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North Alabama U.S. attorney collects more than $9 million in civil, criminal actions in 2018

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Attorney Jay Town announced Thursday that the Northern District of Alabama collected $9,044,060.80 in criminal and civil actions in Fiscal Year 2018. Of this amount, $7,221,160.63 was collected in criminal actions, and $1,822,900.17 was collected in civil actions.

Additionally, the Northern District of Alabama worked with other U.S. Attorney’s Offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $1,651,100.00 in cases pursued jointly by these offices.

The U.S. Justice Department, as a whole, collected nearly $15 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018. The $14,839,821,650 in collections in FY 2018 represents nearly seven times the appropriated $2.13 billion budget for the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices.

“The men and women of the U.S. attorneys’ offices across the country work diligently, day in and day out, to see that the citizens of our nation receive justice,” said Director of Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys James Crowell. “The money that we are able to recover for victims and this country as a whole is a direct result of their hard work.”

“The prosecutors and support staff in my office strive each day to put criminals behind bars and protect the public fisc, and the collection of civil and criminal debts is an essential part of that,” Town said. “The forfeitures collected shows our continued commitment to pursue the recovery of those ill-gotten gains so that victims of crime, and the federal treasury can be given restitution. We will continue to do so aggressively.”

The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. The law requires that defendants pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims Fund, which distributes the funds collected to federal and state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.

The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Education.

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Mexico isn’t paying for Trump’s border wall. Alabama is.

Josh Moon

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Looks like Mexico isn’t paying for that “big, beautiful wall” at the southern border. 

Alabama is. 

The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would be diverting more than $260 million of funds originally slated for a Navy ship building operation located in the Port of Mobile and will instead use those funds to construct a portion of Trump’s border wall. 

“I am very concerned about the impact a decision like this could have on communities like Mobile, whose ship-building workforce is second to none,” Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said. “I understand and agree we need to protect our borders, but I can’t understand for the life of me why folks in Mobile would be paying for this wall.”

The money was originally earmarked for Austal Inc., which had been selected by the Navy to build 11 Expeditionary Fast Transport ships. Those EFT ships are designed to provide the Navy with quick, shallow-water transport of both troops and equipment. 

“First and foremost, I support the President’s efforts to build the wall,” Sen. Richard Shelby said. “My strong preference is to do so through a direct appropriation, but Democrats have refused. While I am disappointed that the Department of Defense intends to target important priorities such as the Expeditionary Fast Transport, the Democrats left the President little choice in finding the funds necessary to build the wall. Ultimately, building the wall and providing for our national defense should be our highest priorities.

This is not exactly true. The 2020 Federal Budget included $1.37 billion in funding for the wall — a total agreed upon by Congress last year after tense budget negotiations. 

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To date, Trump’s wall has cost American taxpayers — who are footing the entire bill for this project, despite Trump’s promises — more than $400 million and is projected to exceed more than $11 billion at its current rate. 

Thus far, only about 110 miles of border wall has been built, and nearly all of that is replacement of the border structures that were in place. 

The goal was to erect a border wall covering the majority of an 864-mile zone that the administration deemed a priority. So far, zero miles of that zone have been completed, and the entire project has faced a number of setbacks. Most troubling is the fact that nearly half of that zone consists of privately owned lands in Texas, and the landowners have refused to sell. 

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However, the Trump administration is moving forward, continuing to push money into the project. And the search for additional funding has been almost as controversial as the project itself, with the Trump administration taking heat for pulling money from a variety of projects, including the improvement of base housing around the country. 

And now, Alabama stands to lose hundreds of millions. 

“The (transport ship) is responsible for hundreds of good-paying jobs in South Alabama, but I am even more concerned about the impact this decision has on our men and women in uniform and our national security,” Jones said. “This decision puts Alabama jobs on the line and it is going to make us less safe by denying our troops the resources they need to stay safe and fulfill their missions.”

Immigration experts also question the effectiveness of the wall on illegal immigration, and most national security experts agree that it will have little effect on the nation’s overall. 

The overwhelming majority of undocumented workers in the U.S. don’t enter through the southern border. Additionally, despite constant rhetoric from Republicans and from Trump that terrorists are crossing the Mexican border, a CATO Institute study in 2018 found that of the seven terrorism suspects apprehended in the U.S. after entering the country illegally, none crossed the southern border. Instead, they entered through Canada.

 

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National

Jones joins bipartisan vote to approve Iran war powers resolution

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Thursday joined a bipartisan vote to require  President Donald Trump to seek Congressional approval before taking further military action against Iran. 

“Before a President can lead us into war, he or she must first earn the support of the American people and also fulfill their solemn constitutional obligation to seek approval from Congress,” Jones said in a statement Thursday. “While the President has the power to protect Americans in the case of an imminent attack, that authority does not extend to committing our service members to long-term hostilities unilaterally. This resolution sends a strong message that we will follow the Constitution and we will not send our troops into harm’s way without the serious consideration and consent of the Congress.”

Jones, a member of the the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-sponsored the legislation, which passed after a 55 to 45 vote, but the move was largely symbolic, as it failed to pass with the required two-thirds vote to prevent a presidential veto, which Trump has promised. 

The vote to limit Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran came almost six weeks after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and nine others. 

The drone strike, which Trump ordered without first getting approval from Congress, resulted in a retaliatory missile attack by Iran on Iraqi-U.S. occupied bases that left more than 100 American soldiers with traumatic brain injuries from the concussive blasts. 

In a rare break, eight Republican senators broke from their party to vote with Democrats to approve the effort. Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana, Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky all voted in favor of limiting Trump’s power to engage in war with Iran. 

On Wednesday, a day before the Senate vote, Trump urged Republicans to vote against the measure in a tweet.  

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“It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness. Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani,” Trump’s tweet reads. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party. Don’t let it happen!”

 

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Elections

John Merrill elected Chair of Republican Secretaries of State Committee

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At this year’s annual National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Winter Conference, Secretary of State John H. Merrill had the privilege of meeting with the Republican Secretaries of State Committee (RSSC), where he was then elected by his 28 other peers to lead the delegation as its Chair.

“At our meeting in Washington, we solidified our goals for the upcoming term and identified new ways in which we can better ourselves as Secretaries of State. Our chief objective is to protect the integrity and credibility of the elections process in every state.” emphasized Secretary Merrill.

Merrill will be working alongside Vice Chair Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Secretary of State.

“Secretary LaRose is a proven leader among our colleagues at NASS. He has made significant progress in securing the state of elections in Ohio, and I am excited to continue our work together to ensure our colleagues are up-to-date with important information and aware of new ways in which we can protect the integrity of the electoral process,” stated Merrill.

In their commitment to maintaining fair and secure elections that are inclusive of all eligible citizens, the Republican Secretaries of State Committee will continue to work to modernize the systems in which Americans use each and every day, as well as cut down on all forms of voter fraud.

“Our Republican secretaries of state are second to none,” said RSLC President Austin Chambers. “Secretaries Merrill and LaRose are brilliant leaders who will play a key role in getting Republicans elected to secretary of state offices in every corner of the country. We are thankful for their willingness to lead and know they will have an enormous positive impact on this year’s elections.

 

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Elections

Buttigieg’s campaign announces Dixon, Rice will lead on the ground efforts in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Pete Buttigieg’s campaign announced that starting on Monday, Stephenie Dixon and Matthew Rice will lead the Buttigieg campaign’s on-the-ground efforts in Alabama.

The Alabama presidential primary is less than three weeks away and the 38 year-old South Bend, Indiana Mayor is locked in a tight race with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) after Iowa and New Hampshire. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) is in third. Former New York City and mega billionaire Michael Bloomberg skipped the early states and is pouring millions of his own money into the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) are struggling to resurrect their campaigns after disappointing finishes in the first two contest. Bloomberg and Sanders both been actively organizing in Alabama.

“We are building the campaign that will not only win this nomination but will defeat Donald Trump in November,” said Samantha Steelman, Pete for America Organizing Director for Super Tuesday States. “To compete in all the states on Super Tuesday, you need a massive network of grassroots volunteers. For months, we have had a team that has been building that organization by harnessing the energy and grassroots momentum behind Pete and turning it into real organizing work. This ramp up will provide more staff and resources to train, resource, and guide our 25,000 volunteers in Super Tuesday states that will push our campaign across the finish line on March 3rd.”

Dixon and Rice have been tasked with helping further resource and train grassroots volunteer networks in Alabama’s seven congressional districts who have shared Pete’s message across the state since last year.

Buttigieg has visited Alabama already but the Pete for America campaign has not announced another Alabama visit. Buttigieg will make five upcoming trips in the next two weeks that will take Mayor Buttigieg to Super Tuesday states: California, Colorado, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

The campaign has also announced a six-figure digital buy in several Super Tuesday states.

Buttigieg’s campaign claims that their message of belonging has inspired a grassroots campaign across the country. The campaign has built up volunteer leadership teams that are working in every single congressional district in all Super Tuesday states. Buttigieg’s volunteer-led teams are already hosting events and recruiting more volunteers for door knocking, phone banks, and other volunteer action in Super Tuesday states.

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In addition to staff on the ground, Pete for America is also activating and ramping up activity in coalition groups like Students for Pete and Veterans & Military Community for Pete. The campaign has over 80 Students for Pete chapters in Super Tuesday states including Troy University and Jefferson State Community College, to name a few. Chapter leaders have been trained on all aspects of the campaign, including digital organizing, field, and policy advocacy. As part of this ramp-up, Pete for America is engaging student groups to have organizing meetings to welcome new staff. Veterans & Military Community for Pete has more than 1,600 active members in Super Tuesday states that will ramp up organizing activities as well.

Pete for America is also organizing online in Alabama. The campaign has over 150 digital captains, with a presence in every Super Tuesday state who are engaging supporters and bringing them into its relational organizing program. The campaign’s digital Welcome teams and Local teams will be finding and identifying new supporters online, welcoming them into the Pete community, and then connecting them to local resources both online and on the ground to get involved – translating online support to offline action.

Buttigieg is a veteran and if elected would be the youngest President in American history. He would also be the first openly gay president.

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The Alabama presidential primary is March 3.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for President will face incumbent President Donald J. Trump (R) on November 3.

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