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National Govt & Politics
White House briefings disappear - and that's fine with President Trump
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White House briefings disappear - and that's fine with President Trump

White House briefings disappear - and that's fine with President Trump
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

White House briefings disappear - and that's fine with President Trump

After just over two years in office, President Donald Trump's White House has clearly decided that the televised White House briefing - a regular staple since Bill Clinton came into office - is no longer needed, as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has not formally taken questions from reporters at the podium in the Brady Briefing Room in over a month.

"I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway!" President Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Before the briefings became a daily televised event in the Clinton Administration, White House briefings were mainly what's known as 'pen and pad' gatherings - that is, no television, no radio recording, a throwback to the days when newspaper and magazine reporters dominated those covering the White House.

The number of briefings dwindled throughout 2018 - for example, Sanders held only three in July, only once in both November and December.

The last formal briefing was on December 18.

Critics of the briefings say it's become a place for reporters to grandstand - the President in his tweet today said reporters acted 'rudely' - but it's also been an important venue over the years for a President, in order to get out the message of that administration.

Before the Clinton White House - with Communications Director George Stephanopoulos and Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers - made the briefing into a daily televised event which kept the focus on the White House, standard procedure allowed for only a few minutes of televised proceedings at the start of a briefing.

After about five minutes, the TV lights would be turned off, the microphone would go silent, and the briefing would continue to be on the record, but not for broadcast.

The White House Correspondents Association on Tuesday urged the President to reconsider.

While Sanders has not been on television much in recent months, the President has made himself available repeatedly, often entertaining questions as he departs the White House, or in photo opportunities with reporters.

Mr. Trump has held only two formal, solo news conferences; the last one - the day after the November elections - included a verbal showdown with CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A 3-year-old Georgia girl died Saturday after what police described as a heinous sexual assault and beating. The girl, identified by police as Janiyah Armanie Brooks, of Albany,  died at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at an Atlanta hospital, where she had been on a ventilator, WALB-TV reported. >> Read more trending news  Update 7:15 p.m. EDT May 21: A GoFundMe account has been set up in the name of Janiyah Brooks, who died Saturday after a brutal attack and sexual assault. So far, the fund has raised almost $4,000 of its $5,000 goal to help the family of the 3-year-old with burial expenses. The girl’s mother and stepfather were both arrested and are facing numerous charges in the case. Update 10:15 a.m. EDT May 20: Janiyah was unresponsive when Albany police responded to her home one week ago. She had been severely beaten with injuries to her head, ribs and hands, according to police. She also had injuries to her vaginal area. It wasn’t the first time Janiyah had been hurt, an investigation by the agency’s family protection unit and the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services found. An exam showed further evidence of old wounds, Albany police said in a news release. Her parents called 911 around 7:30 a.m. May 13, but they did not disclose the nature of the problem with their daughter. Her stepfather, 20-year-old Gregory Parker, only told officers the girl was unconscious, police said.  Parker was arrested on Friday in connection with the assault. The next day, Janiyah died, WALB-TV reported. Parker was initially arrested on charges of aggravated child molestation, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery and first-degree cruelty to children. Police have not said if additional charges will be filed in light of his stepdaughter’s death. Original report: Albany police responded to the girl's home about 7:30 a.m. May 13 for an 'unknown problem,' the department said in a news release Friday. When officers arrived, Gregory Parker, 20, said his stepdaughter was 'unresponsive,' police said. Emergency personnel transported the girl to the hospital. Investigators said the girl 'had been severely beaten and sexually assaulted,' according to the news release. 'The child had injuries to her vaginal area, ribs, along with swollen hands and unknown trauma to her head,' the release said. 'She appeared to have old wounds, as well.' Parker, 20, was arrested and charged with rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery and first-degree child cruelty, authorities said. The girl's mother, 19-year-old Crystal Brooks, also faces charges of aggravated battery, battery, first-degree child cruelty and giving a false statement initially, police said. >> Read the Police Department's Facebook post here Medical examiners will perform an autopsy on the child Monday, officials said. Read more here or here.
  • The daughter of a Tennessee man executed for murder in 2006 is asking that DNA evidence in the case be tested to determine once and for all if her father raped and killed a U.S. Marine more than 30 years ago. Sedley Alley was put to death in the July 11, 1985, murder of Lance Cpl. Suzanne Marie Collins, who was stationed at the Naval Air Station Millington, as was Alley’s wife. Collins, 19, was abducted as she went on a run on the base, where she had just completed a nine-month course in avionics.  Her body was found the next day in nearby Edmund Orgill Park, according to The Daily Memphian. The Virginia native, who was set to graduate from the training school the day she was found, was severely beaten, with an autopsy showing she had been struck about 100 times, authorities said.  Collins was also strangled and sexually violated with a tree branch. The New York Times reported that her killer stripped the branch of its leaves and twigs, sharpened one end to a point and drove it repeatedly into her body with enough force that it pierced her lung. Alley, then 29, was arrested the following day and charged with Collins’ murder, the Memphian reported. He confessed but later recanted the confession, saying it had been coerced.  Alley said he could not remember what happened the night Collins was killed because he had been drinking heavily. He was convicted in 1987 and sentenced to death.  April Alley, who, along with her brother, witnessed her father’s execution, filed a petition May 1 in Shelby County Criminal Court seeking DNA testing on evidence found at the scene, including a pair of red men’s underwear investigators believe were worn by Collins’ killer. According to the Memphian, the petition seeks the post-conviction DNA testing that was denied Sedley Alley prior to his death. >> Read more trending news It also asks that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee use his executive authority to order the testing on the evidence, which a legal team from the Innocence Project verified is still intact and housed in storage. That evidence includes the victim’s underwear, the 31-inch branch used to penetrate her and a sample of Sedley Alley’s DNA, which the Times reported was collected and stored before his death.  The case marks the first attempt to use DNA evidence to clear someone who has been executed for a crime, Stephen Ross Johnson, a Tennessee attorney working on the case alongside the Innocence Project, told the Memphian. “There have been other cases where certainly people have been exonerated and come off death row,” Johnson told the newspaper. “There have also been situations where DNA testing (was done) after someone died in prison, but this will the first one where someone was subjected to capital punishment and then their DNA tested.” The Innocence Project, which represented Sedley Alley in his appeals, sought to have the evidence tested for DNA before his execution. The Tennessee parole board recommended that then-Gov. Phil Bredesen order the testing, but Bredesen instead told Alley’s lawyers to seek relief through the court system. The courts denied Alley’s request. “The Tennessee courts incorrectly ruled that Mr. Alley was not entitled to DNA testing, even if the testing could produce a match to a third party with a history of committing similar offenses,” Innocence Project officials said earlier this month.  Watch April Alley and her lawyers announce their bid to have the evidence in Suzanne Collins’ murder tested. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the lower court’s denial was incorrect in 2011, five years after Sedley was put to death. The high court ruled in State v. Powers that Tennessee’s post-conviction DNA law intended to allow defendants to prove their innocence by comparing their DNA to that from other possible suspects, including suspects whose genetic profiles are in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. “The courts got it wrong in 2006 when they allowed Mr. Alley to be executed before testing the DNA,” said Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project. “If Mr. Alley were alive today, he would be entitled to DNA testing under the Powers ruling and the plain language of the post-conviction DNA analysis statute. We now have a chance to learn the truth in this case.” A recent tip has also raised the possibility that another man accused in a rape and murder in another state might be the true killer in Collins’ case, the Memphian reported. The court petition filed by April Alley identifies the potential alternate suspect as Thomas Bruce, who, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is accused of sexually assaulting two women and killing a third at a Missouri Catholic supply store in November.  Bruce was taking courses at the same avionics training school as Collins in 1985, the petition states.   “I just want the truth,” April Alley wrote in an email to the Memphian. “The DNA evidence should have been tested before my father was executed. It’s too late for my father, but it’s not too late to find the truth. The court or governor should order DNA testing.” The case against Sedley Alley The night she was attacked, Collins left the barracks for her daily 10-mile run, the Times reported. Around 11 p.m., two other Marines passed her, jogging in the opposite direction. The Marines moments later dodged a station wagon swerving in the road, headed in the same direction as Collins, the Times said.  A few seconds later, the men heard a woman screaming, “Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” They ran toward the screams and saw what they believed to be the same station wagon stopped alongside the road, the Times reported. It sped off as they approached. The men ran to the barracks gate, where a guard sounded an alarm for a possible abduction. Sedley Alley was stopped about an hour later near the base, driving a 1972 station wagon, the newspaper said. He did not have any visible injuries, according to a Navy investigator.  After talking to Alley’s wife, investigators concluded the two Marines had heard the couple arguing and, not knowing that Collins was then missing, canceled the alert for the station wagon, according to the Times. The Alleys were sent home and a guard was put on their home.  Collins’ body was found the next morning, and Alley was arrested. Read April Alley’s petition to have the evidence against her father tested for DNA. Investigators said Alley told them he had hit Collins with his station wagon while driving drunk and then accidentally stabbed her in the head with a screwdriver. The petition filed by his daughter states that the medical examiner determined neither of those claims was accurate. Alley later said investigators only turned on their tape recorder after he told them what they wanted to hear.  Physical evidence used to tie Alley to the crime included Type O blood on the driver’s side door of the station wagon. That type matched Collins, but it also matched Alley’s blood type, the Times said.  Paper napkins from a local restaurant were also found in the car and on the ground near Collins’ body, and an air conditioner pump found in the station wagon had reportedly been installed at a home near where Collins was jogging, the paper said.  No physical evidence from Collins was found inside the car or on Alley, the Times said. The petition for DNA testing also indicates that a witness on the base reported seeing a second station wagon carrying a couple -- potentially Alley and his wife -- around the time of Collins’ abduction. Despite the lack of direct physical evidence, Alley was for decades after his conviction assumed to be the killer. An investigator in 2003 found a handwritten note, however, in which the medical examiner in Collins’ case estimated she had died after Alley and his wife were sent home that night -- and while military police were watching the family’s home. Read the letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee from lawyers for Sedley Alley’s estate. The investigator also learned that a boyfriend of Collins’ drove a station wagon and matched the approximate height of a man seen near the site of her abduction, while Alley was about 8 inches taller, the Times said. Alley’s complexion and hair color also failed to match the description from a witness. Alley told his daughter a few weeks before his death that if he committed the heinous acts Collins was forced to suffer, he deserved to be executed, the court petition says. He told her he did not remember committing the crime, however, and did not believe he had.   Scheck said if the killer’s DNA can be pulled from the evidence, it can not only be tested against the known sample from Alley but can also be compared to profiles uploaded to public genealogy databases.  Dozens of cold cases have been solved over the past year using genetic genealogy, including murder cases decades old.  “The public’s interest in having the right defendant brought to justice extends beyond the life of a single defendant,” Scheck said. “If Tennessee executed the wrong person in 2006, the actual perpetrator may still be free to harm other people. This is a matter of public safety.”
  • The new Fairview Shores branch located in the Adanson Marketplace on Lee Road will host its grand opening on Saturday June 8. The commencement will take place after a three week long  hiatus that began with the closing of the Edgewater branch on May 18, after 22 years of operation. According to a statement from the Orange County Library System, “the library’s new home will allow it to offer more opportunities to partner with businesses and organizations in the community while continuing to offer more after-school activities and programming for all ages.” The event will be free and open to the public, featuring live performances from local freestyle hip-hop group Free Daps at 11a.m. and vocalist Shannon Rae at 2 p.m.  
  • So you are at Disney World but you forgot some things at home. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you'll be able to get it delivered to your resort. Amazon Prime has expanded one-day delivery for Orlando, Florida.   This is big for local residents, Disney visitors and people going to other theme parks like Universal Orlando Resort.   To get delivery to the resorts, just tell Amazon your name and where you are located. The package will be delivered to the front desk and you can pick it up when you come back from playing all day.
  • A newborn hospitalized in grave condition after police said he was cut from his slain mother’s womb last month has opened his eyes for the first time, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Police said the boy’s mother, 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, was killed April 23 by a woman she met through a Facebook group geared toward young mothers. Authorities said Clarisa Figueroa, 46, called 911 after cutting the baby from his mother’s body to falsely claim she’d given birth to a child who was not breathing. Tests later confirmed the boy was not Figueroa’s. >> 3 charged in connection with slain pregnant woman found with baby cut from womb The child, who family members have named Yovanny Jardiel, remained hospitalized Tuesday in critical condition, according to WMAQ-TV. He is not expected to survive. Cecilia Garcia, a student pastor who has been helping Ochoa-Lopez’s family, told CNN she was photographing the baby Sunday as his father, Yovany Lopez, held him at the hospital. 'We were just praying and praying, and he opened his eyes,” Garcia told CNN. “His dad said, ‘Oh my God, he opened his eyes!'' She shared images of Lopez and his son early Monday on Facebook. 'We've been blessed, although this is a really bad tragedy,” Garcia told CNN. “They're such a loving and humble family and it's just so wrong what happened to them.' Authorities said Figueroa plotted for months to get a newborn following the death by natural causes of her adult son, The Associated Press reported. Prosecutors said she strangled Ochoa-Lopez with a coaxial cable while her daughter, 24-year-old Desiree Figueroa, showed the pregnant woman a photo album of Clarisa Figueroa’s late son. >> Woman faked pregnancy for months before killing mother-to-be, cutting baby from womb, reports say Authorities have charged both Figueroas with one count each of first-degree murder and aggravated battery to a child. Clarisa Figueroa’s boyfriend, 40-year-old Piotr Bobak, was also arrested on one count of concealment of a homicide. Police said first responders found Yovanny Jardiel blue after Clarisa Figueroa reported he was not breathing on April 23, according to The Associated Press. They tried to resuscitate the infant and transported the boy to a nearby hospital, where police said he was in grave condition. When Figueroa went to the hospital, doctors who examined her found 'no signs consistent with a woman who had just delivered a baby.' She also had blood on her arms, hands and face that authorities later determined was from Ochoa-Lopez, prosecutors said. It was not clear whether the hospital contacted police. In a statement issued Friday, Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn declined to comment, citing federal and state regulations. Oak Lawn police said they were not contacted about Figueroa by the medical center or any other agency, including the Chicago Police Department. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has asked the Department of Child and Family Services to determine whether hospital officials followed proper reporting procedures after Figueroa and the baby were brought to the hospital, WLS-TV reported. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Washington Insider

  • With former White House Counsel Don McGahn defying a subpoena for his testimony in Congress on the findings of the Muller Report, there was a noticeable jump on Tuesday in the halls of the Capitol in the number of Democrats publicly demanding that their leaders take the next step - to start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. 'The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration’s ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). 'It is time for Congress to officially launch an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States.' 'More of my colleagues are coming around, reluctantly, to the reality that impeachment is necessary, unavoidable, and urgent,' said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). 'This week feels like the tipping point.' 'I personally feel like we cannot tolerate this level of obstruction,' said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), as a number of new - and more liberal Democrats - embraced the idea of impeachment more publicly today. 'Failure to impeach now is neglect of due process,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Republicans said this was nothing more than political theater. 'Their single-minded goal is political revenge on someone who beat them in an election they thought they had won,' said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'The American people don't want impeachment,' said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). 'But the Democrats are so angry that our President is succeeding and so desperate to please their base that they'll do it anyway.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned her rank-and-file away from impeachment for months, trying to keep the focus more on issues like health care. But after weeks of watching the White House directly tell Congress that it has no power to investigate on a range of topics - from the President's tax returns, to his past financial records, and issues related to the Russia investigation - there is a sense in the Capitol of a building desire to start a more formal investigation into Mr. Trump. 'No one is above law. It's time to start an impeachment inquiry,' said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA).