breaking news


With early morning votes, Congress ends overnight government shutdown

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 12:30 AM

While most of America was asleep, the federal government suffered its second shutdown in less than a month, as one Republican Senator prevented action in Congress to avoid a budget lapse at midnight, forcing the House and Senate to work through the night to restore funding, ensuring that government offices would be open on Friday.

“This is the dumbest shutdown ever,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“It’s been an awful long night, and it didn’t need to be,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), as the House ended the shutdown just after 5:30 am, voting to approve a two-year budget deal.

The overnight session was forced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who single-handedly blocked action in the Senate before a midnight funding deadline, as he criticized fellow Republicans for backing a two-year budget deal which features almost $300 billion in spending increases in 2018 and 2019.

“If you were against President Obama’s deficits, and now you’re for the Republican deficits, isn’t that the very definition of hypocrisy?” Paul asked on the Senate floor, as he predicted the deal would mean the return of $1 trillion yearly deficits.

“I don’t advocate for shutting the government down, but neither do I advocate for keeping it open, and borrowing a million dollars a minute,” Paul added.

Other Republicans agreed with Paul, refusing to back the largest spending addition since the Obama Stimulus in 2009.

“Our federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). “This spending spree makes it worse.”

But those arguments failed, as a majority of both parties voted 71-28 at 1:52 am to approve the two-year budget deal unveiled on Wednesday, which included full funding for the military, and temporary funding for the rest of the federal government through March 23.

“Like any compromise, neither side got exactly what it wanted,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Other Democrats registered their disappointment with the lack of provisions on DACA and illegal immigrant Dreamers.

“I voted against this legislation because Dreamers are not included in it,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). “An overwhelming majority of the public supports legislation to protect Dreamers.”

While the Senate will start a wide open debate on immigration next Monday, it’s not clear when the House will work on DACA and the Dreamers, as Democrats repeatedly voiced their frustration.

“We ought to have a debate on this,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA). “It really is frustrating, at this late hour, that we can’t even get a committment from the Speaker of the House.”

As for the details of the budget agreement approved early Friday, it would funnel $165 billion in new money over the next two years to the Pentagon, along with $131 billion in new spending for domestic programs.

There was also $89.3 billion for hurricane aid, to help deal with damage in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We got what we needed in hurricane disaster assistance, to help people rebuild their lives,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

When combined with the almost $300 billion in new spending for defense and non-defense accounts, the hurricane aid brought the package to almost $400 billion.

For a lot of Republicans, that was not the right formula.

“The spending bill Congress is considering breaks just about every promise House Republicans have made over the last 8 years,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), who is leaving to run for Governor of Idaho.

“Do you oppose massive spending increases only when a Democrat is in the White House?” asked Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), as he echoed Rand Paul’s debate points in the Senate.

In debate on the House floor, most Democrats focused on the issue of DACA and the Dreamers, demanding a vote on legislation dealing with that immigration matter.

“All we want is a commitment,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), as Democrats continued to press House Speaker Paul Ryan for a concrete pledge on a DACA vote.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

Robert Mueller - Fast Facts

An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Files First Charges

Trending - Most Read Stories

White House: President Trump open to series of gun control ideas

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 11:20 AM

In the wake of the mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week, the White House told reporters on Tuesday that President Donald Trump is ready to discuss a range of gun restrictions that have been championed by Democrats in Congress, while also stressing that there is no quick legislative answer to such mass shootings.

Asked about the President’s past support for a ban on assault weapons, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not rule that out.

“I don’t have any specific announcements, but we haven’t closed the door on any front,” Sanders told reporters.

Along with supporting a bill to funnel more information into the instant gun buyers background check system, Sanders said the President favors tighter background checks, and did not oppose the idea of supporting new age limits for when someone can buy a weapon like an AR-15.

“I think that’s certainly something that’s on the table for us to discuss and that we expect to come up in the next couple of weeks,” Sanders told reporters, though she sounded a clear note of caution.

“Everybody wants a quick and simple answer,” Sanders added.  “But there isn’t one.”

Asked about banning ‘bump stocks’ – a device which makes semi-automatic weapons fire at a faster rate – Sanders hinted that action would soon happen administratively.

“I can tell you the President supports not having the use of bump stocks, and that we expect further action on that in coming days,” Sanders said.

“School safety is a top priority for my administration,” the President said moments later at a Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House.

“We must do more to protect our children,” Mr. Trump added, without going into any detail on what he might consider.

Back in the daily briefing, Press Secretary Sanders was asked about a tweet sent out by the President in recent days, where he said the FBI had failed to pick up a tip about the Florida shooter because of an excessive focus on the Russia investigation.

“I think he’s making the point that we would like our FBI agencies to not be focused on something that is clearly a hoax, in terms of investigating the Trump Campaign,” Sanders said.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Mueller unveils new indictment, charging lawyer with lying to investigators

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 5:04 AM

The probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections produced another indictment on Monday, as the feds charged a man with making false statements to investigators working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, also accusing the lawyer of deleting emails, and not cooperating with the probe.

The initial document released by a Washington, D.C. federal court showed Alex Van Der Zwaan lied about his interactions with Rick Gates, who has already been indicted by Mueller’s office.

Gates, who once worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign, already faces charges of a money laundering conspiracy, and failure to file as a foreign agent.

Even though there were only two pages of information released on Tuesday morning, the details of the indictment raised a series of interesting items.

+ Van Der Zwaan was accused of secretly recording phone calls before the 2016 elections:

+ The mention of Rick Gates comes as Gates has reportedly been in discussions with the Special Counsel’s office about a plea bargain agreement.

+ This new indictment includes references to a “Person A” and a “Law Firm A.”

The latest indictment came as the President again took to Twitter to talk about the Russia investigation.

Back at the White House after a long weekend in Florida, Mr. Trump on Tuesday once more suggested that the Russia investigation was mainly sour grapes about his defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016:

The New York Times had reported last September that the Skadden law firm in New York had been asked to produce information to the Mueller investigation.

Reportedly at the urging of former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, the firm had helped put together a report on the political situation in Ukraine, which was used to help the country’s Moscow-backed leader.

Trending - Most Read Stories

While Trump backs bipartisan gun bill, there’s no guarantee of action in Congress on guns

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 5:53 PM

The White House on Monday signaled that President Donald Trump is willing to back at least one bipartisan measure to strengthen the national instant check system for those who buy firearms, as Democrats in the House and Senate continued to argue that action by the Congress on gun violence is long overdue.

“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the Federal background check system,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

In a written statement sent to reporters, Sanders said the President spoke to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Friday; the Texas Republican has a bipartisan bill with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), which would force states and federal agencies to submit more information into the instant gun check system.

After a mass shooting last November in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 25 people died, the Air Force acknowledged that the killer – who received a ‘bad conduct’ discharge from the military – should not have been able to buy guns, but those records were never placed in the instant check system.

“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Cornyn said in November when he introduced this bipartisan gun measure.”

Democrats had hoped there would be action on that measure – just like they had hoped there would have been action to ban “bump stocks” after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, action on the “No Fly, No Buy” measure after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, and then the “FixNics” bill after the Texas shooting.

Last week’s shooting in Florida simply put all of those requests for legislation to deal with guns on repeat for Democrats.

“We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “And so, I’m asking – no, demanding – we take action now.”

Democrats would certainly like to do much more than the ‘FixNics’ bill, or banning bump stocks, as other ideas have popped up in recent days, like not allowing anyone under age 21 to buy weapons like an AR-15.

But as the President returned to Washington on Monday evening from a long weekend at his Florida retreat, it wasn’t clear if his support for one bipartisan plan would actually mean action – as GOP leaders have not put such measures on the fast track to a vote in the House and Senate.

On Sunday, when the President met with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Florida, the two men discussed a series of issues, including “the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida.”

The White House statement on their meeting did not characterize whether legislative action was discussed.

No action will happen on anything gun-related this week – as the Congress won’t be back on Capitol Hill for votes until February 26.

Trending - Most Read Stories