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National
Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam conducts business as usual, no plans to step aside 
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Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam conducts business as usual, no plans to step aside 

Top Democrats Under Fire in Virginia

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam conducts business as usual, no plans to step aside 

Authorities in Virginia are dealing with a series of scandals that have put the fate of the state’s top three officials, Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, in question.

>> Read more trending news 

Northam has repeatedly said he will not resign after a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced earlier this month that purportedly showed him in either a Ku Klux Klan robe or blackface. Northam initially admitted he was in the picture, but he later denied it, according to The Associated Press.

Two women came forward last week to accuse Fairfax of sexually assaulting them on separate occasions. Fairfax has denied the allegations.

Herring last week admitted he once wore blackface to a party as a teenager

Update 3:30 p.m. EST Feb. 14: Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is conducting business as usual as the scandal embroiling the state’s top three government executives continues to play out.

Northam submitted a spending plan Thursday urging lawmakers to restore funding to the levels he proposed earlier this year.

Meantime, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax issued a statement at 2:55 a.m. Thursday morning, again denying sexual assault claims against him and threatening to sue anyone who spreads the allegations, according to The New York Times.

Update 1:50 p.m. EST Feb. 13: A prosecutor in Massachusetts is offering to investigate an allegation made against Fairfax from a woman who said he forced her in 2004 to perform oral sex on him in his hotel room at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, according to multiple reports.

Last week, attorneys for Vanessa Tyson got an email from  Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins offering the chance to file a complaint against Fairfax, The Washington Post reported. According to the newspaper, the statute of limitations for sexual assault in Massachusetts is 15 years. The timeline would give prosecutors just months to bring criminal charges against Fairfax, the Post reported.

Tyson, a political science professor at Southern California’s Scripps College who is spending a year as a research fellow at Stanford University, appeared in public Tuesday for the first time since her allegations were made public. She was one of two speakers at “Betrayal and Courage in the Age of #MeToo,” a symposium at Stanford.

Authorities at the college  prohibited audience members from asking Tyson about her allegations against Fairfax and she did not address them directly.

“One thing that I notice with sexual violence is that there are many people who would like to glance away from this,” Tyson said. “It’s one of the ugliest parts of humanity. Trust me.”

Update 9:15 a.m. EST Feb. 11: A Virginia lawmaker on Monday backed away from plans to introduce articles of impeachment for Fairfax after a pair of women levied sexual assault allegations against him.

Fairfax has denied the allegations, which involve two women who say they were sexually assaulted by the lieutenant governor in the 2000s.

Democratic Del. Patrick Hope said last week he planned to file articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he failed to turn in his resignation by Monday.

“Yesterday I sent draft language to my colleagues on the first step of an impeachment action regarding the Lt. Governor,” Hope wrote Monday in a tweet. “There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed.”

     

Update 11 a.m. EST Feb. 10: Appearing on CBS “This Morning” with Gayle King, Northam said once again that he would not resign.

“Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” Northam, who is a doctor, said. “Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass and that's why I’m not going anywhere. 

“I have learned from this, I have a lot more to learn, but we are in a unique opportunity right now. Again, the 400th anniversary of the history, whether it be good or bad, in Virginia, to really make some impactful changes.”

Northam did not call it slavery by name, but he was speaking of the anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. 

 

When asked about Fairfax, Northam stopped short of saying the lieutenant governor should resign. He said he supported Fairfax’s call for an investigation and that

“I can only imagine that it must take tremendous courage for women to step forward and and talk about these things that are just are just so hurtful. And these accusations are very, very serious. They need to be taken seriously. As you know, Governor Fairfax has called for an investigation. I really think where we are now, we need to get to the truth ...

“If these accusations are determined to be true, I don't think he's going to have any other option but to resign,” he said.

 

Update 10 p.m. EST Feb. 9: The attorney for a woman who accuses Virginia’s lieutenant governor of rape in 2000 says her client is willing to testify in front of the state legislature if an impeachment hearing takes place according to The Associated Press.

Attorney Nancy Erika Smith released the statement Saturday night on behalf of Meredith Watson after Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denied the allegation and called for the FBI and other authorities to investigate.

 

Fairfax says the encounter was consensual. The two were students at Duke University at the time.

Smith says Watson will provide investigators at least two witnesses who she told about the alleged assault the day after it occurred.

Fairfax has denied wrongdoing.

Update 4:30 p.m. EST Feb. 8: A second woman has come forward accusing Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault.

Legal counsel representing Meredith Watson wrote a letter requesting the resignation of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax Friday afternoon.

The letter claims that he raped Watson in 2000.

 

Watson’s legal counsel said that she was upset when she learned that Fairfax reportedly raped another woman in manner similar to the attack she suffered.

Fairfax refuted the claim saying “I will not resign.”

 

Update 8:50 a.m. EST Feb. 7: President Donald Trump on Thursday weighed in on the political turmoil in Virginia, writing in a tweet that, “Democrats at the top are killing the great state of Virginia,” and questioning the response to the burgeoning scandal.

“If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken,” the president wrote.

 

Democratic politicians were waiting Thursday morning on the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus’ response to the latest developments in the scandal, The Associated Press reported. The caucus quickly condemned Northam, but the group has been silent since Herring admitted he once wore blackface to a party as a teenager and since Fairfax was accused of sexually harassing a woman 15 years ago.

Vanessa Tyson issued a statement Wednesday saying Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax has repeatedly denied her allegations, saying the encounter was consensual.

Update 2:50 p.m. EST Feb. 6: On Wednesday, state Attorney General Mark Herring, a white man, admitted in a statement that he wore blackface to a party in the 1980s.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring said in the statement. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes -- and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others -- we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

The revelation is the latest to shake the top levels of Virginia’s state government after the image from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced last week and after a woman came forward to accuse Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, a charge he denies.

Herring would be next in line to be governor after those two men.

He apologized Wednesday for the 1980 incident.

“That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt,” he said. “In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general, but no matter where we go from here, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.”

 

Update 3:40 p.m. EST Feb. 5: Officials with Northam’s alma mater, Eastern Virginia Medical School, will investigate how racist photos have gotten into yearbooks over the years, including Northam’s 1984 yearbook, according to The Virginian-Pilot.  

The school’s president and provost, Dr. Richard V. Homan, told the newspaper there will be multiple investigations, including one led by an outside law firm, and that they will also “examine the broader campus culture.”

“We need to have an open and transparent process to be able to make sure that we know what happened — what was lacking at the time — so history doesn’t repeat itself,” Homan said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “And then also understand where we are today.”

Homan had vowed over the weekend to investigate the image that surfaced last week from Northam’s yearbook and other similar incidents.

“I will direct that an external investigation be conducted as soon as possible to review all of our past yearbooks, determine the processes for publishing those yearbooks; discover what, if any, administrative oversight was exercised; examine our campus culture; and provide recommendations for future actions,” he said in a statement released by the school.

Update 4:50 p.m. EST Feb. 4: In a Monday morning cabinet meeting, embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam asked for time to clear his name before leaving office, according to CNN, which cited an unnamed source. 

Northam said, in asking for more time, he doesn’t want to be labeled a “racist for life,” CNN reported.

 

 

Meantime Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would take over for Northam should he resign, is fighting his own battle after allegations of a 2004 sexual assault recently surfaced.

In a statement Monday, Fairfax denied the allegation, which also surfaced on the same conservative website that posted the photo of Northam in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan robe.

“We reiterate that this allegation is false. At no time has the Lt. Governor assaulted anyone at any time or at any place,” Fairfax’s statement said.

Fairfax called the allegation “a smear” with no corroboration and threatened to sue anyone who continues spreading  “these false allegations.”

 

Update 11 a.m. EST Feb. 4: Northam met quietly with his top administration officials on Monday, according to The Associated Press. Still, the AP reported he gave no indication that he intended to reverse his decision not to resign amid mounting pressure from both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, who previously campaigned with Northam, called the incident “unfortunate” in an interview Monday with “CBS This Morning.” He has also called for Northam to resign.

“He should step down and start his road to redemption,” Booker said. “Being governor of a state is not an entitlement. I believe in the ideas of redemption, and we should not be judged by the lowest points in our past, but the reality is this is hurtful, painful -- it's a betrayal of public trust.”

 

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticutt, warned Monday against a "rush to judgement" during an interview on CNN

"One, he says he wasn’t in that picture. Two, I think we ought to fairly ask him, did he know the picture was on his page of the yearbook? And three, he ought to be judged in the context of his whole life," Lieberman said. "I pray every day that God is merciful with me because I know how imperfect I am and I always feel that I have to show the same kind of mercy to other people in judgment until they’re actually proven guilty."

 

Update 12:30 p.m. EST Feb. 3: Maryland U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has joined other senators in calling for Northam to resign.

“Governor Northam: From your neighboring state across the Potomac River, please do the right thing for our region and the country -- resign,”  Van Hollen wrote on Twitter. “Your actions have been unacceptable and your explanation inadequate.”

Van Hollen’s statement comes after senators from Northan’s state, Tim Kaine and Mark Varner, called for Northam to resign after the governor gave an hour-long news conference Saturday.

“I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo,” Northam said at the news conference. “This was not me in that picture. That was not Ralph Northam.”

Update 6:45 p.m. EST Feb. 2: Virginia’s U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, issued a joint statement calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after revelation of racist yearbook photo.

“After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign. Governor Northam has served the people of the Commonwealth faithfully for many years, but the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.”

Update 3:40 p.m. EST Feb. 2: Northam did admit to “darkening” his face while dressing as Michael Jackson for a dance competition that took place during his time in the U.S. Army in San Antonio, Texas. He apologized for doing so.

Northam spoke for more than 40 minutes from the Virginia Executive Mansion, giving a written statement and answering questions. The governor further asserted he wasn’t aware that the photo was on his yearbook page; saying he didn’t buy a yearbook at the time, and that he hadn’t seen the photo until his staff showed it to him yesterday.

He offered another apology for the photo and asked for forgiveness moving forward.

“I ask Virginians to accept my word; To realize that I have made mistakes in my past; To offer forgiveness,” he said.

Update 11:20 a.m. EST Feb. 2: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to make an announcement at 2:30 p.m. EST, possibly to assert that he is not in a controversial photo from his medical school yearbook page showing one man in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface, The New York Times reported.

Several organizations and individuals, including the Virginia Democratic Party and the legislative black caucus, have called on Northam to resign. So far, Northam hasn’t made any indication that he plans to step down from his office.

 

Original report: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has apologized in an official statement after an offensive photo from his medical school yearbook page surfaced showing two men posing in racist garb, one man in a Ku Klux Klan robe and the other in blackface.

 

“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” Northam included in his statement.

Northam admits he is depicted in the photo, but it is unclear which man is Northam.

AP
This image shows Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. The page shows a picture, at right, of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood next to different pictures of the governor. It's unclear who the people in the picture are, but the rest of the page is filled with pictures of Northam and lists his undergraduate alma mater and other information about him. (Eastern Virginia Medical School via AP)
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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam admits to posing in racist 'costume'

Photo Credit: AP
This image shows Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. The page shows a picture, at right, of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood next to different pictures of the governor. It's unclear who the people in the picture are, but the rest of the page is filled with pictures of Northam and lists his undergraduate alma mater and other information about him. (Eastern Virginia Medical School via AP)

Later, Northam released a video statement and said he would be “committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve.”

 

The Virginian-Pilot, based in Norfolk, Virginia, released a photo of a 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page that features photos of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on the same page as a photo of one man in a Ku Klux Klan robe and the another man in blackface.

>> Read more trending news

In one of the photos of Northam, he is wearing  a suit, in the other photo, he is leaning against a convertible. The page lists his undergraduate alma mater and his interest as pediatrics.

The Virginian-Pilot said it obtained the page from the medical school’s library.

Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
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Yearbook photo from 1984 shows Virginia governor Ralph Northam in blackface

Photo Credit: Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

If Northam were to resign, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is African-American, would assume the governor’s office.

>> Related: Florida secretary of state resigns after Halloween blackface photos surface

Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves said in a statement that Northam should resign if the reports of the photos are accurate.

“I hope that this picture is inaccurate and that the Governor brings clarity to this issue. This has no place in Virginia,” Reeves said.

The photos, which were confirmed by Associated Press, were first published by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics.

Last week, Florida’s secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.” Barr said the Office of the White House Counsel has reviewed the redacted version of Mueller’s report but that Trump declined to assert privilege over it. Trump took to Twitter after Barr spoke to highlight that there was 'No collusion. No obstruction.' Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report details two main efforts sponsored by Russian government officials to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference ahead of the report’s release. The report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Russian government, to “sow social discord among American votes through disinformation and social media operations,” Barr said. It also details efforts by Russian military officials connected to the GRU, “to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party.” “The special counsel found no evidence that any Americans -- including anyone associated with the Trump campaign -- conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme,” Barr said. Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump called the Mueller investigation 'The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!' in a series of tweets posted Thursday ahead of the release of the report. >> Mueller report: Trump tweets 'presidential harassment' ahead of redacted report's release “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he wrote in a subsequent tweet. Trump has frequently criticized the Mueller investigation, framing the probe as a political “witch hunt” aimed at harming his presidency. Original report: Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon Thursday before sharing the report on the special counsel’s website, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Battle lines clear as D.C. awaits redacted Mueller report Mueller completed his investigation late last month, 22 months after he launched his probe at the direction of the Justice Department. The investigation was frequently lambasted by President Donald Trump as a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his presidency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Florida Senator Rick Scott joined CNBC’s “Squawk Box”  Wednesday  to discuss the United States’ trade negotiations with China and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and it's socialist policies.  Senator Scott also discussed why residents are fleeing high-tax states like New York and Massachusetts for better opportunities in low-tax Florida. To see video in APP click here 
  • “You told me to.” Those were the dying words of a North Carolina man who was shot by police as he followed orders to drop the gun he had in his pocket, body camera footage shows. Footage of the March 25 death of Danquirs Napoleon Franklin, 27, was released Friday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The video was released on the order of Mecklenburg County Superior Judge Donnie Hoover, who was responding to a petition by local media.  >> Read more trending news Prosecutors and the attorney representing Officer Wende Kerl objected to the release. Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting argued the release could impact the ongoing criminal investigation into the shooting, WSOC in Charlotte reported. Defense attorney Jeremy Smith cited concerns for Kerl’s safety.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials said dispatchers received two 911 calls around 9 a.m. the morning of the shooting, the calls coming within two minutes of one another. The calls came from a Burger King located on Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte.  “The first caller frantically said she needed police quickly because the individual entered the store, walked behind the counter with a gun and was pointing it at an employee,” a police department statement said. “The second caller frantically said she needed police because an individual had approached her vehicle while she was waiting for food in the parking lot of the business and pulled out a gun.” Listen to the 911 call from inside Burger King, courtesy of WSOC.  Kerl and another officer, Larry Deal, responded to the scene, where they saw Franklin squatting next to the open front passenger door of a burgundy Honda Accord parked outside the fast food restaurant.  “A short time later, Officer Kerl perceived an imminent, deadly threat and subsequently fired her department issued firearm two times, striking Mr. Franklin,” police officials said. “He was transported to Atrium Health where he was pronounced deceased a short time later.” Kerl’s own body camera footage shows Franklin never pointed the weapon at anyone during the fatal confrontation. He appeared to be following the officers’ orders to put his weapon on the ground.  The 2-minute, 20-second video begins with footage of Kerl driving up to the Burger King. She does not get out of her car until the midpoint of the recording. Watch the entirety of the body camera footage below. Warning: The footage is graphic and shows Danquirs Franklin’s final moments. Viewer discretion is advised. As soon as she is out of the car, she joins Deal in ordering Franklin to show his hands. Franklin is not yet visible on the camera footage. After screaming for Franklin to let them see his hands several times, Kerl begins to move in front of Deal. “I’m crossing. I’m crossing,” Kerl says, letting Deal know she’s entering his line of fire.  At this point, Kerl is about a car length away from Franklin, who squats by the open car door. Another man sits inside the car.  “Put the gun down now!” Kerl and Deal shout at Franklin, who is approached by a Burger King employee.  “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun,” Kerl says.  Watch Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney discuss body worn cameras below.  The officers order the female employee to get out of the way. They continue to scream at Franklin, ordering him to drop the weapon.  “I heard you the first (unintelligible) time,” Franklin appears to say calmly.  The gun is still not visible on the body camera footage.  “Put it on the ground!” Kerl shouts one last time. Franklin’s right hand appears to go into his pocket. He pulls out a handgun by its barrel and lowers it to the ground. As soon as the handgun is visible, Kerl fires her service weapon twice into Franklin’s body. He turns his face toward the officer.  “You told me to put it …,” Franklin says, the rest of his words swallowed by the officers’ continued screams for him to drop the gun.  At that point, the weapon can be seen already on the pavement.  A shocked-looking Franklin, grimacing in pain, glances into the car once more before slumping against the open car door.  “Shots fired. Shots fired,” Kerl says into her body-worn radio. Deal can be heard radioing the need for medical assistance as someone screams from somewhere near the restaurant.  Kerl and Deal approach Franklin, who has slumped onto the pavement. They order the man sitting in the car, who tells them he’s the “GM,” or general manager, to put his hands on the dashboard as Kerl picks up Franklin’s gun from near his still body.  That’s when the publicly released footage ends.  Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles urged calm in the community in advance of the release of the police footage, according to WSOC.  “It’s another really sad moment and (a) reminder that the responsibilities of law enforcement are, and will always be, immense,” Mayor Lyles said. “In the blink of an eye, their jobs require an instantaneous decision, and that’s something none of us should take lightly.” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said his department expected there would be protests, but that he expected they would be peaceful. “We expect this to be people voicing their opinion,” Putney said.  When asked about his own reaction to watching the video, he described it as being “like a punch to the gut.” “It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to see. Because a life has been lost,” Putney said, according to WSOC. “I hope you’ll do what we’re doing and pray for Miss Franklin and her family. Pray for our officers, whose lives have been destroyed as well. Come together as a community and be heard. But be lawful.” Peaceful protests did pop up around Charlotte in the aftermath of the video’s release, including one hosted by the NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch and UNC Charlotte that NAACP officials said was “in memory of Danquirs Franklin and every stolen life.” During that event, Corine Mack, the president of the local NAACP chapter, said that priorities must change.  “I think that Chief Putney is a good and decent human being,” Mack said. “But I also know that one man can’t change the hearts and minds of 1,800 officers. Especially those who’ve been reared in the root of hate in this country. “All cops are not bad cops. But if you’re a solid cop, you are now accountable for that bad cop’s actions. We’re asking for folks to be honest and forthright, to come forward when they see wrong. To speak out when they see wrong. To ensure that the lives that we’re talking about get the same fair treatment as anyone else.” At another protest, Mack told the crowd the video made her “sick to her stomach,” WSOC reported.  “When I saw that video, I wanted to hurt somebody,” Mack said. “If I felt that way, imagine how the family felt.” Franklin’s cousin, James Barnett, spoke to the news station about watching the video.  Up until this point we’ve been silent and only wanted the truth to come out, but we also wanted to see it because it was the last moments of his life,” Barnett said.  Scott MacLatchie, a police attorney with experience in officer-involved shootings, told WSOC a key factor was the amount of time officers gave Franklin prior to firing a gun. He pointed out that it took more than 40 seconds for Franklin to follow the officers’ orders.  “He wasn’t cooperating for a long time,” Franklin said.  Kerl, who has been a police officer in Charlotte since April 1995, was placed on administrative leave while the investigation is conducted. According to police officials, an internal investigation is being done parallel to the criminal investigation into the officer’s actions.  All findings of the criminal investigation will be turned over to the district attorney for review, authorities said. 
  • The City of Edgewood has appointed former City Council President John Dowless as the new Mayor. The decision came in a unanimous vote by City Council at Edgewood City Council’s monthly meeting on April 16th, 2019. Mayor Dowless has served on Edgewood’s City Council since 2011. He will complete the term of the late Mayor Raymond Bagshaw. In a statement, Dowless said, “There are many residents, including Edgewood’s City Council members who are more than qualified and equally passionate about our city. I am humbled by their vote of confidence and will endeavor to make them and the residents of Edgewood proud.” Dowless also mentioned redeveloping Orange Avenue and preserving City Hall and the Police Department as some of his main priorities.

Washington Insider

  • Thursday's release of a 448 page redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections certainly did not end the questions about the investigation, as President Donald Trump labeled it, 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' and Democrats demanded even more answers about what was in the report. First, you can find a link to the report on the website of the Department of Justice. The report is divided into two parts. The first deals with questions of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia - the Special Counsel found evidence of 'numerous' contacts between them, but not enough to merit charges for any illegal activity. The second part of the report deals with questions about obstruction of justice. In that portion, investigators found that top aides, advisers, and friends of the President routinely ignored his orders to fire people like the Special Counsel and more. Here's more from the fine print of the Mueller report: 1. The first part of the collusion statement used by Barr. The release of the Mueller report allowed a full review of a sentence fragment employed by Attorney General William Barr in his late March letter, which (accurately) said, 'the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. Many reporters had wondered what was in the first part of that statement and why it was not included in Barr's letter. And, starting on page nine, it seemed clear. 'The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,' the Mueller report concluded. Then adding the start of the sentence used by Barr: 'Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benfeit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts...' 2. It wasn't just Comey writing memos after talks with Trump. After getting fired as FBI Director, James Comey made public memos which he had written after various talks with President Trump. It's also been reported that former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe did the same thing. Now the Mueller report shows others did, too. Deputy National Security Director K.T. McFarland saved a contemporaneous memo after a discussion with the President in which the Mr. Trump asked McFarland to 'write an internal email denying that the President had directed Flynn to discuss sanctions' with the Russian Ambassador, when McFarland knew the real answer was that Mr. Trump had done exactly that. Then there were top officials at the National Security Agency, who were so alarmed by a phone call with Mr. Trump - they wrote a memo and put it in an NSA safe - with the deputy NSA chief saying it was 'the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.' 3. Aides, advisers, friends, regularly ignore Trump requests. Whether it was on big items like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or sending messages to top officials, the Mueller report is chock full of examples where the President tells people to do something - and they refuse to do it - worried it's the wrong move. White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus wouldn't tell Sessions he should leave. Corey Lewandowski wouldn't send a message for the President to Sessions, and even tried to get a White House aide to do it - but he also refused. Then there was this tidbit from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had lunch with President Trump, and was told to send along a message to James Comey. This was the same day that Mr. Trump told Comey - after clearing the Oval Office of other officials - that he wanted the feds to 'let this go' when it came to legal issues for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 4. Rosenstein threatened to 'tell the truth' on Comey firing. After using a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a pretext to fire FBI Director James Comey - the White House pressed Rosenstein to further explain why Comey had been fired, 'to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein's idea to fire Comey.' Rosenstein said that was a 'false story,' and after President Trump called on the phone to ask the Deputy A.G. to do a press conference about the Comey firing, the report says Rosenstein said he would 'tell the truth that Comey's firing was not his idea.' The Mueller report goes along with testimony released by Republicans in recent weeks which depicted Rosenstein as furious with the White House over the Comey firing, convinced that he was 'used' to get rid of the FBI Director. 5. Sarah Huckabee Sanders comments 'not founded on anything.' After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, the White House repeatedly defended the move by saying that ousting Comey was supported by 'countless members of the FBI,' though the White House produced no evidence to reporters back up that assertion. Fast forward a bit over a year to July of 2018, when Sanders was interviewed by investigators, she admitted there was no truth to her assertion from the podium. 'Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue,'' the report stated. Asked about a comment in another press interview about how FBI agents had supposedly lost confidence in Comey, 'Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.' 6. A series of unknown Mueller cases are still active. While Attorney General William Barr told Congress last month that the Mueller report 'does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public,' the details show a slightly different story. At the end of the report, there are lists of cases transferred to other prosecutors, and information on other matters - uncovered by Mueller - but referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. In those two lists, a series of cases were redacted - two cases transferred by Mueller - and 12 other cases in which referrals were made. All of them were redacted for the reason that publicity could damage ongoing investigations, what was officially known as, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' Maybe they are cases which have nothing to do with the Russia investigation or with President Trump. But one of the referrals which was not redacted involved Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Technically, these aren't Mueller cases - but they're also still secret. 7. Mueller discredits Wikileaks claim of Seth Rich DNC leak. Along with Pizzagate, the claim by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that a former DNC staffer was the source of leaked Democratic Party emails was one of the biggest conspiracy theories to emerge from the 2016 campaign. In the report, Mueller's team says file transfer evidence linking Wikileaks to Russian Intelligence lays waste to the claim that Seth Rich had leaked materials to Assange - and may have been murdered as a result. Assange has repeatedly denied any ties to Russian agents, but U.S. Intelligence has long regarded Wikileaks as a 'fence' for Russian Intelligence, and that the two tied themselves together to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. 8. Mueller says witnesses deleted potential evidence. In laying out the evidence put forward in the report, the Special Counsel's office made clear that the Russia probe was hampered because of information which could not be obtained - making it clear that some people under investigation had deleted texts and other electronic communications, 'including some associated with the Trump Campaign.' One example was between former White House aide Steve Bannon and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who were questioned about a secretive meeting in the Seychelles, which involved Russian figures. Bannon and Prince told different stories - but investigators couldn't see their text messages, because they had simply disappeared from their phones, as both men denied deleting the messages. 'Prince's phone contained no text messages prior to March 2017, though provider records indicate that he and Bannon exchanged dozens of messages,' the report stated. 9. Mueller Report redactions - 'lightly redacted' or more? The evening before the release of the report, officials told a variety of news organizations that the report was 'lightly redacted.' One group looked at it and found redactions of over 170 pages, as there were examples where entire pages were blacked out. The very first redactions in the document came in the Table of Contents - and had to do wtih the 'Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials,' dealing with stolen Democratic Party emails and Wikileaks. Some items were redacted for grand jury information, investigative techniques, harm to ongoing matters, and third person privacy concerns. 10. Trump's answers to Mueller questions. At the end of the Mueller report, you can read the President's answers to a series of written questions posed by the Special Counsel's office, after they were unable to get the President to sit for an interview, in person. Critics of the President noted derisively that there was a theme in many of his answers. 'I don't recall,' or 'I don't remember,' were phrases found. 'I have no recollection,' and 'I do not remember.' 'I do not recall being aware during the campaign' of any contacts with Wikileaks, the President testified. 'I have no recollection' that any foreign government or entity wanted to support the campaign, Mr. Trump said. 'I have no recollection of being told during the campaign that Vladimir Putin' supported my bid for the White House, the President added.