Trump Making ‘A Lot Of Money’ In White House, Elijah Cummings Says

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The White House called the claims “completely baseless.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House oversight committee, is accusing President Donald Trump of reaping substantial financial benefits from his White House job.

In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, Cummings asserted that Trump was making “a lot of money” from the position, implying he was doing so against the law. 

“It’s not okay,” he told Steve Kroft of CBS News. “And, but this is the other piece ― I still believe that people ― the average citizen, the guys on my block, they oughta know if the president is making a deal, whether he’s making it ― making it in his self-interest or that of the country.”

Responding to Cummings’ claims, the White House told “60 Minutes” they “are completely baseless,” adding that it “cannot comment further about ongoing litigation.”

The matter in question is whether the president is seeing an increase in revenue from his business ventures, including golf courses and luxury hotels.

Cummings has made clear his mission to serve as a check on the Trump administration, his staff having sent a total of 51 letters to the White House, the Trump Organization and government officials in search of documents concerning potential investigations that may be launched by his committee.

Among the issues being examined are cabinet members’ private use of government aircraft and foreign money within the president’s businesses.

Trump has already run into trouble on the latter item, being sued by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia who’ve accused him of violating the constitution by taking payments from domestic and foreign governments via his namesake hotel in Washington.

While certain Democrats believe that Cummings should advocate for Trump’s impeachment, he contends the move would be premature and has also taken an interest in spearheading other initiatives including skyrocketing prescription drug prices.



MSNBC beats Fox News in key ratings for first time in 17 years

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MSNBC has surpassed Fox News ― President Donald Trump’s favorite cable news network ― in a key TV ratings battle for the first time since 2000.

MSNBC, described by some media commentators as the antithesis to conservative-leaning Fox News, averaged nearly 1.56 million total viewers during the week of Dec. 17-21, NBCUniversal announced Wednesday.

Fox News drew in about 1.54 million viewers and CNN averaged 975,000 viewers during the same time period, NBCUniversal said, citing data compiled by Nielsen Media Research.

MSNBC also reportedly scored the most viewers ages 25 to 54, a highly coveted demographic to advertisers, for the first time since 2001. Fox News came in third, trailing significantly behind CNN.

Fox News has been a tour de force in the cable news industry for nearly two decades, regularly dominating total viewers and key demographic ratings. Last month, the network marked its 29th consecutive month as the most-watched channel on basic cable.

The GOP Ends Its One-Party Rule In Shambles

The government is literally shut down as Republicans get ready to hand over the House to Democrats.

Republicans couldn’t believe their luck after the 2016 elections. Many of them fully expected Hillary Clinton to become president. Instead, they found themselves with every politico’s dream: one-party control of the three branches of government. 

“We are going to hit the ground running,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) declared, saying Donald Trump “earned a mandate” to push his agenda forward as president.

“We would like to see the country go in a different direction and intend to work with him to change the course for America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared. 

Two years later, the Republican dream is left in shambles. And voters were clearly not impressed with what the GOP Congress accomplished with its one-party rule. In January, Democrats will take control of the House.

At midnight, the federal government partially shut down for the third time during Trump’s presidency after Republicans failed in their most basic duty as lawmakers: funding government operations. 

“We’re right in the middle of a sort of meltdown on the part of the Republicans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday. Pelosi is expected to become speaker in the new Congress. 

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), however, argued that this turmoil was normal. 

“I’ve been in the state legislature for 14 years, six of those as speaker. I’ve been here for 20 years,” he told reporters Thursday. “I’ve never seen it not end this way. The last week of a legislative session is ugly. Always is.”

But it’s not always this ugly. When then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) retired in 2015, he cleaned up the place. He pushed through a two-year spending deal and a two-year raise in the federal borrowing limit, theoretically allowing Congress to get other things done so they wouldn’t have to waste time lurching from crisis to crisis. 

And the messiness wasn’t restricted to this past week. 

Former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), who left Congress in 2017 and recently gave up his party affiliation, said the Republican Party’s unified control of government was “defined by remarkably damaging wins and complete capitulation of separation of powers.”

Congress spent two years behaving as a political committee of the president, not a branch of government empowered with independence by the Constitution.Former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.)

Since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Republicans made repealing it their rallying cry. Up until the 2018 campaign, it was their central political message. But the ACA turned out to be far more popular than they anticipated and repealing it was far harder than expected as well ― despite controlling both chambers of Congress. Trump and his Republican allies continue to weaken the law, but there was no all-out repeal as promised. 

Congress’ biggest legislative accomplishment was passing the new tax law, but it fell far short of what was promised. There were deep, permanent cuts for corporations, and a more modest cut for individuals that expires at the end of 2025. The tax bill was not as popular as Republicans expected, and they largely abandoned it as a campaign message. 

The tax law also contributed to a complete abandonment of the GOP’s stated concern about fiscal responsibility. 

When Barack Obama was president, Republicans hammered him on the national debt. “America Can’t Afford Obama’s Legacy Of A Skyrocketing National Debt” read a typical document on the Republican National Committee’s website in 2017. When the national debt was at $15 trillion in 2012, Ryan warned of the “red tidal wave of debt” that would mean the “end of the American dream” in as little as two or three years. 

But it’s 2018, and the national debt has grown to $21 trillion under the GOP’s watch. The federal government’s budget office projects the GOP’s tax law will add more than $1.8 trillion to deficits over the next 10 years. So much for fiscal austerity.

One bright spot for Republicans is the criminal justice reform bill that passed on a strong bipartisan basis this month. The bill is designed to help nonviolent federal offenders make an easier return to society after they’ve served most of their sentences. It also trimmed a handful of mandatory minimum sentences, such as for crack cocaine, that helped explode the federal prison population over the past three decades. Most Republicans probably wouldn’t have supported such a bill without cover from a president like Trump, who does “tough on crime” politics like it’s still the 1980s. 

That same macho impulse, however, is what led to the government shutdown, with Trump insisting Congress appropriate billions of dollars for a giant wall to keep “bad guys” from crossing the southern U.S. border. It’s such a ridiculous idea that Republicans in Congress try to pretend the president’s talking broadly about “border security” and not a physical barrier made out of concrete or steel.

Ryan and McConnell could have sent the president a clean funding bill and dared him to veto it ― instead, they played along with his demand and made a show of holding votes, even though it was clear Democrats wouldn’t go along. 

And while Senate Republicans did push through two conservative Supreme Court nominees, they largely overlooked or dismissed sexual misconduct allegations against one: Brett Kavanaugh, who was rushed ahead for confirmation without the usual vetting

But most notably, the Republican majority will be remembered for what it didn’t do: It didn’t stand up to Trump. 

“Congress spent two years behaving as a political committee of the president, not a branch of government empowered with independence by the Constitution,” Jolly said.

Congress never passed legislation protecting Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign. Ryan frequently dismissed Trump’s concerning rhetoric and actions ― like attacking fellow Republicans or outright lying ― calling it “noise” or “trolling.”

It’s a fitting finale to this two-year period that in the end, the government is literally not even open.



Democrats Plan Separate Fix For Voting Rights Act To Make Chief Justice Roberts Happy

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The move is a recognition of the need to show the Supreme Court evidence of present-day discrimination.

The big reform package on voting rights, campaign finance and ethics that House Democrats plan to pass in January will not include a reauthorization and fix to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, along with outside voting rights litigators, will support moving the Voting Rights Act measure separately to ensure they build a legislative record that will show why the law is still necessary when it faces court challenges.

“Everybody wants to make sure that they do this right and in a way that will not only be a stronger fix for the Voting Rights Act but also will be able to withstand any constitutional challenges,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program for the Brennan Center for Justice.

Democrats’ reform package, their first bill of the new Congress, will still include major voting rights reforms alongside its other pieces of campaign finance and ethics reforms. The bill will still include legislative language mandating automatic voter registration, preventing overly broad voter purges and promoting early and online voting. It will also include an affirmation in support of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act along with a statement of facts inserting present-day examples of voter suppression into the congressional record.

None of those measures needs a record of evidence in the same way that a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act does. The federal government used to have the authority under the Voting Rights Act to shoot down election laws from certain jurisdictions if they were found to be discriminatory. In 2013, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court overturned that authority in Shelby County v. Holder.

In his majority opinion for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the formula used by the Department of Justice to determine discrimination relied on outdated data and evidence that did not reflect the changed nature of race relations in the United States. And Congress used that same outdated data, according to Roberts, when it reauthorized the act in 2006 instead of crafting a new formula based on more recent data and evidence of discrimination.

“Congress did not use the record it compiled to shape a coverage formula grounded in current conditions,” Roberts wrote. “It instead reenacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day.”

Voting rights activists and Democratic Party politicians vehemently disagreed with Roberts’ ruling in the Shelby County case. But they recognize that any future reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act needs to have a developed record of evidence built alongside it to withstand scrutiny from the conservative Supreme Court.

“Obviously, we felt that before Shelby there was plenty of evidence of necessitating the Voting Rights Act to be kept as it was, but the Supreme Court felt otherwise,” said Todd Cox, policy director for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “And I think, quite frankly, there’s been ample evidence subsequent to Shelby pointing to the need to restore the Voting Rights Act. We have at least 10 cases where courts, federal courts have found intentional discrimination against voters.”

Those cases include the passage of voter identification laws in Texas and North Carolina, and North Carolina’s roll-back of early voting, same-day registration and registration drives, changes that targeted African-Americans with “surgical precision,” according to a federal court. They could also include the kind of voter purges deployed in Georgia’s gubernatorial race between Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the incoming oversight committee chairman, has already stated he wants to call Kemp in to testify.

Democrats will hold votes on both their big democracy reform package and the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, which will be introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), next year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the biggest opponent of campaign finance reform, already stated that he would not allow a vote on the larger democracy reform bill. Republicans refused to move any fix for the Voting Rights Act after the Shelby decision in the past three Congresses.

Whether Senate Republicans support these bills or not, Democrats see passing them in the House as a necessary statement of what their party stands for and what it would do if it controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House.



White Police Officer Says He Was Fired for Not Shooting Black Male Suspect

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Stephen Mader, a white police officer from the Weirton Police Department who was fired after deciding not to shoot a Black male suspect, has filed a federal lawsuit against the department and won a settlement for wrongful termination last February. A recent story from ProPublica unveils the whole story that surrounds what happened that night in 2016.

Stephen Mader, a 25-year-old rookie police officer and a former Marine vet who has served in Afghanistan, responded to a domestic dispute in Weirton, West Virginia on the midnight of May 2016. There he encountered R.J. Williams, a Black man and the ex-boyfriend of the 911-caller, who was drunk and was hiding his hands on his back.

Mader commanded Williams to show him his hands several times but he refused. When Williams finally showed his hands, a silver and black pistol was resting in his right hand, pointing at the ground. What happened next was unexpected and shocking to many.

“Put the gun down,” Mader said.

“I can’t do that,” Williams said.

“I don’t want to shoot you, brother,” Mader said. “Put the gun down.”

“Just shoot me,” Williams said repeatedly.

Mader chose not to shoot and kill Williams despite Williams seemingly being a threat to his life considering he was holding a gun. Instead, he tried to diffuse the situation.

Eventually, back up arrived and thought Mader needed some help. Williams, who still refused to drop the gun and even raised it, was fatally shot by one of the officers.

Williams’ gun was not loaded, as what his ex-girlfriend initially told the 911 dispatcher. Apparently, Williams was suicidal at that time. The caller told the dispatcher, “He said he was going to threaten the police with it just so they would shoot him.”

Meanwhile, Mader was surprised when weeks after the shooting, he was fired from the department because of his actions in the fatal encounter. He was even mocked a “coward” by his colleagues because he decided not to use deadly force on a suspect.

“I was just trying to calm him down,” Mader told Joe Sexton, the author of the well-researched ProPublica story. “It was really just talking to him like he was a human being—talk to him like a guy who was in a wrong state of mind, like a guy who needed to be calmed down, who needed help.”

“I didn’t want to shoot him,” he added. “I don’t want to say this, because it’s really corny, but I was kind of sacrificing my well-being for him. I’m not going to shoot this kid for my well-being. I’m going to wait to see more from him.”

Mader tried to take legal actions against the police department for his unfair termination and the damage to his reputation. It took him several rejections from lawyers until Maggie Coleman and Tim O’Brien contacted him to help with his case.

Along with the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union, who was usually not an advocate for the police, Mader finally filed a federal lawsuit against the department on May 2017. It was settled in February and the city paid him $175,000, but the department did not acknowledge any mistake.

“No police officer should ever lose their job—or have their name dragged through the mud—for choosing to talk to, rather than shoot, a fellow citizen,” Timothy O’Brien, Mader’s Attorney said to The Washington Post in February.

“His decision to attempt to de-escalate the situation should have been praised, not punished,” he added. “Simply put, no police officer should ever feel forced to take a life unnecessarily to save his career.”

Now, Mader is living in neighboring New Cumberland, West Virginia with his wife and two sons. He couldn’t be with the Weirton Police Department anymore but he serves as a military police officer with the state National Guard.




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