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National Govt & Politics
GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration
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GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration

GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

GOP sticks with Trump on border, but apprehensive on emergency declaration

As President Donald Trump and top Democrats in Congress pointed the finger of blame at each other on the twentieth day of a partial government shutdown, there were no signs on Capitol Hill that GOP lawmakers would abandon the President's drive for money to build a border wall, though Republican lawmakers publicly expressed concerns about the idea of the President declaring a national emergency, in order to shift money around in the federal budget to build the wall.

"Our side is holding strong," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who along with other conservative Republicans had pressed the President for months to be more aggressive on the border wall issue.

"It's something that we're going to stand with the President," said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who was more than ready to show off text messages from supporters back home urging Republicans in Congress not to give in.

"Vote for the wall!" Yoho read from his phone just off the House floor. "Hold out for the wall," was another message, as rank and file Republicans stood firm on Day 20.

"President Trump cannot and will not capitulate on his promise to secure the border," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has tried with a group of other GOP Senators to come up with some kind of broader immigration deal.

"Shutdown continues, no end in sight," Graham tweeted on Thursday afternoon.

While the President was at the border, Democrats in the Senate protested the refusal of GOP leaders to allow Senate votes on funding bills passed by the House, again blocking efforts to start work on a bipartisan foreign policy bill dealing with the Mideast.

"It really doesn't make any sense to deal with a government shutdown by shutting down the Senate," complained Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who for the second time this week saw action on his bill held up by Democrats.

"People are being hurt, it's got to end, and it's got to end now," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) to a rally of federal workers on Capitol Hill, as they demanded that the Senate act on bills to re-open those parts of the federal government which were shuttered starting on December 22.

"We love our jobs," said Brian Ching, a NASA engineer who works at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the crowd of union supporters chanted, "Back to work! Back to work!"

"Mr. President, end this shutdown now!" said one union leader to cheers.

The union rallies came a day before some 800,000 federal workers would miss their first paycheck because of the shutdown dispute, with no sign of any negotiations between the White House and Democrats, a day after President Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democratic leaders.

"I think there is a middle ground," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who urged both sides to simply split the difference on what the President wants for a wall, and what Democrats don't want to give, suggesting around $2.5 billion to reporters, though that number has been rejected by the President.

While President Trump was visiting the border in Texas, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with reporters, saying no decision had been made on declaring a national emergency, in which the President would unilaterally tap other funds to build a wall or other barriers without the consent of Congress.

"I have an absolute right to declare a national emergency," the President told reporters at the White House before flying to Texas, indicating that if there's no deal, he would likely choose that option.

But while there is strong support for the President on the wall - Republicans have notably expressed public reservations about a national emergency decision by the President, concerned by the precedent it might set, a possible legal challenge, and what monies Mr. Trump might tap for wall construction, especially if it comes from the Pentagon.

"I’m opposed to using defense dollars for non-defense purposes," said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I adamantly opposed to the money coming from military construction," said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), worried - like other lawmakers - that any move by the President to tap those accounts could put on hold construction plans at local military bases in their districts.

Even some of the President's more vocal supporters agreed such a declaration would not be the best outcome for those in favor of a wall.

"I think there's some concern - I believe he's heard those - about how that power could be used by future Presidents for other reasons," said Sen. Rubio.

"I think we should do it legislatively," Rep. Jordan said on Thursday, "because if he (Trump) goes the emergency route, I'm convinced it's going to wind up in court."

In the halls of Congress, it was obvious that no deal was in the cards between Congress and the President, as the Senate left for the weekend by 2:30 pm on Thursday afternoon, while the House was passing funding bills which the White House said would be vetoed.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

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  • The Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs last year to several high-profile critics of President Donald Trump pleaded guilty Thursday in a Manhattan federal court. >> Read more trending news Cesar Sayoc appeared Thursday for a change of plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.  Sayoc pleaded not guilty in November to a slew of charges after he was identified as the man suspected of mailing pipe bombs to targets including CNN, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. >> Cesar Sayoc Jr.: What we know about the man arrested for sending package bombs Sayoc has been held without bail since his late-October arrest outside a South Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van covered with stickers of Trump and showing images of some Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces. Authorities launched an investigation in October after pipe bombs were mailed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and philanthropist George Soros. In the subsequent days, similar devices were mailed to several other prominent Trump critics, including U.S. Rep Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Democratic donor Tom Steyer. >> 2nd mail bomb to Tom Steyer recovered; suspect agrees to remain jailed, face charges in New York Authorities said Sayoc was linked to the packages after investigators found his fingerprints and DNA on some of them. Without a plea deal, Sayoc faced charges carrying a potential penalty of mandatory life in prison. A court filing last Friday didn't indicate which charge or charges the plea would involve. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Federal authorities and Butler Township police are investigating after an explosive device was placed inside a mailbox and detonated, according to police. >> Read more trending news  The explosive device, which police believe was a commercial-grade firework, was detonated and destroyed the mailbox sometime between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, Butler Township Police Chief John Porter said in a media release. Police did not say what road the incident occurred on but described the area as a rural part of the township.  “Since tampering with a mailbox is covered under federal law, federal authorities have been notified and are participating with us in a joint investigation,” Porter said. “Our initial investigation shows there is no indication of any type of hate or bias crime at this time.”  Authorities continue to investigate.
  • The sister of a Minnesota woman accused of killing a stranger to steal her identity in Florida last year is now facing criminal charges of her own after investigators say she grew angry at her intoxicated son and ran him over with her SUV.  Cynthia Lea Grund, 58, of Salem Township, was jailed on suspicion of second-degree assault and reckless driving. Olmstead County Jail records indicate she has since been released.  >> Read more trending news Olmstead County deputies were called Monday evening to Grund’s home, where they found her 37-year-old son, identified by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as Jason Finstad, suffering from significant lower body injuries, a Sheriff’s Office news release said. The man had been run over by a vehicle.  Investigators determined that Grund had run over her son with a 2004 Ford Explorer, the news release said.  According to detectives, Finstad was very intoxicated when he began walking down the rural driveway to go to a friend’s house. His mother and stepfather no longer wanted him staying at their home.  Grund drove down the driveway to pick Finstad up and drive him to the friend’s house, the news release said. Finstad refused to get in the SUV. “Why don’t you just run me over,” he allegedly said before lying in the driveway in front of Grund’s vehicle.  “Grund then backed the vehicle up and intentionally ran over the victim,” the news release said. “Grund admitted to her actions and at one point made a comment to the effect, ‘He didn't believe I would. He has been drinking all day. We gave him a chance.’” Grund was taken into custody at the scene. >> Related story: ‘Losing Streak Lois,’ killer grandma wanted in 2 slayings nabbed near U.S.-Mexico border Finstad underwent surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester to repair damage to his pelvis. He also suffered head injuries in the incident, investigators said.  He was in fair condition as of Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported. According to the newspaper, Grund is the sister of Lois Ann Riess, 57, of Blooming Prairie, who is being held in Florida on a charge of first-degree murder in the April 5 slaying of Pamela Hutchinson, 59, of Bradenton.  Riess was arrested April 19 on Texas’ South Padre Island after a multistate string of crimes that investigators allege began with the shooting death of her husband, David Riess, 54, at their worm farm. Saturday will mark a year since David Riess’ decomposing body was found. Authorities said David Riess had been dead for several days by the time his body was discovered. The Star Tribune reported last month that a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun found in Lois Riess’ Texas motel room matched shell casings found at the scene of her husband’s death. Dodge County investigators have turned their case over to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for review.  Lois Riess, who authorities nicknamed “Losing Streak Lois” for her penchant for gambling, fled south to Florida -- stopping at a casino on the way. Riess’ abandoned Cadillac Escalade, which Minnesota investigators alleged she left the state in after gunning down her husband, was found in a park in Fort Myers, Florida.  Surveillance footage from a restaurant two blocks from Hutchinson’s borrowed timeshare condo showed the victim chatting with Riess at the bar on April 5, the day authorities believe she was shot to death. Hutchinson’s body was found four days later in the bathroom of the condo.  See the footage of Lois Riess chatting with Pamela Hutchinson below, courtesy of the Fort Myers News-Press.  Investigators believe Hutchinson was killed so Riess could assume her identity. They also believe Hutchinson was shot with the same gun that killed David Riess. According to Riess’ Florida indictment, Lois Riess stole credit cards, money, jewelry, sunglasses and other property from Hutchinson after she was killed. Surveillance footage from Hutchinson’s condo complex showed Riess walking into the parking lot, getting into Hutchinson’s Acura TL and driving away.  The indictment also alleged that Riess went to a Fort Myers bank and used Hutchinson’s identification to withdraw $5,000 from the dead woman’s account before leaving town. Riess was next spotted the following day at an Ocala Hilton hotel, where she used Hutchinson’s identification to check into a room, Lee County officials said. She stayed there the nights of April 6 and 7, according to investigators.  Surveillance footage from inside and outside the hotel showed both Riess and the stolen Acura. According to the News-Press, a white straw hat Riess wore in the footage belonged to Hutchinson.  While in Ocala, Riess is accused of withdrawing another $500 from Hutchinson’s bank account.  From there, Riess is accused of making her way west across the southeastern U.S., making several stops in Louisiana -- including at another casino -- before being seen driving the Acura around Corpus Christi, Texas. She attempted to get $200 from Hutchinson’s account at a gas station, but the effort failed, the News-Press reported.  Riess used her own ID to claim a $1,500 jackpot at a Louisiana casino, the newspaper reported.  Riess remained at large until April 19, when she was arrested on South Padre Island in Texas. Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose said a man recognized Riess when she walked into a restaurant on the island, located about 25 miles from the Mexican border, and looked at a menu. Riess did not stay to eat at the restaurant, identified as Dirty Al’s Seafood, but the man called police to report the sighting. A South Padre Island police officer and a federal marshal responded to the area and spotted the white Acura that had been stolen from Hutchinson at another nearby restaurant, the Sea Ranch.  Riess was taken into custody as she sat at the bar inside, eating a meal and chatting with fellow patrons. She was subsequently extradited back to Florida to face charges in Hutchinson’s homicide.   Riess was indicted June 6 in the case, according to court records. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Hutchinson’s slaying. 

Washington Insider

  • Frustrated by opposition on some college campuses to conservative speakers, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order which threatens to take away federal research grant money from colleges and universities, if those schools don't guarantee First Amendment protections for those who want to speak on campus. 'We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,' President Trump said in a White House ceremony on Thursday. Flanked by conservative activists who have run afoul of protests at college and university campuses, Mr. Trump made clear that he wants new opportunities for their voices to be heard. 'Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech,' the President added. 'This order is part of the Trump Administration’s administrative and legislative efforts to support a focus on student outcomes and improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in postsecondary education,' the White House said in a statement. The President had raised this matter earlier in the month, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear how the Thursday signing would change the current landscape governing money being sent to schools by the feds, as there are already requirements to uphold the First Amendment. In a morning conference call with reporters, a senior administration official refused to give any hints about how the requirement would be enforced differently going forward. 'I won't get into implementation details,' the official said, repeatedly deflecting questions in a Thursday conference call with reporters about how the plan would work.  'But schools are already supposed to be following these rules,' as the official said 'the goal of the order is to promote free speech more broadly across college campuses.' The plan drew immediate fire from the President's critics. 'President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect,' said Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers union.