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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.”

“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.”

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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.

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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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National

Lawmaker files bill to ban treatments for transgender kids

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Republican Wes Allen, R-Troy, filed a bill to prevent doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy or puberty suppressing drugs to people younger than 19 who identify as transgender.

HB303, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act,  would make it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. Allen’s legislation would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors.

“I was shocked when I found out doctors in Alabama were prescribing these types of drugs to children,” Allen said in a news release. “This is something you hear about happening in California or New York but it is happening right here in Alabama and it’s time we put a stop to that practice.”

Allen said that children experiencing gender dysphoria are struggling with a psychological disorder and that they need therapeutic treatment from mental health professionals instead of medical intervention that would leave their bodies “permanently mutilated.” 

“These children are suffering from a psychological disorder, just as someone who is suffering with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia but we treat those patients and try to help them. We should treat these psychological disorders as well.”

In 2018, a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that:

  • “Transgender identities and diverse gender expressions do not constitute a mental disorder; 
  • Variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity, and binary definitions of gender do not always reflect emerging gender identities; 
  • Gender identity evolves as an interplay of biology, development, socialization, and culture; and
  • If a mental health issue exists, it most often stems from stigma and negative experiences rather than being intrinsic to the child”

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in 2018 that it was removing “gender identity disorder” from its global manual of diagnoses and reclassify “gender identity disorder” as “gender incongruence,” which is now listed under the sexual health chapter rather than the mental disorders chapter. 

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In a 2018 interview, Dr. Lale Say, a reproductive health expert at the WHO, said that gender incongruence was removed from the list of mental health disorders because “we had a better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition and leaving it there was causing stigma. So in order to reduce the stigma, while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed in a different chapter.”

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to remove the term “gender identity disorder” from the manual and add the term “gender dysphoria.”

Allen’s bill will be considered by the Alabama House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

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Elections

Doug Jones raises $2.4 million in first fundraising period of 2020

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, raised $2.4 million in the first fundraising period of 2020, according to his reelection campaign, which was $500,000 more than he raised during the fourth quarter of 2019. 

Jones has $7.4 million cash at hand, according to his campaign, which released the totals on Thursday. Jones’s latest campaign finance reports weren’t yet posted to the Federal Election Commission website on Thursday. 

“Alabamians across the state are showing their commitment to Doug’s message of One Alabama and his proven track record of standing up for all Alabamians,” said Doug Turner, Senior Advisor for Jones’s campaign, in a statement Thursday. Doug’s work to support working families, fund our HBCUs, modernize our military and expand and protect our health care is resonating with folks throughout Alabama. We are well-positioned to continue to grow our grassroots support and win in November.” 

Jones ended 2019 leading all of his Republican contenders in fundraising, ending the year with $5 million in cash.

 

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National

Jones introduces bipartisan bill to protect children from human trafficking

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones has introduced a bill that would help prevent exploitation by providing grants for training and resources.

The bipartisan Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2020 would help prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children by providing grants to train students, parents, teachers, and school personnel to recognize and respond to signs of human trafficking.

Jones introduced the bill along with his colleagues: Sens, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Tina Smith, D-Minnesota. While trafficking victims come from all walks of life and do not fit a particular profile, young people with certain risk factors may be more vulnerable to trafficking. For example, children in the child welfare or juvenile justice system, are homeless or ran away from home, or are unaccompanied or were forced to leave their home by their caregivers are much more at risk of becoming trafficking victims.

“Every year, thousands of people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across the state of Alabama,” Jones said. “The battle against human trafficking is one that we have to wage on all fronts, but our teachers and school personnel are on the front lines. With additional training and resources, we can continue to raise awareness about the signs of trafficking and hopefully prevent this systemic exploitation of children and other vulnerable people.”

Pat McCay Chairs the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.

“Alabama has been fighting sex trafficking and exploitation since 2009,” McCay said. “We continue to see more and more cases each year affecting school-aged children and even children as young as four years old. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2020 will enable us to target the appropriate demographic with much-needed prevention training and education in schools and equip our children, along with their teachers, parents, and other school employees, to know the signs and dangers of trafficking and exploitation and how to avoid becoming a victim. Thank you, Senator Jones, for sponsoring this very important prevention bill.”

This legislation would Authorize the Director of the Office of Trafficking in Persons in the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) to establish a demonstration project to issue grants to non-profit organizations and schools to develop and implement age-appropriate, culturally competent, and gender-responsive curriculum for training students, parents, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking.

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The bill instructs the Director to give priority to eligible entities serving geographic areas with the highest prevalence of human trafficking, and areas with the highest prevalence of at-risk, vulnerable, or underserved populations including homeless youth, foster youth, youth involved in the child welfare system and runaways.

It would also set forth important data collection on the human trafficking / exploitation of children and strict, privacy-protected reporting requirements for the program.

Jones is a former U.S. Attorney. That experience helped Senator Jones have a deeper understanding of the complexity of human trafficking. In the Senate, he has championed legislation that would prevent the targeting of vulnerable people. He is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan ILLICIT Cash Act (S.2563), which helps law enforcement to combat illicit financial activity being carried out by human traffickers. Corporate secrecy can fuel human trafficking, protecting traffickers from law enforcement and prosecution, and this legislation will help increase transparency and expose bad actors. Senator Jones has also supported renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which includes important anti-trafficking provisions, and has encouraged the Office of Management and Budget to provide robust funding for VAWA grants.

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In 2018, Senator Jones also cosponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which allowed law enforcement and civil litigants to target web platforms harboring and hosting sex trafficking activity. The House of Representatives version of the bill passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law in April 2018.

The internet has made trafficking much more lucrative because buyers can shop online to connect with pimps to arrange delivery.

Senator Doug Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Jones was elected in 2017.

 

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Aerospace and Defense

Blue Origin opens rocket engine factory in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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Blue Origin has opened its sprawling factory in Huntsville, Alabama’s “Rocket City.”

The massive new factory will allow the spaceflight company to accelerate the production of its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine. The move creates hundreds of jobs.

The BE-4, which is under development, will power both Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which is being produced at ULA’s factory in nearby Decatur.

Huntsville was an ideal location for the new factory, not only for its highly skilled workforce; but also for its proximity to ULA’s assembly pant and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where the new Alabama-built engine will be tested. Marshall’s historic test stand 4670 is where the Saturn V moon rocket’s engines were tested.

Blue Origin is upgrading and refurbishing the test stand.

“This community is absolutely terrific to be a part of,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said. “It has the kind of spirit that you want when developing this kind of technology and actually has the history that you can be feel proud about.”

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“Enjoyed speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Blue Origin’s new rocket engine production facility in Cummings Research Park,” Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said. “This top-notch facility will be used to conduct production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on the historic Test Stand 4670. I joined Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith, Congressman Robert Aderholt, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several others this afternoon to discuss the impact Blue Origin is making in the Tennessee Valley!”

Alabama Commerce Sec. Greg Canfield was at the ceremony making the opening of the spaceflight company’s rocket engine factory.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “In addition to the economic boost resulting from hundreds of new jobs in north Alabama, the Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine production facility will allow the United States – the state of Alabama – to take astronauts once again into space without dependence on other nations. Methods of warfare have changed, and maintaining our dominance in the current space race is therefore a critical element in national security.”

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Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin’s 350,000-square-foot facility is located in Cummings Research Park and will employ more than 300 people. Smith said that around 200 jobs should be created over the next year.

The factory was a $200 million investment in the state and announced on June 2017, with construction beginning in Huntsville a little over a year ago.

 

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