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The Latest News about Government and Politics

    They pleaded ignorance, saying they'd not read the diplomat's damning statement. They condemned the Democrats' tactics as unfair. They complained the allegations against President Donald Trump rested on second- or third-hand evidence. Wednesday was a day of careful counter-argument by congressional Republicans, the day after America's top envoy in Ukraine gave House impeachment investigators an explosive, detailed roadmap of Trump's drive to squeeze that country's leaders for damaging information about his Democratic political rivals. Most Republicans were still standing by Trump, but in delicately calibrated ways after Tuesday's closed-door testimony by acting ambassador William Taylor . And as lawmakers struggled to balance support for Trump with uncertainty over what might still emerge, some were willing to acknowledge the strains they were facing. Asked if Taylor's testimony was a rough day for the White House and Republicans, No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota said, 'Probably one of many.' 'Obviously, we have a lot of incoming right now,' he said. 'That's the nature of the beast.' White House officials, who have been treating unified Republican support for Trump as a given, have grown increasingly fearful of defections in a potential impeachment vote by the Democratic House and even in an eventual trial in the Republican Senate. While officials don't believe there will be enough votes to remove the president, as Democrats hope, the West Wing believes more must be done to shore up party support to avoid embarrassment and genuine political peril. Some Trump allies also believe the White House must directly address the increasingly troubling revelations. They note that as more Trump appointees offer disparaging information to Congress, he will have increasing difficulty arguing simply that he is the target of a new 'witch hunt.' Several of these concerned supporters commented only on condition of anonymity to discuss the growing private worries. White House officials said they have added a regular call with select GOP lawmakers to discuss impeachment strategy, plus more meetings with Republicans at the White House and Camp David. They said communications teams from the White House and Congress coordinate three times a week with phone calls. But there still are complaints from Capitol Hill about a lack of a sophisticated messaging strategy. Two GOP aides, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal tactics, said White House coordination has been insufficient. They cited a lack of daily emails or White House briefings of reporters from which lawmakers could take a daily messaging cue. Via tweet, Trump has asserted that witnesses haven't said the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld, thus clearing him of accusations that he was insisting on a tradeoff for political dirt. 'You can't have a quid pro quo with no quo,' he quoted Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, as telling Fox News. However, The Associated Press and others have reported that Ukrainian leaders were indeed aware of the threat of losing aid that Ukraine needed to counter Russian military efforts. Closed-door testimony has shown that new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was worried that a White House meeting he desired with Trump was in jeopardy. Trump lashed out Wednesday at critical members of his own party, tweeting, 'Never Trumper Republicans' are 'in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats.' 'They are human scum!' he fumed. Reports of Taylor's testimony led most newscasts, websites and newspapers late Tuesday and Wednesday. But underscoring the desire of Republicans to avoid focusing on the allegations about Trump's actions, many asserted ignorance of what Taylor had said. 'I didn't see it, I didn't hear it and I'm not going to take a third-party description of it,' said Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho. Taylor detailed conversations in which he said administration officials told him Trump was conditioning Ukrainian military aid and an Oval Office visit coveted by Zelenskiy on Ukraine probing Democrat Joe Biden and his son and allegations of interference in the 2016 election. Taylor is a career diplomat who has served overseas for presidents of both parties. Under Trump, he was appointed to take charge of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv earlier this year after Trump had the ambassador removed. Republicans are also sticking to their strategy of focusing on accusations that Democrats are running a secretive, one-sided impeachment investigation. The GOP drew more attention to the secrecy Wednesday when around two dozen House Republicans not directly involved in the investigation barged into a deposition of a Defense Department official. The move delayed the day's interview by several hours and drew a slap from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who called the tactic 'nuts.' Much of the House inquiry has so far unfolded behind the closed doors of secure offices in the Capitol Visitors Center. Alongside the Democrats, GOP members of the three House committees heading the investigation have been in the room as diplomats and other officials have testified. Democrats have said they expect to hold public hearings later in the process. One administration official said Trump was aware of and encouraged the House effort to object to the secrecy of the impeachment proceedings Wednesday. That official was not authorized to discuss the issue by name and commented only on condition of anonymity. In Taylor's 15-page opening statement obtained by the AP and other news organizations, the diplomat named administration officials who he said told him Trump had demanded of the Ukrainians an investigation of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that once employed the son of former Vice President Biden. The elder Biden is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Trump also wanted Ukraine to probe a conspiracy theory about a Democratic computer server that was hacked during the 2016 presidential election. Trump has also complained repeatedly about the House process. He has used that argument to justify his order for administration officials not to comply with requests for documents and interviews. Some continue to show up — under House subpoena. Yet Trump's officials, sticking to their guns, are counting on his complaints to resonate with voters next year. ___ AP reporters Jill Colvin and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed.
  • President Donald Trump's boast of building part of the border wall in Colorado is garnering attention in the state, including from the state's governor, Democrat Jared Polis. Trump was speaking Wednesday to an audience in Pennsylvania when he included Colorado in a list of states where the border wall is being constructed, along with New Mexico and Texas. The president said: 'We're building a wall in Colorado, we're building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works, that you can't get over, you can't get under.' Of course, Colorado doesn't share a border with Mexico, which Polis, and others on social media noted. Polis tweeted: 'Well this is awkward ...Colorado doesn't border Mexico. Good thing Colorado now offers free full day kindergarten so our kids can learn basic geography.
  • The House approved legislation Wednesday to better protect the country's elections from foreign interference, the third major bill the Democratic-controlled chamber has passed this year addressing problems that arose in the 2016 presidential election. The 227-181 vote comes as lawmakers pursue an impeachment inquiry centered on allegations that President Donald Trump improperly solicited election help from Ukraine ahead of the 2020 vote. It also comes months after special counsel Robert Mueller finished his report on 2016 election interference, finding numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia but not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between the two. Democrats want to prevent such actions in the future and ensure that campaigns know they are illegal. The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy, or SHIELD Act, would require that candidates and political committees notify the FBI and other authorities if a foreign power offers campaign help. It also tightens restrictions on campaign spending by foreign nationals and requires more transparency in political ads on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And it would explicitly prohibit campaigns from exchanging campaign-related information with foreign governments and their agents. The latter provision was aimed at reports that officials in Trump's 2016 campaign shared polling data with a person associated with Russian intelligence. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the bill's chief sponsor, said it would close loopholes that allow dishonest behavior, increase disclosure and transparency requirements, and ensure that anyone who engages with foreign actors to influence the outcome of an election will be held accountable by law. 'Most Americans know that foreign governments have no business interfering in our elections,' said Lofgren, who chairs the House Administration Committee. 'We should all be able to agree that we need to protect our democracy — and with a sense of urgency. This is not a partisan opinion. Nothing less than our national security is at stake.' But Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the Administration panel, called the bill a thinly disguised bid by Democrats to prop up impeachment. 'That's why we're here today: not to make real, legislative progress on preventing foreign interference in our elections, but to push partisan politics for the Democratic agenda,' he said. The White House threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the president's desk, saying it was redundant, overly broad and unenforceable. The bill's 'expansive definitions seem designed to instill a persistent fear among Americans engaged in political activity that any interactions they may have with a foreign national could put them in legal jeopardy,' the White House said. Davis called the bill's language on social media overly broad and said Facebook and other private companies are already taking significant steps to help prevent election interference on their platforms. As written, the Democratic bill poses a threat to the First Amendment, he said, noting that it is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. The ACLU said in a statement that the SHIELD Act 'strikes the wrong balance, sweeping too broadly and encompassing more speech than necessary to achieve its legitimate goals' of preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections. The bill comes as a bipartisan Senate committee said Russia's large-scale effort to interfere in the 2016 election was a 'vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood.' In a report earlier this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee described Kremlin-backed social media activities as part of a 'broader, sophisticated and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society.' Senators urged Trump to warn the public about efforts by Russia and other countries to interfere in U.S. elections — a subject he has largely avoided — and take steps to thwart attempts by hostile nations to use social media to meddle in the 2020 presidential contest. The House approved a separate bill in June that would require paper ballots in federal elections and authorize $775 million in grants over the next two years to help states secure their voting systems. Lawmakers also approved a bill in March aimed at reducing the role of big money in politics, ensuring fair elections and strengthening ethics standards. The measure would make it easier for people to register and vote, tighten election security and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. Republicans called the bill a power grab that amounts to a federal takeover of elections and could cost billions of dollars. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the proposal was dead on arrival in the Senate. McConnell has declined to bring up a stand-alone bill on election security, though he supported an effort to send $250 million in additional election security funds to states to shore up their systems ahead of 2020. House Democrats are conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump's dealings with Ukraine, including his request on a July phone call for the country to open an investigation into his potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his family. Trump says he did nothing wrong and calls the conversation 'perfect.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada appears to have lost a spot helming President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in the state after comments he made last month about the impeachment inquiry. Amdoei, who chaired Trump's campaign in Nevada in 2016, said Wednesday that he had been approached by Trump's team earlier this year about taking on the job again in 2020 and said he'd be happy to. He said the campaign asked him for a statement that would be released when the announcement was made, but that was the last he heard from the campaign. Trump's campaign announced Tuesday that the state's Republican former attorney general and top Republicans in the state Legislature would chair the president's Nevada team. Amodei had to clarify his remarks last month when he was asked on a phone call with reporters about the impeachment inquiry and said, 'Let's put it through the process and see what happens.' After calls from GOP leaders and posts on Facebook that called him a 'traitor,' Amodei said he did not support the impeachment process but wanted House committees to investigate a whistleblower's complaint that touched off the process. Asked Wednesday why he was not chairing the Trump campaign, the four-term congressman said in a statement, 'Your guess is as good as mine.' 'I can only assume that a fake news story from a few weeks ago has obviously created some discomfort for them, so they acted accordingly,' he said. 'In today's political climate, even if a story is proven incorrect, there clearly isn't any margin for even a wrongful claim.' Trump's campaign did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday. Amodei said Michael McDonald, the chairman of Nevada's Republican Party, told him Wednesday morning that he 'also knew nothing about the change' until minutes before the new campaign headquarters opened in Reno' on Tuesday night.
  • Melania Trump was an island of calm in a sea of impeachment chaos Wednesday, choosing to make her first solo trip to Capitol Hill as her husband's party reckoned with his conduct and rumbled with House Democrats. As President Donald Trump faced the most peril of his presidency, Mrs. Trump took her seat in a paneled Senate parlor under George Washington's portrait to discuss opioid policy with members of the House and Senate. The lawmakers, almost all Republicans, stretched out around her at a table shaped like a 'U'' for the rare chance to speak on-camera about something other than impeachment. Mrs. Trump, wearing a camel-colored pant suit, exchanged thanks with members of the administration and lawmakers on the first anniversary of a law that helps fight opioid addiction. 'We're celebrating,' said Alex Azar, Trump's secretary of health and human services. In that, the Mansfield Room was like a bubble. All around it, tension crackled through the small city of Capitol Hill, one day after diplomat William Taylor described the president's effort to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless its president publicly agreed to investigate Democrats. The account undermined Trump's insistence that there was no quid pro quo, a stance that many Republicans had repeated in their defense of the president. Mrs. Trump's event got underway as a different scene unfolded across the Capitol complex and deep in its bowels. About two dozen House Republicans tried to barge into the secure briefing room where three committees were hearing testimony from witnesses on Trump's pressure on Ukraine. The legislators, not members of those committees, loudly complained that too many Republicans were kept out and brought the day's proceedings to a halt, at least temporarily. Back in the Senate, reporters chased Republicans to gauge whether Taylor's testimony had changed their view of Trump's conduct. Mrs. Trump could have canceled her event just off the Senate floor. Instead, she arrived with a retinue of administration officials, including Azar and White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway. In brief remarks, Mrs. Trump said the law enacted a year ago, called the SUPPORT Act, is compatible with her childhood initiative, Be Best. Both, she said, focus on children affected by the opioid crisis. 'Because of the SUPPORT Act, we are able to look at ways to reduce opioid use during pregnancy and recognize early childhood issues related to substance abuse,' she said. On the way out, Mrs. Trump ignored questions about how the impeachment inquiry was affecting her family. ___ Associated Press Writer Mike Balsamo contributed to this report.
  • A judge on Wednesday ordered the State Department to begin producing within 30 days documents related to the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine, saying the records were of obvious public interest. The documents were sought under a Freedom of Information Act request by American Oversight, an ethics watchdog that investigates the administration. Any release of government documents could shed new light on President Donald Trump's efforts to prod his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, the matter at the heart of the Democrat-led House impeachment inquiry. 'These records concern a matter of immense public importance,' Daniel McGrath, a lawyer for American Oversight, said during arguments in Washington's federal court. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper said he agreed. Cooper encouraged the organization to work with the government to identify which documents can be released because they are not classified or otherwise exempt from disclosure. That could potentially include any correspondence with Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer and a key participant in a backchannel diplomacy effort with Ukraine, since he is not an administration official. 'His emails, text messages — which he showed on TV — are going to be subject to public disclosure with limited redactions,' Austin Evers, the organization's executive director, told reporters after the hearing. 'It's possible that this administration will jump through some legal hoops to try to withhold them, but we have the court today urging the parties to focus on those communications as top priority.' He described the judge's ruling as 'a crack in the administration's stone wall.' Among the records the group asked for are documents related to interactions between Giuliani and Ukraine, as well as documents about the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The government has said it does not know how many records could be covered by the ruling. Lawyers said they have identified thousands of potential hits for documents related to Giuliani and Yovanovitch, but that could include duplicates as well as attachments. Meanwhile, three committees leading the impeachment investigation are asking the State Department for documents they say are central to the probe's 'core area of investigation' after the department defied a subpoena to provide them. The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform panels said in a letter Wednesday that they have 'now obtained detailed information identifying specific documents' in the department's custody. They include written readouts of meetings and conversations that are part of the inquiry, as well as emails, texts and diplomatic cables. The committees are investigating Trump's requests for Ukraine to investigate Biden's family and actions by Democrats in the 2016 election. The panels wrote that they 'may draw the inference that their nonproduction indicates that these documents support the allegations against the president and others.' Evers said his organization was committed to helping the American public see the same type of documents that the State Department has yet to produce to Congress. If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 'wants to fight so hard' to keep records out of the hands of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, 'we're happy to be in court,' Evers said. ___ Associated Press Writer Mary Clare Jalonick in contributed to this report. ___ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP
  • Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that he's used marijuana 'a handful of times a long time ago,' and that it's time for the U.S. to legalize marijuana. Buttigieg, speaking to reporters after touring a legal pot dispensary in suburban Las Vegas, was asked about whether he'd ever used marijuana. 'I have. A handful of times a long time ago,' he said. He added that he knows people whose lives have been 'shaken' by its criminalization and the so-called 'war on drugs.' Buttigieg said people still have an image of the marijuana industry and dispensaries that's based on outdated stereotypes. 'When you go into a place like this, it almost reminds you of an Apple store how tidy and carefully it's laid out, knowledgeable employees and a legitimate business that still struggles because federal policy hasn't caught up,' he said. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana walked through the dispensary with the shop's owners and shook the hands of several employees. As a pungent, herbal scent hung in the air and three workers nearby bundled and labeled pairs of joints, Buttigieg asked about the testing of products and difficulty of banking. Nevada, which legalized marijuana in 2017, is among the states that's struggled to find a way to process pot business transactions. Most banks won't do business with the cash-heavy industry because the drug is still considered illegal by the federal government. 'They have to do so much with cash that doesn't really make sense,' Buttigieg said. He said the criminalization of drugs, particularly marijuana, has failed. He said the U.S. also needs to expunge marijuana convictions, especially because they've disproportionately affected minorities and ruined lives. The mayor, a military veteran, said he's met a lot of other veterans who rely on cannabis for treating issues connected to their service like post-traumatic stress disorder. He said any 'legitimate medical use' of cannabis should be covered by health insurance like any other therapy. Buttigieg did not purchase any products at the shop, joking 'I'm on the clock and it's going to be a long work day for me.
  • Two Rudy Giuliani associates with ties to Ukraine pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges they used foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions, with a defense lawyer for one of them floating the idea that the White House could assert executive privilege over evidence in the case. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arraigned in federal court in Manhattan in a case that has cast a harsh light on the business dealings of Giuliani, who is President Donald Trump's personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski told a judge Wednesday that a dozen search warrants had produced a 'voluminous' amount of evidence, including emails and other electronic communications. A lawyer for Parnas, Ed MacMahon, responded by suggesting that some of the communications could be protected by attorney-client and even executive privilege since his client was doing work for Giuliani while Giuliani was representing the president. MacMahon didn't claim to know whether the president planned to evoke the privilege, only that the possibility should be a concern as the government reviews the evidence. Donaleski told the judge that government was 'attuned to those concerns.' Outside court, Parnas — who like Fruman wore an American flag lapel pin to court — told reporters that he would fight to clear his name. 'Many false things have been said about me and my family in the press and media recently,' he said. 'I look forward to defending myself vigorously in court, and I'm certain that in time, the truth will be revealed and I will be vindicated.' Fruman and his lawyers had no immediate comment. Prosecutors say Parnas, 47, and Fruman, 53, made the donations while lobbying U.S. politicians to oust the country's ambassador to Ukraine. Giuliani, who at the time was trying to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Trump's potential Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, has said he knew nothing about the donations. Trump's efforts to press Ukraine for an investigation of the Bidens are now the subject of a House impeachment inquiry. Prosecutors allege that Parnas and Fruman also worked with two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, in a separate scheme to make illegal campaign donations to politicians in several states in an attempt to get support for a new recreational marijuana business. Correia and Kukushkin pleaded not guilty last week. The four defendants are U.S. citizens, but Kukushkin and Parnas were born in Ukraine and Fruman in Belarus. All are free on bail.
  • The military assistance package for Ukraine that's at the center of the impeachment inquiry started as a mere line item in a massive spending bill. The aid was little discussed, was noncontroversial and was approved with strong bipartisan support. Sending military equipment and other help to Ukraine had become routine in Congress and was seen as a potent way to deter Russian aggression. Since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Congress has authorized $1.5 billion to Ukraine, and President Donald Trump signed off on delivering anti-tank Javelin missiles in 2017. 'From the time of Russia's invasion, we have had unity,' said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, a strong supporter of Ukraine who sits on a powerful House Appropriations panel with direct control over the Pentagon budget. So, lawmakers were mystified upon learning in August that the latest installment of the money was being held up on the orders of the White House. At issue was a $250 million installment of military aid approved last fall and an additional $141 million in State Department assistance. Trump had ordered the aid frozen, a decision put in place by his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. One U.S. diplomat told House impeachment investigators that he learned the aid was held up in a July 18 conference call. 'I and others sat in astonishment — the Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons, but also the assurance of U.S. support,' William Taylor said in a statement to lawmakers Wednesday. He accused Trump of holding back 'vital security assistance for domestic political reasons,' namely an investigation into a Ukrainian gas company Burisma and debunked claims of Ukrainian interference into the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. 'In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars for our strong support of Ukraine was threatened,' Taylor said. What Taylor and others did not know at the time was that Trump had asked Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelenskiy for a 'favor,' including an investigation into work done for Burisma by Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump political rival. With the military assistance still on hold in the later summer, alarm bells soon began clanging on Capitol Hill. 'It was, like, 'Why? Why would this be? What's happening?' Kaptur said. 'Not knowing what else was going on.' Pro-Ukraine lawmakers said the new Ukrainian government had been placed in a desperate position. 'There is near panic in Ukraine today about America's commitment to the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and to our continued commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty,' said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., after visiting Ukraine's capital last month. 'They are desperate for a bipartisan signal from the United States that we remain with them.' Congressional aides didn't catch wind of the delay in aid until August, shortly before Politico broke the story and set off a scramble in both countries. The mysterious holdup led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — a strong supporter of the funding — to call both Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to demand the $250 million Pentagon aid package be released, along with the $141 million in nonmilitary assistance. Others like Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, got involved, as did Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. 'I have met President Zelenskiy, who is a pro-America reformer,' Portman wrote on Twitter. 'The security assistance should be transferred to #Ukraine now.' Weeks later, Trump gave Portman the credit. 'He called up: 'Please let the money go.' I said 'Rob, I hate being the country that's always giving money,'' Trump said. 'I gave the money because Rob Portman and others called me and asked. But I don't like to be the sucker and European countries are helped far more than we are.' The eventual release of the aid to Ukraine, however, came only after a key Senate panel was about to deliver an embarrassing rebuke by freezing part of the Pentagon's readiness budget until the Ukraine aid was distributed. The administration released the aid the night before the Appropriations panel was to vote, a move that Graham, a Trump ally, attributed to a White House desire to avoid the bipartisan slap. Taylor, in his testimony, said he feared the aid was being released because the Ukrainians had agreed to the investigations that Trump was demanding. But a public commitment was never made. Mulvaney acknowledged last week that Trump's decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine was linked to his demand that Ukraine investigate the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 U.S. campaign. 'That's why we held up the money,' Mulvaney said. The money was little discussed, was noncontroversial and was approved with strong bipartisan support. So, lawmakers were mystified upon learning in August that the $391 million was held up. Trump had ordered the aid frozen, a decision carried out by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. One U.S. diplomat has told House impeachment investigators he learned the aid was being withheld in a July 18 conference call. The diplomat, William Taylor, said he was astonished by the decision. The eventual release of the aid to Ukraine came only after senators were about to deliver an embarrassing rebuke of the White House.
  • An effort by the U.S. Census Bureau to collect state driver's license records as part of President Donald Trump's order to gather citizenship information has been a bust so far. As of Wednesday, the vast majority of state motor vehicle agencies had not agreed to share their records with the bureau, according to an Associated Press survey of the 50 states. The effort over the past couple of months has alarmed civil rights groups, which see it as part of a backdoor move by the Trump administration to reduce the political power of minorities. In August, the bureau began requesting five years' worth of driver's license records, promising the information would be kept confidential. The effort began after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Trump's administration plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and the president instead ordered citizenship data compiled through federal and state administrative records. At least 13 states have refused to share the driver's license data, 17 are still deciding what to do, and 17 haven't yet received a request, according to the AP survey. Three states didn't respond to multiple AP queries. Republican and Democratic states alike have said no, citing privacy concerns and prohibitions in state law. 'Philosophically, we believe the information in the database doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the people who it pertains to,' Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said. 'It's not ours to give away.' Two of the biggest states, California and New York, haven't received requests yet. Three more of the top five most populous states — Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania — are deciding how to respond. Census Bureau officials had no immediate comment. Many states got calls or emails similar to one from a Census Bureau official asking an Arkansas Driver Services official if she had time to discuss the bureau's 'new and exciting project.' Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas agency, said: 'We are currently working to determine whether the requested information is eligible for release.' Utah officials turned down the request because state law says personal data can be shared only for public safety reasons, said Marissa Cote, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety in the Republican-leaning state. Democratic-leaning Nevada also declined. 'We value our residents' privacy and hesitate to release records in bulk,' said Kevin Malone, a spokesman for the motor vehicle agency. States that haven't decided how to respond said they were researching the legal and privacy implications. In issuing driver's licenses, most states require documents such as a birth certificate that would reflect citizenship or require that recipients be either citizens or in the U.S. legally. The American Civil Liberties Union has urged states to turn the Census Bureau down. The ACLU and other civil rights groups say the requests are part of an overall strategy by the Trump administration to encourage states to use counts of citizens only, as opposed to total population, when redrawing state and local electoral districts. Such a move could make districts older, whiter and more Republican. 'This endeavor appears to be part of a scheme motivated by an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose to dilute the political power of communities of color,' said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. The Census Bureau said in its requests that the driver's license records would be used, in part, to help build a statistical model for calculating the number of citizens and noncitizens in the U.S. Even though the president's order requires collecting the citizenship information, Census Bureau officials are concerned that it could hinder efforts to get people to participate in the 2020 census. The bureau's own research showed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 questionnaire would have reduced participation, making for a less accurate count. Civil rights groups say driver's license records do a poor job of showing if a person is a citizen. They point to what happened earlier this year when Texas' election chief gave prosecutors a list of 95,000 potential noncitizens on the state's voter rolls. The list was drawn up with the help of motor vehicle records. But it turned out that many of those people had become citizens before casting their ballots. The battle over whether citizen-only counts can be used for congressional reapportionment or redistricting at the state and local levels is being waged in federal courtrooms in Alabama and Maryland. It has been longstanding practice in the U.S. to include immigrants living in the country illegally in census counts, which are also used to allocate billions of dollars in federal spending. ___ Associated Press writers Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Nebraska; Andrew Demillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City; Michelle Price in Las Vegas; and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • President Donald Trump said Wednesday in 'a major breakthrough' he is lifting all sanctions against Turkey. >> Read more trending news  The sanctions were imposed last week. Turkey will stop combat and the ceasefire will be permanent, the President said. 'We have saved the lives of many, many Kurds,' Trump said. 'We've done something that is very, very special.' Trump said Turkey and Syria must keep the peace.  'It's their neighborhood. They need to take care of it,' Trump said. 'Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.' The president said a small number of troops would remain in Syria to protect oil interests. Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted there was 'Big success on the Turkey/Syria border.' 'Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended,' Trump tweeted. Turkey and Russia reached an agreement Tuesday, installing their forces along the border of northeast Syria after U.S. troops that were withdrawn from the area, The Associated Press reported. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Sochi, Russia, and revealed a 10-point memorandum about Syria, CNN reported. According to the memorandum, Turkish military and Russian military police will patrol the border. The United States was not included in the negotiations.
  • A Missouri man recently fired from his job at Arby’s for allegedly setting fires returned Saturday to the restaurant, where police allege he mutilated and decapitated a cat in the men’s restroom. Tanner Maggard, 19, of Lee’s Summit, is charged with second-degree animal abuse and second-degree property damage, according to online Jackson County court records. The animal abuse charge, which involves abuse by torture and/or mutilation while the animal was alive, is a felony. >> Read more trending news  WDAF in Kansas City obtained the court documents, including police reports that allege Maggard went to Arby’s on Saturday and placed an order before going into the restroom. When he came out, the records show, he asked the manager, “Oh, I see you remodeled the bathroom, huh?” Maggard went back into the restroom a short time later and was still in there when the manager went in to clean it. The manager told police he could hear Maggard in a stall, coughing and gagging. The manager left the restroom, followed by Maggard a short time later. Maggard went outside, the court documents say, according to WDAF. When the manager returned to finish his cleaning, he found a mutilated and decapitated cat on the diaper changing table in the stall where Maggard had been, the news station reported. Blood covered the walls, door and toilet. The manager told officers he went outside, where he spotted Maggard sitting in his truck, waiting to see his former boss’ reaction to the scene he had left behind, the court documents allege. Maggard then drove away. The records show that responding officers who processed the scene in the restroom did not detect the odor of decomposition, which indicated that the cat was recently killed, WDAF reported. Maggard repeatedly denied knowledge of the cat’s demise when questioned by detectives, the news station said. The restaurant did not have security cameras in place.  The restaurant had to replace the changing table and toilet in the stall and repaint the walls, the documents say. Online court records show Maggard was booked into the Jackson County Jail with bail set at $10,000. Maggard appeared to have bonded out as of Wednesday, according to jail records. Maggard is not allowed within 1,000 feet of the Arby’s. He is also not allowed to have contact with domesticated animals, the records show.
  • We told you about the Kitty Beautiful Cat Cafe earlier this month, now they're looking to hire young adults on the Autism spectrum. This new Orlando cafe is looking to give Autistic adults a big step towards independence. Heather Strauss is a co-owner of the cafe and a mom to two Autistic kids.  “I want to help take care of other people’s kids, kind of like how I want to take care of my own.” Strauss told me about the Autistic employee she just hired. “His parents started to cry, same way I would’ve. It just means the world because as a parent of kids on the Autism spectrum you’re always fighting for your kid, you’re always fighting for opportunities.” Autism disorders specialist, Kimberly Snoeblen, describes what makes Autistic people such great assets to the workforce.  “They have great abilities. They will be the person that’s always on time. They will be the person that follows the rules to the nth degree.” The Kitty Beautiful Cat Cafe will be having its grand opening the weekend of November 1st. Until then, Strauss plans to set up more young Autistic adults for success.
  • The search goes on for the man who a woman said grabbed her while she was jogging along the Northlake Parkway Trail in Lake Nona. According to the Orlando Police Department, the woman was on a run around 6:30 a.m. Sept. 23, when a man came behind her and touched her buttocks and her shoulder.  Police released a composite sketch Wednesday. They said detectives worked with the woman to create it.  Investigators said the man is described as Hispanic and in his early 20s. He stands 5 feet, 8 inches and has black spiky hair.  Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS.  No other details were released.

Washington Insider

  • Denouncing the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump undertaken by Democrats in the House, several dozen GOP lawmakers stormed into a secure hearing room in the bowels of the Capitol on Wednesday, demanding that the proceedings be made public, and delaying a scheduled deposition involving a Pentagon official for a little over five hours. 'We're going to go, and see if we can get inside,' said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as a group of several dozen Republicans pushed their way into the room, unhappy with how Democrats are handling this investigation. 'This is very unfair to the President,' said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ). 'The American people deserve a public and open process,' said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), as Republicans prevented three different committees from moving ahead with Wednesday's hearing. Those interrupting the proceedings included Republican lawmakers who are allowed into the secure hearing room - because they are on one of the three committees involved in these closed door depositions - Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs. Democrats labeled the sit-in a political stunt that smacked of desperation. 'Trump wanted a foreign government to investigate his political opponent,' said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). 'That is a crime.' “Today's circus-like stunt will delay but it will not prevent our search for the truth about the president’s stunning misconduct,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). 'GOP 'storming' a classified deposition was a ridiculous stunt,' said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Democrats also criticized the GOP effort for violating rules on security, as a number of Republican lawmakers brought cell phones into the secure facility, which is prohibited.  It resulted in officials having to conduct a sweep of the rooms, to make sure no electronic devices had been left behind. 'You may wonder why is it happening now?” asked Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).  “Because Bill Taylor gave a devastating opening statement yesterday. They're freaked out. They're trying to stop this investigation.” Taylor is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine - he testified Tuesday before investigators, making the case that President Trump was withholding military aid for Ukraine in a bid to get the Ukraine government to publicly announce investigations which might help Mr. Trump's re-election bid. In a tweet on Wednesday afternoon, the President took direct aim at Taylor. Reports indicated the President may have been told by allies in the U.S. House of their Wednesday plans. “This looks awfully like obstruction,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). After ordering some pizza and refusing to leave the room known as a SCIF - Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility - GOP lawmakers moved on after about five hours, as Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant Secretary of Defense began her testimony around 3:15 pm.