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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump speaks at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

May 25, 2019

By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp will not have to immediately hand over the financial records of U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization, according to a court filing on Saturday.

The filing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York followed an appeal submitted on Friday by Trump and his affiliates against an existing order from a federal judge allowing the banks to hand over financial records to Democratic lawmakers.

Amid an ongoing legal battle between the Republican president and Democrats in Congress, the agreement to hold off for now on enforcing the subpoenas for Trump’s financial records was a rare accord between Trump’s attorneys, the banks and the House Intelligence and the Financial Services Committees.

“The parties have reached an agreement regarding compliance with and enforcement of the subpoenas” while the appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is pending, the filing said.

Parts of the subpoenas have been included in court filings. The subpoena on Deutsche Bank seeks records of accounts, transactions and investments linked to Trump, his three oldest children, their immediate family members and several Trump Organization entities, as well as records of ties they might have to foreign entities.

Deutsche Bank has long been a principal lender for Trump’s real estate business and a 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to the bank.

The subpoena on Capital One seeks records related to multiple entities tied to the Trump Organization’s hotel business. It followed an informal request to the bank by Democratic lawmakers in March seeking records related to potential conflicts of interest tied to Trump’s Washington hotel and other businesses.

A lawyer for the Trumps argued earlier this week that the subpoenas exceeded the authority of Congress and were “the epitome of an inquiry into private or personal matters.”

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, however, found that they were allowed under the broad authority of Congress to conduct investigations to further legislation.

(Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks in Minneapolis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar declares her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Miller/File Photo

May 25, 2019

By Humeyra Pamuk and Ginger Gibson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar on Saturday called for revamping the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules governing how refineries use ethanol in gasoline products, a proposal aimed at the politically critical state of Iowa.

    Part of a series of farm policies that also addressed access to capital and bankruptcy assistance, Klobuchar, a U.S. senator, said the EPA’s waivers that allow refineries to avoid the requirements are “misguided” and said financial institutions are manipulating the biofuels credit trading market.

She called for new compliance standards and additional oversight.

Klobuchar is one of more than 20 Democrats vying for her party’s presidential nomination. If she is going to be successful, her campaign needs to galvanize support in the heavily-agriculture state of Iowa, which holds the first primary contest in the nation. Iowa grows most of the nation’s corn, which is used to produce ethanol.

Klobuchar, who represents Minnesota, another heavily agriculture state which borders Iowa to the north, in the U.S. Senate, has been trailing in polls on the Democratic presidential field.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll https://tmsnrt.rs/2LeoO8z earlier this month, she garnered support of only 1% of respondents. Former Vice President Joe Biden led the poll, with 29% of Democrats and independents saying they would vote for him in the state nominating contests that begin next winter.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program that mandates ethanol use is a more than decade-old regulation aimed at helping farmers and reducing U.S. dependence on oil. The policy has helped farmers by creating a huge market for ethanol and other biofuels, but oil refiners say compliance is prohibitively expensive.

    Under the program, refiners are required to blend biofuels into the nation’s gasoline pool or purchase credits from those that do, but smaller refineries with a capacity of less than 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) can obtain a “hardship waiver” if they prove that compliance with RFS would cause them significant financial strain.

    The Trump administration made extensive use of such waivers in the last two years, saving refiners money but angering the corn lobby, particularly after major companies like Exxon Mobil Corp received exemptions for certain facilities.

    Ethanol mandates have opened a war between the oil and corn industries. The ethanol industry claims the exemptions have been over-used, threatening demand for corn-based ethanol at a time when farmers are already struggling.

    The policy has helped farmers by creating a 15-billion-gallon-a-year market for corn-based ethanol, but oil refiners have increasingly complained about the expense – particularly when prices are high and volatile.

    RFS and the small refinery waiver program have increasingly emerged as one of the key policy areas that several Democratic presidential hopefuls have raised.

    U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren earlier this month in a letter to the EPA questioned the agency’s decision to grant a small refinery waiver to an oil refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, who is a former adviser to President Donald Trump. She said waivers undermine the renewable program.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Workers replace a section of the border fence between U.S. and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana
FILE PHOTO: Workers replace a section of the border fence between U.S. and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

May 25, 2019

The Trump administration must temporarily halt the use of some Defense Department funds for a border wall with Mexico, a judge ruled on Friday, because the money was not specifically authorized by Congress for construction of the barrier.

The order blocks the use of $1 billion from the Department of Defense in Arizona and Texas, out of $6.7 billion that Trump administration said it planned to direct toward building the wall.

“The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with the fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” Haywood Gilliam Jr, a U.S. judge in California, wrote in the order.

Separately, Gilliam denied a preliminary injunction against the border wall sought by a coalition of sixteen states, but said they could move forward with their case.

Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has said the wall is needed to address a crisis of drugs and crime flowing across the border into the United States.

The ruling adds to Trump’s frustrations with federal court orders blocking his initiatives for cutting illegal immigration, a policy area he will focus on in his 2020 re-election bid.

In February, after a protracted political battle and a government shutdown, Congress approved $1.38 billion for construction of “primary pedestrian fencing” along the border in southeastern Texas, well short of Trump’s demands.

To obtain the additional money, Trump declared a national emergency and his administration said it planned to divert $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion earmarked for Department of Defense counternarcotics programs and $3.6 billion from military construction projects.

The House of Representatives, more than a dozen states and two advocacy groups asked U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California to block the transfer of funds to prevent the wall construction.

They argue the administration cannot use funds Congress has specifically denied and cannot construct a barrier that was not authorized, nor can the administration work outside the geographic area identified by Congress.

“This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted.

The wall funding faces another court challenge on Friday, in a case brought by the House of Representatives in a federal court in the District of Columbia. The lawmakers have said the diversion of $6.1 billion in Defense Department funds violates the separation of powers doctrine laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

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FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump boards Marine One to depart for Japan
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the news media before boarding Marine One to depart for travel to Japan from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

May 25, 2019

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he is considering pardons for “two or three” American soldiers charged with war crimes, a move he also said would be controversial but justified because they had been treated “unfairly.”

Trump told reporters at the White House that he has not decided yet on the cases, but may wait until the accused military servicemen stand trial before deciding whether to grant them pardons.

“Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard, long. You know, we teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometime, they get really treated very unfairly,” Trump said.

He did not identify which cases he was reviewing.

The New York Times on May 18 reported Trump had asked the Justice Department for paperwork on several high-profile war crimes cases in preparation for possible pardons to be announced on or around the U.S. Memorial Day holiday honoring fallen troops. This year’s holiday is to be observed on May 27.

One request according to the Times report was for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL court-martialed on charges he fatally stabbed a helpless, wounded Islamic State fighter in his custody, and shot two unarmed civilians from a sniper’s perch during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.

The 39-year-old combat veteran and platoon leader has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Defense lawyers say the allegations against him were fabricated by subordinate SEAL team members disgruntled with his leadership style and seeking to force his ouster.

Gallagher’s trial was delayed this week until June 10 at the earliest. His lawyer told Reuters he had not asked for a pardon, and Gallagher declined to comment on the possibility of presidential clemency when asked by reporters in court.

TRUMP TIES TO COURT-MARTIAL DEFENSE

But the prospect of Trump offering Gallagher a pardon seemed heightened by this week’s appointment to his defense team of former federal prosecutor Marc Mukasey, one of Trump’s personal lawyers and an associate of fellow Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

Another associate of former New York City Mayor Giuliani, ex-New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik – who served three years in prison in a federal corruption case – is an investigator on Gallagher’s defense team.

Mukasey, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, dismissed the notion of seeking a pardon for Gallagher.

“I have a job to do in the courtroom. I have no clue whether anything else is going on,” he said.

Gallagher’s lead civilian attorney, Timothy Parlatore, told reporters on Wednesday following a hearing at Naval Base San Diego: “If the president decides to step in, that’s what the commander does.”

Trump first weighed in on the Gallagher case publicly in March, ordering the defendant moved to less restrictive pre-trial confinement “in honor of his past service to our country.”

A number of conservative commentators have urged him to pardon Gallagher. Critics say it would pre-empt justice, undermine military discipline and send a message that battlefield atrocities will be tolerated.

The overwhelming majority of pardons are granted to people who have already been convicted and served time for a federal offense, as when Trump earlier this month pardoned former Army Lieutenant Michael Behenna, who served five years in prison for killing an Iraqi prisoner in 2008.

But presidents have occasionally granted pardons preemptively to individuals accused of or suspected of a crime.

The most famous such case was the blanket pardon President Gerald Ford bestowed on his predecessor, Richard Nixon, following Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate scandal.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Karen Freifield in New York; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Bill Tarrant and G Crosse)

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FILE PHOTO - Former Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames
FILE PHOTO – Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa August 9, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Frank?

May 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will pick former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as the head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Cuccinelli will replace L. Francis Cissna as the head of the agency, which manages the country’s legal immigration system. Cissna told staff in a farewell letter on Friday he had resigned at the president’s request, effective June 1, a USCIS official said.

The White House is still figuring out what exactly Cuccinelli will be doing in his new role, the Post reported. A White House official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As Virginia’s attorney general and a state senator, Cuccinelli developed a reputation as a hardliner.

In Virginia, he called for denying citizenship to U.S.-born children if their parents are in the country illegally, introduced a proposal barring unemployment benefits to people who were fired from jobs for not speaking English and authorized law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of anyone they stopped.

Cuccinelli will likely face a pitched battle for the Senate approval of his nomination, though it is controlled by Trump’s Republican party.

Cuccinelli heads a political group that has clashed with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed to block Cuccinelli from being confirmed for any administration position, according to media reports.

He is also unlikely to receive much support from Senate Democrats.

In April, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced her departure from the Trump administration, raising the specter of more firings of senior immigration officials.

Trump is seeking to overhaul the U.S. immigration system and has sought to crack down on illegal immigrants, but has been largely unable to enact the sweeping changes he has sought.

Cuccinelli met with Trump on Monday and was expected to be picked for an immigration policy position by the president.

(Reporting by Makini Brice, Yeganeh Torbati and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs Bill 126 into law in Jefferson City
Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs Bill 126 into law banning abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy, alongside state House and Senate members and pro-life coalition leaders at his office in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S., May 24, 2019. Office of Governor Michael L. Parson/Handout via REUTERS

May 24, 2019

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging a law enacted by Alabama last week that bans nearly all abortions and makes performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

The lawsuit is one of several the groups have filed or are preparing to file against states that recently passed strict anti-abortion measures in an effort to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that guarantees a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

On Friday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill into law that bans abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy. In Mississippi, a federal judge blocked a law that would ban abortions once an embryonic heartbeat is detected, which can occur at six weeks after conception.

“This dangerous, immoral, and unconstitutional ban threatens people’s lives and well-being and we are suing to protect our patients’ rights,” Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a women’s healthcare and abortion provider, said in a statement.

The ACLU’s Alabama chapter and Planned Parenthood of America filed their complaint in federal court in Alabama on behalf of the Southern state’s three abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Anti-abortion advocates expected legal challenges to Alabama’s new law, which will be the most restrictive in the nation when it takes effect in November, and say they welcome the chance to have a court test their conviction that a fetus’ right to life is paramount.

Mississippi joined Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio earlier this year in outlawing abortion after a doctor can detect an embryonic heartbeat.

In granting the preliminary injunction on Friday, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the Mississippi law, which was scheduled to take effect on July 1, would prevent a woman’s free choice “which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.”

The measure was challenged in court on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s lone abortion facility.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood obtained an injunction from a judge in March blocking Kentucky’s abortion ban. The two organizations have filed lawsuits in Ohio and are preparing a legal fight in Georgia, they said in a statement on Friday.

The wave of anti-abortion legislation reflects a boost of confidence among anti-abortion advocates after Republican President Donald Trump nominated two conservative judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court, tilting the court’s political balance to the right.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York, Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall)

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FILE PHOTO: Abortion-rights campaigners attend a rally in New York
FILE PHOTO: Abortion-rights campaigners attend a rally against new restrictions on abortion passed by legislatures in eight states including Alabama and Georgia, in New York City, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

May 24, 2019

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FILE PHOTO: Abortion-rights campaigners attend a rally in New York
FILE PHOTO: Abortion-rights campaigners attend a rally against new restrictions on abortion passed by legislatures in eight states including Alabama and Georgia, in New York City, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

May 24, 2019

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FILE PHOTO - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington
FILE PHOTO – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

May 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, engaged in personal attacks on House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, retweeted a heavily edited video that falsely claimed the Democratic leader had difficulty speaking to reporters.

In a Twitter posting late on Thursday, the Republican president wrote, “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.” Accompanying the tweet was a heavily edited Fox Business Network clip of Pelosi’s 23-minute news conference earlier in the day.

At the bottom of the Fox Business screen is the headline, “Pelosi Urges Trump ‘Intervention”; Stammers Through News Conference.” The one-minute-and-47-second segment included critical commentary about Pelosi.

During her news conference on Thursday, Pelosi suggested that Trump aides or family members hold an “intervention” with him to address his anger over House investigations of the president and his business dealings.

In recent days, as Trump ramped up his attacks on Pelosi, some heavily edited videos have circulated on the internet that alter the cadence of her words by slowing them down, making her speech seem slurred when in fact it is not.

A Reuters review of Pelosi’s news conference on Thursday shows her covering a wide range of topics and speaking in a mostly animated way, jousting with reporters at times and at other times reading from a statement.

Like many politicians, she occasionally stumbled over a word before correcting herself.

Without reading from a statement, Pelosi discussed infrastructure investments throughout U.S. history. She recounted actions taken during President Thomas Jefferson’s administration during the early 1800s and moved effortlessly through the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt 100 years later and Dwight Eisenhower in the middle of the 20th century.

Nonetheless, the Fox Business video depicted Pelosi stumbling over words and replayed four times in rapid succession the speaker holding up two fingers when talking about “three things” related to House investigations of Trump.

In the actual video of the news conference, she mistakenly held up two fingers when talking about those three elements, but then corrected herself by holding up three fingers.

At the White House on Friday, before departing on a trip to Japan, Trump was asked by a reporter about altered videos of Pelosi.

He responded that he did not know anything about the videos, and echoed an assertion he made on Thursday that the speaker, who is 79, has “lost it.”

“Look, you think Nancy is the same as she was? She’s not. Maybe we can all say that,” Trump, 72, said on Friday.

He blamed Pelosi for starting the fight. “She said terrible things. So I just responded in kind.”

The White House did not respond to further requests for comment.

A spokesman for Pelosi, asked about Trump retweeting the Fox Business video, said Republican attacks on the California congresswoman actually helped Democrats win control of the House in last November’s elections when a record number of women and minorities were elected to Congress.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in next year’s elections, said in an interview on CNN, “It is unbelievable to me that the president would be involved in this kind of disinformation campaign.”

She said such incidents highlight the need for legislation to bring transparency to online political ads, as well as new privacy protections.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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FILE PHOTO - House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler arrives at House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Special Counsel Mueller report on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) arrives at a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Oversight of the Report by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III,” at which witness former White House Counsel Donald McGahn was subpoened to testify at on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

May 24, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler became woozy and appeared almost to faint during a press briefing on Friday with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the congressman said soon after that he had been dehydrated and was now feeling better.

During the late morning briefing in Manhattan about the city’s planned implementation of speed traffic cameras, de Blasio stopped speaking, turned to Nadler who was slumping over in the chair next to him and offered him some water.

“You seem a little dehydrated,” the mayor said. “You okay?”

Nadler, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, responded, “no,” but declined the mayor’s offer of water and put his hand to his head.

De Blasio later told reporters that after receiving water, juice and treatment from emergency medical personnel, the congressman’s condition improved markedly.

“He got more energetic with every passing minute,” the mayor said “He was starting to talk to everyone, joke around, answer a whole bunch of medical questions.”

Nadler himself said he had felt dehydrated, which he blamed on the warm temperature of the school building where the briefing was held, adding that his condition improved quickly.

“Appreciate everyone’s concern,” Nadler wrote on Twitter at about 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). “Was very warm in the room this morning, was obviously dehydrated and felt a bit ill. Glad to receive fluids and am feeling much better.”

Asked if Nadler was taken to a hospital, spokesman Daniel Schwarz replied by email that, “He is responsive and receiving a check-up.”

(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen/File Photo

May 24, 2019

By Humeyra Pamuk and Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil a narrowed-down version of its proposed biofuel credit market reform this month after regulators concluded many of the agency’s initial ideas required more time to study, according to four people briefed on the matter.

President Donald Trump had instructed the EPA to develop the plan to reform the multi-billion-dollar market as a way to help the oil refining industry, which had long complained that speculation was driving up costs for the credits they must acquire to comply with the nation’s biofuel law.

Trump had asked that the EPA’s reform be finalized prior to June 1 to coincide with the agency’s move to expand sales of gasoline blended with higher levels of corn-based ethanol, or E15, a measure meant to help farmers by expanding the market for corn.

But the sources, who asked not to be named, said there was not enough time to finalize most of the elements in the EPA’s initial draft plan, which had been drawn up in March, in time for this month’s launch of the E15 rule.

It is unclear whether a narrowed-down version of the market reform plan will limit the intended benefits to refiners.

The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard requires refineries to blend biofuels into their gasoline and diesel each year, or purchase credits, called RINs, from those who do. The policy has helped farmers by creating a 15 billion gallon-a-year market for corn-based ethanol, but refiners have increasingly complained that compliance costs them a fortune – particularly when RIN prices are high and volatile.

The EPA’s initial plan to reform the RIN market, drafted in March, would have barred trading by non-industry players, publicized large positions, improved price transparency, imposed limits on credit “hoarding,” and provided the EPA with increased market-monitoring powers.

But while the administration has rushed through the rulemaking process to ensure the E15 proposal lands before the June 1 kickoff to summer driving season, under intense pressure from the corn lobby, some portions of the biofuel trading reform agenda were too complicated to complete within the same time frame, the sources told Reuters.

“We hear that only one (of the reform proposals) is ready to be finalized at the same time as the E15 decision, but it’s unclear which one,” said one of the sources. “Basically, EPA has dropped everything else to get E15 done by June 1.”

The source said that he expected the EPA would likely finalize the abridged version of the plan at the same time as E15 and then “continue to consider the existing comments on the other (reform proposals).” The source did not have a sense of how long it might take for the agency to consider the other reform proposals.

Three other sources also told Reuters they had been informed by the agency that work to finalize the initial set of market reform proposals had not been completed, and that next week, a less ambitious version would be unveiled that focuses on increasing market transparency and limiting hoarding of RINs.

EPA spokesman Michael Abboud would not comment on whether the RIN market reform plan would include all of the elements in the initial proposal when it is unveiled, but said the agency was adhering to Trump’s request that it address problems in the RIN market.

“The premise of this story is inaccurate,” Abboud said in emailed comments. “EPA’s final action, which will be signed by the summer driving season, is consistent with the President’s direction last year and will help increase transparency and prevent price manipulation in the RIN market.”

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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FILE PHOTO: Roads are closed following heavy floods near Monroe Nebraska
FILE PHOTO: Roads are closed following heavy floods near Monroe, Nebraska, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Humeyra Pamuk/File Photo

May 23, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives and Senate negotiators have reached a deal on a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill that has President Donald Trump’s support, and which includes money for farmers, highways and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, lawmakers from both parties said on Thursday.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby said there could be a Senate vote on the legislation as early as Thursday, and Democrats said a House vote could soon follow. The measure is intended to help Americans rebound from a string of natural disasters over the past two years, from wildfires to floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.

The agreement does not include emergency funds to address a migrant surge at the southern U.S. border that Trump had requested earlier this month, senators said. But it does include hundreds of millions of dollars to keep helping the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which was devastated by a hurricane in 2017. Trump had opposed more aid for the island.

“I had a nice conversation with the president about an hour or so ago,” Shelby, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, told reporters outside the Senate. “The president said okay.”

Shelby said Republicans would push for separate approval of the border aid Trump wanted after lawmakers return from a recess next week, saying, “It’s needed.”

A spokesman for House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey, a Democrat, said she is pleased the bipartisan legislation “will meet urgent needs across the country.”

“If the Senate passes the legislation today, House Democrats support clearing it through the House as soon as possible,” Lowey’s spokesman, Evan Hollander, said.

The legislation includes disaster relief for farmers; development grants for rural communities; funds for wastewater infrastructure; and resources to restore highways, aviation facilities and other transit projects, Shelby’s office said.

It also includes $600 million in nutrition assistance and $304 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for Puerto Rico sought by Democrats, as well as an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, a statement said.

Trump on May 1 requested $4.5 billion for programs that house, feed, transport and oversee the record number of Central American families seeking asylum at the southern border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed openness to humanitarian border aid, but agreement eluded negotiators.

“Each time the president messes in, things get messed up,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, referring to weeks of criticism from Trump on the proposed aid for Puerto Rico and Trump’s border aid request. “So I suggested this morning that we just do disaster aid and no border, and that’s what we’re doing. … We got all we wanted for Puerto Rico.”

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Congressional leaders Pelosi and Schumer arrive to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrive to speak to Capitol Hill reporters after a failed White House meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss infrastructure in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

May 23, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that President Donald Trump threw a temper tantrum at a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders a day earlier and that she wished his family or staff would conduct “an intervention” with Trump for the good of the country.

“Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family, or his administration, or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” Pelosi told reporters.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet is seen in its hanger at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland
A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet is seen in its hanger at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

May 23, 2019

By Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday unveiled a draft $750 billion defense policy bill that would authorize more Lockheed Martin F-35 jets for the United States and effectively end Turkey’s partnership in the program if Ankara pursues a plan to buy a Russian missile defense system.

In March, President Donald Trump requested $750 billion for defense, a budget that included more money to build ships and buy jets.

In the coming weeks the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, controlled by Democrats, will release its own version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which must be reconciled with the version in the Republican-controlled Senate before it can be passed.

Because it sets policy for the Defense Department, the annual NDAA is one of the few bills that Congress passes every year.

This year, the Senate version of the bill would approve spending on eight F-15X fighter jets as the current aging fleet of about 234 jets is getting more expensive to operate. The defense arm of aircraft maker Boeing Co could potentially make 80 or more of them for the U.S. Air Force.

The bill also includes several provisions for addressing what Congress sees as the threat from China, including stricter reporting in China’s “Belt and Road” international lending program. It also requires creation of a list of Chinese institutions and companies with any links to its military, to be used for screening visa applications for students and researchers.

F-35

The bill authorizes the Pentagon to buy 94 Lockheed Martin-made F-35 stealth fighter jets, comprising 60 of the F-35A conventional take-off and landing model; 12 of the F-35B short take-off/vertical landing version, and 22 of the F-35C, which are used aboard aircraft carriers.

Lockheed, the jet’s prime contractor, is developing and building the new warplanes for the U.S. military and 10 other countries.

The NDAA would remove Turkey from the list of nations that have worked together to build the fifth generation F-35 fighter jet.

Like other NATO allies, Turkey is both a prospective buyer and a partner in production of the F-35. But U.S. officials have said Turkey’s plan to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system would compromise the security of the F-35 jets.

The dispute has strained relations between Washington and Ankara. In protest to Ankara’s plan to buy the Russian system, the United States in April halted delivery of equipment related to F-35s to Turkey, in its first concrete step to block the delivery of the jet.

ISLAMIC STATE PRISONERS

The legislation also authorizes the creation of a Space Force as a separately aligned service, but still part of the U.S. Air Force.

Another provision of the bill would create a special U.S. envoy to address the situation of former fighters and supporters of the Islamic State militant group now languishing in detention centers in Syria.

The annual bill, which offers broad policy ideas, would bar the Pentagon from reducing the number of US troops on South Korea below 28,500. It also authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for members of the U.S. military.

The Senate version of the bill contains $3.6 billion that could replenish money used to fund construction of a wall on the Mexican border, but did not authorize additional funds requested by the White House, senior committee staff told the media.

The bill would allow the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to the United States for medical treatment.

(Repoprting by Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alistair Bell)

Source: OANN

The logo of a McDonald's Corp restaurant is seen in Los Angeles
The logo of a McDonald’s Corp restaurant is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

May 23, 2019

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As a part of a push to increase the minimum wage for American workers, Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate, on Thursday waded into a dispute between McDonald’s Corp and its employees.

Sanders, one of the two dozen Democrats running for the Democratic presidential nomination, held a virtual town hall, taking questions from McDonald’s workers in Dallas who protested the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

“You guys are being exploited,” Sanders, speaking from Washington, told the workers.

McDonald’s is under fire from activist groups for failing to protect workers from sexual harassment and violence. Employees at the company are also demanding higher pay, and are backed by a labor organizing group, Fight for $15, which is pushing 2020 presidential candidates to support a $15 national minimum wage and advocate for union rights.

As of Thursday morning, hundreds of McDonalds workers had walked off the job, according to the group.

Other 2020 Democrats have gotten involved. On Thursday, Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, appeared with striking McDonald’s workers in North Carolina.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee were scheduled to stand with workers later in the day in Des Moines and Chicago, respectively.

Sanders has made workers’ rights and raising the minimum wage centerpieces of his presidential campaign.

“If elected president, trust me, every worker in this country will make at least $15 an hour, and people will have the right to join unions,” said Sanders. He added that he would be part of an effort to pressure the fast-food industry to raise wages.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Chicago-based McDonald’s said it has more than 14,000 locations in the United States with some 850,000 workers.

Since more than 90 percent of its restaurants are franchised, the company has maintained, it cannot set wage rates, bargain collectively with unions or be responsible for the behavior of employees in its franchises.

On Tuesday, more than two dozen McDonald’s workers across the country represented by Fight for $15 filed complaints of sexually harassment by coworkers or managers. Five of the workers filed lawsuits and the others lodged complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with state agencies.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the candidates’ actions or the labor protests generally.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign chairman Manafort departs a motions hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort departs a motions hearing in the indictment filed against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

May 23, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Thursday unsealed criminal charges against Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk accusing him of corruptly approving high-risk loans to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in exchange for trying to secure a top job in the Trump administration.

The indictment against Calk does not name Manafort directly, but his name repeatedly came up during Manafort’s financial fraud trial last year in Virginia in which prosecutors said Calk and Manafort engaged in a scheme to trade the loan approvals for an administration post. Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)

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FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign chairman Manafort departs a motions hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort departs a motions hearing in the indictment filed against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

May 23, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Thursday unsealed criminal charges against Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk accusing him of corruptly approving high-risk loans to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in exchange for trying to secure a top job in the Trump administration.

The indictment against Calk does not name Manafort directly, but his name repeatedly came up during Manafort’s financial fraud trial last year in Virginia in which prosecutors said Calk and Manafort engaged in a scheme to trade the loan approvals for an administration post. Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump presents Public Safety Medals of Valor to officers at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks prior to presenting the Public Safety Medals of Valor to officers in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

May 23, 2019

(Reuters) – The Trump administration will complete a draft proposal to streamline environmental permitting for big infrastructure projects by next month, an administration official said on Wednesday, marking a key step in its controversial effort to cut red tape for industry over the objections of conservationists.

Ted Boling, associate director for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the White House Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ), said the draft rule to reform NEPA would be sent to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review in June, but did not disclose what changes the proposal would include.

NEPA, enacted in 1970, requires comprehensive studies be conducted into the potential environmental impacts of big proposed projects like pipelines and highways before they can proceed.

“This is a significant undertaking and I expect we will hold to a fairly ambitious schedule moving through the OIRA process,” Boling told a group of NEPA consultants at the National Association of Environmental Professionals conference in Baltimore on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump kickstarted the effort to reform the bedrock environmental law for the first time in 40 years with an executive order in 2017, saying the federal environmental review process for major projects was overly complex and had led to unnecessary delays. A CEQ study of 1,161 Environmental Impacts Statements (EISs) conducted for projects since 2010 found that the average completion time was 4.5 years.

The 2017 order required CEQ to carry out two main tasks: require that one federal agency, instead of multiple agencies, take the lead on a NEPA review; and set a goal of completing the process within a two-year period.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating Russian interference in U.S. elections
FILE PHOTO: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

May 23, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday to provide about $700 million in grants to help U.S. telecommunications providers with the cost of removing Huawei equipment from their networks.

The bill also moves to block the use of equipment or services from Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE in next-generation 5G networks, according to a statement by the senators.

The United States has accused ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd of working for the Chinese government and has expressed concern their equipment could be used to spy on Americans, allegations the Chinese government and the companies say are baseless.

“With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei,” Tom Cotton, a Republican senator co-sponsoring the bill, said in a statement.

Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Roger Wicker, Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, are also backing the bill.

While large U.S. wireless companies have severed ties with Huawei, small rural carriers have leaned on Huawei and ZTE switches and equipment because they are often less expensive.

The Rural Wireless Association, which represents carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, estimates that 25 percent of its members have Huawei and ZTE in their networks, and have said it would cost $800 million to $1 billion to replace it.

The move goes further than steps taken so far by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, even as it has hardened its stance on Huawei.

Last August, Trump signed a bill barring the U.S. government itself from using Huawei and ZTE equipment.

Then, last week, the U.S. Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei and 70 affiliates, barring the company from buying parts or components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval.

Five days later, the U.S. government temporarily eased trade restrictions, allowing the Chinese firm to buy American-made goods to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei headsets.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Trump arrives aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump emerges from Air Force One as he returns to Washington at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

May 22, 2019

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization on Wednesday lost their bid to block Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp from providing financial records to Democratic lawmakers investigating Trump’s businesses.

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled at a court hearing in New York that Congress has the legal authority to demand the records, clearing the way for the banks to comply with subpoenas issued to them by two U.S. House of Representatives committees last month.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson; editing by Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

Protesters stand outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York
Protesters stand outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, while lawyers for U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization argue that a judge stop Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp from providing financial records to investigators, in New York City, U.S., May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

May 22, 2019

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization on Wednesday lost their bid to block Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp from providing financial records to Democratic lawmakers investigating Trump’s businesses.

In a decision read from the bench after hearing arguments, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in New York said Congress has the legal authority to demand the records, clearing the way for the banks to comply with subpoenas issued to them by two U.S. House of Representatives committees last month.

The committees have agreed not to enforce the subpoenas for seven days, the judge said. It was the second time in three days that a judge had ruled against the Republican president in his fight with Democrats and Trump’s lawyers were expected to appeal both decisions.

Ramos said he would not suspend his decision pending appeal.

Some Democratic lawmakers welcomed the decision.

“So far, I think the president would be wise to come to the realization that our legitimate areas of inquiry are going to be supported by the courts,” Representative Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat and member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters in an interview.

Representative Brad Sherman, a Democratic member of the financial services committee, was more cautious, telling Reuters in an interview that he expected the decision would be appealed.

Asked if lawmakers should be satisfied that they will get the information they seek, Sherman said, “I’ll believe it when I see it out of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Deutsche Bank said it would abide by the court’s decision. Capital One did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has aggressively sought to defy congressional oversight of his administration since Democrats took control of the House in January.

Ramos said that the committees had the power to issue the subpoenas under Congress’ “broad” power to conduct investigations to further legislation. He also rejected Trump’s argument that they were barred by a federal financial privacy law, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, saying the law does not apply to congressional investigations.

Trump said last month that the administration was “fighting all the subpoenas” issued by the House, hardening his position after the release of a redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on how Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help Trump and on the president’s attempts to impede the investigation.

“We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations,” Deutsche Bank spokeswoman Kerrie McHugh said in an emailed statement after the ruling.

Lawyers for the Trump family members and the Trump Organization declined to comment on the decision.

Some parts of the subpoenas have been included in court filings. The subpoena on Deutsche Bank seeks extensive records of accounts, transactions and investments linked to Trump, his three oldest children, their immediate family members and several Trump Organization entities, as well as records of ties they might have to foreign entities.

Deutsche Bank has long been a principal lender for Trump’s real estate business and a 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to the bank.

The subpoena on Capital One seeks records related to multiple entities tied to the Trump Organization’s hotel business. In March, before issuing their subpoena, Democratic lawmakers asked Capital One for documents concerning potential conflicts of interest tied to Trump’s Washington hotel and other business interests since he became president in January 2017.

Trump, his adult children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, and the Trump Organization had sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Deutsche Bank complying with the subpoenas from the House Financial Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, and Capital One from complying with a subpoena from the Financial Services Committee.

In a lawsuit filed on April 29, lawyers for the Trumps argued that the subpoenas were too broad, and that Democrats are hoping they will “stumble upon something” that could be used for political attacks on the president.

Patrick Strawbridge, a lawyer for Trump, said at Wednesday’s hearing that the subpoenas were “the epitome of an inquiry into private or personal matters,” and that the House committees were reaching beyond their role as legislators.

Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the committees, said the subpoenas were part of a “very serious investigation on behalf of the American people” that could lead to legislation aimed at reducing foreign influence in U.S. politics. He denied that it was intended to target Trump personally.

“He clearly sees us as some sort of nuisance,” Letter said.

The banks are the only defendants in the case, but the House committees intervened to oppose Trump’s effort to block the subpoenas.

Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, told reporters after the lawsuit was filed that Trump had “cast a gauntlet.” “We will fight him,” she said.

On Monday, a federal judge in Washington ruled against the president in a similar case, finding that Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars LLP, must comply with a congressional subpoena for Trump’s financial records.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta found that Congress was “not engaged in a fishing expedition” for the President’s financial records when it subpoenaed Mazars and said that documents obtained might assist Congress in passing laws and performing other core functions.

Trump called Mehta’s decision “crazy” and “totally the wrong decision by obviously an Obama-appointed judge,” referring to Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Ramos, the judge in the New York case, was also appointed by Obama.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; additional reporting by Matt Scuffham in New York and Jeff Mason and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool and James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: POLICE HANDOUT MUG SHOT OF AMERICAN TALIBAN JOHN WALKER LINDH.
FILE PHOTO: Undated handout image of American Taliban John Walker Lindh, distributed February 5, 2002. American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, described by a prosecutor as a “committed terrorist” who abandoned his country, is to be released early from a federal prison while some U.S. lawmakers worry he still poses a security risk.. REUTERS/Handout/File Photo

May 22, 2019

(Reuters) – John Walker Lindh, the American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 fighting for the Taliban and vilified as a national traitor, is to be released early from a federal prison on Thursday while some U.S. lawmakers worry he still poses a security risk.

Lindh, photographed as a wild-eyed, bearded 20-year-old at his capture, will leave a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana on probation after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, according to a prison official.

Now 38, Lindh is among dozens of prisoners set to be released over the next few years after being captured in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. forces and convicted of terrorism-related crimes following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

His release brought objections from elected officials who asked why Lindh was being freed early and what training parole officers had to spot radicalization and recidivism among former jihadists.

Leaked U.S. government documents published by Foreign Policy magazine show the federal government as recently as 2016 described Lindh as holding “extremist views.”

“What is the current interagency policy, strategy, and process for ensuring that terrorist/extremist offenders successfully reintegrate into society?” asked U.S. Senators Richard Shelby and Margaret Hassan in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Lindh’s parents Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lindh’s lawyer Bill Cummings declined to comment.

Melissa Kimberley, a spokeswoman for the Terra Haute prison, could not confirm details of Lindh’s release other than it would be on Thursday.

U.S.-born Lindh converted from Catholicism to Islam as a teenager. At his 2002 sentencing he said he traveled to Yemen to learn Arabic and then to Pakistan to study Islam. He said he volunteered as a Taliban soldier to help fellow Muslims in their struggle or “jihad.” He said he had no intention “to fight against America” and never understood jihad to mean anti-Americanism.

Lindh told the court he condemned “terrorism on every level” and attacks by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden were “completely against Islam.”

While in prison, Lindh successfully lobbied to overturn a ban on group prayer by Muslim prisoners.

A January 2017 report by the U.S. government’s National Counterterroism Center, published by Foreign Policy, said that as of May 2016, Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a Trump 2020 re-election campaign rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he addresses a Trump 2020 re-election campaign rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, U.S. May 20, 2019.    REUTERS/Carlos Barria

May 22, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state’s legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that would make it easier for U.S. congressional committees investigating President Donald Trump to get access to his state tax returns.

The Democratic-controlled state Assembly and Senate voted along party lines on the measure, which would circumvent his refusal to hand over his federal tax returns to Congress.

New York Republicans who opposed the bill called it an abuse of power that fed into the political designs of Democrats in Washington, the Albany Times-Union reported. It now goes to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo for final approval.

Trump has refused to release any of his tax returns, breaking a decades-long tradition of U.S. presidents making their personal finances public to demonstrate that they have no conflicts of interest.

Although the bill does not name Trump, it allows the state Department of Taxation and Finance to share state tax return information with a congressional committee that requests it. Much of the information submitted in New York state tax returns is similar to that on federal forms.

Trump and Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives are locked in a battle over their ability to investigate him.

The president is stonewalling multiple congressional investigations by ignoring subpoenas, refusing to allow current and former advisers to testify, and not handing over documents.

For example the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee requested Trump’s federal tax returns by subpoena but the request was denied by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump’s personal home and the headquarters for his business are in New York, requiring him to file state tax returns in addition to his federal returns.

“New York has a unique role to help head off the constitutional crisis brewing between Congress and the White House over refusal to comply with the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Brad Hoylman, according to the Times-Union. “We are affirming Congress’ role as a co-equal branch of government and the sacred constitutional principle that nobody is above the law, not even the highest elected official in the land.”

In comments to reporters on Wednesday, Trump criticized Democrats for continuing their wide-ranging follow-up to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said, responding to a charge made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just moments ago.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the New York legislation.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Balloons decorate an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston
FILE PHOTO: Balloons decorate an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

May 22, 2019

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

(Reuters) – The U.S. census should include questions about criminal records to help policymakers get former convicts back into the workforce, a Republican lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah suggested the idea at a hearing about the Census’s impact on the economy, citing research from a conservative economist. It may add a new layer to a political battle over what questions the U.S. Census Bureau should include on its decennial survey of U.S. residents.

“How many people are out of the labor force because of their criminal records?” Lee asked at a hearing in Washington by the Joint Economic Committee, which he chairs.

Finding the answer might help policymakers “identify what impact our laws might be having on them that…we didn’t intend,” he added.

The senator’s idea was supported by testimony from American Enterprise Institute (AEI) economist Nicholas Eberstadt, who argued that U.S. economic statistics have a gaping hole when it comes to people with criminal records.

Eberstadt, who wrote a book about male underemployment, noted that men with arrest records are more likely to be unemployed than those who have had no trouble with the law.

Although it is too late to include a question on this issue on the 2020 Census, doing so on future surveys could help the federal government formulate policies to get ex-convicts back into the labor force, Eberstadt said.

“It is an enormous blind spot and, given the realities of life in our country today, a critical and inexplicable statistical oversight,” he said.

The Trump administration wants to ask respondents to next year’s survey whether they are citizens. Most Republicans support the proposal, while Democrats, immigrant advocates and demographers oppose it, saying it will discourage participation which could result in undercounts that in turn could deprive some communities of funds and political representation.

The census determines how the federal government distributes some $900 billion in aid, as well as seats in Congress.

Harvard researchers predict the citizenship question would lead to an undercount of more than 4 million Hispanic residents.

The citizenship question has been tied up in litigation since U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross first announced plans to include it in March 2018. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision soon.

Adding a new question to the Census usually requires extensive testing and consultation with lawmakers because the Census Bureau tries to balance a desire to obtain as much useful information as possible with the reality that fewer questions lead to better response rates. Adding controversial questions means people are less likely to participate.

Eberstadt also suggested asking about secular or religious affiliation, saying this could affect how lonely or happy or connected people feel toward their communities. Most statisticians eschew asking about religion on the census.

He was one of four panelists speaking at Wednesday’s hearing. Others include Andrew Reamer, a professor at George Washington University; Howard Fienberg, a lobbyist with the Insights Association; and Mallory Bateman, coordinator of the State Data Center at The University of Utah.

Other panelists emphasized the importance of Census data for businesses and the economy. Some highlighted the risk of a significant undercount in 2020.

“The Census Bureau’s own research has shown there’s a climate of fear,” said Reamer, noting that some participants in test surveys had “run out of the room” when asked about citizenship.

(Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and David Gregorio)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves court after making an initialappearance on charges of bank and wire fraud at federal court in Santa Ana, California
FILE PHOTO – Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves court after making an initialappearance on charges of bank and wire fraud at federal court in Santa Ana, California, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

May 22, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced new criminal charges against Michael Avenatti, escalating the legal troubles for the combative lawyer who once represented porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against U.S. President Donald Trump.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan said the new charges against Avenatti include aggravated identity theft and engaging in a scheme to defraud a former client, as well as extortion charges related to his alleged attempt to extract more than $20 million from Nike Inc.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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FILE PHOTO: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
FILE PHOTO: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, accompanied by his wife Pamela Northam, announces he will not resign during a news conference Richmond, Virginia, U.S. February 2, 2019. REUTERS/ Jay Paul/File Photo

May 22, 2019

By Gary Robertson

NORFOLK, Va. (Reuters) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s former medical school was unable to determine his role in a racist photograph that appeared on his 1984 yearbook page, according to a report released on Wednesday following a three-month inquiry.

The photo sparked weeks of political chaos in the state after it was published by a conservative website in February, setting off scandals that embroiled Virginia’s three top Democrats. It shows one person in blackface makeup and another in the robes of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.

Northam initially admitted to having appeared in the photo and apologized. He later changed his story, saying he did not believe he was pictured, but had performed in blackface to impersonate the singer Michael Jackson at about that time.

That led his alma mater, the Eastern Virginia Medical School, to hire the law firm McGuireWoods to investigate how the photo appeared on Northam’s yearbook page.

“No one we interviewed told us the governor was in the photograph, and no one could positively state who was in the photograph,” the report said. “We found no information that the photograph was placed in error, though we acknowledge there is scant information on this subject thirty-five years after the fact.”

Northam repeated his belief that he was not in the “racist and offensive” photograph in a statement released on Wednesday after the report was made public. He also apologized for his contradictory statement in February.

“I felt it was important to take accountability for the photo’s presence on my page, but rather than providing clarity, I instead deepened pain and confusion,” his statement said.

TEETH, LEGS NOT A MATCH?

Northam, a white 59-year-old former U.S. Army doctor, resisted February calls to step down from within his own party in Virginia – seen as a key swing state for the 2020 presidential election – as well as from at least five Democratic presidential candidates.

Two other Virginia officials were wrapped up in scandal shortly thereafter, with women accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, and Attorney General Mark Herring saying he wore blackface in college to depict a black rapper.

Polls showed Northam maintaining strong support among the state’s black residents. In a February Washington Post poll, 58 percent of black residents said Northam should remain in office versus 37 percent who said he should leave.

Northam was interviewed twice as part of the inquiry, and said he was “positive” he was not in the photograph and did not know who was.

“Governor Northam noted that he was very slender in college and medical school, and that the legs on that person are much thicker than his,” the report said, referring to the person in the photograph wearing blackface.

A former school roommate, now a dentist, told Northam and the lawyers that Northam’s teeth “had never looked as good” as the person in blackface.

The lawyers also interviewed five members of the 1984 yearbook staff, among others.

One witness recalled reviewing Northam’s page with him in 1984, indicating Northam was aware of the photo at the time. Northam denied this encounter happened, the report said.

Northam told the lawyers that he did submit the other pictures that appear on his page along with the printed quotation.

The photograph showing people in blackface was not isolated to the one that appeared on Northam’s page, the report said. There were at least 10 such photographs in yearbooks from 1976 to 2013, when the school ended their production.

The blackface content peaked in 1984 and 1985 before becoming gradually less common, with two examples of blackface in the 1984 edition besides the one on Northam’s page.

Blackface has roots in 19th century “minstrel” shows in which white performers painted their faces black to caricature slaves. It is widely seen as racist today, but remained a common theme in U.S. television and movies in the 1980s and beyond.

(Reporting By Gary Robertson in Norfolk, Virginia, additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Meredith Mazzilli)

Source: OANN

U.S. House Speaker Pelosi delivers remarks at a reception honoring the 100th anniversary of House passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers remarks at a reception honoring the 100th anniversary of House passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

May 22, 2019

By Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump fired back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s accusation on Wednesday that he is engaged in a cover-up, saying at a hastily arranged White House appearance, “I don’t do cover-ups.”

Trump also said he would not work with Democrats on a major infrastructure proposal because of “phony” investigations they are pursuing in Congress. The Republican president added that he was upset that Democratic lawmakers discussed the possibility of impeaching him before a White House meeting on infrastructure.

The president repeated his rhetoric about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. “No collusion, no obstruction, no nothing,” Trump said. “This whole thing was a take-down attempt at the president of the United States.”

As Democrats in Congress debated impeaching Trump, Pelosi said on Wednesday, about an hour before a White House meeting with him, that Trump is engaged in a “cover-up.”

The president is stonewalling multiple congressional investigations by ignoring subpoenas, refusing to allow current and former advisers to testify, and not handing over documents, steps that have aggravated a confrontation with Congress.

“No one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi told reporters after a morning meeting of House of Representatives Democrats.

She and other congressional leaders met briefly with Trump just before his appearance before reporters to talk about a potential bipartisan infrastructure development plan, although a firm proposal for funding any such effort has yet to emerge. The meeting lasted only a few minutes.

At about the time the meeting was to begin, Trump said on Twitter: “As I have long been saying, and has now been proven out, this is a Witch Hunt against the Republican Party and myself, and it was the other side that caused the problem, not us!”

Trump and Democrats who control the House are engaged in a high-stakes power struggle over their ability to investigate him, with the president increasingly asserting that his advisers need not respond to lawmakers’ inquiries.

Their probes range from whether Trump obstructed justice during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian meddling in Trump’s favor in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to his personal finances and businesses.

As the confrontation has escalated, Pelosi and other senior House leaders have been trying to tamp down demands from more junior Democratic lawmakers to kick off impeachment proceedings, urging them to give court enforcement actions time to progress.

The Democratic House Intelligence Committee chairman has agreed to hold off enforcing a subpoena against Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department said it would turn over materials relating to Mueller’s probe. The decision ended a standoff between the committee and the Justice Department for access to counterintelligence reports generated by Mueller.

“The Department of Justice … this week will begin turning over to the committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials,” committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement on Wednesday.

Several House Democrats left Wednesday morning’s meeting telling reporters that Schiff’s deal might cool some of the passion for immediately moving toward impeachment

But impeachment demands have mounted since former White House Counsel Don McGahn ignored a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to appear before it and testify.

Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly told reporters that Pelosi was working to balance the demands of Democrats in the House. But he added, “I am increasingly concerned that this president has committed impeachable offenses.”

Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that is demanding Trump’s tax returns, said he agrees with Pelosi and most committee chairs on not jumping to impeachment now.

Pascrell has been a Pelosi critic, but he said, “On this one I think she’s absolutely correct; the methodical approach.”

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies at a security threat hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

May 22, 2019

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Justice Department for access to counterintelligence reports generated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation of President Donald Trump and his associates, two congressional sources said on Tuesday.

Mueller’s team produced counterintelligence reports and passed the information along to the FBI and the Justice Department based on witness interviews and other evidence about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Intelligence committees in both the Democrat-led House of Representatives and the Republican-led Senate want detailed information about those reports and leads, the congressional sources said.

In a footnote to one section of his report about a Russian operation that trolled American internet users during the 2016 campaign, Mueller said his team was “aware of reports that other Russian entities engaged in similar active measures operations targeting the United States.”

U.S. and European law enforcement and intelligence officials have said European spy agencies began collecting information about Russian government hackers’ efforts to target U.S. government and political networks as early as 2015.

FBI investigators also started probing hacking of the Democratic Party in late 2015, sources familiar with the investigations said.

Last week, in a letter to Attorney General William Barr, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said the Justice Department failed to comply with a subpoena his committee issued for documents and materials related to Mueller’s investigation.

Schiff said that failure to comply “places the Department at risk of unlawfully withholding foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information from the committee.”

He also said the committee could consider enforcement action against the department at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday if the requested materials are not produced.

Last month, according to a congressional source, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote the FBI requesting a briefing on counterintelligence information developed by Mueller’s team. The source said that briefing had not yet occurred.

The Justice Department has offered to let the House committee’s members see most of the redacted parts of Mueller’s report on Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as foreign and counterintelligence documentation related to Mueller’s inquiry.

In a letter sent to Schiff on Tuesday, Justice Department official Stephen Boyd said he was surprised that Schiff’s committee had found that proposal “unacceptable”.

Boyd also said the department was willing to discuss a possible plan for giving Intelligence Committee members and staff closed-doors access to some additional material they are seeking if Schiff does not move forward with his threats to hold the department in contempt.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

Attorney General Barr speaks at farewell ceremony for Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein at the U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during a farewell ceremony for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

May 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said he would hold off enforcing a subpoena against Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department agreed to turn over materials relating to an investigation into Russian election interference.

The decision ended a standoff between the committee and the Justice Department for access to counterintelligence reports generated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his probe of President Donald Trump and his associates.

“The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step toward compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,” committee chairman, Adam Schiff, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Schiff said he was postponing a business meeting where the panel was to discuss enforcing the subpoena, but said it will remain in effect “and will be enforced should the Department fail to comply with the full document request.”

Mueller’s team had produced counterintelligence reports based on evidence about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and passed them to the FBI and the Justice Department.

Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, on May 2 snubbed the House intelligence committee, which voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for not handing over a full, unredacted Mueller report.

Last week, Schiff told Barr in a letter the Justice Department had failed to comply with a subpoena his committee issued for documents and materials related to Mueller’s investigation.

He said the committee could consider enforcement action against the department at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday if the requested materials are not produced.

In a letter to Schiff on Tuesday, Justice Department official Stephen Boyd said the department was willing to discuss a possible plan for giving Intelligence Committee members and staff closed-doors access to additional material if Schiff does not move forward with his threats to hold the department in contempt.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) waits to go on stage during her campaign kick off event in New York
FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) waits to go on stage during her campaign kick off event in New York, New York, U.S., March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

May 22, 2019

By Ginger Gibson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday proposed requiring insurance companies to cover expensive fertility treatments, part of a “Family Bill of Rights” that would also help with adoption and medical care.

Gillibrand, a U.S. senator from New York, has struggled to gain traction in the crowded field of more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates vying to challenge President Donald Trump. She recently became one of the most vocal candidates calling for access to abortion and criticizing laws like those passed in Alabama that would virtually ban on the practice.

“My new proposal, the Family Bill of Rights, will make all families stronger – regardless of who you are or what your zip code is – with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

Gillibrand would pay for the proposals by taxing financial transactions to generate an estimated $777 billion over the next decade. Senate Democrats have proposed a 0.03% “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street transactions.

She wants to expand access to adoption services and fertility treatments “regardless of income, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity.”

Gillibrand said she would require health insurance companies to cover costly treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) which most plans currently do not cover.

Additionally, Gillibrand said she would expand the federal adoption tax credit, making it accessible to more people including those whose incomes are so low they do not owe any federal taxes.

The senator also advocated for proposals that are already popular among Democrats candidates. She called for more maternal care doctors, including those in rural areas.

In addition to more maternal care, Gillibrand called for automatically enrolling all babies in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently provides health care to babies born into poverty.

Calling it a “right to personally care for your loved ones while still getting paid, she endorsed enacting paid family leave.

Gillibrand also called for a tax credit to help parents pay for child care. This stops short of a proposal already made by one of her rivals, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called for subsidizing child care and creating out-of-pocket maximums for parents.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the Infrastructure Initiative in Richfield
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the Infrastructure Initiative at the Local 18 Richfield Training Site in Richfield, Ohio, U.S., March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

May 22, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in Congress will press U.S. President Donald Trump at a White House meeting on Wednesday for details on how to pay for a massive boost in U.S. infrastructure spending after agreeing in April to try to win approval of a $2 trillion package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement late on Tuesday that Trump in April had agreed to provide “ideas for pay-fors,” a term used in Washington for new taxes or government spending reductions.

“On Wednesday, we look forward to hearing the President’s plan for how to pay for this package,” they said. The pair will be joined by other key Democrats in Congress, including those on committees overseeing infrastructure issues.

The Democrats made no mention of Trump’s demand on Tuesday that Congress first approve a new North American free trade deal before moving to infrastructure. Trump also suggested Congress use a surface transportation measure that expires in September 2020 as a vehicle for infrastructure spending.

    On April 30, Trump and Democratic leaders agreed to build roads, bridges, power grids, water and broadband infrastructure, but delayed the tough decisions on how to fund it to another meeting.

Administration officials and congressional aides are skeptical that 18 months before the election both sides will have the political will to find substantial new revenue.

    Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in an interview on Tuesday that the United States has an $800 billion backlog of badly needed projects.

    “We need for (Trump) to show some leadership,” Carper said, saying Trump needs to explain how he will fund repairs. “If he does … he will not be by himself.”

Fitch Ratings said last week that any U.S. plan for boosting infrastructure “will need to provide for consistent, continued federal funding and more diverse funding sources to fully address the infrastructure deficit.”

Fitch noted that as the federal government has failed to act, 31 states have raised gas taxes since 2013, including four in 2019. But Fitch said state and local governments are unable to raise adequate funds to fully address infrastructure needs on their own.

Republicans are not willing to roll back tax cuts from Trump’s 2017 tax reform legislation, an idea Democrats who largely opposed that measure have floated as a way of financing the infrastructure plans.

Last month, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump has not decided whether he would support an increase in fuel taxes to fund infrastructure projects.

On Tuesday, Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, introduced legislation to hike the fuel tax by five cents a year over five years and index it to inflation to pay for repairs.

The federal gas tax was last raised in 1993.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

Beth Cope of Jersey City, New Jersey attends the
Beth Cope of Jersey City, New Jersey attends the “Stop the Bans” rally in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

May 22, 2019

By Tim Reid

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled an ambitious plan to protect abortion rights on Tuesday through mobilizing every branch of the U.S government to defend a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

Former Texas congressman O’Rourke, 46, made the announcement during his first nationally televised event before a live audience, part of a strategy to re-energize a campaign that has seen slumping poll numbers since he announced his White House bid amid a blaze of publicity in March.

O’Rourke’s plan comes amid an intensifying national debate about abortion rights, one that is set to become a major issue as a huge field of Democrats seek to become the candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in next year’s election.

Last week, Alabama enacted one of the strictest abortion laws in the United States. It would make abortion illegal in nearly all cases, including those of rape and incest.

Several other Republican-controlled states have recently passed so-called “heartbeat” laws, which outlaw abortion if a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

Those laws form part of the latest challenge by conservatives to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

O’Rourke said during a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, the state where the Democratic nominating contest kicks off in February, that as president he would appoint only judges, including those to the U.S. Supreme Court, who view Roe as the “settled law of the land”.

He said he would work with Congress to pass laws preventing states from taking away abortion rights, and would work to pass other federal laws, including a universal health care system providing coverage for reproductive healthcare and access to contraception and abortion.

O’Rourke said he would also use the powers of the executive branch to safeguard a woman’s right to choose, including appointing an attorney general who would protect abortion rights under Roe.

“For so long, women have been leading this fight, shouldering the burden of making sure that their reproductive rights are protected. It is time all of us join them in this fight,” O’Rourke said.

In reality, O’Rourke’s plan would struggle in Congress, especially in the Republican-controlled Senate. But it will appeal to Democratic activists and many primary voters as he battles in a field of 23 candidates currently vying to be the nominee to take on Trump in next November’s election.

O’Rourke’s CNN appearance was well received by the audience, who frequently cheered his responses to questions. His aides will be hoping that the appearance before a national audience will help breathe new life into a candidacy that has been struggling to gain traction.

In recent weeks, O’Rourke has been languishing low down a second tier of Democratic candidates, with his poll numbers falling to between three and five percent support among likely Democratic primary voters.

He has largely focused on meeting voters in small events, a strategy that so far has not been working. In the past week he has stepped up national television appearances, with interviews on MSNBC, an appearance on ABC’s The View, and then Tuesday night’s CNN town hall.

O’Rourke rose to national prominence last year when he narrowly lost his bid to defeat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

(Reporting by Tim Reid; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

Senate Minorrity Leader Schumer departs following meeting with Congressional leaders and Trump administration officials on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) walks past reporters outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office as he departs following a meeting between Congressional leaders and Trump administration representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The two top Democrats in Congress said on Tuesday that talks with Republican lawmakers and White House officials on federal spending were “productive.”

“We look forward to continuing to meet to discuss how we can best address the needs of hard-working families, as we again work across the aisle to avert sequestration,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander)

Source: OANN

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during the town hall meeting in the Queens borough of New York City
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during the town hall meeting in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

May 21, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez said on Tuesday it is time for Democratic leaders to allow an impeachment process to start against President Donald Trump, saying the administration’s obstruction of lawmakers’ oversight efforts gives them no choice.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far resisted calls for Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings, instead backing continued investigations of Trump and his administration by numerous congressional panels instead.

But more Democrats are openly discussing it, and liberals like Ocasio-Cortez, a leader of the progressive left since she beat an established Democrat in a surprise primary upset last year, are stepping up the pressure.

“I think it’s time for us to, at the very least, open an impeachment inquiry … we’ve been given no choice I think, in this scenario,” Ocasio-Cortez said outside the House of Representatives.

She said the Mueller report on Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign had described evidence of obstruction of the investigation by the executive branch, adding that the report had pointed directly to Congress as the body to take action.

The report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller stopped short of declaring that the president obstructed justice, but it also did not exonerate him.

“We now have the president actively discouraging witnesses from coming in to answer a legally binding subpoena from Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez added. Former White House counsel Don McGahn on Tuesday defied a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee, at the White House’s request.

“It’s getting to the point where we can’t even do our own jobs. And I think it is entirely appropriate, given this overwhelming amount of evidence and the continued actions from the executive branch, that we exert our power as a co-equal branch of government,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

She said she was not sure whether impeachment advocates were a majority of the Democrats in the House, but “I personally have not felt a very strong opposition to impeachment.”

Another Democratic lawmaker, Representative John Yarmuth, said on Tuesday he believed Pelosi realizes events are trending in the direction of impeachment, even as the Democratic leader argues for continued focus on House investigations of the Trump administration.

Pelosi listened as advocates of impeachment spoke at a Monday night meeting with senior Democrats, Yarmuth said.

“I think she realizes that the path is leading more and more inevitably toward an impeachment process. But she wants to let all these committees do their thing,” Yarmuth said outside the House.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

May 21, 2019

(Reuters) – The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, on Tuesday announced he has issued subpoenas to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, the former chief of staff to then-White House counsel Donald McGahn.

The subpoenas, which seek both testimony and documents in connection with the committee’s probe into whether President Donald Trump obstructed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, were announced on the same day that McGahn defied a congressional subpoena at the White House’s request.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters following the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill
FILE PHOTO – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks with reporters following the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

May 21, 2019

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he hoped Congress could reach by the end of the day a two-year agreement on federal spending limits that would also increase the nation’s debt ceiling.

“Our hope is to make a deal before the day is over,” McConnell, a Republican, told reporters. “The agreement would be a two-year caps deal, which would allow us to go forward with some semblance at least of a regular appropriations process. It would also in all likelihood include the debt ceiling.”

The U.S. Treasury later this year is expected to exhaust its statutory borrowing authority amid heavy deficit spending by the federal government. Democrats have been pushing for an increase in the debt ceiling as part of the negotiations on overall spending caps.

The four top Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate, along with some leading Trump administration officials, met for nearly two hours earlier on Tuesday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office – a far longer meeting than had been anticipated.

After that meeting, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that progress was made but that there were differences to be resolved.

“We have certain domestic needs that are very important to us,” Schumer said.

Without a bipartisan deal on new budget caps, military spending would drop to around $576 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a $70.8 billion reduction from this year.

Non-defense spending would fall to $543.2 billion, a nearly $53.8 billion cut from this year.

(Reporting Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker and Doina Chiacu; editing by Mohammad Zargham and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - California Governor Jerry Brown's name and others are pictured on a railroad rail after a ceremony for the California High Speed Rail in Fresno, California January 6, 2015.
FILE PHOTO – California Governor Jerry Brown’s name and others are pictured on a railroad rail after a ceremony for the California High Speed Rail in Fresno, California January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – California on Tuesday sued the Trump administration after it confirmed last week it will withhold $929 million in high-speed rail funding awarded to the state in 2010.

California later on Tuesday plans to seek a temporary restraining order request asking a judge to prevent the Trump administration from repurposing the money, the governor’s office said. The U.S. Transportation Department, which did not immediately comment, said last week it had canceled the funding agreement after it said the state “failed to make reasonable progress on the project.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Tax preparation office pictured in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: A tax sign is pictured on an H&R Block tax office in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

May 21, 2019

By Karen Pierog

CHICAGO (Reuters) – April, typically a big revenue month for U.S. states that levy personal income taxes, was especially robust this year, making up for subpar collections in prior months, but analysts cautioned the tax surge underscores how state budgets face greater volatility from federal tax law changes and the stock market.

In California, where personal income taxes account for about 70% of the state’s general fund revenue, a year-over-year increase of 35.2% last month made up for lagging revenue from the tax in December and January, according to H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state’s finance department.

The state earlier this month boosted the forecast for the tax in its next budget by $1.78 billion.

The Republican tax overhaul known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018 and included a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, created a big unknown for budgets, particularly in high-tax states.

Some taxpayers accelerated their tax payments into December 2017 to head off the cap, inflating states’ calendar year-end tax collections. As a result, December 2018 collections fell in comparison, stoking fears that revenue goals for state budgets may be missed. April’s revenue burst brought budgets back into balance, sometimes with money to spare, and lifted tax collection projections for the coming fiscal year.

Taxes on wages and investment income are a top revenue source for states that collect them. April is the most important revenue month due to the tax filing deadline and the tendency of taxpayers who owe money to wait until the last minute to pay.

“Moving forward, states should be cautious about income tax revenue and shouldn’t be expecting the strong growth they’ve seen in April,” said Lucy Dadayan, a senior research associate who tracks state revenue at the Urban Institute.

She said the stock market will play a significant role in terms of capital gains-related income tax revenue for states, along with the behavior of taxpayers, who continue to navigate tax law changes and figure out loopholes to minimize their tax liability.

It is not yet clear how much of a role wages, capital gains or other factors played in spurring the higher income tax collections – and whether that level of revenue would be ongoing.

“My guess is a lot of it is capital gains that have suddenly appeared and you can’t necessarily count on that for next year,” said Ronald Alt, senior manager of economic and tax research at the Federation of Tax Administrators.

STATES TWEAK REVENUE FORECASTS

While New York and other states challenge the constitutionality of the state and local tax deduction cap on constitutional grounds in federal court, their budgets are getting whipsawed.

New York State’s net personal tax revenue, which lagged December and January prior year’s collections by $5.28 billion, zoomed 57.4 percent higher last month to $9.21 billion from $5.85 billion a year ago. The state projected the tax will bring in $380 million more in its budget for the fiscal year that began on April 1 than previously forecast.

Based on a $1.5 billion April revenue increase, fueled largely by a 35.5 percent spike in personal income taxes, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker raised the state’s fiscal 2020 revenue forecast by $800 million and yanked a proposal to reduce pension contributions.

David Hitchcock, an S&P Global Ratings analyst, said in the future, the month of April could account for a higher proportion of states’ income tax collections because taxpayers have less of an incentive to accelerate their tax payments.

“It creates a little more uncertainty in forecasting revenue than before. It makes April a little more of a question mark,” he said, adding that uncertainty poses more risk for owners of state bonds.

Seven states – Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming – collect no income tax, and two – New Hampshire and Tennessee – tax dividend and interest income, but not wages.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Source: OANN

March for Reproductive Freedom in Montgomery
People listen at the Alabama State Capitol during the March for Reproductive Freedom against the state’s new abortion law, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger

May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. abortion-rights campaigners, including several Democrats running for president in 2020, are set to rally in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to protest new restrictions on abortion passed by legislatures in eight states.

Many of the restrictions are intended to draw legal challenges, which religious conservatives hope will lead the nation’s top court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are among the presidential candidates expected to speak at Tuesday’s rally, according to media accounts.

The rally is one of scores being organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and other civil rights group in what they are describing as a Stop Abortion Bans Day of Action.

Some of the new laws passed by Republican state legislatures amount to the tightest restrictions on abortion seen in the United States in decades. Alabama passed an outright ban last week, including for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, unless the woman’s life is in danger.

Other states, including Ohio and Georgia, have banned abortions absent a medical emergency after six weeks of pregnancy or after the fetus’s heartbeat can be detected, which can occur before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.

Those laws are in defiance of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which affords a woman the right to an abortion up to the moment the fetus would be viable outside the womb, which is usually placed at about seven months, or 28 weeks, but may occur earlier.

The bans have been championed by conservatives, many of them Christian, who say fetuses should have rights comparable to those of infants and view abortion as tantamount to murder. The Supreme Court now has a 5-4 conservative majority following two judicial appointments by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Civil rights groups are suing to overturn the bans as eroding a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and say they endanger women who seek riskier illegal or homespun means to terminate a pregnancy.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker in Washington, writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One as he departs for a campaign rally in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One as he departs for a campaign rally from the White House in Washington, U.S., May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

May 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday appealed a federal judge’s ruling against his attempt to block a House of Representatives committee from seeking his financial records, according to a court filing.

Lawyers for Trump and his company filed the appeal in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia one day after a U.S. district judge backed the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm Mazars LLP.

The lower court’s decision on Monday handed an early setback for the Republican president in his legal battle with congressional Democrats as lawmakers investigate various aspects of his administration.

The House Oversight Committee has said it needs Trump’s financial records to examine whether he has conflicts of interest or broke the law by not disentangling himself from his business holdings, as previous presidents did.

Trump’s lawyers argue the panel’s demand exceeded Congress’s constitutional limits. Mazars has said it will comply with its legal obligations but has taken no sides as the case plays out in court.

A real estate developer and former reality television star, Trump still owns the Trump Organization but has said he would leave its day-to-day operations to his eldest two sons while in office. Unlike previous modern U.S. presidential candidates, he did not disclose his tax returns during his run for the White House.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

May 21, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amid growing talk in Congress of impeaching President Donald Trump, the Democratic-led House of Representatives committee where such an effort would was set to hold a hearing on Tuesday with or without testimony from Don McGahn, the White House’s former top lawyer.

McGahn, who left his post in October, was told by the Trump administration on Monday to disregard a House Judiciary Committee subpoena demanding that he appear at the hearing to discuss the Russian election meddling investigation.

In Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, McGahn was a key witness regarding possible obstruction of justice by the Republican president. Career prosecutors who are not involved in the case have said that the report contained strong evidence that Trump committed a crime when he pressured McGahn to fire Mueller and later urged him to lie about the episode.

The Justice Department issued a legal opinion saying McGahn did not need to appear. Late on Monday, McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, wrote that his client would not testify before the committee unless the panel reached an agreement with the White House.

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, made clear the hearing would go ahead regardless.

In a letter sent to McGahn late on Monday, Nadler told him he will “risk serious consequences” if he fails to show up to testify.

“Should you fail to do so, the committee is prepared to use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal,” Nadler wrote.

The White House’s open defiance of the committee follows a pattern of stonewalling of numerous congressional inquiries into Trump and his turbulent presidency.

Trump and most fellow Republicans in Congress dismiss the inquiries as political harassment ahead of the 2020 elections. However, House Republican Justin Amash, a frequent Trump critic and outspoken Michigan conservative, said over the weekend that the president “has engaged in impeachable conduct.”

Trump told reporters late on Monday outside the White House that Amash is “a loser.”

On another front, in a legal setback for Trump, a U.S. judge on Monday ruled against him in a case involving another House panel. The House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Trump’s financial records from his long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP.

In an unusual move, lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization, his company, last month sued to try to block the subpoena. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington ruled against Trump and denied his request for a stay pending appeal.

As a power struggle has escalated between Trump and Congress over its powers to investigate him, Democrats have raised growing concerns about the president’s conduct, especially since the mid-April release of the Mueller report. They also have accused him of ignoring the authority assigned to Congress under the Constitution.

“We simply cannot sit by and allow this president to destroy the rule of law. … If Mr. McGahn doesn’t testify tomorrow, I think it is probably appropriate for us to move forward with an impeachment inquiry,” Democratic Representative David Cicilline, a Judiciary Committee member, told MSNBC.

The redacted, 448-page report from Mueller, 22 months in the making, showed how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor and detailed Trump’s numerous attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.

The report found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that there was a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign. It made no recommendation on whether Trump obstructed justice, leaving that question up to Congress.

“The president acted again and again – perhaps criminally – to protect himself from federal law enforcement. Don McGahn personally witnessed the most egregious of these acts. … (Trump) clearly does not want the American people to hear firsthand about his alleged misconduct,” Nadler said in a statement.

“Senior advisers to the president cannot simply refuse to appear in response to a congressional subpoena,” Nadler said.

If McGahn fails to appear, he would follow the lead of Attorney General William Barr, who skipped a hearing before House Judiciary Committee on May 2.

The panel later voted to recommend that the full House hold Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to release an unredacted version of the Mueller report. Nadler has threatened to hold McGahn in contempt if he fails to show up.

Trump earlier this month cited the controversial doctrine of executive privilege to block another Judiciary Committee subpoena seeking an unredacted version of Mueller’s final report.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Cynthia Osterman and Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors' Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors’ Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, U.S., May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

May 21, 2019

By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON/MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, facing a potentially difficult path to winning a second term in November 2020, on Monday told supporters in Pennsylvania that his trade war had strengthened the battleground state’s steel industry and jobs.

Although Trump does not launch his re-election bid officially until next month, his appearance at a raucous rally in an airport hangar in northeastern Pennsylvania, using Air Force One as a backdrop, had the hallmarks of a campaign event.

He took aim at Democratic front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden. “Sleepy Joe said that he’s running to ‘save the world.’ … He’s going to save every country but ours,” Trump said.

The president previewed the arguments he will make to voters in the 2020 election, crediting his trade stance with helping the U.S. economy.

“When you have the best employment numbers in history, when you have the best unemployment numbers in history, when you have the best economy probably that we’ve ever had, I don’t know – how the hell do you lose this election, right?,” he said.

Trump has waged a high-stakes trade dispute with China, and tariffs imposed by both countries on a range of goods have raised fears of a global economic slowdown.

Trump last year also imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. He claims that the move saved and created jobs at U.S. mills as well as spurred investment such as by U.S. Steel in Pennsylvania. Many economists say that those benefits are outweighed by higher costs to U.S. companies and consumers.

Trump was stumping for a special House of Representatives election in Pennsylvania, one of three “Rust Belt” states he won in 2016 with votes from white, blue-collar voters who had previously voted Democratic.

His campaign sees the state as key to keeping control of the White House, along with Michigan and Wisconsin. A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed the president trailing the main Democratic contenders in Pennsylvania in particular.

“I’ll be seeing a lot of you over the next year,” Trump said. “Gotta win this state.”

‘TROUBLESOME’ TRIO OF STATES

Trump has already been raising money for his re-election and holding political rallies for many months. But he plans an official rollout for his campaign in mid-June, the four-year anniversary of when he rode the escalator at Trump Tower down to a crowd of supporters and announced his candidacy.

He is likely to hold a rally in Florida, possibly on June 15, to mark the occasion, sources said. The Trump campaign declined to comment.

Trump , who considers Florida to be something of a second home, won the state in 2016. But as is the case for Trump in many battleground states, his victory is not assured there in 2020, and he will likely face a fight to win it again.

The Trump campaign has privately expressed concern about the trio of upper Midwest swing states that provided his 2016 margin of victory, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A source close to the campaign called Trump’s position in those states “troublesome.”

“They’re awakening to the fact that they’ve got a problem. They have a solid base among Republicans but a lot of independent voters that gave them the margin in these states are not doing well,” the source said.

‘SLEEPY JOE’

Since Trump took over as president in early 2017, the United States has had low unemployment and strong growth. Typically, presidents with an economy this vibrant would be strong bets for re-election.

But Trump’s polarizing presidency has given hope to a host of Democratic contenders that he can be denied a second term.

Biden has sounded a unifying theme to try to rally Americans behind his candidacy. In second place in the Democratic polls is democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

Biden has put his campaign headquarters in Philadelphia and has held two rallies in the state during the past month.

Trump has dubbed Biden “Sleepy Joe” to try to undermine him, in much the same way as he gave Republican contender Jeb Bush the nickname “low-energy Jeb” in 2016.

(Reporting By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Eric Beech; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors' Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors’ Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, U.S., May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

May 20, 2019

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Monday ruled in favor of a U.S. House of Representatives committee seeking President Donald Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, dealing an early setback to the Trump administration in its legal battle with Congress.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington also denied a request by Trump to stay his decision pending an appeal.

Last Tuesday Mehta heard oral arguments on whether Mazars LLP must comply with a House of Representatives Oversight Committee subpoena.

Mehta said in Monday’s ruling that the committee “has shown that it is not engaged in a pure fishing expedition for the President’s financial records” and that the Mazars documents might assist Congress in passing laws and performing other core functions.

It was the first time a federal court had waded into the tussle about how far Congress can go in probing Trump and his business affairs.

Trump is refusing to cooperate with a series of investigations on issues ranging from his tax returns and policy decisions to his Washington hotel and his children’s security clearances.

Trump’s lawyers argued that Congress is on a quest to “turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the president now and in the 2020 election.”

Mehta’s ruling will almost certainly be appealed to a higher court.

The House Oversight Committee claims sweeping investigative power and says it needs Trump’s financial records to examine whether he has conflicts of interest or broke the law by not disentangling himself from his business holdings, as previous presidents did.

Lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization, his company, last month filed a lawsuit to block the committee’s subpoena, saying it exceeded Congress’ constitutional limits.

Mehta was appointed in 2014 by Democratic former President Barack Obama, who was often investigated by Republicans in Congress during his two terms in office.

Mazars has avoided taking sides in the dispute and said it will “comply with all legal obligations.”

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Writing by Jan Wolfe and Howard Goller; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Justin Amash speaks at the LPAC conference in Chantilly, Virginia
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) speaks at the Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC ) in Chantilly, Virginia September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

May 20, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Justin Amash, the first Republican in the U.S. Congress to say openly that President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses, on Monday fired back at critics, including Trump.

Standing behind his earlier remarks, Amash issued a string of tweets that challenged some of the most common arguments of those who defend Trump over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The new Amash tweets followed his earlier remarks on Twitter on Saturday, when he said that the Mueller report on Russia showed that Trump, a fellow Republican, had obstructed justice.

“President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” the Michigan conservative said then, drawing a broadside from Trump.

In his usual caustic style, the president on Sunday tweeted that Amash was “a total lightweight” and “a loser.”

In addition, in a case of swift political retribution, Amash drew an election challenge from within his own party on Monday when Jim Lower, a Michigan state legislator who described himself as “pro-Trump,” said he would challenge Amash in the 2020 Republican primary, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Amash in his latest tweets said that people who say Trump could not have intended to illegally obstruct Mueller’s investigation relied on several falsehoods, including a claim that there were no underlying crimes.

“In fact, there were many crimes revealed by the investigation, some of which were charged, and some of which were not,” Amash wrote on Twitter.

Mueller’s investigation led to criminal charges against 34 people, including Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who agreed to cooperate with the probe.

Amash also said that bringing an obstruction of justice case did not, as some of Trump’s backers have argued, require the prosecution of an underlying crime.

Further, he said, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the U.S. Constitution’s standard for removing a president from office, does not require corresponding statutory charges. “The context implies conduct that violates the public trust,” Amash said.

No U.S. president has ever been removed from office as a direct result of the U.S. Constitution’s impeachment process.

Democrats have debated for months whether to start proceedings to remove Trump from office, but no Republican in Congress, other than Amash, has called Trump’s conduct impeachable. While Amash’s remarks made calls in Congress for Trump’s removal bipartisan, there were no signs late on Monday of other Republicans following his lead.

A long-time Trump critic, Amash is part of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative House of Representatives faction whose members normally defend Trump. Amash has also signaled he would consider running as a libertarian against Trump in 2020.

Amash has been in Congress since 2011 and has faced only one serious primary challenge since then. He beat that opponent by nearly 15 points in 2014.

Amash’s new Republican challenger, Lower, posted a photo of himself on Facebook in front of a “Trump 2020” sign. “Congressman Justin Amash tweets yesterday calling for President Trump’s impeachment show how out of touch he is … He must be replaced and I am going to do it,” Lower said, according to the Detroit newspaper.

Michigan voters helped put Trump in the White House in 2016 by a slim margin. Democrats gained ground in 2018’s congressional and state elections, making the Midwestern state a key political battleground in 2020.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Judge Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO – White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

May 20, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch, David Morgan and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday told former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena to testify before a congressional committee about the Russia investigation, deepening a fight between the administration and Democratic lawmakers.

In a letter to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said that McGahn should not appear due to both “constitutional immunity” and “in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the Presidency.”

The committee is investigating whether Trump illegally obstructed the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

McGahn figured prominently in a report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the Russia probe and whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.

The report cites McGahn as saying that Trump called him several times in June 2017 to tell him to direct the Justice Department to remove Mueller because of conflicts of interest.

Some Democratic lawmakers say that alleged order by the president could amount to committing the crime of obstruction. Trump has denied asking McGahn to have Mueller removed.Last month, committee chairman Nadler issued a subpoena to McGahn to make him testify before the panel on Tuesday, and has said he would hold the attorney in contempt if he did not show up.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, meanwhile, issued an opinion on Monday that gave legal cover to the decision to block McGahn from testifying.

In it, Justice Department Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel wrote that, “Congress may not constitutionally compel the President’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Sarah N. Lynch, David Morgan and Tim Ahmann; writing by Mohammad Zargham; editing by David Alexander and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Judge Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO – White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

May 20, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department offered President Donald Trump legal cover on Monday to block former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, saying McGahn has “immunity from testifying” before Congress about matters related to his official duties.

The legal opinion by the Justice Department was released one day before McGahn had been due to appear before the Democratically controlled House panel by order of a subpoena to discuss matters outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigative report.

“Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” the opinion said, citing the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Justin Amash speaks at the LPAC conference in Chantilly, Virginia
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) speaks at the Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC ) in Chantilly, Virginia September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

May 20, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The first Republican in the U.S. Congress to say openly that President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses drew a 2020 election challenge on Monday from within his own party, the Detroit Free Press reported.

In a case of swift political retribution, Representative Justin Amash, just two days after making his remarks about Trump, faced a Republican primary bid from Jim Lower, a Michigan state legislator who described himself as “pro-Trump.”

Posting a photo of himself on Facebook in front of a “Trump 2020” sign, Lower, according to the newspaper, said: “Congressman Justin Amash tweets yesterday calling for President Trump’s impeachment show how out of touch he is … He must be replaced and I am going to do it.”

Amash, on Twitter on Saturday, said the Mueller report showed that Trump, a fellow Republican, has obstructed justice and added, “President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.”

No other Republican member of Congress has made such statements. Democrats have been debating for months the possibility of starting proceedings to remove Trump from office. No U.S. president has ever been removed from office as a direct result of the U.S. Constitution’s impeachment process.

Citing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian meddling in Trump’s favor in the 2016 U.S. election, Amash tweeted that it “identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice.”

Counter-punching on Sunday in his usual style, Trump called Amash “a total lightweight” and “a loser” on Twitter.

Amash, a long-time Trump critic, is part of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative faction whose members normally defend Trump. Amash has also signaled he would consider running as a libertarian against Trump in 2020.

Amash’s remarks made calls in the U.S. Congress for Trump’s impeachment bipartisan, though just barely, with most Republicans still backing the president.

Amash has been in Congress since 2011. Since then, he has only had one serious primary challenge, in 2014. He beat that opponent by nearly 15 points.

Michigan voters helped put Trump in the White House in 2016 by a slim margin. Democrats gained ground in 2018’s congressional and state elections, making the Midwestern state a key political battleground in 2020.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hickenlooper speaks at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper speaks at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

May 20, 2019

By Amanda Becker

(Reuters) – Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Monday said there is an “authoritarian mentality” in the White House and the United States does not need its own “strongman,” as he delivered the first major foreign policy address among two dozen Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination.

“I think history clearly demonstrates that when you have a so-called strongman – a dictator – you don’t have rule of law,” Hickenlooper said when asked at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs if that was a better approach to foreign policy than multilateralism.

In his address, Hickenlooper said China “represents a generational challenge” for national security; that Russia “actively works against our interests” by propping up Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela; and that North Korea’s nuclear program “threatens its region and beyond.”

“From Moscow to Beijing, from Ankara to Caracas and beyond, authoritarian strongmen now threaten not only the rights of their own people, but also the foundations of international peace,” Hickenlooper said.

“While no invading army is storming America’s shores today, this authoritarian mentality has already breached our defenses. Indeed, it has occupied the White House. We have a president who is not just ignoring many of the threats to our national security, he is aiding and abetting them,” he added.

Hickenlooper said President Donald Trump has “fawned over” North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and treated Russia’s Vladimir Putin “as his puppet master.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hickenlooper’s address.

Hickenlooper criticized Trump for threatening to pull out of the NATO alliance, abandoning the Paris Climate Accords and withdrawing from trade negotiations.

“We cannot hope to go back to the way the world was before Trump, too much has changed,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper, who trails in opinion polls, is trying to show how he stands out in a field of Democratic White House hopefuls that include many with years of Washington experience, like former Vice President Joe Biden.

Hickenlooper criticized other Democrats for wanting to “withdraw from our global leadership role,” and said he would use “constant engagement” to expand trade, modernize the military and form strong global alliances, taking an “activist, not a pacifist” approach to foreign policy.

Hickenlooper said he would reaffirm the country’s commitment to the NATO alliance, revive arms control talks with China and Russia and reject boycotts, divestment or sanctions on Israel.

He also said he would consider re-establishing the Iran nuclear agreement made by the Obama administration, and re-enter the Paris climate agreement. Trump has pulled the United States out of both of those accords.

Hickenlooper also proposed creation of the position of “Director of National Cybersecurity” to formulate a 20-year plan to coordinate efforts among existing security and intelligence agencies.

(GRAPHIC: Who is running in 2020 – tmsnrt.rs/2Ff62ZC)

(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors' Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors’ Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, U.S., May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

May 20, 2019

By Crispian Balmer

ROME (Reuters) – Accounts tagged ‘hatetrump’ and ‘ihatetrump’ are part of a coordinated campaign to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump that has emerged on social media site Instagram, an independent study has revealed.

The photo-sharing app Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it was investigating the report and had already removed some of the profiles it highlighted.

Malign online attacks against Trump’s opponents have been well documented, most notably in the 2016 presidential election campaign, when Russian trolls allegedly flooded social media sites to undermine the Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

Italian analytics firm Ghost Data says https://ghostdata.io/report/GD_IGDJT05.pdf the U.S. president is now facing similar illicit tactics, albeit on a limited scale, with false profiles being created and coordinated online attacks organized to spread a virulent anti-Trump message.

“We have uncovered a small operation that is very likely part of something bigger,” said Andrea Stroppa, the head of research at Ghost Data, which has previously published reports on online counterfeiting and malicious botnets.

“I get the feeling that someone out there is experimenting. Testing the waters. They know what they are doing.”

Some of the accounts appeared to have broken Instagram’s rules, the study said, for example by using pictures stolen from other people or by acting in tandem with other accounts to spew out vitriolic messages.

A spokesperson for Instagram told Reuters: “We are investigating the accounts in question and have already removed those that we’ve found to violate our policies. Accounts used to manipulate or mislead the public are not allowed on Instagram and we will take action if we find additional violations.”

Facebook says it is working hard to root out malpractice on its platforms and has shuttered hundreds of accounts this year that display what it terms “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.

The U.S. giant has come under fire over the last two years for its self-admitted sluggishness in developing tools to combat extremist content and propaganda operations.

“MEMETIC WARFARE”

Stroppa said his research had identified some 52,000 accounts on Instagram which were generally anti-Trump, using such hashtags as #impeachtrump. Many of these were genuine profiles that mixed personal and political messaging.

Drilling down, some 350 “suspicious accounts” emerged which were almost entirely devoted to deriding the U.S. president. Of these, 19 accounts stood out, appearing to be interlinked and waging incessant “memetic warfare”, using a battery of manipulated images and videos to belittle the Republican leader.

The 350 anti-Trump accounts have put out some 121,00 posts since the first of them was created in October 2016, generating a total 35.2 million so-called interactions, which includes people ‘liking’ the item or making a comment.

The smaller subset of 19 accounts started to emerge last August and have since posted around 3,250 times, generating 440,000 interactions — more than half of them since March.

“Their goal seems to be to infiltrate into (social media) networks that are much bigger,” said Stroppa.

One block of five, interconnected anti-Trump accounts were created on the same day last August. Then they all went quiet at the end of that same month. New accounts soon popped up.

An independent report released last December by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said the Russian government’s Internet Research Agency created some 133 Instagram accounts in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and used them to try foster distrust in the U.S. political system.

“Instagram was perhaps the most effective platform for the Internet Research Agency,” said the report https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/4326998/ira-report-rebrand_FinalJ14.pdf, arguing that although posts on the site reached fewer users than on Facebook, people interacted much more on the photo-sharing app.

Stroppa said it was almost impossible to say where the 19 accounts he identified as especially suspect originated from and he had no evidence of Russian interference.

“What you can say is that this digital campaign against Trump uses some of the same methods that were used to attack Hilary Clinton in 2016,” he said.

The accounts were split into four groups that sometimes shared similar names. They often put out the same material, near simultaneously. One of the accounts bought advertising space on Facebook, using the name of an unregistered political movement.

“This is a campaign of hate speech not one of reasoned political opposition. The tone is often very vulgar and rude,” said Stroppa.

Imaging software showed that one of the accounts purporting to have been set up by a young U.S. woman was actually using the profile photo of a Russian woman taken from a Russian social media site. Another account used the image of a Ukrainian woman.

Instagram has more than a billion users, making the accounts reviewed by Ghost Data a tiny fraction of the whole. But analysts say even small numbers of users can prove heavily influential if they manage to get their messages amplified.

“Our assessment is that Instagram is likely to be a key battleground on an ongoing basis,” social media analysts New Knowledge wrote in their 2018 report for the U.S. Senate.

(Editing by Anna Willard)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Trump speaks with the Governor of Missouri Parson as he arrives in St. Louis, Missouri
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with the Governor of Missouri Mike Parson as he arrives in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

May 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Missouri’s Republican governor could sign a law as early as this week banning most abortions in the Midwestern state after the eighth week of pregnancy, part of a wave of restrictions aimed at driving a challenge of abortion to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republican Governor Mike Parson told reporters on Friday he planned to sign the bill, which was approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature last week and would enact one of the United States’ most restrictive bans. He did not set a date for the signing but has until July 14 to do so, according to local media reports.

The state is one of eight where Republican-controlled legislatures this year have passed new restrictions on abortion. It is part of a coordinated campaign aimed at prompting the nation’s now conservative-majority top court to cut back or overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

The most restrictive of those bills was signed into law in Alabama last week. It bans abortion at all times and in almost all cases, including when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, but allows exceptions when the mother’s life is in danger. The Missouri bill also offers no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said it will sue to block Alabama’s law from taking effect. Last week, the ACLU joined Planned Parenthood, the women’s reproductive healthcare provider, in suing Ohio over its recent six-week abortion ban.

Abortion is one of the most bitterly contested social issues in the United States. Opponents often cite religious belief in saying that fetuses deserve rights similar to those of infants. Abortion rights advocates say the bans deprive women of equal rights and endanger those who end up seeking riskier, illegal methods to end a pregnancy.

Kentucky, Georgia, Utah, Mississippi and Arkansas have also passed new restrictions on abortion this year.

Conservative lawmakers have been emboldened in their efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade by two judicial appointments by President Donald Trump that have given conservatives a 5-4 majority on the court.

The Supreme Court could act as early as Monday on appeals seeking to revive two abortion restrictions enacted in Indiana in 2016.

Abortion rights activists on Sunday marched on the Alabama state capital in Birmingham to protest that state’s new law, which would take effect in two months.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN


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