saga of Trump donor Li Yang.
By David Corn, Dan Friedman and Daniel Schulman

The latest Trump political donor to draw controversy is Li Yang, a 45-year-old Florida entrepreneur from China who founded a chain of spas and massage parlors that included the one where New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was recently busted for soliciting prostitution. She made the news this week when the Miami Herald reported that last month she had attended a Super Bowl viewing party at Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club and had snapped a selfie with the president during the event. Though Yang no longer owns the spa Kraft allegedly visited, the newspaper noted that other massage parlors her family runs have “gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” (She told the newspaper she has never violated the law.) Beyond this sordid tale, there is another angle to the strange story of Yang: She runs an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the business—which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach—suggests she had some success in doing so. Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.” But the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.” (The same day the Herald story about Yang broke, the website stopped functioning.)

By P.R. Lockhart

A new lawsuit from a Detroit man subjected to 911 calls for “gardening while black” could offer a way forward for other victims of recent racial profiling incidents. In 2018, stories of black people being racially profiled and subjected to unnecessary 911 calls dominated news headlines. This week, two more stories show that racial profiling remains a problem — but that the way people are handling such incidents may be changing. On March 1, a police officer in Boulder, Colorado, confronted an unidentified black man, a student at a local university, as he picked up trash in the yard of his student housing. Boulder police later said in a statement that the officer had approached the man “to determine if he was allowed to be on the property.” In a video of the incident that went viral, the man explained that he lived and worked in the building, and showed the officer a student ID. But the officer still detained the man, saying that police needed to investigate further. When the man angrily objected to how he was being treated, the officer called for backup, saying that the man was “uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object,” according to the Denver Post. “You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash,” the man in the video yells at an officer. The man was not, ultimately, arrested, but the officer who initiated the confrontation has been placed on paid leave as the department launches an investigation into the incident. The case, which angered local residents, is the latest in a long line of “Living While Black” incidents that have attracted considerable news coverage and online outrage in recent months. It’s yet another reminder that racial profiling hasn’t gone away. But because of this, it’s also important to look at another recent story: the news this week that Marc Peeples, a black man living in Detroit, has filed a $300,000 lawsuit against three white women who he says repeatedly made up incidents and called the police on him for more than a year, starting in 2017. In his lawsuit, Peeples notes that the women frequently called the police while he worked on a garden in the neighborhood, with the women eventually going so far as to accuse the man of committing a drive-by shooting, stalking them, and being a “convicted pedophile.” In 2018, the allegations led to Peeples being arrested and charged with stalking, but a judge threw out the case in October, saying that the women’s claims were “ridiculous” and “a waste of the court’s time and resources.”

His budget request reportedly includes a 70 percent cut to the Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
By Kiley Kroh

As President Donald Trump prepares his to release his fiscal year 2020 budget request, he is expected to propose massive cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency budget. This attempt comes despite similar requests being roundly rebuked by Congress in the past two years, and the fact that clean energy remains extremely popular among Republican lawmakers and voters. “The United States is at the forefront of clean-energy efforts,” Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) wrote Friday in the Washington Post. “We are committed to adopting reasonable policies that maintain that edge, build on and accelerate current efforts, and ensure a robust innovation ecosystem.” Earlier this week, in the first Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing dedicated to climate change in years, Murkowski singled out research, innovation, and efficiency as areas in which her committee can contribute to the ongoing debate over congressional action on climate change. The White House doesn’t appear to be listening. Trump’s proposal will slash the budget for DOE’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE) from $2.3 billion to $700 million — a roughly 70 percent cut — Bloomberg reported this week, citing a department official familiar with the plan. The full budget request is expected to be released Monday.

[Good Morning America]

By CHRIS FRANCESCANI and STEPHANIE WASH
'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett hit with 16 count felony indictment by grand jury originally appeared on abcnews.go.com An Illinois grand jury has indicted "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, according to the Cook County State Attorney's Office. Several hours after the grand jury indictments were announced late Friday, Smollett's attorney issued a new statement, "adamantly" maintaining the actor's innocence and accusing law enforcement of leaking details of the probe. Yet proving Smollett's innocence will be a tall order for celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, as the Chicago Police Department that investigated the alleged attack continues to publicly describes Smollett's alleged actions as "shameful, [and] if proven, an affront to the people of Chicago." The grand jury returned two separate sets of charges, Robert Foley, a senior advisor in the state attorney's office told ABC News. The first set is related to what Smollett told officers about the alleged attack, including that the attackers called him racial and homophobic slurs, struck him with their hands, put a noose around his neck, and poured some sort of chemical substance on him.

US News March 2019 Page 1

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