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Latest from Rick Couri

    Coach Trimble retired as the Jenks head coach in 2018 after being diagnosed with ALS in 2016. In his time with the Trojans, Trimble took his teams to 17 state title games, wining 13.  Trimble’s courageous journey and continuing positive attitude is affecting more than those he’s touched in Jenks. “He’s being the person I don’t think I’m brave enough to be,” former Union head coach and current Owasso told KRMG.  Despite fierce, on-field battles with those Jenks his teams, Blankenship is amazed by the lesson Trimble is teaching. “He’s being the man we all want to be,” he said. Current Union head coach Kirk Fridrich agrees, telling us “when I first heard of it, it was like a punch in the gut to me. Like Blankenship, despite losses in high stakes games, he learned to care about Trimble. “I was surprised by how much he meant to me,” he began, “how much it bothered me.” Allan’s TrimbleStrong Foundation is a focus for the coach in his frequent speaking stops.  Join the KRMG Morning News joined the KRMG Morning News for a special 8am in-depth hour. You can listen to the legacy, love, and impact coach Trimble has made by tapping or clicking on this link.
  • In sports terms, it’s game night. The weeks. months, and in some cases, years of work come to a head as voters decide Oklahoma’s leadership team for the next several years. Here at the Bricktown Event Center in Oklahoma City, the GOP will host governor candidate Kevin Stitt and several other candidates while others, like republican congressional candidates Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hearn stay in their districts. Follow along below for a timeline of how things go here just a few miles from where the candidates want to work. You can keep up with the national results here and watch below for the latest updates locally. 2:55pm - Arrived at the event center a bit early because the doors are suppose to open at 3:00pm. It seems that was only a suggestion as the media area is almost completely full but we wedged into a spot down front. 3:15pm - Good news from the Stitt campaign, they’ve negotiated a deal for free internet and power access at the venue. As of yesterday, the building wanted to charge all the media for not only Ethernet service, but connections to power and the “mult-box,” the framice providing access to the mic podium for all the media. 4:30pm - Not much happening other than technical issues for the last 90 minutes but the stage is set and volunteers are mostly in place. Doors are supposed to open at 6pm, we’ll see if they go early. 7:00pm - As the polls close the mood here is elevating quickly, this crowd senses something special is about to happen. 7:30pm - The returns are shoing it may not be as close as we thought, Stitt leading handily. 8:00pm - Kevin Stitt’s margin is growing fast, 10-12 points now. 8:40pm - Senator James Lanford joined us to break down the local and national races. He told us he’s not at all surprised. 8:55pm - Just got a text from the Stitt campaign, they tell me Mr. Edmondson called to concede. 9:38pm - Governor-elect Kevin Stitt is speaking, and declaring a big win. 9:48pm - All done here and Kevin Stitt will join us tomorrow at 7am on the KRMG Morning News.
  • It’s a big day for Tulsa as Vice President Mike Pence comes to town for a campaign rally boosting GOP candidate for governor, Kevin  Stitt. Below is a timeline of the event. Thursday, October 11th. - KRMG confirms VP Mike Pence would be coming to town a full 24-hours before anyone else in the state. Friday, October 12th. - The Stitt campaign confirms the VP will be here. Thursday, October 18th., 9:05AM. KRMG arrives at the Mabee Center for a look at the media set-up and plan for the days coverage. Some last minute changes forced media spots to be adjusted but KRMG was able to corral a spot on the floor of the even no more than 25 feet from the podium. There are already 20-25 people in line outside here. Thursday, October 18th, 10:00AM. - Media is allowed inside the venue to set up their gear. Thursday, October 18th, 11:00AM. - The Secret Service is clearing the building in order to carry out their security checks and sweep the building. Thursday, October 18th, 12:03PM  - The crowd is growing quickly , now closer to 150 people outside. Thursday, October 18th, 2:00PM - The doors are now open and media is checking in. We’re headed to our seat on the floor to broadcast. Thursday, October 18th, 3:50PM - Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford just came down to find KRMG for “before the speeches” interviews.  We’ll have more from both of them today. Thursday, October 18th, 4:25PM - The program is underway with a prayer from GOP state party chair Pam Pollard and the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance from Phil Armstrong. Thursday, October 18th,  4:30PM - Lt. Governor candidate Matt Pinnell is the first speaker, he took about three minutes. Thursday, October 18th, 4:34PM - First District congressional candidate Kevin Hearn takes the mic for three minutes. Thursday, October 18th, 4:37PM - The VP’s limo just arrived at the Mabee Center. Thursday, October 18th, 4:40PM - Congressman Markwayne Mullin is speaking. Thursday, October 18th, 4:44PM - We’re in a recess before the senators and Kevin Stitt speak leading up to the VP. Thursday, October 18th, 5:07PM - Senator James Lankford is energizing the crowd. Thursday, October 18th, 5:09PM - Senator Jim Inhofe is taking his turn at the mic. Thursday, October 18th, 5:14PM - Senator Jim Inhofe introducing Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Stitt. Thursday, October 18th, 5:17PM - The Stitt’s just made very brief remarks and quickly tossed this to VP Pence. Thursday, October 18th, 5:21PM - Vice President Mike Pence is at the podium in front of a cheering crowd. Thursday, October 18th, 5:45PM - Once VP Pence just finished up and is working the handshake line and making his way out of the Mabee Center . Thursday, October 18th, 6:15PM - The seats emptied quickly here and everyone is headed home .
  • It wasn’t ever close. North Texas raced to a 17-0 lead over Arkansas just 15 minutes into the game. During that start, it was a trick play punt return that solidified the win and demoralized the hogs.  Leading 7-0 the Mean Green forced a Razorback punt. Returner Keegan Brewer didn’t make a fair catch but pretends to do so. Watch below.
  • Republican Nebraska senator Ben Sasse paused only momentarily when called upon for his input during opening remarks of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Sasse opened by calling congress “impotent,” and then explaining why. “The reason these confirmation processes largely don’t work is because they’ve been hijacked by theatrics,” he began. Sasse then ripped into his colleagues for making shirking their jobs, saying all they do is “decide to give permission to the secretary or the administrator of bureaucracy X, Y, or Z to make law-like regulations.” Sasse calls the confirmation process an opportunity to teach civics with a “School House Rock,” approach. Listen to the entire speech here.
  • 3:55PM -  The wait begins as KRMG arrives to set up for the night as Oklahoman's choose between either Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett and Jenks businessman Kevin Stitt as the republican candidate for governor. The winner will face democrat Drew Edmondson in the November mid-term. 4:35PM - The candidate made a quick run though the watch part area at his Gateway Mortgage building in Jenks. Stitt visited briefly with staff and left to take care of other business until he returns after 7PM. The room is set up with standing level tables draped with white tablecloths and topped by red, white, and blue balloons. 5:00PM - Fox23 and KRMG’s Jackie DelPilar is with the Mick Cornett campaign in Oklahoma City. Jackie tells us the room is mostly empty other than media as we prepare for the polls to close. 6:05PM - Mick Cornett stopped through his watch party and quickly visits with reporters expressing confidence his team has done all it can to win the race. 6:12PM - The room is still 99% media for now but the catering is here and when the food arrives, can crowds be far behind? 7:00PM - It’s game time! The polls are closed and numbers will start to trickle in, then come fast and furious until we have a winner! 7:25PM - Kevin Stitt popped back into the room and came straight to the KRMG broadcast location to join us. He told me he’s relaxed and feels confident but understands it’s out of his hands now. His greatest hope is rural Oklahoma will vote for a person who does not have a political past. 8:01PM - A graphic flashed up on a screen here at the watch party showing Kevin Stitt with an 8-9 point lead statewide over Mick Cornett. That brought a cheer from this big crowd and it only amped up this group even more.  8:30PM - It’s over, Kevin Stitt is declared the winner of the GOP run-off and the crowd here us ecstatic. Stitt will join the KRMG Morning News live at 7:40AM Wednesday morning to talk about his win and look forward to the general election in November.
  • Races span the state from a chance to be Oklahoma’s next governor and the Tulsa County district attorney. National eyes will be on the state as voters choose the replacement for Jim Bridenstine, who left his office as the First District congressman to take over as the director of NASA.  In Broken Arrow the focus will include a huge bond package covering roads, safety, and parks. Check the links below for more and remember to tune in for complete coverage of the election beginning with a special edition of the KRMG Evening News from 5PM-7Pm followed by wall-to-wall coverage hosted by KRMG Morning News host Dan Potter with reporters at watch parties and events around the state. Find your polling place and see sample ballots. Election Board county by county races. List of precincts. Broken Arrow bond package.
  • Voice activated lights, doors, thermostats, and even televisions powered by artificial intelligence. But none of it can work with blazing fast wi-fi, and that’s where Cox comes in. “This is the Panoramic Wi-Fi device and it’s brand new,” Cox’s Bruce Berkinshaw told me. “The modem inside the router allows for gig internet speeds profligating the wall-to-wall Wi-Fi signal.”  So it’s fast, really fast. But it’s also better looking. “It has no blinking lights, it looks like just a little shelf speaker” Berkinshaw pointed out. And it works. One Panoramic unit is powering 60 devices in the Smart Home at the Village at Southern Trails in Broken Arrow.  Listen to some of the interviews from the Smart Home here. During a trip to the home I saw Wi-Fi connect cooking devices, security systems, augmented reality programs, and Trapollo, a medical managed service allowing healthcare providers and home health agencies to talk to patients at their homes.  Cox is also offering smart light bulbs, and other devices powered by Panoramic Wi-Fi. And the good news is, you can get it now. “This was launched one month ago, May 16th ins Tulsa” Berkinshaw explained. Check here to find out if you can get panoramaic Wi-Fi in your home.
  • You normally don’t need much more than the New York Yankees visiting Globe Life Park  to make for a fun evening at the ballpark. But when President George Bush is sitting near the dugout, and heckles a likeness of himself, things ramp up a bit. Near the end of a between innings race between Texas Legends, the President Bush character trailed those of Sam Houston and Nolan Ryan. When the ballonish mascot passed the president's box, Bush leaned forward and shouted “get moving.” That spurred the duplicate W to speed up and win the race. See the video below. The Rangers won a slug-fest over the Yankees, 12-10.
  • “It’s coming, it’s coming!” The words teacher Kim Martinez remembers hearing another teacher scream as a monster EF-5 tornado bore down on Plaza Towers elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th, 2013. Martinez and another teacher, Nikki McCurtain rushed their class into a bathroom and threw themselves on top of as many kids as possible. Seconds later, the tornado hit. “It sounded like a train and everything began spinning” Martinez continued.  The twister ripped through the school, leveling it and killing seven children inside.  “When it was over I remember looking up and the whole roof was gone,” Martinez told us. I even looked up and could still see the debris ball.” When things settled Martinez and McCurtain’s students were shaken and bruised, but alive. Then they began looking for others. “That’s when it got really scary,” McCurtain began. “The 3rd graders were not coming out, it was really emotional and very, very scary.”   Seven of those 3rd-graders didn’t come out.  Today, Plaza Towers stands again. “It’s so beautiful and brings so much hope for our future” teacher McCurtain told KRMG as she stood near the school.  The entire kindergarten section of the school is an EF-5 rated tornado shelter large enough to  hold 650 people, that’s every student and staff member in the school.
  • Rick Couri

    Managing Editor

    Rick Couri began his career with KRMG in 1982 and has since done "everything you could do" at the station. Rick has covered top sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the World Series, football bowl games and championship tennis. He even spent a day with boxing great Muhammad Ali. On the news side Rick was in Joplin and Moore hours after F-5 tornados. He’s also covered political conventions and a presidential visit.

    Rick is entering his 32nd year as the color voice for TU basketball, and 16th year as the play-by-play voice for Union football. He’s also broadcast Tulsa basketball, Oklahoma State football, and spent seven years as the voice of the Tulsa Talons Arena league football team.

    Rick and Christine, his wife of 28-years, have three children. Son Kelly (38), and his wife Jill, are the parents of granddaughters Hayden, and Hannah. 34-year-old daughter Lindsey works for Union public schools, and 21-year-old daughter Delaney Catalina is a senior education major at Texas A&M University. When away from the microphone, Rick is a 22 year PADI scuba instructor. He and his family have a dive instruction company, http://www.okiescuba.com/. While Rick will tell you he is a "sports guy", those familiar with the Tulsa market know Rick's influence extends well outside the circle of sports. As Co-host of the KRMG Morning News, Rick has interviewed everyone from local celebrities to national figures.  A community leader who gives of his time and talent, Rick's commitment to the annual funding campaign for Operation Aware has resulted in over $1.3 million dollars being raised for this important charity. KRMG listeners have learned to appreciate Rick's insightful reporting and have developed a trust unique in today's media personalities. 

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  • News 1023 an AM740 KRMG plans an InDepth Hour Monday focusing on cyber security and Tulsa’s growing role as a leading market for cyber security innovation. An expert from the University of Tulsa is expected to comment on their leadership in the field and the resulting innovations. Be sure to be listening Monday morning at eight for the InDepth Hour on KRMG.
  • An independent, non-profit military watchdog group says the F-35 stealth fighter, even after 17 years of testing and billions of dollars spent on development, is STILL not ready for combat. Dan Grazier with the group Project on Government Oversight says that there have been so many cracks in the jets during durability testing and so many modifications made, they might only last about 25-percent of their supposed life expectancy. If that's not bad enough, he says the most combat-critical high-tech systems on the plane continue to malfunction and are vulnerable to hackers. Pentagon officials dispute Grazier's report. They still hope the F-35 can replace most of America's roughly 3,000 fighter jets, at a cost of $1-trillion. You can read more about the story here.
  • Cincinnati Ave. is closed between 21st and 19th streets after workers say a stormwater drain caused the road to collapse Wednesday afternoon. Repair crews sent a camera down into the manhole to get a better look at the problem. No word yet on the exact cause of the problem of when the road will be reopened. Tune to NEWS102.3 and AM740 KRMG for live traffic reports. 
  • Roundup weed killer was a substantial factor in a California man’s cancer, a jury determined Tuesday in the first phase of a trial that attorneys said could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits. The unanimous verdict by the six-person jury in federal court in San Francisco came in a lawsuit filed against Roundup’s manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto. Edwin Hardeman, 70, was the second plaintiff to go to trial out of thousands around the country who claim the weed killer causes cancer. Monsanto says studies have established that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is safe.  A San Francisco jury in August awarded another man $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A judge later slashed the award to $78 million, and Monsanto has appealed. Hardeman’s trial is before a different judge and may be more significant. U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits and has deemed Hardeman’s case and two others “bellwether trials.”
  • The year’s final supermoon will coincide with the spring equinox, the term used to mark the end of winter.  >> Read more trending news  According to the United States Naval Observatory, the equinox, which occurs in the spring and autumn, is the moment when the center of the sun is directly above the equator. During this vernal equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and both the Northern and Southern hemispheres get the same amount of rays; night and day are nearly equal length. The 2019 spring equinox will occur on Wednesday, March 20. Four hours after the arrival of the equinox, we’ll witness the first full moon of spring for the Northern Hemisphere and the first full moon of autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. That moon will also be a supermoon. >> Related: What to know about the spring equinox According to Space.com, the March 20 Worm Moon—a nickname for the first full moon in March—will reach its full phase at 9:43 p.m. It will reach perigee (the closest point in its orbit around Earth) at 3:48 p.m. on March 19. Why is it called a Worm Moon? “At the time of this Moon, the ground begins to soften enough for earthworm casts to reappear, inviting the return of robins and migrating birds— a true sign of spring,” according to the Farmer’s Almanac. “Roots start to push their way up through the soil, and the Earth experiences a re-birth as it awakens from its winter slumber.” The nickname was first given by Native Americans — the Algonquin tribes in particular — who used lunar phases to track the seasons. What is a supermoon? According to NASA, the moniker supermoon was coined by an astrologer in 1979 and is often used to describe a full moon happening near or at the time when the moon is at its closest point in its orbit around Earth. >> Related: What is a supermoon and how does it affect us? Supermoons may appear as much as 14 percent closer and 30 percent brighter than the moon on an average night. The moon’s average distance from Earth is approximately 238,000 miles. Where are the best places to see the supermoon? Wherever the sky is clear and the moon is visible is an ideal place from which to experience the spectacle.  But if you’re really up to making an adventure out of it, consider heading to a state park or the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville. Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Swamp is notorious for being one of the best spots in the world for star gazing and was named a gold-tier “International Dark Sky Park.” You can also make your way to one of the nine best places to see stars around Atlanta. Any of those spots would make great viewing points for a supermoon, too.  Best ways to photograph the supermoon? According to National Geographic, seeing the supermoon near the horizon with buildings, trees or mountains for scale will make the moon appear slightly larger in your photos, even though it isn’t. >> Related: Full snow moon on the way; it’s the largest supermoon of the year “Don’t make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself, with no reference to anything,” Bill Ingalls, a senior photographer for NASA, told National Geographic last year. “Instead, think of how to make the image creative—that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.” Other photo tips from National Geographic staff photographers: Shoot with the same exposure you would in daylight on Earth. Don’t leave your camera shutter open too long. This will make the moon appear too bright and you won’t be able to photograph lunar detail. If you’re using your smartphone, use your optical lens only.  If you’re using your smartphone, do not use your digital zoom. This will decrease the quality of your photo. Instead, take the photo and zoom or crop later. Use a tripod or a solid surface to keep your phone stabilized. Use your fingers to adjust the light balance and capture the lunar detail. More from National Geographic.

Washington Insider

  • Using his veto pen for the first time in just over two years in office, President Donald Trump on Friday rejected a special resolution from Congress which would block his national emergency declaration to shift money into construction of a border wall, a day after the GOP Senate joined the Democratic House in rebuking the President. 'Congress’s vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality,' President Trump said in the Oval Office. 'It's against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis.' The measure now goes back to the House and Senate, where any effort to override the President's veto is far short of the necessary two-thirds super majority. 'On March 26, the House will once again act to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s emergency declaration by holding a vote to override his veto,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But the President sternly disagreed. Here's the text of the President's veto message, as sent back to the Congress: To the House of Representatives:   I am returning herewith without my approval H.J. Res. 46, a joint resolution that would terminate the national emergency I declared regarding the crisis on our southern border in Proclamation 9844 on February 15, 2019, pursuant to the National Emergencies Act.  As demonstrated by recent statistics published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and explained in testimony given by the Secretary of Homeland Security on March 6, 2019, before the House Committee on Homeland Security, our porous southern border continues to be a magnet for lawless migration and criminals and has created a border security and humanitarian crisis that endangers every American. Last month alone, CBP apprehended more than 76,000 aliens improperly attempting to enter the United States along the southern border -- the largest monthly total in the last 5 years. In fiscal year 2018, CBP seized more than 820,000 pounds of drugs at our southern border, including 24,000 pounds of cocaine, 64,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 5,000 pounds of heroin, and 1,800 pounds of fentanyl. In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, immigration officers nationwide made 266,000 arrests of aliens previously charged with or convicted of crimes. These crimes included approximately 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings. In other words, aliens coming across our border have injured or killed thousands of people, while drugs flowing through the border have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.   The current situation requires our frontline border enforcement personnel to vastly increase their humanitarian efforts. Along their dangerous trek to the United States, 1 in 3 migrant women experiences sexual abuse, and 7 in 10 migrants are victims of violence. Fifty migrants per day are referred for emergency medical care, and CBP rescues 4,300 people per year who are in danger and distress. The efforts to address this humanitarian catastrophe draw resources away from enforcing our Nation's immigration laws and protecting the border, and place border security personnel at increased risk.   As troubling as these statistics are, they reveal only part of the reality. The situation at the southern border is rapidly deteriorating because of who is arriving and how they are arriving. For many years, the majority of individuals who arrived illegally were single adults from Mexico. Under our existing laws, we could detain and quickly remove most of these aliens. More recently, however, illegal migrants have organized into caravans that include large numbers of families and unaccompanied children from Central American countries. Last year, for example, a record number of families crossed the border illegally. If the current trend holds, the number of families crossing in fiscal year 2019 will greatly surpass last year's record total. Criminal organizations are taking advantage of these large flows of families and unaccompanied minors to conduct dangerous illegal activity, including human trafficking, drug smuggling, and brutal killings.   Under current laws, court decisions, and resource constraints, the Government cannot detain families or undocumented alien children from Central American countries in significant numbers or quickly deport them. Instead, the Government is forced to release many of them into the interior of the United States, pending lengthy judicial proceedings. Although many fail ever to establish any legal right to remain in this country, they stay nonetheless.   This situation on our border cannot be described as anything other than a national emergency, and our Armed Forces are needed to help confront it.   My highest obligation as President is to protect the Nation and its people. Every day, the crisis on our border is deepening, and with new surges of migrants expected in the coming months, we are straining our border enforcement personnel and resources to the breaking point.   H.J. Res. 46 ignores these realities. It is a dangerous resolution that would undermine United States sovereignty and threaten the lives and safety of countless Americans. It is, therefore, my duty to return it to the House of Representatives without my approval.   DONALD J. TRUMP   THE WHITE HOUSE, March 15, 2019. 
  • Democrats in the U.S. House will try to send an unmistakable message to President Donald Trump on the issue of relations with Russia this week on Capitol Hill, bringing up a series of bills on the House floor dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin, including a plan which demands the public release of any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'This transparency is a fundamental principle necessary to ensure that government remains accountable to the people,' a series of key Democrats said about the resolution on the Mueller inquiry. The Russian legislative blitz comes as Democrats on a series of House committees have stepped up their requests for information from the White House and the Trump Administration on issues related to the Russia investigation and the Mueller probe. So far, Democrats say they aren't getting much in the way of help from the White House on any of their investigative efforts. 'It's like, zero,' said House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). 'We can't get witnesses, they don't want us to talk to witnesses.' Among the Russia-related bills on the schedule this week in the House: + The 'KREMLIN Act,' a bipartisan bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence - already reportedly in hot water with the President for saying that North Korea probably wouldn't give up its nuclear arsenal - to submit to Congress a new round of intelligence assessments on Russia and its leaders. 'The Kremlin’s efforts to sabotage our democracy and those of our allies across Europe are undeniable,' said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who has sponsored this bill with fellow Intelligence Committee member Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT).  Earlier this year, DNI Dan Coats said of Russia: 'We assess that Moscow will continue pursuing a range of objectives to expand its reach, including undermining the US-led liberal international order, dividing Western political and security institutions, demonstrating Russia’s ability to shape global issues, and bolstering Putin’s domestic legitimacy.' + The Vladimir Putin Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill which again asks the U.S. Intelligence Community to weigh in with evidence about the Russian government, and expressing the sense of Congress 'that the United States should do more to expose the corruption of Vladimir Putin.' 'I am proud to cosponsor this bill which aims to identify Putin and his allies for who they are: nefarious political actors undermining democracies,' said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who teamed up with Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) on this measure. 'Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,' President Trump tweeted last July, after his controversial summit with Putin in Finland. 'They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!' + A bipartisan bill to block any move by the U.S. Government to recognize the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and Vladimir Putin. This is another measure meant to put public pressure on the President, who has been somewhat uneven in public statements on his feelings about Russia's move to take Crimea, as well as the ongoing proxy war being supported by Moscow in areas of eastern Ukraine, and how the U.S. should respond - even as his administration has leveled new economic sanctions against Moscow. In November of 2018, the President canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina, after Russian naval forces seized several Ukrainian ships and their crews. + A bipartisan resolution calling for 'accountability and justice' surrounding the assassination of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed in Moscow in 2015. Lawmakers in both parties have urged the Trump Administration to sanction those involved in the murder, as the measure also calls for an international investigation into his death. 'Boris Nemtsov had a vision for a democratic and free Russia. Sadly, that put him right in Putin’s cross hairs,' said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). This not just a House effort, as there is a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). 'Putin's media and surrogates called Boris Nemtsov an 'enemy of the people,'' said Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, and a frequent critic of President Trump. + Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.  While the four previous legislative measures have bipartisan support, the final piece of this 'Russia' week in the U.S. House might create a bit of a tussle on the floor of the House, as Democrats move to put GOP lawmakers on the record about whether they want to make any report from the Special Counsel public.  Under the Special Counsel law, there is no guarantee that the Mueller report will ever see the light of day - the Special Counsel submits a report to the U.S. Attorney General - in this case, William Barr - who is then authorized to summarize that to Congress.  That's different than back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when independent counsel Ken Starr was able to send Congress volumes and volumes of evidence - knowing that all of it would be made public. In testimony before the Senate earlier this year, Barr did not expressly commit to releasing any report, saying 'my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision.
  • As President Donald Trump sent Congress on Monday a $4.7 trillion budget proposal for 2020, the estimates of his own budget experts predict that this spending plan will result in four straight years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion, with no budget surplus until the mid-2030's. After a deficit of $779 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, the President's new budget plan forecasts four more years of even higher levels of red ink. 2019 - $1.092 trillion 2020 - $1.101 trillion 2021 - $1.068 trillion 2022 - $1.049 trillion The White House budget document shows the deficit dropping to an estimated $909 billion in 2023. The higher deficit figures come even as the White House projected a growing amount of revenues coming in for Uncle Sam as a result of the 2017 GOP tax cut plan, as officials said the problem is not taxes, but the level of government spending. 'We don't think the tax cuts are going to lead to anything other than economic growth over the next ten years,' a senior White House official told reporters on Monday morning. After revenues were basically flat from 2017 to 2018, the official predicted the feds would see growth of 6 percent in money coming into the Treasury in 2020, as compared to 2019. Part of the President’s 2020 budget plan would make the GOP tax cut permanent for individuals - the business part of that tax package was permanent, but the income tax cuts and other items impacting individual taxpayers end in 2025. Still, for the President - and his chief aides - the big problem is spending, not tax revenues, as the White House said the 2020 budget was a ‘fiscally responsible and pro-American budget.’ While GOP supporters of the President like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) touted today’s budget plan - the declaration that the Trump budget will result in a balanced budget won’t be happening anytime soon. In the next ten years, the 2020 Trump budget estimates that another $7.2 trillion would be added in deficits, pushing the national debt towards the $30 trillion mark. “Under reasonable economic assumptions, we find it would add about $10.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years,” said the watchdog group, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It's quite an achievement for the President's budget to have fantastical economic assumptions, massive & unprecedented cuts to domestic discretionary spending, and *still* manage to end up with trillion dollar deficits for the next four years,” tweeted Shaki Akabas, an economic expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
  • With over $2 trillion added to the federal debt since he took office just over two years ago, President Donald Trump will deliver a spending plan to the Congress on Monday which is certain to spur a sharp debate with Democrats over proposed cuts in domestic spending programs, but won't come close to producing a balanced budget for more than a decade. 'It is time for Congress to join the president in his commitment to cutting spending, reducing bloated deficits, and getting our national debt under control. America’s future generations are depending on them,' said Russ Vought, the acting chief of the White House budget office. But, so far, President Trump's time in office has seen the growth in the deficit accelerate, from $584 billion in President Obama's last full year in office in 2016, to $779 billion in 2018. As of January, the deficit in 2019 was running 77 percent higher than a year ago, as even White House budget estimates have forecast a yearly deficit over $1 trillion in coming years. Here's some of what to look for in Monday's budget submission, which is titled, 'A Budget for a Better America.' 1. Domestic spending cuts, back door increase for defense. With no deal as yet to avoid budget caps from a 2011 deficit law, spending in 2020 would be limited on defense to $576 billion, and $542 billion for domestic programs. But the President wants much more for the military, so the Trump Administration will reportedly propose spending a massive $174 billion for the 'Overseas Contingency Operations' fund - an increase of $106 billion - for a total military budget of $750 billion. Budget watchdog groups say the idea is a big, fat budgetary gimmick, nothing but a slush fund for the Pentagon. 2. Trump to request $8.6 billion for the border wall. With no confirmed details yet on how the President will shift around some $6.6 billion in the Pentagon budget to fund construction of his border wall, Mr. Trump will reportedly ask Congress to approve $8.6 billion for the wall in 2020. Democrats had a simple reaction on Sunday. 'No,' said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). 'No,' said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). 'Dead on arrival,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). Even after a 35 day partial government shutdown earlier this year, the President received $1.375 billion for barriers - but not a wall, and there seems to be little chance that dynamic will change for Democrats in the 2020 budget debate. 'Congress refused to fund his wall,' Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Sunday. 'The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again.' 3. Goal for a balanced budget would be 2035. Even if President Trump serves two terms in office, his own White House doesn't forecast anything close to a balanced budget. The last official budget estimates from the White House in July of 2018 - which will be updated with this new budget proposal - predicted the deficit would peak over $1 trillion for three years, and then finally get below $500 billion by 2027, adding almost $8 trillion in deficts along the way. More conservative Republicans in the House aren't worried by those details, as they say the President has shown 'fiscally conservative leadership,' even though the debt has already increased by more than $2 trillion during his two plus years in office. 4. Not all the details, and already behind schedule. President Trump was supposed to have sent this budget to Congress by the first Monday in February - but today will only bring the basic highlights, not all the nitty gritty details of the proposal. Part of the reason is that the 35 day partial government shutdown delayed a lot of work in government agencies. All of the spending work is supposed to be done by Congress each year by September 30 - but that's only happened four times since the budget process was reformed in 1974. Congress has six and a half months until the deadline - it's hard to see how lawmakers avoid more stop gap funding plans - and maybe another shutdown as well. 5. A new dynamic with divided control of Congress. In the first two years of the Trump Presidency, Republicans in the House and Senate were in charge - but now, Democrats will have first crack at the President's budget, and they are certain to take a much different road. In a sense, that's a good thing for Mr. Trump, giving him the chance to battle it out with Democrats more clearly on budget priorities. But it also amplifies the chance for a government shutdown on October 1. Speaker Pelosi likes to say that a budget is a 'statement of values.' After the Trump budget gets delivered to Congress, the next move will be up to Democrats in the House, to forge their on budget outline for 2020. There are political pitfalls ahead for both sides.
  • The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee took the unusual step Friday of publicly releasing a 268 page interview transcript with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, confirming reports that Ohr forwarded material to the FBI from his wife, and that former British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele warned during the 2016 campaign that Russian intelligence believed they had President Donald Trump 'over a barrel.'  'He (Steele) told me that the former head of - or he had information that the former head of the Russian foreign intelligence service had said that they had Trump over a barrel,' said Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who funneled information from Steele to FBI investigators. 'My interpretation is that that meant that, if true, the Russian Government had some kind of compromising material on Donald Trump,' Ohr told lawmakers in the August 28, 2018 deposition, as he defended the quality of information Steele had provided the U.S. Government in the past. 'Chris Steele has, for a long time, been very concerned about Russian crime and corruption and what he sees as Russian malign acts around the world, in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere,' Ohr told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'And if he had information that he believed showed that the Russian Government was acting in a hostile way to the United States, he wanted to get that information to me.' In the deposition, Ohr acknowledged that he forwarded information not only from Steele to the FBI - but also from his wife, Nellie Ohr, who worked at Fusion GPS, the company which had hired Steele to do intelligence work on President Trump from Europe. Ohr said he realized during 2016 that his wife was researching 'some of the same people that I had heard about from Chris Steele,' and that she provided her husband with a thumb drive of information, which he then gave to FBI investigators.  Republicans found the chain of events described by Ohr to be a bit difficult to swallow. 'I'm trying to envision this cold start to a conversation with 'Here, honey, here's a thumb drive,'' said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) at one point. Ohr, an expert in Russian organized crime, said he never looked at any of the information. 'I didn't want to plug it into my machine at work,' Ohr testified. 'I just gave it to the FBI.' The transcript of the deposition was released by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on Friday; Collins said he took the unilateral action because he was frustrated that it was taking so long for the Trump Justice Department to make the transcript public. 'After many months, and little progress, our patience grows thin,' Collins said in a speech on the House floor on Friday morning. 'I intend to make other transcripts public soon,' Collins said, referring to interviews done with a variety of Justice Department and FBI figures when Republicans were in charge of the House in 2018. Collins said the transcripts were being held back because of questions over redactions, as he accused the Trump Justice Department of slow walking requests to make the testimony public. In 2018, House Republicans conducted a series of private interviews with different figures involved in the Russia investigation - not focusing on possible wrongdoing involving the Trump campaign - but instead looking at Justice Department and FBI officials, and how they came to start and conduct the initial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  Other than a two day closed door interview with former FBI Director James Comey - who requested the release of his closed door testimony - none of the other private transcripts had been released publicly until Collins did so on Friday. While Ohr's testimony was in private, some highlights were immediately leaked to a series of news organizations back in August of 2018. 'AP sources: Lawyer was told Russia had 'Trump over a barrel,'' the Associated Press reported. 'DOJ official told Russia had Trump 'over a barrel,'' was the CNN headline at the time. The GOP inquiries for Ohr repeatedly sought to raise questions about a broader conspiracy of actions by officials at the Justice Department, as Republicans tried to paint a picture of a group of government officials doing everything they could to investigate Mr. Trump and his allies. Republicans also found it hard to believe that Ohr's wife got a job from Fusion GPS without his involvement. 'I don't remember who made the contact, whether she spoke with Glenn Simpson directly or whether there was another party or someone else involved. I just know it wasn't me,' Ohr said of his wife's job. “So when she came home and said, 'Honey, I got a job with Glenn Simpson,' what did you say?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) at one point. In the interview, Ohr was asked about an email from Steele in which Steele wanted to talk about 'our favorite business tycoon’ - which GOP lawmakers seemed to believe was a certain U.S. candidate. But Ohr repeatedly said that description wasn't a reference to President Trump, but rather to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was owed money by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Republicans again and again pressed Ohr about how he handled information from Steele, and why he did not inform his bosses that he was handing over that material to the FBI. 'I have received information from different people about organized crime over the years, and in each case I've provided it to the FBI,' Ohr explained. Ohr said he did not have a personal relationship with Glenn Simpson, who had hired Christopher Steele for Fusion GPS, but that they had met several times through the years. Ohr defended his contacts with Steele, even after the FBI had terminated their relationship with the former British agent. “When I got a call from Chris Steele and he provided information, if it seemed like it was significant, I would provide it to the FBI,” Ohr said.