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Byrne, Rogers, Brooks, and Hooper comment on Mueller’s testimony before Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, Mike Rogers, R-Saks, and Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville,  commented after the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr., R-Montgomery also released a statement critical of the hearing.

“Democrats’ last desperate attempt to change the narrative on the Mueller report and generate support for their delusional impeachment fantasy landed with a thud,” Byrne said. “I’ve read the Mueller report cover to cover, and there was no collusion and no obstruction. Today’s hearings should once and for all clear President Trump and his campaign.”

Brooks appeared on One America News and called Wednesday’s hearing, “A sideshow circus act.”

“I’m an attorney by trade. I’ve been a prosecutor in the Tuscaloosa district attorney’s office. I’ve also been district attorney of Madison County, Alabama,” Brooks said. “I’ve also been on the defense side, and my general reaction to what has transpired with Mueller, and before him, Comey, and President Trump and all of this interaction, is the American people have been subjected to a dog and pony show, a circus act, that has in effect diverted the American public’s attention and Washington’s attention from major issues that face us as a nation. Deficit and debt that is out of control, that is threatening us with a national bankruptcy and insolvency, border security that has cost thirty-thousand Americans their lives each year that we don’t have border security.”

“We should be having a healthy debate over free-enterprise versus socialism, but instead we are mired in this kind of Mueller report nonsense,” Brooks added. “In my judgement, Mueller and Comey, the Mueller Team, President Trump, they all knew early on, that there was zero evidence of collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. As such, the Russia investigation, at least in so far as there is an interaction with President Trump’s campaign, or alleged interaction, it should have been ended long ago, years ago. In fact, in my judgement, the President of the United States should have terminated the Mueller investigation long ago, in as much as there was zero evidence that dealt with collusion with the Russians by President Trump or his campaign. Since he had a right to do that, he also had a duty to do that, and as such he cannot be accused of obstructing from a legal standpoint, he cannot be accused of obstructing what he had a right to do and a legal obligation to do, in order to save taxpayer tens of millions of dollars that was wasted on this sideshow circus act.’

Congressman Mike Rogers said that the Mueller hearing was a waste of money and just an attempt by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to make President Donald J. Trump “look bad.”

“When it comes to the business of the People’s House, it seems Democrats just cannot focus in on what matters to the American people like a booming economy, job creation and securing our porous border,’ Rep. Rogers said. “Over four months have passed since Attorney General William Barr announced there was no collusion nor obstruction in The Mueller Report, but somehow this week Democrats are having Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill to try to waste even more time and taxpayer dollars to try to do whatever they can to make President Trump look bad.”

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Former State Rep. Hooper currently serves on the National Trump/ Victory Campaign Committee.

“The Mueller hearing put on today by Chairman Nadler and the Democrats was a Circus!’ Hooper told the Alabama Political Reporter. “It was a very bad and sad day for Robert Mueller and a huge disaster for the Democrats. Today’s hearing confirms that the witch Hunt is over but begins the Investigation of the Investigators.”

Congressman Byrne also urged that there be an investigation of how this investigation came about.

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“As the curtain closes on today’s carefully orchestrated theater production, now is the time to turn to the important questions regarding the origins and acceleration of this investigation during the Obama administration—and why more disturbing investigations into Secretary Clinton were squashed,” Rep. Byrne said. “I renew my call on Congress to pass my bill to investigate the investigators and make sure this never happens again.”

In May, Byrne introduced the Investigate the Investigators Act of 2019, H.R. 3028, to begin an investigation of the origins of the Russia investigation and ensure no similar partisan investigations happen again.

The bill calls for a formal Department of Justice investigation into all the actions taken during the 2016 presidential election as it relates to federal investigations regarding President Trump and Secretary Clinton and requires an automatic and independent oversight investigation anytime an investigation of a federal political campaign is opened by the DOJ in the future.

Robert Mueller testimony before the House Intelligence Committee did not shed much light on that.

Congressman Rick Crawford, R-Arkansas asked Mueller: “There’s a quote attributed to Peter Strozk. He texted about his concern that there’s ‘no big there, there’ in the Trump campaign investigation. Did he or anyone else who worked on the FBI’s investigation tell you that around 10 months into the investigation, the FBI still had no case for collusion?”

Mueller answered, “No.”

Crawford followed up: “Is the inspector general report correct that the text messages from Peter Strozk and Lisa Page’s phones from your office were not retained after they left the special counsel’s office?”

“I don’t—it depends on what you’re talking about,” Mueller replied. “The investigation into those—Peter Strozk went on for a period of time, and I’m not certain what it encompasses. It may well have encompassed what you’re referring to.”

Crawford: “Let me move on just real quickly. Did you ask the department to authorize your office to investigate the origin of the Trump Russia investigation?”

Mueller: “I’m not going to get into that. It goes to internal deliberations.”

Crawford: “So the circumstances surrounding the origin of the investigation have yet to be fully vetted then. I’m certainly glad that Attorney Barr and U.S. Attorney Durham are looking into this matter.”

Various versions of the ‘Steele dossier’ alleged that there was collusion between the Trump 2016 campaign and the Russian government. The dossier was prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid to produce it by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Portions of the dossier were leaked to the media, to Democrat friendly members of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. A copy was even given to now deceased U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Arizona.

Republican critics of the whole investigation argue that the Steele Dossier was used to create damning media reports, which together with the dossier itself were used to get FISA warrants authorizing electronic monitoring of both the Trump campaign and then the Trump transition team. After Trump’s election win the dossier and the existence of an FBI investigation during the Barack H. Obama (D) Administration were used to present the case to the Department of Justice, Congress, and the public through the media that a special counsel was needed and even that the President would be impeached. All of this traces back, apparently solely to the Steele dossier, the sources of which remain a mystery to this day.

Some Republicans argue that the Steele dossier was a complete work of fiction designed in the waning days of the 2016 campaign to create “fake news” swaying the election in favor of Hillary Clinton. When that effort failed it was then used by certain Democratic operatives working with members of the mainstream media and certain allied members of the government itself to create a narrative that could be used to justify the impeachment and removal of the President of the United States and help Democrats take back control of the Congress.

To see the full video of the Mo Brooks interview.

(Original reporting by Fox News, the Washington Post, One America News, the Patriot Channel, and CNS News’ Melanie Arter contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Alabama Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth tests positive for COVID-19

Ainsworth is the only state constitutional officer in Alabama known to have contracted the coronavirus to this point in the public health crisis.

Brandon Moseley

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Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth speaks during a video message. (LT. GOV.'S OFFICE)

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth on Wednesday said that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“After being notified this afternoon that a member of my Sunday school church group had acquired the coronavirus, I was tested out of an abundance of caution and received notice that the results proved positive,” Ainsworth said in a statement. “Because I follow social distancing rules and wear a mask both in church and in my daily interactions, the positive result shows that even those of us who are the most cautious can be at risk.”

“State Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris has been informed about the results, and my office is taking the necessary steps,” Ainsworth said. “Though no symptoms have yet appeared, I will quarantine for the appropriate period and seek follow-up tests to ensure the virus has run its course before resuming public activities.”

“I appreciate the words of support that have already begun to be extended and am thankful for the prayers that are being offered for my recovery,” Ainsworth said.

To this point 174,528 Alabamians have tested positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, including 1,043 on Tuesday. At least 859 Alabamians were hospitalized on Tuesday with COVID-19, and 1,265,575 tests have been given across the state since March. Some 74,238 Alabamians have recovered from their illness, and 2,805 Alabamians have died from the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Ainsworth is the only state constitutional officer in Alabama known to have contracted the coronavirus to this point in the public health crisis.

The state remains under a “safer-at-home” order, including a mask mandate, through Nov. 8. That is likely to be extended into December given the recent uptake in coronavirus cases. Citizens are urged to continue social distancing, wear their masks, wash hands and avoid shaking hands and hugging.

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Elections

Congressional candidate James Averhart endorsed by list of U.S. dignitaries, retired military leaders

The 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate has been endorsed by a list of retired U.S. dignitaries and retired military leaders, his campaign said Wednesday. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Congressional candidate James Averhart

James Averhart, the Democratic candidate in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District and a retired U.S. Marine, has been endorsed by a list of retired U.S. dignitaries and retired military leaders, his campaign said Wednesday.

“James Averhart is an integral leader — a man of principles and a patriot. He is the best choice to represent District One on The Hill,” said Ambassador Theodore Britton, a World War II Veteran who was nominated by President Gerald Ford to serve as U.S. ambassador to the island nations of Barbados and Grenada.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. General Walter E. Gaskin, who served as commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said Averhart is experienced in matters of government and policy and understands the lay of the land in Washington D.C.

“He will be ready to hit the ground running to get things done for the district, and moreover, be that bridge to unite the parties in Congress as well as the nation,” Gaskin said in a statement.

“James Averhart is a strong dynamic leader who will get the job done. He is meticulous and a consummate professional that will advocate and work for all citizens of our district and Alabama,” said Ambassador J. Gary Cooper, a retired Marine Corps major general who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to serve as assistant secretary of the Air Force, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as U.S. ambassador to Jamaica.

“At a time when it seems that the Republican leadership is in lockstep with a president, who considers those in service to our great nation to be ‘suckers’ and ‘losers,’ is antithetical to what this country needs. We have over 30,000 citizens hospitalized and over 211,000 deaths due to coronavirus, which could have been prevented with sound, methodical leadership. We have been disappointed by this President and the Republican leadership standing with him. It is time for substantive change in our Nation’s Capital,” Averhart said.

“The American citizenry deserves and expects more of its leadership. We should no longer settle for those who continue to promulgate untruths and spew divisive rhetoric. We deserve leadership who will extol the truth and hold in high regard a united nation,” Averhart said.

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Avergart’s Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 election is Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl.

The following are a list of Averhart’s endorsements, according to his campaign:

Ambassador Theodore Britton

  • Nominated by President Gerald Ford to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the island nations of Barbados and Grenada
  • Served as the U.S. Special Representative to West Indian island nations of Antigua, Dominica, St. Christopher, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia
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Ambassador J. Gary Cooper 

  • Vietnam Veteran and Retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General
  • Nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica.
  • Nominated by President George H.W. Bush to serve as Asst Secretary of the Air Force, Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Lieutenant General Ronald L. Bailey

  • First African American to command the 1st • U.S. Marine Division
  • Served as Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations, U.S. Marine Corps.
  • Retired in 2017 following 41 years of service.

Lieutenant General Walter E. Gaskin

  • Served as Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC Served as Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Quantico, Virginia
  • Served as Chief of Staff, Naval Striking and Support Forces-Southern Europe
  • Served as Deputy Commanding General, Fleet Marine Forces-Europe in Naples, Italy

Major General Cornell A. Wilson, Jr.

  • Served as Director, Reserve Affairs Division, Manpower and Reserve Affairs – Headquarters, U.S. MArine Corps, Quantico, Virginia.
  • Appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, NC, to the position of Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Lieutenant General Willie J. Williams

  • Served as Director of the Marine Corp Staff
  • Retired in 2013 after serving 39 years in the U.S. Marine Corp.

Brigadier General John R. Thomas

  • Served as Director for Command, Control, Communications and Computers, U.S. Marine Corps.
  • Served as Director and Chief Information Officer, U.S. Marine Corp.

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Infrastructure

Alabama’s Black Belt lacks quality internet access, report finds

Twenty-two of 24 Black Belt counties are below the statewide average of 86 percent of the population who have access to high-speed internet, and two Black Belt Counties — Perry and Chocktaw — have no access at all. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

During an online video briefing Monday on a report about a lack of internet access in Alabama’s Black Belt, University of Alabama student Brad Glover warned reporters that he could get kicked off the briefing at any moment. 

That’s because he was talking during the video briefing by way of audio only, using his cell phone, as he does not have access to high-speed internet access at his Linden, Alabama, home in the Black Belt’s Marengo County. 

The COVID-19 pandemic that sent students home to study online left many in the Black Belt and other rural parts of Alabama in the lurch, without access to the high-speed internet enjoyed by so many other Americans, according to the latest report in the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center’s Black Belt 2020 series. 

The latest report, titled “Internet Access Disparities in Alabama & the Black Belt,” found that 22 of 24 Black Belt counties, as defined by the Education Policy Center, are below the statewide average of 86 percent of the population who have access to high-speed internet, and two Black Belt Counties — Perry and Chocktaw — have no access at all. 

“It is still a terrible struggle for me to connect to get the things done that are required,” said Glover, who interned with the Education Policy Center. 

Stephen Katsinas, director of the Education Policy Center, said that in the 1930s, nine of ten rural homes lacked the electric service that urban American homes, by that point, had for 40 years. 

“The Rural Electrification Act was passed to address this abject market failure,” Katsinas said. “Today, as the COVID pandemic has shown, access to high-speed internet is as essential to rural Alabama as the REA was in the 1930s. Alabama must directly address the market failures that exist today to bring high-speech internet to every rural Alabamian, so that our rural workforce can access the lifelong learning skills they need, and our rural businesses can compete globally.” 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has also spotlighted the need to expand the growing area of telemedicine. 

Dr. Eric Wallace, medical director of Telehealth at UAB, told reporters during the briefing Monday that patients are largely doing telehealth from their homes, and explained that disparities in access to high-speed internet present a problem for them. 

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, UAB has done approximately 230,000 telehealth visits, and 60 percent of those were done by video,” Wallace said. 

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“Forty percent are audio only, and why is audio only? It’s because we do not have broadband,” Wallace said. “So it’s not just broadband. It’s broadband. It’s tech literacy. Socioeconomics, to have a device in your home. It’s all of that.”

Wallace said that the coronavirus crisis has made clear that telemedicine is a “100 percent necessity” and that patient satisfaction studies make clear it’s not going anywhere. 

The reasons for disparities in access to high-speed internet are myriad, explained Noel Keeney, one of the authors of the report and a graduate research assistant at the Education Policy Center. 

Keeney noted a study by BroadbandNow that estimates there are 154 internet providers in Alabama, but there are 226,000 Alabamians living in counties without a single provider, and 632,000 in counties with just a single provider. 

Even for those with access to internet providers, Keeney said that just approximately 44.4 percent of Alabamians have internet access at a cost of $60 monthly or below. 

“If we really care about our rural areas, we need to make an investment, and it needs to cut off that cost at a very low rate,” Wallace said. 

Katsnias said there’s a growing consensus on the part of Alabama’s political leaders that access to high-speed internet is an important issue, noting that Gov. Kay Ivey in March 2018, signed into law the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, which has given internet access to nearly 100,000 Alabama students. 

“In March, Gov. Ivey awarded $9.5 million in broadband expansion grants, with a significant amount going to Black Belt communities,” the report reads. “This was followed by $5.1 million in additional grants in May.” 

“The State of Alabama also allocated $100 million in federal CARES Act-related dollars for “equipment and service for broadband, wireless hot spots, satellite, fixed wireless, DSL, and cellular-on-wheels to increase access for K-12 students undergoing distance learning,” the report continues. 

An additional $100 million in CARES Act funds were made available to facilitate virtual learning across Alabama’s K-12 schools, researchers wrote in the report, and another $72 million in federal aid went to the state’s colleges and universities. 

Katsinas said however those federal funds are spent, the state still needs a long term plan for how to address the disparities in access to high-speed internet. 

“We need a long term plan and we need to do what we can do immediately,” Katsinas said

Read more of the Education Policy Center’s reports in the “Black Belt 2020” series here.

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Economy

Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

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IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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