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Latest from Jamie Dupree

    Ending almost fourteen months of temporary leadership at NASA, Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma was sworn in Monday afternoon as the new leader of the space agency, as Trump Administration officials vow that Bridenstine will help revive manned space exploration efforts by the United States. After taking the oath – with his wife and three children at his side – Bridenstine told NASA employees that he was committed to seeing that the U.S. remains the world’s leader in space. “I will do my best to serve our storied agency to the utmost of my abilities, as we reach for new heights, as we reveal the unknown for the benefit for human kind,” Bridenstine said. “NASA represents what is best about the United States of America,” Bridenstine added. “We lead, we discover, we pioneer and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together.” “It’s an important moment in the life of this agency,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who trekked over to NASA Headquarters for the swearing-in, again saying that President Trump is strongly behind a forward-looking NASA. “We will send American astronauts back to the moon,” Pence said,’ vowing that the Trump Administration will lay the groundwork for travels to Mars. “And NASA will lead the way,” the Vice President said to applause. Bridenstine’s nomination was bitterly opposed by many Democrats in the Congress, who bristled at his conservative political views, and questioned his lack of space expertise, which also gave a handful of GOP Senators second thoughts. But after months of delay, the White House was able to convince Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to vote for Bridenstine, pushing him over the top to a bare majority confirmation vote of 50-49 last week. Bridenstine inherits an agency which just saw a big boost in its budget courtesy of a recent spending deal in the Congress, as NASA for the first time now has a yearly budget of over $20 billion. . @Space_Station #Expedition55 crew talking to NASA's new Administrator, James Bridenstine; . @VP saying 'thank you for your service in space you have our prayers and gratitude. ' pic.twitter.com/RsaTDF76fm — Gene J. Mikulka (@genejm29) April 23, 2018 “He will be an excellent leader,” said Rep. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was one of a handful of lawmakers there for the ceremony. After the swearing-in and Bridenstine’s remarks, NASA then checked in by video relay with several astronauts aboard the International Space Station. “I thank you for being part of the vanguard in space,” said the Vice President.
  • The legal fight over the 2016 elections expanded further on Friday, as the Democratic National Committee filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s campaign, top aides, one of Mr. Trump’s sons, his son-in-law, the Russian government, and others caught up in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 race for the White House. The 66 page lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, where an FBI raid recently took place on the President’s personal lawyer, alleges a broad conspiracy involving Russia, its intelligence service, and members of the Trump inner circle, like former campaign manager Paul Manafort. “No one is above the law,” the lawsuit begins. “In the Trump Campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort.” DNC lawsuit accuses Trump campaign, Russia of a conspiracy that 'constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery.' — Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) April 20, 2018 The charges cover everything from racketeering, conspiracy, computer fraud, trespass, and more, claiming the hacking effort was a coordinated effort with the Trump Campaign, designed to damage the bid of Hillary Clinton for the White House. Along with the Russian government and intelligence service known as the GRU, the Democratic lawsuit names Julian Assange and Wikileaks, the Trump Campaign, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, and two campaign aides who have already agreed to help the Russia investigation, George Papadopoulos and Richard Gates. The document did not seem to make public any brand new details about how the hacking occurred at the DNC or with members of the Clinton campaign. In the lawsuit, Democrats charge “Russia’s cyberattack on the DNC began only weeks after Trump announced his candidacy for President,” in June 2015. “In April 2016, another set of Russian intelligence agents successfully hacked into the DNC, saying that “massive amounts of data” were taken from DNC servers. The lawsuit makes no mention of the FBI warning to the DNC that it was being hacked, and how that was ignored for weeks by officials at DNC headquarters in Washington. If the lawsuit actually goes forward, it would not only involve evidence being gathered from those being challenged by the Democrats – but some made clear it could open the DNC hacking response to a further review as well in terms of discovery.
  • The morning after memos written by former FBI Director James Comey were delivered to Congress – and then immediately leaked to the news media – President Donald Trump blasted both Comey and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, denying that he had done anything wrong, and defending a top aide who had been caught up in the probe. “So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book,” the President thundered on Twitter from his Florida retreat in Mar-a-Lago, delivering a new nickname to the former FBI chief, and defending his former National Security Adviser, who has already plead guilty to lying to investigators about his post-election contacts with the Russian Ambassador. Early Friday morning, Mr. Trump again denied that he, his aides, or his campaign played any role in coordinating activities with Russia during the 2016 campaign, though the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller , as Republicans in Congress joined in arguing that the Comey memos only helped the President’s cause. Here is some of what the President found in the memos – as well as the reaction of GOP supporters in the Congress: 1. Trump again makes clear he did nothing wrong. The sun wasn’t even up yet at Mar-a-Lago, and President Trump was out with a familiar refrain on Twitter, saying there was “NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.” Various press reports this week had said that aides had scheduled the President to be at his Florida retreat all week, ostensibly to be away from some of the furor over the new book by the former FBI Director. Mr. Trump has called Comey a ‘slimeball’ and more – and one might think there will be more Twitter daggers aimed at Comey after today. James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018 2. Trump defends ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. One subject which gets a lot of attention in the Comey memos is how the President – and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – paid special attention to the investigation into Flynn, who had been a close campaign aide and adviser to Mr. Trump. Priebus specifically asked Comey in a meeting if there was a FISA warrant on Flynn – Comey did not answer. And Comey also detailed how he felt the President had asked him to go easy on Flynn, who has already plead guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. 3. Republicans say memos prove Trump’s innocence. As the full Comey memos leaked to the press, GOP lawmakers were quickly ready with their own read on what the memos proved, and what they did not. “Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated,” said Reps. Goodlatte, Gowdy and Nunes, three key GOP lawmakers in the House. “The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened,” as they wrote that the memos would actually help the President in any criminal proceeding. 4. GOP calls for Comey to be prosecuted over memo leaks. Some of the information in the memos is redacted and noted as classified, which was seized upon immediately by GOP lawmakers, who argue that Comey should be charged with a crime. It immediately brought back comparisons to Hillary Clinton, and how details in her emails were seen as classified after the fact. “Intentionally leaking classified information is a big no no,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Here is an example of one Comey memo that was considered classified – from his dinner meeting with the President in January 2017. But when you go through the details, what was redacted had to do with a subject that was not leaked, that being the President’s anger with Flynn over a call by a foreign leader soon after the inaugural. It has been reported that the phone call was from Russian leader Vladimir Putin. 5. Conservative media quickly echoes GOP, Trump. The release of Comey’s book, and his subsequent book tour, have been a unique thing to watch from the sidelines, as supporters of the President have spent the week taking shots at the former FBI Director, trying to poke holes in his story, accusing him of double standards, and questioning whether he was trying to set up the President. Look for that to continue in the weeks and months ahead. . @Comey’s memos exonerate Trump, reaffirm what a poor writer Comey is, and prove that he’s petty and out for self. https://t.co/FeIumzfoeJ — John Cardillo (@johncardillo) April 20, 2018 6. In Congress, GOP lawmakers brush off Comey details. Echoing the President, Republicans delved into the details of what Comey wrote and found little to worry about, and more to bolster their argument that the President did no wrong. “If anything, this impugns the judgment of Director Comey,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who had joined in demanding the release of the memos by the Justice Department. “There’s nothing in here even approaching ‘obstruction of justice,'” Meadows wrote on Twitter. These Comey memos were supposed to implicate President Trump? Really? On page 13 POTUS appears to instruct Director Comey to investigate and find the truth about whether his campaign team did anything wrong. There's nothing in here even approaching 'obstruction of justice.' — Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) April 20, 2018 7. GOP zeroes in on Comey line that he doesn’t leak. As both parties cherry-picked items from the Comey memos to buttress their arguments for and against the Russia investigation, there was a juicy one for Republicans, when Comey said he told the President that he was not a leaker. “I said I don’t do sneaky things,” Comey wrote about their late January 2017 dinner. “I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” Obviously, after Comey was fired in May, he did leak portions of these memos, through a friend of his, who gave them to the New York Times. This tweet is from a Republican who is on the House Intelligence Committee. Actual quote from James Comey's own classified memos, 4 of which he leaked to @nytimes to trigger a Special Counsel investigation: 'I said I don't do sneaky things, I don't leak, I don't do weasel moves.' — Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) April 20, 2018 8. Leaks, leaks and more leaks. Republicans also raised questions about the initial briefing of the President at Trump Tower by Comey and other top intelligence officials. At that time, Comey first warned the President about the existence of the Steele Dossier, and also said the FBI was keeping a very tight lid on the details, because CNN and other news organizations were waiting to run stories about it. “I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook,” Comey recounts himself telling the President-Elect. But the details did soon leak when the dossier was published by BuzzFeed news ( though the President’s private lawyer, Michael Cohen, has now dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit related to that publication). 9. Reportedly, Mueller did not object to release of memos. While the Justice Department had resisted Republican demands for the release of the Comey memos, immediate news reports on Thursday night indicated that the Special Counsel’s office did not see a reason to prevent the material from going public. As with most things in Washington, the memos seemed to leak instantly. But it also prompted speculation that the GOP may have hoped that the feds would resist, and not release the memos, sparking a fight with Republicans in Congress. If demanding that DOJ turn over the #ComeyMemos was a bluff on House Republicans’ part (to create an excuse to fire Rosenstein), it may have backfired spectacularly. (Unless their goal was to dramatically bolster Comey’s credibility.) — Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 20, 2018 10. Release of Comey memos also generate other headlines. While the President and GOP lawmakers focused on items in the Comey memos which they say showed Mr. Trump committed no obstruction of justice, the memos also did something Republicans probably didn’t want – and that was to focus attention on some of the more salacious items in the Steele Dossier. Comey’s memos have repeated references to the President denying involvement with hookers, and even a quote from Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the quality of Russia prostitutes.  
  • Bowing to demands from Republicans in the House, the Justice Department on Thursday night gave lawmakers memos written by former FBI Director James Comey after meetings and phone calls with President Donald Trump, with the resulting leaks only amplifying Comey’s story that Mr. Trump had pressed him repeatedly about the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. And in classic Washington fashion – the memos were leaked almost immediately to news organizations. You can read the set of memos from Comey – written soon after meetings directly with the President, or after phone calls with Mr. Trump. There had been concerns that sharing the memos with Congress might cause problems for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – but press reports on Thursday night indicated otherwise, and a reading of the materials did not reveal a new treasure trove of information. And more than anything, they only seemed to bring the focus more on President Trump. It's almost like the House GOP wanted the Comey memos released to embarrass their party leader. — Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) April 20, 2018 Here are ten things we learned from the memos written by the former FBI Director. 1. Trump praises Comey at first meeting at Trump Tower. Before the former FBI Director could get to the subject of the Steele Dossier, the two men had some chit chat one-on-one. Comey said the President-Elect complimented the FBI chief on how he had handled the difficult situation involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation. “He said I was repeatedly put in impossible positions,” Comey recounted, quoting Trump as saying, “they hated you for what you did later, but what choice did you have?” Comey said the President-Elect said ‘he hoped I planned to stay on.’ 2. Comey moves into the Steele Dossier. With other top officials out of the room at Trump Tower, Comey then described briefing the President-Elect on the contents of the Steele Dossier, expressing concerns that it could soon leak in the media. “I said, the Russians allegedly had tapes of him and prostitutes,” Comey wrote, saying that Mr. Trump said, “there were no prostitutes.” Comey said he told the President-Elect that the FBI was not investigating these stories, but that “our job was to protect the President from efforts to coerce him.” 3. The late January “loyalty” dinner. After President Trump had been sworn into office, he invited Comey to the White House for dinner – just the two of them – telling Comey that even Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did not know of their sit down. Comey said he told Trump, “I was not on anybody’s side politically.” After a detailed discussion of the impact of the Clinton email investigation on the campaign – in which they disagreed on whether there was a case against Hillary Clinton, Comey said the President made a clear point. “He replied that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty.” 4. Comey relates Trump displeasure with Flynn. One interesting side story from the late January dinner was when Comey related how the President had been angry with his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for evidently not informing the President that another world leader had called after the inauguration. “In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.”” Comey then notes that he never gave Mr. Trump any indication of the FBI interest in Flynn – or the fact that agents had interviewed Flynn just a day before about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. 5. A meeting with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. One memo from Comey detailed a meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff, who asked the FBI Director if there was an investigation going on into the President’s National Security Adviser. “Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Comey quoted Priebus as asking. Later, their conversation went over the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Comey’s late announcement which roiled the campaign. “At some point I added that it also wasn’t my fault that Huma Abedin forwarded emails to Anthony Weiner.” 6. Golden showers, hookers, and Putin. After meeting with Priebus, Comey was taken by the Oval Office for a quick visit with the President. There, Mr. Trump complained about leaks of his phone calls with foreign leaders, and again vented his frustration about details from the Steele Dossier. “The President brought up the “Golden Showers thing” and said it really bothered him,” Comey recounted. “The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense but that Putin had told ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.'” 7. Trump presses Comey on Michael Flynn. In portions of the memos which had already been leaked, Comey describes how a broader meeting on homeland security ended, and then others left him one-on-one with Mr. Trump. “He began by saying he wanted to ‘talk about Mike Flynn,'” Comey recounts, adding later that the President said he had ‘other concerns’ about Flynn, but was aggravated about the leaks concerning his former National Security Adviser. But the President then returned to Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” was how Comey remembered what the President had said in this February 14, 2017 meeting. 8. Trump urges Comey to ‘lift the cloud.’ Again, these details had been leaked previously, as Comey recounted a phone conversation in which the President complained about the Russia investigation, saying at one point that he would have won a health care vote in the House if not for the controversy over the Trump-Russia probe about the 2016 elections. Comey noted the President again returned to an issue that clearly aggravated him – “can you imagine me, hookers?” Comey’s memo also seems to say that the President was going to file a lawsuit against former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who had assembled the dossier. No such suit was ever filed. 9. More about loyalty to the President. In an April 2017 phone call, Comey says the President pressed him to publicly confirm that he (Mr. Trump) is not under investigation related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. “He spoke for a bit about why it was so important,” Comey recounted, saying the President feared it was overshadowing the work of his new administration. “They keep bringing up the Russia thing as an excuse for losing the election,” Comey wrote. Then Comey said the President pressed him again. “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing you know,” Comey quoted Mr. Trump. In a footnote to his own memo, Comey seems perplexed as to what the President was referring to. 10. The release may on spur more questions. Republicans in the House had been pressing for the release of these memos from Comey for months, convinced that they would show wrongdoing by the former FBI Director. Instead, the full memos added more context to what was going on during the first few months of the Trump Administration with regards to the Russia investigation, and seemed to give more hints about what the FBI knew of the Steele Dossier, and how Trump officials were worried about who was being investigated. Comey appears to have told Reince Preibus on Feb 8/17 that parts of the dossier had already been corroborated by the intellgence community. pic.twitter.com/GJivuaKAh5 — Dafna Linzer (@DafnaLinzer) April 20, 2018  
  • After operating for almost fourteen months with acting leadership, NASA finally has a new Administrator, as the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to confirm Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as the new head of the space agency, overcoming reluctance among some Republicans, and strong opposition from Democrats who said Bridenstine who too political for the job. “Jim Bridenstine has been very passionate for trying to get NASA back on focus with a big vision and a big mission,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). “I’ve known Congressman Bridenstine for a long time, and I know he is just the man for this important undertaking,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). But among Republicans, there were clearly reservations, even as the vote took place. “I was not enthused by the nomination,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on the Senate floor, as he acknowledged that continuing with temporary leadership at the space agency was not a good answer. Rubio on the floor explaining his turnaround to support Bridenstine for NASA chief 'We give great deference to the president … and the more important the job, the more discretion the president deserves' — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) April 19, 2018 “There’s no way NASA can go two years and x-number of months without a permanent Administration,” Rubio added, his tone and body language sending the message that he would still have someone other than Bridenstine leading the space agency. For Democrats, Bridenstine’s more conservative political views – especially on climate change – overrode his military experience as a pilot in the Air Force. “Just because you know how to fly a plane does not mean you have the skills and experience to lead the federal government’s space agency,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). Remember the part in the astronaut movie when the unqualified former member of Congress running NASA saves the day by making the right decision regarding a launch? Me neither. — Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 19, 2018 “In short, NASA needs an Administrator who will be driven by science and not by politics,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). But as with most issues in the Congress right now, Democrats are don’t have enough votes to derail a nominee of President Trump – unless some Republicans break ranks to join them.
  • Embroiled in a new legal dispute after an FBI raid earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has dropped a $100 million defamation lawsuit filed against BuzzFeed news, and the head of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which spearheaded the development of the Steele Dossier, paid for by Democrats in 2016, which made accusations of ties between Russia and President Donald Trump. “Michael Cohen hereby voluntarily dismissed the above-entitled action as to all named Defendants without costs to any party as against the other,” Cohen’s lawyers stated in a one page filing with a federal court in New York. Democrats in Congress quickly pounced. “Bullies wilt when their bluff is called,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). “Buzzfeed should demand legal fees for Cohen’s frivolous suit.” Let’s review what Cohen charged, what issues he is no longer pursuing in this lawsuit, and why some of it may still be a focus of discussion in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 1. The general questions about the Steele Dossier. The main charge made by Cohen – and many supporters of President Donald Trump – is that the dossier is filled with false stories and accusations against Mr. Trump and his associates. “This action arises from the immensely damaging and defamatory statements,” Cohen’s lawyers wrote in their original complaint against BuzzFeed news and Glenn Simpson, the head of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which assembled the dossier through the work of ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The Cohen defamation lawsuit was simple – the statements about Cohen in the dossier were false, and he wanted millions of dollars in damages. Now, that lawsuit has been dropped. 2. The very first charge – the Prague trip. In Cohen’s lawsuit, the first specific item that is challenged is the report in the Steele Dossier that Cohen went to the Czech Republic in August of 2016, possibly to meet with people linked to Russia. “I have never in my life been to Prague or anywhere in the Czech Republic,” Cohen has said. Hours after the dossier was released, Cohen tweeted a denial, with a picture of his passport. “No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague,” Cohen tweeted just last week. If this lawsuit had proceeded, there would have been legal discovery about Cohen’s allegations.  Now, that won’t take place in the context of this proceeding. 3. Does the Special Counsel have different evidence? A story last week from McClatchy Newspapers said exactly that – that Cohen was in Prague. But it is notable that the details of that have not been matched by any other news organizations. And as with most questions about the Trump-Russia investigation, we can only go off the verified documents in the public square – and at this point, there is nothing to contradict Cohen’s denial. But if there is more to this story, it certainly could be a central part of the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.  No one knows the answer to that right now, other than Mueller’s team. Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC. No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven! https://t.co/ra7nwjUA0X — Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) April 14, 2018 4. Cohen’s testimony to Congress remains secret. In late October of 2017, Cohen went before the House and Senate Intelligence committees to testify about the Russia investigation, and was evidently asked about the allegation in the dossier – the basis for his lawsuit – that he met in the Czech Republic with a Russian intelligence operative. That testimony has not been released, but lawmakers sparred about it in another transcript which was made public by the House committee.  This exchange is between Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 5. Cohen’s legal focus now on FBI raid. What’s next for Cohen is waiting to see what the feds do with the materials seized in the April 9 raids executed against him under a federal magistrate’s approval. Federal Judge Kimba Wood could either allow a special FBI “taint team” to continue to go through that material to look for any attorney-client privilege items related to President Donald Trump. Or, a special master could be appointed to oversee the process. No matter the choice, Cohen faces a tangled legal situation involving what was seized by the feds.
  • The head of the Capitol Hill office which deals with workplace harassment cases said Wednesday that she still does not have the power to reveal the names of lawmakers who used taxpayer dollars to pay legal harassment settlements, drawing sharp rebukes from members of both parties on a House spending panel, as lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed growing frustration about the matter. “The transparency issue is revolting,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). “It is absolutely unacceptable that we continue to let members who abuse their employees hide.” At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Susan Grundmann, the head of the Congressional Office of Compliance, said that workplace settlements which involve lawmakers, often include non-disclosure agreements, precluding any publicity. “Most settlement agreements – in fact all that I have seen – contain non-disclosure clauses in them,” said Grundmann. “Those are not by our doing.” In my opening statement to @LegBranch_OOC Executive Director Susan Grundmann, I emphasize the need for Congress to remedy workplace harassment on Capitol Hill. How can we expect others to follow our example if we're not willing to acknowledge and address this problem? pic.twitter.com/AHKtaPHVy9 — Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) April 18, 2018 Pressed sharply by both parties at a hearing where she asked for a nine percent budget increase to help deal with harassment training and case reviews, Grundmann made clear there was no plan to reveal the names of members who had engaged in such settlements in the past. “No, I think we are prohibited from under the law – in terms of the strict confidentiality that adheres to each one of our processes, and the non-disclosure agreements, we cannot disclose who they are,” Grundmann added. Grundmann said new reporting standards approved by the House would reveal every six months which offices had some type of legal settlements – and she also said that if a lawmaker agreed to a workplace settlement, taxpayers would pay the bill up front – and then have that member of Congress reimburse Uncle Sam within 90 days. So far, the House and Senate have not finalized an agreement on legislation to set new standards for transparency on workplace settlements involving lawmaker offices, as one leading Democrat today again demanded action by that chamber. “The Senate has no more excuses,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senate has no more excuses. We must pass these reforms before our next recess. Members of BOTH parties, men and women, agree that it’s time to act. https://t.co/vSr7sew5KN — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 19, 2018 Back in Wednesday’s House hearing, lawmakers did not like to hear that while reforms in the House would publicly name the lawmaker and/or a top staffer if they were involved in harassment of other staffers, a Senate reform plan would not be as sweeping. “So, if a Chief of Staff engages in that conduct, or anyone else that isn’t the member, then their conduct is not disclosed?” Wasserman Schultz asked. “That’s correct,” replied Grundmann. “That’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Florida Democrat said. The hearing came days after the resignation of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had taxpayers foot the bill for an $84,000 settlement with a former office employee – Farenthold had promised to pay that money, but now that he is gone, it seems unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, Grundmann denied press reports in recent weeks that any personal information about sexual harassment or workplace abuses in Congressional offices was left on unsecured computer servers. “We have not been hacked. We have never stored our data on an unsecured server,” as Grundmann said their computer precautions had been described by officials as “Fort Knox.” “Fort Knox doesn’t talk about their cyber security,” she added, offering to brief members in private about the issue
  • On hold for months, President Donald Trump’s pick to head NASA was finally given the green light by a pair of GOP Senators, as the Senate voted 50-48 to overcome a possible filibuster, and advance the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next Administrator of NASA. A final vote to confirm Bridenstine’s nomination could come as early as Thursday in the full Senate. The key votes came from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – Flake initially voted to filibuster Bridenstine, but after an extended wait, returned to change his vote for the final margin of victory. It wasn’t immediately clear why Flake – and then Rubio – had changed course on the President’s NASA nominee, as Bridenstine supporters had spent months trying to squeeze out a final vote in support of the President’s choice, who faced determined opposition from Democrats. Before the vote, Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the decision of the Florida Republican, who had repeatedly rebuffed the calls of fellow GOP lawmakers to support Bridenstine, a more conservative House GOP lawmaker who has not hesitated to make waves during his time on Capitol Hill. Sen Marco Rubio votes 'Yes' on cloture for Bridenstine – after months of opposing his nomination — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) April 18, 2018 Just before the vote, Bridenstine’s leading Democratic critic in the Senate wasn’t backing away from his stern criticism of the three-term Republican Congressman from Oklahoma. “The NASA Administrator should be a consummate space professional,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in a speech on the Senate floor. “That’s what this Senator wants – a space professional – not a politician,” Nelson added. “Senators on both sides of the aisles have expressed doubts – both publicly and privately to me – about his qualifications for the job,” said Nelson, who was the only Senator to address the matter before the vote on cloture, a procedure to end debate in the Senate. Since Bridenstine was nominated for NASA Administrator in September, Rubio had sided with Nelson and other Democrats, raising questions about Bridenstine’s ability to run a federal agency in a nonpartisan manner. But that suddenly changed this week – and GOP leaders quickly moved to take the Bridenstine vote, moving the President a step closer to having his choice in the job as NASA chief. The procedural vote on Bridenstine’s nomination almost went awry, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) voted “No,” leaving the vote tied at 49-49. Ordinarily, the Vice President would be brought in to break the tie, but Vice President Mike Pence was in Florida with President Trump, hosting the Japanese Prime Minister. After a wait of over a half hour, Flake returned to the floor and voted “Yes,” allowing the Senate to force an end to debate.
  • Confirming press reports about a secret trip by CIA Director Mike Pompeo to North Korea, President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had gone “very smoothly and a good relationship was formed.” In the middle of his own summit with the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said on Twitter this morning that details of a meeting between him and the North Korean leader “are being worked out.” “Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” the President tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018 “We have a responsibility to achieve a condition where Kim Jong Un is unable to threaten the United States of America with a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. Mr. Trump chose Pompeo to move from CIA to the State Department as Secretary of State; while he was asked at his confirmation hearing on April 12 about North Korea, no Senator ever posed the question of had Pompeo ever met Kim Jong Un in person.
  • Jamie Dupree

    Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.

    A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989. Politics and the Congress are in Jamie’s family, as both of his parents were staffers for members of Congress. He was also a page and intern in the House of Representatives. Jamie has covered 11 national political conventions, with his first being the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. His political travels have had him on the presidential campaign trail every four years since 1992, chasing candidates throughout the primary calendar.

    He is heard on Cox Radio stations around the country: WSB-AM Atlanta, WDBO-AM Orlando; WOKV-AM/FM Jacksonville; WHIO-AM/FM Dayton, Ohio; and KRMG-AM Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Jamie and his wife Emily live just outside the Beltway with their three children. Some may know Jamie from his other on-air hobby, as he is a licensed amateur radio operator. When not at work or playing with his kids, you can often find him with a golf club in his hands.

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  • A website ranks the number of fatal DUI crashes around the U-S, and the news for Oklahoma is not good. The site ValuePenguin says we have the 10th highest rate of fatal alcohol-related wrecks with nearly 5 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents. Montana, ranked number one, has just over 8 per 100,000. North Dakota, South Carolina, Alabama, and New Mexico round out the top 5. New York had the least number of fatal DUI crashes with just 1.4 per 100,000. They say there's one fatal DUI wreck every 50 minutes in the U.S. You can read more about the story here.
  • A police officer in Pennsylvania has the serve portion of “to protect and serve” perfected. Roger Baker, 84, had to get to his local hospital after his wife had a medical emergency. No friends or family could take him, so he called police for help, WHP reported. >> Read more trending news  Deputy Chief Bentley from Montoursville Police Department responded, taking Baker to the medical facility, and escorted him to the building, WHP reported.  >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  In the police department’s Facebook post, which has been shared more than a thousand times, the department said that Bentley held Baker’s hand, walking him to the building until hospital workers brought a wheelchair out for Baker and took him to his wife in the emergency room.
  • Investigators Monday said they’ve solved the disappearances of two 16-year-old girls, the murders of one of the girls’ parents, and the fire that destroyed the victims’ home near Welch, Oklahoma in 1999. Danny and Kathy Freeman were found inside the burned mobile home - although family members actually found the husband’s body the next day, after investigators left the scene. That’s just the beginning of the missteps that led the case to languish for nearly two decades. Private investigators had identified the suspects years ago, but police ignored them and actually threatened to confiscate their licenses if they persisted. That’s according to a probable cause affidavit filed Monday for the arrest of Ronnie Busick, 65, the only surviving suspect. Two other men believed to have carried out the murders, Warren “Phil” Welch II and David Pennington, have died. Disturbingly, DA Matt Ballard said Monday, it appears the girls were kept alive for days. They were raped, and possibly tortured, and their tormentors took Polaroid photos of them which apparently survived for years and were shown to a number of people. But none of those people stepped forward. The case was apparently solved after a cache of evidence related to the investigation was recently found in a storage area at the sheriff’s office.
  • A van apparently jumped onto a sidewalk Monday at a busy intersection in Toronto and struck down pedestrians before the vehicle was found and the driver taken into custody, Canadian police said. >> Read more trending news The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Ending almost fourteen months of temporary leadership at NASA, Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma was sworn in Monday afternoon as the new leader of the space agency, as Trump Administration officials vow that Bridenstine will help revive manned space exploration efforts by the United States. After taking the oath – with his wife and three children at his side – Bridenstine told NASA employees that he was committed to seeing that the U.S. remains the world’s leader in space. “I will do my best to serve our storied agency to the utmost of my abilities, as we reach for new heights, as we reveal the unknown for the benefit for human kind,” Bridenstine said. “NASA represents what is best about the United States of America,” Bridenstine added. “We lead, we discover, we pioneer and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together.” “It’s an important moment in the life of this agency,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who trekked over to NASA Headquarters for the swearing-in, again saying that President Trump is strongly behind a forward-looking NASA. “We will send American astronauts back to the moon,” Pence said,’ vowing that the Trump Administration will lay the groundwork for travels to Mars. “And NASA will lead the way,” the Vice President said to applause. Bridenstine’s nomination was bitterly opposed by many Democrats in the Congress, who bristled at his conservative political views, and questioned his lack of space expertise, which also gave a handful of GOP Senators second thoughts. But after months of delay, the White House was able to convince Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to vote for Bridenstine, pushing him over the top to a bare majority confirmation vote of 50-49 last week. Bridenstine inherits an agency which just saw a big boost in its budget courtesy of a recent spending deal in the Congress, as NASA for the first time now has a yearly budget of over $20 billion. . @Space_Station #Expedition55 crew talking to NASA's new Administrator, James Bridenstine; . @VP saying 'thank you for your service in space you have our prayers and gratitude. ' pic.twitter.com/RsaTDF76fm — Gene J. Mikulka (@genejm29) April 23, 2018 “He will be an excellent leader,” said Rep. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was one of a handful of lawmakers there for the ceremony. After the swearing-in and Bridenstine’s remarks, NASA then checked in by video relay with several astronauts aboard the International Space Station. “I thank you for being part of the vanguard in space,” said the Vice President.