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Latest from Russell Mills

    Voters who braved the cold for an off-year bond election overwhelmingly passed three propositions extending the Improve Our Tulsa package Tuesday.  The three bonds approved include one which addresses streets and transportation systems, a second which will fund improvements to parks and replace old city vehicles, and a third which directs new money into the city's “rainy day” fund. The list of projects is extensive; about 70% of the money, however, is earmarked for roads and transportation, a priority clearly established by voters during a series of town hall meetings held by the mayor and city council before - and after - they drafted the proposal. The majority of the funds will come from bond sales, funded by property taxes; the rest from the extension of existing sales taxes. The city's sales tax rate will remain the same, however the .05 cent (one-twentieth of a penny) sales tax which will fund the “rainy day” account becomes permanent. The Improve Our Tulsa package has a timetable of about six and a half years, at a cost of an estimated $639 million. 
  • The lone Democrat in Oklahoma's Congressional delegation has come under fire for her vote to approve further impeachment inquiries, including sharp criticism from her Republican colleagues in the state. Rep. Kendra Horn spoke with KRMG Wednesday, and said it's important to draw the distinction between voting for an investigation, and actually voting for impeachment. [Hear the KRMG In-Depth report: Rep. Horn on impeachment and a looming budget deadline (full interview below)] “We may not all like every part of the process,” Rep. Horn told KRMG. “The process matters, and we have to, we have to ensure that people have their voices heard. And that's what I voted for,  and that is what I'll continue to support is making sure that everybody has an opportunity. And I'm going to keep talking about all the other things that we're doing, because that matters.” She spoke about what she calls “kitchen table” issues, which she says truly impact the lives of Oklahomans. And at the top of that list - passing a budget, a process which has stalled and which could potentially lead to a government shutdown November 21st. She said most likely, “we have to do another short-term continuing resolution to get it done, but I am adamantly opposed to this idea of a long-term continuing resolution, it's just not acceptable.” She wants both sides to come to the table and get an actual omnibus budget bill in front of the president. And she wants to avoid another shutdown. “I walked into this position in the middle of a shutdown,” she pointed out. “And fundamentally, we should never - and both parties have done it, nobody's excepted - and it's unacceptable that it was ever thought to be okay for elected officials to use a shutdown as a political tool.” [Want to really go in depth? Hear the entire interview with Rep. Horn HERE, or click the audio player below]
  • One of the most fundamental mechanisms in American representative democracy is the process of determining the population, and drawing legislative districts to ensure fair representation. It begins with the census, conducted every ten years nationwide, and in Oklahoma, the process then moves to the legislature. While the US Constitution spells out the process for US House districts, it's silent on how states should handle their own legislative districts. A group called “People Not Politicians” has initiated a petition drive to amend the Oklahoma Constitution and remove the redistricting process from the hands of the legislature. Instead, an independent commission would do the work, with input from the public. Andy Moore, founder of PNP, tells KRMG the process would be more fair, and more transparent. State Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) disagrees, and says he believes legislators are more accountable to the people because they have to answer to voters at the polls. We've spoken with both sides of this debate; you can hear what Moore and Rader had to say by clicking on the audio links below. [KRMG In-Depth Report featuring People Not Politicians founder Andy Moore (click here or use the audio player below)] [KRMG In-Depth Report featuring Oklahoma State Senator Dave Rader (click here or use the audio player below)] PNP has filed the language of its proposal, State Question 808, with the Oklahoma Secretary of State.  If and when that language has been approved, they will begin gathering signatures to put the proposal on the ballot. 
  • An Oklahoma County District judge has ruled that Oklahoma's new “permitless carry” law does not violate the state's prohibition of statutes which address more than one subject, a ruling which means the law will go into effect as scheduled November first. State Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC) had filed the case, seeking an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect. He tells KRMG despite the ruling, the fight over what some call “constitutional carry” will continue. He has considered appealing Wednesday's ruling, but ultimately thinks the issue should go to a vote of the people. The law was passed by the legislature, and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, earlier this year.
  • Update: The teacher was identified as Central Elementary first grade teacher Maggie DuBois. We’re told grief counselors will be available for students and staff when classes resume at Central Elementary on Wednesday. A GoFundMe page was set up and has already raised thousands of dollars. Original Story: Two people, including an elementary school teacher, died in a head-on collision late Thursday night, KRMG has learned.  Bixby Public Relations spokeswoman Jennifer Rush confirmed that one of the victims of the crash taught for BPS.  A witness to the crash scene, Jason Cowan, told KRMG three vehicles were involved.  He drove up on the scene shortly after the wreck occurred between Yale and Harvard on East 151st Street in Bixby about 11:30 p.m. There were three vehicles involved, he says, but at first they only saw two.  “You couldn't see the third vehicle, it looked like the two SUVs had hit each other head-on because they were the only two vehicles sitting on the road,” Cowan said Friday. “They obviously had been in a head-on collision,  you could just tell that they were destroyed.” KRMG obtained an email sent from the principal at Bixby Central Elementary School to parents and staff.  It named the teacher, but because KRMG could not independently confirm the information in the email, we will not release that name at this time.  The email indicated that counselors will be available for staff and students at the school Monday if needed.
  • The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority says it has now issued more than 200,000 patient licenses in the state since the program's inception in August of last year. Tony Sellars is Director of Communications for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, and thus for OMMA. “That's an average of 3,500 a week since the inception of the program,” Sellars told KRMG Monday. “It represents nearly five percent of the population of Oklahoma.” That, he said, well exceeds the expectations once held by OSDH and lawmakers alike. “It's more than double of what we originally expected when we were putting the program together and evaluating what had happened in other states that had approved medical marijuana,” he said. “We were anticipating somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 total applications in the first year.” Considering the short time the OMMA had to implement the program, the many changes of the statutes governing it, and the high demand for it, Sellars says things have gone fairly well.  There have been inquiries from nearby states about best practices and quick implementation, he says.
  • A proposal dubbed the “Green New Deal” has alarmed many in the fossil fuels industry, since it calls for the elimination of that industry in the space of a decade. The consensus among most experts in the field is that goal, while some may find it laudable, is hardly practical. Greg Kozera, President of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association, holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering. He tells KRMG the idea of eliminating fossil fuels is not only impractical, it would do major damage. [Hear the KRMG In-Depth report featuring Greg Kozera HERE or use the audio player below] “It's primarily wind, it's solar, it's geothermal, it's waves, it's hydroelectric, but when you put all those pieces together, and I looked at it an engineer, there's only five percent of that energy that you can count on 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he told KRMG. He added that the plan in no way makes provisions for how the US military could even function. “The military...runs on fossil fuels. You can't run a tank on solar, and you can't run a fighter jet on wind,” he said, “you've got to have fossil fuels.” Jack Kerfoot has forty years of experience as a geophysicist and energy consultant, and while he agrees that some aspects of the “Green New Deal” as recently proposed in Congress would be potentially “catastrophic,” he does believe the change to renewable forms of energy is both inevitable, and desirable. “If we're talking about moving to renewable energy, what we're really saying is that we now will have the energy independence, and we'll never again be reliant on foreign oil imports,” he told KRMG. [Hear the KRMG In-Depth report featuring Jack Kerfoot HERE or use the audio player below] Moreover, market forces have already increased demand for renewable energy, for the simple and fundamental reason that it's cheaper. “In 2005, over 51% of electricity in the US was generated from coal,” Kerfoot said. “Now, in April of this year, that number was actually 22%, and renewable energy had gone from (2005) 8% or less than 8%, to over 23%.” He says it doesn't really matter whether or not one accepts the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change. “When I meet a climate skeptic, the first thing I like to ask them is 'do you like to save money?' Of course, renewable energy is cheaper than any form of fossil fuel for power,” Kerfoot said. “And then the next question, you remind them of the importance of being energy independent.”
  • For many Tulsans, the search for perhaps hundreds of bodies dumped into mass graves in 1921 has a major flaw, specifically, that searchers may simply be looking in the wrong place. Monday, as the search began in earnest with ground-penetrating radar at Oaklawn Cemetery just east of downtown, leaders of the African-American community and other concerned with finally dealing with Tulsa's violent history spoke urgently about the need to find answers. Among them, State Rep. Regina Goodwin and Rev. Robert Turner, Pastor of Vernon AME Church. [Hear our KRMG IN-DEPTH REPORT on the search for mass graves in Tulsa HERE, or use the audio player below] Decades of stories passed on from survivors and the families of victims point to eyewitness accounts of flatcars, piled with bodies, which pulled up on railroad tracks along the western side of Oaklawn. Chief Egunwale Amusan has done extensive research, including interviews with any number of citizens white and black, who told a similar story. The witnesses, he says, “told me that the brought flats on the rail system, on the Midland Valley tracks along Oaklawn Cemetery, dug a huge trench right along where the highway is now, and just rolled hundreds of bodies.” “Nobody's disputing should we be looking here,” Rep. Goodwin told KRMG. “What we're saying is why are you not going... where folks are talking about 'bones were found.'” But the area to which those accounts point is now underneath Highway 75 along the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop, making a search difficult and excavation all but impossible. Goodwin says there's also strong evidence for possible mass burials at Crown Hill Cemetery in north Tulsa, a site that's not currently on the list of sites to be searched. She, and Turner, both worry about preconceived notions on the part of the researcher heading up the search, Betsy Warner. “My concerns are we have too much oral history, and too many eyewitnesses through the decades that have absolutely contradicted what she's sharing with people,” Goodwin said. “So my thing is, if we're going to be open-minded, if we're going to be factual, if we're going to be accurate, we need to rely on the eyewitnesses who lived through this.  We need to rely on the folks who've really, really done the research, and not brought their particular bias to the table.”  Warner, whose father conducted a prior search for evidence of mass burials some 22 years ago, says she's basing her efforts on extensive research, including eyewitness statements, but admits there's a lack of records in many cases. She does believe Oaklawn holds promise as a possible site for undocumented burials.
  • Tulsa police and fire personnel recovered the body of a woman from a large pond near Highway 169 and East 21st Street Tuesday.  The pond sits between apartment complexes, it's believed the victim identified as Angela Deere lived in the Shoreline Apartments.  Police say she was seen last evening by neighbors, and may have been drinking beer.  We're told Deere was in her early thirties.  Neighbors nearby told KRMG they've lived in the area for decades, and don't recall any previous drownings.  The Medical Examiner will determine cause of death.  Police say there were no signs of trauma or foul play noted in the initial investigation. 
  • Later this month, the Oklahoma Historical Society will break ground on a new museum in Tulsa, culminating a process which took years and overcame some fairly significant hurdles. The Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, or OKPOP, is scheduled to officially begin construction October 23rd with a ceremonial groundbreaking. [Hear the KRMG In-Depth report on OKPOP HERE, or use the audio player below] OHS announced that it had obtained the Bob Wills Collection from the musician's family in March of 2011, and said the acquisition would become the cornerstone of a planned museum of popular culture. From the beginning, the plan was to build the museum in Tulsa's arts district, but finding the right location and obtaining the property was a process. Then, getting the state legislature to approve a $25 million bond issue for construction proved challenging. But lawmakers eventually approved the bond in 2015, and businessman David Sharp and Interak Corp. donated property directly across the street from Cain's Ballroom on north Main Street. Private donors have raised millions more to help obtain materials and archives that will form the heart of OKPOP's exhibits. The 60,000 square foot, three-story building is scheduled to be completed in late 2021.
  • Russell Mills

    Anchor/Reporter

    Russell Mills came to Tulsa in 1991 with an AA degree in Broadcast Journalism and a new family. He worked in local television for more than 20 years as a show producer, assignment editor, and online content director. He built one of the first television news websites in the country and helped pioneer streaming audio and video, especially as it related to weather and live news coverage on the Internet. Russell says working for KRMG fulfills a longtime dream. "I worked in newsrooms for a long, long time before finally getting the chance to get out and cover the news in person. I can't tell you how much I love doing just that -- driving toward the big story to talk to the people involved gets my adrenaline going like almost nothing else in life." Russell grew up in Bozeman, Montana then spent several years as an "itinerant musician and restaurant worker," living in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California before finally starting college at 28 and discovering broadcasting as a possible career path. He is married to Shadia Dahlal, a nationally-known Middle Eastern Dancer and instructor, and has two stepchildren. You can connect with Russell via his Facebook page. 

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  • The first day of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump will feature two State Department witnesses who raised questions about actions in Ukraine by the President's personal lawyer, with one alarmed by Rudy Giuliani's efforts to undermine the former U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine, and another who saw Giuliani leading an effort to press for investigations desired by Mr. Trump. 'Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March,' Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified, saying Giuliani conducted a 'campaign of slander' against former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. 'I worried about what I had heard concerning the role of Rudolph Giuliani,' said William Taylor, now the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who said he was worried about entering a 'snake pit' involving Giuliani. Here is some of what we might expect from these two witnesses in the first day of impeachment hearings. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE KENT - After working at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, Kent returned to the State Department in the second half of 2018, taking on a post where he was responsible for Ukraine and five other eastern European nations often targeted by Russia. It was in that position where Kent said he witnessed the media attack which unfolded, spurred by Giuliani and conservative news media organs. In his impeachment deposition, Kent said an article by conservative journalist John Solomon spurred a sudden attack on Ambassador Yovanovitch and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine in general, which was then amplified by Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Kent said much of what was alleged, that Yovanovitch was bad mouthing President Trump, that she was working against Ukraine prosecutors, was simply false. 'It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth,' Kent testified, 'it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.' Kent described how U.S. diplomats were blindsided by what was clearly a concerted campaign against the U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, spread over four days in March of 2019. It started first with arrows aimed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, but then spread to accusations against former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter, along with other charges mentioning conservative bogeyman George Soros - all of it given a push by President Trump, his son, conservative websites, and Fox News. The attacks on Yovanovitch came two weeks after she had been asked by the State Department to stay on in Ukraine until 2020 - but her extension would not survive the conservative media attacks against her. 'I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine 'on the next plane,'' Yovanovitch told Congressional investigators. She will testify on Friday. + WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires IN UKRAINE. With the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch, Taylor is the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine - basically the acting Ambassador. Several months after Yovanovitch had been ousted, Taylor described how the work of Giuliani had seemingly led to a situation where U.S. military aid for Ukraine was being withheld - in an effort to gain a quid pro quo - where the government of Ukraine would launch investigations sought by President Trump. 'By mid-Ju1y, it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections,' Taylor said, referring to a focus on the Bidens, and the debunked theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - was behind the hacks of Democrats in 2016. Taylor said the impetus for the situation was obvious. 'It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani,' Taylor said in his closed door deposition. Mr. Taylor said he had determined that link in 'mid-July' - it was on July 25 that President Trump spoke with the leader of Ukraine, and spelled out the need for Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens, and the Ukraine-2016 elections theory, which included the evidence-free allegation that the hacked computer server from the Democratic National Committee was being hidden in Ukraine. Some Republicans have mocked the choice of Taylor as an opening witness, saying he has no firsthand knowledge of why the President would want investigations conducted related to the Bidens or the 2016 elections. 'No, I've never talked to the President,' Taylor said in his deposition. Look for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to bring this up during the first day of questioning with Taylor. Three hearings have also been set for next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with eight different witnesses.
  • Hongjin Tan pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to committing theft of trade secrets from his employer.  Investigators say Tan used a thumb drive to copy hundreds of files.  His job at the company was to develop next generation battery technologies for stationary energy storage.  Tan’s LinkedIn profile lists his employer as Phillips 66 in Bartlesville.  Prosecutors say the defendant stole information on a development downstream energy market product worth more than $1 billion.  “Industrial spies like Hongjin Tan engage in espionage to steal American trade secrets and intellectual property born out of the innovation that is innate in our free market system,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores for the Northern District of Oklahoma.  'Trade secret theft is a serious crime which hurts American businesses and taxpayers,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the Oklahoma City Field Office. Sentencing is set for Feb. 12, 2020.
  • While President Donald Trump will welcome the Turkish leader to the White House on Wednesday, the last visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May of 2017 still echoes in Washington, D.C., when security guards for the Turkish President openly attacked protesters in an unprecedented act of violence less than two miles from the White House. With video that showed Erdoğan watching the pitched battle along what's known as 'Embassy Row' in the middle of Washington, D.C. - the Turkish leader's planned return drew sharp comments from Capitol Hill in recent days, as none of his guards were ever held accountable for the violence. 'This behavior is sadly routine for President Erdoğan on Turkish soil,' said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter this week to 'immediately' expel any of the guards involved in that 2017 violence if they are on this week's trip to Washington. 'The Erdoğan regime's use of violence against innocent civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized, and unacceptable,' Cheney wrote. This was what the scene looked like on May 16, 2017, as Turkish security forces broke through police lines, and openly attacked protesters on the streets of the nation's capital. Some of the most graphic video was shot by the Voice of America's Turkish Service. At least nine people were injured in the attacks, which took place several hours after the Turkish leader met with President Trump. An in-depth review of multiple videos of the May 16, 2017, violence left no doubt as to the actions of the Erdoğan security detail, with descriptions of guards who 'punched a protestor' or 'kicked man on ground,' and 'knocked over woman, kicked man,' or 'choked, slammed woman.' You can see the New York Times video analysis of the violence at this link. In court documents revealed in recent days, U.S. security officials said the Turkish bodyguards also attacked American Secret Service agents during the incident, but were quickly spirited out of the country, and thus avoided any legal charges. A grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted 15 Turkish security guards, but most of the charges were ultimately dropped. Several months after the incident, the Turkish leader said in an interview that President Trump had apologized for the incident - the White House denied that had occurred.
  • Voters who braved the cold for an off-year bond election overwhelmingly passed three propositions extending the Improve Our Tulsa package Tuesday.  The three bonds approved include one which addresses streets and transportation systems, a second which will fund improvements to parks and replace old city vehicles, and a third which directs new money into the city's “rainy day” fund. The list of projects is extensive; about 70% of the money, however, is earmarked for roads and transportation, a priority clearly established by voters during a series of town hall meetings held by the mayor and city council before - and after - they drafted the proposal. The majority of the funds will come from bond sales, funded by property taxes; the rest from the extension of existing sales taxes. The city's sales tax rate will remain the same, however the .05 cent (one-twentieth of a penny) sales tax which will fund the “rainy day” account becomes permanent. The Improve Our Tulsa package has a timetable of about six and a half years, at a cost of an estimated $639 million. 

Washington Insider

  • The first day of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump will feature two State Department witnesses who raised questions about actions in Ukraine by the President's personal lawyer, with one alarmed by Rudy Giuliani's efforts to undermine the former U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine, and another who saw Giuliani leading an effort to press for investigations desired by Mr. Trump. 'Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March,' Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified, saying Giuliani conducted a 'campaign of slander' against former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. 'I worried about what I had heard concerning the role of Rudolph Giuliani,' said William Taylor, now the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who said he was worried about entering a 'snake pit' involving Giuliani. Here is some of what we might expect from these two witnesses in the first day of impeachment hearings. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE KENT - After working at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, Kent returned to the State Department in the second half of 2018, taking on a post where he was responsible for Ukraine and five other eastern European nations often targeted by Russia. It was in that position where Kent said he witnessed the media attack which unfolded, spurred by Giuliani and conservative news media organs. In his impeachment deposition, Kent said an article by conservative journalist John Solomon spurred a sudden attack on Ambassador Yovanovitch and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine in general, which was then amplified by Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Kent said much of what was alleged, that Yovanovitch was bad mouthing President Trump, that she was working against Ukraine prosecutors, was simply false. 'It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth,' Kent testified, 'it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.' Kent described how U.S. diplomats were blindsided by what was clearly a concerted campaign against the U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, spread over four days in March of 2019. It started first with arrows aimed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, but then spread to accusations against former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter, along with other charges mentioning conservative bogeyman George Soros - all of it given a push by President Trump, his son, conservative websites, and Fox News. The attacks on Yovanovitch came two weeks after she had been asked by the State Department to stay on in Ukraine until 2020 - but her extension would not survive the conservative media attacks against her. 'I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine 'on the next plane,'' Yovanovitch told Congressional investigators. She will testify on Friday. + WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires IN UKRAINE. With the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch, Taylor is the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine - basically the acting Ambassador. Several months after Yovanovitch had been ousted, Taylor described how the work of Giuliani had seemingly led to a situation where U.S. military aid for Ukraine was being withheld - in an effort to gain a quid pro quo - where the government of Ukraine would launch investigations sought by President Trump. 'By mid-Ju1y, it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections,' Taylor said, referring to a focus on the Bidens, and the debunked theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - was behind the hacks of Democrats in 2016. Taylor said the impetus for the situation was obvious. 'It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani,' Taylor said in his closed door deposition. Mr. Taylor said he had determined that link in 'mid-July' - it was on July 25 that President Trump spoke with the leader of Ukraine, and spelled out the need for Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens, and the Ukraine-2016 elections theory, which included the evidence-free allegation that the hacked computer server from the Democratic National Committee was being hidden in Ukraine. Some Republicans have mocked the choice of Taylor as an opening witness, saying he has no firsthand knowledge of why the President would want investigations conducted related to the Bidens or the 2016 elections. 'No, I've never talked to the President,' Taylor said in his deposition. Look for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to bring this up during the first day of questioning with Taylor. Three hearings have also been set for next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with eight different witnesses.
  • While President Donald Trump will welcome the Turkish leader to the White House on Wednesday, the last visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May of 2017 still echoes in Washington, D.C., when security guards for the Turkish President openly attacked protesters in an unprecedented act of violence less than two miles from the White House. With video that showed Erdoğan watching the pitched battle along what's known as 'Embassy Row' in the middle of Washington, D.C. - the Turkish leader's planned return drew sharp comments from Capitol Hill in recent days, as none of his guards were ever held accountable for the violence. 'This behavior is sadly routine for President Erdoğan on Turkish soil,' said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter this week to 'immediately' expel any of the guards involved in that 2017 violence if they are on this week's trip to Washington. 'The Erdoğan regime's use of violence against innocent civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized, and unacceptable,' Cheney wrote. This was what the scene looked like on May 16, 2017, as Turkish security forces broke through police lines, and openly attacked protesters on the streets of the nation's capital. Some of the most graphic video was shot by the Voice of America's Turkish Service. At least nine people were injured in the attacks, which took place several hours after the Turkish leader met with President Trump. An in-depth review of multiple videos of the May 16, 2017, violence left no doubt as to the actions of the Erdoğan security detail, with descriptions of guards who 'punched a protestor' or 'kicked man on ground,' and 'knocked over woman, kicked man,' or 'choked, slammed woman.' You can see the New York Times video analysis of the violence at this link. In court documents revealed in recent days, U.S. security officials said the Turkish bodyguards also attacked American Secret Service agents during the incident, but were quickly spirited out of the country, and thus avoided any legal charges. A grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted 15 Turkish security guards, but most of the charges were ultimately dropped. Several months after the incident, the Turkish leader said in an interview that President Trump had apologized for the incident - the White House denied that had occurred.
  • On the eve of convening historic impeachment hearings aimed at President Donald Trump, House Democrats publicly set out guidelines for conduct by lawmakers in the proceedings, seemingly anticipating the possibility of procedural tussles with GOP lawmakers when the hearings begin on Wednesday. In a six page memo released by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff directly warned Republicans not to try to use the hearings to veer into certain areas of interest for the GOP. Schiff wrote, 'it is important to underscore that the House’s impeachment inquiry, and the Committee, will not serve as venues for any Member to further the same sham investigations into the Bidens or into debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference.' In his memo, Schiff said the questions should stick to three main areas of inquiry: The Schiff memo also indicated Democrats are still reviewing the requests of GOP lawmakers to call certain witnesses in the hearings. Republicans asked for a series of witnesses on Saturday, headlined by the son of Vice President Biden, Hunter Biden, and the Intelligence Community whistleblower whose complaint kicked off the Ukraine investigation earlier this fall. As for the whistleblower, the Schiff memo warned GOP lawmakers not to make any efforts to use the public hearings to reveal the name of the whistleblower, raising the specter that it could lead to ethics charges. You can read the full memo from Rep. Schiff at this link.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday considers a politically explosive trio of cases on the future of an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrant 'Dreamers' in the United States, and whether the Trump Administration has properly exercised its legal authority to take away the protection those people have had since 2012 to avoid being deported from the United States. Legal experts say the Trump Administration certainly has the right to terminate the DACA program - because it is a discretionary use of authority by the Executive Branch.  But experts also argue that the Trump Administration bungled that simple move, resulting in several years of court challenges, culminating in these arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. 'This is a program put in place by a government agency - it is not something the Congress put in place - which is important, because now the agency says it can get rid of the program,' said Nicole Saharsky, a lawyer who worked on one of the three DACA cases before the Justices. 'It seemed to me the government had such an easy argument,' Saharsky said at a Georgetown University symposium earlier this fall. 'This is discretionary - we're going to exercise our discretion and not have it anymore.' But Saharsky and other legal experts say the way the Trump Administration went about ending the program undermined its authority to easily make a change. For example, it took the Trump Administration months to produce policy points from the Secretary of Homeland Security - used in a later court case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals - to support the reason why the DACA program should be changed. 'Part of the debate is about whether those additional policy reasons are properly before the court or not,' said Irv Gornstein, the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute and a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. That 'after-the-fact-justification' - as Gornstein labeled it during a Supreme Court preview this fall - is one of a series of administrative matters the Justices must consider, in what otherwise would seem to be a legal slam dunk for the Trump Administration. When lower courts first blocked the feds from changing DACA, law professor Josh Blackman called it 'ludicrous,' denouncing a decision from a federal judge in San Francisco as an 'amateur act of punditry.' But as the issue has wound its way through the courts, Blackman has joined others in acknowledging the Trump Administration fell short in offering the proper rationale for the change. 'Offer other reasons that are legitimate, and the policy can be rescinded,' Blackman argued in a lengthy argument on Twitter earlier this year. The outcome of this case could also find roots in the Supreme Court rebuke of the Trump Administration over the Census, where Chief Justice John Roberts clearly laid out a path for the feds to take without violating the Administrative Procedures Act - which could apply as well to the DACA situation. All of that will play out in 80 minutes of arguments - covering three different cases before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
  • Just days before impeachment hearings are set to begin the U.S. House, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress continued to be on different pathways when it comes to defending the President's conduct, as Mr. Trump on Sunday again maintained that he did nothing wrong in his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 'The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT,' Mr. Trump tweeted from Trump Tower in New York. 'Read the Transcript!' But Democrats said the transcript showed behavior which was not acceptable - and there were some GOP lawmakers agreeing in part. 'I believe it was inappropriate,' Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said of the President's request in a July phone call for the government of Ukraine to launch investigations which would have benefited Mr. Trump politically.  'I do not believe it was impeachable,' Thornberry said on ABC's 'This Week.' Mr. Trump argued specifically against that. 'Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable,' he tweeted. The White House document detailing the call - which is not a full, word for word transcript - shows the President clearly asking the leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of Vice President Biden, along with probing the assertion that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats in the 2016 elections. While the White House and Republicans tried to sort out their impeachment arguments, Democrats were blasting the GOP. 'Witness testimony shows that everybody involved in the President’s pressure campaign knew what he wanted,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-I), 'political investigations to undermine our free and fair elections.' 'Republicans cried for weeks for open & public impeachment inquiry hearings,' said Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA). 'Now that public hearings begin this week, Trump & GOP don’t want them.