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National News

    Authorities in Florida launched an internal investigation Friday into the way sheriff's deputies handled work release for wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, after he was accused of sexually abusing underage girls. >> Read more trending news  The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office announced the investigation after allegations surfaced that Epstein, 66, had 'improper sexual conduct' with young women while on work release in 2008, ABC News reported. As part of a plea deal overseen by then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to two counts of soliciting a minor for prostitution amid allegations he lured girls as young as 14 to his Palm Beach estate and sexually abused them, according to the Miami Herald. Epstein agreed to register as a sex offender as part of the deal. He served 13 months in jail. Investigators will look specifically at the decision to allow Epstein to leave prison for 12 hours a day, six days a week for work release while serving out his 13-month sentence, the Herald reported. The decision has been criticized as being overly lenient. 'Sheriff (Ric) Bradshaw takes these matters very seriously and wants to determine if any actions taken by the deputies assigned to monitor Epstein during his work release program violated any agency rules and regulations,' deputies said in a news release obtained by WPTV. 'All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total transparency and accountability.' Epstein remained jailed Friday in New York, where he faces federal sex trafficking charges based on allegations he sexually exploited and abused dozens of girls between 2002 and 2005 at his Manhattan mansion and his Palm Beach County home. The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison, according to The New York Times. He pleaded not guilty to the charges last week. Epstein avoided significant jail time and federal prosecution as part of the 2008 plea deal in Florida. Scrutiny of the once-secret deal, detailed in a series of in-depth reports published last year by The Miami Herald, prompted Acosta to resign last week from his role as President Donald Trump's secretary of labor.
  • A U.S. appeals court panel has sided with the Trump administration, ruling that state and federal programs already in place ensure that mining companies take financial responsibility for future pollution cleanups. The ruling Friday came after the administration was sued by environmental groups for dropping an Obama-era proposal that would have required the companies to prove they have resources to clean up pollution. The mining industry has a legacy of companies abandoning polluted sites and leaving taxpayers to cover cleanup costs. However, the Environmental Protection Agency said in 2017 that stricter regulations and modern mining practices have reduced the risks of pollution going unaddressed. Under former President Barack Obama, the agency determined the opposite, saying that mining pollution remains an ongoing concern.
  • An 18-year-old in New Mexico beat the odds and is going to college.  Edgar Sarceno now has his whole life ahead of him, including a full ride to college, despite living in his car starting his junior year, KOAT reported.  But Sarceno was able to help kids learn to read, work multiple jobs and still keep his grades up. He said he never asked for help, but instead helped others through Reading Quest, a nonprofit in Santa Fe. >> Read more trending news  Even his boss didn't know Sarceno's struggles until one day he didn't show up for his shift. He told Rayna Dineen, the founder of the program, his car had broken down and he didn't have a phone. Then, he told her the rest of his situation. Sarceno also used his college essay to share his story, asking an English teacher to read over what he had written.  'That was my own way of telling them I need help,' Sarceno told KOAT. And they came through.  He earned a full scholarship to Bates College in Maine. The residents in Santa Fe also helped Sarceno get some necessities like a car and a new phone so he can drive to his school. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  Sarceno has a lot of hard work ahead of him and seems to want to learn everything. 'I want to study philosophy. I want to study art and economics, reading and writing,' he told KOAT.  Once he graduates from his undergrad program, he wants to go to grad school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become an engineer.
  • A 20-year-old Aberdeen man was severely burned recently after running back into his burning home to rescue his niece. >> Read more trending news  Derrick Byrd was sleeping when he heard his sister scream early on the morning of July 4. As soon as he came out, his home was engulfed in flames. “My sister opened her window and started dropping the kids out of the window,” Byrd said. Byrd caught his two nephews out of a second-story window, but after his sister fell from the window, his 9-year-old niece wouldn’t jump out. He said he took action and rushed back inside. 'I just walked right through it (the fire), took off my shirt and put it around her face,” Byrd said. 'I picked her up, grabbed her and just ran as fast as I could through the flames.' After Byrd got his niece out of the home, he waited for the ambulance to arrive. 'I walked right through them (flames), I felt my skin sizzling, I just didn't care. Honestly, the adrenaline took over,' he said. Byrd had burns on his arm, face and back.  He said he ran to his mother’s home in Hoquiam, which was about 10 blocks away, and asked her to take him to a hospital. He was later taken to Harborview Medical Center. 'I am healing. I am grateful that I'm alive still,” Byrd said. 'But I would do it again even if I did die. My nieces and nephews are my everything.' Byrd was released July 8 from Harborview Medical Center. 'I wouldn't consider myself a hero. I would consider myself someone who just cares about their family,” he said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
  • 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 trying to appeal to progressive voters with a call for 'Medicare for All' are wrestling with the thorny question of how to pay for such a dramatic overhaul of the U.S. health care system. Bernie Sanders, the chief proponent of Medicare for All, says such a remodel could cost up to $40 trillion over a decade. He's been the most direct in talking about how he'd cover that eye-popping amount, including considering a tax hike on the middle class in exchange for healthcare without co-payments or deductibles — which, he contends, would ultimately cost Americans less than the current healthcare system. His rivals who also support Medicare for All, however, have offered relatively few firm details so far about how they'd pay for a new government-run, single-payer system beyond raising taxes on top earners. As the health care debate dominates the early days of the Democratic primary, some experts say candidates won't be able to duck the question for long. 'It's not just the rich' who would be hit with new cost burdens to help make single-payer health insurance a reality, said John Holahan, a health policy fellow at the nonpartisan Urban Institute thinktank. Democratic candidates campaigning on Medicare for All should offer more specificity about how they would finance it, Holahan added. Sanders himself has not thrown his weight behind a single strategy to pay for his plan, floating a list of options that include a 7.5% payroll tax on employers and higher taxes on the wealthy. But his list amounts to a more public explanation of how he would pay for Medicare for All than what other Democratic presidential candidates who also back his single-payer legislation have offered. Kamala Harris, who has repeatedly tried to clarify her position on Medicare for All, vowed this week she wouldn't raise middle-class taxes to pay for a shift to single-payer coverage. The California senator told CNN that 'part of it is going to have to be about Wall Street paying more.' Her contention prompted criticism that she wasn't being realistic about what it would take to pay for Medicare for All. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a rival Democratic presidential candidate, said Harris' claim that Medicare for All would not involve higher taxes on the middle class was 'impossible,' though he stopped short of calling her dishonest and said only that candidates 'need to be clear' about their policies. A Harris aide later said she had suggested a tax on Wall Street transactions as only one potential way to finance Medicare for All, and that other options were available. The aide insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly about the issue. Another Medicare for All supporter, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, would ask individuals to pay between 4% and 5% of their income toward the new system and ask their employers to match that level of spending. Gillibrand's proposal, shared by an aide who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign's thinking, could supplement the revenue generated by that change with options that hit wealthy individuals and businesses, including a new Wall Street tax. Gillibrand is a cosponsor of Sanders' legislation adding a small tax to financial transactions, while Harris is not. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who also has signed onto Medicare for All legislation but said on the campaign trail that he would pursue incremental steps as well, could seek to raise revenue for the proposal by raising some individual tax rates, changing capital gains taxes or expanding the estate tax, according to an aide who spoke candidly about the issue on condition of anonymity. The campaign of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who used last month's debate to affirm her support for Sanders' single-payer health care plan, did not respond to a request for more details on potential financing options for Medicare for All. Meanwhile, Sanders argued during a high-profile Medicare for All speech this week that high private health insurance premiums, deductibles and copayments, all of which would be eliminated by his proposal, amount to 'nothing less than taxes on the middle class.' Medicare for All opponents are also under pressure to explain how they'd pay for changes to the health insurance market. Former Vice President Joe Biden is advocating for a so-called 'public option' that would allow people to decide between a government-financed plan or a private one. He would pay for his $750 billion proposal by repealing tax cuts for the wealthy that President Donald Trump and the GOP cut in 2017, and by raising capital gains taxes on the wealthy. ___ Associated Press writers Juana Summers in Washington and Alexandra Jaffe in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, contributed to this report.
  • The Trump administration has told federally funded family planning clinics it is considering a delay in enforcing a controversial rule that bars them from referring women for abortions. That comes after clinics had vowed defiance. Two people attending meetings this week between the Department of Health and Human Services and clinic representatives told The Associated Press that officials said the clinics should be given more time to comply with the rule's new requirements. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly before any decision has been announced. HHS said Friday that its policy has not changed. On Monday, agency officials announced that the government would immediately begin enforcing the rule, catching the clinics off-guard and prompting an outcry. Planned Parenthood said its 400 clinics would defy the requirement. Some states, including Illinois and Maryland, backed the clinics. The family planning program serves about 4 million women a year, and many low-income women get basic health care from the clinics. The administration's abortion restrictions, cheered by social and religious conservatives, are being challenged in court by groups representing the clinics, several states, and the American Medical Association. The litigation is still in its early stages. An enforcement pause may allow for a clearer indication of where the court cases are headed. The people who spoke to AP said that HHS Office of Population Affairs Director Diane Foley told representatives of the clinics the administration is considering rewinding the clock on enforcement. Instead of requiring immediate compliance, the administration would issue a new timetable and start the process at that point. Some requirements would be effective in 60 days, others in 120 days, and others would take effect next year. The clinics had complained to HHS that the agency gave them no guidance on how to comply with the new restrictions, while expecting them to do so immediately. The rule bars the family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. Abortion could still be discussed with patients, but only physicians or clinicians with advanced training could have those conversations. All pregnant patients would have to be referred for prenatal care, whether or not they request it. Minors would be encouraged to involve their parents in family planning decisions. Under the rule, facilities that provide family planning services as well as abortions would have to strictly separate finances and physical space. Known as Title X, the family-planning program funds a network of clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates. The clinics also provide basic health services, including screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. The program distributes about $260 million a year in grants to clinics, and those funds cannot be used to pay for abortions. The family planning rule is part of a series of Trump administration efforts to remake government policy on reproductive health to please conservatives who are a key part of its political base. Other regulations tangled up in court would allow employers to opt out of offering free birth control to women workers on the basis of religious or moral objections, and grant health care professionals wider leeway to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral scruples. Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman. Planned Parenthood is also the nation's leading abortion provider, and abortion opponents see the family-planning money as a subsidy, even if federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood is in the midst of a leadership upheaval, after its board abruptly ousted the organization's president this week. Leana Wen, a physician, had sought to reposition Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. In her resignation letter, she said the organization's board has determined the top priority should be to 'double down on abortion rights advocacy.
  • 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.”
  • 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 busiest corridor for unauthorized border crossings is South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, where Brownsville is located. Other cities in the Rio Grande Valley were not immediately included in the expansion. DHS said it had coordinated with the Mexican government on the policy. The Mexican government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But 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. 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. People in Nuevo Laredo were told to return in September for U.S. court dates. At other points of the border, wait times have stretched to several months. Unlike in criminal court, the U.S. government does not have to provide lawyers to people in the immigration court system. Attorneys in South Texas have long questioned where they could meet with potential clients in Tamaulipas. Many migrants who get to the U.S. have exhausted all their resources by the time they arrive, said Lisa Brodyaga, an attorney who has represented asylum seekers for decades. 'It would be extremely difficult for them to find attorneys who would have the time and the ability and the willingness to expose themselves to what's going in Matamoros,' she said. 'I'm not sure how it's going to work.
  • 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).