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The Latest News about Government and Politics

    A sharply divided Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue. The high court split 5-4 on Tuesday in issuing orders allowing the plan to take effect for now, with the court's five conservatives greenlighting it and its four liberal members saying they wouldn't have. Some questions and answers about what the high court did: ___ Q: What's the impact on transgender men and women currently serving in the military? A: That depends on the individual's circumstances. In short, though, the justices cleared the way for the Trump administration to require that transgender troops serve as members of their biological gender unless they began a gender transition under less restrictive Obama administration rules. Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. That changed in 2016 when the Obama administration began allowing transgender men and women already serving in the military to undergo gender transition if they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria, distress associated with their biological gender. The military has said more than 900 men and women have received that diagnosis. They can continue to serve after transitioning. The Trump administration's policy would essentially freeze that number, however. Once the policy takes effect, currently serving transgender troops who didn't previously step forward and obtain a gender dysphoria diagnosis will have to serve in their biological gender. A 2016 survey estimated that about 1 percent of active-duty service members, about 9,000 men and women, identify as transgender. ___ Q: What's the impact on transgender men and women not yet in the military but who want to join? A: Individuals who have transitioned from their biological gender won't be allowed to enlist under the Trump administration's policy. That's a shift. Under previous court orders, transgender individuals had been allowed to enlist in the military since Jan. 1, 2018. Still, advocacy groups had said that process was slow, with only a handful of individuals thought to have completed the process. ___ Q: What did the Supreme Court say in allowing the Trump administration's policy to take effect for now? A: Not much. The order from the court was brief and procedural, with no elaboration from the justices. ___ Q: What happens next? A: That's up to the Trump administration and courts. While the Trump administration has the go-ahead to implement its policy for now, it's unclear how quickly that will happen. Court challenges will continue, and the cases could eventually get back to the Supreme Court on the merits of the case, whether the Trump administration policy is legal. It's very unlikely, however, that would happen before the Supreme Court recesses for the summer in late June. ___ Q: Does the Supreme Court's action reflect anything about its current makeup? A: Not necessarily. When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired last year and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the assumption was that the court would move to the right and become more conservative. But Kennedy biographer Frank Colucci said he doesn't think Tuesday's outcome would necessarily have been any different if Kennedy had remained on the court. Kennedy was deferential to the authority of the president, particularly in the military context, Colucci said. As an appeals court judge in 1980 Kennedy wrote a decision upholding Navy regulations that resulted in the discharge of gay and lesbian sailors. Kennedy wrote that finding the regulations constitutional was 'distinct from a statement that they are wise.' Not much is known about Kennedy's views on transgender issues. As a Supreme Court justice, he sided in 2016 with more conservative colleagues in agreeing to put on hold a ruling in favor of a transgender high school student challenging his school board's bathroom policy. But the court never reached a decision in the case after the Trump administration pulled back federal guidance advising schools to let transgender students use the bathroom of their chosen gender.
  • Senate leaders agreed to hold votes this week on dueling proposals to reopen shuttered federal agencies, forcing a political reckoning for senators grappling with the longest shutdown in U.S. history: Side with President Donald Trump or vote to temporarily end the shutdown and keep negotiating. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. set up the two showdown votes for Thursday, a day before some 800,000 federal workers are due to miss a second paycheck. One vote will be on his own measure, which reflects Trump's offer to trade border wall funding for temporary protections for some immigrants. It was quickly rejected by Democrats. The second vote is set for a bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House reopening government through Feb. 8, with no wall money, to give bargainers time to talk. Both measures are expected fall short of the 60 votes need to pass, leaving little hope they represent the clear path out of the mess. But the plan represents the first test of Senate Republicans' resolve behind Trump's insistence that agencies remain closed until Congress approves $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. For Democrats, the votes will show whether there are any cracks in the so-far unified rejection of Trump's demand. Democrats on Tuesday ridiculed McConnell's bill, which included temporarily extended protections for 'Dreamer' immigrants, but also harsh new curbs on Central Americans seeking safe haven in the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GOP plan's immigration proposals were 'even more radical' than their past positions. 'The president's proposal is just wrapping paper on the same partisan package and hostage taking tactics,' offering to temporarily restore programs Trump himself tried to end in exchange for wall funding, Schumer said. McConnell accused Democrats of preferring 'political combat with the president' to resolving the 32-day partial federal shutdown. He said Democrats were prepared to abandon federal workers, migrants and all Americans 'just to extend this run of political theater so they can look like champions of the so-called resistance' against Trump. The confrontational tone underscored that there remained no clear end in sight to the closure. Amid cascading tales of civil servants facing increasingly dire financial tribulations from the longest federal shutdown in history, the Senate chaplain nudged his flock. 'As hundreds of thousands of federal workers brace for another painful payday, remind our lawmakers they can ease the pain,' Chaplain Barry Black intoned as the Senate convened. The upcoming vote on the Democratic plan marked a departure for McConnell, who had vowed to allow no votes on shutdown measures unless Trump would sign them. The White House views its latest offer as a test of whether Democratic leaders can hold their members together in opposition, said a person familiar with White House thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly. The administration also wants to show they are willing to negotiate, hoping it will push more blame onto Democrats, who are opposing negotiations until the government reopens. Public polls show Trump is taking the brunt of the blame from voters so far. 'How long are they going to continue to be obstructionists and not solve the problem and not reopen the government?' White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Democrats. One freshman, Democrat Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, a state that's home to many federal workers, was circulating a draft letter Tuesday urging Pelosi to propose a deal that would reopen the government and then consider border security legislation — including holding votes on Trump's demand for wall money — by the end of February. A similar effort was under way last week by a bipartisan group of senators. As the stalemate grinded on, Alaska Airlines said the closure would cause at least a three-week delay in its plan to start new passenger flights from Everett, Washington. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said the shutdown could slow home sales by 1 percent in coming months. And a restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey, owned by musician Jon Bon Jovi joined the list of establishments serving free meals to furloughed federal workers. McConnell's bill largely reflects the proposal Trump described to the nation in a brief address Saturday. It would reopen federal agencies, revamp immigration laws and provide $5.7 billion to start building his prized border wall with Mexico — a project Democrats consider an ineffective, wasteful monument to a ridiculous Trump campaign promise. Republicans posted the 1,301-page measure online late Monday. Its details provoked Democrats, particularly immigration provisions Trump hadn't mentioned during his speech. The measure would provide a three-year extension of protections against deportation for 700,000 people covered by the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Democrats want far more to be protected — Trump last year proposed extending the safeguards to 1.8 million people, including many who'd not yet applied — and want the program's coverage for so-called 'Dreamers' to be permanent. Trump has tried terminating the Obama-era DACA program, which shields people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, but has been blocked so far by federal judges. The GOP bill would revive, for three years, protections for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua who fled natural disasters or violence in their countries. Trump has ended that Temporary Protected Status program for those and several other countries. Republicans estimated the proposal would let 325,000 people remain in the U.S. But the GOP proposal contains new curbs, providing those protections only to those who are already in the U.S. legally and who earn at least 125 percent of the federal poverty limit. The bill would also, for the first time, require minors seeking asylum from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to process their applications at facilities the State Department is to establish in several Central American countries. Other new conditions include a limit of 15,000 of these minors who could be granted asylum. Currently, many asylum seekers apply as they're entering the U.S. and can remain here as judges decide their request, which can take several years. As a sweetener, the Republican measure also contains $12.7 billion for regions hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters. The Democratic bill also includes the disaster aid. One White House official said Trump was open to counter-offers from Democrats. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said Trump was also willing to use his proposed temporary extensions for 'Dreamers' as a way to seek long-term deal. The official said Trump would be willing to seek at least permanent legal status for 'Dreamers,' but probably not a path to citizenship. Democrats have refused to negotiate until Trump reopens the government. Trump is worried Democrats won't agree to a wall compromise if he relents, while Democrats say Trump would use the shutdown tactic again if it works. 'If we hold the employees hostage now, they're hostage forever,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey, Kevin Freking, Matthew Daly and Laurie Kellman contributed.
  • Rudy Giuliani's latest media blitz, which was filled with a dizzying array of misstatements and hurried clarifications, agitated President Donald Trump and some of his allies, who have raised the possibility that the outspoken presidential lawyer be at least temporarily sidelined from televised interviews. Trump was frustrated with Giuliani, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The president told advisers that he felt his lawyer had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory: the special counsel's rare public statement disputing portions of a BuzzFeed News story that Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie before Congress. The president told confidants that Giuliani had 'changed the headlines' for the worse and raised the possibility that Giuliani do fewer cable hits, at least for a while, according to the officials and Republicans. Several of Trump's influential outside allies also have begun expressing reservations about Giuliani. Some members of this informal network of advisers, whom the president frequently calls from the White House residence, urged Trump in recent days to bench Giuliani — but most stopped short of suggesting he be fired, according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the White House. Trump has not expressed an inclination to dismiss Giuliani. Rarely reluctant to appear before TV cameras or answer a reporter's call, Giuliani has spent nearly a year acting as a sort of human smokescreen for Trump. He has long played the role more of presidential spokesman than attorney, often unleashing public attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. But a recent set of interviews, which were quickly pilloried across cable news, prompted increased concerns about both Trump's legal exposure and the effectiveness of his vocal attorney. Frustration about Giuliani in the West Wing has long run rampant. The former New York City mayor, who frequently speaks directly to the president, is Trump's outside counsel and works in a different orbit than White House officials, who are still left to play damage control after some of Giuliani's wilder interviews. Some of Trump's allies have suggested that Giuliani be barred from evening interviews because of concerns that he was going on TV after drinking, according to three Republicans close to the White House. Giuliani has previously insisted he does not have an issue with drinking, denying to Politico last May that it affected his interviews. He added: 'I may have a drink for dinner. I like to drink with cigars.' The latest furor began Sunday as Giuliani, wearing a suit, tie and New York Yankees World Series ring, appeared on NBC's 'Meet the Press' and dramatically altered the timeline regarding discussions about a Trump Tower in Moscow, now asserting they stretched until November 2016. That statement, which suggested that the Trump Organization was engaged in business dealings with Russia up to and beyond the election, ignited a firestorm and then an abrupt walk-back from Giuliani. He issued a statement the next day saying his comments about the project 'were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President. My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions.' Then, hours later in an interview with The New Yorker, Giuliani raised eyebrows again when he seemed to suggest he had listened to tapes of Trump and Cohen that had not previously been discussed. 'I shouldn't have said tapes,' Giuliani said as he tried to backtrack. He then added that there were 'No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.' He did not elaborate further. The muddled interviews were a failed victory lap over the BuzzFeed story, which prompted a number of House Democrats to raise the possibility of impeaching Trump. But the special counsel, which rarely issues public responses, said that at least portions of the story were not accurate, leading both Giuliani and Trump to crow about media bias against the Republican president. BuzzFeed has issued statements standing by its reporting. No other media outlet has confirmed the story. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. This is far from the first time Giuliani has been forced to issue a clarification, as he has frequently offered contradictory accounts of developments in the Russia investigation. Earlier this month, he was forced to clean up a remark in which he asserted that he only could vouch that the president had not colluded with Russia, rather than the whole campaign, a dramatic change of story. 'Rudy had done a very good job going on TV and fighting back and laying down a defense of the president,' said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign official. 'But now it's time to get precise, you can't be so loose anymore. He had a major slip.' At times, Giuliani's seemingly out-of-nowhere admissions in interviews have, in fact, been part of a strategy to get ahead of damaging news stories. Last May, Giuliani went on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and acknowledged that Trump repaid Cohen for hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the porn star alleging an affair with Trump, a statement viewed then as a misstep but later perceived as an effort to minimize revelations about possible campaign finance violations. After struggling to find a cable-ready defender, Trump has been mostly appreciative of Giuliani's attack-dog style — and, for a time, his broadsides against Mueller appeared to play a role in driving down the special counsel's poll ratings. But at other times the president has expressed dismay at Giuliani's scattershot style. Part of his confusion is that while Giuliani frequently speaks to his client, the president's legal team has had a difficult time corralling Trump for a lengthy debriefing about the facts of the case, particularly from events stemming before the presidency, according to one official and a Republican close to the White House. Still, Giuliani is regarded as an important member of the legal team. A former federal prosecutor, he has also been the team's public face and, even if not the primary author of letters and other documents to the Mueller team, he has nonetheless helped develop strategy. And TV networks have not shown any reluctance to book Giuliani, despite his unreliability, because of his rock-solid resume and the lack of any Trump surrogates willing to appear on a cable network that is not Fox News. 'I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. 'Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.' Somehow, I don't think that will be it,' Giuliani told The New Yorker. 'But, if it is, so what do I care? I'll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter.' Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to questions Tuesday about whether Trump still had confidence in Giuliani. ___ Tucker reported from Washington. Additional reporting contributed by David Bauder in New York. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
  • Even before he announces whether he's a 2020 presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders is working to avoid the drubbing that South Carolina's African-American voters handed him in 2016. A day after speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally in the state capital on Monday, Sanders stayed through Tuesday for three more events in which African-American audiences were receptive to a message that hewed largely to his 2016 Democratic presidential platform. But the Vermont independent got personal even as he pitched free college tuition and a higher minimum wage, recounting repeatedly that he joined King's 1963 March on Washington and calling the late civil rights leader a 'major political influence on my thinking.' Asked Tuesday at historically black Benedict College about marching with King, Sanders joked with students that 'this kind of dates me a little bit' and added that it 'was one of the important days in my life.' For the famously cantankerous senator, who labored to connect with black voters during his first White House bid, the more intimate touches in this week's South Carolina swing showed that he knows he can't neglect the bellwether early-voting state if he runs again. With one leading black candidate already declared in California Sen. Kamala Harris, and a second potential contender in New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Sanders would face even stiffer competition here in 2020 than he did in 2016, when Hillary Clinton brought strong ties to African-American communities. What Sanders offered this week, ahead of South Carolina visits by Harris and another fellow 2020 rival, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was also an interest in going beyond the state's traditional Democratic strongholds, though it wasn't without a few stumbles along the way. He visited an African Methodist Episcopal church in the city of Florence on Monday night but left before the service was over. Amanda Loveday, a former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said Sanders' early exit in Florence was a 'wrong' step in a state where authenticity is critical. 'You have to be in South Carolina and actually be in South Carolina,' Loveday said, 'and I worry that he did not show that' fully in Florence. Sanders also faced logistical questions as he arrived in Charleston on Tuesday night. Brady Quirk-Garvan, chairman of the Charleston County Democrats, noted on Twitter that the senator was more than an hour late and 'didn't ask the local Dems to help promote.' 'I'm no expert in Democratic primaries,' Quirk-Garvan added, 'but this doesn't seem like a helpful re-boot...' Sanders senior adviser Josh Orton pushed back at Quirk-Garvan's interpretation, posting a picture of the crowded Charleston event and tweeting that 'the ENERGIZED crowd of Dems and others here chanted something. Let's just say it was...an encouragement.' To an extent, Sanders' tougher job in 2020's first-in-the-south primary stems from his stunning 2016 success. Many of the unabashedly liberal policies he championed in that presidential race are now part of the Democratic DNA, rendering his agenda somewhat less unique. The 77-year-old senator acknowledged that fact Tuesday during a meeting with the South Carolina state legislature's Black Caucus. Sanders told the lawmakers that he has no plans to officially join the Democratic Party even as he touted Democratic platform changes made in response to his campaign. 'Yeah, we lost. But our ideas won,' Sanders said. 'They are the ideas of America.' Xavier Duffy, a junior at Benedict College, where Sanders visited, said he supported Clinton three years ago but 'would vote for (Sanders) this time.' Praising Sanders for offering 'a template instead of just an inspirational speech,' Duffy said that trailblazing candidacies from Harris and potentially Booker were compelling but that young voters are 'keen enough to' go beyond identity and ask 2020 candidates, 'What do you have to offer?' Symone Sanders, former press secretary for Sen. Sanders' 2016 campaign, said in an interview that she's 'not surprised' to see him back in the state early, adding that both the senator and aides 'wish he spent more time in South Carolina' during his first run. She is not related to the senator. Even if other Democratic primary contenders share some of his central ideas, Sanders' higher name recognition and conspicuously different style may yet prove advantageous. Booker wove his trademark oratorical sweep into Monday remarks honoring King, while Sanders echoed the sentiment of other rally speakers by bluntly calling Trump a 'racist.' And when Sanders addressed South Carolina state lawmakers, he again aligned his goals with King's pursuit of both racial and economic fairness. 'Whether you're black or you're white or you're Latino, you need health care,' Sanders said. 'You want your kids to get a good education. You want clean drinking water. ... If Dr. King had remained alive, he would have had success in bringing people together around that kind of agenda.' ___ Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, one of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump's immigration policies, seemed content to meet with constituents in Oregon and did not say if he'll run for president in 2020. Merkley has been postponing a decision on a White House bid for some time. Last year, he said he'd decide soon after the November midterm election. Now, he says he'll decide before the end of this first quarter. Nine Democrats have declared their intentions to run -- the most recent was Sen. Kamala Harris from California. 'One every day,' Merkley said with a grin during an interview Monday before he hosted a town hall in a community college in Salem, Oregon's capital city. Deciding whether to run is a gamble as Merkley faces an ever-expanding field of Democrats and would have to abandon the option of being elected to the Senate for a third term — unless the Oregon Legislature changes the law. Merkley gained some name recognition nationally last June, when he tried to enter a federal facility in Texas where immigrant children were being held. An aide videotaped the scene as he was refused entry and police were called. The video quickly gained over 1 million views in a day, and was repeated in newscasts across the country. At a town hall Monday, Merkley — wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a work shirt — described his efforts to stop the internment of immigrant children, including through his introduction of the 'No Internment Camps Act.' The Oregon Democrat said it was 'spooky' that in this era, legislation in America would have internment camps in its title. Merkley, the son of a millwright, was first elected to the Senate in 2008 and handily won re-election six years later. Asked if he might prefer to be in the Senate if Democrats gain control in 2020, Merkley said: 'Well I tell you, I've been in the majority, and I've been in the minority, and the majorities are better.' He said senators have a huge ability to influence the direction of policy, even if they're not the chair of a committee or subcommittee. Merkley is a member of the appropriations committee; the environment and public works committee; the foreign relations committee and the budget committee. Merkley, to support Democratic candidates for other offices in key states, has hired field staff in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. They could also assist in laying the groundwork for a presidential run. He has already visited Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, states that have early primaries and caucuses in the presidential sweepstakes. ___ Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
  • 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 reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the “podium” much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019 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. Statement on White House news briefings from WHCA President Olivier Knox. pic.twitter.com/jhQjVrz1bC — WHCA (@whca) January 22, 2019 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.
  • Confused about the business proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow? Join the club. President Donald Trump's lawyer-spokesman Rudy Giuliani and a disputed Buzzfeed News report have muddied the waters on exactly how long negotiations over the project went on. It's a key question because Trump was pursuing the deal during the 2016 campaign while he was publicly calling for easing U.S. sanctions on Russia and as Moscow was directing a large-scale operation aimed at swaying the election his way. Here's what we know so far: — September and October 2015: As a Trump Organization lawyer, Michael Cohen receives a proposal for a hotel, office and residential building in Russia that comes to be known as the Trump Tower Moscow project. One of Trump's numerous corporate entities then enters into a letter of intent on the project. — Late 2015: Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump are copied on emails about the project. In one email, Ivanka Trump suggests an architect for the building. — May 4-6, 2016: Felix Sater, an executive who had worked on and off for the Trump Organization, and Cohen discuss having Trump visit Russia after the Republican National Convention. They also discuss the possibility of Cohen meeting in mid-June with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Sater said Peskov had invited Cohen as his guest. — Aug. 28, 2017: Cohen submits to Congress a two-page letter about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, saying the project ended in January 2016, that he only discussed it three times with Trump, that he never considered traveling to Russia or asking Trump to travel there, and that he did not recall having contact with the Russian government about the proposal. All of those statements were false, according to court papers. — September and October 2017: Cohen says in prepared remarks to the Senate intelligence committee that the Moscow deal ended 'before the Iowa caucus and months before the first primary.' He says the same during testimony before the committee. Those statements turned out to be lies. — Nov. 29, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty to lying to Congress. He says he briefed Trump and his family members on the Russia proposal through June 2016. Cohen says he lied to minimize the public understanding of Trump's Russia ties, to try to limit the various Russia investigations and to be consistent with Trump's 'political messaging.' — Dec. 12, 2018: Cohen is sentenced to three years in prison. — Jan. 17, 2019: BuzzFeed News, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, reports that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow proposal. The report does not specify what Trump said to Cohen or when he said it. — Jan. 18, 2019: In a rare public statement, a spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller disputes the BuzzFeed report. 'BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate,' spokesman Peter Carr says in a statement. BuzzFeed stands by the story and asks for clarity from Mueller's team. — Jan. 20-21, 2019: Giuliani suggests in TV interviews that Trump remembers conversations with Cohen about the project 'up to as far as October, November,' or right up until the election. That would have extended the timeline for the Russian business deal well beyond what the president has publicly acknowledged. Giuliani also leaves open the possibility that Trump and Cohen might have discussed Cohen's testimony. The next day, Giuliani walks back his comments, saying they 'did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any discussions.' He says his comments were 'hypothetical' and 'not based on conversations' he had with the president. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.
  • The Trump administration says it will appeal directly to the Supreme Court to be allowed to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, bypassing the court of appeals and seeking a final ruling by the end of June. Solicitor General Noel Francisco says in court papers filed Tuesday that the rare and fast turnaround is necessary if census questionnaires are to be printed in time. A week ago, a federal judge blocked the administration from asking about citizenship on the upcoming census. It's been 30 years since the court took on an issue without waiting for a federal appeals court to weigh in. Francisco says the justices should hear arguments in April or a special session in May. The citizenship question is the third time since October that Francisco is seeking the court's intervention without an appellate ruling. The other two are Obama-era programs to shield young immigrants from deportation and allow transgender people to serve in the military. The Supreme Court hasn't acted on the immigration case, and an appellate court has since ruled on the issue. The justices on Tuesday denied early review of the transgender service policy, but allowed Pentagon restrictions that had been blocked by lower courts to take effect while the appeals process unfolds. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March 2018 that the 2020 census would be the first since 1950 to include a citizenship question. The question would help the government enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act that is intended to assure access to the ballot. But 18 states, the District of Columbia, 15 big cities or counties, and immigrants' rights groups sued the Commerce Department, which designs the census, and claimed it failed to properly analyze the effect that the question would have on households with immigrants. The challengers said the Trump administration added the question to discourage immigrants from participating, potentially leading to a population undercount — and possibly fewer seats in Congress — in places that tend to vote Democratic. U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman used Census Bureau estimates to conclude the citizenship question would depress responses in households with noncitizens by at least 5.8 percent. Furman ruled that Ross acted in an 'arbitrary and capricious' manner and violated the law. The justices already had agreed to an administration request to hear arguments over whether Furman could base his decision on depositions of high-ranking officials and other material that was not part of the administrative record the Commerce Department compiled in deciding to ask about citizenship. In the end, Furman largely stuck to that record and the court has now called off arguments that were scheduled for Feb. 19. The court could decide in the next few weeks whether to set new arguments on the timetable the Justice Department wants.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump and the partial government shutdown (all times local): 8:45 p.m. Senate leaders have agreed to hold votes on dueling proposals to reopen shuttered federal agencies this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has set up the two showdown votes for Thursday, a day before some 800,000 federal workers are due to miss a second paycheck. One vote will be on his own measure, which reflects President Donald Trump's offer to trade border wall funding for temporary protections for some immigrants. It was quickly rejected by Democrats. The second vote is set for a bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House reopening government through Feb. 8, with no wall money, to give bargainers time to talk. Both measures are expected fall short of the 60 votes need to pass. __ 4:05 p.m. The Senate will push forward with two votes this week to end the government shutdown, but it's doubtful either will pass. First will be President Donald Trump's proposal to provide $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, some deportation protections for immigrants and supplemental disaster funds for regions hit by hurricanes and wildfires, in exchange for reopening the federal government. It's expected to fail. After that, senators will vote on a House-passed package that would temporarily reopen the government, through Feb. 8, while providing the $12 billion in disaster funds. Voting is designed to pressure senators to cross party lines to end the shutdown, now in its 32nd day. An estimated 800,000 federal workers are expected to miss another paycheck Friday. ___ 3:50 p.m. The Department of Agriculture has announced it will reopen Farm Service Agency offices nationwide to process loans, tax documents and trade aid payments to farmers and ranchers. The Farm Service Agency had been shuttered since the second week of the shutdown, aside from temporarily reopening select offices last week. From Jan. 28 through Feb. 1, the offices will be open Monday to Friday. From Feb. 4 through Feb. 8, the offices will be open three days a week. Roughly 9,700 federal workers have been called back to work to staff the offices. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue also announced the deadline for farmers to apply for aid payments to offset their trade losses will be extended to Feb. 14. USDA says these activities were restored because any lapse 'would harm funded programs.' ___ 3:05 p.m. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump did not propose a 'good faith' proposal to end the government shutdown. The New York senator said Tuesday that Trump's offer to protect some immigrants from deportation in exchange for $5.7 billion from Congress to build the border wall with Mexico is 'one-sided, harshly partisan and was made in bad faith.' Senate Democrats are expected to reject the measure when it comes to a vote later this week as the shutdown drags on. Now in its 32nd day, the shutdown has left some 800,000 federal workers facing another Friday without paychecks. Schumer says the White House wasn't 'seriously negotiating' with Democrats. He says Trump's immigration proposals do not reflect earlier bipartisan efforts. He says, 'That's not 'The Art of the Deal.'' ___ 2:10 p.m. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls President Donald Trump's offer to provide some deportation protections for immigrants along with for his $5.7 billion demand for the border wall with Mexico a 'nonstarter.' Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that Trump needs to re-open the government before any negotiations over border security. As the partial government shutdown stretches to Day 32, the House will push forward more proposals to end it. One measure adds $1 billion more for border security. The Democratic leader said House has voted more than nine times to re-open government. Some 800,000 federal employees are poised to miss another paycheck on Friday. Pelosi said Congress can't give in to Trump demands 'every time he has an objection' and threatens to 'hold the employees hostage.' ___ 1:45 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats should get behind his bill to reopen shuttered parts of the government and toughen the nation's borders. The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday the legislation he unveiled on the Senate floor should appeal to Democrats who want help for so-called 'Dreamer' immigrants. McConnell noted that the bill contains some of those protections. He emphasized it is the only measure before Congress that would reopen the government and which President Donald Trump will sign. McConnell will try to muscle through the massive bill, which includes $5.7 billion for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The partial government shutdown is in its 32nd day. The bill was immediately shot down by Democrats. They insist that the government reopen before any border security talks. They also say the immigration provisions are inadequate. ___ 12:20 a.m. President Donald Trump's proposal to break through the budget deadlock appears to be gaining little traction. Despite the fanfare of the president's announcement and the rush to release the legislative package late Monday, voting in Congress is not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seems doubtful that the measure will pass swiftly. Democrats say they are unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump reopens the government. Meanwhile, the impact of the shutdown continues to ripple across the nation as it stretches into its 32nd day.
  • The White House is moving forward with plans for President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union speech next week in front of a joint session of Congress — despite a letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting he delay it. The White House sent an email to the House sergeant-at-arms asking to schedule a walk-through in anticipation of a Jan. 29 address, according to a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the planning by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. 'Nancy Pelosi made the invitation to the president on the State of the Union. He accepted,' said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. 'At this point, we're moving forward.' The move is the latest in a game of political brinksmanship between Trump and the House Speaker as they remain locked in an increasingly personal standoff over Trump's demand for border wall funding that has forced a partial government shutdown that is now in its second month. The gamesmanship began last week when Pelosi sent a letter to Trump suggesting that he either deliver the speech in writing or postpone it until after the partial government shutdown is resolved, citing security concerns. But the White House maintains Pelosi never formally rescinded her invitation, and is, in essence, calling her bluff. 'She has not canceled it. She asked us to postpone it,' White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in an interview Tuesday with Fox News Channel. 'We have no announcement at this time,' he said, 'but Nancy Pelosi does not dictate to the president when he will or will not have a conversation with the American people.' At the same time, the White House is continuing to work on contingency plans to give Trump a backup in case the joint-session plans fall through. The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers' explicit permission. A resolution needs to be agreed to by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president. Officials have been considering a list of potential alternative venues, including a rally-style event, an Oval office address— as Pelosi previously suggested — a speech before the Senate chamber, and even a return visit to the U.S.-Mexico border as Trump is expected to continue to hammer the need for a barrier, according to two others familiar with the discussions. Multiple versions are also being drafted to suit the final venue. The Constitution states only that the president 'shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,' meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing. But a joint address in the House chamber, in front of lawmakers from both parties, the Supreme Court justices and invited guests, provides the kind of grand backdrop that is hard to mimic and that this president, especially, enjoys. Still, North Carolina's House Speaker Tim Moore wrote a letter inviting Trump to deliver the speech in the North Carolina House chamber. And Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield on Friday invited Trump to deliver the address at the state Capitol in Lansing instead. Trump called Moore Monday evening, according to his office, and spoke by phone with Chatfield Tuesday morning, Chatfield tweeted. 'I understand you have other plans for #SOTU, but as we discussed, I look forward to hosting you in Michigan again soon,' Chatfield wrote. Pelosi in her letter had cited the impact of the ongoing shutdown on the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service, questioning whether they could secure the speech given that they have been operating without funding. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen responded by assuring that DHS and Secret Service were 'fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union.' Asked about the letter by reporters Tuesday, Pelosi did not address the White House's decision, saying only: 'We just want people to get paid for their work.' Senior White House staff had been in a morning huddle discussing the upcoming speech when news of Pelosi's letter first broke on TV. The power play — which Trump countered by revoking Pelosi's use of a military aircraft, thereby canceling a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan — had put the status of the marquee speech in limbo, leaving staff scrambling to figure out how to proceed. 'We'll keep you posted,' Sanders had told reporters when asked for a status update Friday. In their standoff, Trump has also accused Pelosi of behaving 'irrationally,' while Pelosi has refused to negotiate with Trump on border funding until he agrees to reopen the government. In a tweet Sunday, Trump wrote that he was 'still thinking about the State of the Union speech' and that there were 'so many options - including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance.' 'While a contract is a contract,' he wrote, 'I'll get back to you soon!' ___ Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report. ___ Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Nine people were hurt, two critically, in a military vehicle crash in New Mexico, authorities said Tuesday night. According to KDBC and KFOX, the wreck, which involved two Stryker vehicles, occurred about 7:30 p.m. on U.S. Highway 54 in Otero County.  >> Read more trending news  The nine victims, all military personnel, were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Read more here or here.
  • A New York man was arrested Friday in connection with the fatal hit-and-run of a well-known and beloved gas station manager who investigators said was trying to stop him from leaving without paying for $22 worth of gas.   Joshua E. Roston, 33, of Baldwin, was arrested in Philadelphia on a vehicular homicide warrant out of Nassau County, according to Nassau County police officials. Though he was in the process of being extradited, he remained in the Philadelphia Jail Tuesday morning.  Roston is accused of running over Cemal “John” Dagdeviren, 59, of Levittown, the morning of Jan. 14 after Dagdeviren, who managed the Pit Stop Repair Shop in Baldwin, confronted him over payment for gas that had been pumped into the 1999 GMC Suburban Roston was driving. The slaying of the Turkish immigrant, who moved his family to the United States 25 years ago, has made international news.  The entire incident was recorded by surveillance cameras at the Pit Stop, which is a combination gas station and repair shop. Dagdeviren was also a mechanic there.  Police officials said the incident began shortly before 7:30 a.m. that morning, when the driver of the Suburban asked that an attendant fill up his SUV’s gas tank at the full-service island. According to NBC News, Nassau County Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick told reporters at a news conference that the attendant became suspicious because the truck had no license plates and the driver was acting oddly.  “They stopped at $22 and asked him to pay at that time,” Fitzpatrick told reporters, according to the news network. “The attendant said to pull over to the side.” The driver, who was dressed in an orange knit hat and gray sweatshirt, went inside the store to pay, but gave the clerk a fake credit card that was declined, Fitzpatrick said. He then went back into the parking lot, where Dagdeviren stepped in and confronted him. The surveillance video, a portion of which was released by police officials, shows Dagdeviren talking with the driver as he goes back to the SUV and climbs inside. Dagdeviren appears to realize the man plans to drive off without paying and goes to the driver’s side door and knocks on the window.  See raw footage of the final moments of Cemal Dagdeviren’s life below, courtesy of Fox News.  When the man doesn’t roll the window down, Dagdeviren tries to open the door, but it appears to be locked. He hurries behind the vehicle and stands behind it as the driver begins to back up. The SUV bumps into his body.  Dagdeviren returns to the front of the vehicle after standing behind it does not stop the driver and, as the driver begins to inch forward across the parking lot, he stands directly in front of the SUV.  Dagdeviren is standing in front of the vehicle with his hands on the hood when the vehicle appears to accelerate into him. The video released by police officials ends at that point, but investigators said Dagdeviren was run over, suffering a severe head injury.  The driver then fled the scene, investigators said, leaving Dagdeviren lying mortally wounded in the roadway. Dagdeviren was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police officials said.  Parminder Singh, who works at a neighboring gas station, told CBS New York that he saw Dagdeviren lying on the ground and went to see what had happened.  “Does anybody’s life cost $22?” Singh said. “No. It’s really bad. People don’t think before they commit something.” Dagdeviren’s son, Ali Dagdeviren, called his father’s killer a monster. “If you do that to anybody for $22, you can do anything,” Ali Dagdeviren, 35, told the news station.  Cemal Dagdeviren came to the United States nearly 25 years ago to provide a better future for his family, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help the Dagdeviren family lay the patriarch to rest. He and his wife have two grown sons, Ali Dagdeviren, who was recently married, and Ceyhun “Jay” Dagdeviren, who is in the academy to become a New York City firefighter. Jay Dagdeviren, 25, also volunteers as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Bethpage Fire Department.  “Cemal was a hardworking and kind man who will be dearly missed by his friends and family,” reads the fundraising page, which exceeded its $20,000 goal by $4,000 in just seven days.  “My father worked hard for his family and never got into trouble, never even got a parking ticket,” Ali Dagdeviren told Newsday. “We are in a lot of pain. This is really hard for us.” Cemal Dagdeviren’s customers paid their respects in a steady stream the day after his death. They also held a candlelight vigil in his honor that night at the station, which was closed for business.  According to Newsday, crime scene tape surrounded the station and blood stained the street where Dagdeviren died. Flowers and candles fashioned a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk, built by distraught patrons who described Dagdeviren as a good, trustworthy mechanic with a quick smile and a tendency to wave off payment for minor repairs he’d made for his customers.  “It is very sad,” Yvonne Holloway said. “He was a very hardworking man and one of the nicest people you could ever meet.” “He would say, ‘Have a good day,’ and he meant it,” longtime customer Liz Boylan told Newsday as she dropped off flowers. “I am upset because he was just so sweet.” A funeral was held Wednesday for Dagdeviren in the U.S., Newsday reported. Turkish news media reported a second service was held in Istanbul, where the family returned his body for burial.  Homicide detectives announced Thursday that they had tracked down the Suburban and identified Roston as the man in the orange ski hat. The SUV was impounded as evidence.  Detectives began a manhunt for Roston, who they suspected had fled the New York area. A $10,000 reward was offered for his capture, the details of which were not immediately available Tuesday.  “He knew what he was doing when he stepped on the gas and crushed that man’s life and his family’s life,” a police official told NBC New York.  Roston has a criminal history that includes stealing gas, shoplifting and stripping vehicles for parts, the news station reported. 
  • 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 reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the “podium” much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019 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. Statement on White House news briefings from WHCA President Olivier Knox. pic.twitter.com/jhQjVrz1bC — WHCA (@whca) January 22, 2019 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.
  • Officials in Kentucky said a Catholic school at the center of a controversial encounter among white teenagers, Native American protesters and others was closed Tuesday after officials learned of a planned protest at the school. >> Read more trending news In a statement, officials with the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School said police warned them of the planned protest in the days after video surfaced online that appeared to show teenagers from the school surrounding a Native American man outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. “Due to threats of violence and the possibility of large crowds the Diocese was advised to close Covington Catholic High School, the Diocesan Curia and neighboring Covington Latin School,” officials said in the statement. >> Teen wearing MAGA hat in protest video speaks out A video surfaced online last week of a student, who identified himself in a statement as Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann, smirking as a Native American elder beat a ceremonial drum near his face. The video sparked outrage nationwide, though longer videos from wider perspectives later revealed that the drummer -- Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips -- had intervened between the boys and members of a black religious sect, according to The Associated Press. Phillips appeared to intervene at a time when the teens seemed to be getting rowdier and the black street preacher who had been shouting racist statements against both groups was escalating his rhetoric, the AP reported. >> Trump says Catholic students ‘treated unfairly’ after encounter at National Mall The incident drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who said Monday on Twitter that Sandmann and his classmates “were treated unfairly with early judgement s proving out to be false – smeared by media.” Officials with the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School said a third-party investigation of the incident at the Lincoln Memorial will be launched this week. “This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people,” officials said. “It is important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate. We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably and ask others to join us in this prayer.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Atlanta police are investigating a sexual assault at Opera nightclub after video of the incident was posted on Facebook.  >> Read more trending news Officer Jarius Daugherty said the Atlanta Police Department began receiving calls from people who had seen the assault on a Facebook Live video early Sunday morning. The police department has opened an investigation into the incident at the club on Crescent Avenue in Midtown. The video “appears to show a woman being sexually assaulted in a local nightclub,” Daugherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Police have not released details on the alleged assault, but the woman filed a police report on the crime. It is the policy of the AJC to not name victims of sexual crimes. According to WSB-TV, the victim was celebrating her birthday Saturday at the popular Midtown nightclub when she was sexually assaulted. The woman told police someone put drugs in her drink and then sexually assaulted her on the dance floor, WSB-TV reported. The victim, who was already streaming her celebration on Facebook Live, captured the attack as it happened and continued to stream the video. According to media reports, the woman is heard in the video screaming for help. Video of the sexual assault has since been removed from Facebook. The woman later posted a video saying she is OK, WSB-TV reported.  In a statement posted to Facebook and Twitter, Opera nightclub managers said they are cooperating with the investigation.  “At this time we have met with the Atlanta Police Department and have provided them with everything they have requested,” read the statement posted Sunday. “We will continue to aid and support their investigation in any way we can.”