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Newsclips - January 23, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - January 22, 2019

Senate leaders reach deal that offers possible path to reopen government

The Senate will vote Thursday on two separate bills that would bring an immediate end to the partial government shutdown: one backed by President Trump that includes $5.7 billion for his border wall and another that would simply extend funding for shuttered agencies through Feb. 8.

The plan for the Senate to consider the dueling proposals reflects the first bipartisan action since the shutdown began on legislation that could end the impasse, offering each party a chance to press its proposal. But the move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is far from a guarantee of breaking the gridlock.

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Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

'Her lips and my back end' comment costs Texas state senator his committee chairmanship

Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, was stripped of his committee chairmanship on Tuesday after a feud with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in which the senator accused him of political retribution and Patrick accused Seliger of making a "lewd comment" about his staffer.

Patrick, the Senate president, struck the latest salvo in a battle initiated last week when he revealed that Seliger had lost his chairmanship in the Senate Higher Education committee and his seats on the powerful Senate Education and Finance committees. He was assigned a chairmanship over the Senate Agriculture committee.

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Associated Press - January 23, 2019

Trump, others agitated by Giuliani’s performance

Rudy Giuliani’s latest media blitz, which was filled with a dizzying array of misstatements and hurried clarifications, agitated President Donald Trump and some of his allies, who have raised the possibility that the outspoken presidential lawyer be at least temporarily sidelined from televised interviews.

Trump was frustrated with Giuliani, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. The president told advisers that he felt his lawyer had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory: the special counsel’s rare public statement disputing portions of a BuzzFeed News story that Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie before Congress.

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Wall Street Journal - January 23, 2019

Liberals outpaced conservatives in ‘dark money’ midterm spending

As Democratic presidential hopefuls promise not to boost their candidacies through spending by outside groups with cash from wealthy donors, sometimes given secretly, a new report says the party received most of the so-called “dark money” spent on political ads in the 2018 midterms.

That marked the first time since 2010 that liberal nonprofits outspent conservative ones, according to a report by Issue One, an organization that advocates reducing money in politics. Liberal groups accounted for 54 percent of the $150 million in dark-money spending in last year’s election cycle, conservative groups 31% and nonpartisan or bipartisan groups 15 percent.

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NBC News - January 22, 2019

Trump will deliver a State of the Union speech — location to be determined

President Donald Trump is moving forward with plans to deliver a State of the Union address from the Capitol Jan. 29 — despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request that he delay the speech or submit it in writing — a White House official told NBC News on Tuesday.

"She invited, we accepted," the White House official said, referring to Pelosi's initial invitation and ignoring a letter the House speaker sent last week suggesting that Trump postpone his remarks because of a partial government shutdown now in its fifth week. But a senior administration official told NBC News that White House speechwriters are also working on "separate passages" that could lend themselves to a speech at a different venue and for a different audience than members of Congress.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

To combat opioid addiction crisis, Texas AG Ken Paxton's office launches drug abuse website

In an effort to combat opioid and prescription painkiller addiction, the attorney general’s office unveiled a website to teach Texans about the dangers of drug misuse.

At a news conference Tuesday, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the launch of “Dose of Reality.” This initiative was done in partnership with the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Health and Human Services. The website includes downloadable material on opioids, risk factors and the safe storage and disposal of unwanted drugs, he said. The site also has an interactive map of official locations to dispose of unwanted drugs.

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Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

A Dallas engineering firm goes to work solving California's water problem

A Dallas-based engineering firm is being tapped to help design California's plan to bolster its water supply system.

Jacobs' initial $93 million contract is for preliminary and final engineering design of a 15-year program known as California WaterFix. The Golden State's largest water conveyance project carries a $17 billion pricetag. WaterFix, slated to begin this year, will upgrade 50-year-old infrastructure dependent on levees, which the state said puts clean water supplies at risk from earthquakes and sea-level rise.

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Dallas Morning News - January 22, 2019

Texas Rep. Eric Johnson makes surprise announcement: he's running for Dallas mayor

State Rep. Eric Johnson on Tuesday announced that he's running for Dallas mayor. He will join a crowded field of candidates — including some financial and political heavyweights — vying to replace term-limited Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Johnson, a lawyer, said in a news release that he will "offer the citizens of Dallas a unique combination of experience, energy, and creativity when it comes to solving problems, along with a proven track record of working well with people from varying backgrounds in order to accomplish great things." "I have represented one of the most diverse House districts in the state for nearly a decade and I've shown that I can bring people together to get the job done for all of our families," Johnson said. "I will not be resigning to run for mayor," he told The Dallas Morning News.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

Perks for pastors: John Gray's $1.8 million home among big ticket toys for church leaders

Former Lakewood Church pastor John Gray made waves for his lavish lifestyle in December after purchasing his wife, Aventer, a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus as an eight-year wedding anniversary present. His creature comforts have landed him once again in the national headlines.

This time, the spotlight is on his $1.8 million home, 7,247 square-feet, located in the Southampton community of Simpsonville, South Carolina. However, the mansion was reportedly not purchased by Gray. It was bought by Relentless Church leaders in October, who said it was needed to attract a leader of Gray's caliber, reports the Greenville News. Of note, the cost of the home is more than 10 times the $165,600 median home value in Greenville County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Houston Chronicle - January 23, 2019

Texans are among the worst at using vacation time, survey says

Texans are leaving a lot of vacation time unused. A survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found that Texans have 67 million unused days of vacation. It is second only to California when it comes to leaving time off on the table.

Nearly half of Texans reported leaving vacation time unused, a finding the Travel Association tied to decreased happiness. The travel industry advocate reported finding that "workers who use the majority of their vacation days for travel are significantly happier than those who travel less or not at all." Of course, Texas's size contributes to the sheer number of unused vacation days in Texas. If you look instead at the percentage of vacation days that go unused, Texans are only 10th worst in the nation.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

New Harris County bail lawsuit challenges thousands jailed on felony arrests

The legal team that successfully challenged Harris County's misdemeanor bail system for unfairly detaining indigent people has filed a new federal class action this week, that challenges the money bail for felonies, which results in thousands of poor defendants being locked up pretrial or entering guilty pleas to avoid incarceration.

The lawyers note that since 2009, 125 people have died while awaiting trial in the Harris County Jail, including a woman who committed suicide this month who couldn’t make her original bail of $3,000. This new lawsuit, which hit the docket during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, claims that the county is holding people unjustly, simply because they cannot afford cash bail. Meanwhile, people arrested for the same offenses who can post a cash bond or hire a commercial bonding company can simply resume their lives as their cases proceed through the criminal docket.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

Texas construction employment reaches record high

Texas construction employment has reached a record high, according to federal data. The state's construction employment grew by 6.4 percent in 2018, adding 46,800 jobs, the most in the country. Between November and December, typically a slower time for construction, Texas added 4,500 jobs.

Still, construction firms continue to worry about their ability to find the workers they need to grow. Nearly four out of five construction firms surveyed for the Associated General Contractors of America's hiring outlook said they were having difficulty filling positions, and two-thirds said they expected it will be as hard or harder to hire workers in 2019.

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El Paso Times - January 21, 2019

El Paso Electric CEO gets leadership spot on Dallas Fed board; Sierra hospital has new CEO

Mary Kipp, El Paso Electric chief executive officer, is the new deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board of directors. Kipp was appointed to the Dallas Fed board in 2018. She previously was on the bank's El Paso Branch board.

Greg Armstrong, board chairman of Plains All American Pipeline, a Houston-based oil and natural gas pipeline operator, is the Dallas Fed board's new chairman. Members of the nine-member board help formulate monetary policy for the Fed Bank system and the central bank of the United States, and they serve as links between the Fed and the public, according to the Fed Bank's website.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 22, 2019

UT: Safety taken seriously, but Bevo’s here to stay

As far as University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves is concerned, Bevo XV remains “a great symbol for the university” even though the longhorn mascot lunged out of his corral at the Sugar Bowl amid a crush of photographers and other onlookers.

“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said last week during a visit to the American-Statesman. The Silver Spurs Alumni Association maintains a seven-figure liability insurance policy for Bevo, according to records obtained from UT by the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 22, 2019

City Council to mull new restrictions for scooters on San Antonio streets

Reacting to a torrent of constituent complaints, a City Council transportation committee voted Tuesday to impose a moratorium on any new e-scooter or e-bike permits but stopped short of forcing them off city sidewalks or requiring riders to wear helmets.

Most on the five-member panel were careful to say they didn’t want to appear as fuddy-duddies out to curb a rambunctious new technology, but some spoke of reckless riders, the threat they pose to pedestrians and the scooter litter created when riders drop them off by the thousands at their journey’s end. “It has really gotten out of hand fast,” said District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse. “Aesthetically, they are ridiculous when people leave them on sidewalks. It’s embarrassing and looks bad for the city. There has to be more accountability.”

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National Stories

New York Times - January 22, 2019

El Chapo trial suggests Trump’s wall would do little to stop drug smuggling

The 10 weeks of testimony at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, have revealed that his innovative smuggling network typically went through legal checkpoints — not isolated stretches of the border where a wall might be an obstacle.

President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southwestern border has not been mentioned at the trial, but it has lurked in the background of Mr. Guzmán’s prosecution, a watershed moment in America’s war on drugs. The trial, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, is the first time that American federal prosecutors have publicly revealed the inner workings of Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa drug cartel, offering the most extensive details yet on the organization’s structure, financing and distribution methods.

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New York Times - January 22, 2019

Los Angeles teachers’ strike to end with tentative deal for more pay

Los Angeles public school teachers reached a tentative deal with school officials on Tuesday to end a weeklong strike that had upended learning for more than half a million students in the nation’s second largest public school system.

The teachers won a 6 percent pay raise and caps on class sizes, which had become one of the most contentious issues between the union and district officials. The deal also includes hiring full-time nurses for every school, as well as enough librarians for every middle and high school in the district by the fall of 2020. The city and county will also expand programs into public schools, providing more support services for the neediest students.

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Washington Post - January 22, 2019

Supreme Court allows Trump restrictions on transgender troops in military to go into effect as legal battle continues

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while the legal battle continues in lower courts. The justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had kept the administration’s policy from being implemented.

It reversed an Obama administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women and instead barred those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and who are seeking to transition. The court’s five conservatives — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — allowed the restrictions to go into effect while the court decides whether to consider the merits of the case. The liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — would have kept the injunctions in place.

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Washington Post - January 22, 2019

DACA program that protects young undocumented immigrants not likely to get Supreme Court review this term

The Supreme Court is not likely to review during its current term the program that shields young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, leaving in place the Obama-era initiative that the Trump administration has tried to end.

The justices on Tuesday took no action on the administration’s request that it review the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected nearly 700,000 people brought to this country as children, commonly known as “dreamers.” If the court sticks to its normal procedures, that would mean that even if it accepts the case as a later date, it would not be argued until the new term starting in October, with a decision likely in 2020.

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CNN - January 22, 2019

Native American elder and Covington Catholic teen both say they are willing to talk

Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips is offering to travel to Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky to talk about the importance of respecting diverse cultures, according to a statement from the Lakota People's Law Project.

Video of an encounter between Phillips and Covington Catholic students at Washington's Lincoln Memorial on Friday has stirred debate for days. Phillips was at the memorial for the Indigenous Peoples March and the students were there for the March for Life rally. Phillips, the Indigenous Peoples March and the Lakota group are trying to set up meetings with the students, members of the community and church officials, the statement said.

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CNN - January 22, 2019

FBI agents detail damage to counterterror, MS-13 probes, in anonymous report

The FBI has lost several informants that had penetrated groups at the center of terrorism investigations. A task force targeting interstate meth and heroin traffickers has run out of funds to pay for controlled purchases. Agents working a multi-year MS-13 investigation have resorted to conference calls to communicate with Spanish-speaking sources.

As the partial government shutdown entered a second month, dozens of anonymous FBI officials took the rare step to share how the lack of funding has kneecapped operations in a report released Tuesday by an agents advocacy group. The accounts –– compiled by the FBI Agents Association, which represents most of the bureau's active duty special agents –– mark a new front in the damage caused by the country's longest shutdown: weakened national security. "The shutdown has eliminated any ability to operate," an agent working undercover counterintelligence cases said in the report. "The fear is our enemies know they can run freely."

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CNBC - January 23, 2019

Tesla downgrade means more analysts on Wall Street have 'sell' ratings than 'buy' on stock

Tesla was downgraded to underperform by RBC Capital, which said that the electric car maker has finally started to give some straight talk to investors about its future growth, but many are still not listening because they are still too enthralled by the company's founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla shares fell 1.5 percent in premarket trading Wednesday following the call. Through Tuesday, the stock was down 10 percent on the year to $298.92. "The company seems to be more tactful with messaging which is a long-term positive, but means downward pressure to growth expectations - which in our view are too high to justify current levels, let alone to add to positions," wrote Spak.

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CNBC - January 22, 2019

The financial shock for 800,000 federal workers is about to get much worse as the shutdown drags on

The financial shock is about to get much worse for government employees sidelined by the budget stalemate in Washington. If the partial government shutdown continues through this week – and there is no end in sight – Friday will mark the second paycheck missed by affected federal workers, whose household budgets have been completely upended.

The impact of the government shutdown on the overall U.S. economy, so far, has been limited. Yet, just as the economic impact is concentrated on furloughed workers, some companies and industries are taking a bigger hit than others. Commercial airlines, for example, are facing slower demand as airports struggle with understaffed security checkpoints, are losing revenue. Last week, Delta said it had lost $25 million in revenue on account of the shutdown.

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McClatchy - January 22, 2019

‘This place is not functioning’ – Republicans line up behind term limits for Congress

Nothing, Rep. George Holding says, makes his congressional colleagues focus more than a deadline. So Holding wants to give them one for their jobs.

The North Carolina Republican filed a resolution last week seeking a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of representatives and senators to 12 years in each chamber. Holding’s resolution is one of at least nine filed by Republicans in the first weeks of the new Congress hoping to alter the constitution to restrict the terms of representatives and senators.

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McClatchy - January 22, 2019

Fear of Kris Kobach and 2020 ‘disaster’ drive Pompeo recruitment, say GOP strategists

Fear that Kris Kobach will capture the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is driving the effort to recruit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race, according to GOP strategists with ties to Kansas.

“No one wants to relive the disaster that was the Kobach campaign,” said David Kensinger, who has managed successful statewide campaigns for Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Kensinger said attempts to entice Pompeo, who is fourth in line to the presidency as the nation’s top diplomat, to run to replace the retiring Roberts can absolutely be traced to concerns about a possible Senate run by Kobach, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor.

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Reuters - January 23, 2019

Iowa's 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban ruled unconstitutional

Iowa’s “fetal heartbeat” law, the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States, was declared unconstitutional Tuesday, as it violates the Iowa state constitution, a state judge ruled.

Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the restriction in May 2018, outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant. In the ruling, posted online, District Court Judge Michael Huppert wrote, “It is undisputed that such cardiac activity is detectable well in advance of the fetus becoming viable.” A fetus that is viable outside the womb, usually at 24 weeks, is widely considered the threshold in the United States to prohibit an abortion.

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The Hill - January 23, 2019

Momentum for earmarks grows with Dem majority

With Democrats back in control of the House after eight years of Republican control, there is strong support for reviving earmarks — the power to direct money on pet projects — which caused a major scandal in Congress during the George W. Bush years.

Senate and House lawmakers from both parties predict there will be a serious push to bring back earmarks once the government shutdown is finally over — with one exception. Earmarks is a dirty word, so if the specially allocated funds return, they will be referred to as “congressionally directed spending.”

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HuffPost - January 23, 2019

'Medicare For All' looks good in new poll, but there’s a big asterisk

Americans are pretty keen on the idea of creating a new government-run insurance program, or at least expanding an existing one, in order to make sure everybody can finally get affordable health care.

But Americans are more enthusiastic about proposals to make enrollment in government-run insurance voluntary rather than mandatory. And once Americans hear some of the common attacks that conservatives deploy against government-run insurance schemes, they get more skittish about the idea. Those are some of the key findings in a new poll from the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The results say a lot about why so many Democrats are talking about ideas like “Medicare for all” these days ? and why, to succeed, those Democrats still have a lot of work to do.

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ABC News - January 23, 2019

Trump's border wall 'compromise' raises red flags for some advocates

When President Donald Trump announced a deal to “compromise” with Democrats in an effort to secure border funding Saturday, he avoided mentioning several major proposed changes including the way the nation handles the temporary protected status of people from countries ravaged by war or disaster and for young immigrants known as "Dreamers."

In his announcement on Saturday, Trump offered three-year extensions to some 700,000 so-called “Dreamers,” children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents who were given a protected status under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, and for Temporary Protected Status recipients whose status is currently facing expiration. While Trump’s bill would extend temporary assurances for those groups, critics of the president's proposal say the proposal undercuts critical protections for vulnerable populations.

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BuzzFeed - January 23, 2019

Trump’s lawyer said there were 'no plans' for Trump Tower Moscow. Here they are.

The White House on Tuesday announced the re-nomination of 51 federal judicial nominees left over from the previous Congress, kickstarting the administration's effort to install more conservative judges after GOP activists worried that such appointments had stalled.

The tower was never built, but it has become a focal point of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump’s relationship with Russia in the lead-up to his presidency. The president and his representatives have dismissed the project as little more than a notion — a rough plan led by Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his associate Felix Sater, of which Trump and his family said they were only loosely aware as the election campaign gathered pace.

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Associated Press - January 22, 2019

Supreme Court returns to gun rights for first time in nine years

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up its first gun rights case in nine years, a challenge to New York City's prohibition on carrying a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits.

The court's decision to hear the appeal filed by three New York residents and New York's National Rifle Association affiliate could signal a revived interest in gun rights by a more conservative court. The case won't be argued until October. The challengers are represented by prominent lawyer Paul Clement, who has been urging the justices to elaborate on the extent of constitutional gun rights the Supreme Court declared in decisions in 2008 and 2010. The court had previously rejected several appeals.

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ProPublica - January 22, 2019

Former MS-13 member who secretly helped police is deported

Henry was twice forced to join the brutal gang MS-13, first in El Salvador and then on Long Island. Twice, he tried to escape its violence. He became an informant, helping law enforcement arrest other MS-13 members.

But his FBI gang task force handler broke a promise to help him, and immigration authorities revealed his identity. This month, Henry was deported to El Salvador, despite warnings that MS-13 members there would hunt him down and kill him. He’s now gone into hiding.

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New York Magazine - January 22, 2019

Trump labor counsel hopes legal trap can kill Scabby the Rat

The Trump administration has found yet another way to pick on the little guy — who in this case, is actually a critter that towers over many labor protests.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg Law reported that the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board may try to ban the display of Scabby the Rat on union picket lines. The large rodent-shaped balloon with yellow incisors and a mangy belly has become a well-known symbol mocking bosses and all who cross picket lines. Scabbies vary in size and in specific design. Sometimes his mouth is open in a snarl. Sometimes he holds cheese. At all times, however, his leering face promises a protest nearby.

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Governing - January 22, 2019

Criminal justice reform paves the way for welfare reform

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, raised eyebrows in the fall by signing S.B. 6, a bill that bans felons with drug offenses and some sex offenders from receiving public benefits for 10 years. His decision contradicted the trend of states easing access to public benefits for people with criminal records.

There’s a federal ban on people with felony drug convictions enrolling in food stamp and cash assistance programs. But most states have either removed or modified the ban. Only three states –– Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia –– have kept the full ban on food stamps, and 10 states have kept the full ban on cash assistance. Most of the movement to relax or roll back the federal ban has taken place in the past couple of years –– even in conservative states that historically don’t support policies to make the safety net bigger.

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Newsclips - January 22, 2019

Lead Stories

Associated Press - January 22, 2019

Trump's proposal to break budget deadlock falls flat

Senate Republicans have released a measure designed around President Donald Trump's proposal for breaking a budget impasse, its centerpiece his demand for $5.7 billion to build a southern border wall all but guaranteeing Democratic opposition and no foreseeable end to a partial government shutdown.

As the shutdown dragged through its fifth week, another missed paycheck loomed for hundreds of thousands of workers. Voting in Congress was not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seemed doubtful that the 1,300-page measure, dubbed the "End The Shutdown And Secure The Border Act," had any chance of passing swiftly. Senate Republicans hold a 53-47 majority but would need Democrats to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for bills to advance. Not a single Democrat publicly expressed support for Trump's proposal since he announced it over the weekend.

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Politico - January 21, 2019

Giuliani walks back statements on Trump Tower Moscow talks

Rudy Giuliani on Monday walked back statements he made this weekend concerning potential conversations between then-candidate Donald Trump and Michael Cohen about plans to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current attorney for the president, said during an interview Sunday on NBC that discussions between Trump and his ex-fixer regarding the project may have lasted up until Election Day. “It's our understanding that they went on throughout 2016,” Giuliani said, adding that “there weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can't be sure of the exact dates, but the president can remember having conversations with him about it."

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Midland Reporter-Telegraph - January 21, 2019

MRT: Seliger, West Texas deserve better from Patrick

State Sen. Kel Seliger deserved better than what he received when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments last week. The residents of District 31, which includes Midland, Odessa and Amarillo, deserved better, too.

Patrick stripped Seliger of his chairmanship (and seat) on the Higher Education committee and removed Seliger from the Senate Education and Finance committees. Seliger was named chair of the Senate’s new Agriculture Committee, a smaller committee split off from the Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee. “Lt. Gov. Patrick created a separate agriculture committee this session because of the ever-increasing economic impact on agriculture on the state economy,” wrote Patrick staffer Alejandro Garcia in a response to the Reporter-Telegram. “The agriculture industry is hugely important in Senate District 31.” At this point in time, there is nothing more important than education.

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Politico - January 21, 2019

GOP reaches landmark agreement to juice small-dollar fundraising

President Donald Trump’s political team and top Republican officials have reached a landmark agreement to reshape the party’s fundraising apparatus and close the financial gap that devastated them in the midterms.

With the deal, Republicans hope to create a rival to ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising behemoth that plowed more than $70 million in small-dollar donations into Democratic coffers in the 2018 campaign. Republicans have had no comparable centralized platform to cultivate small dollars. Following weeks of closed-door discussions, Republicans have agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations. The GOP — whose jungle-like ecosystem of vendors has long fought bitterly over contracts and dollars — has struggled in the past to create such a unified system.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

State Bar drops probe into ex-prosecutor accused of withholding evidence in Texas death row case

The State Bar of Texas has closed its probe into the former Harris County prosecutor accused of withholding key evidence in a high-profile death row case, finding no just cause to proceed with disciplinary sanctions against attorney Dan Rizzo.

Years after leaving the office, the retired barrister landed in headlines last year when District Attorney Kim Ogg released an old email showing that he'd apparently been told about exculpatory evidence but failed to turn it over to defense lawyers for Alfred Dewayne Brown. Without that evidence — phone records that would have backed up his alibi — Brown was convicted and sentenced to die for the killing of Houston police officer Charles R. Clark, who was shot to death in a botched store robbery in 2005. Brown, now 36, spent nearly 10 years awaiting execution before his case was dismissed after Houston police investigator Breck McDaniel found the records in his garage.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

Houston case reveals extortion, death threats among brutal tactics employed by human traffickers

The Houston-based federal prosecution of six men charged with aiding in the Alief stash house and another residence offers a rare glimpse into the ruthless tactics experts say are used to extract cash in the underground human cargo trade in which Houston is a major hub.

“It’s a vicious world. They know intimidation is a factor in getting paid,” said David G. Ramirez, a former assistant special agent with Homeland Security who worked undercover for years in international smuggling operations. “It’s not a customer-friendly business.” Although thousands of people are charged with harboring undocumented immigrants, the case is one of just 16 federal prosecutions against 48 defendants in the region since 2014 on allegations of “hostage taking” by a smuggling crew.

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Houston Chronicle - January 22, 2019

Mother sues Texas prisons after ‘egregious’ failure to prevent son’s suicide

While he was in prison, Sawyer Letcher was “openly suicidal” and gave repeated warnings of his destructive intent. But still, according to a legal claim filed this month, prison officials and medical providers did not do enough to intervene, allegedly leaving the 19-year-old alone in a cell with the means to kill himself. And, just after noon on May 26, 2017, that’s exactly what he did.

Now, his mother has launched a federal lawsuit against the Texas prison system and its University of Texas medical provider, saying the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to address her teenage son’s “obvious mental disabilities.” “This is one of the most egregious failures to prevent a suicide that I’ve ever seen,” said Scott Medlock, one of the attorneys representing Letcher’s family in the case. “This poor kid needed help, they knew he needed help and they just put him back in his cell knowing that this is likely to happen.” The Texas prison and the University of Texas Medical Branch declined to comment on pending litigation.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

Texas lawmakers push legislation on three key immigration issues

As the national debate over funding for a border wall intensifies, Texas lawmakers are also taking a run at several immigration issues.

Bills filed by Democratic and Republican state lawmakers address the separation of Central American migrant families seeking asylum, in-state tuition at Texas universities for young immigrants who have lived in the state for more than three years, and weakening of the so-called sanctuary cities law that passed in 2017. Last week, immigration advocates highlighted the legislation and railed against President Donald Trump’s policies as well as House Bill 413 by Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, which would repeal an 18-year-old law that grants in-state college tuition for longterm residents of the state who are not U.S. citizens.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

First Buc-ee's outside of Texas opens today

It's official: Buc-ee's is no longer exclusively a Texas chain. About 100 people braved the cold weather and stood in line before the sun rose Monday morning for opening of the first Buc-ee's outside of the Lone Star State.

The store in Baldwin County, Alabama, opened at 6 a.m. Monday morning, giving Alabama residents their first taste of unique amenities that became a staple in Texas since it opened in 1982. The 50,000-square-foot store offers 124 fueling stations and "the biggest, most pristine bathrooms the state of Alabama has ever seen," according to a press release. Judging by the turnout at the opening, it's clear the legend of the store's highly addictive snacks have spread well beyond Texas. Beaver Nuggets, a wildly popular product made of sugar, caramel and butter-coated corn puffs, may have had something to do with that. The store also offers barbecue, beef jerky and homemade fudge.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

In Angleton, Dennis Bonnen is not a celebrity, but a friend

When people in Angleton think of Dennis Bonnen, they don’t call to mind a powerful leader directing the paths of laws that affect millions of Texans. They think of the neighbor who played backyard whiffle ball, the fifth-grader who petitioned to rename the class hamster, the son whose family reputation preceded him.

On Jan. 8, when Bonnen, at 46, became speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, those in his hometown — a slice of the estimated 178,600 people he represents in District 25 — swelled with pride. “It’s hometown boy makes good,” said Patricia Montgomery, 63, the former superintendent of the Angleton school district, who watched Bonnen grow up.

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Dallas Morning News - January 21, 2019

Once hopping Tornillo, host of the tent city for migrant children, is suddenly almost a ghost town

Once upon a time, just weeks ago, this place was booming. "It was like Christmas year-round," said Quinton Williams, a butcher at Don Pancho Supermarket. "Cash registers were ringing."

These days, this town of some 2,000 is struggling with a new reality, and an old story: No jobs. Thrust into the national spotlight as the location for a detention center for migrant children and teens, Tornillo, right on a border crossing to Mexico, has gone from boom to bust, and been all but forgotten. As of this week, the facilities, known as Tent City, formally shut down and the money has dried up. Making matters worse, the government shutdown is also hurting businesses as Border Patrol agents and government workers aren't receiving paychecks even though they're still on the job.

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Dallas Morning News - January 21, 2019

Texas two-step: There's room for Julian Castro and Beto O'Rourke in race for president

The 2020 presidential race is big enough for two Texans. It's likely that former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso will joust for the Democratic nomination for president, along with numerous contenders from across the country.

Some analysts have dismissed Castro's chances. They point out that since his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his star has slipped. Enter O'Rourke, who last year thrilled Texas and national Democrats by coming within 2.6 percentage points of beating Republican incumbent Ted Cruz for Senate. O'Rourke is widely expected to buffalo Castro out of the race, even before what could be an intriguing showdown in the Texas presidential primary in March.

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Reason - January 18, 2019

Anti-wall Rep. Will Hurd: 'There's a thing we care about in Texas called private property rights'

In an interview published today with Rolling Stone, Rep. Will Hurd (R–Texas) poked holes in President Donald Trump's proposed wall on the U.S.–Mexico border.

A wall would be "the most expensive and least effective way to do border security," said Hurd, whose congressional district runs along the southern border from El Paso to San Antonio. Among Hurd's concerns is that building the wall would require lots of land seizures. "There's a thing in Texas we care about called private property rights," he told Rolling Stone. "To get the property rights with eminent domain," he said, "would impact 1,000 property owners in Texas."

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Dallas Observer - January 21, 2019

Jim Schutze: Texas school debate could make a liberal nostalgic for the bathroom bill

I liked the previous session of the Texas Legislature a lot better. The Republicans concentrated on what I consider to be their innate concerns – dehumanizing women, disenfranchising minorities and putting Big Brother in the bathroom. I didn’t like what they did, but I did like that they wanted to do it. It assured me there is order in the universe.

And anyway, when the Republicans act like that, it leaves the lane open for liberal Democrats like myself to come along and be virtuous, magnanimous and pure of heart – also how the universe should be. I look in the mirror, I sigh, and I see that it is true. So I really hate this session. This year in the 86th Texas Legislature, the Republican leadership led by Gov. Greg Abbott will take up school reform proposals at a proposed cost to taxpayers between $6 billion and $9 billion, a huge chunk of which would go to increased teacher pay.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 22, 2019

Mike Siegel running again in North Austin congressional district

Democrat Mike Siegel, vanquished in November by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, in a close race that caught political observers by surprise, is running again in 2020. Siegel, an attorney for the city of Austin, lost to McCaul by 4.3 percentage points. The margin was the closest since the district was redrawn in 2003.

The district stretches from Lake Travis to the Houston suburbs and includes Austin neighborhoods Allandale, Rosedale, Crestview, Brentwood, North Loop, St John’s and the Domain. Siegel said he hopes to improve the lives of Texans by focusing his campaign on health care, voting rights, job growth and criminal justice reform. He also said that Congress needs to exercise its duty in overseeing the president. “We held a seven-time incumbent with enormous personal wealth to 51 percent of the vote,” Siegel told the American-Statesman. “Now, that last couple percent is obviously the hardest percent, and that’s why I need to start now.”

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The Intercept - January 21, 2019

Trump's border wall would destroy historic graves in south Texas

Ramiro R. Ramírez remembers his grandmother, when he was a young child, planting a red rose bush to mark the gravesite of Nathaniel Jackson, his great-great grandfather. With time, the rose bush vanished, like the wooden cross marking Jackson’s death in 1865.

Now 70, Ramírez and other descendants of the Jackson family are fighting to save their family’s legacy and the gravesites of Nathaniel and Matilda, which could be destroyed by a border wall up to 30 feet high, one of the first sections of President Donald Trump’s wall slated to go up. This stretch would include not only a steel and concrete wall, but also a 150-foot-wide “enforcement zone” — an all-weather road and surveillance towers — that is slated to be built straight through the family cemetery in the coming year.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 21, 2019

Austin police focus on violent crime after homicides rose in 2018

Austin police tallied 34 homicides in 2018, making the year among the deadliest since 2010. That year, the Austin Police Department investigated 38 homicides. The only year with more killings since then was 2016 with 40 homicides. Officers handled 25 homicides in 2017, Austin Police Assistant Chief Ely Reyes said.

2018 was an atypical year for homicides. Reyes said it is rare for Austin to have suspects accused in multiple homicides with no known relationship to victims, but last year had two: Beginning on March 2, a series of random bombings killed two people, 17-year-old Draylen Mason and 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. The suspected bomber, 23-year-old Mark Conditt, killed himself with one of his bombs on March 22 as authorities moved to arrest him. Police attributed two other homicides, one in September and one in November — what police described as a pair of deadly drug deals — to one man: 23-year-old Isaac Jerome Thomas. Though while the number of killings climbed in 2018, overall violent crime in the city trended downward for the first time in two years.

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Houston Chronicle - January 21, 2019

Civil rights icon John Lewis makes surprise appearance at Houston MLK breakfast

Georgia Congressman John Lewis –– a civil rights icon for decades –– made a surprise appearance at the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast Monday morning in Houston to remind the enthusiastic crowd to keep up the fight for social justice.

Lewis drew a standing ovation, then headed out to the original MLK Parade. He is serving as the grand marshal along with Houston Astros George Springer for the original MLK parade started by the Black Heritage Society 40 years ago. The Heritage Society parade is one of two dueling parades in Houston. A second parade known as the MLK Grande Parade, launched by a former Black Heritage Society volunteer, has also been held since 1995. Both parades were held Monday morning in Houston.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - January 21, 2019

U.S. and North Korean spies have held secret talks for a decade

U.S. intelligence officials have met with North Korean counterparts secretly for a decade, a covert channel that allowed communications during tense times, aided in the release of detainees and helped pave the way for President Trump’s historic summit last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The secret channel between the Central Intelligence Agency and spies from America’s bitter adversary included two missions to Pyongyang in 2012 during the Obama administration by Michael Morell, then deputy CIA director, and at least one by his successor, Avril Haines, say current and former U.S. officials. The channel appears to have gone dormant late in the Obama administration. Mike Pompeo re-energized it while CIA director, sending an agency officer to meet with North Korean counterparts in Singapore in August 2017.

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Wall Street Journal - January 22, 2019

Shutdown hits industries nationwide

Shuttered government offices are stalling the approval of new loans, initial public offerings, the processing of tax documents, and the approval of new products such as prescription drugs, among other effects.

The partial closure of the Securities and Exchange Commission is delaying the ability of companies to open the IPO market. Companies that were seeking to list shares in January are delaying plans since the regulator has stopped reviewing and approving new and pending corporate registration statements. Publicly traded companies also could have to put shareholder proposals they oppose to a vote if the shutdown doesn’t end before many U.S. companies hold annual meetings at the end of winter. Banking regulators remain open, operating on fees collecting from the companies they oversee.

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Reuters - January 21, 2019

British PM May tries to tweak defeated Brexit plan, refuses to rule out no-deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May sought to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit on Monday by proposing to seek further concessions from the European Union on a plan to prevent customs checks on the Irish border.

With little time left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc, and a growing chance of a dramatic ‘no-deal’ exit with no provisions to soften the economic shock. After her Brexit divorce deal with Brussels was rejected by 432-202 lawmakers last Tuesday, the biggest defeat in modern British history, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through.

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Reuters - January 21, 2019

Report reveals an undeclared North Korean missile base headquarters

One of 20 undeclared ballistic missile operating bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published on Monday.

The discovery of an undeclared missile headquarters comes three days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he “looks forward” to another summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February. CSIS, which last reported on the 20 undeclared bases in November, said the Sino-ri base has never been declared by North Korea and as a result “does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations.”

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Pacific Standard - January 21, 2019

Satellites could revolutionize the way governments monitor rural development

An international team of researchers examined the potential of remotely sensed satellite data to help monitor rural poverty in lower-income countries. They found that certain local environmental features, including agricultural land uses, are related to the level of wealth of households and villages and can be quantified by satellite data.

Imagery taken from satellites helps scientists map the Earth's surface. Using these images, scientists quantify different types of land cover, distinguishing areas of forest from those dominated by scrub, grassland, crops, or water. By analyzing satellite data from different time periods, researchers assess changes in vegetation cover across the globe. Rural residents in lower-income countries rely on natural resources for food, fuel, building materials, and medicines. Loss of these resources is likely associated with lower socioeconomic circumstances.

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Governing - January 21, 2019

Not just L.A.: where teachers might strike in 2019

The ongoing teacher strike in Los Angeles won’t be this year’s only uprising of educators pushing for higher pay, better working conditions and changes to education policy.

With more than 30,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union off the job since their strike began Monday, teachers from half a dozen public schools in Oakland, Calif., are preparing for their own walkout on Friday. Friday is also the deadline for teachers in Denver to reach a contract agreement with their district, and the union has scheduled a strike vote for Saturday if that doesn’t happen.

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The Hill - January 22, 2019

Rep. Elise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is looking to recruit and elect more Republican women to Congress through her leadership political action committee, as the GOP grapples with winning back the suburban, moderate voters who left the party in 2018.

To get there, Stefanik's group, E-PAC, is making strides to reach the high-dollar fundraising and massive network of Democratic women's groups like EMILY’s List. That is an area where Republicans have traditionally come up short, but one they are seeking to emulate this cycle. The three-term congresswoman has attracted the support of top Republican House leaders, after Republicans lost dozens of seats last November. The relaunch event for her PAC last week was attended by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA), and House Conference Chair Liz Cheney (WY) in what was a display of strength for her efforts.

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Bloomberg - January 21, 2019

Oil gloom turns to boom as the market’s worst fears fade away

Investors are the most optimistic on oil in two months as the worst fears that roiled markets at the end of the year start to dissipate.

Hedge funds boosted their net wagers on rising Brent crude prices by 9 percent in the week ended Jan. 15, mostly because they continued to unwind a short-selling spree from the end of 2018, data from the ICE Futures Europe exchange show. The shift in sentiment culminated with the global benchmark closing at its highest in eight weeks on Friday after China was said to propose a ramp-up in imports from the U.S. to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

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Associated Press - January 21, 2019

Survey: CEO pessimism on economy spreads after upbeat 2018

A survey of hundreds of corporate leaders shows "a record jump in pessimism" about the world economy, with sentiment doused by trade spats, a global downturn and fading benefits from U.S. tax cuts.

Consulting firm PwC says the latest edition of its annual survey of CEOs found 30 percent feel growth will decline this year, a six-fold increase from a year earlier — when 57 percent were optimistic. The survey, released Monday on the eve of the World Economic Forum opening in Davos, Switzerland, tallies responses from more than 1,300 CEOs worldwide and is billed as a good predictor of economic results.

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Washington Post - January 21, 2019

American charged by Russia for espionage was handed classified material, lawyer says

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Moscow on spy charges, was given a flash drive containing a “state secret,” his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Whelan, 48, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish citizenships, was detained by Russian security services in late December, during what his family said was a personal trip to the Russian capital. “But how he got it, what he was supposed to do with it, and whether Whelan knew that he had secret information is unknown,” Vladimir Zherebenkov told reporters in a Moscow court, where Whelan was attending a closed-door, pretrial hearing. The Russian court refused to release Whelan on bail, meaning he will remain behind bars through the end of February.

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New York Times - January 21, 2019

Russian oligarch could benefit from sanctions deal, document shows

When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.

But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised. The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows. With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point.

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U.S. News and World Report - January 17, 2019

When #MeToo and 'Ban the Box' collide

With the country addressing criminal justice reform, colleges and universities are increasingly making spaces for formerly incarcerated people. But for many institutions of higher education, especially those where the majority of students live on campus, safeguarding against admitting someone with a history of sexual misconduct is also increasingly top of mind.

Those competing interests –– being a space for second chances while also protecting against potential dangers –– are playing out in real time as supporters of the #MeToo movement are colliding head-on with supporters of the "ban the box" movement, splintering a civil rights community that historically falls on the same side of an issue.

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Politico - January 22, 2019

Tech billionaire, Democrats clash over campaign tactics and data

Billionaire Reid Hoffman quietly became a major force in Democratic politics over the last two years, but his groups’ clashes within the party and involvement in controversial campaign tactics are causing some Democrats to question whether partnering with him on a $35 million-plus overhaul of the party's data infrastructure would be a mistake.

Democratic operatives and groups that have worked with Hoffman say his spending in 2017 and 2018 put him in the league of top party givers such as Tom Steyer and Donald Sussman. But some Democrats told POLITICO they believe the LinkedIn co-founder and his allies — intent on taking risks with his money and breaking with the status quo — failed to properly vet their partners and made avoidable mistakes as they rapidly expanded their political work.

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ABC News - January 22, 2019

U.S. banker with ties to Putin’s inner circle sought access to Trump transition, per sources

Nine days after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett, reached out to one of Trump’s closest advisers to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long held ties to Russia.

The banker, Robert Foresman, never got the role he was seeking with the fledgling Trump administration. But he has recently attracted the attention of congressional investigators as one more name on an expanding list of Americans with established ties inside the Kremlin who appears to have been seeking access to the newly elected president’s inner circle, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Foresman, who is now vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS’s investment arm, lived for years in Moscow, where he led a $3 billion Russian investment fund and was touted by his new company as someone who maintains connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

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Newsclips - January 21, 2019

Lead Stories

The Hill - January 21, 2019

Debate builds over making Mueller report public

Anticipation is building for special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, bringing to boil a debate over whether it will also be made public. The report took center stage at Attorney General nominee Bill Barr’s confirmation hearing last week, where Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed him to commit to releasing it publicly.

It’s far from clear how close Mueller is to ending his investigation; the former FBI director has shown no signs of concluding his investigation. At the same time, there is a growing sense in Washington that a probe that has captivated the political world for most of the last two years is wrapping up. The report is expected to lay out Mueller’s findings about Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. It remains unclear what exact shape the report will take or what, if any, conclusions it will draw.

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Washington Post - January 19, 2019

Shouting, near fisticuffs, emotions high: Today’s Washington could get worse

One political rule of life is never ask a question unless you really want to know the answer. Example: It cannot possibly get worse in Washington, can it?

By early Thursday afternoon, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had traded insults several times. Pelosi called for a delay of Trump’s planned Jan. 29 State of the Union address as long as portions of the government were shut down. The president then revoked military support for her weekend trip to visit troops in Afghanistan. A couple of days earlier, the House rebuked Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for a history of racially and ethnically charged remarks, the latest in his questioning of how white supremacy had become offensive.

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New York Times - January 20, 2019

China’s slowdown looms just as the world looks for growth

In the vast metropolis of Chongqing in western China, three huge Ford Motor assembly plants have slowed to a fraction of their earlier pace. In the eastern province of Jiangsu, hundreds of chemical factories have closed. In Guangdong Province in the southeast, factories have idled workers in droves.

China’s huge economy, a major driver of global growth, is cooling just when the world needs its spark. Data released by Beijing in recent months shows softer investment, unprofitable factories and consumers who are no longer so quick to open their wallets. In the past, China has helped the world out of such weak spots, most notably during the global financial crisis. But this time, its economy is showing pronounced weakness.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 19, 2019

UT, A&M presidents want to renew football rivalry

The University of Texas and Texas A&M University know how to split the atom and cure some forms of cancer. Scheduling a football game against each other is apparently more complicated, but the presidents of both schools told the American-Statesman that they are in favor of renewing the storied rivalry.

In a wide-ranging discussion Friday with Statesman editors and reporters, UT President Gregory L. Fenves and A&M President Michael K. Young also said that they hope state lawmakers increase appropriations for student financial aid and certain other programs beyond what the initial House and Senate bills recommend. The Aggies and Longhorns last played each other in football in 2011, when Justin Tucker’s 40-yard kick gave Texas a last-second win.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2019

Come and take it: Confiscating guns in Texas isn’t easy

In a state founded on a dare for authorities to confiscate its guns, separating Texans from their firearms has never been simple. Yet thanks to legal machinery whose individual gears often don’t mesh, today it remains true even for those who most people agree shouldn’t have guns.

Often called the relinquishment gap, the phrase describes the missing spans between laws that on paper forbid certain people from having firearms, and the legal enforcement tools to ensure that they genuinely don’t. Texas isn’t alone in failing to patch the holes. But because of the state’s sheer numbers - more people die here by firearm than any other state - the issue casts a larger shadow than in other places.

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Houston Chronicle - January 19, 2019

Legislators look to help victims of future storms

In Texas’ first legislative session post Hurricane Harvey, lawmakers have filed bills aimed at better alerting homeowners to their flood risk, lessening the damage of future storms and lowering disaster victims’ tax bills.

A routine Senate bill providing supplemental funding for the 2018-2019 biennium proposes to draw $1.2 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund to cover various state agencies’ Harvey expenses. The bill also includes seven placeholder allocations to several agencies, with appropriations for Harvey costs to be filled in later. Many lawmakers have filed bills with the next disaster in mind. Reps. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and Sarah Davis, R-Houston, have filed separate bills to create funds to lend or grant to local governments for flood mitigation projects.

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Houston Chronicle - January 20, 2019

Bipartisan group aims to boost natural gas exports to Mexico

A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers is seeking to strengthen the ties of the U.S. energy sector to Mexico even as the political battle over the border wall partially shut down the federal government.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, has filed House Resolution 132, which seeks to boost U.S. funding for the North American Development Bank, or NADBank, and give the binational financial institution authority to fund cross-border natural gas pipelines and natural gas-fired power plants.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 20, 2019

Bill would give law enforcement access to naloxone

Police departments across the state have become increasingly concerned about officers’ exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 50 times stronger than heroin that they say can cause adverse reactions just by breathing it in. This, coupled with an increasing number of opioid overdoses, has prompted many of them to equip their officers with naloxone despite its high cost.

A Houston lawmaker wants to make it easier for law enforcement departments to access the drug. Sen. Joan Huffman last week filed Senate Bill 340 to create a grant program by which peace officers, evidence technicians and other law enforcement personnel could obtain naloxone at no cost. They would be required to show how often they respond to opioid overdoses or are exposed to opioids on the job, according to the bill, and show receipt of purchase of the medication after funds are distributed.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2019

Texas court addresses cellphone tracking in digital age privacy case

Dealing once again with privacy rights in the digital age, the state’s highest criminal court has upheld the murder conviction of a Lamar County man who argued that police violated his rights when they “pinged” his cellphone to find his real-time location without a search warrant.

It was the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ first in-depth foray into a developing area of law since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that privacy rights extend to cellphone information that shows a person’s location and movement. The Texas case involves Christian Sims, who is serving a 35-year prison term for the December 2014 shooting death of his grandmother, Annie Sims, on the porch of her home.

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Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2019

Authorities must rebuild trust after sexual assault audits, groups say

Advocates for survivors of sexual violence say two recently released audits that found Austin police incorrectly reported how dozens of sexual assault investigations were closed have further eroded community trust in authorities’ ability to deliver justice in these crimes.

On Wednesday, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley discussed the final results of the audits, which revealed the Police Department improperly cleared dozens of cases. For advocates who work with sexual assault survivors, the findings are further evidence of a bigger cultural problem: a sort of cultural poison they say permeates local authorities’ handling of sexual assault cases at every level.

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Dallas Morning News - January 20, 2019

Prayer billboard owner should pause to fill out permit, Ellis County city says

It's the permit — not the prayer — that's the problem with an Ellis County sign that must come down, Waxahachie leaders say. "Did you think to pray?" proclaims a billboard along Interstate 35E, south of downtown Waxahachie.

The city says it must be removed because the private owner didn't apply for the proper permits, the Waxahachie Daily Light reported. "It's not because the city is bad, anti-religion or anything like that," attorney Dan Gus, who represents the sign owners, told the newspaper. "I don't think anyone out there is intentionally trying to harm religion. We just have an absurd statute in the books from more than 20 years ago."

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Dallas Morning News - January 20, 2019

With air taxis and drones, Fort Worth-based Bell wants to fly into the future

The futuristic aircraft that Bell is developing looks nothing like what made the Fort Worth-based helicopter maker famous.

The nearly 83-year-old aerospace and defense company is designing an air taxi that'll give commuters a new way to travel across crowded cities. And it's testing sophisticated drones that could rush blood to a hospital, drop off water or supplies in areas hit by natural disasters, and deliver customers' purchases by air instead of truck. It's all part of an effort to shake up Bell's image and push the company toward new markets and innovative ideas.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2019

Gramm, Pappas family feud over Luby’s tests a friendship

In late 2017, Jeff Gramm and James Pappas, hedge fund managers and longtime friends, were the headline speakers at a $40-a-plate luncheon hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Houston.

They discussed the rise of activist investors engaged in high profile battles to shake up company boards and management, agreeing on the importance of holding corporate leaders accountable for underperforming companies and protecting the interests of shareholders. Gramm is the son of former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm; Pappas of Chris Pappas, the co-founder and owner of Pappas Restaurants.

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San Antonio Express-News - January 21, 2019

John Cornyn and Ted Cruz: Taking Texas reform to the federal level

A little more than a decade ago, Texas prisons were bursting at the seams, a problem only exacerbated by the fact that the majority of those released from prison eventually returned. In no uncertain terms, then-House Speaker Tom Craddick told then-chairman of the House Corrections Committee Jerry Madden, “Don’t build new prisons; they cost too much.”

State legislators listened and, under the leadership of then-Gov. Rick Perry, began consulting with experts to find the root of this pervasive problem and come up with solutions. The result was an innovative bill that invested $241 million in treatment programs within prisons with the goal of reducing recidivism: that is, to stop the revolving door and make sure people who get out of prison stay out of prison.

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The Eagle - January 21, 2019

Texas A&M University Board of Regents approve formation of nutrition institute led by AgriLife Research

A new institute in the Texas A&M University System aims to connect agriculture and health in an effort to reduce chronic illness attributed to diet.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved the formation of the Institute for Precision Nutrition, Responsive Agriculture and Health last week. The institute will be led by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Patrick Stover, director for AgriLife Research, said Texas can serve as a model for the world on how to lower diet-related health care costs.

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The Eagle - January 20, 2019

According to Airbnb, 30,000 Texans shared their homes as hosts last year

Art, maps and paraphernalia from all over the world adorn the walls of Marty Regan's Bryan home. From time to time, guests hailing from Fort Worth to England to Japan stay there, too.

Regan's three-bedroom house is one of the top 50 Airbnb "wish-list" destinations in Texas, according to a fall release by the nearly 11-year-old company. Spring and summer bookings are sometimes sparse, Regan said, but fall home Texas A&M football game weekends are often reserved a year in advance. In 2018, more than 600 hosts welcomed guests about 28,000 times in Brazos County through Airbnb, earning about $2.9 million in host income, according to a release. The release said about 30,000 Texans shared their homes as Airbnb hosts last year.

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USA Today - January 20, 2019

Will Hurd: My black dad taught me how to handle white supremacist rhetoric

It is unbelievable the number of times over the past few months that an event or statement has required me to remind people that racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and misogyny have no place in our country.

It is unfortunate that more than 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the House of Representatives, a body that I have the honor of serving in, had to have a vote condemning white supremacy in response to the idiotic comments of one of our own. Sentiments of hate toward one another still permeate today’s world, and there is still much work to be done to heal the divisions of racial prejudice. However, we have come a long way along the path of achieving the revolutionary vision that all men and women are created equal.

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Star-Telegram - January 21, 2019

J. Bruce Bugg: What TxDOT has going on in highway improvements

Yes, things are bigger in Texas, including growing pains. As the second-most populous state in the nation, Texas today grows on average by about 1,100 people per day. As a result, state transportation leaders have taken unprecedented steps to address the challenges of congestion, safety, connectivity and the preservation of existing roads.

One of the biggest undertakings is the Texas Clear Lanes (TCL) initiative established in 2015 by the Texas Transportation Commission and Texas Department of Transportation under the directive of Gov. Greg Abbott. This effort primarily targets the Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston areas – where 65 percent of the state’s population lives and 92 of Texas’ 100 most congested roads are located. Through Texas Clear Lanes, we’ve made significant strides toward improving the quality of life for millions of Texas drivers. And the work, and its benefits, are far from over.

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Abilene Reporter-News - January 21, 2019

Remembering 10-time Abilene political candidate Buff Hackney

Once upon a time, what passed for political protest in Abilene was a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t Blame Me I voted for Buff.”

Weldon Eugene "Buff" Hackney, who ran four times for mayor of Abilene, died Tuesday. He was 72. Not only was Hackney a failed mayoral candidate on multiple occasions, he also was a candidate for Abilene City Council six times, from 1987-96. His best finish was next to last in his initial mayoral race, edging a 22-year-old recent college graduate who admitted he was running to help him get employed.

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City Stories

Austin Chronicle - January 18, 2019

Austin’s least-loved landfill may be poised to grow a\gain

Late last year, four people showed up at the Travis County Commissioners Court to tell their elected officials about what it's like to live near one of the state's most controversial dumps.

The Austin Community Landfill actually lies next to its namesake city, which, along with the county, likes to think of itself as progressively environmental. Residents of this part of Northeast Austin and Travis County have long known the ACL's impacts and have fought to keep them from worsening. But in the fall of 2018, neighborhoods in the area learned that the ACL's owner, global corporation Waste Manage­ment, is considering expanding the facility. (This reporter lived in the area during the reporting of this story.)

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Houston Chronicle - January 20, 2019

Tony Buzbee says Turner should return campaign cash from hurricane relief contractors

Houston mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee strolled into his Midtown campaign headquarters Friday behind a wheelbarrow of manure, faced a row of TV cameras, and let it rip on Sylvester Turner, declaring the incumbent mayor's administration reeked like a pungent heap of dung.

"Something stinks at City Hall, and it's not this horse manure," Buzbee said, alleging the mayor was trading city contracts for campaign contributions. "Although that stinks pretty bad," Buzbee added, glancing at the wheelbarrow. For about 20 minutes, the millionaire lawyer laid the seeds for a mayoral campaign built on tackling crime, paying firefighters more and putting stricter limits on political donations to city officials.

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National Stories

New York Times - January 20, 2019

In business and governing, Trump seeks victory in chaos

Three decades ago, Donald J. Trump waged a public battle with the talk show host Merv Griffin to take control of what would become Mr. Trump’s third Atlantic City casino. Executives at Mr. Trump’s company warned that the casino would siphon revenue from the others. Analysts predicted the associated debt would crush him.

The naysayers would be proved right, but throughout the turmoil Mr. Trump fixated on just one outcome: declaring himself a winner and Mr. Griffin a loser. As president, Mr. Trump has displayed a similar fixation in his standoff with Congress over leveraging a government shutdown to gain funding for a wall on the Mexican border. As he did during decades in business, Mr. Trump has insulted adversaries, undermined his aides, repeatedly changed course, extolled his primacy as a negotiator and induced chaos.

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New York Times - January 20, 2019

McConnell to pair bills to reopen government with Trump’s immigration plan

In a bid to put pressure on Democrats, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, plans this week to bring up legislation that would immediately reopen the government and incorporate President Trump’s proposal to offer temporary protections to some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall, a top aide to Mr. McConnell said Sunday.

By coupling government funding with the plan Mr. Trump unveiled on Saturday, Mr. McConnell — who has until now stayed on the sidelines in the shutdown debate — is hoping to shift blame for the shutdown to Democrats, who have said repeatedly that they will not negotiate over border security until the government is fully open. But there was no indication from Democrats on Sunday that they would abandon that position. And some doubted that Mr. McConnell would even bring legislation to the floor, because of pressure from conservative critics who regard Mr. Trump’s proposal as amnesty for those who came to the United States illegally.

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Associated Press - January 20, 2019

Bolton’s test: Massaging Trump tweets into foreign policy

In President Donald Trump’s Washington, matters of war and peace are decided in 280-character bursts. It’s up to John Bolton to massage them into a foreign policy. The mustachioed national security adviser developed a reputation as a bureaucratic bulldozer through more than three decades in and out of government.

But the wrangling over Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria demanded a new skill — the ability to dramatically redraft the president’s policy without provoking a hint of protest from the commander in chief. When Trump announced on Dec. 19 that he saw no need for U.S. troops to remain in Syria, senior U.S. officials expected the Trump-ordered withdrawal to be completed within a month.

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Associated Press - January 21, 2019

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

The student who stared and smiled at an elderly Native American protester drumming in his face outside the Lincoln Memorial as his schoolmates chanted and laughed says he did nothing to provoke the man in the videotaped confrontation and was only trying to calm the situation.

The student identified himself in an email statement Sunday evening as junior Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School in a northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati. An official working with the family confirmed Sandmann’s identity, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source didn’t want to distract from the statement. Videos posted of the confrontation drew wide criticism on social media. “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name,” wrote Sandmann.

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Wall Street Journal - January 21, 2019

Overseas investment seen rebounding as U.S. firms repatriate less profits

Corporate overseas investment will likely rebound this year as U.S. companies repatriate less profits, but will nonetheless continue to be weak by precrisis standards in the face of a darkening economic outlook and uncertainties about trade rules, the United Nations said Monday.

The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said global business investment flows fell sharply in 2018, to $1.2 trillion from $1.47 trillion in 2017. But it said most of that decline was due to U.S. companies sending profits back home in response to changes in the country’s tax law. With U.S. repatriations easing, the agency expects to see total foreign direct investment rebound in 2019, while remaining subdued compared with the years before the global financial crisis. It counts profits made overseas and not repatriated as foreign investment, in addition to the establishment of new operations and the acquisition of existing businesses.

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Wall Street Journal - January 20, 2019

PG&E's bankruptcy is the first climate-change bankruptcy, and probably not the last

PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy could mark a business milestone: the first major corporate casualty of climate change. Few people expect it will be the last.

California’s largest utility was overwhelmed by rapid climatic changes as a prolonged drought dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire. On Monday, PG&E said it planned to file for Chapter 11 protection by month’s end, citing an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines.

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Axios - January 18, 2019

The making of Trump's Enemies List

President Trump was frustrated about leaks — specifically leaks attributed to "White House officials" — that were critical of him. Cliff Sims, a young White House communications aide slipped through the private dining room and was ushered into the private study, just off the Oval Office.

As recounted in Sims' memoir — "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House," out Jan. 29 from Thomas Dunne Books — the minister's son from Alabama was soon sitting face-to-face with the man he still referred to as "DJT," in leftover campaign lingo. This was in 2017, when West Wing chaos was a constant storyline in the media. Trump and Sims, then 33, had talked on the phone the night before. Trump wanted to know who Sims thought was leaking, and said to come see him — but to come through the back, so the senior staff wouldn't know.

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Axios - January 20, 2019

Freshmen Democrats balk at impeaching Trump

The vast majority of freshman House Democrats are not quite ready to "impeach the motherf*cker." Over the last two weeks, Axios reached out to every single one of the 64 new House Democrats, and only a tiny fraction said they were on board with impeachment.

There's been a cable news feeding frenzy over the "I" word, fueled in part by freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib's bleep-worthy call for ousting the president. But the reality is that the vast majority of new House Democrats are right in line with their caucus' leadership; they're uninterested in discussing impeachment before special counsel Robert Mueller finishes his work. Instead, they emphasized aggressive Democratic oversight, including opening investigations into the president, his campaign and his administration.

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Daily Beast - January 19, 2019

Giuliani: ’So what’ if Trump talked to Cohen about his testimony

Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, acknowledged during an appearance on CNN on Sunday that it's possible the president spoke with Michael Cohen prior to Cohen's congressional testimony, but questioned why it matters.

"I don't know if it happened or didn't happen," Giuliani told CNN's Jake Tapper. "And it might be attorney-client privilege if it happened where I can't acknowledge it. But I have no knowledge that he spoke to him. But I'm telling you, I wasn't there then." Pressed again as to whether or not the president might have had a conversation with Cohen about his testimony, Giuliani said: "And so what if he talked to him about it?"

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Politico - January 21, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris launches campaign for president

Kamala Harris, a former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney who was elected to the Senate two years ago, officially launched her campaign for president on Monday.

Harris, the first African-American to enter the 2020 presidential race and the first black senator from California, made the announcement on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She simultaneously released a video teasing the formal start of her campaign at a rally this Sunday in Oakland, California, Harris’ birthplace and the city that cultivated her political rise.

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Washington Post - January 20, 2019

Margaret Sullivan: Get used to the ‘I-word’ — impeachment — is about to dominate Trump coverage

Not too long ago, Jeffrey Goldberg, the top editor of the Atlantic, thought that beginning an impeachment investigation of President Trump would be “a formula for chaos — the sort of chaos no fractured nation needs.” But last Wednesday night, the magazine published an issue whose cover was dominated by a single word in huge red letters (roughly 370-point type): “IMPEACH.”

A smaller sub-headline previewed the historically rooted 8,000-word argument within, written by Yoni Appelbaum: “It’s time for Congress to judge the president’s fitness to serve.” With that notable media moment, the I-word seemed to leap across an invisible divide. The Atlantic article was not the first to make the argument, but its depth and dramatic presentation set it apart. And suddenly, what was a long time coming had arrived with a bang. The talk of impeachment, all-but-taboo in Big Media’s coverage of Trump, had moved from the margins into the mainstream — across the journalism spectrum.

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