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Latest from Russell Mills

    Since June of 2017 when medical cannabis was on the ballot, voter turnout in Tulsa County has set several records, and by all accounts, that momentum will continue throughout the 2020 presidential election. Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman tells KRMG “we need a lot of precinct workers, and we need them now.” [Hear the KRMG In-Depth report on the need for poll workers HERE, or use the audio player below] “The folks at the election board who've worked there forever and ever, they all say the same thing,” Freeman said Wednesday. “We think it's going to be unprecedented in terms of turnout (in 2020). If you'll remember, back in November and June of last year during midterms, we had unprecedented numbers that showed up for midterms. Unprecedented numbers of people that actually registered to vote, that sort of thing. We don't see any of that slowing down any time soon.” So, the goal is to get about 500 more precinct workers trained and ready to go, before the busy 2020 election cycle begins. Stephanie Johnson has done the job for years, and now trains others as well. She began at the age of 22 when her mother, a precinct official for some 40 years herself, recruited her during a busy presidential election. “It was a huge and overwhelming experience for a 22-year-old,” Johnson told KRMG, “but the love of it just brought me back, and that's why I'm still here today.” Freeman says the average age of a precinct worker is 75, so naturally they experience fairly high turnover. But many return again and again, much like Johnson. The requirements include residency in Tulsa County, good vision and hearing, a working cell phone, and reliable transportation. Currently, precinct workers get a $25 stipend for taking the eight-hour course to learn the ropes, then between $87 and $97 for their work on election days. That amount will go up next year to between $100 and $110, depending on the position. Precinct officials are also compensated for mileage if they drive over 20 miles (round trip). Classes take place at the Tulsa County Election Board. They run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and are currently scheduled for: Saturday, Sept. 21st Monday, Sept. 23rd Wednesday, Sept. 25th Tuesday, Oct. 1st Wednesday, Oct. 2nd Saturday, Oct. 5th For more information, or to enroll in a class, call 918-596-5762. You can also get more information online on the Tulsa County Election Board website.
  • The US Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to work with local and state officials to expedite repairs to the crumbling levee system along the Arkansas River in Tulsa, and has already conducted a feasibility study and issued a call for public comment.  The 33-day period for public input officially began September 16th, and runs through October 18th.  “We want the public to come in and tell us do they have concerns with any of the items that we are suggesting that we make improvements to,” Tulsa County Manager of Communications Devin Egan told KRMG Tuesday. “Do they think that we're forgetting anything, do they have other concerns or feedback, or do they think it's great?” While it will be a year before the proposal will be finalized and released so engineering and then construction can begin, Egan said, the process is actually moving along more quickly than normal.  “Normally this process takes two or three years for them to get through, and the Army (Corps) has shaved off a year of this process,” she added, “and so by us being at this stage already, we're a year ahead of the game.” The report can be viewed online at the USACE website, or in person at the Corps public affairs office, 2488 East 81st Street in Tulsa, or at the Charles Page Library in Sand Springs.  Written comments can be submitted via email to TWT-Levees@usace.army.mil. The public can also submit comments in writing at the October 8th workshop.
  • Following Thursday's three-hour Democratic presidential debate, KRMG aired an hour-long live program breaking down some of the key issues raised by the candidates with US Senator James Lankford. We took live calls, and comments from the Open Mic feature on the KRMG app. You can hear the entire program commercial free by clicking HERE, or by using the audio player below.
  • After researching Tulsa police practices for more than two years, Human Rights Watch has determined that while there's no evidence of pervasive racism among TPD officers, there are striking disparities in how police interact with certain segments of the community. Noting that “this report is, in many respects, a case study of abusive, overly aggressive policing in the US,” HRW took a deep dive into a statistical analysis of police interactions in Tulsa, with much of its data provided by TPD. [Hear the KRMG In-Depth Report on the HRW study HERE, or use the audio player below] “Poverty and race overlap significantly, as a much greater percentage of black than white people are poor, in Tulsa and throughout the US. However, black people, even regardless of wealth or poverty, disproportionately receive aggressive treatment by police,” according to the report which was made public Thursday. John Raphling, a Senior Researcher with Human Rights Watch, authored the report. He told KRMG Wednesday that the death of Terence Crutcher drew his attention to Tulsa. Crutcher was shot to death by former TPD officer Betty Shelby in September, 2016. Crutcher was unarmed and did not appear combative at the time, but a jury acquitted Shelby of a murder charge. Raphling told KRMG he decided to study policing in Tulsa to provide context to the national discussion of the use of force and racial disparities in law enforcement. “Tulsa has its own unique politics, its own unique culture, its own unique style of policing, its own unique history and history of racial violence and racial relations that impact policing here in Tulsa,” Raphling said. “But it's also in many ways representative in all of those things of what is going on in the rest of the country.” He interviewed dozens of citizens, as well as representatives of TPD and community leaders. Among them, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher's twin sister. She told KRMG Wednesday she has returned to Tulsa to work on reforming police policies and practices, as well as to continue building the Terence Crutcher Foundation. On its website, TCF says its mission is to “is to engage the community, law enforcement, and policymakers in creating and sustaining an approach to prevent, identify and address issues of inequity pertaining to minority communities in Tulsa, Oklahoma and around the country.” It goes on to say that “It is our desire to change the narrative that perceive black men as BAD DUDES and pipeline them into a 'community of achievers' through personal growth, education, and attainable resources.” “Since Terence has died, I don't see a whole lot of things that's changed from a policy standpoint at all,” Crutcher told KRMG Wednesday. “There's nothing in place that would prevent Terence from being shot again.” Dr. Crutcher agreed with Raphling's conclusion that while there are good intentions and attempts to rectify some of the inequities in the report, substantial change has yet to occur. “The only way we're going to effect real change, where all Tulsans can feel safe, is true policy reform,” she told KRMG. “And it needs to happen. There's been some small things, but we have a long laundry list of things that need to be implemented, and it needs to happen.” Tulsa Deputy Police Chief Jonathan Brooks leads the department's community policing efforts, and has been TPD's face at the city's equity indicators meetings. He also worked with Raphling to provide the data and statistics used to compile the HRW report. “We don't dispute the numbers,” Brooks told KRMG. “The data is the data, it's there and it exists. The difference is, what lens do you look at that data through, and how do you critically analyze that data.” KRMG asked Brooks if during the course of meetings with community leaders and activists he ever heard something that really hit home, or took his thoughts in a new direction. “Every time we talk, and that's not meant as a joke, but every time we talk we learn so much from each other,” Brooks replied. “The reason that we're in some of the situations that we are now, it's just like any relationship that anybody has. When you stop communication, problems start developing. That's why I keep stressing that communication is so vital... we have to talk, we have to listen.” The full HRW report, entitled “'Get on the Ground!': Policing, Poverty, and Racial Inequality in Tulsa, Oklahoma | A Case Study of US Law Enforcement” can be read on the organization's website. Human Rights Watch is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1978 which monitors human rights abuses around the world.
  • The Tulsa STEM Alliance has set aside the month of September to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with a series of free events for teachers, parents, and students. It kicks off Thursday, September 5th with STEMtember Teacher Night, hosted by KRMG's Dan Potter and Rick Couri, along with Tiffany Alaniz from FOX23. Other events will offer hands-on demonstrations, science experiments, and educational materials. Employers around the country are clamoring for more employees with backgrounds and education in STEM. KRMG spoke with Dr. Beth McQuiston, a board certified neurologist, registered dietitian and medical director for Abbott, a large bio-sciences company headquartered in Illinois. [Hear our KRMG In-Depth report on STEM internships by clicking HERE, or use the audio player below] She says it's estimated that a million STEM-related jobs will open up in the US by 2026. Her company began an internship program for high school students in 2012, and they've gone out of their way to recruit young women. “Two thirds of those high school interns are girls that we've encouraged to go into STEM fields,” she recently told KRMG. “Ninety-seven percent of them go on to study STEM in college, and we're very proud to say that we're hiring many of them back into Abbott when they graduate.” CLICK HERE for more information on the Abbot High School Internship program CLICK HERE for a list of the STEMtember activities available in Tulsa
  • Governor Kevin Stitt has accepted the resignations of the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and the Chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, both of whom face serious allegations in a civil lawsuit filed by a former OHP captain. Donelle Harder, a senior adviser to the governor, told KRMG Tuesday that she couldn't discuss any details as to why the two men suddenly resigned, although she did admit the timing was rather sudden. “The Governor accepted Rusty's resignation on Monday. It was something that developed over the weekend, so we greatly appreciate John Scully for quickly stepping up to the plate when he was called on,” Harder said, referring to the former Director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, who now becomes interim Commissioner of DPS. “I think that the timing was not what we expected,” she added. KRMG has learned that Rhoades and former OHP Chief Michael Harrell are both defendants in a lawsuit filed August 16th in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by former OHP Capt. Troy German. German had been arrested and charged for blackmail after an investigation in late 2018 in which Rhoades claimed German threatened to expose “improprieties” in the OHP's promotion process. Now, German claims he's a whistle blower, and has sued Rhoades and Harrell for malicious prosecution and abuse of power. While the governor's office doesn't confirm that the resignations are related to the lawsuit, sources inside the Capitol have told KRMG on background that one can “read between the lines.” You can read the lawsuit here. Scully will serve as interim Chief of DPS until he can be confirmed by the State Senate. Harder says Scully is reaching out to qualified applicants to fill the Chief of OHP position.
  • Intense rain and flooding grabbed the headlines, but northeast Oklahoma also shattered its previous record for tornadoes in May, and as late as August spring-like storms continued to do damage across the region. The transition to what is known as the “secondary storm season” seems to have shifted into August in recent years, according to Steve Piltz, Meteorologist-in-Charge at the National Weather Service Office in Tulsa. “We have seen August be much more active here in the last couple of years,” he told KRMG Monday. “We had just a lot of wind damage in central Oklahoma and then northeast Oklahoma into northwest Arkansas just within the last week or ten days... August was active again this year, we just didn't hit Tulsa squarely, but that's been a trend now the last couple of years that August is something to start paying attention to.” In August of 2017, Tulsa suffered a direct hit from a tornado which did extensive damage in the area around 41st Street and South Yale Avenue. Last year also saw a severe weather outbreak late in the season. “Just last year we had the big tornado to the east of us on November 30th that was right in the middle of the secondary severe weather season. It was a significant tornado, fortunately it missed big population centers but it was on the ground for several dozen miles,” Piltz said. If the spring storms are any indication, it could be a bumpy ride this fall. “48 tornadoes in May for the counties that the National Weather Service in Tulsa covers, and that beat the previous record of 39 which was set back in 2010,” he told KRMG. Overall, the area has had 61 tornadoes in 2019; the record is 77, set in 2011.
  • New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker said Thursday he first learned of the Tulsa race massacre as a child in school, but “my knowledge of it was just very shallow.” “I thought I knew a lot about it, but a lot of Americans think it's about one street and not an entire community. I was one of those Americans who thought this was just a business district, and not the kind of widespread devastation that I learned about today,” Booker told KRMG. He took a walking tour of the area along North Greenwood Avenue which was once known as “Black Wall Street,” and heard stories of the race massacre and its aftermath from community leaders and the families of survivors. He then spoke at length to a packed house at the historic Vernon AME Church, where he sounded themes familiar to those who've followed his career, and more recently his campaign for president. He spoke of the need for common sense gun laws, and he addressed continuing racial disparities in the country, specifically in terms of education, incarceration, and economic opportunity. KRMG asked Sen. Booker if he would return to Tulsa in 2021 during the centennial commemorations of the massacre. “This was a very emotional visit for me,” he responded. “It really just broke up the soil of my soul. If I am president of the United States I will elevate this history, I will do things to make sure that more Americans know about what happened here. But more importantly than all of that, you know folks here want restorative justice -  and I will be fighting for that whether I'm a United States senator now, or fighting for that God willing as the next president of the United States.”
  • An Oklahoma judge today ruled that a pharmaceutical company created a public nuisance as defined under state law which “compromised the health and safety of thousands of Oklahomans.” The judge ruled that the nuisance could, and should, be abated, at the cost of a little over $570 million - much less than the state has asked for, but it's the only such ruling directly finding a pharmaceutical company at fault in the opioid crisis.  [Hear the judge's ruling here, or use the audio player below] Cleveland County Judge Thad Balkman said the state legislature would have to determine if any additional funds would be required to remediate the damage done in Oklahoma. The trial took about eight weeks, and hundreds of witnesses were called during the bench trial.  Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, were the defendants in the case.  They argued that while they had made the drugs, the blame for overuse of the drugs should fall on doctors which prescribed them and patients which misused them. Other opioid manufacturers originally named in the state's lawsuit previously settled.  The crux of the state's case was that the companies knew of the potential dangers of the drugs, and deliberately withheld that information from physicians, as well as the public.   Johnson & Johnson has indicated it will appeal the verdict.
  • The Tulsa metro will experience heat indices well into the triple digits Monday, before a cold front rolls into the area from the north bringing a chance of severe weather. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning which remains in effect until 8:00 p.m. NWS Meteorologist Karen Hatfield tells KRMG that storms will begin to develop north of the metro in the late afternoon, and push south through the evening and into early Tuesday morning. Those storms could pack a punch, with a possibility of large hail, winds up to 70 mph, and even a slight risk of tornadoes. The primary area of concern begins roughly at the metro, and stretches north and east into southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, and northeast Kansas. The highest risk of severe weather begins around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., and should begin diminishing around midnight. Hatfield says it's important for area residents to stay weather aware, and have redundant sources of current information on storms. CLICK HERE to download the free KRMG app, then enable weather warnings for your area to be alerted in the event of severe weather.
  • 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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  • After the Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it was cutting interest rates for the second time in two months, President Donald Trump skewered the Fed for not being aggressive enough to help the economy, while the Fed chair said too much economic uncertainty was being created by President Trump's various trade fights. 'This is a time of difficult judgments,' Fed chair Jerome Powell told reporters at a Washington news conference, as he indicated that trade gyrations involving the US, China, and other nations, is not helping with domestic economic growth. 'We do feel that trade uncertainty is having an effect,' Powell told reporters. 'We see it in weak business investment, weak exports.' 'Trade policy is not the business of the Fed,' Powell said. 'It's the business of the Congress and of the Administration.' While the President has said further rate cuts would spur even more growth, the Fed continues to forecast that overall economic growth will be just over two percent this year, down from 2018. Democrats in Congress pointed the finger of blame straight at President Trump for creating economic uncertainty, especially for farmers. “Our family farmers need stability right now - not more uncertainty,” said Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN).  “I don’t agree with the reckless trade war we’ve created without a coherent strategy.” Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers were at odds over how to deal with President Trump's second bailout for farmers, who have been hit hard by retaliatory tariffs from China and other nations. In a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), raised questions as to where the money was going to come from for the $28 billion in farm bailout payments announced by the President over the last two years. 'For context, that amount is larger than the entire discretionary budget Congress appropriates to USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) each fiscal year,' DeLauro wrote. While Democrats had initially threatened to block approval of that extra money, now party leaders were demanding to know where that bailout money was going. 'That lack of transparency regarding a $28 billion federal program is outrageous,' DeLauro wrote. 'Maybe an accounting of who is getting the money up to this point would be a start,' said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as Democrats said the GOP was resisting efforts for a public accounting of the farm bailout billions.
  • If you're a fan of the ever-growing food truck scene in Tulsa, there's a good chance you've already seen, and even ordered some chicken and waffles, from the Waffle That food truck. The truck has grown a large and loyal following and often has long lines of people at its usual locations at Guthrie Green and on MLK Boulevard between Pine and Apache. In fact, after just one year or so in operation,  business at the food truck has been so good that owner Roy Tillis is going to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant at the spot on MLK Boulevard. He says it's a simple case of giving the customers what they want. “People always want to try to find us every day, and it's hard with a food truck, getting it open every day,” Tillis says. The restaurant will be housed in a fully renovated building and is set to open next month, but Tillis says the food truck will also still be going out at least three times a week.
  • Since June of 2017 when medical cannabis was on the ballot, voter turnout in Tulsa County has set several records, and by all accounts, that momentum will continue throughout the 2020 presidential election. Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman tells KRMG “we need a lot of precinct workers, and we need them now.” [Hear the KRMG In-Depth report on the need for poll workers HERE, or use the audio player below] “The folks at the election board who've worked there forever and ever, they all say the same thing,” Freeman said Wednesday. “We think it's going to be unprecedented in terms of turnout (in 2020). If you'll remember, back in November and June of last year during midterms, we had unprecedented numbers that showed up for midterms. Unprecedented numbers of people that actually registered to vote, that sort of thing. We don't see any of that slowing down any time soon.” So, the goal is to get about 500 more precinct workers trained and ready to go, before the busy 2020 election cycle begins. Stephanie Johnson has done the job for years, and now trains others as well. She began at the age of 22 when her mother, a precinct official for some 40 years herself, recruited her during a busy presidential election. “It was a huge and overwhelming experience for a 22-year-old,” Johnson told KRMG, “but the love of it just brought me back, and that's why I'm still here today.” Freeman says the average age of a precinct worker is 75, so naturally they experience fairly high turnover. But many return again and again, much like Johnson. The requirements include residency in Tulsa County, good vision and hearing, a working cell phone, and reliable transportation. Currently, precinct workers get a $25 stipend for taking the eight-hour course to learn the ropes, then between $87 and $97 for their work on election days. That amount will go up next year to between $100 and $110, depending on the position. Precinct officials are also compensated for mileage if they drive over 20 miles (round trip). Classes take place at the Tulsa County Election Board. They run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and are currently scheduled for: Saturday, Sept. 21st Monday, Sept. 23rd Wednesday, Sept. 25th Tuesday, Oct. 1st Wednesday, Oct. 2nd Saturday, Oct. 5th For more information, or to enroll in a class, call 918-596-5762. You can also get more information online on the Tulsa County Election Board website.
  • A bicyclist in Broken Arrow died Wednesday morning on a busy street. It happened a little after 9:30 on New Orleans St.  Police say 74 year-old John Mathes was crossing New Orleans St. from Aster Ave and entered the intersection in front of an east-bound pickup truck.   Officers don’t believe alcohol was involved in the accident.  Part of New Orleans was closed between Garnett and Olive.  Investigators are still looking for exactly what led to the crash.
  • The number and rate of abortions across the United States have plunged to their lowest levels since the procedure became legal nationwide in 1973, according to new figures released Wednesday. The report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, counted 862,000 abortions in the U.S. in 2017. That’s down from 926,000 tallied in the group’s previous report for 2014, and from just over 1 million counted for 2011. Guttmacher is the only entity that strives to count all abortions in the U.S., making inquiries of individual providers. Federal data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention excludes California, Maryland and New Hampshire. The new report illustrates that abortions are decreasing in all parts of the country, whether in Republican-controlled states seeking to restrict abortion access or in Democratic-run states protecting abortion rights. Between 2011 and 2017, abortion rates increased in only five states and the District of Columbia. One reason for the decline in abortions is that fewer women are becoming pregnant. The Guttmacher Institute noted that the birth rate, as well as the abortion rate, declined during the years covered by the new report. A likely factor, the report said, is increased accessibility of contraception since 2011, as the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.

Washington Insider

  • After the Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it was cutting interest rates for the second time in two months, President Donald Trump skewered the Fed for not being aggressive enough to help the economy, while the Fed chair said too much economic uncertainty was being created by President Trump's various trade fights. 'This is a time of difficult judgments,' Fed chair Jerome Powell told reporters at a Washington news conference, as he indicated that trade gyrations involving the US, China, and other nations, is not helping with domestic economic growth. 'We do feel that trade uncertainty is having an effect,' Powell told reporters. 'We see it in weak business investment, weak exports.' 'Trade policy is not the business of the Fed,' Powell said. 'It's the business of the Congress and of the Administration.' While the President has said further rate cuts would spur even more growth, the Fed continues to forecast that overall economic growth will be just over two percent this year, down from 2018. Democrats in Congress pointed the finger of blame straight at President Trump for creating economic uncertainty, especially for farmers. “Our family farmers need stability right now - not more uncertainty,” said Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN).  “I don’t agree with the reckless trade war we’ve created without a coherent strategy.” Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers were at odds over how to deal with President Trump's second bailout for farmers, who have been hit hard by retaliatory tariffs from China and other nations. In a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), raised questions as to where the money was going to come from for the $28 billion in farm bailout payments announced by the President over the last two years. 'For context, that amount is larger than the entire discretionary budget Congress appropriates to USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) each fiscal year,' DeLauro wrote. While Democrats had initially threatened to block approval of that extra money, now party leaders were demanding to know where that bailout money was going. 'That lack of transparency regarding a $28 billion federal program is outrageous,' DeLauro wrote. 'Maybe an accounting of who is getting the money up to this point would be a start,' said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as Democrats said the GOP was resisting efforts for a public accounting of the farm bailout billions.
  • In the face of strong opposition from California elected officials and parts of the auto industry, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that his administration will revoke a special waiver which has allowed California to set stricter auto emission and fuel mileage standards than the federal government. 'The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER,' President Trump announced in a series of tweets from California. The announcement drew immediate condemnation from California officials and Democrats in the Congress. 'The President is completely wrong,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). California officials expressed outrage at the President's plans, arguing the main impact would be to create more pollution in the Golden State. 'You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,' California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. 'We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend; we’ll see you in court if you stand in our way,' Becerra added. The authority for California comes from the federal Clean Air Act, which allowed the feds to grant waivers to states that wanted to set tougher emission standards than the federal government. The announcement opens a second legal fight with the Golden State over auto emission standards, as last week the Trump Administration said it would investigate agreements made between California and major automakers about those standards. 'This investigation appears to be nothing more than a politically motivated act of intimidation,' Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General.
  • A week after ousting top aide John Bolton, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter that he was naming Robert O'Brien to replace Bolton, choosing the State Department's top hostage negotiator to fill that important White House post. 'I have worked long and hard with Robert,' the President tweeted from California, where he is currently on a western campaign swing. 'Robert O'Brien is a great choice to be National Security Advisor,' said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who labeled the choice an 'exceptional pick.'  'He is a high energy, low ego individual who will do fantastic in this role,' the Congressman added. O'Brien's most recent high profile diplomatic effort was in Sweden, where he headlined U.S. efforts to free rapper A$AP. O'Brien's official title at the State Department was, 'Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.' O'Brien will be the fourth National Security Adviser for President Trump, going through former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn, Army General H.R. McMaster, and then Bolton. Last week, Mr. Trump said Bolton had disagreed with him on a number of major foreign policy issues.
  • In a spirited hearing full of sharp exchanges and pointed verbal barbs, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski confirmed to a U.S. House committee that President Donald Trump had used a White House meeting in 2017 to ask Lewandowski to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'I didn't think the President asked me to do anything illegal,' Lewandowski told the House Judiciary Committee. In the first testimony to Congress by a fact witness involved in the Russia investigation, Lewandowski acknowledged that despite President Trump's request - made at least twice in the summer of 2017 - the Trump adviser admitted that he never followed through on the President's request to pressure Sessions about the Russia probe. Democrats mocked Lewandowski for not having the guts to take the President's message directly to the Attorney General. 'You chickened out,' said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). 'I went on vacation,' Lewandowski replied, drawing loud laughter from Democrats on the committee. In his multiple hours of testimony, Lewandowski repeatedly refused to delve into details of his conversations with the President, even those which were a part of the Mueller Report, which Lewandowski proudly said he had not read. 'If it's in the report, I consider it to be accurate,' Lewandowski said multiple times. While Republicans denounced the hearing as a 'joke' and more, Democrats zeroed in on Lewandowski in round after round of questioning, accusing him of obstructing justice by not answering certain questions about his talks with the President during the campaign. 'I wasn't asked to do anything illegal,' as Lewandowski said he took notes in a June 2017 meeting on what Mr. Trump wanted to be said to Attorney General Sessions, and then placed the notes in a safe at his home. 'It's a big safe Congressman,' Lewandowski said in a bitter exchange with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), whom he called “President” at one point - apparently referring to Swalwell's failed White House run.  'There's lots of guns in it,” Lewandowski added about his safe. Asked multiple times if he had turned over his notes to the Special Counsel investigation, Lewandowski would only say that he had complied with all requests from the Mueller probe. Lewandowski also did not directly respond to the basic question of whether he lied to the Special Counsel, or whether he had ever discussed a pardon with the President. 'Not to the best of my recollection,' Lewandowski said multiple times. Democrats also ridiculed Lewandowski's refusal to answer certain questions related to the President, by claiming that there was an issue involving executive privilege. The hearing was notable on one point, in that it was the first time Democrats had been able to question someone who was an actual fact witness interviewed as part of the Mueller Investigation. Two other former White House aides - Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn - were blocked from testifying by the Trump White House. Democrats still want testimony not only from those two former aides, but also former White House Counsel Doug McGahn and others. Maybe the most effective questioning of Lewandowski came at the end of the hearing, when Democrats allowed their outside Judiciary Committee counsel Barry Berke to ask Lewandowski questions for a full 30 minutes. Berke repeatedly took Lewandowski through statements he made in television interviews and to the committee, making it clear that the Trump adviser had not necessarily told the truth. “I have no obligation to be honest with the media,” Lewandowski said at one point, as he tried to bait Berke into a verbal sparring match, dropping in references to where Berke went to college and law school. Here's the entire 30 minutes of their exchanges.
  • Cokie Roberts, who covered Congress and national politics for many years at ABC News and National Public Radio, died Tuesday at age 75, ABC News announced, saying her death was due to complications from breast cancer. 'A mentor, a friend, a legend,' tweeted ABC News correspondent Cecilia Vega. 'Horrible, sad news,' said ABC White House correspondent Karen Travers, as tributes poured in about Roberts. While many knew that Cokie was married to veteran political reporter Steve Roberts, her experience in politics came directly from her family - as both of her parents were members of the U.S. House. Her father, Hale Boggs, might have been Speaker of the House, but a plane he was traveling on in Alaska - disappeared 47 years ago next month - and was never found. Also aboard was Rep. Nick Begich of Alaska; his son, Mark Begich, would later serve in the U.S. Senate. When the plane carrying Begich and Boggs disappeared on October 16, 1972, Boggs was House Majority Leader at the time; after his plane was never found, Democrats in the House elected Rep. Tip O'Neill (D-MA) to be the new Majority Leader. O'Neill would later succeed Rep. Carl Albert (D-OK) as House Speaker. Boggs was succeeded in his House seat by his wife, Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-LA), the first woman ever elected to Congress in Louisiana. Lindy Boggs retired after the 1990 elections.