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WASHINGTON – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has undermined public confidence in the committee.

“Devin Nunes, pardon the pun, he has neutered the confidence that people could ever have in the House Intelligence Committee,” Manchin told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday evening.

Manchin’s remarks coincide with the expected release of a four-page classified memo said to detail abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Nunes wrote the memo and the committee earlier this week voted along party lines to release it.

Manchin sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He confirmed reports that the House Intelligence Committee has not provided its upper chamber counterpart with a copy of the memo.

Republicans have suggested that the memo confirms long-held suspicions that the FBI and the Justice Department have displayed bias against President Donald Trump in their investigation into allegations of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused Nunes of altering the memo prior to handing it over to the White House. Schiff, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Justice Department officials oppose releasing the memo due to national security concerns.

CNN reported Thursday that President DonaldTrump has reviewed the memo and may authorize its release as early as today.

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 — President Donald Trump delivered remarks Saturday night at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner, an off-camera, comedy-heavy event held by leading members of the Washington press corps.

Trump, who skipped the dinner last year, poked fun at himself and his staff, while also delivering a few jabs at the media.

Read the transcript below:

“Well, thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here and, I must tell you, that Melania and I are really thrilled. We really looked forward to this. … I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s really quality people … quality people. So, thank you very much.

It’s been really another calm week at the White House. We finally have it running like a fine-tuned machine. It’s fine-tuned. It’s a beautiful piece of work. … But before I get started, I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security. … Ivanka, you’ve got to do something, … Jared—but I will tell you, he’s a good guy. He has—he has suffered. He is a great guy he really is.

I know the Gridiron is really an old tradition in Washington, been around a long time, and one that’s important to many of you in the media. So, I was very excited to receive this invitation and come here and ruin your evening in person. … My staff was concerned heading into this dinner that I couldn’t do self-deprecating humor. They were worried about it. They said, ‘Can you do this?’ And I told them not to worry. Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do. … In fact, Orrin Hatch, Orrin said that ‘Donald Trump is the best at self-deprecating in the history of America, better than Washington and better than Lincoln.’ … Thank you, Orrin.

They told me my remarks tonight should be something like a late night routine. … Late night—are they the worst, by the way? We’re finally going to get one that’s going to come to our side. They will get very big ratings if they do that. … With all the television talent here, I think … you’d have figured that out. But I have to tell you, in preparation, I did what any good late night comic would do these days. I called Chuck Schumer and I asked him for some talking points. Can you believe this? I also spoke to some of the funniest people around the White House starting with my number two, Mike Pence. … Love you Mike. … Some of you may think that Mike is not a comedian, but he is one of the best straight men you’re ever going to meet. … He is straight! …

I saw him the other day. We’re in line shaking hands with men and women. A woman came over to shake his hand and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do that. My wife is not here.’ I never saw anything like it. He’s … years ahead of his time. … Mike is doing a fantastic job as our vice president. He really is. He’s doing a fantastic job. Could not have asked for better. I really am very proud to call him, ‘The Apprentice.’

But lately what bothers me, I have to tell you, he’s showing a particularly keen interest in the news these days. He starts out each morning asking everybody, ‘Has he been impeached yet?’ …. You can’t be impeached when theres no crime! … Mike, put that down! … I thought that was going to get a much better … I said to Melania, ‘Do you think I should use that one? I don’t know.’ And then she said, Use it. It’s good.’ … So much for humor. You never know about humor do you. …

Steve Mnuchin … we saw him and his beautiful wife on stage. … When she asked whether or not she could sign the money also, I said, ‘Steve, you’ve got a lot to handle.’ I said, ‘You can’t do that Steve!’

America has a proud history of Treasury secretaries who sponsor the arts. Alexander Hamilton gave us so much. Andrew Mellon famously gave us the National Gallery—tremendous gift. Steve has given us the blockbuster movie ‘Lego Batman.’ … See, now that one I didn’t think was funny at all. …

But Attorney General Sessions is here with us tonight. … I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. … But that’s OK. We also have some of the leading lights of the media here including some folks from the failing New York Times. That sucker is failing! … I know we have our differences, but I also know that you have a very special place … in my heart. … The other day they had five stories on the front page of the New York Times and every one of them was totally different and each one of them was bad.

After all, you the New York Times are an icon. I’m a New York icon, you’re a New York icon, and the only difference is, I still own my buildings.

I especially have a place in my heart for Arthur Sulzberger. … Our stories are almost mirror images. I inherited a million dollars from my father—had a great father—gave me a million dollars and I turned it into billions. True story. Arthur inherited billions of dollars and he turned his into millions. Hello Arthur.

And it’s been a very tough year. Jeff Zucker’s here. … CNN, it lost a tremendous amount of credibility this year, but they also lost one of their true stars, the guy who got you the most scoops, inside info … your really very best reporter. There was nobody like him—Steve Bannon. That guy leaked more than the Titanic …

As I’m sure you’ve seen, we’re now riding very high in the polls, which is hard to believe considering I never get good press. But I just hit 50 in the Rasmussen poll.

A lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do so with … losing my so-called chief strategist. … I just lost my strategist. … Just lost my strategist. It’s pretty bad, but somehow, we’re still doing great even without Omarosa. … By the way, I always knew, someday, you’re going to fire her. Is that the worst? By the way, Omarosa, you’re the worst! …

So many people have been leaving the White House. It’s actually been really exciting and invigorating. … I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good.

Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?’ … That is terrible honey, but you love me, right? … I wont tell you what she said. … She said, ‘Behave.’ … Is that terrible?

By the way, she has been an incredible first lady. … Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and all of them. There’s so many women in that audience. The women with signs, ‘We love our first lady.’ True, all of them, hundreds and hundreds of them during speeches, ‘We love high heels. We love everything.’ … These signs, they have pictures of shoes. … Remember when she was badly treated about wearing high heels when actually she had the sneakers in her bag? But they love our first lady.

I can tell you, despite what you’ve reported, we’ve had a lot of success this year. We really have … tremendous. Our tax plan has been a tremendous victory. … That is really turning out to be popular. Melania is even getting some major benefits from it. She can finally claim me as an adult dependent. …

And the White House is actually a warm, loving, and wonderful place. I’ve heard it’s cold. It’s not cold. It’s warm. It’s loving, you meet great people, wonderful people like yourselves. And I just don’t understand why everyone on the internet and in the media keeps screaming, ‘Hashtag Free Melania.’ Free Melania. … Like a number one hashtag. Free Melania. She’s actually having a great time.

Yes, are you? Oh, good, she’s having a great time. You’re doing a good job. You know, you can’t do a great job unless you enjoy it. It’s true. You people know that as great reporters. You love what you do, and if you didn’t love what you do, you wouldn’t do it well. …

Before we go any further, I want to just discuss the big financial story of the week. Ever since we announced our new tariffs, which actually is very popular with people because they’re tired of getting ripped off, many dying American industries have come to the White House asking for protection. They want help. They need protection. Unfortunately, I’m sorry, I fear it may be too late for the print media. That was pretty good though wasn’t it? … That’s another bomb that I thought was going to be great.

It might be hard for you to believe, but I do enjoy gatherings like these. They give me a chance to socialize with members of the opposition party. … Also great to see some Democrats here. … The opposition party, I’ve seen a few of them applauding tonight including Sen. Joe Manchin, who’s here.

And don’t worry, Joe. … He’s a good man. There aren’t any cameras this time Joe. And I won’t tell Chuck and Nancy what you’re doing. Because boy was he applauding me the other night. Right? At the State of the Union he was up there applauding. I don’t know who the hell he was catering to.

I thought my State of the Union address was actually extraordinary. One of the best ever given. in fact Luis Gutierrez was so overcome with emotion at how good this particular speech was that he had to leave the chamber. He left and wept.

I probably could have found a way to get the Democrats to stand and clap. … They didn’t. They were like frozen. I said black unemployment is at the lowest point in history. No emotion. They sat other than Manchin. He stood up. Thank you, Joe. He’s still paying the price for that. I said Hispanic unemployment is at the lowest level in history, record. There was no emotion. But I decided I wasn’t going to change anything. I wasn’t going to get them to stand. I didn’t know how. … I was not going to include a salute to Fidel Castro. They would have stood up. They would have cheered. …

And I know Mayor Mitch Landrieu feels right at home in Washington coming from Louisiana. I love Louisiana. … Not too bad right? Not bad Mitch! … It’s a beautiful swamp. I like that swamp. … That’s a much more legitimate swamp. But I have to say Mitch, that while you’re here in Washington, only one request. … They already hit him on the statues. I was going to say, ‘Don’t touch our statues.’ But they’ve already hit you three times on the statues. … But Mitch you did a good job tonight and honestly I love the way you finished. … I really did. I thought it was very appropriate. … Thank you.

And I never knew Tom Cotton was such a great comedian. We were laughing, the whole place. That was good tom. A rising star. How old are you now Tom? He’s 40. Wow, I better watch my back. You know … he’s a friend of mine, but in politics, you just don’t have these guys. … You were great tonight. I appreciate it. … Thank you Tom Cotton. And he is a rising star in our nation, not our party, in our nation. He’s got a great future—smart and a great guy.

I was hoping we’d also see Adam Schiff—wonderful guy. … Leaking Adam! … He’ll be in the middle of a meeting—what is he? In some committee, congressional committee, Mike what is it? Intelligence? Judiciary? What the hell committee? That’s the only thing, he doesn’t know what committee he’s on because he’s on the phone so much. He doesn’t have any time. ‘Hey, let’s call these guys.’ … Is that legal? Are you allowed to go to .. and just every half hour … ‘I got to go break the news.’ … Adam Schiff … He was going to come tonight and then he heard that this was not a televised event so he stayed home. He stayed home.

But Adam is constantly on television pushing the idea that somehow I would undermine democracy. … Undermine? I love democracy. But he thinks I’m going to undermine democracy. So, I have to tell him I have great respect for the various branches of government, the executive, the legislative, the judicial—very important—and last, Fox News. I have a lot of respect for Fox News. … Thank god for Fox News.

I often think that the Democrats would be better off if they learned a thing or two from us. They could learn from us. For instance, you might have noticed that some of the best lines from my campaign followed a certain pattern. ‘Drain the swamp!’ Remember that? … When I saw that I hated it. … Somebody brought that one down for me, I said, ‘This is so hokey.’ Drain the swamp. … This massive crowd, 25,000 people, and I said, .. Drain the Swamp!’ And they went crazy. I said, ‘Whoah.’ Then, I said It in the next speech, ‘Drain the swamp!’ And now, I love it. Drain the swamp!

But we had, ‘Drain The Swamp,’ we had, ‘Lock Her Up, we had, ‘Build The Wall.’ Build the wall! Nancy Pelosi has been trying to come up with a line that’s equal. And her line that she announced last week is, ‘Mow The Grass!’ It doesn’t work. ..

Mow the frickin’ grass. … That’s going to stop MS-13. … Mow that frickin’ grass! … Man, she’s crazy, but she’s a fine woman. She is. I actually like Nancy Pelosi. Can you believe that? Her and Maxine Waters. How about that one? Maxine Waters, ‘He must be impeached!’ That’s all she knows how to say, ‘He must be impeached!’ Impeached! … But he’s done nothing wrong. Doesn’t matter, they say. What has he done wrong? ‘I don’t know! You got to be impeached!’ … And then I say … I get in trouble for this, ‘She has to immediately, take an IQ test.’ And people go crazy. They went crazy/ But Maxine and Nancy and these people, there’s a lot of hatred. There’s so much hatred we have to stop Mike. We have to stop the hatred.

And it’s true … Nancy’s worth tens of millions of dollars and she’s a populist. … You know, she really considers herself that. And I really try to tell her that you can’t be a true populist unless you’re worth at least ten billion dollars … people like you better.

I don’t know how the hell they like me, but boy I love those people. I love them. I really do. … I understand that, in recognition of our massive tax cuts, Nancy suggested that—Oh, I’m not going to say this. The dessert should be crumb cake. Give me a break. You know, the word crumb is not working out well for Nancy.

On the way in tonight, someone asked me what I think about the Dreamers. I love the Dreamers. I do love the Dreamers. … I’ll be honest. … I really believe the Republicans want to solve this problem—DACA—more than the Democrats and certainly faster. So, we’re all working together and I hope that something’s going to happen. I really do. I hope that something’s going to happen. …

We’re talking about the Dreamers and, quite honestly, Democrats can fantasize all they want about winning in 2020. Those are the Dreamers. … I’m a Dreamer also. …

There’s talk about Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, getting into the race. You know what he said, ‘I want to take him behind the barn.’ … Just trust me, I would kick his ass. … Boy, would he be easy. Oh, would he be easy. … But Joe—give me a break. The guy who keeps making outrageous statements thinks he has a shot at being president? Guy makes outrageous statements. … He’s going to be president? He doesn’t have a shot.

And Oprah. Oh … here’s my next one. Oprah, I don’t think she’s ever been hit verbally yet. Right? She’s led a charmed life. She’s done a great job. … She used to love me …. I was on one of her last shows, ‘The Trump Family.’ We’re going to have to replay that for her. We’re going to have to. … She says she’ll run only if she gets the go ahead from the Almighty. All right Oprah, go ahead and run. …

And then we have Elizabeth Warren. … I watched her making a speech for Hillary. I said, ‘I think she’s losing all of the male vote for Hillary Clinton.’ It was brutal. It was mean and angry. Elizabeth Warren, who had a rough day last week trying to prove her heritage, She had a rough day. And she had a good suggestion though about easing world tensions. The world is quite tense. Some of this stuff should have happened over the last twenty years, but it didn’t. … But she said that Rex Tillerson and I should sit down with the leaders of Iran and North Korea and smoke a peace pipe. … I didn’t like that Pocahontas.

I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un. I just won’t. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine. … He must be a fine man. Do you think he’s a fine man? … Although, we did save the Olympics. President Moon gave us a lot of credit, said, ‘It was—it was President Trump that made the Olympics successful because there were a lot of people that wanted to go into that stadium with the potential of a problem—a big problem—and he gave us all a lot of credit. He said, ‘Without President Trump and his strong attitude they would have never called up and said, ‘Hey, we’d love to be in the Olympics together.’

And that’s true. … Whether people want to hear it or not, they had a very successful Olympics. That was heading for disaster. They weren’t selling tickets. … It was heading for disaster and now we’re talking. And they, by the way, called up a couple of days ago and said, ‘We would like to talk.’ And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to de-nuke, you have to de-nuke.’

So, let’s see what happens. Let’s see what happens. You know when the media said … and when I said, ‘My button is bigger than yours and mine works.’ Everyone gave me a hard time, what a terrible thing. They didn’t say what he said. He said, ‘I have a button on my desk and I am prepared to use it.’ Nobody ever said that. So, my statement was in response, but maybe positive things are happening. I hope that’s true and I say that in all seriousness. I hope that’s true … But we will be meeting and we’ll see if anything positive happens. It’s been a long time. …. It’s a problem that should have been fixed a long time ago … very far down the road. …

i know there’s been a lot of talk about Twitter and social media this year. But it really can be an important form of modern day communication. If I didn’t have Twitter how would Gen. Kelly and Gen, McMaster know what it is that they’re supposed to say that day. They wouldn’t know. They’d have no idea.

There’s been a lot of criticism of John Kelly in the press, which i think is very very unfair. He’s doing an amazing job. He even told me he would let Ivanka visit the Oval Office when she gets home from representing us in the Olympics and she did so. Ivanka did you enjoy your visit? I hope so. That was very nice and by the way Ivanka did an incredible job representing our country at the Olympics. She did.

Many people have asked me how my time as a reality TV star prepared me for the presidency, the truth is there’s very little overlap between the two. Very little. In one job, I had to manage a cutthroat cast of characters desperate for TV time, totally unprepared for their … jobs, and each week afraid of having their asses fired. In the other job, I was the host of a smash television hit. … Television’s so easy compared to this. …

I know we all came here tonight to have fun and tell jokes, but I also think we need to discuss the issues. Issues are very important. … For example, we’ve got a new plan to tackle global warming, one of my favorite subjects. We’re going to reduce the carbon footprint when we travel by shrinking the press pool so that we only have room for Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Judge Judy. …

I better wrap it up. I have to be up early tomorrow morning—six o’clock—to be listening to Fox and Friends. … But I do want to say this is one of the best times I can ever remember having with the media. This might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night. … I apologize. Years, years, years taken off your life. Oh, John King, with that beautiful red map. His hand was shaking toward the end. … I love the way he uses that map. He’s good at it. … And then it was Michigan. Remember they wouldn’t call Pennsylvania? There was one percent of the … vote to go in Pennsylvania. It was like 11 o’clock. One percent of the vote to go, they wouldn’t call it. And if i lost even one of the votes, I won by a lot. They wouldn’t call it. So instead, they called Wisconsin. And then, John King, remember, ‘The Winner of the great state of Michigan.’ He’s going Michigan. He’s like, ‘Hey Trump won Michigan, this can’t be happening.’ And that hand was up. …

Look, whether you like me or not, you have to say that was good. That was exciting. … Lot of tears were in this room. You’re not supposed to cry. Mike are they supposed to be crying? If somebody wins or somebody … they’re supposed to be a little impartial. Let’s be a little bit more impartial. …

But you know, I’ll tell you what, I do have a lot of respect for a lot of the people in this room. Even people that have been very strong opponents, I’ve developed a lot of respect. Fairness is important to me, but you know, you’ve got your point of view. And a lot of you cover things very squarely and there are few professions that i respect more. And I’d like to thank the Gridiron Club and Foundation—foundation does an incredible job—for this wonderful evening. I want to thank all of the amazing speakers and, really, performers. Some very good performers … they really are. …

I want to thank the press for all you do to support and sustain our democracy. I mean that. I mean that. Some incredible people in the press … brilliant, powerful, smart, and fair people in the press. And I want to thank you. My greatest wish is that we can all work together to make America safe, and just, and free for all Americans. We have a great country and we all, together, will make it even better. Thank you all very much. This is a great honor thank you.”

After, the President tweeted that the dinner was “great fun.”

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.”