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It is often hard to figure out how the voting public feels about President Trump. Blame that on the press, which has provided a steady stream of negative or manipulative coverage about Mr. Trump since his campaign days. Yet somehow, an overwhelming percentage of voters now advise the Republican Party ...
NEW YORK (AP) - Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents looking to make arrests inside courthouses in New York can't do so without judicial warrants or orders, according to a directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration that took effect Wednesday.
The move was hailed by immigration advocates, ...
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday scheduled a hearing over whether to stop the Trump administration from forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearings.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a hearing for April 24 in San Francisco over ...
The frenzied anticipation around special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report has overshadowed another Justice Department report on the Russia probe that could land as soon as next month, and which will likely take direct aim at the former British spy behind an infamous “dossier” on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
For the past year, the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has been examining the FBI’s efforts to surveil a one-time Trump campaign adviser based in part on information from Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 agent who had worked with the bureau as a confidential source since 2010.
Several people interviewed by the Inspector General’s office over the past year tell POLITICO that Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. One former U.S. official left the interview with the impression that the Inspector General’s final report “is going to try and deeply undermine” Steele, who spent over two decades working Russia for MI6 before leaving to launch his own corporate intelligence firm.
Thursday’s planned release of the full Mueller report by the Justice Department could shed new light on Steele’s role, and the veracity of the controversial dossier he assembled in 2016, featuring explosive—and in some cases sexually lurid—charges of Kremlin influence over Trump and his associates.
And once the Mueller report is out, conservatives will look forward to the results of the Horowitz probe, launched in March 2018 while Jeff Sessions was attorney general. President Donald Trump had been calling for a parallel investigation into alleged FBI “spying” that would somehow undermine Mueller’s investigation.
Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in 2016 to research Trump’s Russia ties, with funding from a law firm that represented the Democratic National Committee. He has become a villain to Trump allies who claim that anti-Trump Justice Department officials conspired to undo the results of the 2016 election, and conservatives have seized on Mueller’s conclusion that no criminal conspiracy existed between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin as evidence that Steele’s sensational dossier was a fraud.
Speaking on Fox News last month, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), derided Steele as “the foreigner hired by the Clinton campaign to write the dossier that was the basis for this whole twisted deal.”
With his reputation on the line, Steele—who has not commented publicly on the Trump-Russia investigation—intends to rebut the Inspector General’s characterizations, if necessary, in the form of a rare public statement, according to people familiar with his plans. He declined to be interviewed by the inspector general, citing, among other things, the potential impropriety of his involvement in an internal Justice Department investigation as a foreign national and former British intelligence agent. Steele’s allies have also repeatedly noted that the dossier was not the original basis for the FBI’s probe into Trump and Russia.
A spokesman for the Inspector General’s office declined to comment.
The president and other critics of the Russia investigation have long maintained that the bureau inappropriately “spied” on the Trump campaign using unverified information provided by Steele. The FBI’s decision to seek a surveillance warrant against Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page—a warrant they applied for and obtained after Page had already left the campaign—is the chief focus of the probe by Horowitz, a Harvard-educated former federal prosecutor who has held his post since 2012.
Attorney General Bill Barr poured gasoline on those complaints last week, telling lawmakers that he believes “spying did occur” on the campaign in 2016. He also said that Horowitz’s report “will be complete in probably May or June, I am told,” and confirmed that he is conducting his own review, parallel to the inspector general, of the FBI’s conduct in 2016.
Trump has since seized upon Barr’s comments as evidence that the FBI acted improperly in 2016, even though Barr did not claim that the surveillance, approved and renewed by several federal judges, had violated any laws. “These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others!” Trump tweeted on Monday. “INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, dismissed the attacks on Steele, saying it would have concerned him more if the FBI did nothing with the information Steele gave them. “Knowing everything the FBI knew as the Russians were interfering in the election,” Swalwell said, “I would rather see them, out of abundance of caution, open an investigation and follow concerning leads than to just say ‘well this is probably nothing.’”
“I would want accountability if they didn’t do that,” he added.
The campaign adviser at the center of it all, Carter Page, had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, when he interacted with undercover Russian intelligence agents in New York City. A trip to Moscow in the summer of 2016 further aroused the bureau’s suspicions about him, according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant the FBI submitted in October 2016, allowing the bureau to intercept his electronic communications.
Steele began providing the FBI with information about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia in 2016, but his relationship with the bureau began with soccer — a subject that has become an unexpected focus of the inspector general’s probe.
In 2010, Steele delivered information to the bureau’s Eurasian Organized Crime squad about corruption within the international soccer league FIFA, with links to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, that led to the ouster of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the indictment of several FIFA officials.
The inspector general’s office has concluded that Steele inflated his worth to the bureau in that case, and did little more than introduce agents to a journalist who had obtained hacked documents, according to two people who were interviewed and briefed on the matter. For the FBI to have formalized its relationship with Steele—paying him an undisclosed amount over beginning in 2013—as a result of his FIFA role may therefore have been bad judgment, the inspector general’s team has intimated. Horowitz’s probe also appears set to cast doubt on the veracity of the information Steele provided about Page that the FBI included in its application for a FISA warrant.
Steele, 54, went into hiding briefly after the dossier was published in January 2017 but has since returned to his regular “day job” in London at his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. His defenders call him an intelligence professional with a sterling reputation who is being unfairly demonized by pro-Trump Republicans.
By 2015, however, as the FIFA investigation was ongoing, Steele was producing intelligence that appeared to rely not just on a single journalist but on high-level Russian insiders. One Steele report from June of that year, reviewed by POLITICO, cited both a senior Russian lawyer and “a close Russian confidante” of then-Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The sources relayed that Russia was involved in bribing FIFA to win the 2018 World Cup, according to the report.
Steele’s defenders also note that the information he provided which made it into the FISA warrant application to monitor Page was not far off. According to Steele’s sources, Page met with high-level Russian officials while in Moscow in July 2016, including the CEO of Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft. Page denied the claim publicly until pressed under oath by lawmakers in 2017, when he acknowledged meeting “senior members of the presidential administration” during his trip, as well as the head of investor relations at Rosneft. Page had originally claimed only that he went to Moscow to give the commencement address at the New Economic School.
Page told POLITICO on Tuesday that he has not been contacted by the Inspector General.
Former U.S. officials interviewed by the inspector general were skeptical about the quality of his probe. They emphasized to Horowitz that information in a warrant application need not be wholly verified, as long as the reliability of the source of the information is disclosed to the court, which the FBI did in the Page FISA case with regard to Steele. But the inspector general seemed neither well-versed in the FISA process nor receptive to the explanations, the officials said.
The inspector general is also homing in on Steele’s relationship with Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official who spent years investigating Russian organized crime and corruption and who has known Steele since 2007, according to two people familiar with their relationship. In July 2016, Steele told Ohr about the research he’d been doing on Trump’s alleged Russia ties, claiming among other things that a former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service had stated that the spy service “had Donald Trump over a barrel,” Ohr told lawmakers in a closed-door interview last year.
Soon thereafter, the FBI began receiving Steele’s Trump-Russia memos directly. But the bureau cooled on the relationship after learning that Steele had described his Trump campaign research to reporters. (Two sources familiar with Steele’s actions insist that his research technically belonged to his clients, Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, not to the FBI—so he had no obligation to keep it secret.)
Still, the Inspector General is apparently irked by Ohr’s decision to maintain contact with Steele after the bureau temporarily cut ties with the British operative in October 2016. Ohr told Congress that he felt it would be irresponsible not to hear Steele out. He also helped connect Steele with the special counsel’s office once it was up and running in May 2017, according to a person familiar with the matter. “When I receive information from Chris Steele I'm not going to sit on it,” Ohr told lawmakers. “I've got to give it to the FBI.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
HAMBURG, Iowa — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently toured this waterlogged town near the Missouri River, blasting President Donald Trump as complicit in the flooding that has plagued large swaths of western Iowa in recent weeks.
"We have a president who says that climate change is a hoax," said Inslee, ...
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea announced that it has test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon.
The Korean Central News Agency says Chairman Kim Jong Un observed the firing of the weapon Wednesday by the Academy of Defense Science.
The agency reports that Kim said “the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army.”
The agency says Kim mounted an observation post to learn about the test-fire of the new-type tactical guided weapon and guide the test-fire.
The announcement came after reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research center and long-range rocket site where the North is believed to build long-range missiles targeting the U.S. mainland.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
House Democrats exploded in anger Wednesday over Attorney General William Barr’s plans to roll out special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, accusing the Justice Department of trying to spin the report’s contents and protect President Donald Trump.
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning to review the report, which may be heavily redacted. Reports that DOJ officials have already discussed Mueller’s findings with the White House only further inflamed tensions.
“I’m deeply troubled by reports that the WH is being briefed on the Mueller report AHEAD of its release,” tweeted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. The New York Democrat added that DOJ informed him that lawmakers will not receive the report until around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. Thursday.
“Why is William Barr holding a press conference if not to (once again) try and frame the Special Counsel’s findings,” tweeted Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “Just release the full report and let the American people judge for themselves!”
Democrats were also incensed that Trump, in a radio interview, revealed Barr’s press event minutes before the Justice Department officially announced it — another suggestion that the White House and Justice Department were coordinating ahead of the report’s public release. A DOJ spokeswoman later said the press conference was not Trump’s idea. Trump said in the same interview that he might hold his own press event afterward.
“Pretty convenient of the attorney general to take questions on the report before anyone has a chance to read the report,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a Judiciary Committee member, wrote on Twitter.
The uproar came as The New York Times reported that DOJ officials have had “numerous conversations” with White House lawyers about Mueller’s conclusions.
Barr has already been under fire from Democrats for his handling of the Mueller investigation. In his four-page summary of the report, the attorney general said Mueller uncovered evidence that Trump obstructed justice, but Barr decided against charging Trump with a crime.
In two Capitol Hill hearings last week, Barr did not answer questions about the Justice Department’s coordination or contact with the White House.
“So-called Attorney General is presiding over a dog and pony show,” tweeted House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries. “Here is a thought. Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut. You have ZERO credibility.”
Democrats’ complaints arrived just as the Justice Department confirmed plans to allow “a limited number of members of Congress and their staff” to view a version of the Mueller report “without certain redactions.” But rather than give these lawmakers a copy, DOJ officials said in a court filing they would “secure this version of the report in an appropriate setting” only available to these few lawmakers and aides.
Justice Department officials also indicated that if Congress seeks its own version of the less-redacted report, they’ll lean on federal District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson — who is presiding over the pending trial of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone — to determine what to do next.
In a court filing in Stone’s case, prosecutors said they would seek her guidance should Congress ask for the report, and they sense a “reasonable likelihood” that its contents will become public.
Nadler is expected to issue a subpoena as soon as Friday or Monday for the full report and all of its underlying evidence and grand jury information.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings invited top White House advisor Stephen Miller to come to Capitol Hill to testify about his role in key immigration decisions.
Mr. Cummings said the invitation was entirely voluntary, but said it would be a chance for Mr. Miller to make his case for ...
NEW YORK (AP) - A Guatemalan presidential candidate was arrested Wednesday in Miami on drug and weapons charges, accused of plotting to assassinate political rivals and to let drug dealers use Guatemala's ports and airports.
The candidate, Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana, 58, and an alleged accomplice, Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga, ...
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan urged Congress Wednesday to address what he called “both a humanitarian and security crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In his first public appearance since he replaced Kirstjen Nielsen last week at the Department of Homeland Security, McAleenan emphasized that lax asylum and immigration laws encourage Central American migrants to trek to the border.
"Without action from Congress, criminals will continue to profit from human misery along our border,” McAleenan said at a press conference near the border in Hidalgo, Texas. “It's clear that all of our resources are being stretched thin. The system is full and we are beyond capacity.”
McAleenan, who was previously Trump's Senate-confirmed Customs and Border Protection commissioner and a former Obama administration official, warned that a rising tide of migrants at the border will place more strain on law enforcement and local service providers.
"We don't have room to hold them, we don't have the authority to remove them, and they are not likely to be able to be allowed to remain in the country at the end of their immigration proceedings," he said.
McAleenan takes the job as arrests along the border are soaring. In March, Border Patrol picked up nearly 93,000 migrants, the highest monthly level since April 2007. Over the past year, border arrests remained well below historic peaks during the 1990s and early 2000s, but that could change if the pace of new arrivals fails to slacken.
Families made up more than half the March total, a new trend that McAleenan and other officials argue presents unique health and safety challenges.
The administration contends that migrants will be deterred from trekking north if Congress grants DHS broader enforcement authority. The White House has pressed lawmakers to permit children to be detained for longer than 20 days and to allow unaccompanied minors from Central America to be deported more swiftly.
Democrats, however, have countered that Trump’s hard-line immigration policies haven’t worked and have exacerbated an ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.
The acting secretary was joined Wednesday by Matthew Albence, who became the top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official last week when former acting director Ronald Vitiello was pushed out.
Albence, the acting deputy director, said hundreds of ICE personnel had been reassigned recently to assist with the custody and processing of migrant families at the border.
"This reallocation of resources comes at a significant cost,” said Albence, who donned a pair of reflective aviator sunglasses during the press conference. "Criminal aliens, gang members and public safety threats remain at large because [ICE officers] needed to locate and apprehend them have been redirected to process family units and manage the ever-increasing immigration court dockets."
Also in attendance was Rodolfo Karisch, the Border Patrol sector chief for the Rio Grande Valley.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Hundreds of the biggest Democratic fundraisers in the last two presidential elections are already picking candidates for 2020 — and Kamala Harris has a significant early edge, while Pete Buttigieg and his from-scratch campaign has scrambled into the second tier.
Harris has already received donations from 176 people or couples who raised at least $100,000, and sometimes many multiples of that, for Hillary Clinton in 2016 or at least $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2012, according to a POLITICO analysis of new campaign finance disclosures and “bundler” data from the Center for Responsive Politics. While the Democratic presidential campaigns have been focused on building small-donor armies this year, bundlers mine their networks for checks to pass along to campaigns six- or seven-figures at a time, giving them a potentially massive role in a crowded primary.
Donations from these key fundraisers signals the out-of-the-gate interest the candidates are generating among many of the most wealthy and connected campaign supporters in the country. And while candidates have taken a more muted approach to raising checks from wealthy supporters this cycle as they seek to prove they have grassroots support online, they still benefit greatly big-donor support — and most are pursuing it seriously. Clinton and Obama’s bundlers raised hundreds of millions of dollars for their presidential campaigns, helped rally supporters to their cause, and participated in campaigns as surrogates and volunteers.
“It’s about whether you’re willing to get your hands dirty,” said Rufus Gifford, former finance director for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. “Writing the check is not good enough — [campaigns] need people to work their networks” to build a national machine of donors and volunteers to give them life, Gifford said.
Harris has received donations from more than twice as many top Democratic fundraisers as her next closest competitor, Cory Booker, who got donations from 80 Obama and Clinton bundlers in the first quarter, according to POLITICO’s review of campaign finance reports. The network helped Harris post the second-best fundraising total of any Democratic presidential candidate in the first quarter, $12 million — most of which came from donors who gave at least $200 each. Larger donors also accounted for more than 80 percent of the $5 million Booker raised early this year.
Kirsten Gillibrand (67 bundlers) and Amy Klobuchar (61) also picked up pieces of the Obama and Clinton networks. But the longtime senators were closely followed by a rising candidate, Buttigieg, who got backing from 51 bundlers despite having few fundraising connections before his campaign caught fire in March — prompting a wave of small donors to flock to his campaign, too.
Mel Heifetz, a Philadelphia-based real estate developer and philanthropist who raised money for Clinton’s campaign and donated $1 million each to super PACs supporting Obama and Clinton, donated to several candidates with whom he had existing relationships this year. Then Buttegieg caught his attention.
Heifetz received a call from Buttegieg’s husband, Chasten, after donating to the campaign and has now met with Pete Buttegieg as well. And Heifetz told POLITICO that he would spend $5 million to aid Buttegieg if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.
“The fact that he’s gay and is being accepted is unbelievable,” said Heifetz, who is himself gay and supports LGBTQ causes. “If it had been a straight candidate with his credentials and his background I would have supported him anyway.”
The field of experienced bundlers is still wide open for every candidate: Almost four-in-five of the Obama and Clinton fundraisers have yet to give any significant donations in the 2020 presidential race, partially because of candidates’ hesitancy to go all-out courting big money and partially because many donors want to bide their time before picking a candidate out of a crowded field. Some donors — including powerful fundraisers for Obama — are waiting to see if former Vice President Joe Biden decides to run before deciding where their loyalties lie.
While Buttegieg had built relationships with Democrats during his run for national party chair in 2017, he was still largely unknown to most Democratic donors prior to his surge in popularity this spring. His campaign is taking an “inclusive” model of reaching out to new and old party donors, campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said, encouraging donors to do outreach and fundraising of their own even if they haven’t done it before.
The donor support “tells you that people not only believe this is worth supporting, but that it has the staying power and seriousness that deserves that kind of investment,” Buttegieg said in an interview.
Some early bundler money is going in multiple directions. Minnesota businessman Bob Pohlad, who with his wife Michelle bundled money for both Obama and Clinton, donated to both Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke’s campaigns before giving money to Buttigieg.
In an interview, Pohlad said he did not know who Buttegieg was prior to his 2019 campaign and was initially impressed by his CNN town hall. He now plans to hold a small fundraiser for him during an upcoming visit to St. Paul.
Pohlad said he’s clear-eyed that Buttegieg is a somewhat improbable nominee — but he said he’s been taken in by his “message of inclusivity and reasonableness.”
“I could be his dad. I have kids Pete’s age,” Pohlad said. “But if he continues to be the way he has shown himself to be in terms of character, in terms of ideas and in terms of tone of approach, I will support him for as long as he’s in the race.”
Unlike Pohlad, a majority of fundraisers have yet to give a donation to any candidate.
POLITICO analyzed 1,924 individuals and couples whose names were on bundler lists released by the Clinton campaign in 2016 and the Obama campaign in 2012. Only 425 had made a donation to one or more candidates thus far in this presidential election cycle. The analysis included itemized donations of $200 or more that are recorded by the Federal Election Commission.
Harris, who has won statewide elections three times in California, home to many of the country’s most prolific donors, was well-positioned to seize support from many top fundraisers. Her campaign worked overtime to court wealthy supporters this spring, especially in California, at a moment when many Democrats are hesitant to be seen with rich backers.
“I’ll do anything I can do to help her campaign. She’s my number one,” said Kelly Dermody, a San Francisco-based employment lawyer who, spurred by concerns about Trump’s rise, raised more than $100,000 for Clinton in 2016. “I like where she’s going and what she stands for. If I’m able to take weekends away to do retail politics and roll up my sleeves, I will do that too.”
And fewer than half of the bundlers who gave to Harris — 81 of 176 — were based in California, according to campaign finance records, a sign her support extended beyond her home state.
Of the leading candidates for president, Bernie Sanders drew the least support from Clinton and Obama’s elite fundraisers: He received donations from only two of them — one fewer than self-help guru Marianne Williamson. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off closed-door fundraisers in the presidential primary, received donations from 18 people who raised big money for Clinton or Obama.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee each received support from 25 of the top Democratic fundraisers, while Beto O’Rourke — whose 2018 Texas Senate campaign was fueled by record online donations — had 38 bundlers on his first-quarter donor rolls.
In past years, some candidates publicized fundraisers and touted their bundlers alongside their grassroots supporters as signs they were running formidable campaigns. But fundraising among Democratic candidates for president has been muffled so far this year, as many Democrats try to prove their distance from special interests and wealthy donors, instead leaning on online small-dollar fundraising for support.
For many candidates, that approach may have its limits — which were reflected in the first-quarter fundraising reports, cautioned Gifford, Obama’s former finance director.
“The campaigns need to understand that email giving is not the be-all and end-all. And we’ve seen that in the campaign fundraising numbers. This is about working it, it’s about working relationships, it’s about talking to people,” Gifford said.
Obama raised $25 million from January through March of 2007, a bigger sum than any current candidate raised during the corresponding period this year. The money helped Obama gain status in the race as a serious contender. Sanders, who raised the most of any Democratic candidate in the field, still fell short of Obama’s total, raising $18 million during the first three months of 2019 — almost all of it from small donors giving online.
Michael Toner, former counsel to the Republican National Committee and multiple Republican presidential campaigns, predicted Democratic candidates will become more aggressive about big-dollar fundraising as they head into the summer primary debates and feel more pressure to prove they are top contenders — or to drop out.
“You have to raise enough money to compete in these caucuses, and you’ve got to have the resources to compete in a multi-front war,” Toner said. “It’s a necessary, but insufficient, condition in term of getting nominated.”
James Arkin, Scott Bland, Jesse Chase-Lubitz, Jordyn Hermani, Zach Montellaro, Steven Shepard, Michael Stratford and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
WASHINGTON (AP) - When President Donald Trump insisted last year that the nation's southern border was in crisis, his warnings landed with a thud.
Making unverified claims about "unknown Middle Easterners" and prayer rugs found by ranchers, Trump drew eye rolls from Democrats and many in the media, who derided ...
Burning with the velocity of a prairie fire on a gusty Indiana day, Pete Buttigieg scorched the airwaves, seared the podcasts, and charred the press this week as he ignited his presidential campaign, temporarily torching his Democratic competition in the process.
The secret to Buttigieg’s publicity run was no secret, wrote Matthew Yglesias in Vox. Like Molly Bloom in his favorite novel, Ulysses, he can’t stop saying “yes”—to media invitations. In recent weeks he’s appeared on a CNN town hall, Ellen, A list podcasts, and Morning Joe, and been featured in New York, Politico Magazine, the Atlantic, and much more. But saying yes is never enough to hold the press spellbound. Buttigieg has satisfied the ravenous press corps’ appetite by offering them an entire menu of newish things—no, make that entire food court of newish things—to write about. He’s the youngest candidate in the field (at 37 he’s the only millennial except Tulsi Gabbard), he’s gay and now married, he’s an Afghan war veteran, he’s a Rhodes scholar (as is Cory Booker, but never mind), he plays a decent piano, he’s a church-goer, he’s the mayor of the fourth largest city in Indiana, he once gave of a TEDx talk, he worked as a McKinsey consultant, he’s a polymath, he’s as earnest as a preacher, he’s an old person’s idea of what a young person should be like, and he’s figured out how to package progressive ideas as moderate.
The Buttigieg boom has also benefited from the stumbles of our previous political shooting star, Beto O’Rourke. Was it was only weeks ago that the press began swooning for O’Rourke like a drunken conventioneer, writing about him with the same frequency they do for Buttigieg today? The things that once seemed so appealing about O’Rourke to the press—the generalities, the platitudes, the off-handed charisma, the rolled up sleeves—seem off-putting now. The clearest sign of the press corps’ O’Rourke infatuation was their routine reference to him by his first name in their stories—something they've moved on to doing with Buttigieg. Such shameful and transparent familiarity.
Having stripped the Kennedyesque Texan of his novelty, the press corps has dumped him for the Kennedyesque Hoosier like a speed-dater on the rebound from a Tinder-relationship gone bad. Their transition to Buttigieg has been seamless, finding in him another candidate who speaks complete sentences, who likes the camera almost as much as it likes him, who subscribes to the usual Democratic articles of faith, and scans like a lost episode of The West Wing.
The fear of boredom plagues political reporters. Assigned to a well-known candidate, their first question is, “Haven’t we read this all before?” They crave novelty and newness, for the underexposed over the overexposed, and that prejudice gives relatively unknown candidates a leg up on established ones, especially in the early months of the campaign. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, whom the press once treated as fresh, almost delectable personages a couple of years ago, are now dismissed as known, lackluster quantities.
A budding candidate like Buttigieg, on the other hand, gives reporters and editors a sense of discovery as they unearth the details from old lawsuits and busted business deals, gaffes preserved by C-SPAN, and tales from schoolmates. If a candidate’s personal history is ordinary, reporters can burn through it in a couple of weeks. But an extraordinary personal history like Buttigieg’s makes for an endlessly writeable event. Think of Buttigieg as a newborn just delivered to his newsroom parents, his every grin and wink and grimace worthy of endless analysis and discussion, and you begin to fathom the press corps’ fascination with him.
Candidates benefit from having some triumph over adversity in their resume. It can be as simple as getting shot down in enemy skies, suffering the premature loss of a loved one, or rising up from poverty. On this score, Buttigieg seems to have let the press corps down. He did come out of the closet at 33 on the op-ed page of the South Bend Tribune, but today deliberately soft-pedaled the event. Smoothed of the standard rough edges, Buttigieg’s life has a soft radiance to it, making him a bit of a walking miracle for journalists who’ve never encountered such a person.
There are two problems with generating political buzz through news coverage, as O’Rourke can tell you. The first is that it’s hard to sustain the note. Having told a candidate’s story, reporters grow bored unless he presents evidence of his viability. In the pre-primary days of the campaign, they want to see big, noisy crowds at his rallies. They want to see the campaign treasury gushing with cash. They want to see a campaign organization take shape and rising poll numbers. They want to see a winner in the making because few reporters really want to write about losers.
The second and more cautionary problem is that after all these years we’ve failed to learn that media infatuations are rarely a good proxy for voter enthusiasm. National political reporters live in a bubble that extends from New York to Washington, which makes them better at taking a colleague’s pulse than a standard-issue voter’s. (Remember how the press went gaga for John McCain?) Reporters get stampeded into over-covering a new candidate because they don’t want to miss the boat. Voters, on the other hand, move more cautiously, often taking months or a year to sort out the candidates. Reporters are fickle. Voters are loyal.
Finally, whenever a national political reporter looks at the ambitious, conspicuously educated, ticket-punching, aggressively tame candidate Buttigieg, he can’t help but see himself. Think of their coverage as modest self-assessments.
Swoon for me via email to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts are offended by this column. My Twitter feed is waiting for Joe Biden. My RSS feed predicts that Buttigieg will become the Harold Stassen of modern politics.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A bill to ban sanctuary policies in Florida is being hailed by supporters as a plan to keep the state safe from dangerous undocumented immigrants and scorned by opponents as a bigoted, politically motivated attack on immigrants.
The two sides clashed Wednesday as a Senate bill ...
ABIDJIAN, Ivory Coast — White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump says her father asked her if she was interested in taking the job of World Bank chief but she passed on it.
In an Associated Press interview, President Donald Trump's daughter said Wednesday she was happy with her current role ...
Stephen Moore will have to contend with an awkward history with Senate Republicans to get confirmed to the Federal Reserve. And even though his chances are brighter than Herman Cain’s, the two nominations are inextricably linked.
As president of the conservative Club for Growth in 2004, Moore directed $260,000 in contributions to Cain and endorsed him in an open Senate race against then-Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), according to Federal Election Commission records. Moore also leveled harsh attacks on Isakson, who nevertheless won the primary and was reelected to a third Senate term in 2016.
Moore’s history as an antagonist to the GOP establishment will be under close scrutiny if his nomination moves forward. With Cain currently lacking support to be confirmed after a flurry of Senate GOP defections last week, Republican are now turning toward Moore amid questions of whether he can be confirmed.
Inside the White House, senior advisers are aware that Cain faces long odds of ever being confirmed by the Senate, even as he vows not to withdraw from consideration.
White House aides are also not certain that Moore can overcome issues with unpaid taxes, a messy divorce settlement and controversial past writings and statements to win a spot at the central bank.
Moore lacks the vocal opposition that Cain quickly earned from Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has publicly raised concerns about Moore’s nomination.
And some Senate Republicans are working to scuttle the Moore pick, according to two GOP aides.
Though Republicans have generally confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominees, they are taking a more deliberative approach to his Fed picks. Romney has repeatedly said he doesn’t want “partisan” nominees. Though he’s declined to single out Moore, it’s hard to argue that Moore isn’t a partisan Republican after his time at the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation.
“If somebody is nominated to serve on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve, that’s a serious job. That’s a very serious job,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a former Banking Committee chairman who said he knows Moore but not Cain. Shelby once derailed a Fed pick by President Barack Obama.
“These are long-term appointments, independent of the Congress and the president," he added.
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow on Tuesday confirmed an earlier POLITICO report that the White House is actively interviewing potential alternative candidates should Cain, Moore or both not make it through the vetting process.
“We are talking to a number of candidates. We always do,” Kudlow told reporters. He added that, “We support [Moore]. We support Herman Cain. We’ll just let things play out in the vetting.”
For Senate Republicans, Moore’s conservative economic views largely echo their positions and many in the caucus have viewed him as an ally over the years, particularly during his time as an editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal. Yet there’s still a feeling among some in the GOP that Moore’s pugilistic style of politics could make his nomination difficult.
“The Democrats don't have any blacks in the Senate. We, as Republicans, could. A black, free-market senator from the South would be rich with irony,” Moore told the National Review of Cain in 2003. After endorsing Cain, he dinged Isakson for losing out: “Cain beat out Congressmen Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins for this very significant endorsement.”
Moore also tore into Isakson in a 2004 statement backing Cain, calling his voting record "worse-than-average," dubbing him a "career politician" and vowing to support Collins or Cain over him, according to a Club press release posted on a conservative website.
Republicans said Isakson was cool to Cain’s nomination, though Isakson himself declined to criticize Cain in an interview last week. His office declined to comment on Moore’s support of Cain in the 2004 primary on Wednesday.
Moore also was criticized more than a decade ago by some conservatives for not more aggressively backing Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) when he first ran for Senate in 2004. One former Club for Growth official said Moore was not looked upon highly after he left the organization in 2004; the organization was fined $350,000 for violating election law under Moore’s tenure. Toomey ended up becoming president of the Club after Moore’s departure.
A current spokesman at the Club for Growth did not respond to a request for comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Among GOP senators, it’s clear Moore is a more viable nominee than Cain, who faces scrutiny for sexual harassment allegations as well as his time running a pro-Trump super PAC, which recently attacked sitting Republican senators for voting against Trump’s border emergency.
“I don’t know Mr. Cain, so I’ll withhold judgment there. I know Stephen Moore,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). “If confirmed it would be interesting to see how independent they would be based on the fact that they have a very long term in office.”
Neither Cain nor Moore have officially been nominated, and the Senate has not received key documents on either man.
One person who has been involved in the Fed nominating process under Trump suggested the White House is in no rush to fill the two vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board. The board has often operated with less that a full complement of seven governors. And four of the five governors currently on the board are Trump nominees.
This person said Trump views the Fed as the perfect scapegoat should the economy slow significantly this year and next ahead of his reelection campaign. If Cain, Moore or both wind up pulling out of the vetting process, this person said Trump will argue that not only did Fed Chair Jerome Powell screw the economy up but that politics got in the way of filling the Fed with more pro-growth governors.
“I think he’s just having the time of his life with this and doesn’t actually care at all who gets nominated for these slots,” this person said.
Trump has already repeatedly slammed Powell for previous rate hikes and suggested the Fed should cut rates to spur faster growth even though the economy remains fairly strong and unemployment is at just 3.8 percent — not a scenario under which the central bank would ordinarily consider adding stimulus by reducing rates.
One former senior administration official did believed that the White House would not ultimately nominate either Cain or Moore, describing both as unqualified. But this person added that only Trump knows what will happen and that the president could simply decide to plow ahead with both nominations despite the potential for embarrassing rejections in the Senate.
Privately, aides say Trump sent a signal about his commitment to nominating Cain when he said last week that “Herman will make that determination” about remaining in the vetting process.
A person close to Trump noted his loyalty to people who supported him in 2016, like Cain, and would prefer that Cain take himself out of the running rather than have the White House formally pull the plug.
A few hours later Wednesday, Cain gave an on-the-record interview to the Wall Street Journal, saying he was “very committed” to sticking with the process.
Maggie Severns contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The families of victims of a mass shooting at a central Kansas business in 2016 have won a $2 million legal settlement from a pawn shop that sold the firearms to the shooter's girlfriend.
The settlement of three lawsuits in Harvey County District Court was announced ...
Back when he served on the El Paso City Council, Beto O'Rourke prodded his hometown to shift more of its property tax burden from homeowners to commercial property owners.
But now, he and a group of family members who own a shopping center are suing the government to lower the amount of taxes they pay on the property.
The dispute involving the Democratic presidential candidate and local tax officials, first reported by POLITICO, arose more than a year ago, when Peppertree Square Ltd. claimed its assessed property value of about $3.8 million in 2017 was excessively high.
Despite persuading local tax authorities to reduce the property’s assessed value to about $2.8 million — a difference with potentially significant tax implications — Peppertree is arguing the amount remains excessive. In litigation against the El Paso Central Appraisal District, Peppertree claimed the fair market value of its property was $2 million as of January 2017.
An O’Rourke campaign adviser said Wednesday that O’Rourke holds only a minority interest in Peppertree and had no input in the lawsuit or the shopping center’s operation, which is owned by O'Rourke's mother and family members.
A lawyer for Peppertree did not return a call for comment.
Though tax valuation disputes are common, the case involving Peppertree serves as a reminder of the O’Rourke family’s wealth and willingness to seek tax relief. O’Rourke acquired his stake in Peppertree in 2012 as a gift from his mother, who ran a furniture store in the West El Paso shopping center. On a financial disclosure earlier this year, O’Rourke listed the value of his ownership interest at between $1 million and $5 million, with rental income between $100,000 and $1 million.
Dinah Kilgore, the El Paso Central Appraisal District’s executive director and chief appraiser, said the district is currently involved in about 450 lawsuits. And while declining to comment specifically on pending litigation in the Peppertree matter, she said, “It costs me a lot of money, taxpayer money, to have to fight these things.”
“I don’t like it, but it’s very common,” Kilgore said. “It’s a big cost … It’s very expensive for the tax district to fight these.”
O’Rourke is more familiar than most property owners with El Paso’s tax landscape. As a city councilman, O’Rourke proposed a $5,000 homestead exemption in 2006 that was approved unanimously by the council and praised by the El Paso Times’ editorial board as “wise.”
O’Rourke argued commercial and industrial properties tended to be undertaxed and that the measure he introduced was “a way to right that balance,” the newspaper reported. At the time, O’Rourke and other council members seeking to revitalize the city’s downtown had become frustrated with property owners in the downtown who were behind in taxes or were allowing their properties to fall into disrepair.
“I want to bring tax relief to every single homeowner, and I want to shift (the burden) to industrial and commercial property owners,” the El Paso Times quoted O’Rourke as saying.
In legal filings challenging its property’s assessed value, Peppertree argued that the local tax board relied on “an arbitrary, illegal and fundamentally erroneous plan of assessment and taxation, which fails to consider the actual fair market value of the property.”
Peppertree asked for a re-appraisal and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs, while explicitly acknowledging the tax implications of a higher assessed value.
“The levying of taxes on the property based on higher valuations is an unlawful levy, creates an illegal lien on the property and is a cloud on plaintiff’s title,” the lawsuit said.
In response, the El Paso Central Appraisal District denied Peppertree’s claims, arguing in a court filing that Peppertree’s property had been assessed “according to generally accepted appraisal techniques and considering the individual characteristics of the property.”
Earlier this year, at Peppertree’s request, the court ordered Peppertree and the tax board to attend a mediation by April 30. Peppertree said in a case filing that “there is a reasonable expectation that the dispute involved in this case will be resolved by the use of mediation.”
A status hearing on the case is scheduled for June.
With no income tax in Texas, local officials have long grappled with increased pressure on the property tax rolls. Alejandro Contreras, president of the El Paso Area Association of Realtors, said lawsuits such as Peppertree’s “happen all the time,” reflecting a tension between government’s interest in collecting taxes and property owners’ interest limiting the amount they pay.
He said, “It’s almost a fight between everybody here to keep the taxes down."
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
MCALLEN, Texas (AP) - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it's arresting and deporting fewer immigrants because the agency is devoting more resources to the surging numbers of migrant families crossing the southern border.
Acting Director Matthew Albence said Wednesday that ICE has made 14 percent fewer criminal arrests and ...
The Trump administration has been aggressive in using executive branch tools to address the cascading opioid crisis in America. Hope remains that Congress may take additional legislative action this year.
But this crisis requires additional action.
This week it was reported Homeland Security is considering designating fentanyl as a "weapon ...
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma's attorney general is renewing his request that President Trump pardon for a former U.S. soldier from Oklahoma convicted of killing an Iraqi prisoner.
Attorney General Mike Hunter supports a pardon for former Army Lt. Michael Behenna, first requesting one in February 2018.
Behenna was convicted in ...
Attorney General William Barr will hold a press conference Thursday morning to discuss the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
The press conference is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and will include Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
It will be Mr. Barr's first time fielding questions on the release of ...
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The elite academies that educate officers for the nation's armed forces have begun to implement the Trump administration's ban on transgender service members.
The U.S. Naval Academy will ban people who are transgender from attending the school, beginning with the 2020 school year. The Defense Department confirmed ...
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A policy director from a free-market organization has accused a Nevada lobbyist of making false statements while testifying in front of lawmakers earlier this year.
A complaint filed by Robert Fellner with the Nevada Policy Research Institute accuses Retired Public Employees of Nevada lobbyist Marlene ...
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Legislation allowing medical personnel to carry guns when they are involved in tactical law enforcement duties was passed by the Florida House.
The vote Wednesday was 111-2 in favor of the bill, which specifies that medical personnel could only carry guns if they have a concealed ...
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday advanced one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation, a measure that would make performing an abortion a felony with almost no exceptions.
The House Health Committee voted to send the bill to the House of Representatives floor. The vote came ...
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Des Moines Register on asylum seekers and Iowa's aging population:
Whether he's advocating a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or threatening to completely shut down entries, President Trump is more about theatrics than logistics on immigration ...
When the Mueller report crashes into a Washington feverish with anticipation on Thursday, the White House hopes to show President Donald Trump busy doing his job — and far away from a phone-sized keyboard.
Trump typically spends the first half of his workday in the White House residence in “executive time” — making phone calls, reading news reports, keeping an eye on the TV and talking to top officials.
That’s exactly when the Department of Justice is expected to release Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report, and when the free-wheeling Twitterer-in-chief is likely to have the least amount of supervision.
So on Thursday, the president’s hands will not be idle: Trump and the first lady will host an event for wounded warriors before he meets with the secretary of state and then departs for a long Easter weekend at Mar-a-Lago, according to his public schedule and a Federal Aviation Administration notice.
The goal for Thursday is to use the bully pulpit of the White House to give the appearance of a president consumed by the demands of his office. Former President Bill Clinton often leaned on the same playbook at key moments during the Starr investigation – a historical example Trump’s lawyers have studied closely.
Meanwhile, a well-greased spin machine will start whirring to life at the two main arms of the president’s re-election effort — the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign, aiming to shape perceptions of Mueller’s findings in his favor.
“The White House’s intent is to brush this off and move on as quickly as possible,” said one Republican close to the White House. “That is the approach the White House counsel will want the president to take — though it is up the president to do it,” the same Republican added. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Aside from the uncertainty of what’s in the report itself, there’s a second major wild card: Trump.
What could trigger the president is any hint in the Mueller report that one of his current and former aides, many of whom cooperated with the investigation at the direction of then-White House lawyer Ty Cobb, gave evidence or recounted conversations that somehow embarrasses Trump or his family members.
“They went in and told the truth and are now wondering how much will be in the report. How much will it be redacted, and how will that play?” said one former administration official, noting that Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing Mueller’s findings could prove more favorable to the White House than the report itself.
“What you got in the four-page memo was top-line conclusions that sounded definitive on collusion, but White House officials think the actual report will be less conclusive,” the former official added.
Mueller’s team talked to a raft of Trump aides including former chief-of-staff Reince Priebus, former senior strategist Steve Bannon, former top attorney Don McGahn, former attorney general Jeff Sessions and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, among others. McGahn alone sat reportedly sat with the special investigators’ team for 30 hours of interviews.
“It is an important thing to the president that these people are not out seen as out there in the report attacking him personally,” said the close White House adviser.
McGahn’s tenure in the White House ended in a deeply broken relationship between the White House counsel and the president. McGahn was frustrated by the frequency of president’s angry outbursts, causing him to nickname the commander-in-chief, “King Kong,” and Trump felt equally frustrated that the White House’s top attorney did not do more to shield him personally, or stop the special investigation.
Since McGahn left in October 2018, Trump has continued to complain about him with some frequency, fuming over the various ways he feels McGahn failed him, according to the close White House adviser.
McGahn and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
No one in the White House has seen the full document yet, nor do they know how it handles the question of whether Trump obstructed justice in firing former FBI Director James Comey — or the nuances surrounding that and many other moments.
Barr’s letter noted only that Mueller had declined to recommend charges on obstruction, quoting the special counsel’s report as saying: “[W]hile this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
But reports soon dribbled out relaying the views of frustrated members of Mueller’s team, rare leaks revealing that some in the special counsel’s office saw Barr’s synopsis of their “principal conclusions” as misleading.
Inside the White House, aides are trying to project calm. Most of this week has felt like a waiting game, especially with Congress on recess and with many administration officials planning a short work-week given this weekend’s Easter and Passover holidays.
There is also a feeling that Barr’s spare summary set the public narrative early on that Trump did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election – and White House officials and the president’s allies hope that perception sticks despite whatever damaging details may be lurking in the full report.
On Thursday, White House officials including lead attorney Emmet Flood are expected to have a limited window of time to read and digest the key parts of report. One of the president’s outside attorneys, Jay Sekulow, told POLITICO that his plan is to have a team of five to six staffers to review the document as the president’s personal counsel, breaking up the report into sections and monitoring the public response to it. Flood and the White House’s top attorney Pat Cipollone are expected to then brief the president on the report’s findings.
Sekulow and the president’s other attorney, Rudy Giuliani, are expected to go on television extensively this weekend to defend the president, Sekulow told POLITICO. Sekulow said the goal was to follow a similar model to how they handled the Sunday Barr letter, where they were able to get out a statement and tee up media interviews within an hour.
Trump's attorneys will also be wielding a "countereport" pushing back on Mueller's findings, which Giuliani said earlier this week had been whittled down to "34 or 35 pages."
The Republican National Committee will play a leading role in pushing back on any potentially damaging tidbits, or Democrats’ statements. The RNC will rely on a war room to monitor the media coverage and political statements including a rapid response team, social media pushback and op-eds and TV appearances from top RNC communications officials.
The Trump campaign is also ready to defend the president and then direct the public’s attention elsewhere.
“We know that President Trump will — once again — be vindicated: no collusion and no obstruction. The tables should turn now, as it is time to investigate the liars who instigated the sham investigation in the first place,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the campaign.
But as always, Trump will act as his own communications director and public relations crisis manager. Already he’s distilled the message down to a simple Twitter statement, before he’s seen the report: “No Collusion - No Obstruction!”
Eliana Johnson and Darren Samuelsohn contributed reporting.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings lashed out Wednesday at the top Republican on the committee, accusing Rep. Jim Jordan of encouraging pharmaceutical companies to stonewall a legitimate congressional investigation.
Mr. Cummings is seeking detailed information from a dozen drug makers, including how they set prices and invest in research....
A group representing the three largest U.S. airlines and aviation unions said Wednesday that Qatar's state-owned airline is playing President Trump for a fool by flouting a deal with the administration not to add new flights to the U.S. market.
"Qatar's behavior on this issue has been outright insulting to ...
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Republican-led Senate has approved a GOP bill that develops rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform.
But the initiative's sponsors - and some Democrats - say the House measure passed Wednesday by Senators 39-8 does not reflect what voters ...
SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Former Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes has agreed to pay a fine of $50,000 after she was accused of committing 22 violations of state ethics laws.
The agreement, contained in a "stipulated final order" released Wednesday by the Oregon Ethics Commission, is subject to the commission' ...
Ivanka Trump said Wednesday she’d turned down her father’s offer to lead the World Bank, and wouldn’t reveal whether he’d approached her about any other jobs in his administration.
Trump, who serves in the White House as a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, was rumored earlier this year to be in the running for president of the global financial institution, though her father ultimately went with David Malpass, a U.S. Treasury official.
In a profile of his daughter published last week, the president acknowledged for the first time that he’d thought about selecting her because “she’s very good with numbers.”
But in an interview during a trip to Africa this week, Ivanka told The Associated Press that her father had in fact “asked me about that,” saying that he pitched it to her as a question.
“But I love the work that I’m doing,” she said of her current role, which includes advocacy on issues like workforce development and women’s empowerment. Instead, she noted, she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led the selection process, “bringing multiple candidates to the president ultimately for him to make the final decision.”
Calling Malpass a “strong preference,” she said the pair were “very aligned” and predicted that he would do an “unbelievable job” leading the bank, which provides loans to help eradicate global poverty.
The president, lavished his oldest daughter with praise in the interview published last week, asserting that she could run for president if she wanted to, and he suggested that he’d considered nominating her to replace Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador.
“She would’ve been great at the United Nations,” the president said, indicating that only public scrutiny held him back. “If I did, they’d say nepotism, when it would’ve had nothing to do with nepotism. But she would’ve been incredible.”
Ivanka deflected when asked by The AP if her father had approached her about other vacancies in his administration.
“I’ll keep that between us,” she responded. But while her father has talked up her presidential bona fides, calling her a “natural diplomat,” she told The AP she has no plans to run for office in the future.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson says he is working on legislation to help stem the flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Johnson wants to toughen the initial standard for asylum seekers to "more than a probable chance" they'll experience violence or persecution in their home ...
WASHINGTON (AP) - The special counsel's Trump-Russia report will be out on Thursday for all to see. But not all of it.
The Democrats' demands for a full, unredacted version of Robert Mueller's report are likely to prompt a political and legal battle that could last for months, if not ...
President Trump on Wednesday urged investors to pour their capital into poor and distressed "opportunity zones," saying there are great advantages for them under the 2017 GOP tax overhaul.
Companies that invest in one of the 8,000 zones across the U.S. will see a "big fat beautiful number of zero" ...
MIAMI — On the 58th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton addressed a group of Cuban-American veterans of the failed effort to topple Fidel Castro and announced a series of crackdowns on Cuba and its allies.
It was part of a call to arms to fight socialism abroad, but it was also a message for domestic consumption — particularly in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state and home to large Cuban-American and Central and South American communities.
With at least a half-million voters who were born in Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, or Nicaragua — and more with ancestral roots in these countries — it’s a constituency that could prove pivotal in November 2020 in a state that’s essential to Trump’s reelection fortunes.
“We will need your help in the days ahead. We must all reject the forces of communism and socialism in this Hemisphere — and in this country,” National Security Advisor John Bolton told the veterans’ group called Brigade 2506.
“Together, we can finish what began on those beaches, on those famous days in April, fifty-eight years ago today,” Bolton said to rousing applause from the aging brigade members who enthusiastically backed Trump in 2016 when he narrowly won the state.
The centerpiece of Bolton’s announcement of sanctions was the decision to activate a portion of the 1996 Libertad Act and allow U.S. citizens who had property seized in Cuba after Castro’s 1959 revolution to sue businesses who have profited off the “trafficking” in stolen land. The industries that could be affected include port construction firms, cruise ship companies, hotels, banks, agricultural interests and rum producers.
In all, Bolton announced seven separate crackdowns and sanctions targeting the governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which he referred to as the “troika of tyranny.” Bolton nicknamed Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega “the three stooges of socialism.” But he also mentioned President Obama, whose Cuba rapprochement policies Trump has been rolling back, more than any other name.
The Trump administration’s aggressive positioning in the Western Hemisphere was made clear by the national security advisor, who said Wednesday "we proudly proclaim for all to hear: the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well” — a policy used in the past to justify interventions in Latin America. Some in the crowd said they want tougher sanctions still and even military involvement in Venezuela, which remains an option Trump refuses to rule out.
The administration’s posture is a clear appeal to crucial segments of the Hispanic vote in Florida who helped the GOP win statewide last year.
“This is for us. This is a very strong sign of friendship,” said Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the former Miami Republican congressman who helped write and pass the 1996 Libertad Act, known as Helms-Burton, which also helped enshrine the Cuban embargo in statute. All administrations had waived the provision of the act allowing U.S. citizens to sue the Cuban government over their seized property until Trump.
“The reality is the community is very grateful to President Trump,” Diaz-Balart said. “We will not forget this.”
Cuban-Americans are the only Hispanic group in Florida that consistently votes Republican. Hispanics account for about 17 percent of the registered voters in the state, or roughly 2.3 million.
The voter rolls don’t break down Hispanic voters by country of origin, but experts and consultants estimate that about a third of the Hispanic voters are Cuban-American, who are clustered in Miami-Dade County and act as a Republican bulwark that has checked the increasingly Democratic electorate in the area.
As other Hispanic voters – especially Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans — flocked to Florida, the influence of the Cuban-American community began to wane in elections.
But the rise of Maduro’s dictatorial regime in Venezuela and Ortega’s return to power in Nicaragua gave Republicans hope that anti-Castro Cuban-Americans would find common cause with voters with roots in those countries under the GOP banner.
Led by former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, Republicans also increased their outreach to Colombian Americans, who watched their country years ago suffer from a civil war with leftist guerillas and are now witnessing it become destabilized by a massive migration crisis from its neighbor, Venezuela.
“The actions by the Trump Administration will lead to the further consolidation of the Cuban-American base and it will bring along Venezuelan voters, Nicaraguan voters and Colombian voters,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Miami who clashed with Trump but supports the policy against “rogue anti-American countries.”
Curbelo cautioned that any electoral benefit Trump could gain in Florida from the sanctions could be offset by “his anti-immigrant rhetoric and needless confrontations with Mexico and with our Central American allies.”
At the same time, Florida Democrats have fretted that progressives in other states, including controversial Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have given Trump entrée with these Hispanic voters by failing to properly denounce Maduro’s government. But Democrats have also criticized Trump for not giving temporary protective status to enough Venezuelans fleeing Maduro’s government.
Miami Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala, who slammed Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for failing to denounce Maduro as a dictator, said she was concerned that Trump’s new policy on the Libertad Act could be counterproductive.
“This change has the potential to hurt the Cuban people more than helping them; helping the Cuban people should be our priority,” she said.
Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor and expert on the state’s voting patterns, said that at least 358,000 voters in the state reported they were born in Cuba, 44,000 were born in Venezuela, 33,000 were born in Nicaragua and 96,000 were born in Colombia.
Only 24 percent of registered Hispanics in the state are Republicans and 39 percent are Democrats, but Smith noted that Republican Hispanic turnout was far higher in 2018, when Republicans made a strong push for Hispanic voters and criticized their Democratic opponents for being soft on socialism. For instance, in the 2018 election, 71 percent of the 150,000 registered Cuban-born Republicans turned out to vote, he said, compared to only 50 percent of Democratic and no party affiliation Cuban-born voters who cast ballots in 2018.
As for the effects of Trump’s policy announcements, Smith said, it’s hard to clearly quantify the benefits, if any.
“We know that 2nd and 3rd and 4th generation Cuban-Americans are not nearly as Republican as their parents and grandparents,” Smith said, “but we don't know whether their ideological ties to, or concerns abou,t the future of the island will trump the issues that are important to them in Florida--jobs, education, affordable housing, health care.”
One of the Bay of Pigs veterans who attended Bolton’s speech, Frank de Varona, said he and other Cuban-Americans have liked what they’ve seen from Trump, which is why they backed him in 2016 and will again in 2020. But he wants to see more, starting with Venezuela.
“If Trump doesn’t get rid of Maduro somehow by 2020, he’s going to lose a lot of support,” said de Varona, who favors U.S.-led airstrikes in Venezuela in combination with ground troops sent by Colombia and Brazil.
In his speech Wednesday, Bolton didn’t address the issue of military involvement. But he referenced the last presidential election and said more is to come from the administration.
“This is just the beginning. As long as the people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua stand for freedom, the United States will stand with them,” Bolton said. “The remarkable story of Brigade 2506 helped inspire President Trump’s hard-hitting Cuba policy. During the 2016 campaign, he visited you here in Miami; he heard your heroic accounts; he saw your stirring pictures; and today he is proud to stand by your side.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Sen. Kamala Harris is expressing regret for championing a truancy law during her time as California attorney general that threatened parents with prosecution if their children missed too much school.
In a “Pod Save America” interview that aired Tuesday, the Democratic presidential candidate said it “never was the intention” to criminalize parents and described the California law as one with “unintended consequences.”
“I regret that that has happened and the thought that anything I did could have led to that,” said Harris, who added that her office never used the law to send a parent to jail during her tenure as San Francisco’s district attorney.
Since she joined the race for the White House in January, the California senator has come under scrutiny for her law-and-order background, which some Democrats are wary of as the party faces questions of how it will handle criminal justice reform heading into 2020.
As the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements took off, tensions arose within blocs of liberal voters about the role of law enforcement in the United States. Harris presents her experience as a prosecutor as a strength in this area, but she also faces criticism from some who say that she aligned herself too closely with law enforcement during her political ascent.
In the interview aired Tuesday, Harris touted her efforts to fix what she called the “failing” education system by distinguishing between truancy and chronic truancy, a change that the senator said increased school attendance by more than 30 percent.
“My concern was if we don’t take seriously the need that we as a society should have to ensure that our children are receiving the benefit of an education, we will pay the price later,” Harris said. “And those kids will pay the price.”
She also said that if she were president, she would not support a law like the 2011 California measure that added jail time as a punishment for parents whose kids miss too many consecutive days of classes.
“I wanted to avoid a situation where those children end up being criminalized, some for their entire lifetime, because we failed them in the earliest stages,” Harris said.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Fox News announced Wednesday Sen. Amy Klobuchar as the next Democratic presidential candidate to speak in their own Fox News town hall following the success of Sen. Bernard Sanders town hall Monday.
"FOX News Channel continues to produce highly informative and respectful town hall events, delivering record viewership and providing ...
The Trump administration announced fresh sanctions Wednesday against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, further rolling back ties with Havana established by President Obama and saying the U.S. won't rest until its pressure topples the "troika" of socialist regimes.
White House national security adviser John R. Bolton outlined the new actions during ...
Elon Musk's Boring Company is one step closer to being able to construct an underground "loop" between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, that would be served by driverless cars through a tunnel, the Transportation Department announced Wednesday.
On Wednesday DOT announced that the loop project has completed its environmental assessment, a draft of which is available for public comment for the next 45 days. The agency will then determine if a full environmental impact statement is needed.
Significantly scaled down from the “hyperloop” for which Musk claimed to have gotten “verbal govt approval” nearly two years ago, the "loop" would transport passengers between the two cities via a tunnel 30 feet underground, with autonomous electric vehicles moving at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour — the maximum speed of Amtrak’s Acela train that serves the same city pair.
But Musk’s tweeted promise of “NY-DC in 29 mins” in a fixed-guideway hyperloop system of pressurized capsules traveling through sealed partial-vacuum tubes at some 600 miles per hour still appears to be a long way off.
DOT’s new Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council, created to respond to projects like the loop, is “reviewing the project closely to determine the scope of DOT’s safety oversight role,” according to DOT.
DOT noted that the Federal Highway Administration took the lead on this project because its proposed route underneath the Baltimore-Washington Parkway would use highway right-of-way. FRA, the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers are also cooperating on the environmental review process.
The loop project, consisting of twin 35-mile tunnels between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, is entirely privately funded. According to DOT, the proposed station terminals would be located on New York Avenue, northwest of D.C.’s Union Station, and in the Camden Yards area of downtown Baltimore.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire auto shop owner facing deportation to Lebanon for crimes committed 14 years ago has been denied a pardon that would have allowed him to remain in the country.
Alain Ata, 34, came to the U.S. with his family at age 10. He spent ...
Greg Walden is trying to find his own way in Donald Trump's party.
Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and former chief of the House GOP’s campaign arm, has broken ranks with Trump on a number of high-profile votes this year — rebuking the president on his signature border wall, backing Russia sanctions and voting with Democrats to end the historic 35-day government shutdown.
Facing a changing state back home and a new era of divided government in Washington, the Oregon Republican has been joining with a handful of his more moderate GOP colleagues to quietly cross the aisle and vote with the Democratic majority. But Walden isn’t ostentatious about his splits with the president, and in the Trump-era, he can’t go rogue too frequently if he wants a future in the GOP.
The 62-year-old has his sights on reclaiming the Energy and Commerce gavel for another term should Republicans take back the House next year, and he’s not eager to hurt his chances of being elected chairman or serving elsewhere in leadership.
“I’m a chairman in exile, dude,” the mild-mannered Walden insisted in an interview with POLITICO. “I’ve got two more years as chairman — that’s my focus.”
Yet Walden needs to win reelection if he wants to still be around in the next Congress, which could grow more challenging in his sprawling, rural district in eastern and central Oregon.
“It sure as heck ain’t getting any redder,” Walden, a lifelong Oregonian whose ancestors came to the state by wagon train in 1845, said of his district — the only one held by a Republican in the state.
Walden does not appear to be in immediate danger. He won reelection by 17 points in November, a comfortable margin of victory in a bad year for the GOP yet far smaller than his past wins. Trump carried the district by 21 points in 2016.
Since arriving in Washington two decades ago, Walden — a former radio station owner with a booming voice — has earned a reputation for his loyalty to the party.
Walden helped lead the House GOP to back-to-back victories as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014 and 2016. He also served as chairman of the Republican leadership under then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2010. And at the request of GOP leaders, he even briefly gave up his coveted seat on Energy and Commerce for another member.
Walden also played a major role in trying to repeal Obamacare, which led to Democrats back home lining up to race against him in 2018.
So Walden‘s occasional resistance to Trump this year has surprised some congressional observers, sparking speculation that Walden might be heading for the exits or eyeing a lucrative post-Congressional career on K Street.
But Walden swatted down the idea he was considering leaving Congress to cash in or run for statewide office. He says there is simply far less pressure to toe the party line in the minority, which has given him more freedom to vote his district — and conscience.
“At the end of the day, we don’t own your voting card,” Walden said of party leaders. “And you need to vote your district, too.”
“I think what upsets leadership is when you surprise them and they don’t see it coming,” Walden added.
The Oregon Republican is well respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, who describe him as both a savvy politician and serious legislator who likes to dig into the nitty-gritty policy details. They also think Walden is growing more comfortable with standing up to Trump as he picks and chooses his battles.
“He’s in a different role now as ranking member. He doesn’t have to be held hostage,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who also served with Walden’s late father in the state legislature. “He was on the partisan track and he was pretty good at it. He can be partisan when he wants to or thinks he needs to, but I do think that by nature, he is a little less hard-edged.”
Walden maintains that he hasn’t gotten any flak from GOP leadership for crossing party lines, but admits he did get “beat up from the base” back home for his votes on the border wall. Walden supported a resolution to kill the president’s national emergency declaration to build the wall and then voted to override Trump’s veto of the measure.
While he did fear a public lashing from the president, Walden also says the vote was a no-brainer for him, citing the dangerous precedent of allowing the president to circumvent Congress‘ power of the purse. And Walden pointed out that since there wasn’t enough support on Capitol Hill to ultimately overturn the veto, he had more leeway to cast his vote however he wanted.
“I’m sympathetic to what the president is trying to do” on border security, Walden said. “But… in my heart of hearts, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”
Walden parted with Republicans to back a series of spending bills to reopen the government during the painful, 35-day shutdown — another easy decision for Walden, who represents scores of federal employees who work for the Bureau of Land Management in his farm-heavy district.
The Oregon lawmaker also supported a resolution disapproving of the Trump administration’s decision to lift sanctions on three Russian companies and backed Democratic legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which contained new gun provisions and transgender protections that repelled most Republicans.
“It may not be perfect… I know it’s a process,” Walden said. “I was willing to lean forward and vote for VAWA.”
At the same time, Walden has fallen in line on other big votes where some of his moderate colleagues broke ranks. He voted against landmark gun control legislation, a bill to close the gender wage gap and a resolution condemning the Trump administration for supporting a lawsuit gutting Obamacare.
But while Walden has voted with Trump 92 percent of the time overall, he has been in lockstep with Trump for only 59 percent of the time this year, according to FiveThirtyEight.
That could help build some good will with Democrats as Walden tries to tackle prescription drug pricing, one of his top priorities on the Energy and Commerce Committee, or, perhaps climate change.
Walden has has become more vocal about addressing climate change in recent years — another departure from Trump and the GOP — and says the parties can find common ground on the issue. He recently wrote an op-ed with Republican Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) outlining some of their ideas.
Still, Walden has also repeatedly criticized progressives’ Green New Deal and backs GOP calls to hold a vote on the plan in a bid to expose Democratic divisions.
“We fight where we have to fight. But we came here to work,” Walden said. “That‘s been my M.O.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Video evidence of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other men soliciting prostitutes inside a Florida day spa will be released to the public, prosecutors Wednesday in court filings.
"Absent a Court order, the State will be releasing the requested public records once it has retrieved and reviewed the ...
Fox News announced Wednesday that it will host a town hall with Sen. Amy Klobuchar next month, its second event of the nascent 2020 campaign with a Democratic presidential candidate.
The town hall will take place on May 8 in Milwaukee and will be hosted by Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
News of Klobuchar’s town hall with the typically Trump-friendly network comes just days after Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the Minnesota senator's opponents for the 2020 Democratic nomination, participated in well-received town hall put on by Fox News. It also comes as Democrats work to reach out to voters outside of their typical audience in an effort to defeat President Donald Trump next year.
Sanders’ town hall on Monday was by most measures a success, drawing the most viewers for any town hall of the cycle despite airing outside prime-time hours. Sanders's event has prompted at least three other 2020 candidates aside from Klobuchar — Pete Buttgieg and Reps. Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell — to broach the same idea.
Fox last month also hosted a town hall with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who has said he is mulling a run for president as an independent in 2020.
For the network, offering President Donald Trump’s potential rivals airtime has clearly irked the president, who took repeated shots at Fox in the wake of Sanders’ town hall for giving prominent Democrats a platform there. Across several tweets Tuesday, the president questioned Fox’s hiring of former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile and accused the channel, without evidence, of blocking his supporters from the Sanders event.
Baier, who also hosted the Sanders town hall for Fox News, responded to the president's complaints by inviting him to participate in his own town hall event, noting that "it's been awhile" since the president has faced such questions. Trump has sat for interviews often with Fox News but does so mostly with the network's right-leaning opinion hosts, like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, or with "Fox & Friends," the morning show where he receives reliably warm coverage.
But for all of the praise for Sanders’ decision to participate in a Fox town hall, the move drew backlash from many in his base who have derided the network for being too chummy with the president or have sought to pressure the channel into firing hosts when they make controversial comments on air. The DNC appeared to endorse those concerns last month when it rejected Fox’s bid to host a Democratic debate, accusing the network of being too closely tied at its highest levels to the Trump administration.
Despite largely avoiding Fox News during the 2016 contest, Democrats have shown a greater willingness to appear on the network during the 2020 cycle. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who has defended the DNC decision not to partner with Fox News for a 2020 debate, occasionally appears on the network. Pete Buttigieg, who’s surged in recent polls, appeared on “Fox News Sunday” last month and Klobuchar sat for an interview with Baier for his show in February, an interview that garnered 2.4 million viewers, according to a press release.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Rep. Brad Sherman slammed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Wednesday for claiming Congressional Democrats were not "smart enough" to review President Trump's tax returns.
"I'm surprised to see Sarah Sanders talking about intelligence. If she thought that was an important characteristic, she probably would have chosen another employer," ...
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Anniston Star on legislative proposals:
With the Alabama Legislature, a deliberative body scarred by its repetitive and self-inflicted sins, inaction can count as victory. Alabamians often win when legislators fail. This is one of those times.
Two measures making their way through ...
Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:
Medford Mail Tribune, April 17, on Senate taking it easier on juvenile offenders:
Oregon's initiative process allows the people to enact laws directly when the Legislature cannot or will not do so. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to change Ballot Measure 11 to be ...
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers have advanced a scaled-back bill that could make it harder to install wind-energy transmission lines on private property if landowners object.
A new version the measure that was previously defeated won first-round approval Wednesday on a 40-1 vote.
The original bill would have barred ...
Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday said he made “thousands of dollars” in charitable donations not reflected in his tax returns, claiming his campaign is working to find evidence of contributions amid criticisms of the 2020 hopeful’s low giving rate.
The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson reported that O’Rourke told journalists that he and his wife, Amy, had made donations beyond what was itemized on his tax returns — which the former congressman released Monday night — because “it wasn’t important for us to take the deduction.”
The Texas Democrat published 10 years worth of his returns, becoming the latest primary candidate to respond to calls for transparency about their personal finances. In 2017, he and his wife reported an adjusted growth income of $366,455 and $1,166 in charitable donations – equating to a giving rate of 0.3 percent.
Speaking to reporters in Virginia on Wednesday, O’Rourke defended his relatively meager giving rate by saying he “didn’t expect to release his taxes because I never thought I’d be running for president.”
“We are trying to go back to some of these organizations to see if they can share with us, over the last 10 years, how much we have donated,” he said, adding that his family has also “donated time on the boards of nonprofits and, certainly, in public service and in public life.”
O’Rourke’s comments echoed his response to a question posed Tuesday at the University of Virginia by a college student who asked why the former congressman gave less to charity than her sister, whose income was seven times less than the candidate’s, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“I’ve served in public office since 2005,” he said. “I do my best to contribute to the success of my community, my state and now, of my country. There are ways that I do this that are measurable. And there are ways that I do this that are immeasurable.”
O’Rourke also came under fire Tuesday after the Wall Street Journal reported he and his wife may have underpaid around $4,000 by incorrectly reporting their medical expenses in 2013 and 2014, an error the candidate said he would amend “as appropriate.”
The former congressman is the latest primary contender rushing to quell potential fires ignited by the release of tax returns. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle in recent days since his returns — made public Monday — revealed he made more than $1 million in two of the past three years.
The backlash is mixed, however, with approval for those taking steps to be transparent, a dig at President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly rebuffed calls to release his taxes.
In addition to O’Rourke and Sanders, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee have publicly released varying years of their tax records. Several other Democratic hopefuls have pledged to do so, including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Democrats failed to strip language out of a Florida Senate school safety bill that would expand a law allowing some teachers to carry guns in school.
Senators spent nearly two hours Wednesday debating proposed amendments to a wide-ranging bill that would revise a law passed just ...
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed a new video Wednesday pushing her Green New Deal proposal and urging supporters to rally behind her vision — although failing to answer mounting questions about the cost of feasibility.
The seven-minute video features the superstar New York Democrat narrating from a future where her Green ...
President Trump on Wednesday said he offered condolences to Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, over the "the horrible and destructive" fire that consumed a large portion of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
He also said the U.S. will assist the rebuild.
"I offered the help of our great ...
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