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Sessions fires Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe

Brandon Moseley

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Deputy Director Andrew McCabe addresses the audience during Director Christopher Wray’s formal installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters on September 28, 2017. Wray, a former U.S. attorney and assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, was formally sworn in August 2, 2017 in a private ceremony. (Via FBI)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just hours away from McCabe qualifying for his federal pension.

McCabe was set to retire with full benefits from the powerful Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Sunday. McCabe had already stepped down as deputy director under pressure in January and has been on a leave of absence as congresional investigators continue to delve deeper into McCabe’s conduct in several recent high profile investigations.

Sessions said that the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) had found that McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and “lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.”

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“Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately,” Sessions wrote in a statement.

McCabe’s dismissal was recommended by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility after an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that McCabe was not cooperative into their investigation.

The OIG is looking at a number of events that McCabe was involved in includes an investigation into a decision he made in 2016 to allow FBI officials to speak with reporters about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

“I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in a statement. “This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort … to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally.”

The OIG’s report has not been made public.

McCabe now admits that he did leak information to a former Wall Street Journal reporter, but he claims that it was an authorized release of information rather than an illegal leak. Investigators claim that they were misled by McCabe.

The investigation is also looking into what, if anything, McCabe may have done in order for his wife’s campaign for state Senate to be funded by longtime Clinton associate turned Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are urging Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of FBI misconduct. McCabe presumably would be a central figure in that investigation.

“I would like to suggest to you that you use the word special counsel, yes, because that’s what it is,” Grassley said. “But we are thinking in terms of a special counsel to work with the inspector general. We have all kinds of confidence in the inspector general’s work. We know he’s a good person. We know he is doing good work, digs in deep. He’s got a staff of maybe about 400 but he doesn’t have the capability of working with people that have left the Justice Department. He can only bring in those people that are already in government to investigate. And this special counsel working in a team, and I want to emphasize the word “team”, with the inspector general, will give him the tools he needs to get all the information that we are asking him to get. And we sent him 30 questions that we want investigated.”

“The chairman and I have looked real close at the FBI investigation of the Clinton e-mail scandal and I have come away believing that it was shoddily done; that there were conflicts of interest, that there was political bias that may have resulted in giving Clinton a pass,” Graham charged. “The Steele dossier was paid for by the Democratic Party through Fusion GPS. Mr. Christopher Steele had associates in Russia they could have easily compromised him. And we believe the FISA warrant process was abused.”

McCabe meanwhile claims that he is being targeted because of what he knew about James Comey’s firing.  Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into whether or not Coulee’s firing by President Donald Trump might be obstruction of the investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with agents of the Russian government in the 2016 election.

Graham said that the Senate Intelligence Committee found no evidence of collusion.

Trump praised the decision to fire McCabe on Twitter.

“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!” Trump tweeted.

McCabe fired back.

“For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country,” McCabe wrote. “Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegations against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. [Trump] called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us. No more.”

Trump and some Republicans believe that the FBI was used as a political weapon by the Obama Administration.  While the FBI cleared Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing in the use of her private email server, her decision to allow Russia to buy U.S. uranium reserves, her fundraising for the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments while secretary of state, and her often conflicting testimony under oath; it used the Steele dossier (paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign) to obtain a secret FISA warrant to listen to communications by the Trump campaign.

Segments of phone conversations by members of the Trump transition team were monitored by the secretive National Security Agency and then released to reporters with the New York Times and other news sources to discredit members of the incoming administration’s team.

Republicans argue that the decision to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals, perhaps tied to Russian intelligence agencies is based on that flawed Steele dossier that the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid a former British intelligence agent to write and is a political hit piece rather than an accurate intelligence source.

Sessions previously was a U.S. senator from Alabama. He has also served as Alabama Attorney General, Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, and U.S. attorney in Alabama. Sessions was arguably the most popular elected official in the state in decades. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump for president.

Original reporting by Reuters, the Hill, and Fox News contributed to this report.

 

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Former First Lady Barbara Bush dies at 92

Brandon Moseley

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Former First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush at LBJ Presidential Library in 2012.

Tuesday, former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away. She was the wife of President George H.W. Bush, who was President from 1989 to 1993 and was the mother of President George W. Bush who was president from 2001 to 2009. She had been in failing health for some time now. She was 92.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey expressed her condolences.

“I am saddened to hear about the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush,” Ivey said. “She was a dynamic Republican woman, as First Lady she lead an effort to increase family literacy, an issue she championed to this day. She was matriarch of the Bush family, that produced governors and a president. Her life is a shining example of how strong women can serve their country and help improve the lives of all Americans. My thoughts and prayers are with the Bush family and all of America tonight.”

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U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said, “My deepest condolences to the Bush family following the loss of former First Lady, Barbara Bush. She was a remarkable woman. Her legacy and service to our country will never be forgotten.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “The Alabama Republican Party is saddened to hear of the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush. A shining light to all who knew her, Mrs. Bush will be deeply missed. Her great American and family legacy she leaves behind is a true testament of a lifetime filled with grace, strength and a strong love for our country. Our hearts and prayers are with the former first family during this time. Barbara Bush was a true American patriot, matriarch and role model for our nation.”

“What a wonderful woman. I certainly admired her as a citizen, but especially as a son who had a tough but lovable mom,” Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said. “God bless her. The prayers of the nation are with the Bush family.”

“Barbara Bush led a remarkable life, and her legacy will impact our country for many years to come,” Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said. “My prayers are with the Bush family during this very sad time.”

“My family and I are sad to hear of the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush,” Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said. “She was the rock of the Bush family and I know she will be deeply missed. My sincere condolences to the Bush family.”

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Bush family tonight after the passing of Mrs. Bush,” said Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks. “She was a strong woman, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and proud American. She served her country with poise and dignity and will be sincerely missed.”

Charlotte Hays, Director of Cultural Programs at Independent Women’s Forum said, “Independent Women’s Forum extends our condolences to the family of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush, who served as First Lady from 1989 to 1993, was universally admired for her forthrightness and ability to put people at ease.”

“Despite her aristocratic origins, Mrs. Bush was unpretentious, and her country loved her for her for it,” Hays said. “She made no pretenses about her trademark fake pearls and delighted in the ‘America’s grandmother’ image conferred by her mane of white hair. She firmly believed that literacy was the key to solving many national problems and improving the lives of disadvantaged Americans. To that end, she established and worked hard for The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She was essential to President George H. W. Bush’s career, both as a politician and a transplanted Texan building a career in the oil business, and exerted an important influence on President George W. Bush, who sometimes traced his outspokenness to his mother. Our hearts go out to the Bush family at the loss of this wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, and to the country for the loss of this model First Lady.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, also released a statement on the passing of Mrs. Bush.

“Barbara Bush holds a revered place in the hearts of generations of Americans,” Ryan said. “She so loved her family and our country. She led both with clarity and character. She shined a light on the power of a parent reading to a child. Her husband, our 41st president, wrote in his last days in office: ‘history will show that she was beloved because she was real and she cared and she gave of herself.’ Who could say it better?”

“To Mrs. Bush’s family—especially her 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren—I extend the deepest condolences of the whole House of Representatives. May she rest in eternal peace.” Ryan stated.

Former President George W. Bush said in a statement, “My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was. Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.”

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Sen. Doug Jones co-sponsors bipartisan legislation to address opioid crisis

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Doug Jones delivers a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 21, 2018. (CSPAN)

Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennesee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), which was composed of 40 different proposals, and is the result of seven bipartisan hearings over several months, and feedback from the public.

Jones’ office said that the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) will improve the ability of the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the crisis, including the ripple effects of the crisis on children, families, and communities, and improve data sharing between states.

“Many communities in Alabama and across our country are struggling to combat the opioid epidemic, and alleviate the harm it has caused to families and to our economy,” said Senator Jones. “I’m proud of the comprehensive, bipartisan efforts led by my HELP Committee colleagues to confront this issue with the urgency that it deserves. I’m also grateful that they agreed to incorporate the bipartisan bill I introduced recently with my colleagues Senators Tim Kaine and Todd Young, which would integrate job training into addiction recovery programs. We have more work ahead, but this is a strong step in the right direction.”

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Alabama has more active opioid prescriptions than it has people. There is more prescription opioid abuse in Alabama than in any place in the country. Doctors remain immune from prosecution, under state law, for their role in aiding and abetting, and in some cases encouraging opioid addiction. The Alabama Medical Association has vigorously opposed legislation that would allow prosecutors to pursue doctors and pharmacists who abuse their prescribing authority.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 will:

Authorize the Department of Labor to provide grants to address the economic and workforce impacts for communities affected by the opioid crisis, targeted at workforce shortages for the substance use and mental health treatment workforce, and to align job training and treatment services.

Reauthorize and improve grants to states and Indian Tribes for prevention, response, and treatment of the opioid crisis, authorized in 21st Century Cures, for three more years.

Spur development and research on of non-addictive painkillers, and other strategies to prevent, treat, and manage pain and substance use disorders through additional flexibility for the NIH.

Clarify FDA’s regulatory pathways for medical product manufacturers through guidance for new non-addictive pain and addiction products.

Encourage responsible prescribing behavior by clarifying FDA authority to require packaging and disposal options for certain drugs, such as opioids to allow a set treatment duration, for example “blister packs,” for patients who may only need a 3 or 7 day supply of opioids, and give patients safe disposal options.

Improve detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, through stronger FDA and Customer Border Protection coordination.

Clarify FDA’s post-market authorities for drugs, such as opioids, which may have reduced efficacy over time, by modifying the definition of an adverse drug experience to include such situations.

Provide support for states to improve their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and encourage data sharing between states so doctors and pharmacies can know if patients have a history of substance misuse.

Strengthen the health care workforce to increase access to mental health services in schools and community-based settings and to substance use disorder services in underserved areas.

Authorize CDC’s work to combat the opioid crisis, including providing grants for states, localities, and tribes to collect data and implement key prevention strategies.

Address the effects of the opioids crisis on infants, children, and families, including by helping states improve plans of safe care for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and helping to address child and youth trauma.

Improves treatment access to patients by requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue regulations on how qualified providers can prescribe controlled substances in limited circumstances via telemedicine.

Allow hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unneeded controlled substances to help reduce the risk of diversion and misuse.

S. 2680, The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 Legislation is the result of 7 bipartisan hearings on opioid crisis with FDA, NIH, CDC, SAMHSA, governors, experts, and families. The legislation combines 40 different proposals to try to address the opioid crisis into one bill, mostly from members of the Senate Health Committee.

“No matter where I go in Washington state, I hear from families about how devastating the opioid crisis has been to their lives and to their community,” Senator Murrat said. “I’m grateful to members on both sides of the aisle for their strong work on the policies in our bill, which will offer families and communities in Washington and across the country much-needed tools and resources as they continue working to stop this epidemic and rebuild. The work isn’t over, and I look forward to more bipartisan progress in support of everyone on the frontlines of the opioid crisis looking to Congress for support.”

“Our goal is to move urgently, effectively, and in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Alexander said. “This is a broad-based set of 40 different proposals to address the opioid crisis. The bill could help states and communities begin to bring an end to the opioid crisis by reducing the number of prescription opioids, stopping illegal drugs at the border, and accelerating research on non-addictive pain medicines. We will consider and seek to approve this bill next Tuesday, so we can get it to the Majority Leader and to the Senate for prompt consideration, along with other important proposals that may be coming from other committees.”

Deaths from drug overdoses have soared in recent years and now exceeds murder and automobile accidents combined. 62,469 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 al one, which is more than died in the entire Vietnam War. That is up from just 16,849 in 2000. That does not include addicts who commit suicide or people killed by violence in the drug trade.

Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate on December 12.

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On Tax Day, Shelby praises GOP tax cuts but calls for a flat tax

Chip Brownlee

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Sen. Richard Shelby speaks at a committee hearing.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, on Tax Day Tuesday praised the GOP’s recent tax cuts as a positive for the average American taxpayer but, at the same time, called for going further to implement a so-called flat tax.

As last-minute filers finished their annual returns, Shelby said the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts benefit American taxpayers by lowering the rates for individuals, doubling the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit, eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and incentivizing saving for retirements.

“When Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we made huge progress in simplifying the tax code and increasing efficiency,” Shelby said. “Today is the last Tax Day that Americans will file their taxes under the old, broken system. Hard-earned money will finally go back into the pockets of the American taxpayer.”

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Even as Shelby touted the new tax cuts, they remain unpopular with Americans and the legislation was the most unpopular tax cut in recent American history when it passed last year, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.

Even though the tax cuts were never particularly popular according to public poling, a new poll NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday showed that only 27 percent of Americans believe the cuts were a good idea.

Republicans were banking on the tax cuts to be a campaign talking point as Congress heads into an election year, and Republicans touted the tax cuts Tuesday. Ivanka Trump, an adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke in New Hampshire, a swing state, about the money they said Americans would save when they file next year.

The event — and pronouncement’s like Shelby’s — are part of a larger effort by GOP lawmakers and the White House to talk up what they say are the benefits of the new tax law.

Trump quoted an administration estimate that a middle-class family of four would see a reduction in their annual income taxes of about $2,000.

Shelby pointed to pay raises, bonuses, 401(k) match increases, cuts to utility rates and other benefits that he said are the result of the tax cuts. He said tax reform is already helping to create an environment that lets employers grow their business and hire new employees while increasing wages.

While he praised the tax cuts, he also called on Congress to push forward with his own legislation that would establish a so-called flat tax on income and simplify filing requirements.

“Every year on Tax Day, I highlight the SMART Act as a straightforward solution that would require taxpayers to file only a simple postcard-size return, saving Americans time and money,” Shelby said. “The SMART Act would also allow businesses to focus on expanding their businesses and creating jobs rather than directing resources toward tax compliance.”

Shelby has introduced similar legislation since his election to the Senate in 1986. The act would establish a flat income tax of 17 percent on all income.

There would be more simplified personal exemptions of $14,590 for a single person; $18,630 for a head of household; $29,190 for a married couple filing jointly; and $6,290 for each dependent.

The allowances would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index in order to track inflation, and the law would exempt all savings from being included in taxable income, which he said would result in an immediate tax cut for all taxpayers.

Shelby is not seeking re-election this year.

 

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Sessions fires Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 6 min
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