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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    Apart from a few GOP voices in the U.S. House and Senate, most Republican lawmakers in Congress had little to say in recent days about President Donald Trump's continuing attacks on the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as the President used a speech in Ohio on Wednesday to launch an extended series of jabs as the former POW. 'I have to be honest - I've never liked him much,' Mr. Trump said at a speech at a tank production plant in Lima, Ohio. With Congress on break this week, many Republicans stayed away from the tide of remarks by the President, as only a handful of GOP officials stood up to tell Mr. Trump to back off, and leave the dead U.S. Senator alone. 'It’s deplorable what he said,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said of President Trump in a Wednesday radio interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting.  “That’s what I called it from the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out,' said Isakson, who has been one of McCain's few public defenders in the GOP to push back directly at Mr. Trump. 'John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,' said Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who now holds his seat in Congress - though McSally did not directly mention the President in her statement. But Rep. Peter King R-NY, and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) were outliers, as some supporters said the President was needlessly picking a fight - with a dead man - which he will never win. 'President 0. Dead Man 1,' wrote conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson. 'Let's be a little less coo-coo,' said Anthony Scaramucci on CNN Thursday morning, who served in the White House for a very short period of time in 2017, but remains a strong supporter of the President. Here's the President's full remarks about McCain from the Wednesday event: In a late night email sent to reporters on Wednesday, the McCain Institute pushed back - without mentioning the President by name - as the group defended the late GOP Senator, and one time Republican nominee for President in 2008. 'John McCain was held for 5 years in a Vietnamese prison and brutally tortured,' the group wrote, offering a laundry list of supportive items from his resume in the military and in Congress. 'John McCain always called on America to stand up for its values of freedom and democracy,' the group added, as even in death, McCain was still embroiled in battles with President Trump.
  • Using his veto pen for the first time in just over two years in office, President Donald Trump on Friday rejected a special resolution from Congress which would block his national emergency declaration to shift money into construction of a border wall, a day after the GOP Senate joined the Democratic House in rebuking the President. 'Congress’s vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality,' President Trump said in the Oval Office. 'It's against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis.' The measure now goes back to the House and Senate, where any effort to override the President's veto is far short of the necessary two-thirds super majority. 'On March 26, the House will once again act to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override his veto,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But the President sternly disagreed. Here's the text of the President's veto message, as sent back to the Congress: To the House of Representatives:   I am returning herewith without my approval H.J. Res. 46, a joint resolution that would terminate the national emergency I declared regarding the crisis on our southern border in Proclamation 9844 on February 15, 2019, pursuant to the National Emergencies Act.  As demonstrated by recent statistics published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and explained in testimony given by the Secretary of Homeland Security on March 6, 2019, before the House Committee on Homeland Security, our porous southern border continues to be a magnet for lawless migration and criminals and has created a border security and humanitarian crisis that endangers every American. Last month alone, CBP apprehended more than 76,000 aliens improperly attempting to enter the United States along the southern border -- the largest monthly total in the last 5 years. In fiscal year 2018, CBP seized more than 820,000 pounds of drugs at our southern border, including 24,000 pounds of cocaine, 64,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 5,000 pounds of heroin, and 1,800 pounds of fentanyl. In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, immigration officers nationwide made 266,000 arrests of aliens previously charged with or convicted of crimes. These crimes included approximately 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings. In other words, aliens coming across our border have injured or killed thousands of people, while drugs flowing through the border have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.   The current situation requires our frontline border enforcement personnel to vastly increase their humanitarian efforts. Along their dangerous trek to the United States, 1 in 3 migrant women experiences sexual abuse, and 7 in 10 migrants are victims of violence. Fifty migrants per day are referred for emergency medical care, and CBP rescues 4,300 people per year who are in danger and distress. The efforts to address this humanitarian catastrophe draw resources away from enforcing our Nation's immigration laws and protecting the border, and place border security personnel at increased risk.   As troubling as these statistics are, they reveal only part of the reality. The situation at the southern border is rapidly deteriorating because of who is arriving and how they are arriving. For many years, the majority of individuals who arrived illegally were single adults from Mexico. Under our existing laws, we could detain and quickly remove most of these aliens. More recently, however, illegal migrants have organized into caravans that include large numbers of families and unaccompanied children from Central American countries. Last year, for example, a record number of families crossed the border illegally. If the current trend holds, the number of families crossing in fiscal year 2019 will greatly surpass last year's record total. Criminal organizations are taking advantage of these large flows of families and unaccompanied minors to conduct dangerous illegal activity, including human trafficking, drug smuggling, and brutal killings.   Under current laws, court decisions, and resource constraints, the Government cannot detain families or undocumented alien children from Central American countries in significant numbers or quickly deport them. Instead, the Government is forced to release many of them into the interior of the United States, pending lengthy judicial proceedings. Although many fail ever to establish any legal right to remain in this country, they stay nonetheless.   This situation on our border cannot be described as anything other than a national emergency, and our Armed Forces are needed to help confront it.   My highest obligation as President is to protect the Nation and its people. Every day, the crisis on our border is deepening, and with new surges of migrants expected in the coming months, we are straining our border enforcement personnel and resources to the breaking point.   H.J. Res. 46 ignores these realities. It is a dangerous resolution that would undermine United States sovereignty and threaten the lives and safety of countless Americans. It is, therefore, my duty to return it to the House of Representatives without my approval.   DONALD J. TRUMP   THE WHITE HOUSE, March 15, 2019. 
  • Democrats in the U.S. House will try to send an unmistakable message to President Donald Trump on the issue of relations with Russia this week on Capitol Hill, bringing up a series of bills on the House floor dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin, including a plan which demands the public release of any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'This transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the people,' a series of key Democrats said about the resolution on the Mueller inquiry. The Russian legislative blitz comes as Democrats on a series of House committees have stepped up their requests for information from the White House and the Trump Administration on issues related to the Russia investigation and the Mueller probe. So far, Democrats say they aren't getting much in the way of help from the White House on any of their investigative efforts. 'It's like, zero,' said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). 'We can't get witnesses, they don't want us to talk to witnesses.' Among the Russia-related bills on the schedule this week in the House: + The 'KREMLIN Act,' a bipartisan bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence - already reportedly in hot water with the President for saying that North Korea probably wouldn't give up its nuclear arsenal - to submit to Congress a new round of intelligence assessments on Russia and its leaders. 'The Kremlin’s efforts to sabotage our democracy and those of our allies across Europe are undeniable,' said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who has sponsored this bill with fellow Intelligence Committee member Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT).  Earlier this year, DNI Dan Coats said of Russia: 'We assess that Moscow will continue pursuing a range of objectives to expand its reach, including undermining the US-led liberal international order, dividing Western political and security institutions, demonstrating Russia’s ability to shape global issues, and bolstering Putin’s domestic legitimacy.' + The Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill which again asks the U.S. Intelligence Community to weigh in with evidence about the Russian government, and expressing the sense of Congress 'that the United States should do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin.' 'I am proud to cosponsor this bill which aims to identify Putin and his allies for who they are: nefarious political actors undermining democracies,' said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who teamed up with Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on this measure. 'Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,' President Trump tweeted last July, after his controversial summit with Putin in Finland. 'They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!' + A bipartisan bill to block any move by the U.S. Government to recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is another measure meant to put public pressure on the President, who has been somewhat uneven in public statements on his feelings about Russia's move to take Crimea, as well as the ongoing proxy war being supported by Moscow in areas of eastern Ukraine, and how the U.S. should respond - even as his administration has leveled new economic sanctions against Moscow. In November of 2018, the President canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina, after Russian naval forces seized several Ukrainian ships and their crews. + A bipartisan resolution calling for 'accountability and justice' surrounding the assassination of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in Moscow in 2015. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the Trump Administration to sanction those involved in the murder, as the measure also calls for an international investigation into his death. 'Boris Nemtsov had a vision for a democratic and free Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Putin’s cross hairs,' said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). This not just a House effort, as there is a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). 'Putin's media and surrogates called Boris Nemtsov an 'enemy of the people,'' said Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, and a frequent critic of President Trump. + Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.  While the four previous legislative measures have bipartisan support, the final piece of this 'Russia' week in the U.S. House might create a bit of a tussle on the floor of the House, as Democrats move to put GOP lawmakers on the record about whether they want to make any report from the Special Counsel public.  Under the Special Counsel law, there is no guarantee that the Mueller report will ever see the light of day - the Special Counsel submits a report to the U.S. Attorney General - in this case, William Barr - who is then authorized to summarize that to Congress.  That's different than back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr was able to send Congress volumes and volumes of evidence - knowing that all of it would be made public. In testimony before the Senate earlier this year, Barr did not expressly commit to releasing any report, saying 'my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision.
  • As President Donald Trump sent Congress on Monday a $4.7 trillion budget proposal for 2020, the estimates of his own budget experts predict that this spending plan will result in four straight years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion, with no budget surplus until the mid-2030's. After a deficit of $779 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, the President's new budget plan forecasts four more years of even higher levels of red ink. 2019 - $1.092 trillion 2020 - $1.101 trillion 2021 - $1.068 trillion 2022 - $1.049 trillion The White House budget document shows the deficit dropping to an estimated $909 billion in 2023. The higher deficit figures come even as the White House projected a growing amount of revenues coming in for Uncle Sam as a result of the 2017 GOP tax cut plan, as officials said the problem is not taxes, but the level of government spending. 'We don't think the tax cuts are going to lead to anything other than economic growth over the next ten years,' a senior White House official told reporters on Monday morning. After revenues were basically flat from 2017 to 2018, the official predicted the feds would see growth of 6 percent in money coming into the Treasury in 2020, as compared to 2019. Part of the President’s 2020 budget plan would make the GOP tax cut permanent for individuals - the business part of that tax package was permanent, but the income tax cuts and other items impacting individual taxpayers end in 2025. Still, for the President - and his chief aides - the big problem is spending, not tax revenues, as the White House said the 2020 budget was a ‘fiscally responsible and pro-American budget.’ While GOP supporters of the President like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) touted today’s budget plan - the declaration that the Trump budget will result in a balanced budget won’t be happening anytime soon. In the next ten years, the 2020 Trump budget estimates that another $7.2 trillion would be added in deficits, pushing the national debt towards the $30 trillion mark. “Under reasonable economic assumptions, we find it would add about $10.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years,” said the watchdog group, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It's quite an achievement for the President's budget to have fantastical economic assumptions, massive & unprecedented cuts to domestic discretionary spending, and *still* manage to end up with trillion dollar deficits for the next four years,” tweeted Shaki Akabas, an economic expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
  • With over $2 trillion added to the federal debt since he took office just over two years ago, President Donald Trump will deliver a spending plan to the Congress on Monday which is certain to spur a sharp debate with Democrats over proposed cuts in domestic spending programs, but won't come close to producing a balanced budget for more than a decade. 'It is time for Congress to join the president in his commitment to cutting spending, reducing bloated deficits, and getting our national debt under control. America’s future generations are depending on them,' said Russ Vought, the acting chief of the White House budget office. But, so far, President Trump's time in office has seen the growth in the deficit accelerate, from $584 billion in President Obama's last full year in office in 2016, to $779 billion in 2018. As of January, the deficit in 2019 was running 77 percent higher than a year ago, as even White House budget estimates have forecast a yearly deficit over $1 trillion in coming years. Here's some of what to look for in Monday's budget submission, which is titled, 'A Budget for a Better America.' 1. Domestic spending cuts, back door increase for defense. With no deal as yet to avoid budget caps from a 2011 deficit law, spending in 2020 would be limited on defense to $576 billion, and $542 billion for domestic programs. But the President wants much more for the military, so the Trump Administration will reportedly propose spending a massive $174 billion for the 'Overseas Contingency Operations' fund - an increase of $106 billion - for a total military budget of $750 billion. Budget watchdog groups say the idea is a big, fat budgetary gimmick, nothing but a slush fund for the Pentagon. 2. Trump to request $8.6 billion for the border wall. With no confirmed details yet on how the President will shift around some $6.6 billion in the Pentagon budget to fund construction of his border wall, Mr. Trump will reportedly ask Congress to approve $8.6 billion for the wall in 2020. Democrats had a simple reaction on Sunday. 'No,' said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'No,' said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). 'Dead on arrival,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). Even after a 35 day partial government shutdown earlier this year, the President received $1.375 billion for barriers - but not a wall, and there seems to be little chance that dynamic will change for Democrats in the 2020 budget debate. 'Congress refused to fund his wall,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Sunday. 'The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.' 3. Goal for a balanced budget would be 2035. Even if President Trump serves two terms in office, his own White House doesn't forecast anything close to a balanced budget. The last official budget estimates from the White House in July of 2018 - which will be updated with this new budget proposal - predicted the deficit would peak over $1 trillion for three years, and then finally get below $500 billion by 2027, adding almost $8 trillion in deficts along the way. More conservative Republicans in the House aren't worried by those details, as they say the President has shown 'fiscally conservative leadership,' even though the debt has already increased by more than $2 trillion during his two plus years in office. 4. Not all the details, and already behind schedule. President Trump was supposed to have sent this budget to Congress by the first Monday in February - but today will only bring the basic highlights, not all the nitty gritty details of the proposal. Part of the reason is that the 35 day partial government shutdown delayed a lot of work in government agencies. All of the spending work is supposed to be done by Congress each year by September 30 - but that's only happened four times since the budget process was reformed in 1974. Congress has six and a half months until the deadline - it's hard to see how lawmakers avoid more stop gap funding plans - and maybe another shutdown as well. 5. A new dynamic with divided control of Congress. In the first two years of the Trump Presidency, Republicans in the House and Senate were in charge - but now, Democrats will have first crack at the President's budget, and they are certain to take a much different road. In a sense, that's a good thing for Mr. Trump, giving him the chance to battle it out with Democrats more clearly on budget priorities. But it also amplifies the chance for a government shutdown on October 1. Speaker Pelosi likes to say that a budget is a 'statement of values.' After the Trump budget gets delivered to Congress, the next move will be up to Democrats in the House, to forge their on budget outline for 2020. There are political pitfalls ahead for both sides.
  • The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee took the unusual step Friday of publicly releasing a 268 page interview transcript with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, confirming reports that Ohr forwarded material to the FBI from his wife, and that former British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele warned during the 2016 campaign that Russian intelligence believed they had President Donald Trump 'over a barrel.'  'He (Steele) told me that the former head of - or he had information that the former head of the Russian foreign intelligence service had said that they had Trump over a barrel,' said Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who funneled information from Steele to FBI investigators. 'My interpretation is that that meant that, if true, the Russian Government had some kind of compromising material on Donald Trump,' Ohr told lawmakers in the August 28, 2018 deposition, as he defended the quality of information Steele had provided the U.S. Government in the past. 'Chris Steele has, for a long time, been very concerned about Russian crime and corruption and what he sees as Russian malign acts around the world, in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere,' Ohr told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'And if he had information that he believed showed that the Russian Government was acting in a hostile way to the United States, he wanted to get that information to me.' In the deposition, Ohr acknowledged that he forwarded information not only from Steele to the FBI - but also from his wife, Nellie Ohr, who worked at Fusion GPS, the company which had hired Steele to do intelligence work on President Trump from Europe. Ohr said he realized during 2016 that his wife was researching 'some of the same people that I had heard about from Chris Steele,' and that she provided her husband with a thumb drive of information, which he then gave to FBI investigators.  Republicans found the chain of events described by Ohr to be a bit difficult to swallow. 'I'm trying to envision this cold start to a conversation with 'Here, honey, here's a thumb drive,'' said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) at one point. Ohr, an expert in Russian organized crime, said he never looked at any of the information. 'I didn't want to plug it into my machine at work,' Ohr testified. 'I just gave it to the FBI.' The transcript of the deposition was released by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on Friday; Collins said he took the unilateral action because he was frustrated that it was taking so long for the Trump Justice Department to make the transcript public. 'After many months, and little progress, our patience grows thin,' Collins said in a speech on the House floor on Friday morning. 'I intend to make other transcripts public soon,' Collins said, referring to interviews done with a variety of Justice Department and FBI figures when Republicans were in charge of the House in 2018. Collins said the transcripts were being held back because of questions over redactions, as he accused the Trump Justice Department of slow walking requests to make the testimony public. In 2018, House Republicans conducted a series of private interviews with different figures involved in the Russia investigation - not focusing on possible wrongdoing involving the Trump campaign - but instead looking at Justice Department and FBI officials, and how they came to start and conduct the initial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  Other than a two day closed door interview with former FBI Director James Comey - who requested the release of his closed door testimony - none of the other private transcripts had been released publicly until Collins did so on Friday. While Ohr's testimony was in private, some highlights were immediately leaked to a series of news organizations back in August of 2018. 'AP sources: Lawyer was told Russia had 'Trump over a barrel,'' the Associated Press reported. 'DOJ official told Russia had Trump 'over a barrel,'' was the CNN headline at the time. The GOP inquiries for Ohr repeatedly sought to raise questions about a broader conspiracy of actions by officials at the Justice Department, as Republicans tried to paint a picture of a group of government officials doing everything they could to investigate Mr. Trump and his allies. Republicans also found it hard to believe that Ohr's wife got a job from Fusion GPS without his involvement. 'I don't remember who made the contact, whether she spoke with Glenn Simpson directly or whether there was another party or someone else involved. I just know it wasn't me,' Ohr said of his wife's job. “So when she came home and said, 'Honey, I got a job with Glenn Simpson,' what did you say?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) at one point. In the interview, Ohr was asked about an email from Steele in which Steele wanted to talk about 'our favorite business tycoon’ - which GOP lawmakers seemed to believe was a certain U.S. candidate. But Ohr repeatedly said that description wasn't a reference to President Trump, but rather to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was owed money by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Republicans again and again pressed Ohr about how he handled information from Steele, and why he did not inform his bosses that he was handing over that material to the FBI. 'I have received information from different people about organized crime over the years, and in each case I've provided it to the FBI,' Ohr explained. Ohr said he did not have a personal relationship with Glenn Simpson, who had hired Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS, but that they had met several times through the years. Ohr defended his contacts with Steele, even after the FBI had terminated their relationship with the former British agent. “When I got a call from Chris Steele and he provided information, if it seemed like it was significant, I would provide it to the FBI,” Ohr said.
  • After three days of pointed debate, the House voted along party lines on Friday to approve a sweeping voting, elections, and government ethics reform package, as Democrats championed the changes as essential to democratic government, while Republicans denounced the details as nothing more than a political effort to tip the election scales against the GOP. 'We were sent to Washington with a sacred task to do everything in our power to reinstate Americans’ hope and faith in our democracy,' said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), one of dozens of new members elected in 2018, as Democrats filled the over 600 page bill with a laundry list of reforms to make it easier to vote, including making Election Day a national holiday. 'H.R. 1 will promote online registration, same day and automatic voter registration, because we should be making it easier, not harder, for people to vote,' said Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA). 'Every eligible voter should be able to cast a vote!' said Rep. Chrissy Houlihan (D-PA), another newly elected Democrat. The bill also includes a raft of ethics reforms to apply to government officials, lobbyists, and more in Washington, D.C., as backers proclaimed it would be the biggest changes since Watergate. 'The American people elected a new Congress to clean up corruption and make Washington work for them,' said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). While Democrats hailed the reforms, which included independent boards to draw Congressional district lines, as essential to the future of the United States, Republicans were furious, denouncing the measure as a big government, Socialist hodge podge of unworkable liberal ideas which would take away election decision-making by the states. 'This bill, as a whole, is nothing more than a charade to make permanent the Democratic majority that just came into existence just a few months ago,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), as Republicans fired wave after wave of attacks at Democrats about the bill, known as the 'For the People Act.' 'When Republicans were in the majority, we reserved H.R. 1 for legislation that actually benefited the American people,' said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA). 'It is not for the people,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'It is, instead, for the Democratic majority, by the Democratic majority, in hopes of maintaining the Democratic majority for many years to come.' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - who has already made clear that he won't bring the bill up for a vote - has labeled the plan, the 'Democrat Politician Protection Act.' On the House floor this week, Republicans openly chafed at a variety of provisions in the bill, like one which would force states to hold extra early voting hours and days - including Sunday. 'For my colleagues who may be unfamiliar, minority communities, particularly African American and Latino, use Sunday early voting to energize their communities to make their voices heard,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL). 'My own State tried to shut it down in 2012,' Crist added, as the House adopted a plan to include Sunday early voting as an election requirement.  'I don’t think the Federal Government should be involved in the minute details of early voting hours,' countered Rep. Davis. Some of the efforts by Democrats to further expand the bill fell flat with their own party - for example, the House voted 305-126 against an amendment which would have lowered the minimum voting age in federal elections to 16 years old. The House did vote on Friday to allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register ahead of their 18th birthday, to make sure they are ready to vote when they reach their 18th birthday, an idea which also was denounced by Republicans. Democrats had hoped to spend the entire week trumpeting their action on this measure, but it was almost completely overshadowed by the internal intrigue over anti-Semitic statements from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as the House interrupted debate on the bill Thursday to approve a resolution denouncing hatred against any groups. 'We're busy with our legislative work,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 'despite what we might read in the press.' For those who want to look at the details - here is the link to the text of the 622 page bill before the House debate began. There is also a 446 page summary of the bill's actions.
  • Despite continuing signs of a strong economy, U.S. businesses created only 20,000 new jobs in the month of February, the Labor Department reported on Friday, the second worst monthly jobs report of the Trump Administration. Even with the slower jobs tally, the nation's unemployment dropped down to just 3.8 percent; it hit a historic low of 3.7 percent in September and November of last year. The figures continued a streak of job growth extending back to October of 2010, as this marked the 101st straight month of positive job numbers. 'In February, employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, health care, and wholesale trade, while construction employment declined,' the report stated. One of the big losers was the construction sector, which saw a drop of 31,000 jobs. While job creation slowed in February, wages continued to grow, as the average hourly pay hit $27.66 per hour last month - and up by 3.4 percent from the same point a year ago. 'The economy is very, very strong,' President Donald Trump said at the White House as he noted the increase in average wages for workers. 'So, we're obviously very happy with that.' Another good sign was the U6 unemployment rate - considered the broadest measure of joblessness - as it dropped almost one percent, going down to 7.3 percent in February, the lowest point for the U6 since March of 2001. After growing for four straight months, the size of the labor force declined slightly again in February, by 45,000 people, as the Labor Force Participation Rate remained at 63.2 percent.
  • After days of internal wrangling among Democrats over how to respond to statements about Israel by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) which infuriated Jewish lawmakers in both parties, the U.S. House on Thursday approved a wide-ranging resolution denouncing hatred and bigotry against a variety of groups, but not directly naming and rebuking Omar for her comments. 'The words spoken by our colleague from Minnesota touched a very real, a very raw place for me,' said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who joined others in making clear they wanted a more specific message to Omar, who was just elected in November. 'One thing we are all reminded of this week is that words have power, and divisive words have pain,' said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). 'This resolution doesn't need to be seven pages. It's just wordy,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as GOP lawmakers said Democrats had twisted themselves into a legislative pretzel, instead of just addressing what was said by Omar. 'It didn't have to be this hard,' said House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), after Democrats made several last minute changes to the resolution. The vote on the resolution was 407 to 23, with one member voting ‘Present.’  All the votes against the measure were from Republicans. “Yes, I voted against a sham resolution, which while condemning anti-semitism, was designed to cover Rep. Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic statements,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX). “If the Democratic Caucus wants to truly condemn hatred, they would take action by formally condemning Rep. Omar by name and by removing her from her committees,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), another one of the “No” votes. “Without naming the offender, the chastisement is an empty gesture,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ).  “I voted “no” to the watered down resolution.” “I voted for this watered down resolution condemning all hate,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) wrote on Twitter.  “But the remarks by their members deserve to be specifically called out & voted on.” Omar did not join in the debate; she did vote for the resolution. 'We are here today because of anti-Semitic rhetoric said by one member of this chamber, again and again and again,' said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who was one of almost two dozen Republicans who voted against the resolution, desiring something more direct. 'We now have a pattern,' said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) about statements by Omar about Israel. “We are having this debate right now because of objections by Democrats about something said by a Democrat,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). On the House floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the controversy should serve as a reminder to lawmakers, that “our words are weightier, once we cross the threshold into Congress.”
  • A day after giving more testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump sued the Trump Organization for nearly $2 million in legal fees, charging the President's family business stopped payments about the time that Michael Cohen began working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'As of January 25, 2019, unreimbursed attorneys’ fees and costs incurred on behalf of Mr. Cohen in connection with the Matters subject to his indemnification agreement with the Trump Organization exceeded $1.9 million,' Cohen's lawyers wrote in a 22 page legal document made public on Thursday. The papers give a timeline of how Cohen worked under a joint defense agreement with the Trump Organization and the President's lawyers - until Cohen made the decision to begin cooperating with the Mueller probe - documenting positive statements from the President and his own legal team. 'On April 26, 2018, in a call-in interview with the FOX News television program “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump stated that Mr. Cohen was a “good person” and “great guy,' the lawsuit states. But Cohen’s lawsuit says the tone of the President, and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, changed abruptly, once it became clear that Cohen was going to be assisting the Special Counsel. The lawsuit says just over $1 million is owed to Cohen’s original lawyer. Cohen says what happened was a simple breach of contract between himself, the President, and the Trump Organization. “Attorneys’ fees and costs subject to the Trump Organization’s indemnification agreement continue to accrue,” the suit states.

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  • A pair of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets that crashed shortly after takeoff in recent months from Indonesia and Ethiopia lacked two key safety features because they were considered optional extras, The New York Times reported Thursday. >> Read more trending news Authorities continue to investigate the causes of the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashes, but similarities between the disasters pointed to possible issues with the planes’ stall-prevention systems, called MCAS, according to The Wall Street Journal. The software system can, in some circumstances, point the nose of the plane down to avoid an aerodynamic stall, The Associated Press reported. >> Boeing 737 Max 8: Transportation secretary asks for review of FAA certification A pair of optional Boeing safety features might have helped pilots determine if the system was giving erroneous readings and pushing the nose of the plane down without cause, the Times reported. One of the optional upgrades would have displayed readings from the plane’s sensors while the other, called a disagree light, would have been activated if the sensors were pulling conflicting information, according to the Times. Boeing officials plan to make the disagree light a standard feature on all new 737 Max planes, the Times reported, citing an unidentified source. The sensor reading display will remain optional. >> Ethiopian Airlines crash: Captain reported issues shortly after takeoff Neither feature has been mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Times. Boeing officials are expected to complete a software update to 737 Max anti-stall systems by Monday, according to the AP. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to certify the company’s changes and its plans to train pilots on the system within the next two months, the AP reported. >> Photos: Ethiopian Airlines crash kills 157, including 8 Americans  The Journal previously reported the update had been planned in the wake of October’s Lion Air crash, but work was stalled by disagreements over technical and engineering issues between Boeing and FAA officials. The update was also set back by the five-week government shutdown sparked in December by President Donald Trump’s demand for funding to build his border wall, according to the Journal. Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people. Less than five months later, on March 10, Ethiopian Air Flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing 157 people. >> Lion Air jet with 189 on board crashes in sea off Indonesia; no survivors expected As investigations into the crashes continue, authorities worldwide have grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
  • Florida Man makes headlines across the globe almost every day of the week. Now viral social media posts have people finding the Florida Man that matches their personality by Googling “Florida Man” along with their birthday (year not included). >>> Check the 'What the Florida!' section of the WFTV mobile app to stay up to date on the latest Florida Man news <<< TRENDING NOW: Jennifer Kesse: Missing woman's family settles lawsuit against Orlando police All lanes of I-95 southbound shut down after tanker truck tips over, spills fuel across highway Video captures SUV just before crash that injured 4 children in Ormond-by-the-Sea VIDEO: Report: Virginia woman fatally shot herself while handcuffed Maybe on that day Florida Man stole cigarettes and booze while wearing Spider-Man mask (March 15). Or he scared the public by walking around with a rattlesnake he found on the road wrapped around his neck (February 18). The viral craze started based off of a Tumblr post last week and a tweet on Tuesday. As of Thursday afternoon the tweet had 21,743 retweets and 92,213 likes. EVERYBODY google “florida man” followed by your birthday (florida man august 22) and tell me what you get. mine is Florida Man tries to attack neighbor with tractor— swervin merv (@g_pratimaaa) March 19, 2019 If you aren’t satisfied with the Florida Man story that comes up for your birthday, here are a few of our favorite Florida Man stories from the past year: Police: Man shot after refusing shot at Ocoee bar Semi-nude man rides bicycle backward -- again -- on Florida interstate WATCH: Man caught on camera licking doorbell of Florida home No dough: Florida men steal empty safe at Domino's Only in Florida: Man seen hanging onto car's hood on interstate ‘Florida Man’ had quite a year: A look back at 2018 DOWNLOAD: Free WFTV News & Weather Apps Not near a TV? Click here to watch WFTV newscasts live Watch Live: Doppler 9 HD 
  • The Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs last year to several high-profile critics of President Donald Trump is expected to plead guilty Thursday in a Manhattan federal court. >> Read more trending news Cesar Sayoc is scheduled to appear at 4 p.m. 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.
  • A Florida woman faced a judge Wednesday in connection with the death of a 4-year-old boy. >> Watch the news report here On Tuesday night, the Orange County Sheriff's Office arrested Mariah Butler of Orlando on charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and neglect of a child. >> On WFTV.com: Boy, 4, dies after being found in SUV parked outside school Investigators said Logan Starling, the son of Butler's boyfriend, was left inside a hot SUV in the parking lot of the Elite Preparatory Academy in October 2018. Detectives said four other children got out of the SUV and went into the school at about 8:20 a.m., but Starling didn’t exit the car.  Court documents show Butler, who worked at the school, was asked during the day where her stepson, Logan, was. The documents also stated that it wasn't until she was asked again at the end of the day that she realized the child was still in the car. >> On WFTV.com: Stepmother of boy who died in hot SUV quits job after receiving death threats Authorities said Butler found Starling in the third row of the SUV, leaning against the window with his eyes closed.  The school's director carried Starling to a nearby fire station, authorities said. Starling was then taken to a hospital, where his body temperature was recorded at 108 degrees. For perspective, doctors say a fever above 104 degrees can cause brain damage. The investigation also showed the inside temperature of the car was 121 degrees when the boy was removed. Investigators believe he was in the car for six hours.  Butler claimed she remembered Starling getting out of the SUV and that she locked the doors when they were walking into the school. >> Read more trending news  Documents said Butler believed Starling got into the SUV later, but she wasn’t sure how. She said during an interview that Starling suffered from autism and was known for wandering around. But arrest documents show Starling’s teacher disputed that claim, and video showed the child never left the SUV. 'You were arrested pursuant to a probable cause capias, where probable cause was previously found for the offense of aggravated manslaughter of a child and neglect of a child,” the judge said in court. Butler was ordered to remain in the Orange County Jail on $15,000 bail. Logan's family believes the bond was set too low. Butler was later able to bond out of jail Wednesday evening. 'Six months of no punishment for Mariah seemed like six years,' said Logan's great grandfather Roy Werner. 'But six months of Logan being gone seems like six days.
  • Orlando city leaders are preparing two new hubs in downtown Orlando for Uber and Lyft drivers waiting for people who need a ride home.  The hubs could not only keep area roads safer by helping people find a ride after drinking, they could also help relieve some of the congestion that takes place downtown around 2 a.m., when bars close.   The two hubs will be in places easy to access by those enjoying the downtown nightlife.   The first is on Magnolia Avenue near the Orange County Regional History Center and Heritage Square Park, close to a cluster of bars.   The second will be located further west, closer to I-4. That hub is planned for Gertrude Street, near Washington and Jefferson.   The hubs will only operate late at night on Fridays and Saturdays, from midnight to 3 a.m. This is a trial run for the ride-sharing plan, which will run for 6 months.

Washington Insider

  • Apart from a few GOP voices in the U.S. House and Senate, most Republican lawmakers in Congress had little to say in recent days about President Donald Trump's continuing attacks on the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as the President used a speech in Ohio on Wednesday to launch an extended series of jabs as the former POW. 'I have to be honest - I've never liked him much,' Mr. Trump said at a speech at a tank production plant in Lima, Ohio. With Congress on break this week, many Republicans stayed away from the tide of remarks by the President, as only a handful of GOP officials stood up to tell Mr. Trump to back off, and leave the dead U.S. Senator alone. 'It’s deplorable what he said,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said of President Trump in a Wednesday radio interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting.  “That’s what I called it from the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out,' said Isakson, who has been one of McCain's few public defenders in the GOP to push back directly at Mr. Trump. 'John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,' said Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who now holds his seat in Congress - though McSally did not directly mention the President in her statement. But Rep. Peter King R-NY, and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) were outliers, as some supporters said the President was needlessly picking a fight - with a dead man - which he will never win. 'President 0. Dead Man 1,' wrote conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson. 'Let's be a little less coo-coo,' said Anthony Scaramucci on CNN Thursday morning, who served in the White House for a very short period of time in 2017, but remains a strong supporter of the President. Here's the President's full remarks about McCain from the Wednesday event: In a late night email sent to reporters on Wednesday, the McCain Institute pushed back - without mentioning the President by name - as the group defended the late GOP Senator, and one time Republican nominee for President in 2008. 'John McCain was held for 5 years in a Vietnamese prison and brutally tortured,' the group wrote, offering a laundry list of supportive items from his resume in the military and in Congress. 'John McCain always called on America to stand up for its values of freedom and democracy,' the group added, as even in death, McCain was still embroiled in battles with President Trump.