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The Latest News about Government and Politics

    Democratic presidential candidates pledged to boost funding for public schools, increase teacher salaries and reduce college debt at a Saturday forum that cast a rare spotlight on education, an issue that has received only passing attention in recent debates. The event was billed as an opportunity to press candidates for more detail on their education plans, but it was also a chance for Democrats to vie for endorsements from the nation's two major teachers unions, which were among several groups organizing the forum. Facing an audience of teachers and parents, seven candidates vowed to overhaul an education system that they say helps the rich, hurts the poor and fails to pay teachers the salaries they deserve. They blamed the funding process that underpins the nation's public schools: Districts rely heavily on local property taxes, leading to wide education imbalances between rich and poor areas. Most of the candidates are promising to close the gap through large increases in federal funding for schools that teach low-income students. “We've got to make sure our children have equal opportunities,” said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “A child born into privilege has great opportunity in this country. I want every child to have great opportunity.” Warren's plan would add $800 billion in federal funding to the nation's public schools through a tax on the wealthy. It promises to quadruple federal Title I funding for low-income schools. Others including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg promise to triple that funding source. Candidates were united in calling for greater respect — and pay — for the nation's teachers. Many propose federal funding increases to bring pay in line with that of other professions. Sanders, who supports a starting salary of $60,000, said it's “absurd” that there are teachers in some states making $28,000 a year. “We are going to make sure that every teacher in this country is adequately paid,” Sanders said. “If you prize education then you’ve got to respect the educators who provide that education. It does say something about our country that there are teachers out there working two or three jobs.' The candidates checked many of the boxes the unions will look for when they decide which candidate to support. Many of the candidates took shots at the prevalence of high-stakes testing, curriculum requirements and other measures that limit teachers' flexibility. They also joined against a common foe who has become a regular target on the campaign trail: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that, if elected, the first thing she would do is fire DeVos. Buttigieg said he would appoint a secretary “who actually believes in public education.” Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would reverse DeVos' rules guiding colleges on sexual misconduct. Warren drew some of the strongest applause of the day when she vowed to curb the expansion of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. Teachers unions have opposed charter schools, saying they unfairly draw money away from traditional public schools. Warren suggested she shares that criticism. “Public school money needs to stay in public schools,” Warren said. “It will be my responsibility as president of the United States to make certain that every public school is an excellent public school.” There was little further discussion of the topic, even though it loomed over the forum in other ways. Even before the event started, charter school supporters criticized it as a “public relations stunt” that intentionally omitted their voices. Dozens of protesters gathered near the convention center in downtown Pittsburgh to show support for charters. As the candidates tried to win over the audience, many made efforts to tout their education and labor credentials. Warren noted that she's a former special education teacher. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a former Denver Public Schools superintendent, said he's the first former superintendent to run for president. Billionaire Tom Steyer noted that he led a 2012 proposition in California that helped rebuild public schools “with union labor.” For candidates, it was one way to stand apart in a crowd of Democrats with relatively similar proposals on elementary and secondary education. But their proposals on college affordability and student debt cover wider ground. In one camp are Warren and Sanders, who have proposed free public college for all Americans and the cancellation of all or most of the nation's existing student debt. Others have stuck to more moderate proposals for free community college or debt-free college. The crowd erupted with applause when Sanders said he would cancel all existing student debt, and Warren drew applause when she said her plan would cancel debt for 43 million Americans. But Buttigieg doubled down on his criticism of those plans, saying there needs to be more discussion about apprenticeships, internships and other options other than a four-year degree. He has supported free college for families making under $100,000. Biden continued to push for free community college. Bennet, meanwhile, focused instead on his proposal for free preschool and played down free college. Although he backs a plan that would allow students to graduate from college without debt, Bennet said he believes Americans are “a hell of a lot more interested in free preschool than free college.' ___ Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbinkley
  • A House freshman from New Jersey who was planning to break with his party and vote against impeaching President Donald Trump will become a Republican, a GOP official said Saturday. Top House Republicans have been told of Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decision, according to a GOP official familiar with the conversations. The lawmaker had discussed switching parties in a meeting with Trump at the White House on Friday, an administration official said Saturday. Van Drew's decision underscores the pressures facing moderate Democrats from Trump-leaning districts as next week's impeachment vote approaches. Van Drew won his southern New Jersey district by 8 percentage points last year, but Trump carried it by 5 points in 2016 and Van Drew was considered one of the more vulnerable House Democrats going into next November's congressional elections. There are 31 House Democrats who represent districts Trump carried in the 2016 election, and many of them have been nervous about the political repercussions they would face by voting to impeach Trump. The House Republican campaign committee has already run ads targeting many of them, but most are expected to support Trump's impeachment. A senior Democratic aide said Van Drew had not notified House Democratic leaders about his decision. All the aides spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. The senior Democratic aide provided what was described as a poll conducted earlier this month by Van Drew's campaign showing that by more than a 2-1 margin, people in his district would prefer a different candidate than Van Drew in the Democratic primary and general election. Rumors surfaced last week that Van Drew might switch parties, and he repeatedly denied them to reporters. But he reaffirmed his plan to oppose impeachment, barring new evidence. ``It doesn't mean that I agree with everything the president may have said or done. It means that I don't believe that these are impeachable offenses,`` he said in an interview Thursday. Van Drew and a spokesperson did not answer their cellphones or return text messages on Saturday. Trump put out a congratulatory tweet early Sunday. “Thank you for your honesty Jeff. All of the Democrats know you are right, but unlike you, they don’t have the “guts” to say so!” Even with his defection, there remains no doubt that the Democratic-controlled House will vote to impeach Trump on a near party-line vote. Democrats will still control the chamber by 232-198, plus an independent and four vacancies. Until now, Van Drew and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota were the only Democrats expected to vote against impeachment, with perhaps a small handful of others joining them. House Republicans seem on track to oppose impeachment unanimously. Van Drew was a longtime state senator. His congressional district had been under Republican control for nearly two decades before he was elected. The House is set to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump this coming week. Democrats, who hold the majority, expect support from all but a few of their members. No Republicans are expected to join them. The Republican-controlled Senate is then all but certain to acquit Trump after a trial in January. Van Drew has argued that the process is likely just to further divide the country and it would be better to let voters decide Trump's fate in next year's election. In the first article of impeachment, Trump is accused of abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden while holding military aid as leverage. In the second article, he's accused of obstructing Congress by blocking the House's efforts to investigate his actions. ___ Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this story.
  • President Donald Trump used his appearance at the annual Army-Navy football game to pitch to the players an administration policy change that clears the way for athletes at the nation's military academies to play professional sports after they graduate and delay their active-duty service. To cheers in each locker room before the 120th playing of the game, he said he was giving those athletes with pro potential the chance ``to make a fortune and after you're all finished with your professional career, you'll go and you'll serve and everybody's thrilled.'' Turning to Army's coach, Jeff Monken, the president joked, ``It probably gives the coach no reason to ever lose another game.'' A memo signed in November by Defense Secretary Mark Esper spelled out the new guidelines. It said the athletes must get approval from the Pentagon chief and it requires them to eventually fulfill their military obligation or repay the costs of their education. The Obama administration put a policy in place allowing some athletes to go to the pros and defer their military service. In the Navy locker room, he congratulated the favored Midshipmen on ``a hell of a season,'' but added, ``You know, it's only a great season, you know it has to happen today, otherwise you wouldn't call it a great season. So you better go out there and play hard.'' With impeachment looming in Washington, Trump made the day trip to Philadelphia for the second year in a row for the storied game. Trump, who also went in 2016 as president-elect, is the 10th commander in chief to attend the contest. In 2016, Army snapped Navy’s 14-game winning streak and has won three years in a row. But the Midshipmen routed Army's Black Knights 31-7 on Saturday. They had entered the game as a significant favorite. Trump was accompanied by Esper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. The president was on the field for the coin toss. The crowd cheered as Trump walked off the field after the national anthem. He put on a red Keep America Great hat. Trump emerged during the first half and sat on the Army side of the field, near the 50-yard line. There were sporadic shouts of “Trump!” and “Let's go Trump!” He crossed the field to the Navy side for the second half and left in the third quarter to return to Washington for an evening fundraiser at his hotel. Trump has closely linked himself to the military, promoting increases in defense spending and overseas triumphs such as the October killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria. The game comes amid a renewed push by the White House to deliver moments that depict Trump governing — such as his visit to NATO in London last week and his successful lobbying for a new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal — that it believes stands in stark contrast to the Democrats’ impeachment effort. In the coming week, Trump is expected to become the third president impeached after the House votes on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump also has drawn the ire of many in the Pentagon. He has clashed with military leadership on a number of fronts, including on pushes to withdraw some U.S. forces from the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula as well as his at times lackluster support for military alliances such as NATO. His first defense secretary, James Mattis, resigned last year over Trump’s decision to pull troops out from Syria. Last month, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired amid tensions between the Pentagon and the White House after Trump intervened to reverse sentences against three service members accused of committing war crimes. Trump ignored Pentagon leaders who had told him such a move could damage the integrity of the military judicial system, the ability of military commanders to ensure good order and discipline, and the confidence of U.S. allies and partners who host U.S. troops. Among the other presidents to attend the Army-Navy game are Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy.
  • This coming week’s virtually certain House impeachment of President Donald Trump will underscore how Democrats and Republicans have morphed into fiercely divided camps since lawmakers impeached President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one years ago this Thursday, a Republican-led House approved two impeachment articles against Democrat Clinton. While that battle was bitterly partisan, it was blurrier than the near party-line votes expected this week when the House, now run by Democrats, is poised to impeach Republican Trump. Two of the four Clinton impeachment articles were killed — something party leaders today would jump through hoops to avoid for fear of highlighting divisions. All four Clinton articles drew GOP opposition, peaking at 81 on one vote. That's an unthinkable number of defections today. “Obviously it was partisan, but it wasn’t as intensely partisan as today is,' said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., one of four Republicans who opposed all the Clinton impeachment articles and the last remaining member of that group in Congress. “So you could basically argue conscience, you could say you looked at it and didn’t think this was the way to go.' In the upcoming votes on impeaching Trump, Democrats expect support from all but a few — two to perhaps five — of their members. Republican leaders envision no GOP desertions. Underscoring the intensity of the partisanship, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, one of the Democrats planning to oppose impeachment, intends to switch parties and join the GOP. That's according to a Republican official who said top House Republicans have been told of Van Drew's plans and described the conversations on condition of anonymity. Few defections are expected by either party when the GOP-run Senate holds a trial, probably in January, on whether to oust Trump from office. No one expects Democrats to muster the two-thirds Senate majority needed for removal over charges that he leveraged U.S. military aid and a White House meeting coveted by Ukrainian leaders to pressure them to announce investigations of his Democratic political foes. Most Democrats were dismissive of the GOP's impeachment charges that Clinton lied to a grand jury and others about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. “The Constitution is really to protect the nation against the abuse of presidential power. Any husband could lie under oath about an affair. It doesn't take presidential powers to do that,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who opposed the Clinton impeachment and is still in Congress, said in an interview Friday. Clinton was a lame duck but widely popular president who was presiding over a booming economy, and polling showed that impeachment had little support. That gave Democrats little reason to back the effort to remove him and made many Republicans think twice about backing impeachment. Back then, each party had scores of moderate lawmakers who would cross party lines on issues such as abortion, taxes and spending. That helps explain why 81 Republicans opposed one defeated Clinton impeachment article. The other three articles drew 28, 12 and 5 GOP “no” votes. No more than five Democrats backed any of the articles impeaching Clinton. Former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was chief House GOP vote counter in 1998 and was known as “The Hammer” for his effectiveness in lining up support. In an interview Friday, he said he urged wavering Republicans to read evidence gathered by Ken Starr, the independent counsel who headed the investigation into Clinton that led to the impeachment. DeLay said party leaders “cannot break arms” on an impeachment vote because it is too important. That echoes current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has said she's not lobbying Democrats on the upcoming Trump votes. “I knew where the votes were all along, and why they were wavering and why they were struggling,” DeLay said. “The questions they had, we wanted to make sure that we got answers for them.” The numbers of moderate House Democrats and Republicans have dwindled dramatically, especially among the GOP. Only three House Republicans represent districts that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election, yet all three are expected to oppose Trump's impeachment. Trump faces reelection next year and has a strong track record of weaponizing Twitter to demolish the political careers of Republicans who oppose him. Retired GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee left Congress following running battles with Trump, and South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford lost a party primary last year after running afoul of him. “If you cross Trump, you’re a short-timer when it comes to politics,” said John Feehery, a GOP consultant and former House leadership aide. In contrast, several House Republicans who opposed at least one Clinton impeachment article saw their political careers prosper. They include John Thune of South Dakota, now the No. 2 Senate GOP leader; John Kasich, who became a two-term Ohio governor and challenged Trump for the 2016 presidential nomination; and current Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Sanford rose to South Carolina governor, but abandoned the job after admitting to an extramarital affair. He returned to the House but was defeated after clashing with Trump. Clinton's impeachment came four years after Republicans led by Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia captured House control for the first time in four decades. Gingrich became speaker and embraced aggressive confrontations with Democrats. That culminated in the House impeachment of Clinton, which the GOP-led Senate later rejecting. But even the Gingrich era's battles were tamer than today's fights, with Clinton's impeachment a case in point. The calendar of both impeachment votes also helps explain why party divisions will be sharper this time than they were for Clinton. The House's Clinton impeachment votes came a month after congressional elections, giving incumbents two years — a lifetime in politics — until they next faced voters. This year's Trump impeachment votes will come as the 2020 primary season is about to begin, putting recalcitrant Republicans at risk of facing Trump-backed primary challengers.
  • It's finally official: Beto O'Rourke isn't running for Senate in Texas. The problem for Democrats is most voters don't know who is. Unusually high hopes among Democrats for Texas in 2020 are facing an unsettled post-Betomania landscape: a dozen Senate challengers and no clear frontrunner. None have landed viral moments or raised big money. Months into their campaigns, most candidates remain widely unknown, and even party faithful struggle to name more than few of their options against Republican incumbent John Cornyn. Nationally, Democrats see winning Texas as an essential step toward finally taking and keeping control of the Senate, but in 2020 the party's chances instead may depend on races in Arizona, Colorado and Maine. As always, victory statewide here seems to be a cycle away for Democrats, never the one they're in. This despite a demographic boost from the state's growing Latino population, big cities that are already solidly blue and the GOP's firewall in the booming suburbs weakening under President Donald Trump. For Democrats, the best prospects may be finally winning control of the state House and turning a few longstanding GOP congressional districts into real battlegrounds. In the Senate race, “They're not running as strong as Beto did,” said Anjelita Cadena, the Democratic chairwoman of Denton County, a suburban GOP stronghold that is quickly turning competitive. 'They're going to have to run strong campaigns because everybody is going to compare them to what Beto did last time.” Texas isn't alone. In Georgia, where the GOP also got a scare in 2018, Democrats are also sorting out their candidates. The campaign arm of Senate Democrats haven't made endorsements in either state or weighed in on the field. It's nothing like a year ago, when college activist Trevor Newman wrangled long lines of classmates at Texas State University to rally with O'Rourke, the charismatic congressman from El Paso. O'Rourke's livestreaming, barnstorming campaign across all 254 counties went on to narrowly lose to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and change overnight what Democrats thought could actually happen in ruby-red Texas. Now Newman was spending the first weekend of December in a white-walled classroom with a handful of Hays County Democrats. They were gathered to meet Royce West, a state senator and Senate candidate, who carries the longest list of legislative endorsements. Store-bought Christmas cookies sat at the front. West's first crack at firing up the room flopped when he asked whether the fast-growing suburban county outside Austin — which O'Rourke flipped to Democrats for the first time since 1992 — was ready to turn blue. “We already did!' several shouted back. Outside, in the parking lot, four cars still had “Beto for Senate” stickers on the bumpers and windows. “It's very frightening to see someone as successful as Beto coming into the picture, getting so close to winning, and then we're in 2020 and we have another Senate cycle, but no one is getting the energy because there is so many candidates,” said Newman, 22, who is now president of the college Democrats at Texas State. O'Rourke, who spent the last two years as Texas Democrats' brightest star and biggest draw, stayed out of sight during Monday's deadline to get on the 2020 ballot in Texas. He insisted throughout his failed bid for president that he wouldn't run again for Senate, but party leaders hoped he would change his mind. It's not clear whether he will back a candidate before the Texas' primary in March. For now he has thrown his weight behind trying to help flip the Texas House, where Democrats need nine seats to take over for the first time in a generation. Some Republicans are also puzzled. Brendan Steinhauser, who ran Cornyn's last reelection campaign in 2014, lives around liberal Austin and said he would have expected to see more yard signs or events by now. “There's a war. It's happening,” said Steinhauser, referring to GOP worries about losing important races in Texas. “It just doesn't feel like the Democrats are really optimistic about beating Cornyn.” West and other candidates say it's far too early to get alarmed about their prospects. But with or without O'Rourke, beating Cornyn was never going to be easy for Democrats. The former second-ranking Republican in the Senate is not as polarizing as Cruz, and unlike in 2018, the Texas Senate race this time is second billing to a presidential race that is unfolding during Democrats' march toward impeachment. “I think people are preoccupied with the impeachment,” West said. “That's what I think it is. I think once that is resolved, then we'll see more and more people paying attention to these races.” At this stage of his 2018 campaign against Cruz, O'Rourke had raised $3.8 million. That's about what the Democrats' five most well-known 2020 candidates have raised so far combined, and far less than the sums pouring into battleground Senate races elsewhere. MJ Hegar, an Air Force veteran who nearly won a House seat last year and leads the Democrats' fundraising with $2 million, said Monday that she has driven more than 10000 miles (16,090 kilometers) across Texas and disputed that people weren't paying attention. “The hands I'm shaking and the eyes I'm looking into are voters getting engaged for the first time,” she said. The field also includes Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, former Congressman Chris Bell and Latina activist Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, who on Monday rolled out endorsements from O'Rourke's former campaign manager and his staff. 'I think there will be eight people in the city of Austin that don't vote. Everybody's going to vote,' Austin Mayor Steve Adler said of the Senate field. “But what's going to be driving it is the presidential election.” ___ Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pauljweber
  • As near-certain impeachment closes in on him, President Donald Trump raged at his accusers, the Democrats. In the process, he offered a highly selective account of the testimony of a damning witness and misrepresented the facts of a phone call at the heart of the constitutional showdown. Trump also branded Democrats crazy for wanting to impeach him after all the things he's done for the country, some of which he didn't actually do. And he falsely credited his daughter with creating 14 million jobs when it's not clear she's created any. Meantime Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg came out with an energy plan that claimed he was personally responsible for much of the decline of the coal industry. He wasn't. A sampling of the past week's political rhetoric: JOBS TRUMP, on his daughter, Ivanka: “She has been so extraordinary, in terms of her advocacy for America’s working families. Fourteen million people she’s gotten jobs for, where she would go into Walmart, she would go into our great companies and say, ‘They really want help. They really want you to teach them.’ ... She’s done over 14 million.” — remarks Thursday at White House meeting on child care and paid leave. THE FACTS: His daughter hasn't created 14 million jobs. The U.S. has only created 6.6 million jobs since Trump took office. The president is referring to a White House initiative led by Ivanka Trump that has garnered nonbinding commitments from 370 companies to provide 14 million training opportunities in the years ahead. Training for a job is not working at a job for money. There are questions about how much the administration is willing to spend to help U.S. workers, whether the agreements by companies will result in higher salaries and whether employers will stick to their pledges if the economy sours and they have less incentive to invest in employees. By having companies sign the pledge, the administration is relying on the private sector to take on more of the financial burden of training workers. The government spends just 0.03% of the gross domestic product on job training, a level of support that has been halved since 2000, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Of the 36 countries in the organization, only Japan and Mexico spend less than the U.S. by that measure. Nor is it clear how many workers were already going to be trained, absent the initiative. In many cases, the pledge simply confers a presidential seal of approval on what some companies are doing anyway. ___ COAL & CLIMATE BLOOMBERG says he 'helped close more than half the nation's dirty coal plants.' — energy plan announcement Friday. BLOOMBERG announcement: “Coal production in the United States is on the decline, thanks to the efforts spearheaded by Mike over the past decade. ... In 2011, Mike helped launch the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which has since shuttered more than half — 299 to date — of America’s coal-fired power plants, and counting.” THE FACTS: Bloomberg is taking sweeping, unearned credit for the decline of coal. Market forces, not his money, influence and activism, put coal on this inexorable path. Drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. A new federal report reaffirms that long-standing consensus among experts. U.S. coal production has fallen steadily since its peak in 2008. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper. Also, advances in technology have spurred wind and solar energy production. Bloomberg’s energy plan calls for constraints on the expansion of natural gas, the primary fuel driving coal’s decline. He proposes making rules for new gas plants so tough that energy companies would not want to build them. ___ IMPEACHMENT TRUMP: 'By the way, a guy like Sondland __ nobody ever says it __ he said very strongly that I said, ‘I want nothing’ and ‘no quid pro quo.’ Nobody says that. That’s what he said. He said it in Congress. Nobody ever says that.' — remarks Friday with Paraguayan President Abdo Benítez. THE FACTS: That's a decidedly partial account of the testimony that Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, gave to House investigators. As one of the officials most deeply involved in trying to get Ukraine to do Trump's bidding, Sondland testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo in the matter and “everyone was in the loop.” Specifically, he said it was understood that Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, would only get a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office if Zelenskiy publicly pledged to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter and the Democrats. “Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ Sondland asked in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee. ”As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.' Moreover, on the more serious matter of withholding military aid to Ukraine unless it investigated Democrats, Sondland testified that a this-for-that explanation was the only one that made sense to him. “I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma,' he said, referring to the Ukrainian company on whose board Hunter Biden served. Testimony from other officials shored up the picture of a president and his associates systematically trying to get Ukraine to do what Trump wanted during a period when the military assistance approved by Congress was put on hold without explanation. Sondland said Trump told him on the phone that he was asking nothing of Ukraine. But it is plain from his testimony that Sondland did not believe him. ___ TRUMP: “They didn't even know probably that we had it transcribed, professionally transcribed, word for word transcribed. So beautiful. Am I lucky I had it transcribed? Think of that. Think of that.” — Pennsylvania rally Tuesday. THE FACTS: No, the White House memo describing Trump's phone conversation with Zelenskiy was not “word for word.” It was presented by the White House as a rough transcript. The public does not know precisely what each leader said. Officials who were tasked to listen in to the call say the rough transcript is largely accurate in representing the material aspects of the conversation as they heard it. One such witness testified that some quotations in the account were not exact, though he did not consider the variance to be consequential. For example, a question remains whether Trump or Zelenskiy named Burisma in their conversation. In the rough transcript, Zelenskiy said he would have his prosecutor “look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned,” and Trump spoke of a situation that “sounds horrible to me” involving Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, explicitly. Whether Burisma was mentioned or not, there is no doubt what company was being discussed. ___ TRUMP: “”How do you get Impeached when you have done NOTHING wrong (a perfect call), have created the best economy in the history of our Country, rebuilt our Military, fixed the V.A. (Choice!), cut Taxes & Regs, protected your 2nd A, created Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and soooo much more? Crazy!' — tweet Friday. THE FACTS: He didn't do all of that. He refers to Choice, a program that allows veterans under some conditions to go outside the Veterans Affairs health care system and seek private care at public expense. President Barack Obama enacted the law creating the program. Trump routinely tries to take credit for his predecessor's VA achievement. Trump expanded Obama's Choice program. Trump is also wrong in saying the U.S. economy is the best ever. It is not that. The economy grew 2.9% in 2018, the same pace it reached in 2015 under Obama, and it hasn't hit historically high growth rates. Growth reached 7.2% in 1984 and topped 4% for four straight years in the late 1990s. The unemployment rate is at a half-century low of 3.5% but the proportion of Americans with a job was higher in the 1990s. Trump is right that he's cut taxes and regulations and increased military spending, and there's been little movement on gun control. ___ TRUMP: “They don’t even allege a crime. Crazy!” — tweet Thursday. TRUMP: “There were no crimes. They’re impeaching me, and there are no crimes.” — Pennsylvania rally Tuesday. Rep. STEVE CHABOT of Ohio, Republican on the House Judiciary Committee: “This president isn’t even accused of committing a crime.” — impeachment hearing Thursday. Rep. DOUG COLLINS of Georgia, top Republican on the committee: “We don’t have a crime.” — hearing Monday. THE FACTS: Republicans gave this misleading defense until the bitter end of the impeachment hearings and it will be heard again as the process unfolds. The constitutional grounds for impeachment do not require a statutory crime to have been committed. In setting the conditions of treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors, the Founding Fathers said a consequential abuse of office was subject to the impeachment process they laid out. As such, the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard is vague and open-ended to encompass abuses even if they aren't illegal. Democrats this past week released two articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid as leverage; and obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House's investigation. Frank Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and author of “A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump,' said that while it seems “almost commonsensically right' that the House shouldn't impeach unless there's a crime, that has not been the requirement in more than 600 years of British and American law. ___ STEVE CASTOR, Republican counsel for the House Judiciary Committee: “At the time of the July 25 call, senior officials in Kyiv did not know the security assistance was paused. They did not learn it was paused until the pause was reported publicly in the U.S. media on Aug. 28.” — hearing Monday. THE FACTS: That’s misleading. Ukrainians knew or at least suspected that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid were frozen when the call took place, according to testimony heard by House investigators. Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, told the House Intelligence Committee last month that her staff received an email on July 25 from a contact at Ukraine's Embassy asking “what was going on with Ukraine's security assistance.' That's the same day Trump spoke by phone with Zelenskiy and pressed for an investigation of Democrats. Cooper said she 'cannot say for certain' that Ukraine was aware the aid was being withheld, but said, 'It's the recollection of my staff that they likely knew.' Republicans have argued there couldn’t be a “quid pro quo” — investigations into Democrats in exchange for military aid — if Ukrainians weren’t aware of a hold on the aid at the time. Even so, Zelenskiy knew months before the call that much-needed U.S. military support might depend on whether he was willing to help Trump by investigating Democrats. ___ Democratic Rep. JERROLD NADLER of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee: “Multiple witnesses — including respected diplomats, national security professionals, and decorated war veterans — all testified to the same basic fact: President Trump withheld the aid and the meeting in order to pressure a foreign government to do him that favor. ... These facts are not in dispute.” — hearing Monday. THE FACTS: He's right that plentiful testimony points to Trump conditioning military aid to Ukraine on the investigation he wanted Ukraine to conduct on Democrats. But is it a rock-solid case? None of the witnesses who testified in House Intelligence Committee hearings last month could personally attest that Trump directly tied the release of the military aid to an agreement from Ukraine to conduct the investigations. Sondland testified to a “quid pro quo” that involved arranging a White House visit for Zelenskiy in return for Ukraine announcing investigations of Burisma and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But Sondland says no one told him that hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine were similarly contingent on satisfying Trump’s request for investigations. He said he simply presumed that was the case, based in part on the absence of any other credible explanation. ___ RUSSIA INVESTIGATION TRUMP, on former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page: “This poor guy. Did I hear he needed a restraining order after this whole thing to keep him away from Lisa? That is what I heard. I don't know if it's true.” — Pennsylvania rally. THE FACTS: He's passing on baseless innuendo about FBI employees who exchanged texts criticizing him. ___ TRUMP: “They spied on my campaign!” — tweet Wednesday. TRUMP: “My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!' — tweet May 17, 2019. THE FACTS: The Justice Department watchdog report released Monday doesn't use “spied” or “treason.' But it's certainly the case that some of the investigative steps the report describes supports the fact that some of Trump's campaign staffers were under surveillance. Although the report says the FBI did not place any confidential human sources inside the campaign, it did task several of its sources to interact with multiple campaign officials. Those include Carter Page and campaign aide George Papadopoulos — during and after their times on the campaign — as well as an unidentified “high-level' campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation. The report says that the use of those sources, though brushing up against protected First Amendment speech, followed protocol. It also rejects one of Papadopoulos' theories that he was framed. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, has alleged that a Maltese professor who told him that Russia possessed stolen Hillary Clinton emails — a revelation that initiated the investigation — was some sort of intelligence asset or perhaps even worked with the FBI. But the report says the FBI searched its database of confidential human sources and found no evidence suggesting that the professor, Joseph Mifsud, was one of them, “or that Mifsud's discussions with Papadopoulos were part of an FBI operation.' ___ EDITOR'S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures ___ Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Mark Sherman, Darlene Superville and Cal Woodward contributed to this report. ___ Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck
  • President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi don’t see eye-to-eye on much these days, but in the throes of impeachment, they’re in lockstep on the desire to close out the year by checking off items on their to-do lists. As the uncertain politics of the effort to remove Trump from office collide with critical year-end legislative deadlines, Washington, for the first time in recent memory, appears intent on demonstrating its capacity to multitask. Lawmakers and White House officials are eager to project the image that they've been focused on anything but the polarizing proceedings that are increasingly consuming their days and nights. Even President Donald Trump, no stranger to unpredictability and drama, could only marvel at the week of Washington whiplash. “This has been a wild week,” he said Friday morning as he played host to the president of Paraguay in the Oval Office. On Friday, as the House Judiciary Committee was taking the historic step of passing articles of impeachment against the president. Trump had counter-programming at the ready, announcing new progress on long-delayed negotiations with China to tame an 18-month trade war. “Take note @SpeakerPelosi - this is what real leadership looks like,” tweeted White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, highlighting the “phase-one” deal. It was far from the first split-screen moment of the week. In the span of one hour Tuesday, Pelosi held a press conference to announce articles of impeachment against the president — then swiftly walked down the hall to announce a bipartisan deal to fulfill the president’s top legislative priority of the year, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade. A day later, as the House Judiciary Committee took up the impeachment articles, the full House passed a compromise defense spending bill that would provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave, a priority of the president’s daughter. The bill also would bring Trump’s long-promised Space Force to life. The incongruous moments reflect the unease on all sides in Washington about how the polarizing impeachment process will play out politically — and the fact that many voters across the country don’t view impeachment as a high priority. So Democrats and the White House are going all-out to show they can do their day jobs despite the impeachment drama on TV. Washington is set for more of those moments in the coming week, with the anticipated party-line impeachment vote Wednesday sandwiched between Tuesday’s expected passage of a budget bill and Thursday’s thumbs-up for the USMCA. For Pelosi, the decision to give the president those victories appeared aimed at trying to protect her caucus against charges — featured prominently in GOP ads aimed at vulnerable Democrats — that their focus on impeachment has distracted from the bread-and-butter issues that voters care about. Democrats maintain that the issues they’ve made progress on are long-held priorities, like the new parental leave policy for federal employees and stronger labor and environmental protections in the USMCA. “It’s not a coincidence that the USMCA agreement was announced the same morning that the articles of impeachment were introduced,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and partner at Firehouse Strategies, which has been polling how impeachment is playing in crucial battleground states. “I think congressional Democrats in swing districts want to be able to show their constituents that they’ve done more than just impeach the president.' Conant said he expects to see a concerted effort by moderate Democrats to find areas where they can work with Trump, even while they’re impeaching him. “It’s counter-intuitive, but impeachment may actually help the president’s legislative agenda,” he said. Pelosi tied the flurry of legislative activity amid impeachment to the calendar, telling reporters: “It's just that as we get to the end of a session, there have to be some decisions made. The timetable for impeachment is the timetable of the committees and that came to an end with a hearing yesterday.” The spurt of bipartisan legislating hasn't necessarily led to any cooling of political tempers. At the White House, Trump aides highlighted what they called a “week of action,” aiming to use it as a cudgel against Democrats whom they have accused of doing nothing besides impeachment. Trump’s campaign is already planning to include the developments in new ads promoting the president making good on his 2016 campaign promises while Democrats seek his removal. “One can make the argument that President Trump has had the best seven-day run of his presidency despite having two articles of impeachment dropped on him, and that is nothing short of remarkable,” said Jason Miller, a staunch supporter of the president who served as communications director of his 2016 campaign. The Trump narrative conveniently leaves out Democrats’ significant roles in securing many of the week’s achievements. “As we have said since the Do-Nothing Democrats started this kangaroo court, President Donald J. Trump remains focused on the work of the American people, and this week’s unprecedented accomplishments prove that,' said White House spokesman Judd Deere. Conant said the White House was intent on making the argument that 'you shouldn’t impeach a president who is doing a good job.”
  • Kim Motl doesn’t work in the health insurance industry. But her friends and neighbors do. So when she saw Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Motl pressed the Democratic presidential candidate about her “Medicare for All” plan, which would replace private insurance with a government-run system. “What about the little guys that work in the insurance business, that support our communities? The secretary that works for them, but maybe supports their family, what happens to them?” the 64-year-old housing advocate asked the senator. “What happens to all of those people who lose their jobs?” Motl asked in a later interview. Warren reassured her that jobs would not be lost because of her plan. But the exchange is a reminder that while railing against the insurance industry can score points with the progressive Democratic base, it can also alienate potential supporters in Iowa, where voters will usher in the presidential primary in less than two months. Nearly 17,000 Iowans are either directly employed by health insurance companies or employed in related jobs, according to data collected by America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry advocacy group. Des Moines, the seat of the state’s most Democratic county, is known as one of America’s insurance capitals partly because of the high number of health insurance companies and jobs in the metro area. Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s health insurance headquarters employs roughly 1,700 in the metro area, and that’s just one of the 16 health insurance companies domiciled in Iowa, according to the Iowa Insurance Division. For many Iowans, the Medicare for All debate is personal, and the prospect of losing a job could influence whom they support in the Feb. 3 caucuses. Tamyra Harrison, vice-chair of the East Polk Democrats, says she has heard worries at her local Democratic meetings about “the effect it would have on people that work in the insurance industry, and those that have small businesses in the area.” “They’re concerned about the repercussions on people living here that maybe the Democrats aren’t thinking of” when they’re talking about eliminating private insurance, she said. The Democrats’ health care plans vary widely in terms of the speed and scope with which they would affect health care industry jobs, but experts say every plan marks a substantial reconfiguring of one of the country’s biggest industry and thus all would affect thousands of jobs nationwide. Some, including Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have called for replacing private insurance with a government plan. Asked about this last month in Iowa, Warren said, “Some of the people currently working in health insurance will work in other parts of insurance — in life insurance, in auto insurance, in car insurance,' or for the new government-run system. She also cited five years of “transition support” for displaced workers built into the plan. Sanders has previously argued that his plan would see 'all kinds of jobs opened up in health care,” and his bill includes a fund to help retrain and transition private insurance workers out of their current jobs. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, would leave room for private insurers, but also include a public option, which they have acknowledged could ultimately put insurance companies out of business. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is trying to walk a line on the issue, having signed onto Sanders’ Medicare for All bill in the Senate but on the campaign trail shied away from eliminating private insurance entirely. Even those who say they would keep private insurance companies face risks. Buttigieg revealed this week that he worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Michigan during his time as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. He said he “doubts” his work contributed to layoffs the company later announced and has instead sought to highlight the impact of his opponents' plans. “There are some voices in the Democratic primary right now who are calling for a policy that would eliminate the job of every single American working at every single insurance company in the country,” he said. Economists say the jobs impact of any shift away from private health care would be felt nationwide by hundreds of thousands of Americans. It's not just jobs at private insurance companies that could be affected; those working on processing insurance claims at hospitals and other administrative health care jobs could be reduced as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, nearly 386,000 Americans were employed by health and medical insurance carriers — but some analysts found the number of jobs lost from eliminating private insurance could be much higher. Economists at the University of Michigan found in an analysis of Sanders’ Medicare for All bill that the jobs of nearly 747,000 health insurance industry workers, and an additional 1.06 million health insurance administrative staffers, would no longer be needed if Medicare for All became law. In Iowa, however, the issue could be particularly problematic. Around Des Moines, “you can’t swing a dead cat without finding someone who works at an insurance provider or a company,” said Mary McAdams, chair of the Ankeny Area Democrats. She said she believes Democrats in her area aren’t as concerned about what would happen to their jobs if private insurance were eliminated because they don’t have much allegiance to their companies to begin with. “They know full well these companies would drop them like a habit,” she said. The economic repercussions of eliminating private insurance jobs could go beyond simply the loss of local jobs, as Paula Dierenfield, a Republican lawyer and the executive director of the Federation of Iowa Insurers, points out. “This is an industry that employs thousands of employees in high-quality jobs,' she said. “All of those employees pay income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and the companies that they work for also pay millions in premium taxes, as well as property taxes. So it would have a significant impact on the Iowa economy generally as well as here in the Des Moines metro area.' The peripheral effects of eliminating insurance jobs worry Marcia Wannamaker, a real estate agent from West Des Moines who raised her concerns about the fate of private insurance during a recent question-and-answer session with Biden. “It’s really going to cut our jobs,” Wannamaker said. She later noted in an interview that if the private insurance industry shrinks, people working for such companies would lose their jobs. “Then that trickles down to the housing. They’re going to have to move. I just think it’s going to be a disaster,” she said. “When you sell real estate, these people buy homes. It’s just part of how the Iowa — and especially in Des Moines, the economy works.” ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly `` Ground Game ’’ politics podcast.
  • The most raucous committee in Congress sat stone-faced, barely speaking. One by one, the members around the Judiciary Committee dais voted on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Then they bolted for the doors and the airports, in more than one case without a word. The all-business iciness during those eight gavel-to-gavel minutes reflected the gravity of advancing articles of impeachment to the House floor for only the third time in American history. But it also told much of the story about impeachment's toll on Congress, Washington and beyond. Ever since Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president sparked official proceedings against the president, impeachment has been a force that's bent congressional business around it, with severe strain. No one feels sorry for Congress, and its members generally don't feel sorry for themselves. But the wear-and-tear of impeachment is becoming clear in the emotional exchanges and frayed relationships left in its wake. “I have a problem with this whole damn place. If you can figure out an exit strategy for me I’d appreciate that,' said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., a member of the Judiciary panel, on Friday. “This is crazy. The whole thing is crazy,” he added of impeachment. “It will take some time to get over.' Tempers are short. Members show signs of being sick of each other, like any colleagues who spend too much time together. But they are operating under the glare of a global spotlight and the weight of history. Trust, or what remained of it after years of obstruction and smashmouth Trump-era politics, appeared to be a casualty in the short-term. Thursday's grueling 14-hour Judiciary Committee markup of the abuse and obstruction charges against Trump ignited the smoldering tension. There was no expectation that the articles would be substantially changed, but Trump's allies pushed for amendments, each of which took hours to consider. Democrats, meanwhile, did not want to take final votes too late for Americans to see. Just before midnight, Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced that the committee would not be voting on the impeachment articles until Friday morning — and after he banged his gavel, the microphones were switched off. Livid, Republicans leapt to their feet, yelling “unbelievable” and “sneaky' and talking of a “kangaroo court.” Nadler walked out. “Chairman Nadler's integrity is zero. His staff is zero,” fumed ranking Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. “This chairman has made himself irrelevant.” The personal stab at the powerful New York House veteran was unusual, as even the most mismatched pairs atop committees typically refrain from attacking each other in personal terms. “I could feel it myself and I know the rest of us did,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, a new member from Pennsylvania, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “That really was sort of the apex of weeks and months of emotional and mental and intellectual toll.” It turns out that impeachment is not the Democratic morale-booster that some might have thought in the heady first days of the party's House takeover this year, when Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib vowed to “impeach the motherf—-er” on her first day in office. One Democrat involved in the impeachment investigation was so dispirited by it all that he decided this term will be his last. “The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,” said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., in his retirement announcement Dec. 4. 'At times, it is as though there are no rules or boundaries. ... Civility is out. Compromise is out. All or nothing is in.' There's a long way to go before knowing which party benefits and which pays for impeachment in the 2020 elections, let alone which fares better in the eyes of history. But trust — by Americans toward Congress — seems to be suffering. And it's not clear the proceedings are changing minds. Recent polling shows that about half the country supports impeaching and removing Trump from office, fitting the pattern of a deeply polarized nation. But the proceedings could be costly for both parties. A plurality of Americans — 44 percent — said they had no trust at all in the House impeachment proceedings, according to a Monmouth University poll conducted in December. The poll also found that about 6 in 10 Americans said Democrats in Congress are more interested in bringing down Trump than pursuing the facts. Likewise, about 6 in 10 said Republicans in Congress are more interested in defending Trump than pursuing the facts. With the stakes so high, emotions are, too. Dean, whose family has grown by two grandchildren since impeachment began in September, grew emotional Friday when she talked about the responsibility of weighing the president's fate. “I've been thinking about the broader horizon,” she said. The same week of Trump's July phone call, she happened to talk on the floor of the House with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight Committee Chairman who died in October. Cummings, she said, reminded her that people will know she was here for what's expected to be the third presidential impeachment in American history. “It will matter,” she said. But it will not have come for free. By the time Nadler gaveled the committee back into session Friday morning, the silences and swift proceedings suggested there was nothing left to say, let alone fight about. Nadler sat down, pulled out his cellphone and turned it off. He gaveled in the meeting and launched votes on both articles. During the roll call, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., voted aye while holding up a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. Collins delivered a scripted notice that he reserves the right to file dissenting views. Nadler dropped the gavel. There was no celebrating or showboating from the Democrats. “The House will act expeditiously,” he said. “Thank you.” He took no questions. ___ Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Hannah Fingerhut and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report. ___ Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
  • After a tumultuous tenure in office, a controversial candidate expanded his grip on power, surpassing a weak opponent and drawing support from unlikely pockets of voters. That’s what happened Thursday in Britain, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party claimed a commanding majority in Parliament, sidelining far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. It’s the same scenario President Donald Trump is eager to replicate in next year’s American election and Democrats are desperate to avoid. After congratulating Johnson on Friday, Trump said of the British results: “I think that might be a harbinger of what’s to come in our country.” Others cautioned against drawing too many lessons from the British elections. Despite deep historical and cultural ties, the U.S. and U.K. have vastly different demographics and systems of government. The contours of the 2020 presidential election are also still evolving, with Democrats choosing between moderates and liberals, experienced politicians and fresh faces, as they weigh who will take on Trump. Still, there are striking parallels, as well as recent precedent, in the political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2016, British voters stunningly decided in a national referendum to withdraw from the European Union, ignoring dire warnings from political elites about the economic and cultural consequences. Four months later, American voters did the same, sending Trump to the White House over establishment favorite Hillary Clinton. Johnson took up the mantle of the Brexit campaign earlier this year, stepping in as prime minister and drawing immediate comparisons to Trump. The two speak frequently by phone, forging an easier relationship than Trump had with Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. Johnson faced this week’s campaign with significant liabilities, as will Trump next year. Both men are personally unpopular with wide swaths of their countries’ voters and appear to take some measure of pride in agitating their detractors. Each has a history of making controversial comments, including about women and minorities. And their terms in office have been punctuated by chaos and controversy, including setbacks for Johnson in Parliament and the looming impeachment vote and trial against Trump in Congress. But in their own ways, Trump and Johnson have also proved to be effective communicators and advocates for their priorities, forgoing complex policy proposals for bumper sticker slogans. For Trump, it’s “Make America Great Again” and “Build the Wall.” Johnson campaigned in the election on a pledge to “Get Brexit Done” — a straightforward slogan that belies the complex negotiations still to come with the EU. “It’s simplicity and it’s connecting to something at an emotional level that somebody believes in — whether it’s true or not,” said Heather Conley, a former State Department official and current Europe scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The 2016 Brexit referendum and Trump’s victory rested in part on shifts in traditional voting blocs. Trump pulled a trio of states that have long voted for Democrats in presidential elections into his column: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. In the U.K., working-class towns in central and northern England that have long elected Labour lawmakers turned against the party and backed Brexit. The results in the U.K. this week proved that those shifts were more than an anomaly. Conservatives took a swath of seats in post-industrial former mining, milling and fishing towns that voted for Brexit, though some of those areas had never elected a Tory lawmaker before. On both sides of the Atlantic, much of the blame focused on Corbyn, the deeply unpopular Labour leader with socialist views. Corbyn was criticized for silencing critics within the party and failing to root out anti-Semitism among his supporters. Centrist Labour politicians were quick to call for him to step down following Thursday’s rout. In the U.S., some took Labour’s stinging defeat under Corbyn’s leadership as a warning for more liberal American presidential candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden, a more moderate 2020 hopeful and chief rival of Warren and Sanders, predicted the takeaway from the British results would be “look what happens when the Labour Party moves so, so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly.” Other Democrats argued that opponents of Johnson and the British exit from the European Union muddied their message during the campaign and didn’t do enough to make an affirmative case for their own vision. They also suggested that Johnson’s opponents banked too much on British voters being weary of the chaos and controversy that has accompanied his tenure — all mistakes they fear could follow in the campaign against Trump. “I’m just not convinced that the Democrats are making the case as of right now as to why Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to be reelected,” said Boyd Brown, a Democratic strategist based in South Carolina. Brown said there is a clear message out of the British election for Democrats seeking to defeat Trump next year: “Get your stuff together or this maniac is going to be elected for a second time.” ___ Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report. ___ Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Police in Oklahoma are investigating after a fatal triple shooting Saturday afternoon in Jenks. Investigators told KOKI-TV that a man and his two sons are dead after what they believe is a case of murder-suicide. Police said the children’s mother was at work at the time. The shooting happened in the Country Woods neighborhood near West 106th Street South and South Madison Street South. Officers responded to a call around 12:50 p.m. regarding a domestic incident at the home. Police said others living in the home called 911. No one else in the home was injured.
  • Federal prosecutors say that two men in Las Vegas have plead guilty to running one of the nation's biggest illegal TV and movie streaming services. They say 36 year old Darryl Polo and 40 year old Luis Villarino, who ran the site iStreamItAll, told the Justice Department that their service provided over 100,000 television episodes and movies to all of its subscribers all without consent from the copyright owners. That equals more than Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime put together.  They reportedly got their content from pirate and 'torrent' web sites, stored them, and then distributed them to servers in Canada for all their subscribers. Polo says he made more than $1 million running the site.  Prosecutors also say the two used their programming skills to run another similar operation called Jetflicks, which also used automated software to find, download, and distribute the content to servers in the U.S. and Canada.  Polo and Villarino face charges of money laundering and copyright infringement. They are due to be sentenced in a Virginia federal court in March.
  • A controversial plan has been unanimously approved by the Central Florida Expressway Authority to extend Osceola Parkway. The nine mile extension would connect State Road 417 to new developments with a portion cutting through Split Oak Forest, which houses a variety of endangered species. This would impact 160 out of the 1,700 acre forest, which is home to state protected animals such as sand-hill cranes, gopher tortoises, and even wild turkeys.  However, if the route through the forest would not have been chosen, an alternate route would affect nearly 20 homes just south of Split Oak in the Narcoossee area. Expressway leaders say the toll road is needed to accommodate the next 50 years worth of projected population growth in the area.  Some approvals are still needed at the state level before it goes into effect, but the plan is on its way to commissioners in Orange and Osceola counties for their approval as well.
  • A Virginia mother is wanted on abduction charges after authorities say she took her four children on vacation six months ago and never brought them home. The woman alleges she is saving the children from sex trafficking by their father and grandfather. Along with four misdemeanor abduction charges, Melody Bannister, 34, of Stafford, is charged with felony violation of a court order and filing a false police report, a news release from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said. A warrant was issued for her arrest Aug. 23, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Her children are identified as Genevieve Bannister, 13; Janelle Bannister, 12; Vivienne Bannister, 11; and Peter Bannister, 7. Genevieve is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 110 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, according to the NCMEC. Janelle is described as 5 feet, 1 inch tall and 115 pounds. Like her older sister, she has brown hair and hazel eyes. Vivienne is listed as 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 95 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Peter is described as 4 feet, 1 inch tall and 90 pounds. He also brown hair and blue eyes. Bannister is described as 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 110 pounds. Like her two youngest children, she has brown hair and blue eyes. The children and their mother were last known to be traveling in a blue-green 2002 Honda Odyssey with Virginia license plate number VBH7123, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Detective James Wright said during a segment about the case on “Live PD” on A&E. Finding Bannister and the children has become more urgent after “recent developments in the investigation have led investigators to believe the children may now be in danger,” the Sheriff’s Office’s statement said. Wright, who is lead investigator on the case, said on “Live PD” that authorities believe the missing family might be in danger due to the “clandestine nature” of the religious organization they belong to. “We’re concerned about the welfare because they are unable to take care of themselves. They don’t have any means to take care of them. Melody doesn’t have means to take care of them,” Wright told host Tom Morris Jr. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Amanda Vicinanzo said investigators believe Bannister has had help along the way from members of a religious group of which she is purportedly a member, according to the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. The newspaper reported that the family’s pets, a white Great Pyrenees dog and white ragdoll cat, were left at one of the stops Bannister has made since leaving Virginia. “After months on the road, we had to say goodbye to our beloved pets: Our giant, bounding bundle of puppy-faced joy and our fluffy cat, whose soothing whirr often assuaged our soreness of heart,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “It is a comfort to know they are in good, loving hands, since they can no longer be in ours.” “Live PD” pointed out that Bannister has written about her religion previously, describing it as a “cult.” According to a blog she began in 2016 called Lady Adelaide’s Realm, Bannister grew up in a Quiverfull household. Followers of the Quiverfull movement believe that the men with the most children will earn the most favor from God. They shun all forms of contraception, believing that it is only God who “opens and closes the womb,” follower Kelly Swanson told NPR in 2009. The movement advocates stringent gender roles, and women are not allowed to question their husbands’ authority. They cannot work outside the home, wear pants or cut their hair. According to some of Bannister’s friends -- and a second blog the missing woman appears to have written since going on the run with her children -- the danger toward the children lies not with their mother, but in their father’s home. Bannister’s blog devoted to the allegations is subtitled “American Outlaws: The Plight of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Living Underground.” Her most recent blog post on Lady Adelaide’s Realm, dated June 28, names six men, including her father-in-law, as her children’s alleged abusers. The men are not being named because they have not been charged with a crime. ‘Will justice triumph over lawlessness this Christmas?’ A Change.org petition begging for help from Virginia and Alabama officials claims that the children’s father “conspired with (Bannister’s) father-in-law to perpetuate some of the most horrifying sexual and physical abuse imaginable upon her children.” “When local law enforcement failed to protect these children, ordering them back to live with their abuser, Melody chose to live on the wrong side of the law. What else could a truly desperate mother do?” the petition reads. Bannister has accused her husband of “deliver(ing) the children up for torture to the barn of his father.” She has accused her father-in-law of not only sexually abusing the children, but of offering them up for abuse by his friends. “The children have spoken of being given strange substances in the barn that made the world swim before their eyes and caused the taunting faces of their abusers to converge together in a dizzying blur,” Bannister wrote. She wrote on the blog that her only crimes were “believing (her) children when they disclosed a lifetime of ongoing abuse” and “reporting (it) to the Stafford, Virginia, police.” Stafford County officials said that an investigation into the allegations brought to them by Bannister in June found no evidence of abuse against the children. “A joint investigation with Stafford County law enforcement and Child Protective Services determined the allegations were unfounded,” according to the statement from the Sheriff’s Office. “Shortly after the conclusion of the investigation, Bannister left Virginia with the children on a planned vacation and never returned.” Bannister wrote on her blog that she and the children left town for a vacation June 14, the day after she reported the abuse, in part out of fear of reprisal from the accused. She said she called the Sheriff’s Office detective, Wright, a few days later to check up on the investigation. “We spoke briefly once, when he told me that he had interviewed my husband and would soon interview my father-in-law,” Bannister wrote. “After that, he stopped answering my phone calls.” She wrote that Wright and a CPS caseworker chalked the sex abuse claims up to children’s “vivid imaginations.” She described fleeing Virginia with the “rancid hot breath of child predators” on her back. “We left home with barely a week’s worth of summer clothes and are practically penniless, living off the kindness of friends who, one by one, have taken us under their wings,” Bannister wrote. She said her husband drained their joint bank account and cancelled her credit cards when she did not bring the children back to Virginia. Read Bannister’s entire, five-part blog here. Warning: It includes graphic details of alleged child sex abuse. Stafford County’s Juvenile, Domestic and Relations Court granted sole custody of the children to their father the following month, Stafford County authorities said. Their father, identified in court records as William Joseph Bannister, filed for divorce last month. “(Melody) Bannister refused to return the children and subsequently petitioned the courts in Alabama requesting custody be issued to her there,” a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said. “The courts in Alabama heard the case and also ordered Bannister to return her children to their father back in Virginia. “Bannister absconded from the state of Alabama with her four children and has not been seen since.” Bannister and the children were last seen Aug. 20 in Moulton, a small city in northwest Alabama. “We set up residence in Alabama and made it our new home, where we obtained a protective order against the man formerly known as Daddy,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “This was swiftly snatched away when the judge deferred to the Virginia ruling, which ordered me to return the children to him.” Bannister wrote that a family court hearing was held in Virginia without her presence Aug. 19, with a judge ruling in her husband’s favor. She claimed she was never served with a summons for the hearing. She and the children vanished from Alabama the next day. US marshals issue alert Aside from Alabama, potential sightings of the family have been reported in Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas. The U.S. Marshals Service and the NCMEC have been involved in the case over the past few months, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Marshals Service issued an alert this week seeking help from the public in finding Bannister and the missing children. A friend of Bannister, Julie Lampkins, shared a story on Facebook about the missing family, saying it was “with a heavy heart” that she shared the link about the mother’s alleged abduction of her children. “We all have questions, but no answers,” Lampkins wrote. “Help the authorities find her and her (four) kids.” Meanwhile, Bannister is appealing for help on the state and federal levels, according to the Change.org petition. It quoted additional portions of Bannister’s blog. “The mental health and credibility of my children and me have been assessed and verified by two of the most prestigious forensic psychiatrists in the country: Dr. Michael Stone and Dr. Carole Lieberman,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “Naturally, the abusers did not take kindly to such a development and are seeking to have the reports stricken from the record. ‘Eliminate all threats’ seems to be their motto. Hence our position of living underground.” Followers on her blog wrote this week that they believed her and her children. “Many people believe you and are praying and sharing the news and asking God to vindicate and protect. Praying that true justice will be served,” Carrie Brownell wrote. A friend, identified as Lana, told Bannister she was praying for her, as well as sharing her story and contacting a list of law enforcement officers listed on the blog on Bannister’s behalf. Another friend named Rachael offered similar well wishes. “Oh Melody…my heart is so broken for you and your sweet kids,” the woman wrote. “I will be keeping you in my prayers and doing what I can. Locally.” A third friend named Petra Carden wrote that Bannister and her children have a place in her home “any time, day or night, no questions asked” if Bannister has to return to Virginia. Others who read her story offered her help in other locations throughout the country, including Alabama, where she and the children were last seen. Many people who believe Bannister’s allegations of abuse urged caution in reporting the family’s whereabouts. “If the news articles released regarding Melody Bannister’s children being in danger is all people know, they will report them when they see them and put them back in danger,” one woman wrote on Twitter. A cult? Bannister’s Facebook profile lists her as manager of a website called Recovering Daughters. The description of the site on its corresponding Facebook page states it is about “healing from Vision Forum, authoritarianism and the Quiverfull Movement.” The Recovering Daughters website is no longer available because the domain has recently expired. Vision Forum was a Texas-based ministry that promoted a patriarchal lifestyle, in which the husband rules the family, and home-schooling its children. The ministry was shut down by its board in 2013 after leader Doug Phillips admitted to an extramarital affair, the Huffington Post reported. Phillips has been a friend of and influence on Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” focused on their beliefs against birth control and that large families are a gift from God, the news site said. The Duggars, who lost their show after their eldest son, Josh Duggar, was publicly accused of sexually molesting multiple young girls, including some of his sisters, have also been associated with the Quiverfull movement, though the Huffington Post reported in 2015 that the couple does not formally consider themselves members of the movement. The Quiverfull movement gets its name from a Bible passage: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Hännah Ettinger, a young woman raised in the movement who had left that world behind, told Cosmopolitan in 2015 that her first big break from the religion came when her father told her she “didn’t have the spiritual discernment” to choose her own boyfriend, a man she met at her Christian college. “Later, I got utterly fed up with the churches I’d grown up in because I kept finding out that they’d protected child abusers, rapists, and men who’d beaten their wives, all in the name of redemption stories, ‘biblical’ male headship and complementarian theology,” Ettinger told the magazine. Vyckie Garrison, another former Quiverfull member, told Vice in 2016 that, with no central leader, the movement isn’t a cult, per se. It’s more of a mindset “in which each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme patriarch,” Vice reported. Garrison founded a website called No Longer Quivering, which is designed to help other women in her situation escape the movement. In April 2015, the American Atheists Convention named her its 2014 Atheist of the Year. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bannister and her children is asked to call the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400, the U.S. Marshals Service at 877-WANTED2 or the NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST.
  • Some new detours and lane closures are scheduled for our Seminole County commuters. Construction begins at 8:30 PM Friday night and will last until 6:30 Monday morning. As FDOT widens the few miles of 17-92 near Seminole state college from four to six lanes, thru traffic won't be affected. However, Northbound drivers will have to take an early detour if they need to turn left at Ronald Reagan Blvd.  Southbound drivers wishing to turn left into Parks Lincoln of Longwood are asked to make a U-turn farther down the road. Additionally, Westbound drivers on Ronald Reagan Blvd turning left on Southbound 17-92 will not have a detour, but are asked to follow channeling devices to keep traffic flowing smoothly during construction: FDOT reminds drivers to stay alert and use caution while driving, as safety doesn’t happen by accident.

Washington Insider

  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.