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By Paige McGlauflin

WASHINGTON – Sen. Joe Mancin (D-W.Va.) said former drug czar nominee Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) was “not the person” for the position following The Washington Post/60 Minutes report on his connections to the drug industry.

Manchin was speaking at a panel on the opioid epidemic hosted by The Post along with Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

“I knew right then that congressman Marino was not the person to be leading the drug czar,” Manchin said at the panel, “because no one in West Virginia would believe after that article, and also y’all collaborating with 60 Minutes, would ever believe he was gonna be fighting for them.”

Marino had pushed through Congress a law in 2016 that prevented the DEA from putting restrictions on drug distributors, who have a large role in the opioid epidemic that claimed more than 60,000 lives in the past year.

Marino, who was also shown in the report to have received more than $100,000 from PACS connected to the drug industry, withdrew his nomination on Tuesday following the report. The position he was nominated for would have enabled him to direct drug-control policies in the U.S.

Manchin also wrote a letter addressed to the president on Monday urging him to remove Marino from consideration.

Manchin also praised the Post and 60 Minutes reporters for their work.

“I wanna thank you all because if you hadn’t done that, this would still be simmering,” he said at the panel.

Manchin also has introduced a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Hassan and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to repeal the 2016 legislation.

WASHINGTON- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he is not pleased that the governor of his home state has decided to join the Republican party.

“I am disappointed by Gov. Justice’s decision to switch parties,” Manchin said in a Thursday evening statement following Justice’s announcement at a Huntington rally alongside President Donald Trump.

“While I do not agree with his decision, I have always said that I will work with anyone, no matter their political affiliation, to do what is best for the people of West Virginia,” he explained.

Justice has occupied the state’s highest office since January and is expected to officially change his party registration today.

Manchin, who served as governor of West Virginia before being elected to the Senate, is regarded by many political pundits to be one of the few remaining conservative-leaning Democrats. Manchin’s voting record suggests he is generally pro-life as well as pro-Second Amendment.

West Virginia was long considered a Democratic bastion due to strong support from card-carrying union members who worked in coal mines but as the party became more environmentally conscious and socially progressive Mountain State voters began supporting Republican candidates.

Bill Clinton in 1996 was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election.

President Donald Trump, who has promised to bring dissipating coal mining jobs back to West Virginia, carried the Mountain State by 42 points in last year’s  presidential election.

Republicans occupy West Virginia’s three congressional seats. The Mountain State’s representation in the upper chamber is evenly divided.

WASHINGTON- Red-state Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) said Thursday they will vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Federal District Judge Neil Gorsuch.

“After considering his record, watching his testimony in front of the Judiciary Committee and meeting with him twice, I will vote to confirm him to be the ninth justice on the Supreme Court,” Manchin said in a statement.

“After doing my due diligence by meeting with Judge Gorsuch and reviewing his record and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve decided to vote in favor of his confirmation,” Heitkamp said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that he will filibuster Gorsuch and more than a dozen fellow Senate Democrats also have suggested that they would participate in the filibuster.

A filibuster is a procedural tool that allows a senator to hold the floor and delay or prevent a vote on a proposal.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and several fellow Republicans on committee have suggested that they would be willing to invoke the  “nuclear option” in response to a Democratic filibuster.

Invoking the nuclear option would change Senate rules because it lowers the threshold for breaking a filibuster from 60 votes to a simple majority.

Republicans occupy 52 seats.

Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing last week before Grassley’s committee faced tough questioning from Democrats regarding his judicial philosophy on issues such abortion, Affordable Care Act contraception mandates, and the separation of church and state.

Gorsuch responded to critics on the committee by stating that his judicial rulings are based on the interpretation of law rather than ideological preference.

Many Democrats are still outraged that Senate Republicans refused to grant a hearing for D.C. federal appellate judge Merrick Garland who had been appointed to the high court by then-President Barack Obama in early 2016 to occupy the seat left vacant by deceased conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

The seat has been vacant since that time.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Gorsuch Monday and a floor vote is expected next Friday.











WASHINGTON — CASA, the nation’s largest advocacy group for Latino immigrants, said that its legal department will start today handling appointments and paperwork for the federal program known as DACA, which grants temporary protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants brought to the U.S. as children.

A federal judge ruled last week that President Donald Trump acted improperly by planning to end DACA in March, according to USA Today.

But Trump tweeted: “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.”

Both GOP and Democratic members who are working on DACA say there is bipartisan support for it.

Different perspectives

A conservative columnist said President Trump called friends to brag after the meeting in which the president reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s…hole countries.”

Erick Erickson, who has in the past been critical of Trump, said in a tweet, “It’s weird that people in the room don’t remember Trump using that word when Trump himself was calling friends to brag about it afterwards.”

Erickson added, “I spoke to one of those friends. The president thought it would play well with the base.”

Trump joined two Republican senators in disputing that he made derogatory comments during a meeting on immigration last week.

Later Trump told reporters “I am not a racist” and denied reports that he referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s…hole countries.”

Trump said: ” I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”

Trump vs. the Wall Street Journal

President Trump’s latest “fake news” call is against the Wall Street Journal, according to USA Today.

The newspaper quoted Trump as saying, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” the country’s leader.

Trump says he said “I’d” — a contraction for “I would” — that changes the meaning of what he said. In the Wall Street Journal version, Trump and Kim are friendly. In Trump’s version, such a relationship might be possible under some other circumstance.

The Wall Street Journal isn’t backing down.

In its own tweet, the newspaper said, “We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported.”

Pope urges communities to welcome immigrants, refugees

During a special Mass on Sunday, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis urged communities to welcome migrants and refugees.

Francis said that while both established communities and immigrants may have fears of the other, it was important to welcome migrants and to help them integrate into communities, HuffPost reported.

Francis said, “Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived will disturb the established order, will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up.”

He added that the “newly arrived…are afraid of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.”

On the day before Martin Luther King’s birthday, churchgoers said President Trump’s denigration of immigrants was one more turn toward an uglier past in America.

GOP targets employer health insurance mandate

The GOP wiped out the Affordable Care Act individual mandate that employees have health care coverage and is now targeting the requirement that employers offer coverage to their employees, according to The New York Times.

Many employers are cheering the effort.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, an influential lobby for companies such as Dow Chemical, Microsoft, and BP, the oil producer, said the individual mandate and the employer mandate are “inextricably entwined.”

He added, “It is inequitable to leave the employer mandate in place.”

GOP Reps. Devin Nunes of California and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania recently introduced a bill, supported by GOP leaders, to suspend the mandate.

Said Kelly, “The employer mandate is a job-killer, a wage-killer, and a business-killer.”

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About 42 percent of American employers will be closed today in observance of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, according to an annual survey by Bloomberg Law. The U.S. stock market is closed, as it is for the slightly less popular President’s Day.

Charles Anderson, chief executive officer of the Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan, said in an interview, “I would suppose that there’s more recognition for the need of diversity and the need to recognize the sensitivity of certain holidays.”

A fight for racial equality has taken on new urgency in parts of the U.S. as President Trump has focused on restricting immigration, particularly for non-white people, and made comments seen as sympathetic to white nationalists. On Thursday, the day before he welcomed African-American leaders to the White House to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Trump came under fire for reportedly disparaging immigrants from Africa and Haiti.

Trump tweeted Friday: “I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service activities in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy.”

GOP Senators enthusiastic about Romney run

Senate Republicans are eager for Mitt Romney to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah with some hoping he will emerge as an independent counterweight to President Trump.

The midterm election is shaping up as a referendum on Trump’s first two years in office — a dynamic that could endanger GOP control of the Senate, given that the president’s approval rating has hovered around 35 percent.

Some Senate Republicans worry that Trump is coloring the GOP brand in a way that could hurt their party’s prospects, even though they largely support his agenda and are thrilled about his role in helping to pass a major tax bill.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, the most outspoken of Trump’s critics in the Senate GOP conference, said Romney would “offer a different vision, a more traditional Republican vision” if he came to the Senate.

Government shutdown looms… again

Time is running out for Congress to avert a government shutdown amid fragile bipartisan negotiations for an immigration deal, according to The Hill.

Current government funding runs out after Friday, meaning lawmakers have only three days to figure out how to avoid a damaging shutdown when they recovene Tuesday..

GOP leaders said they expect to pass another short-term patch, known as a continuing resolution (CR), which would be the fourth since September.

But corralling the votes for yet another CR will be difficult, given the consternation among both Republicans and Democrats to support it without conditions.

GOP defense hawks are loath to vote for another CR without a long-term budget deal in place for the Pentagon. Lawmakers from states ravaged by recent natural disasters are also pushing for federal aid that was sidelined last month.

Democratic lawmakers don’t want to help GOP leaders keep the government open without an agreement that ensures protections for 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Those immigrants could soon be at risk of deportation because President Trump announced it would phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Ford to bite the Bullitt again… Mustang that is

The Mustang that actor Steve McQueen drove into Hollywood history for the 1968 movie Bullitt emerged for the first time in 40 years at the Detroit auto show in tandem with the debut of a new, limited-edition 2019 Mustang Bullitt.

The special model, due out this summer, will be available only in Shadow Black or Dark Highland Green. It has a 5-liter V-8 engine that packs at least 475 horsepower and tops out at 163 miles per hour – an 8 mph increase over the latest Mustang GT.

Like the original Bullitt car, the third-generation vehicle lacks stripes, spoilers or badges.

Chief designer Darrell Behmer says, “It doesn’t need to scream about anything. It’s just cool.”

The all-new Mustang Bullitt is equipped with manual transmission, and the gear shifter features a white cue ball shift knob as a nod to the original. Standard equipment reflects a new era, with a heated leather steering wheel and high-tech amenities.

Trump on Hawaii false missile alarm

President Trump made his first public comments since the false alarm of a ballistic missile heading toward Hawaii, saying he thought it was “terrific” that the state took responsibility for the error.

Trump said Sunday, “That was a state thing, but we are going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. They took total responsibility.”

He added, “But we are going to get involved.

The false alert sparked mass confusion and panic across the state when it was sent Saturday. State officials took nearly 40 minutes to correct the alarm.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the false alert was sent when an employee accidentally pushed the wrong button during a shift change.

Vern Miyagi, who oversees the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (EMA), said the employee, who made the mistake, feels “terrible” and has been reassigned.

The White House said that the alert was “purely a state exercise” although officials in Hawaiii said the incident was an accidental.

The alert came amid heightened tensions with North Korea. Trump has repeatedly threatened the country since taking office over its nuclear weapons tests.

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning gears up for Senate race

Chelsea Manning has released the first campaign ad in her bid for a Maryland Senate seat.

The transgender activist and former soldier filed to run for Senate on Thursday, and confirmed the bid with a campaign ad she posted to Twitter on Sunday.

The whistleblower was sentenced to 35 years for releasing confidential military and State Department documents, but former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence to seven years, leading to her release in 2017. Manning has been a visible activist for LGBTQ rights and other causes since her release. She would become the first openly transgender member of Congress if elected to the Senate.

Manning will run against Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland in the November Democratic primary.

“We live in trying times. Times of fear, of suppression, hate,” Manning says as images of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and protesters clashing with police are shown.

She continues: “We don’t need more or better leaders, we need someone willing to fight.

The ad then shows images of lawmakers, including Democrats meeting with President Trump.

Manning says, “We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves, we need to actually take the reins of power from them…. We need to challenge this at every level. We need to fix this. We don’t need them anymore, we can do better.”

She ends with her well-known hashtag #WeGotThis.

Vigil held for mudslide victims

Thousands of mourners gathered Sunday night to remember the 20 victims killed in last week’s devastating mudslides in Montecito, and to give thanks to rescue workers still painstakingly picking through the debris fields.

Four people are still missing, and authorities now say at least 73 homes have been destroyed, with hundreds of more buildings damaged.

The slides, caused by heavy rains falling on the burn scar left by December’s Thomas fire, ripped homes in half, tore others from their foundations, and in some cases filled what was left with a stinking mass of ash and mud. Even U.S. Highway 101, a six-lane coastal highway, remains closed indefinitely.

Car hacking is a real threat

BlackBerry CEO John Chen is scheduled to speak at the Detroit auto show today and announce a new cybersecurity product aimed at protecting data collected and processed by connected and autonomous vehicles.

Automakers are making progress in protecting vehicles from cyber-attacks, but the threat is still real and could get more serious in the future when driverless cars begin talking with each other.

A worst-case scenario? Imagine hackers infiltrating a vehicle through an infotainment system before taking control of the car’s driving features.

GOP fears Democratic Midterm WAVE

A raft of retirements, difficulty recruiting candidates and President Trump’s low approval rating and his continuing pattern of throwing his party off message have prompted new alarm among Republicans that they could be facing a Democratic electoral wave in November, according to The Washington Post.

The concern has grown so acute that Trump received what one congressional aide described as a “sobering” slide presentation about the difficult midterm landscape at Camp David, leading the president to pledge a robust schedule of fundraising and campaign travel in the coming months, White House officials said.

A conservative political strategist who has met with GOP candidates says, “When the wave comes, it’s always underestimated in the polls. That is the reason that Republicans are ducking for cover.”

Other indicators are clearly flashing GOP warning signs. Democrats have benefited from significant recruitment advantages — there are at least a half-dozen former Army Rangers and Navy SEALs running as Democrats this year, for example — as Republicans struggle to convince incumbents to run for reelection.

Flake to condemn Trump’s criticism of news media

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona plans to give a speech in the coming days that compares President Trump’s public criticism of the news media to similar comments once made by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, according to The Washington Post.

A spokesman said that Flake, who will retire after this year amid intense political pressure sparked by his criticism of the president, plans to deliver the speech Wednesday before Trump announces the winners of his self-described “fake news” awards.

Trump announced via Twitter that he would be handing out awards Wednesday to news outlets he thought unfairly covered him.

Flake continues to be one of Trump’s most frequent critics, often speaking out to warn that the president’s words and actions could be detrimental to the future of the Republican Party and the nation’s standing worldwide..

GOP’s brutal Arizona primary fight

Republicans hoping to hold on to the Arizona Senate seat currently held by GOP Sen. Jeff Flake face an increasingly tumultuous primary environment, with firebrand former sheriff Joe Arpaio entering the race from the right and Rep. Martha McSally trying to win over President Trump’s supporters without alienating more moderate general election voters.

Arpaio’s entry changes the calculus of a race that could become one of the more brutal primaries in the country.

Arpaio, whose criminal contempt conviction Trump pardoned last year, came just days before McSally joined the primary. Arpaio made his name as an immigration hard-liner and promoter of the discredited conspiracy theory that former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States, but McSally is the party establishment pick meant to appeal in the general election.

McSally doesn’t have a clear path in the late August primary for the seat that opened when Flake announced his retirement.  Former GOP state Sen. Kelli Ward was originally the only candidate running from the right, but new polling shows Arpaio close to McSally while siphoning off Ward’s conservative supporters.

 S—hole” projected on President Trump’s D.C. hotel

“Pay Trump bribes here,” “emoluments welcome” and “we are all responsible to stand up and end white supremacy” along with “S…hole” were projected onto the Trump International Hotel several blocks away from the White House.

Trump has faced intense backlash for calling Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “s—hole countries” during an Oval Office meeting on immigration this week.

Trump reportedly said, and the White House initially did not deny Trump’s remarks, ““Why are we having all these people from sh–hole countries come here before suggesting that the U.S. bring in more immigrants from countries like Norway.

Trump later disputed the reports on Twitter.

Lawmakers, media figures and world leaders have all decried Trump’s comments. The African Union, representing all 55 African countries, demanded Saturday that Trump apologize for the remarks.

Former Defense Secretary Hagel rips Trump

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tore into President Trump after the president reportedly referred to Haiti and African nations as “sh..hole countries.”

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, told the Lincoln Journal Star, “Donald Trump is doing great damage to our country internationally.”

Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who expressed disgust with Trump’s treatment of the families of slain soldiers, noted that lawmakers take an oath of office to the Constitution when they assume office.

He said, “We take an oath of office not to a president, not to a party, not to a philosophy, but to the Constitution of the United States.”.

He said he believes the U.S. and the world have started “a defining year, a year of volatility and uncertainty and great danger.”

He said, “We have not really seen these kinds of times since Watergate and Vietnam.”

Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ could violate ethics rules

President Trump’s much-ballyhooed “Fake News Awards” has drawn attention from ethics experts who say the event could run afoul of White House rules and, depending on what exactly the president says during his Wednesday announcement, the First Amendment, according to Politico.

The White House has not yet said what form the awards presentation may take. But Norman Eisen, the former special counsel for ethics for President Barack Obama, and Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, have both tweeted that if White House staff members were involved, they would be in violation of the executive branch’s Standards of Ethical Conduct, which ban employees from using their office for “the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.”

Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, agreed, telling Politico that there are plenty of valid reasons for executive branch employees to use their position to criticize private enterprises — if a bus company were violating federal safety regulations, for instance — but that helping put on an event to bash the media would not qualify.

2018 midterms—all-out war

The 2018 congressional midterm elections are on the verge of turning into an all-out war, and one of the most powerful Republican-led super PACs is preparing to take aim at 10 states as they try to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate, FOX Business has learned.

The Senate Majority Leadership Fund, a PAC dedicated to keeping the Senate in the hands of Republicans, is planning to focus its efforts on removing Senate Democrat incumbents from many of the states that President Trump won during the 2016 election, with their top targets being West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Florida, according to sources close to the PAC.

They also plan to protect Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona, which are already held by GOP Senators Dean Heller of Nevada and retiring Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, according to those same sources.

The PAC’s blueprint includes unleashing a bevy of attack ads against the eight Democrat incumbents: Joe Manchin of Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Carolina, Joe Tester of Montana., Joe Donnelly of Indiana Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota., Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Bill Nelson of Florida.

The ads will focus on these Democrats voting against the tax reform bill and will attempt to label them as obstructionists, a title many in the GOP have come to give those who they claim turned against the Republican agenda, according to those familiar with the decision making.

Possible GOP push to get U.S. environmentalists to register as foreign agents

U.S. environmental activists who are working to halt the production and use of fossil fuels could be required to register as foreign agents if Congress gets serious about enforcing an existing law, according to Fox News.

GOP Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced legislation that would put strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act and some see that as an effort to corral environmentalists who oppose U.S. expansion of fossil fuels, which could be helping foreign governments.

The law, which was first passed in 1938, calls for individuals and organizations to provide full disclosure when they are working to advance the public policy interests of a foreign government.

As the Washington Examiner reported, Grassley’s proposed legislation would close off an exemption that has allowed lobbyists for foreign interests to avoid registration while providing the U.S. attorney general with additional authority to conduct investigations.

State legislatures double down to restore net neutrality

are waging their own fight to restore net neutrality rules after the Federal Communications Commission moved to scrap them last month.

Lawmakers in at least six state governments have introduced legislation to preserve the rules, and legislators in other states are in the process of considering their own net neutrality bills.

The push comes after the FCC voted in December in favor of Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to roll back the regulations, which prevented internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon from slowing down certain content or requiring websites to pay for faster speeds.

To date, California, Washington, New York, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Massachusetts have all introduced net neutrality. North Carolina and Illinois are mulling similar legislation.

Other state lawmakers across the country are pursuing similar legislation in the hopes that their regulations would force internet service providers to apply net neutrality rules nationwide.

Lawmakers in these states say the bills have been inspired by frustration at an FCC that they feel has ignored the public, which overwhelmingly supports net neutrality.

Norway… Coming to America

Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship is heading to New York.

A top executive at the Miami-based cruise line revealed that the soon-to-debut, 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss would operate out of the Big Apple for several months starting in November 2019.

The deployment will come after Bliss’ inaugural seasons in Alaska and the Caribbean. The vessel is scheduled to debut in April, according to USA Today.

At 167,800 tons, Bliss will rank among the 10 largest cruise vessels in the world. Designed to have all the trappings of a major mega-resort, Bliss will feature such over-the-top amusements as a two-deck-high racing course where passengers compete against each other in electric go-carts — a first for a vessel based in North America.

Bliss also will have a sprawling water park with multi-story water slides; a restaurant-lined boardwalk; Tony Award-winning production shows including Jersey Boys, and a giant spa. Dining options will include a modern Texas barbecue eatery called Q that will feature live pop country music — a new concept for the line.

Ivana Trump says president is confused, but not a racist

Donald Trump’s ex-wife said he is not racist but may say “silly things” because he is confused by the conflicting advice he receives.

Ivana Trump told “Good Morning Britain” today that contrary to the criticism that flooded the media after the president was accused of using “hate-filled, vile and racist” language in the Oval Office after he reportedly criticized immigrants coming to the United States from “s—hole countries.”

She said: “I don’t think Donald is racist at all. Sometimes he says things which are silly, and he does not really mean them, but he definitely is not racist.”

She added, “He has so many people telling him left and right what to say, what not to say, and maybe it gets confusing.”

GOP satisfaction with U.S. direction highest since 2007

Republicans’ satisfaction with the direction of the U.S. is at its highest point since 2007, according to a new poll reported in an article in The Hill.

A Gallup poll finds that 61 percent of Republicans are satisfied with the direction of the country.

About one in four Republicans say they are very satisfied, and 36 percent are somewhat satisfied.

However, nearly one-quarter of Republicans say they are somewhat dissatisfied with the direction of the country and 15 percent say they are very dissatisfied.

Just 7 percent of Democrats in the new survey say they are satisfied with the country’s direction. Sixty-eight percent say they are very dissatisfied and another 25 percent say they are somewhat dissatisfied.

Among all Americans, 29 percent are satisfied with the direction of the country and 69 percent are dissatisfied.

Metrorail train derailment in capital

No injuries are reported after a Metrorail train derailed early today in downtown Washington, D.C.

Authorities say 63 people were on board the train.

The Red Line train derailed between Farragut North and Metro Center.

Maryland executive indicted in Uranium One deal

A grand jury reportedly brought charges in the Uranium One investigation against a man who investigators say tried to bribe a Russian official at the country’s state-run nuclear energy corporation, according to The Hill.

Mark Lambert, former head of a Maryland-based transportation company, was indicted on 11 counts of money laundering and wire fraud, according to the New York Post.

The Uranium One investigation centers on the Obama administration’s clearing of a business deal that allowed a Russian nuclear firm to buy a Canadian uranium mining company with assets in the U.S.

Trump ‘inflames’ congressional differences

Coons said on CNN’s “New Day” during a discussion about President Trump’s reported use of derogatory language to describe Haiti and some African nations at a White House meeting with lawmakers: “It’s disappointing that this has dissolved into a fight over who said what at that meeting.”

He said, “What matters more is what we do next because it’s going to get even harder now for us to come together and reach any sort of an agreement on DACA,” the program that Trump ended which protects immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump told Congress to work out a solution for recipients.

Coons added, “We’ve got a federal government that shuts down … this Friday, if we can’t come to an agreement,” Coons added. “And it’s just getting harder when we have a president who rather than tamping down our distances and disagreements, fans them and inflames them.”

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking a $13.4 million fine from the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest operator of television stations, for failing to identify the sponsor of paid programming that resembled news coverage. The FCC said the program, which aired more than 1,700 times on Sinclair’s stations, was paid for by the Huntsman Cancer Institute at a time in 2016 when its namesake, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, was considering a presidential candidacy. Sinclair, headquartered in Hunt Valley, Md., will grow to 233 stations if the Department of Justice grants antitrust approval for a proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.

SEC unravels a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges and obtained an asset freeze against the operator of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of mostly elderly investors. The SEC actions against Robert Shapiro and his Florida-based Woodbridge Group of Companies followed a month of local news speculation that its Aspen, Colo., real estate development was in trouble. According to the SEC, Shapiro used investors’ money to enrich himself, and the agency said he paid $600,000 for contributions to Republican political candidates, $700,000 for meals and entertainment, and $300,000 for wine.

GDP gets a downward revision
The Bureau of Economic Analysis revised its estimate of gross domestic product growth, saying the economic measure grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in the third quarter, a bit less than its previous 3.3% estimate. Even so, the third quarter performance remained ahead of the second quarter’s 3.1% growth rate. BEA issues a preliminary estimate and two subsequent estimates as more financial data becomes available for collection and analysis.

Report: 58,766 aliens are held in custody
A quarterly report from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice revealed that 58,766 known or suspected aliens were being held in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service at the end of the 2017 fiscal year. The tabulation does not include aliens held in state prisons and local jails which together hold about 90% of the total U.S. incarcerated population. DHS said a method for determining the immigration status of state and local incarcerated persons is being developed.

Balloonist’s eye-in-sky aids marijuana seizure
Border patrol agents found an abandoned SUV that contained 1,100 pounds of marijuana worth nearly $927,000 near La Casita, Tex. They were alerted by the operator of a surveillance balloon who observed the SUV moving near the Rio Grande River. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said its air pilots spotted 14 individuals using rafts to cross the river back to Mexico.

False Claims Act crimes don’t pay
The Department of Justice used the False Claims Act to recover $3.7 billion from individuals and companies that defrauded the government during fiscal year 2017. Of the total amount, $2.4 billion involved the health care industry, including drug manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories and physicians. Among health care industry violators, Ireland-based Mylan Inc. ranked near the top, paying $465 million for defrauding Medicaid by misclassifying its EpiPen as a generic drug. The company’s chief executive, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

U.S. mortality slips two years in a row
Life expectancy for U.S. citizens in 2016 was 78.6 years, a decrease of 0.1 year from 2015. It was the first time in 53 years that U.S. life expectancy decreased two years in a row. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy for males dropped from 76.3 years in 2015 to 76.1 years in 2016, while life expectancy for females remained unchanged at 81.1 years.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Thursday, December 21

At least 21 Democrat candidates who are seeking election or re-election to Congress have disgorged contributions received by their campaigns from a “leadership” PAC connected to Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken. Many sent Franken’s PAC’s money to charity, the Center for Responsive Politics said. Thus far in the current 2017-18 election cycle, Franken’s Midwest Values PAC contributed $145,500 to 26 candidates, including 17 Democratic senators. Several of the recipients—Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and John Tester (Mont.)—collected maximum $10,000 gifts from Franken’s PAC.

China used Vietnam to duck punitive duties
The Department of Commerce slapped antidumping and countervailing duty orders on steel products purportedly manufactured in Vietnam, but made from ore that originated in China that was already under punitive duty orders. Prior to the imposition of duty orders against China, Vietnam shipped $2 million worth of corrosion-resistant steel and $9 million worth of cold-rolled steel. But, after the orders were imposed, Vietnam imports skyrocketed to $80 million worth of corrosion-resistant steel and to $215 million for cold-rolled steel.

DOJ seeks warrant to seize antiquities from ISIS
The Department of Justice asked a federal judge to authorize the seizure of ancient antiquities recovered during a raid of Abu Sayyaf’s residence in Syria. Sayyaf, a senior leader of the radical Islamic terrorist cult known as ISIS, was killed in the 2016 raid. DOJ claimed that Abu Sayyaf sold Syrian artifacts to raise funds for ISIS operations. One item on DOJ’s list is a gold ring which was sold for $250,000 to a Turkish antiquities dealer and was subsequently confiscated by Turkish law enforcement.

Sleep clinic owners indicted for health care fraud
Young Yi, 44, a citizen of South Korea, and Dannie Ahn, 43, of Centreville, Va., were indicted for running a $200 million health care fraud using sleep clinics they operated throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland. The Department of Justice said the pair submitted false billings to Medicare and false tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service. DOJ said Yi and Ahn used the fraudulently obtained money of buy expensive vehicles, luxury clothing, exotic vacations and a tract of land in Great Falls, Va., to construct a 25,000-square-foot home modeled after the Palace of Versailles.

Slight homelessness rise noted in 2017
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told Congress in an annual report that 553,742 persons experienced homelessness for at least one night during 2017, an increase of 0.7% from 2016, while homelessness among families with children declined 5.4%. “In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, noting that rents are rising faster than incomes.

Judge shutters gold-silver scheme
A federal judge in California ordered the operators of a fraudulent gold and silver investment scheme to refund $6.5 million to consumers and to shut down their company, DiscountMetalBrokers Inc. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II took the action in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission which claimed the Encino, Calif., company marketed gold and silver as investments, but failed to deliver the metals to customers who responded to television commercials that aired on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, and various radio programs.

Coalition seeks Louisiana pipeline project papers
A coalition of Louisiana advocacy groups led by the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights is using Louisiana’s public records law to gain access to documents owned by a private company that is behind the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project. The proposed 162-mile pipeline will transport oil across the state via a route that would run through 700 bodies of water. CCR said the project’s developers should be subject to the state public records law because it has claimed it has authority to usurp the state’s eminent domain authority to acquire privately owned property.

Alabama church tests political advocacy role
An evangelical church in Alabama used its outdoor signboard to promote Republican Roy Moore’s election in next Tuesday’s special election to elect a U.S. senator to replace Jeff Sessions. The display, the Freedom from Religion Foundation said, provides a glimpse of future politicking by tax-exempt churches if a provision in pending House-passed tax legislation becomes law. The provision would repeal the present tax law’s prohibition against political and lobbying activity by tax-exempt charitable and religious groups.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, December 6

Bladensburg Peace Cross held unconstitutional
A divided three-judge panel in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a 40-foot tall Latin cross displayed at an intersection in Bladensburg, Md., violates the Constitution’s “establishment of religion” clause because it is sited on land owned and maintained by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission with taxpayer funds. The ruling overturned a district judge who held the cross, dedicated as a memorial to World War I soldiers, neither advanced nor inhibited religion. But the appeals court said the Latin cross “is the core symbol of Christianity” and has “the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively tangles the government in religion.” The lawsuit was brought by two atheist organizations, the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The suit attracted support from the attorneys general of 29 states, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and seven Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

MS-13 gangster faces prison for illegal re-entry
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a previously deported Marastrucha-13 gang member who tried to re-enter the U.S. through the Port of Nogales’ DeConcini crossing. CBP said Jose Calderon-Canada, 29, claimed he was a U.S. citizen but agents determined his citizenship claim was false and, in fact, he had an extensive criminal record and had been deported several times before.

Jury convicts ISIS supporter
A federal jury convicted David Wright (also known as Dawud Khaliq), 28, of Everett, Mass., of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism including the beheading of Americans to support the radical Islamic terrorist cult known as ISIS. Wright’s uncle, Usaamah Rahim, 26, relayed instructions from Junaid Hussain, an ISIS member overseas who was killed in a 2015 airstrike in Raqqah, Syria. Rahim was shot and killed in mid-2015 when he attacked law enforcement officers in a parking lot in Roslindale, Mass., the Department of Justice said.

FBI operation nabs 120 human traffickers
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, working alongside the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, rescued 84 minors and arrested 120 human traffickers during a four-day nationwide effort called Operation Cross Country XI. The operation was conducted through 55 FBI field offices and involved 78 state and local task forces. Among the rescued children were a three-month old infant, and the average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15 years old, the FBI said.

Arsenic contaminates private well water
A study from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2.1 million Americans may be ingesting arsenic found in drinking water from private domestic wells. Joe Ayotte, a hydrologist who was the study’s lead author, said nearly all of the arsenic found in drinking water comes from natural sources, primarily rocks and minerals through which the water flows.

Balloon pilots should be medically fit
The National Transportation Safety Board said the Federal Aviation Administration should rescind a regulatory exemption that allows commercial balloon pilots to forego the need for medical certification. The lack of medical certification was cited as a contributing cause to a mid-2016 balloon crash in Lockhart, Tex., that killed 15 passengers and the balloon’s pilot. The NTSB said the pilot’s “pattern of poor decision-making” was linked to his medical condition and the use of medications that would have grounded any other pilot.

Bankruptcies continue steady decline
The number of business and individual bankruptcies has declined by about 50% since 2010 when nearly 1.6 million were filed. During the 2017 fiscal year, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said, there were 790,830 bankruptcy filings, 23,109 by businesses and 767,721 by non-businesses.

ACLU sues to restore young immigrant’s status
The American Civil Liberties Union filed asked a federal judge to block the deportation of a 23-year-old immigrant who came to the U.S. as a one-year-old infant. His parents have attained lawful permanent resident status and his sisters are U.S. citizens by virtue of their birth in this country. The ACLU case is intended to illustrate the plight faced by an estimated 700,000 young people who face deportation if Congress fails to enact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals into law. The ACLU’s lawsuit is difficult because it seeks enforcement of a program that has not been authorized by Congress but, instead, was created by an executive order signed by former President Obama.

States sue Department of Education over “gainful employment” rule
The attorneys general of 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit that accuses the Department of Education of delaying enforcement of a rule intended to eliminate federal funding for low-performing career colleges, the Center for Responsible Lending said. The so-called “gainful employment” rule requires for-profit colleges, many of which depend on federal taxpayer funds for 90% of their revenues, to lose funding if their graduates cannot find gainful employment.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, October 18

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has withdrawn from consideration as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. a position generally referred to as “drug czar, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday morning.

The withdrawal comes amid reports from the Washington Post and CBS’ “60 Minutes” that Marino authored a law backed by the pharmaceutical companies that halted the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from cracking down on shipments to questionable pharmacies and doctors.

Former DEA official Joe Rannazzisi told” 60 Minutes” that the law, spearheaded by Marino, effectively opened the floodgates for the illegal distribution of opioids.

Trump  who has described the epidemic surrounding addiction to opioids as a “national emergency” — said during a Monday news  conference that the administration would look into Marino’s nomination following the reports.

“He’s a good man. I have not spoken to him, but I will speak to him and I’ll make that determination,” Trump said. “If I think it’s one percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change, yes.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose state has been particularly hard hit by opioid addiction, asked the Trump administration to drop Marino on Monday.

Marino’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Democrats applauded Tuesday’s announcement.

“The opioid crisis demands that the next drug czar is solely focused on getting communities across the country the help they desperately need,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “I hope the Trump administration nominates someone that fits that bill.”

Mylan fined $465 million for $1.2 billion drug overcharge
Besides profiteering off consumers with a 460% price increase for its Epi-Pen drug-and-syringe product, Netherlands-based Mylan N.V. and its U.S. subsidiaries agreed to pay $465 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that it knowingly misclassified the lifesaving drug as a “generic” to avoid having to pay rebates to Medicaid, the Department of Justice said. The accusations were first raised in a whistleblower suit brought by a rival drug company, France-based Sanofi. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Mylan’s pledge to reclassify the Epi-Pen as a brand name drug will save hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers. Public Citizen said the fine was barely one-third of the $1.2 billion that the company pocketed from its overcharging and “it fails to include an admission of guilt.” Mylan’s chief executive is Heather Bresch, the daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

FOIA suits seek anti-Israel lobbying documents
Judicial Watch filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to compel disclosure of communications from anti-Israel groups that urged the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to ignore trade laws that provide preferential treatment to Israel. The suit seeks communications that mention “country-of-origin marking requirements” or refer to the 2015 Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act from such groups as Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Court decides when immigrant become “illegal”
A person becomes an “illegal alien” when he or she steps on U.S. soil, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, rejecting an illegal immigrant’s insistence that a person doesn’t become an illegal alien until he or she is declared to be unlawfully present in the U.S. by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administrative law judge. The suit was brought by Hamid Rehaif who was convicted for possessing a firearm and ammunition while being unlawfully present in the U.S. Rehaif was granted a student visa to study mechanical engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Ethics complaint filed against state legislator who hates wolves
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed an ethics complaint that accuses State Rep. Joel Kretz, the minority leader of the Washington State Legislature, of using improper bribery and extortion tactics in his thus far unsuccessful campaign to fire a university professor who is among the country’s foremost researchers on wolves and their interactions with livestock. Among other things, the complaint describes Kretz’s threat to withhold funding for the university’s plant sciences building unless the scientist, Dr. Robert Wielgus, was terminated and his research lab defunded.

Driver of death truck faces severe sentence
James Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Fla., is facing a possible death sentence for participating in a human smuggling operation that led to the deaths of 10 illegal aliens. Bradley insisted he was hired to drive a tractor-trailer from Iowa to Brownsville, Tex., and was not aware that as many as 200 aliens had been locked inside the trailer. Police who were called to a Walmart store in San Antonio, Tex., found 39 illegal aliens—including 10 who were already dead—at the scene, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

Another boat for Chesty
The Navy will commission the USS Lewis B. Puller, its newest warship, at a ceremony at the Khalifa bin Salman Port in Al Hidd, Bahrain, the Department of Defense said. The ship is named for Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated individual in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps who became a five-time winner of the Navy Cross for combat in World War II and the Korean War. It will be the second Navy ship to bear Puller’s name. The first ship, a guided missile frigate, was retired in 1998 and was transferred to the Egyptian Navy.

Virginia banker admits fraud and identity theft scheme
Kirk Marsh, 39, of Oakton, Va., pleaded guilty to charges that he engaged in identity theft and fraudulent bank activity while he was a vice president of the Virginia Commerce Bank and its affiliated Fulton Bank, the Department of Justice said. Among allegations against him, Marsh forged the signatures of senior bank officials to obtain a $1 million line of credit which he used to acquire a bank client’s software company and make a down payment on his house.

Adolescents tripped by contact lens rules
More than 85% of adolescents who wear contact lenses admit to having at least one habit that increases their chances for developing an eye infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. There are approximately 3 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 in the U.S. Among the most risky habits reported by adolescents were: not visiting an eye doctor at least once a year (44%), sleeping or napping while wearing lenses (30%), and swimming while wearing lenses (27%).

Financial firm accused of aiding predatory college
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking a $183.3 million fine from Aequitas Capital Management of Lake Oswego, Ore., for helping the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges Inc. engage in a predatory lending scheme that saddled students with debts they could not afford. CFPB said Aequitas structured the loans to give Corinthian the appearance of earning enough revenue to qualify for federal student aid funds. CFPB said the fine would be used to forgive or reduce loans owed by 41,000 students.

Arbitration clause at issue in Supreme Court case
The American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a National Labor Relations Board decision against a corporation’s use of a mandatory arbitration clause to prevent employees from using lawsuits to resolve violations of labor and civil rights laws. AAJ noted in its friend-of-the-court brief that federal agencies have promulgated rules on the use and limitations of arbitration for over 40 years, and a contrary Supreme Court opinion would threaten dozens of regulations as well as the well-settled Federal Arbitration Act.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Thursday, August 17

On The Hill with Doug Christian

From Washington, DC, this is On the Hill. Doug Christian reporting.

Today’s headlines:

  1. North Korea’s launch of another ICMB tests International Resolve
  2. President Donald Trump pushes for another attempt to Repeal and Replace Obamacare
  3. Sen. Joe Manchin said Democrats will lose without a Healthcare fix.
  4. Russia Orders U.S. to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755
  5. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared 42 years ago, now a break.

(Opening soundbite – Trump on Chinese President)


    1. President Trump heaped praise on China’s President, Xi Jinping, in France last month. Now North Korea’s launch of an ICBM, this time landing in Japanese waters, rattles the International Order. Now, President Trump tweeted:I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!

      However, China appears to be as worried by North Korea’s actions as the United States is. China has been bolstering defenses along its 880-mile frontier with North Korea and realigning forces, special forces, airborne troops, and other units that could be sent into North Korea in the even of a crises.

      Meanwhile the US Air Force flies B-1 bombers in a ‘North Korea nuke drill’ as Donald Trump may be ‘poised to launch military strike’ against the rogue state.

    2. Regarding the Senate’s failed attempt to repeal and replace of Obamacare, President Trump tweeted is frustration with the legislative process:

      Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead! Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!

    3. The Democrats shouldn’t get comfortable with the GOP’s failure. Sen. Joe Manchin warned that the Democrats will lose if they don’t address Obamacare’s faults and must seek to fix the Affordable Care Act. (Manchin)
    4. US-Russia relations continue to deteriorate. President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Sunday that the American diplomatic mission in Russia would have to cut its staff by 755 employees, a response to the new American sanctions that escalated the tensions between Washington and Moscow.
    5. Forty-two years ago, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) union from 1958 til 1971, disappeared. His disappearance has become one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th Century. FoxNews spearheaded an investigation into his death and Frank Sheeran’s claim he killed Hoffa in a house near the parking lot Hoffa was last seen. Blood evidence found in house by the investigators. (Sheeran Prosecutor)

This is On the Hill. Doug Christian reporting from Washington.