Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — Republicans who control Michigan’s Legislature voted Wednesday to advance a measure that strips campaign-finance oversight power from the Democratic secretary of state-elect, and they were poised to give lawmakers authority to stand up for GOP-backed laws if they think the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general are not adequately defending the state’s interests.
The lame-duck moves followed within hours of similar efforts in Wisconsin, where lawmakers voted earlier Wednesday to shift clout to the Republican-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing the GOP governor.
Michigan Democrats in January will jointly hold the governor, attorney general and secretary offices for the first time in 28 years, but the Legislature will continue to be controlled by Republicans.
A day after GOP lawmakers finalized an unprecedented maneuver to gut minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, a Senate panel passed legislation that would create the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the campaign-finance law rather than Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, who ran in part on a pledge to advocate for election transparency.
Democrats called the bill a blatant power grab that would fly in the face of voters.
“At no point did voters say they wanted the rules manipulated. At no point did they say they wanted bills rushed through a hasty lame-duck session,” said Patrick Schuh, state director for the liberal group America Votes. He questioned the timing, saying such a commission was not proposed until a Democrat is on the verge of leading the secretary of state office for the first time in two-dozen years.
Republicans defended the legislation, saying the six-member panel of three Democrats and three Republicans would initially be appointed by Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer. Eric Doster, a former long-time lawyer for the state GOP, testified that the commission would operate similarly to those in other states and said “now the time is right.”
Other critics of the bill, however, contended that the commission would be ineffectual, saying its members would deadlock and be accountable to political parties that would submit a list of possible appointees to the governor.
Also Wednesday, the House planned to approve legislation that would empower the Legislature, House or Senate to intervene in any suit at any stage, a right already granted to the attorney general. It is seen as a maneuver to ensure that Republicans could support laws if Whitmer and Democratic Attorney General-elect Nessel are lukewarm about GOP-passed measures and drop appeals in cases the state loses.
Nessel, for example, has said she probably will not defend a law allowing faith-based groups to refuse to serve same-sex couples who want to adopt children.
Republicans disputed criticism that the legislation would undermine the role of the attorney general. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the bill is needed because “we’ve been shut out” in recent cases.
“We believe we have standing, and we want to make sure by law that we do because if somebody wants to ignore a law, we need to intervene because we made the law. It’s passed and signed by the governor and it needs to be enforced,” Meekhof said.
Democrats said the legislation would lead to increased legislative spending on lawyers.
“When we have roads to fix and schools to fund and health care plans to fund, how can you possibly justify setting up this parallel organization when we already have an attorney general and a process in place to take care of these issues?” said Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills.
Trump bypasses Congress to push through arms sales to Saudis, UAE
By Dan De Luce
The Trump administration on Friday cited a national security “emergency” allegedly caused by Iran to bypass Congress and rush through arms sales worth billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East allies, in a move that drew condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Citing a rarely used provision of arms control law, the administration informed lawmakers it was declaring a national security emergency, allowing it to go ahead with the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan without congressional approval, according to administration letters sent to senators and obtained by NBC News.
“I have determined that an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States, and, thus, waives the congressional review requirements,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in a letter to Sen. James Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The decision affected various arms packages worth roughly $8 billion, including deals for precision-guided bombs and related gear for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the documents and congressional aides.
The two countries are staunch U.S. allies that support President Donald Trump’s policies on Iran and have been waging a war since 2015 in support of the Yemeni government against Houthi rebels backed by Tehran.
The move came despite growing bipartisan opposition to any arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid outrage over the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, as well as over Riyadh’s air war in Yemen that has caused high numbers of civilian casualties.
A bipartisan majority in Congress has voted to halt U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen but President Donald Trump vetoed the legislation last month.
A memo accompanied Pompeo’s letters justifying the declaration of the emergency due to Iran’s actions, including its support for Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting the Saudi-led coalition.
“Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” the memo states. “Current threat reporting indicates Iran engages in preparations for further malign activities throughout the Middle East region, including potential targeting of U.S. and allied military forces in the region.”
Iran has accused the U.S. of trying to provoke a war and denied any role in recent attacks on ships near the coast of the UAE or on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo said in a statement that delaying the arms shipments, which included bombs, parts for fighter jets and other hardware, could cause problems for allied aircraft and call into question U.S. reliability in providing equipment.
“The United States is, and must remain, a reliable security partner to our allies and partners around the world,” Pompeo said.
But the secretary of state said the decision to bypass Congress was a “a one-time event” and that the administration would uphold the long-established process for congressional review of proposed arms sales.
Democrats in Congress said the Trump administration expedited the arms packages because it could not secure a majority of lawmakers to support any proposed sales to the Saudis.
“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale. There is no new ’emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen, and doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in a statement.
Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana called on the administration to reconsider the decision.
“I strongly urge the administration to reverse course from bypassing congressional oversight on arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” Young said.
“Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terror but the current threats that have been briefed to members of Congress do not justify taking this dramatic step. “
Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned whether the decision was legal and accused the Trump administration of flouting congressional authority while granting favors to Gulf governments accused of human rights abuses and alleged indiscriminate bombing in Yemen.
“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump Administration has failed once again to prioritize our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Menendez said in a statement.
He said “the Trump Administration decided to do an end run around the Congress and possibly the law.”
Menendez had held up the sale of tens of thousands of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for a year, due to concerns about civilian deaths from Saudi-led airstrikes, the killing of Khashoggi and alleged rights abuses linked to the UAE in the war in Yemen.
Rights advocates and humanitarian groups also condemned the decision.
“The Trump Administration is manufacturing an emergency to push through the sale of deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Scott Paul of Oxfam America said. “The real emergency is the 12 million people at risk of famine in Yemen and the largest-ever recorded cholera outbreak continues to spread because of the conflict, but this administration shows little concern for the millions who suffer.”
Apart from precision-guided munitions or so-called “smart bombs,” the arms sales for Saudi Arabia include mortar bombs, engines and maintenance support for F-15 fighter jets and logistical services for the Saudi air force, according to documents sent to Congress from the administration.
The arms packages for the United Arab Emirates cover precision-guided bombs, equipment for AH-64 helicopters, laser-guided rockets, javelin anti-tank missiles, .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, Patriot missiles, F-16 fighter jet engine parts and U.S. Marine Corps training of the country’s presidential guard. The weapons sale for Jordan involved a transfer of Paveway precision-guided bombs from the Emirates.
Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has refrained from public criticism of the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign in Yemen and has focused on Iran’s support of Houthi rebels in the conflict, accusing Tehran of fueling the war.
But some experts and former officials say the war in Yemen benefits Iran and Al Qaeda-linked militants and that the U.S. needs to use its influence with the Saudis to bring an end to the fighting.
“The longer the civil war in Yemen continues, the more opportunity Tehran will have to undermine the interests of the U.S. and our security partners,” said Bradley Bowman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.
“It is in U.S. national security interests to end the civil war in Yemen and address the horrible humanitarian crisis there — both of which are pushing the Houthis deeper into the welcoming arms of Tehran.”
Menendez and other lawmakers said they would look at a possible legislative response to the Trump administration’s decision. Two Democratic congressional aides said senators were discussing legislation that would possibly bar future arms sales to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.
The White House move could trigger a backlash in Congress that would jeopardize future arms sales, Bowman said.
“An administration end-run around Congress to complete arms sales to Riyadh risks inciting a congressional reaction that will undermine the administration’s broader goals related to its conventional arms transfer policy,” he said.
Under U.S. arms control law, Congress must be given 30 days to approve U.S. arms sales to foreign countries. However, in a rarely used provision of that law, the president can declare an “emergency,” sidestepping Congress and sending the sale through immediately.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan used the same provision to sell 400 Stinger missiles and 200 launchers to Saudi Arabia in response to its urgent request for help in defending the kingdom against Iran.
Saudi Arabia remains the United States’ largest foreign military sales customer with more than $129 billion in approved purchases.
John Pinto, WWII Navajo Code Talker and longtime New Mexico lawmaker, dies at 94
By Associated Press
SANTA FE, N.M. — John Pinto, a Navajo Code Talker in World War II who became one of the nation’s longest serving Native American elected officials as a New Mexico state senator, has died. He was 94.
Senate colleague Michael Padilla confirmed Pinto’s death in Gallup on Friday after years of suffering from various illnesses that rarely kept him from his duties.
After serving as a Marine, Pinto was elected to the Senate in 1976 and represented a district that includes the Navajo Nation for more than four decades. The region is one of the poorest in the country.
“Words cannot express the sadness we feel for the loss of a great Diné warrior,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, using the indigenous word for Navajo. “He dedicated his life to helping others.”
Born in Lupton, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation to a family of sheep herders. Pinto didn’t start formal schooling until he was nearly a teenager.
“At the age of 12, I was in kindergarten,” Pinto told the Albuquerque Journal in a 2007 interview. “I guess I did all right.”
Pinto also recalled that his grandparents told of being forced at gunpoint from their land in the 1860s by the U.S. Army in the forced relocation of the Navajo people on foot to southern New Mexico.
After serving as a Code Talker — a group of radio men who translated American coordinates and messages into an indecipherable code based on the Navajo language — Pinto had to take an English test four times before he was finally admitted into the University of New Mexico’s College of Education.
He graduated with a bachelor’s in elementary education at 39, and eventually earned his master’s, becoming a teacher and a truancy officer in Gallup.
Pinto delved into politics to address the needs of impoverished indigenous populations. The Democrat won a seat in state Senate in 1976 as one of the state’s first Native American senators.
An unassuming appearance and manner belied Pinto’s political determination that carried him through 42 years in the Legislature. Laurie Canepa, the senior librarian for the Legislative Council Service, said that made him the longest serving senator in state history.
Manny Aragon, the state’s one-time Senate president, tells the story of driving to the Statehouse in a January 1977 snowstorm and picking up a middle-aged Navajo man who was hitchhiking in Albuquerque. The hitchhiker was newly elected Sen. Pinto.
“I just thought he was a transient,” Aragon said.
In the Legislature, Pinto advocated for education reform and anti-poverty programs. Receiving a lifetime achievement award in 2016, Pinto recalled going hungry at times as a child while his parents juggled odd jobs and said the experience influenced his work on issues of homelessness as a lawmaker.
Every year, Pinto would sing on the Senate floor the “Potato Song” — a Navajo song about a potato, planted in the spring and visited in the summer until it is harvested. Fellow senators, staff and aides clapped along to Pinto’s rendition.
Lenore Naranjo, the Senate’s chief clerk, says Pinto taught her bits of Navajo language over the decades.
“A beautiful man is all I can say,” Naranjo said.
Federal judge blocks Mississippi abortion ban
By Charlie Gile and Dartunorro Clark
A federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi’s fetal heartbeat anti-abortion law from going into effect, saying it infringes on women’s health care rights.
“Here we go again. Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability,” Judge Carlton Reeves wrote in his order.
“By banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, SB 226 prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy,” he continued.
The Mississippi ban prohibited abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, or around six weeks, which is before many women might know they are pregnant. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in March.
The lawsuit was filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer of Mississippi.
Reeves ruled last year that Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban was unconstitutional, The Associated Press reported. Mississippi is appealing that ruling, and is likely to appeal this one, as well.
The judge’s ruling comes as dozens of conservative states across the country have passed or proposed bills that would place strict limitations on abortion. Anti-abortion advocates have said that they hope the bills, which have prompted swift legal challenges, will ultimately lead to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.
Under the Mississippi law, doctors could have their medical licenses revoked if they perform the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Though the law does provide an exception if the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, it does not provide an exception in cases of rape or incest.
The Republican governors of Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia have signed similar bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. On Friday, Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike L. Parson signed legislation banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy with an exception for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.
Also on Friday, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit over Alabama’s near-total abortion ban that makes performing an abortion a felony with little to no exceptions. The law, signed by GOP Gov. Kay Ivey on May 15, is the most restrictive in the nation.
“The Alabama Legislature has been pushing abortion care further and further out of reach for years with medically unnecessary and politically-motivated restrictions, and this extreme abortion ban shows us just how far they’ll go to push their anti-abortion agenda,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project attorney, said in a press release.
World1 week ago
China media taking an aggressive tone on new tariffs
Politics1 week ago
Labour could ‘ABSTAIN’ from fourth Brexit vote – Theresa May handed LIFELINE?
Politics1 week ago
O’Rourke, seeking a reset, reaches out to national Democrats
Politics1 week ago
LABOUR CRISIS: Ex-minister QUITS ‘cult’ party after 45 years over Corbyn anti-Semitism row
Politics1 week ago
This teen journalist got the scoop on Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign
World1 week ago
Meet the 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies
Politics1 week ago
With eye on China, Trump escalates cybersecurity battle with executive order
World1 week ago
Posts profit rise despite turbulent season