Government seeks to retry Sen. Menendez on corruption charges

Government seeks to retry Sen. Menendez on corruption charges

By Karen DeWitt   
An 11-week trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J. ended in a hung jury last November. (Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – The government told a federal judge in New Jersey today that it will seek a retrial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), whose corruption trial ended in a hung jury in November.

The filing to the judge seeks a retrial “at the earliest possible date.”

Menendez and his friend Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, were charged with a bribery scheme in which the senator allegedly traded political favors for gifts and campaign donations.

Menendez also was charged with making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms.

Defense lawyers argued that the gifts Melgen gave his longtime friend weren’t bribes.

Government shutdown would impact 58 national parks

Planning to take the family to visit one of the nation’s 58 national parks? Might want to make alternative plans if a government shutdown happens tonight.

The nation’s 58 national parks—including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite—became a lightning rod in the 2013 government shutdown, a scenario the Trump administration hopes to avoid if there is no bill to fund the government.

The Washington Post reported that administration officials are exploring ways to keep parks open and let visitors come in without government personnel.

Mexican candidate promises Twitter tit-for-tat with Trump

The frontrunner in Mexico’s presidential campaign says he’ll personally respond on social media after President Trump called Mexico the “number one most dangerous country in the world” on Twitter.

Mexico’s Reforma newspaper reported that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a populist, left-wing former mayor of Mexico City, said that, as president, he would demand fair treatment from Trump.

The newspaper reported that said López Obrador said, “We’re going to respect President Donald Trump, but he’s going to have to learn to respect us.”

SCOTUS halts North Carolina redrawing

The Supreme Court blocked a lower court’s order for North Carolina to redraw its congressional district maps.

The court issued a stay order in the case, which would have required the state redraw its congressional district maps by the end of the month, according to The Hill.

The ruling comes after North Carolina Republicans asked the Supreme Court to block a federal court’s decision that the state’s maps were an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Trump impactful far beyond tweets

President Donald Trump has the lowest approval ratings of any modern president, and faces united Democratic opposition, but Trump has had an important impact on everything from the taxes to regulation to Americans’ regard, or lack of it, for the nation’s institutions, according to USA Today.

Trump has shaken up security alliances that emerged from World War II and pulled back from global free-trade agreements.

Trump appointees across the federal government have rolled back regulations. Trump tweet attacks on the judiciary, the news media and parts of his own administration — the Justice Department and FBI–have accelerated American’s lack of faith in institutions. Trump judicial appointments will have the last word on the most controversial issues the country faces, from abortion rights to immigration laws to bank regulation — and unlike presidents, judges serve for life.

Ain’t no sunshine

The romantic 1970s song, “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” may soon be applicable to some in the U.S. solar industry.

President Trump is days away from deciding whether to impose trade tariffs or quotas on imported solar panels, according to the Hill — a decision that will close a major chapter in a dispute that puts tens of thousands of jobs on the line and has tested longstanding alliances.

The fight has split the solar industry, pitting imperiled companies that manufacture solar panels in the United States. The solar firms backing tariffs say they are the victims of unfair competition from China. U.S. firms that use imported panels and say that tariffs would increase their costs.

Pope shocks Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slander

Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country, according to USA Today.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadimas, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”

The pope’s remarks shocked Chileans and prompted immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011.

New York considers pay-to-drive

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes charging commuters in some of Manhattan’s busiest areas $11.52, which, if adopted, will make it the first U.S. city to use cost to control congestion, according to The New York Times.

Similar traffic charges are already in operation in Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan.

New York traffic congestion ranks second in the U.S. and third in the world, according to a draft report of the proposal, which notes that New York traffic is at an all-time high and public transit is in steep decline above and below ground.

U.S. presses to relocate embassy to Jerusalem by 2019

The Trump administration is accelerating its transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, with a plan to have the facility ready by the end of 2019.

To expedite the move, the U.S. will not build a new structure, but will instead convert an existing consular building in West Jerusalem into the new U.S. mission, according to officials cited in both newspapers.

The plans suggest the administration no longer cares about cushioning the blow of its new policy, which has cast President Trump’s peacemaking ambitions into doubt.

The women’s march reprise: power to the polls

Women’s March organizers have ambitious plans not just to continue to fight President Trump and his agenda, but to upend the entire political system, according to Newsweek.

Thousands of people descended on Washington D.C. last year in what would be become a historic, “revolutionary” march for women on the first full day of Trump’s tenure.

This year, organizers expect to make history Saturday, with another rally: Power to the Polls.

The rally aims to launch a national voter registration and mobilization tour with a goal of registering more women to vote, and to elect more women and progressive candidates to public office.

AmeriCorps and Senior Corps official resigns in wake of bigoted comments

Former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie signs his book “Enemies Foreign and Domestic” at a a bookstore in Huntington, N.Y., in June, 2016.  (YouTube)

Trump administration appointee Carl Higbie resigned as chief of external affairs for the federal government’s volunteer service organization after a CNN KFile review of racist, sexist, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments he made on the radio.

Samantha Jo Warfield, a spokesperson for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), said in a statement released Thursday. “Effective immediately Carl Higbie has resigned as Chief of External Affairs at CNCS.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the former Navy SEAL and conservative media personality’s resignation.

‘White supremacists are American citizens,’ unlike undocumented workers

Conservative commentator Mark Steyn appeared to defend white supremacists, saying that, while they may be bad, they are U.S. citizens, unlike undocumented immigrants.

Steyn’s comments on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” came in response to comments made by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who argued against vilifying “nice, hard-working” undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Steyn said, ” Let’s just say he’s right. It’s irrelevant. The white supremacists are American citizens. The undocumented immigrants are people who shouldn’t be here.”

Porn star reportedly paid via LLC created before election

President Trump’s lawyer formed a private LLC to pay a former porn star $130,000 in exchange for not speaking publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the then-candidate, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The newspaper reported that the alleged encounter with Trump took place in July 2006 after a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

The company, Essential Consultants LLC, was reportedly created in Delaware — which offers a higher standard of privacy to business owners — by attorney Michael Cohen, according to the Journal’s report, which cited corporate records and people familiar with the matter. Following the Journal’s first report last week, Cohen said in a statement that Trump “vehemently denies” any encounter between the two.

Couple accused of shackling kids plead not guilty

The parents accused of holding their 13 children in shackles at a California home have pleaded not guilty.

David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, are facing charges of torture, abuse and false imprisonment.

They were arrested after one daughter escaped from their home, where police later found some siblings chained to beds and severely malnourished.

If found guilty of the dozens of charges against them, the couple face 94 years to life in prison.

Omarosa might have secretly recorded White House conversations

Former Trump staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman might have secretly recorded private conversations in the White House as she feared involvement in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, The New York Daily News reports today.

Sources told the newspaper that Manigault Newman, who was abruptly fired from the White House late last year, “loves” to record meetings. If such recordings exist, they could become part of the current probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

One source said, “Don’t be surprised if she has secret audio files on everyone in that White House, past and present staffers included.”

The White House’s recent ban on staffers having their personal cellphones was tied to Manigault Newman’s habit of recording her conversations, the source told the newspaper.

Manigault Newman, also known by her first name, is also reportedly seeking meetings with lawyers because of probe concerns.

Trump won’t go to Mar-a-Lago if government shuts down

President Trump won’t head to his posh Florida resort today if lawmakers can’t avert the looming government shutdown set to take effect at midnight, a White House spokesperson said this morning.

The president had been planning to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach for the one-year anniversary of his inauguration hosting a Saturday night fundraising soiree with K$100,000 tickets.

The amount, confirmed to CNN by a person familiar with the dinner, pays for a couple’s dinner and photograph with Trump. A $250,000 ticket will allow a pair to participate in a roundtable. All proceeds will benefit the Trump Victory Fund, the source confirmed. Bloomberg first reported the ticket information.

If a shutdown is averted later today, Trump will fly to palm Beach Saturday morning, the White House said.

Kelly reportedly threatened to quit if Trump didn’t listen

White Chief of Staff John Kelly used to threaten to quit to get President Trump to fall in line with his orders, according to an article in the New York Times today.

One Trump adviser told the newspaper that Kelly’s threats to leave were one of a few kinds of leverage available to him.

Other advisers said Kelly will walk out of meetings that go in a direction he doesn’t agree with, and will yell at advisers who speak with Trump without Kelly’s authorization.

The retired Marine Corps general — known to run a tight ship in the White House as he attempts to bring order to an administration described as chaotic and facing high levels of turnover — has repeatedly denied that he has threatened to quit.

Comey headed to alma mater to teach ethics course

Former FBI Director James Comey has landed a teaching gig at his alma mater, William and Mary, and will join the ranks of the school’s teaching faculty this fall with a course on ethical leadership.

The Washington Post reports that Comey has accepted a nontenured position as an executive professor in education with the school, and will teach the course on ethical leadership in the Fall 2018, Spring 2019 and Summer 2019 semesters.

Comey has taught a series of lectures since last fall at historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C., where his initial reception brought some student protests.

Dolly Parton earns honors from Emmys, Guinness World Records

2018 is starting off well for Dolly Parton.

Parton’s 72nd birthday is today, and Sony Music announced that since the year began she has received honors from the Emmys, Guinness World Records and the Recording Industry Association of America.

Parton was recognized for holding records for the Most Decades with a Top 20 hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart and Most Hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart by a Female Artist, according to a news release. Guinness World Records came to Nashville to present Parton her record title certificates, and she is featured in the 2018 edition of Guinness World Records.

Trump has lowest approval of any modern president

President Trump is wrapping up his first year in office with the lowest approval rating of any first-year president in decades, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey pegged Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent, lower than his three immediate predecessors at the same point in their presidencies. Fifty-seven percent of respondents disapprove of the job Trump is doing in office, giving Trump the lowest first-year approval rating out of any modern president in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll.

By comparison, President Barack Obama ended his first year in office with 50 percent approval, President George W. Bush ended his with 82 percent and President Bill Clinton came in at 60 percent, according to the NBC/WSJ poll.

GOP leaders promise future hardline immigration bill

Conservative House members say they got a promise from GOP leadership to pursue a separate hardline Republican-only immigration bill in exchange for their votes to pass government funding Thursday night — via a measure that several Republicans doubt could pass the House, let alone the Senate.

The bill is a proposal from key committee and subcommittee chairs Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Mike McCaul of Texas and Martha McSally of Arizona that includes many hardline immigration provisions that Democrats and some Republicans have said are nonstarters.

The immigration bill includes several controversial pieces, including mandatory worker verification, cracking down on sanctuary cities, changing asylum thresholds and cutting legal immigration to the US by 25 percent. The bill offers Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients indefinitely renewable three-year work permits but no pathway to citizenship.

L.A. Times CEO under investigation 

The Los Angeles Times chief executive and publisher is the latest media executive under investigation for inappropriate behavior, following an extensive NPR report.

Tronc, the parent company of the Los Angeles Times, began investigating Ross Levinsohn after NPR reported he had been named a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits as an executive at two different companies, Alta Vista and News Corp, before joining the Times.

Levinsohn’s former colleagues and employees described him as a party-loving executive who created a fraternity-like environment, often making women feel uncomfortable.

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