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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.
  • Angered by stories over the weekend about possible sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his law school days at Yale University, one progressive Democrat in Congress is ready to introduce articles of impeachment against Kavanaugh - but there is no guarantee the issue would be acted upon by the House. 'I believe Christine Blasey Ford. I believe Deborah Ramirez,' Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) tweeted. 'It is our responsibility to collectively affirm the dignity and humanity of survivors.' But even as some Democrats in Congress call for more answers about the FBI investigation of complaints about Kavanaugh, the lawmaker in charge of the committee which would deal with an impeachment effort said Monday that it wasn't on his radar screen. Instead, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told a New York radio show that his panel's various investigations of President Trump leave little time or oxygen to specifically go through allegations against Kavanaugh. “Even Jerry Nadler figured out that impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh, based on this ridiculous accusation, is a Bridge Too Far,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). But there were also Democrats in Congress who disagreed with Nadler, as they demanded a further investigation not only of Kavanaugh, but of the FBI background investigation of the Justice. 'Those who voted yes on his nomination betrayed the women of this country and we learn more of the depth of that betrayal with every new detail & allegation,' tweeted Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Only one member of the Supreme Court has ever gone through impeachment proceedings, Justice Samuel Chase, who was accused of being too partisan to serve on the bench. While he was a Justice, Chase had campaigned in the 1800 election for John Adams, who lost that election to Thomas Jefferson. Looking for payback, the House approved articles of impeachment against Justice Chase for his partisan activities, but the Senate refused to convict. On the floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuffed talk of Kavanaugh's impeachment. 'This is not just a left-wing obsession with one man. It is part of a deliberate effort to attack judicial independence,' McConnell said in a Senate floor speech, as he said this was more than a case of 'sour grapes.' 'Six of the Democrat presidential candidates — plus one who has now quit to run for the Senate — have publicly flirted with packing the Supreme Court,' McConnell said. 'Court-packing. Today’s bold new Democrat idea is a failed power grab from the 1930s,' McConnell added, referring to the effort by Democrats to help President Franklin D. Roosevelt achieve more of his New Deal platform, without interference by the Supreme Court.
  • Starting a western campaign swing on Monday which will include a series of fund raising stops in California this week, President Donald Trump first holds a rally in New Mexico, a state where Democrats control the state's Congressional delegation, and where the President was easily defeated by Hillary Clinton in 2016. 'Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN,' the President tweeted before leaving the White House for his flight west.  'Your Border Wall is getting stronger each and every day,' the President added. Republicans have not won the race for President in New Mexico since 2004, when President George W. Bush narrowly won the state over John Kerry. Four years earlier, Al Gore won New Mexico by less than 400 votes. But in 2008, 2012, and 2016, Democrats cruised to victory, with Hillary Clinton winning in 2016 by over 8 percent. In 2018, New Mexico showed little sign of trending to the Republican side, as Democrats won the race for Governor, as well as all three seats in the U.S. House. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) mocked the President for even making the trip to the Land of Enchantment.
  • With growing pressure from Democrats for action by the Senate on a House-passed bill which requires background checks on private gun sales, President Donald Trump spoke Sunday with Democratic leaders in Congress, as the White House said legislative solutions are still being examined. 'The conversation was cordial,' the White House said in a statement sent to reporters on Sunday afternoon.  'The President made no commitments,' the White House said on whether Mr. Trump would support the background checks bill known as H.R. 8, 'but instead indicated his interest in working to find a bipartisan legislative solution on appropriate responses to the issue of mass gun violence.' In their own readout on Sunday, top Democrats again demanded action by the Senate. 'This morning, we made it clear to the President that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. 'We’re looking at background checks and we’re looking at putting everything together in a unified way so that we can have something that’s meaningful,” President Trump told reporters last week in the Oval Office.  “At the same time, all of us want to protect our great Second Amendment,' the President added. 'It’s very important to all of us.' Mr. Trump made that same point of emphasis in a speech to House Republicans during a party retreat in Baltimore last week. 'Meanwhile, Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans, so they’re totally defenseless when somebody walks into their house with a gun,' the President said. Democrats are also not interested in what they view as a plan which doesn't do enough to curb guns, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has urged action on a bill which does more to focus on denying guns to people with a criminal record, or a history of mental health issues - stopping short of background checks on all private gun sales. 'If you have a federal government background check for that, what you will see the next step to be is the only way to enforce that is a federal gun registry and a gun registry is the step you need for gun confiscation,' Cruz said in an interview on ABC's 'This Week.' Democrats have also been pressing to get the GOP to accept action by the feds to help states with what are called, 'Red Flag laws,' which can be used to take firearms away from someone who is considered a threat, or has mental health issues. Many Republicans are opposed to this idea - though it has support from both GOP Senators from Florida, a state which changed its laws after a mass school shooting, in order allow for more opportunities to seize firearms from someone who is considered a threat, or has mental health concerns.
  • Three days after Julian Castro again used a 2020 presidential debate to direct attacked the Democratic Party front runner at a 2020 debate, one Texas Democrat in Congress publicly switched his support in the race for his party's nomination from Castro to former Vice President Joe Biden. 'I think at this point in time, we need to narrow the field,' said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), in a Sunday interview on CNN. In a written statement released by the Biden campaign, Gonzalez said nothing about his past support for Castro, instead emphasizing the need to trim the field running for President. 'At this point in the process, I believe Democrats need to consolidate behind a candidate who is sure to beat Donald Trump,' Gonzalez said. “We don’t need Donald Trump for a second term, we need someone who can beat him and win,” the Texas Congressman added. In the last two debates, Castro had taken direct shots at Vice President Biden over health care, and accusing his party's front runner of flip-flopping on certain issues, and wrongly talking about former President Obama's actions only when they were politically beneficial. 'But my problem with Vice President Biden,' Castro said at the ABC debate last week in Houston, 'is every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, he says, oh, I was there, I was there, I was there, that's me, too, and then every time somebody questions part of the administration that we were both part of, he says, well, that was the president.' Biden said he wasn't doing anything of the sort. 'I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad and indifferent,' Biden said to Castro. 'That's where I stand.' At another point, Castro raised eyebrows about Biden's memory, in a debate on health care. 'Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?' Like a number of other Democrats, Castro's poll numbers have been mired in single digits - mainly bouncing between one and two percent. Castro has shown no signs that he is going to get out of the race, as on Sunday, he challenged President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick of Brett Kavanaugh. 'It’s more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath,' Castro said, after a new report from the New York Times about Kavanaugh's time at Yale. 'He should be impeached.' In the last half dozen national polls, Castro had zero percent, four polls at one percent, and one at two percent. In those same six polls, Biden was between 22 and 33 percent.
  • For a third straight debate, former Vice President Joe Biden found himself under attack from fellow Democrats,  brushing aside verbal jabs in a debate hosted by ABC, as Democrats tried to temper some of their attacks, with a few publicly reminding each other that their goal in 2020 is to push President Donald Trump out of the White House. The sharpest attacks on Biden were not from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders - though they sparred with each other in another extended discussion of health care - but instead from Julian Castro, who for a second straight debate questioned Biden's veracity on health care and immigration. 'You just said that two minutes ago,' Castro said to Biden, accusing him of flip-flopping and picking and choosing when to say he supported President Obama. 'I stand with Barack Obama all eight years,' Biden said. 'Good, bad, and indifferent.' Before the debate began, Republicans made their voice heard, renting a plane to tow a giant banner over the campus of Texas State University. Here is a look at the ten candidates in Thursday's debate: 1. Still the front runner, Joe Biden. For a third consecutive debate, former Vice President Biden faced a series of attacks from other Democrats, and probably had his strongest debate yet. Yes, he had some mini verbal stumbles, talking about a record player at one point - and working himself into some verbal cul-de-sacs - but Biden was much more on point and definitive as he questioned the cost of the Medicare For All health plan favored by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Biden finished on a very personal note, talking about the tragedy he has faced in his family life. 2. Elizabeth Warren keeps chugging along. While there was a lot of talk about Biden and Warren being on the debate stage for the first time together, there wasn't much to talk about from the debate. Yes, they sparred a bit over the details of Medicare For All, and Biden threw some weak elbows on other policy points - but for the most part, the two avoided any policy showdowns. After three debates, it's obvious that Warren is in the top tier with Biden, as she has been able to create a lot of organic support for her candidacy, with a stump speech that's well oiled, and position papers for just about everything a voter could imagine. The strategy question for coming weeks is a simple one for Warren. Does she take the fight directly to Biden on the campaign trail? Or does she stick with the issues and policy matters which have driven her approach so far. 3. Sanders tries to puncture focus on Biden-Warren. As Warren has made her move up in the polls, the Sanders camp has expressed aggravation with the press coverage, basically arguing that Sanders is being left out. he's been getting - or maybe in the mind of campaign officials, not getting - from the news media. Usually people associate complaints about the press with Republicans - but Sanders has always had a somewhat rumpled relationship with the news media. 'Bernie Sanders thinks media is unfair, so he created his own,' read one AP headline. 'Sanders team frustrated with media coverage,' was another. 'Bernie Sanders Is As Frustrated as Ever With Corporate Media,' the Nation wrote. Sanders can hold his own on any issue - but does that get him to the nomination? 4. Kamala Harris looks for lasting gains. All three debates for Democrats have both included solid moments and exchanges for Kamala Harris. After taking on Joe Biden over his past actions regarding civil rights in the first debate, and going aggressive last month, this time Harris played a softer touch, drawing laughs from the audience while reminding the other Democrats of their need to be unified against President Trump. The biggest problem for Harris has been a cycle of where she does well in a debate - and her poll numbers go up. Then over the next month, those gains fade away. She does well in the next debate, and then her poll numbers go up. And they fade away again. Yes, she's the fourth strongest candidate when you look at the polls - but her debate performances have not translated into numbers which boost her into the Biden/Sanders/Warren tier. 5. Buttigieg still in the mushy middle of the race. While his name gets talked about a lot, while he's done fine in the debates so far, the polling for Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues to show that he's not in the top tier of Democrats with Biden, Warren, Sanders - and is struggling to stay in the middle with Harris, and not drop back towards the rest of the field. But one good note is that the Indiana mayor is still raising a lot of money, allowing him to set up a decent operation in Iowa, where he is doing much better in the polls than Harris. Some candidates may encounter money problems soon - it doesn't seem like Buttigieg is in that spot. On Thursday night, Buttigieg also gave the back of the hand to Julian Castro's attacks on Biden. 'This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,' Buttigieg said. 6. Amy Klobuchar tries to get her campaign out of neutral. Klobuchar is one of a group of Democrats who certainly have the credentials to be in this race, but who have not been able to make the jump to light speed. 'Houston, we have a problem,' Klobuchar said early on Thursday night in talking about the need for Democrats to unite against President Trump. Klobuchar tried her best again in this debate to focus on how she got into politics, how she's a bit more moderate than Warren and Sanders, looking for a campaign spark. Klobuchar has not blossomed in Iowa as yet,as her more moderate brand of politics isn't really what many more progressive Democratic Party activists are looking for right now. 7. Booker looks for a primary breakout. In many ways, Cory Booker is in a similar situation as that of Klobuchar. Booker is a very popular guy with Democratic audiences on the campaign trail, and he has used his debate time to both spar and press his ideas. A positive vibe just seems to ooze from the guy naturally.  But the polls continue to show Booker stuck along with so many other candidates, way down in single digits. Booker was asked one of the oddest questions in this debate - about the fact that he's a vegan. And he also weighed in on the hairstyle of the Canadian Prime Minister. A lot of voters like him, but Booker is nowhere near the top tier of candidates. 8. Beto tries for a campaign re-boot.  In his home state, there were a lot of 'Beto' signs around the debate site on Thursday, as the former Texas Congressman has been trying to inject new momentum into his campaign. Since the mass shooting in his home town of El Paso in early August, O'Rourke has put a heavy emphasis on gun control, as he staked out very clear ground on Thursday night that he would like ban - and even confiscate - military style assault weapons like the AR-15 and AK-47. 'Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,' O'Rourke said to cheers. Will gun control provide new hope for his campaign? The polls will tell us in coming weeks. 9. Castro raises eyebrows with Biden debate attacks. For a second straight debate, Julian Castro went after Joe Biden, and went after him hard, mocking Biden again for tying himself to President Obama on some issues but not on others. 'He wants to take credit for Obama's work, but not have to answer any questions,' Castro said, ripping Biden for not stopping large deportations of illegal immigrants under the Obama Administration. 'Are you forgetting what you just said two minutes ago?” Castro said to Biden at one point on Thursday night. The Castro game plan didn't go over well with some; former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said on ABC right after the debate that Castro came off as 'mean and vindictive.' 10. Andrew Yang might outlast most Democrats. Not only has Andrew Yang managed to raise enough money and get enough qualifying polls to stay in the debates, his combination of non-political and quirky positions has allowed him to get a good amount of attention - as he's doing better than about a dozen people in the 2020 race who do politics for a living. Yang doesn't mind poking fun at himself, he doesn't seem to care that Official Washington wants him to put on a tie for these debates, and doesn't worry about what people think of his plan for 'Universal Basic Income,' in which the government would give everyone $1,000 a month. I could see Yang sticking around for a while - whether or not he's really a threat to win his party's nomination. 11. All the others try to stay afloat. Let's face it, if you're one of those Democrats who failed to qualify for this debate - and if you can't qualify for the October debate - the end might be near for your campaign. Billionaire Tom Steyer has made the cut for October, and Tulsi Gabbard could as well. But the names of Williamson, Bullock, Ryan, Delaney, DeBlasio, and others are not likely to get in another big debate. And even if you are Booker, O'Rourke, Klobuchar, Yang, and Castro, it's an uphill fight to remain in the discussion for the 2020 Democratic nomination.  The Iowa Caucuses are February 3. The New Hampshire Primary is February 11. That is less than five months from now. There are lot of miles still left to travel in the Democratic race. But the clock is ticking for a lot of the candidates.
  • 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.