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House GOP votes to gut independent ethics office

Published: Monday, January 02, 2017 @ 8:42 PM
Updated: Monday, January 02, 2017 @ 10:46 PM
By: The Associated Press


            House GOP votes to gut independent ethics office
FILE- In this May 19, 2015, file photo, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Republicans on Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, voted to eviscerate the Office of Congressional Ethics. Under the ethics change pushed by Goodlatte, the independent body would fall under the control of the House Ethics Committee, which is run by lawmakers. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

House Republicans on Monday voted to eviscerate the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent body created in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct by lawmakers after several bribery and corruption scandals sent members to prison.

The ethics change, which prompted an outcry from Democrats and government watchdog groups, is part of a rules package that the full House will vote on Tuesday. The package also includes a means for Republican leaders to punish lawmakers if there is a repeat of the Democratic sit-in last summer over gun control.

Under the ethics change pushed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics would fall under the control of the House Ethics Committee, which is run by lawmakers. It would be known as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, and the rule change would require that "any matter that may involve a violation of criminal law must be referred to the Committee on Ethics for potential referral to law enforcement agencies after an affirmative vote by the members," according to Goodlatte's office.

Lawmakers would have the final say under the change. House Republicans voted 119-74 for the Goodlatte measure despite arguments from Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., against the change. They failed to sway rank-and-file Republicans, some of whom have felt unfairly targeted by the OCE.

"The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics," Goodlatte said in a statement.

Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reacted angrily.

"Republicans claim they want to 'drain the swamp,' but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions," the California lawmaker said in a statement. "Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress."

Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said Ryan should be ashamed of himself and his leadership team.

"We all know the so-called House Ethics Committee is worthless for anything other than a whitewash — sweeping corruption under the rug. That's why the independent Office of Congressional Ethics has been so important. The OCE works to stop corruption and that's why Speaker Ryan is cutting its authority. Speaker Ryan is giving a green light to congressional corruption."

The OCE was created in March 2008 after the cases of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who served more than seven years in prison on bribery and other charges; as well as cases of former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who was charged in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and pleaded guilty to corruption charges and former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., convicted on corruption in a separate case.

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AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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The name of the office in this story has been corrected to the Office of Congressional Ethics, rather than the Office of Government Ethics.

Ivanka Trump shuts down first lady rumors

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 7:51 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 8:17 PM
By: Carlin Becker

Ivanka Trump sat down with ABC News for a "20/20" interview to set the record straight on her role in her father's White House.

>> Read more trending stories

When interviewer Deborah Roberts asked about her reaction to claims that she's "going to be, essentially, the real first lady," the president-elect's daughter said, "Well, I think that's an inappropriate observation."

"There's one first lady," she continued. "And she'll do remarkable things."

>> Complete coverage of Donald Trump's inauguration 

Speculation swirled as to whether or not Ivanka Trump would fill in as the de facto first lady after it was announced that Melania Trump would not be moving into the White House until after her son Barron finished out his school year in New York. Such rumors were only amplified when reports came in that Ivanka Trump was house shopping in Washington, D.C., and when she officially announced a formal leave of absence from the Trump Organization and her fashion brand.

Adding fuel to the fire, the Office of the First Lady will reportedly be renamed the "Office of the First Family."

Ivanka Trump, however, put the first lady rumors to bed, even calling the assumption "a bit sexist," because it suggests that two women would not be able to find their own roles and identities within the administration.

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Ivanka Trump Jan 19, 2017 - 8:07 PM

A look back at presidential inaugurations: Past performers, attendance numbers

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 6:05 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 6:17 PM
By: Fiza Pirani - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


            A look back at presidential inaugurations: Past performers, attendance numbers
Past 10 Presidential Inaugurations

Presidential inaugurations didn’t always mean booking A-list celebrity performers and garnering over a million attendees. 

>> Read more trending stories

In fact, former president George W. Bush attracted an approximate total of 700,000 attendees for both of his inaugurations combined.

Nearly 900,000 people are expected to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade on Friday, according to the D.C. Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

RELATED: Donald Trump's inauguration: Here's a list of Democrats who are not attending 

And performers will include “America’s Got Talent” finalist Jackie Evancho, American country music artist Lee Greenwood, rock group 3 Doors Down, singer Toby Keith, YouTube stars The Piano Guys, DJ Ravidrums, The Frontmen of Country and Jon Voight.

RELATED: Donald Trump's inauguration: What time, what channel, live-stream, schedule of events 

It’s important to note that the exact number of attendees isn’t so easy to count. For decades, the National Park Service provided official crowd estimates for gatherings on the National Mall, according to the Associated Press. But that changed after 1995. 

To come up with this compilation, we relied on news archives to give you the data.

So, how do Trump’s attendance estimates and list of performers stack up against past presidential inaugurations?

Here’s a look back at the past 11:

LGBTQ activists hold 'Queer Dance Party' outside Mike Pence's house

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 12:44 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2017 @ 12:57 PM
By: Theresa Seiger - Cox Media Group National Content Desk


            LGBTQ activists hold 'Queer Dance Party' outside Mike Pence's house
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: Vice President-elect Mike Pence delivers remarks at the Chairman's Global Dinner, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on January 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.The invitation-only black-tie event is a chance for Trump to introduce himself and members of his cabinet to foreign diplomats. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images) (Pool)

With biodegradable glitter, rainbow flags and glow sticks in hand, about 200 protesters boogied their way to Vice President-elect Mike Pence's rented home in the Washington, D.C., area on Wednesday night to protest his stance on LGBTQ rights.

>> Read more trending stories

The protest, dubbed the "Queer Dance Party at Mike Pence's House," was organized by the groups WERK for Peace and DisruptJ20.

"Dance is so integral to the queer community as a form of self-expression and a form of asserting our power and our beauty and our love for one another," organizer Firas Nasr, 23, told The Washington Post. "We want to send a strong message to Pence that we're a united queer community. We've always stood united. There's always space to dance."

The group converged on the Friendship Heights Metro Station around 6 p.m. As the pulsing beats of gay icons including Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Madonna and Lady Gaga filled the air, protesters shimmied toward Pence's house in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, covering about 1.2 miles, with frequent dance breaks, CNN reported.

The protest was centered on Pence's record on gay and transgender rights. He has consistently opposed same-sex marriage, linking the unions to "societal collapse" in a 2006 speech. He opposed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, which would have banned sexual orientation-based discrimination.

"By extending the reach of federal law to cover sexual orientation, employment discrimination protections, in effect, can wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace," he said at the time. "We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience, whether it be in the public square or in the workplace."

Pence's Chevy Chase neighbors have flown hundreds of rainbow flags in silent support of gay rights since he arrived in town. Many watched Wednesday night's protest. Some carried snacks, according to CNN.

"I love this," 76-year-old Chevy Chase resident Mary Ann Carmody told The Washington Post. "I love the world. It's wonderful to see people on the street like this. We're lucky we can do this."

A few Donald Trump supporters were also seen near Pence's home, according to CNN, but the dancers did not interact with them.

It was not immediately clear whether Pence knew about the protest. At the time of the dance party, which started to disband around 8:30 p.m., Pence was hosting the vice president-elect's inaugural dinner across town.

Watch: Obama holds last presidential news conference

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 @ 3:27 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 @ 3:37 PM
By: Theresa Seiger - Cox Media Group National Content Desk


            Watch: Obama holds last presidential news conference
Best Moments From Obama's Farewell Address

President Barack Obama will answer questions during his final news conference as president on Wednesday afternoon, two days before President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration.

>> Read more trending stories

Obama is expected to face questions over allegations of Russian intervention in the presidential election and his decision to grant clemency to U.S Army soldier and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

>> Related: A look at Obama's legacy: 9 ways he will make his mark

The press conference is scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. EST.

Obama will welcome the incoming first family to the White House on Friday. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States in a ceremony that begins at 9:30 a.m.

>> Related: President Obama, first lady to take one final flight on presidential plane after leaving office

The Obamas will follow the ceremony with a trip to Palm Springs, California, White House officials confirmed Tuesday. The family will spent at least the next two years in Washington D.C.'s Kalorama neighborhood as daughter Sasha Obama finishes school.