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Judge to Trump: Muting, not blocking followers, may end suit

Published: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 2:35 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 2:35 PM

            President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A judge recommended Thursday that President Donald Trump mute rather than block some of his critics from following him on Twitter to resolve a First Amendment lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald suggested a settlement as the preferred outcome after hearing lawyers argue whether it's constitutional for Trump to block some followers.

"Isn't the answer he just mutes the person he finds personally offensive?" she asked. "He can avoid hearing them by muting them."

The hearing stemmed from a lawsuit filed in July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven people rejected by Trump after criticizing the Republican president.

Lawyers on both sides said they saw merit to the judge's suggestion but would need to consult with clients.

"It's not a perfect solution, but certainly, it is a pretty good one," said Katherine Fallow, a Knight institute lawyer.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Michael Baer agreed muting would enable Trump to avoid reading a tweet he doesn't want to read.

If no deal is reached, lawyers will rely on a written decision from Buchwald, who warned they might not like the outcome.

"Like with every case, there is always a risk you can lose," she said. "If there's a settlement, that serves the interests of all parties. It's often considered the wisest way to go."

The lawsuit was filed after Trump blocked some individuals from @realdonaldtrump, a 9-year-old Twitter account with nearly 50 million followers.

Baer argued that it was Trump's prerogative, no different from the president deciding in a room filled with people not to listen to some.

Buchwald said citizens have the right to send communications to the president in a variety of ways.

She quickly added: "I'm not remotely suggesting that citizens have the right to insist someone in the government read their mail. ... No one has the time. There are not remotely enough hours in the day."

Baer urged the judge to toss the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds or to find that blocking some followers doesn't violate the First Amendment because Trump is not regulating access to a public forum on Twitter.

Jameel Jaffer, the Knight institute's director, told Buchwald it was not necessary to issue an order against the president himself, since there are others involved with his account who can be required to enforce her decision.

Fallow asked Buchwald to find that Trump's Twitter feed is an official government account that operates as a public forum and thus blocking critics violates the First Amendment.

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McMaster out as Trump hires John Bolton as new National Security Adviser

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 2:34 PM

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he will be replacing his National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, replacing him with former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, in another big shake up on the White House staff.

Making the announcement on Twitter, the President said McMaster had “done an outstanding job,” though there had been reports for months that Mr. Trump was unhappy with the Army General, who is reportedly expected now to retire from the military.

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Defense gets major increase, pay raise for troops in budget plan

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:42 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:42 PM

            Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base could benefit from budget plan that passed the U.S. House Thursday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base could benefit from budget plan that passed the U.S. House Thursday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The U.S. House passed a massive spending bill Thursday which includes $700 billion for defense, spends billions more on aircraft, ships and tanks and provides a 2.4 percent pay hike for troops.

The $60 billion increase in military spending is the biggest in 15 years.

The budget plan also includes $300 million to continue cleaning the Great Lakes, $400 million for cleanup at a closed uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, and millions of dollars for Ohio to combat opioid addiction.

The $1.3 trillion measure, which needs Senate approval by Friday night, keeps the federal government open until the end of September.

The Air Force share is $183.6 billion, which also aims to add 4,000 airmen by 2020, Air Force officials have said. It includes nearly $25 billion for procurement of aircraft, space vehicles, missiles, and ammunition and more than $49 billion for operations and maintenance, budget documents show.

“For the Air Force, the higher level of spending in the budget bill offers an opportunity to fix nagging readiness problems while moving forward with long delayed plans to replace Cold War aircraft,” Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant, said in an email. “It also provides seed money for a transformation in how the Air Force will assure U.S. air and space superiority in the future.”

The spending bill includes $1.08 billion to upgrade the Abrams M-1 tank. Most of that money will be spent at the JSMC plant in Lima.

Across all research, testing and technology accounts, it adds $25.6 billion, documents show.

Impact at Wright-Patterson

The influx of dollars is a particular windfall for research spending at the Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson, observers said.

“For Wright Patterson, the impending budget increase signals a surge in research spending to unprecedented peace time levels,” Thompson said. “This could be the beginning of a golden age for the Air Force’s premier research and modernization site if Washington can find a way of keeping spending levels high in the years ahead.”

AFRL’s budget could exceed last year’s level of $4.8 billion, which was nearly split between government appropriations and sponsored research.

This time, about $1.2 billion of that in government appropriations is headed to Wright-Patterson, according to spokespersons in U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

A breakdown of other budgets at Wright-Patterson was not yet available, spokeswoman Marie Vanover said Thursday.

But in some research accounts, such as materials and aerospace vehicles, spending could rise as much as 20 percent, said Michael Gessel, vice president of federal programs at the Dayton Development Coalition.

The budget boost bodes well for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, also headquartered at Wright-Patterson, with money beyond the president’s request to procure more aircraft and will jump start new contracts that had been on hold without a permanent budget, Gessel said.

“The larger, overall funding level provided by this bill, which is accompanied by additional flexibility on spending authority, will relieve many budgetary pressures as the funding makes its way from Washington to field operations, including Wright-Patterson,” Gessel said in an email.

“There are provisions which give more flexibility in personnel management of civilian defense workers. This is important to Wright-Patterson because of the large percentage of civilians who work on the base.”

Non-defense spending

The bill provides $3 billion to reduce opioid addiction, of which $1 billion is set aside for grants that will go directly to the states. Fifteen percent of the state grant money has been earmarked for states which have been hardest by opioids, such as Ohio.

“This is good news for Ohio and good news for the millions of Americans who continue to struggle with addiction,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “I’m particularly pleased that the bill includes $60 million for states to develop an infant plan of safe care to help newborns exposed to opioids and their families.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said “while we know there is more work to be done,” the money in the bill “is a meaningful step forward for Ohio.”

The money for the Great Lakes was inserted into the bill after the White House did not include any money for the program, known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The program has strong bipartisan backing from lawmakers from both parties, such as Portman and Brown.

Both Brown and Portman pushed for more money to continue the cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, about 65 miles south of Columbus. The $400 million, Brown said, should guarantee no additional layoffs at the facility.

How Ohio lawmakers voted

The House passed the measure by a vote of 256-to-167 with local Republicans Mike Turner of Dayton and Steve Chabot of Cincinnati voting yes.

Republicans Jim Jordan of Urbana and Warren Davidson of Troy voted no.

In an interview on Fox News, Jordan complained that the 2,200-page bill “grows the government at a $1.3 trillion price tag which will lead to a trillion dollar deficit,” adding “this may be the worst bill I have seen in my time in Congress.”

By contrast, Columbus-area Congressman Steve Stivers said the measure “provides critical funding for our military and veterans, resources for opioid addiction prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, and resources for our schools to keep our kids safe.”

The Senate must approve the bill because lawmakers from both parties were unable to agree on a budget for the 2018 spending year which began on October 1 and ends on September 30. By passing the bill, the Senate guarantees the government will remain open for next seven months.


Get the latest news from our team on our Ohio Politics Facebook page and on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics

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Attorney representing Trump in Russia probe resigns

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 1:15 PM

In this April 29, 20111, file photo, attorney John Dowd walks in New York.
AP Photo/Richard Drew, File
In this April 29, 20111, file photo, attorney John Dowd walks in New York.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The top lawyer representing President Donald Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election resigned Thursday, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Attorney John Dowd’s resignation came days after he called for an end to Mueller’s investigation, claiming it was “manufactured” by former FBI Director James Comey and based on an infamous -- and mostly unverified -- dossier that was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“I love the president and wish him well,” Dowd wrote Thursday in an email to The Washington Post.

>> More on Robert Mueller's investigation

The newspaper reported that Dowd’s departure was “a largely mutual decision” based on Trump’s recent belief that Dowd couldn’t handle Mueller’s investigation and the attorney’s frustration with the president’s recent additions to his legal team. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow earlier this week brought one of his friends, veteran Washington attorney Joseph diGenova, onto the team, according to The New York Times.

It was not immediately clear who would take over as lead of the president’s legal team. 

>> Related: Trump slams Mueller, McCabe in Sunday tweets

“John Dowd is a friend and has been a valuable member of our legal team,” Sekulow said Thursday in a statement to the Times. “We will continue our ongoing representation of the president and our cooperation with the office of special counsel.”

CNN reported that Dowd’s exit could hint that Trump’s legal team plans to become more aggressive in defending the president.

>> Related: Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Dowd, who took over Trump’s legal team last summer, has advised the president to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation and refrain from publicly attacking the special counsel, the Times reported. Still, Trump has targeted Mueller for criticism in recent days, repeating his claims that the probe is little more than a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Last month, Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three organizations on charges of interfering in the election. Three of Trump's associates -- former national security adviser Michael Flynn, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and campaign aide George Papadopoulos -- have pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has pleaded not guilty to a variety of money laundering and other criminal charges.

13 Russian Nationals And 3 Russian Companies Indicted In Mueller Probe
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Trump proposes $50 billion in new tariffs on imports from China

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 9:16 AM

Continuing his campaign vow to get tough on countries which don’t play fair on trade, President Donald Trump on Thursday recommended slapping nearly $50 billion in new tariffs on products from China, as he accused the Chinese of stealing American technology.

“This has been long in the making,” the President told reporters at the White House, as he said his pledge to do something about unfair trade practices was just getting started.

“It’s probably one of the reasons I was elected, maybe one of the main reasons,” Mr. Trump said, as he has steadfastly resisted the calls of Republicans in Congress to stay away from tariffs on imported goods, which critics say are nothing more than a tax on American consumers.

“We’re doing things for this country which should have been done for many, many years,” the President added.

Trump Administration officials will now go over proposals for tariffs on all sorts of goods imported from China, much different than the targeted tariff plan that Mr. Trump approved earlier this month on imported steel and aluminum.

“It’s out of control,” the President said of the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China.

At the same event, Vice President Mike Pence said today’s move against China again signaled that the “era of economic surrender” is over when it comes to the United States.

“The United States of America is taking targeted and focused action to protect not only American jobs, but American technology,” Pence added.

The reaction in Congress was much more muted than a move to impose new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum coming into the country, when a number of Republicans denounced the idea of tariffs, arguing it could spark a trade war.

As the President’s decision was announced, Wall Street markets went down, with investors worried by a possible trade fight with the Chinese.

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