Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admits extramarital affair but denies blackmail

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admits extramarital affair but denies blackmail

By Karen DeWitt   
Eric Greitens and his wife, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, celebrate his gubernatorial win in Missouri in November 2016. [Campaign photo]

WASHINGTON – Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens acknowledged that he was unfaithful to his wife “a few years ago” before being elected, despite his family-man campaign.

But Greitens’ lawyer denied allegations aired by a local TV station KMOV that Greitens threatened to distribute naked photos of the woman with whom he was having a relationship if she ever said anything about it.

The woman, who has not been named publicly, was Greitens’ hair stylist, according to media reports confirmed by The Washington Post with a source familiar with the situation.

Greitens, 44, was elected governor in November 2016 on his family-man status. The Conservative, who is a Democrat-turned-Republican, is a rising GOP star who has had presidential aspirations since he was a young man.

He and his wife released a statement Wednesday night in which they say the infidelity was dealt with “honestly and privately.”

“While we would never have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger,” the couple said.

“We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive — but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers.”

The couple have two sons who are 3 and 1.

The unidentified man who says his ex-wife had an affair with Greitens told KMOV that the relationship led to the breakup of the former couple’s marriage. The ex-husband called Greitens a “homewrecker” on social media, according to KMOV. The Washington Post reports that the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Kansas City Star had interviewed the ex-husband, but decided against writing a story because the woman declined to be interviewed. Once Greitens released a public statement admitting the affair, both papers pushed ahead on their stories, the Post article said.

Greitens is a former Navy SEAL and lieutenant commander, Rhodes scholar, Ph.D, author and White House Fellow during the administration of former president George W. Bush. After graduating from Duke, the Rhodes scholar earned a Ph.D. in politics. His wife, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, also studied at Oxford. She has a doctorate from Harvard and is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri. She is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.



In historic move, Trump administration to permit states to impose work on Medicaid recipients

The Trump administration has taken a major step in allowing states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients for the first time – even though 60 percent of them already work.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a guidance on Thursday outlining what states need to do to mandate that certain Medicaid enrollees work to qualify for benefits. The agency is expected to start approving state waivers promoting “community engagement activities” in coming weeks.

The historic move would be a significant change in how the government health insurance program operates. States, for instance, could require non-disabled, working age recipients to work, volunteer, go to school or enter a job training program. The guidance also includes caregiving as one of the activities.

Many Medicaid recipients are already employed, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundation analysis shows that some 60 percent of non-disabled, working-age adults have jobs, while nearly 80 percent live in families with at least one member in the labor force.  Most of those who don’t work cite illness, disability or family obligations as the reason, according to the report.


DACA deal near

Senators working on a bipartisan immigration plan indicated that they are closing in on an agreement, with a deal possible this week, according to The Hill.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters that he hopes the group can reach an agreement before this weekend that would pair a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with parameters agreed to after a White House meeting.

Durbin said, “We’re close. The president made it clear what’s important to him and we’re trying to figure out how to do it in a thoughtful way…”

The lawmakers are still trying to iron out the details of what border security package would be included, but Durbin said the agreement would include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought into the country illegally as children who meet certain requirements.


Some GOP lawmakers fear a Democratic wave

The retirement of two longtime California Republicans — the latest in a string of House Republicans heading for the exits — is causing panic among some GOP lawmakers who say it’s yet another sign that an anti-Trump, Democratic wave is forming and could herald a 2006-like election year when Democrats were back into power in the House and Senate, according to The Hill.

GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is not running for reelection after 30 years representing a heavily Hispanic Miami district, says, “It’s a tough election cycle for Republicans; we know that going in.”

She added, “It’s starting to feel very scary for moderate Republicans,” she said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, who won reelection by a slim 1,621-vote margin in 2016, said this term would be his last, despite insisting for months that he was running for reelection.  His announcement came two days after another veteran Republican from Southern California, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, also called it quits.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland smiled when he heard of the departures and predicted, “We’re gonna win the House back!”


Vermont on brink of legalizing recreational cannabis use

Just days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions relit the burners under the federal ban on marijuana, the Vermont Senate finished work on a bill to allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate their own marijuana plants, the Drug Policy Alliance reported.

Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott indicates he will sign the bill into law, which will make Vermont the ninth state along with the District of Columbia to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana.

Similar legalization bills are making progress in four other states: New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.


No more mental health-substance abuse registry  

The federal government has ended a national registry designed to provide information to the public about evidence-based mental health and substance use interventions and programs.

The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, which is funded and administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has existed since 1997 to help people, agencies and organizations identify and implement evidence-based behavioral health programs and practices in their communities, according to the website.

But the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the department under HHS that manages the program, wrote on its website that the contract for the database had been discontinued.

The notice states that SAMHSA is still “very focused on the development and implementation of evidence-based programs in communities across the nation.”


Democrats plan protests for Trump’s first State of the Union

Democrats are already planning ways to protest during President Trump’s State of the Union later this month, according to The Hill.

At least one lawmaker plans to boycott the speech entirely, with more Democrats possibly opting to skip the event as well.

Female Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California plan to wear black to show solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct, just as Hollywood stars did at an awards show over the weekend.


Government shutdown looms… again

Lawmakers are scrambling to avoid a government shutdown as they barrel toward another funding deadline without a clear path forward.

GOP leadership is remaining tightlipped about their plan, with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin declining to outline their next steps before a Jan. 19 deadline.

They are expected to offer a short-term stopgap measure given the fast-approaching deadline and a failure to lockdown a deal on raising spending ceilings for defense and nondefense.

McConnell told reporters this week during a leadership press conference: “I think if we are able to reach an agreement, it will still take a little bit of time to prepare the omnibus.”

If the GOP does move to a short-term measure, Democrats are tightlipped about whether they’ll go along with the plan.


Frantic search for survivors of California mudslides

Rescuers continue to search piles of debris for survivors after tons of mud, trees and boulders swept away homes in Southern California this week, killing 17 people.

Heavy rains sent rivers of mud tumbling down hillsides, demolishing homes in the affluent seaside community of Montecito weeks after a massive fire charred the area last month.

In addition to the deaths, at least 17 people are unaccounted for, authorities say.

Another 28 injuries have been reported and more than 100 homes have been destroyed, and another 300 damaged.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the priority is on finding survivors.

Brown told CNN affiliate KCAL, “Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged.”

One rescue worker tearfully described plucking a “muddy doll” of a toddler from under several feet of debris.

Crews have completed a primary search of 75 percent of the debris field, and more than 500 first responders and 10 dogs are looking for victims in Santa Barbara County.


Trump touts economy

President Trump on Thursday touted a new Quinnipiac University poll showing that most voters are happy with the state of the economy.

Trump tweeted: “In new Quinnipiac Poll, 66% of people feel the economy is “Excellent or Good.” That is the highest number ever recorded by this poll.”

The poll found that 66 percent of voters characterized the country’s economy as “excellent” or “good.” Thirty-three percent, however, view the economy as “not so good” or “poor.” It is the highest positive rating for the economy since Quinnipiac first asked the question in 2001.

The poll also found that 49 percent of Americans said former President Obama is more responsible for the current U.S. economy while 40 percent say Trump should be credited.


Trump fans fume over Sessions’ cannabis stance

The Trump administration’s anti-marijuana move has some members of the president’s voting base fuming, according to The Associated Press.

Fans of President Donald Trump who use marijuana say Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to tighten federal oversight of the drug is the first time they’ve felt let down by the man they helped elect. The move feels especially punitive to Trump voters who work in the growing industry around legalized marijuana that has taken root in states of all political stripes.

It remains to be seen whether Trump’s pot-loving voters will take their anger to the ballot box in 2018 and 2020. But pro-legalization conservatives are also chiding the administration’s anti-pot move as an affront to personal liberties and states’ rights. But a 2017 Gallup poll found 51 percent of Republicans expressed support for legalization of the drug.

Damara Kelso, a Trump voter who runs Sugar Shack Farms, a marijuana grower in Eugene, Oregon, to the wire service, “Trump needs to realize that a lot of his supporters are pro-cannabis and it would be extremely hurtful to them if he allowed Sessions to move forward with this. It’s not lazy pothead stoners smoking weed all day in their parents’ basement.”

Sessions’ move allows federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules conflict with federal. It comes as legalization of marijuana is at an all-time high in popularity with Republicans.


Arpaio  to DACA: ‘Deport them’

Former Arizona county sheriff Joe Arpaio said he thinks recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should be deported.

Arpaio, who announced that he will run for Senate, told NPR’s “Morning Edition” in an interview airing today, “Deport them.”

Arpaio said, “When we come across these kids, or some are older than just kids, then deport them. You deport them back to the country they came from.”

Arpaio said that DACA recipients, nicknamed “Dreamers,” have education in the U.S. and can be “good ambassadors from the United States to their country. That’s just my idea.”

His position puts him at odds with President Trump at the moment who recently met with bipartisan lawmakers and saying he wants to take care of the Dreamers with “a bill of love.”

Arpaio gained popularity among immigration hardliners during his time as Maricopa County sheriff, representing the Phoenix area, proudly calling himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and touting a strict approach to border security.

Trump pardoned Arpaio last year after he was convicted of ignoring a court order related to racial profiling in his division.


Walmart boosts minimum wage to $11

Walmart is boosting the minimum hourly wage for its U.S. employees to $11 and dishing out bonuses of up to $1,000, crediting President Trump’s tax cut for enabling the move.

The increase for the nation’s largest private employer also comes amid political pressure to bolster minimum wages.

The big-box store chain has more than 1 million U.S. hourly employees. The wage increase will take effect in February. Walmart said the one-time bonuses would cost the company $400 million and will be based on the length of service. Employees who have worked for at least 20 years will get the full $1,000.

The company is also boosting its paid maternity leave policy for full-time hourly workers to 10 weeks and increasing its paid paternity leave policy to six weeks.


215 workers jobs end at Indiana Carrier plant

A round of layoffs that left hundreds out of work at an Indiana heating and air conditioning plant will come to a close Thursday when 215 workers will clock out for the last time, according to USA Today.   Carrier’s plant became a flashpoint in the 2016 presidential election after announcing it would move all of its Indianapolis operations to Mexico.

Then-candidate Donald Trump slammed the decision, threatening to “tax the hell” out of Carrier’s products.

Before taking office, Trump and Vice President Pence struck a deal with Carrier to keep about half the jobs from going to Mexico.

But Retired United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones said the president hasn’t followed up on his campaign talk of stopping the country’s loss of manufacturing jobs.


Trump tweets about Hillary Clinton…again

President Donald Trump today continued his attacks on 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton, more than 14 months after his victory over her.

Trump tweeted before dawn, adding, “Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians? Where are hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are Crooked Hillary Emails? What a mess!”

Trump refers to an opposition research document that was compiled on him during the election, and it includes unverified allegations that the Russian government has compromising personal and financial information about the President.

The dossier has become an explosive political issue. Fusion GPS efforts researching Trump were first funded by his Republican foes, and then Democrats, including the law firm for Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee after Trump became the presumptive nominee.

Trump has frequently criticized his own Justice Department over its handling of the investigation into Clinton’s email use as secretary of state.


States considering strengthening sexual harassment policies

After a tumultuous few months that saw numerous lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct, a majority of state legislatures across the country are now considering strengthening sexual harassment policies that have gone unheeded or unchanged for years.

A 50-state review by The Associated Press found that almost all legislative chambers now have at least some type of written sexual harassment policy, though they vary widely, and many are placing a greater emphasis on preventing and punishing sexual misconduct as they convene for their 2018 sessions.

This week alone, lawmakers in Arizona, Idaho and Rhode Island underwent detailed training about sexual harassment, some for the first time.

Yet about a third of all legislative chambers do not require lawmakers to receive training about what constitutes sexual harassment, how to report it and what consequences it carries, the AP’s review found.

The AP also found that only a minority of legislative bodies conduct external investigations into complaints, with most others entrusting lawmakers or staff to look into allegations against colleagues. That has contributed to a culture in some capitols in which the targets of sexual harassment have been reluctant to come forward with complaints — until recently.


Toyota, Mazda, Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai – “Made in Alabama”

Alabama, seeking the fast lane in its bid to become a major auto making hub in the South, has landed a coveted $1.6 billion joint venture plant by Japanese car giants Toyota and Mazda that will eventually employ 4,000 people.

The new plant is to be located in Huntsville, Alabama — already a hub for the region’s budding aerospace industry — and will produce 300,000 vehicles per year, a combination of the Toyota Corolla compact car and a new small crossover SUV from Mazda. Production is targeted to begin by 2021.

Gov. Kay Ivey said, “This is indeed a great day in Alabama.” Alabama offered an incentive package worth more than $379 million to lure the plant.

Toyota and Mazda will join Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai which currently operate assembly plants in Alabama.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said, “This project will really put Alabama at the center of the Southern automotive industry. We can’t wait to see ‘Made in Alabama’ in those vehicles rolling down the assembly line.”


Bipartisan pushback on Trump administration’s offshore drilling decision

Opposition to the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling is mounting as Democrats from coastal states accuse President Donald Trump of punishing states with Democratic leaders and a second Republican governor asks to withdraw his state from the plan.

Democrats said Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were being hypocritical by agreeing to a request by Florida’s Republican governor to withdraw from the drilling plan, but not making the same accommodation to states with Democratic governors.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California said on Twitter that his state, “like Florida, has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline and a governor who wants to keep it that way. Or is that not enough for blue states?”

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said, “If local voices matter why haven’t they excluded Virginia?  Is it because the governor of Florida is a Republican and the Virginia governor is a Democrat?”

South Carolina’s Republican governor is also seeking an exemption from the proposed drilling expansion, a move that will test the relationship between Trump and one of his earliest supporters.

Gov. Henry McMaster told reporters that risks associated with drilling pose a serious threat to South Carolina’s lush coastline and $20 billion tourism industry.

McMaster said, “We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline in South Carolina.”


China says it is not cutting back buying U.S. debt

Investors remain rattled that China, America’s biggest foreign creditor, might cut back on the amount of U.S. government debt it buys despite a denial today by the Chinese agency that manages the country’s foreign currency holdings.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange released a statement today, saying,” We believe the story may have quoted the wrong source, or a piece of false information.”

But the response fell short of a full-throated denial, and didn’t push U.S. Treasury prices higher.

A report that China was considering a cutback surfaced earlier this week in Bloomberg, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The Bloomberg report rattled markets, caused a sell-off in U.S. Treasury bonds, and raised questions about the long-term relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

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