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    The release of a massive trove of data from lawsuits over the nation's opioid crisis provides the most detailed accounting to date of the role played by the major pharmaceutical companies and distributors. In legal cases across the country, they have defended themselves as being little more than bystanders — dispensing government-approved drugs at the behest of prescribing doctors. But the data gives a stunning portrait of how the nation's deadly public health crisis unfolded year by year, with manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies turning a firehose of prescription painkillers disproportionately on rural, working-class communities at the same time the death toll from prescription and illegal opioids was climbing. Following are questions and answers about what the federal data includes and what it could mean for the lawsuits, in which some 2,000 local, state and tribal governments are seeking to hold the drug industry responsible for the crisis. Q: What is the data? A: The released data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, or ARCOS. The government requires the drug industry to report information about the distribution of controlled substances. The part that has been released covers opioid painkillers, showing which pharmacies and medical offices they were shipped to from 2006 through 2012. The federal judge, overseeing litigation in Cleveland, has not decided whether to allow data from 2013 and 2014 to be released. Q. Why is it being made public? A: The records lie at the heart of the lawsuits over the opioid crisis. The DEA agreed last year to provide the information to parties in the cases, but the parties initially agreed to tight restrictions on who could see it. While lawyers had access, even the mayors and county officials who decided to sue could not. The Washington Post and HD Media, which owns newspapers in West Virginia, went to court to make it available to the public, an effort supported by other media outlets including The Associated Press. A federal appeals court ruled last month that it could not be sealed entirely. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing most of the opioid lawsuits, agreed this week to let it be released. Q: Who opposed the release? A: The DEA and the companies that are defendants in the opioid litigation. The DEA said revealing the information could show its law enforcement techniques and make it harder to prosecute cases. The companies argued that the records contain confidential business information and are not subject to federal Freedom of Information Act requests. Q: What does the data show about where drugs went? A: It shows that during that seven-year period, 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills — mostly generic versions — were sent to pharmacies and practitioners across the U.S. In 2012, more than 50% more pills were sent than in 2006, according to an analysis by The Washington Post, which was the first news organization to obtain the data this week. The most pills per capita went to areas in the Appalachian region. Some communities, including several in West Virginia and Kentucky, received more than 100 pills each year for every person who lived in the community. Q: What's the significance of that? A: Federal data on deaths related to opioid overdoses shows the places that received the most prescription opioids per capita were also the places with the highest overdose death rates. It also shows that the total number of prescription opioids sent to pharmacies increased even as the number of opioid-related deaths was rising, from less than 18,000 a year to more than 23,000. For most of that that period, prescription drugs were a factor in nearly half of opioid-related deaths. In recent years, opioids have accounted for roughly two-thirds of all overdose deaths each year in the U.S. In 2017, the last year for which official numbers are available, some 47,600 deaths were attributed to opioids. Since 2012, illicit opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is often mixed with heroin, have driven the death totals. Studies have found that 4 in 5 new heroin users started with prescription drugs, although not necessarily from their own prescriptions. Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week shows the number of opioid deaths in 2018 is likely to show a slight decline, the first year in nearly three decades in which the overall overdose total dropped. Still, opioid-related deaths alone are at more than twice the level they were in 2012, and now kill more people than automobile accidents. Q: What companies were involved? A: The leading opioid producers over that span were three companies that make generic drugs: SpecGX, Par Pharmaceutical and Activis Pharma. Together, they produced nearly 9 in 10 opioid pills that were shipped to pharmacies. The next biggest drugmaker was OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, which is often cast as the villain of the opioid crisis but produced just 3% of the opioid pills over the span. McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen were the largest opioid distribution companies from 2006 through 2012. Each distributed at least 9 billion pills, representing 12% to 18% of the total market. They were followed by other big pharmacy chains. Q: Does this mean the companies that made or shipped the most pills should be held most responsible? A: This is what litigation and settlement negotiations will determine. Plaintiffs argue that Purdue and later other brand-name drugmakers were the ones who persuaded doctors to prescribe opioids — a class of drugs known for centuries to both relieve pain and be highly addictive — in higher doses and for more conditions. Lawsuits also assert that drugmakers targeted doctors who overprescribed as a way to distribute even more opioids. While the generic companies produced the most pills, they did not market them. The distribution companies say they were only filling the orders that were placed, but they also have a responsibility to notify authorities of suspicious orders. The DEA itself was responsible for investigating those reports and also for setting limits on how many opioids could be produced. Q: Does the release of this data change anything about the lawsuits or negotiations? A: That remains to be seen. Judge Polster has been trying to get the parties to reach a global settlement, but also has scheduled the initial federal trial for October. The lawyers involved in the case have already been analyzing the data as they negotiate and prepare for trial, so their views might not change. The views of the public and even public officials, however, could be different after having access to the information. Q: Are there other documents in the case that could affect how the opioid crisis is seen? A: Yes. More court filings in the case could be unsealed as soon as Friday. Among them could be internal company documents provided to plaintiffs as they exchanged evidence. Also, Polster is considering whether to allow the public release of suspicious activity reports on unusual opioid orders. ___ Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill
  • Democratic presidential candidates campaigning on 'Medicare for All' are wrestling with how to pay for the dramatic overhaul of the American health care system. Bernie Sanders, the chief proponent, says 'Medicare for All' could cost up to $40 trillion over a decade. He's been the most direct in discussing how he'd finance it, including higher taxes on the middle class — which he argues would ultimately cost less than the current health care system. But his rivals who also support 'Medicare for All' have offered relatively few firm details so far about how they'd pay for it beyond raising taxes on top earners. As health care dominates the early days of the Democratic primary, some experts say candidates won't be able to duck the question for long.
  • The Trump administration has told federally funded family planning clinics it's considering a delay in enforcing a controversial rule barring them from referring women for abortions. Two people who attended meetings this week between the Department of Health and Human Services and clinic representatives told The Associated Press that officials said they might be willing to allow more time to comply. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly before any decision has been announced. HHS said Monday it would immediately begin enforcing the rule, catching the clinics off guard. Planned Parenthood said its 400 clinics would defy the requirement. HHS said Friday that its official position has not changed. The administration's restrictions are being challenged in court by the clinics and several states.
  • Experts involved in searching three graves sites in Tulsa that could hold the remains of people killed during the 1921 race riots say supporters should be realistic about expectations and results. As many as 300 people are estimated to have been killed on Tulsa's Black Wall Street during one of the worst race-related massacres in U.S. history. Scientists and historians detailed their work at a public oversight meeting Thursday. Anthropologist Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield says the number of years that have passed will make identifying remains a challenge. She says some of the bodies at two of the sites aren't related to the riots. Death certificates have been discovered for 37 people, including 25 African Americans, slain in the massacre. Most authorities believe the actual death toll is substantially higher.
  • Public art can spur myriad reactions.  >> Read more trending news  In Nebraska, a woman complained to city officials that a 6-foot-tall red-and-black painted sculpture of outstretched hands is demonic, anti-Christian and a hate-crime against the church, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported.  The fiberglass sculpture, titled “Spiderman” by artist Ian Anthony is one of 51 “Serving Hands Lincoln” installations placed throughout the city. The art will be auctioned in October to benefit Campus Life, part of Lincoln Youth for Christ, a nondenominational charity group that helps teens.  The majority of the proceeds will benefit the group and the remaining third will go to the artist. So until the auction, “Spiderman” will remain on display at the Lincoln Public Zoo.  “The sculpture is most definitely not a devil-related sculpture,” Matt Schulte, director of Campus Life, told the Journal-Star. “It clearly has a very playful child-like intent.”
  • Inspired by his yellow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe held off defending champion Geraint Thomas to win the only individual time trial stage of this Tour de France on Friday, a shock victory to raise French hopes that he could go all the way in yellow to Paris next week. Cheered on by boisterous crowds hammering on roadside barriers, Alaphilippe sprang a surprise in his margin of victory on the tricky, hilly, turn-filled loop south of Pau, with spectacular views of the Pyrenees. Having previously predicted that he'd lose time to Thomas, an expert in the race against the clock, Alaphilippe stunned even himself by emphatically relegating the Welshman into second place, 14 seconds slower. 'It's incredible,' Alaphilippe said, adding that his performance reduced members of his team to tears. 'I didn't think I'd win.' All eyes turn to the Pyrenees to see whether Alaphilippe can continue his dream race on Saturday ascending the legendary Tourmalet, the first of seven climbs to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the highest Tour in the race's 116-year history. Alaphilippe also won Stage 3 and has held the race lead for a total of nine days, wowing French fans crossing fingers and toes for their first homegrown champion since Bernard Hinault in 1985. Alaphilippe has said he expects to suffer in the high mountains, where the likes of Thomas and specialist climbers are expected to shine. But given how Alaphilippe has continued to confound expectations with his punchy riding and gritty determination to stay in yellow, fewer will be predicting he can't ride up the Champs-Elysees in the lead on July 28. Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt, third on Stage 13, was among those saying Alaphilippe could go all the way, after his demonstration of strength in Pau. 'He can surprise everybody,' De Gendt said. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • A Florida sheriff launched an investigation Friday into whether his department properly monitored the wealthy financer Jeffrey Epstein while he was serving a sentence for soliciting prostitution from underage girls. The inquiry will focus on whether deputies assigned to monitor Epstein in a work-release program violated any rules or regulations, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said in a statement. Under a 2008 plea deal, Epstein was allowed to spend most of his days at the office of his now-defunct Florida Science Foundation, which doled out research grants, rather than in the county jail. 'All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total accountability and transparency,' Bradshaw said. Epstein, 66, was convicted of prostitution-related charges in the Florida case, which involved dozens of underage teenage girls. He served a 13-month sentence, registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to the victims. The deal also included a formerly secret nonprosecution agreement that helped Epstein avoid more serious federal charges that could have landed him in prison for life. Federal prosecutors in New York have charged Epstein with sex trafficking involving underage victims. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty, but a judge denied him bail on Thursday after determining he was a flight risk and posed a danger to the community. Epstein was allowed to spend most days at his office after a little more than three months in the county jail, according to Palm Beach County sheriff's records released to The Associated Press. Sex offenders are not eligible for Florida's work release program, but officials say Epstein was able to participate because he wasn't a registered sex offender until after he had already served his time. Under his 2008 plea deal, Epstein had his own driver to take him to and from his office, and he was allowed to be out of jail from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week. Deputies were assigned to the office to monitor who his visitors were. Logs show many visits from attorneys, paralegals and others involved in his legal cases. It wasn't clear if all visitors registered, however. Epstein was not allowed to leave the office unless he was returning to jail. Bradshaw said determining whether Epstein's wealth and high-powered legal team resulted in favoritism from the sheriff's department would be a key part of his investigation and a question that would be taken 'very seriously.' The New York charges against Epstein led to the resignation of President Donald Trump's labor secretary, Alex Acosta, who was Miami U.S. attorney when the nonprosecution agreement was signed. Two victims filed a federal lawsuit asking for the plea deal to be thrown out. The suit claims prosecutors did not consult with victims as required by law, and a federal judge earlier this year agreed there was a violation. ___ This story has been edited to clarify that the formal charge against Epstein was soliciting prostitution from underage girls. _____ Follow Curt Anderson Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt
  • President Donald Trump plans to nominate lawyer Eugene Scalia, son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to serve as his next labor secretary, according to an announcement posted Thursday on Twitter. >> Read more trending news  Scalia, 55, is a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he specializes in administrative law and handles cases related to labor and employment, according to The Washington Post and NPR. He previously served as solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor under President George W. Bush. He also served as special assistant to Attorney General William Barr during his previous tenure as Bush's attorney general. 'I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Gene Scalia as the new Secretary of Labor,' Trump wrote Thursday in a Twitter post.  'Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience working with labor and everyone else.'  Scalia has long represented companies that have pushed back against unions and strengthening labor laws, The New York Times reported. In 2005, he was hired by Walmart after former employees sued the company, claiming they had been illegally fired for whistle-blowing, according to NPR. His nomination is likely to get some pushback from Democrats, though he's expected to be easily confirmed in the Republican-controlled Senate, according to the Times and the Post. If confirmed, Scalia will replace outgoing Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who announced his resignation last week amid criticism of his handling of a secret 2008 plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein. The deal, which came under renewed scrutiny after federal authorities revealed new sex trafficking charges against Epstein last week, allowed the 66-year-old to avoid significant jail time and federal prosecution after he was accused of molesting teenage girls. Acosta's deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will serve as acting secretary of labor after his resignation goes into effect Friday. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The U.S. government on Friday expanded its policy requiring asylum seekers to wait outside the country to one of Mexico's most dangerous cities, where thousands of people are already camped, some for several months. The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that it would implement its Migrant Protection Protocols in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. DHS says it anticipates the first asylum seekers will be sent back to Mexico starting Friday. Under the so-called 'Remain in Mexico' policy, asylum seekers are briefly processed and given a date to return for an immigration court hearing before being sent back across the southern border. Since January, the policy has been implemented at several border cities including San Diego and El Paso, Texas. The U.S. is trying to curtail the large flow of Central American migrants passing through Mexico to seek asylum under American law. The Trump administration has pressured Mexico to crack down on migrants, threatening earlier this year to impose crippling tariffs until both sides agreed on new measures targeting migration. Matamoros is at the eastern edge of the U.S.-Mexico border in Tamaulipas state, where organized crime gangs are dominant and the U.S. government warns citizens not to visit due to violence and kidnappings. The city is also near where a Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old daughter were found drowned in the Rio Grande, in photos that were shared around the world. Many people have slept for the last several months in a makeshift camp near one of the international bridges, including families with young children. Thousands more stay in hotels, shelters, or boarding houses. Only a few migrants daily have been allowed to seek asylum under another Trump administration policy limiting asylum processing known as 'metering.' A list run by Mexican officials has more than 1,000 people on it, said Elisa Filippone, a U.S.-based volunteer who visits Matamoros several times a week to deliver food and donated clothes. But many others not on the list wait in shelters. There are frequent rumors that migrants are shaken down for bribes to join the list, Filippone said. She described a desperate situation that could be made worse if people are forced to wait longer in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed. 'I'm afraid that Matamoros is about to catch on fire,' she said. The Department of Homeland Security said it had coordinated with the Mexican government on the policy. The Mexican government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Filippone said Friday that she saw the camp closest to one of the bridges being cleared away, though it was not immediately clear why or where the people detained would go. DHS recently implemented the 'Remain' policy for migrants in Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas. About 1,800 asylum seekers and migrants are currently waiting in Nuevo Laredo, where some have reported being kidnapped and extorted by gangs. 'I don't want to go out on the street. I'm afraid the same men ... will do something to me or my boys,' said one woman, insisting on speaking anonymously out of fear for their safety.
  • Tulsa police and city water crews are asking drivers to avoid the intersection at 21st and 129th East Avenue.  A-36-inch water line burst there around three Friday morning, bringing officers and a repair crew to the scene.  “First step they said was to get the water shut off but then (workers) said the intersection is still going to be torn up for a considerable amount of time after that,” TPD Cpl. Matt Arnold said.  Power was shut off to the area for worker safety. We're told the intersection will be a mess until repairs can be made.
  • Registration opens for the Owasso city-wide block party. This year's event will be held Sept. 14. The city says these block parties are a great way to meet your neighbors, which could lead to a safer community. The deadline to register is August 28, 2019.
  • The 53rd Annual Porter Peach Festival is happening until Saturday night.  Bad weather damaged 90-percent of the crop last year, forcing growers to bring in peaches from Texas.  The festival features live music, local art and a parade Saturday morning. Porter is located at 201 Street South and North 4200 Road.
  • After a high profile confrontation in the first set of Democratic debates in the 2020 race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be paired together again on the same debate stage, as Democrats will gather in Detroit July 30-31. The makeup of the two debates were announced after a draw live on CNN, as the network randomly placed the 20 qualifying candidates for the second pair of Democratic debates. While Biden and Harris headline the second night, the debates will kick off with three of the top five Democrats on stage for the first debate:  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • An accident is under investigation affecting the eastbound lanes of the Turner Turnpike at the Tulsa gate.  The accident happened around 8 p.m. Thursday and involved two vehicles, including an SUV.  We're told a FedEx truck at the scene may have had hazardous material on board.  Sapulpa police say one person died in the SUV that was involved in the collision. The driver was traveling in the wrong direction on the roadway. One eastbound lane at the bridge was opened for traffic at 4:30 a.m.

Washington Insider

  • After a high profile confrontation in the first set of Democratic debates in the 2020 race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be paired together again on the same debate stage, as Democrats will gather in Detroit July 30-31. The makeup of the two debates were announced after a draw live on CNN, as the network randomly placed the 20 qualifying candidates for the second pair of Democratic debates. While Biden and Harris headline the second night, the debates will kick off with three of the top five Democrats on stage for the first debate:  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • With GOP lawmakers in Congress publicly expressing their concerns about a campaign rally chant aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), President Donald Trump on Thursday made clear he did not endorse the 'Send her back' call, as Democratic leaders expressed fears for Omar's security. 'I wasn't happy with that message that they gave last night,' the President told reporters at the White House. Asked several times by reporters why he didn't stop the chant, Mr. Trump said it was a 'packed arena,' very specifically saying he did not endorse the message against Omar. 'I was not happy with it,' the President added. 'I didn't like that they did it.' Here was the moment the chant started during his rally, in response to his criticism of four minority women Democratic House members, including Omar: On Capitol Hill, a number of Republicans expressed their concern about the message from the Trump crowd. 'No American should ever talk to another American that way,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'That's a very inappropriate sentiment in this country,' Cole told reporters just off the House floor. “The tweet was wrong & the chant last night grotesque,” wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Twitter. “What I’m hearing from Capitol Police is that threats are up across the board for all members,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who expressed his concern about the ‘send her back’ chant just a few hours after the rally had ended. As for Omar, she met on Thursday morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as reporters pressed her to respond to the chant. “We have said this President is racist,” Omar said as she walked from the Capitol back to her House office. Democrats said they were concerned about Omar’s safety and possible threats against her. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the head of the House Democratic Caucus, encouraged lawmakers and the Capitol Police to quickly share any information about threats to police back in their home districts. “We got to make sure every single person, Democrat, Republican, progressive, conservative, the left and the right, get through it together,” Jeffries said.
  • Pressing ahead with one of their main agenda items in the 116th Congress, Democrats are poised to push a bill through the House on Thursday which would more than double the federal minimum wage over the next six years, taking it from the current level of $7.25 an hour, and pressing it up to $15. 'This is a fair and overdue adjustment,' argued Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), as debate started Wednesday on the floor of the House.  'American workers haven't had the benefit of a federal minimum wage increase in over a decade, while the prices of everything have gone up,' said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed Democrats to stick together on the minimum wage bill, arguing it 'lifts 1.3 million Americans out of poverty.' But for most Republicans, the idea of raising the wage would be a giant economic mistake, hurting rural areas, and younger Americans looking for work. 'When Congress should be focused on pro-growth policies, this bill would be detrimental to American families, workers, and entrepreneurs,' said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). Republicans have pointed repeatedly to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, which estimated that the $15 minimum wage could cause job losses of 1.3 million - with a high estimate over 3.7 million. 'That's like firing the entire population of the state of Oklahoma,' said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), in a line that's been used by a number of GOP lawmakers in recent weeks. The original plan was to raise the minimum wage in five steps over five years - but because of resistance among some Democrats - the plan was changed to make it a six year increase. The bill would raise the wage in steps, first to $8.45 an hour, then $9.50 a year after that, followed by a jump to $10.60, then $11.70 an hour, $12.80 an hour, $13.90, and lastly to $15 an hour. After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to rise along with median wage growth in the United States. While Democrats will certainly celebrate the passage of the plan - the bill seems unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
  • Accusing the Trump Administration of intentionally withholding documents and information about the failed effort by President Donald Trump to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the House on Wednesday voted along party lines to find the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'Neither of the Departments have provided the documents we have asked for,' said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), as the House resolution targeted both Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. 'I even asked Secretary Ross to meet with me personally,' Cummings said on the House floor. 'He refused.' It was the second time Barr had been held in contempt by the current Congress; the first was a civil contempt citation passed by the full House for ignoring a subpoena for his testimony about the Russia investigation and the Mueller Report. Democrats said it was nothing but a cover-up by the White House. Just before the vote, Barr and Ross sent a letter to Democrats asking that the contempt vote be delayed, as Republicans argued that the Trump Administration has been cooperating with requests for documents - something Democrats say just isn't true. 'It is unfortunate that the House has scheduled a vote to hold two sitting members of the President's Cabinet in contempt of Congress given the clear record of cooperation,' Barr and Ross wrote, as they said 'any contempt vote is, at best, premature.' 'This is all about a show,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), as Republicans rallied around a message that Democrats were pursuing political attacks on the President, while ignoring major issues on Capitol Hill. 'Don't play politics with contempt,' said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'We're better than that.' Democrats countered that the courts have already shown that the Trump Administration didn't tell the truth about why the citizenship question was being pursued - as Democrats argued that the feds had held back information to Congress about the Census citizenship question. 'Wilbur Ross lied. William Barr lied,' said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In a defiant statement sent out just after the vote, the White House denounced the House action. “Today’s vote by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt is ridiculous and yet another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration,” the statement read.
  • Next summer will mark forty years since I drew my first paycheck on Capitol Hill as a Page in the House of Representatives. Between working for the Congress, and then covering lawmakers as a reporter, I've seen lawmakers almost come to blows, watched Speakers angrily denounce their critics, seen lawmakers block the doors to the House floor to keep lawmakers from leaving, and all sorts of other legislative mischief. But I have never seen what happened on Tuesday, when Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) did what amounted to a 'gavel drop,' as he refused to read a parliamentary ruling against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and simply walked away. 'I abandon the Chair,' Cleaver said, after getting my attention by clearly not reading the script in front of him, and speaking in the first person from the Speaker's Chair. Maybe it's happened before in the almost 230 years that the House and Senate have been at work - but what Cleaver did on Tuesday was something that left my jaw on the floor. In his off-the-cuff remarks, Cleaver seemed to indicate that he had given a pass to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), who during debate on a resolution condemning President Trump, had denounced a group of minority women Democrats as 'anti-American.' When one Democrat rose to ask that Duffy's words be 'taken down' and scrubbed from the Record, Cleaver brushed off the complaint. And he evidently thought the same should have been done for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she referred to the President's 'racist tweets,' directly going against precedents of the House which clearly state that such speech is against the rules. In a statement, Cleaver said he was simply frustrated at what was going on before his eyes. 'I have spent my entire life working with people of all faiths and stripes in an effort solve real-world problems with concrete solutions, but never have we been this divided and this unwilling to listen to countering opinions or accept objective truths,' the Missouri Democrat said. 'However, a house divided against itself cannot stand, regardless of how strong the foundation,' Cleaver added. Some of my colleagues were just as surprised at the turn of events. The rules rebuke of Pelosi was historic as well - it was the first time a Speaker had words 'taken down' in 35 years, since a famous floor spat between Speaker Tip O'Neill, and future Speaker Newt Gingrich (though not many people at the time would have predicted Gingrich's ascension to that leadership post).