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Former Rep. William Jefferson may soon get date to report to prison
Apr-19-2012 736 0


A court hearing Friday could determine whether former Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, will begin serving his 13-year corruption sentence before summer. Some legal experts expect federal prosecutors to ask Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presided over Jefferson's six-week 2009 trial, to revoke Jefferson's $50,000 bail and set a date for him to begin his sentence.

Ellis also could allow Jefferson to self report by a court-imposed deadline.

After sentencing Jefferson, Ellis rejected calls by prosecutors to imprison him immediately and instead allowed him to remain free with an electronic monitor pending resolution of his appeals.

Friday's hearing was scheduled after Jefferson's lawyers failed to meet last week's deadline for filing an appeal with the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts said the decision indicates his lawyers will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a unanimous ruling last month by a three-judge 4th Circuit panel rejecting Jefferson's request for a new trial.

The high court probably won't decide whether to take the case -- and they accept only a tiny percentage -- until next fall.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who has been closely following the case, said it is possible prosecutors will argue the unanimous verdict by the 4th Circuit panel makes it unlikely he'll succeed with his Supreme Court appeal.

Ellis "has been pretty strict when it comes to corruption cases," Tobias said, "and if the prosecutors move to (set a date to report to prison) the judge may well grant it."

Kevin Thomas, a consultant with the MPM Group, which helps clients with sentence-mitigation efforts, said he thinks it's likely prosecutors will prevail.

"It was unusual for him (Jefferson) to stay out after sentencing and I would be shocked if the judge let him stay out now that the appellate court has ruled," Thomas said. "But then again his attorney (Robert Trout) is formidable and he could talk a starving dog off a meat wagon."

Jefferson, 65, isn't likely to be remanded into prison immediately, though. In a filing with Judge Ellis, lead prosecutor Mark Lytle expressed no objections if Jefferson chose not to attend Friday's session at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

Neither Lytle nor Trout would comment Wednesday.

Tobias said it's no surprise Jefferson's lawyers decided not to file an appeal with the full 4th Circuit, given the unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel.

In a 64-page ruling issued March 26, the appellate judges rejected the legal arguments by Jefferson that Judge Ellis erroneously instructed the jury about what the accepted practice is for official acts by a member of Congress.

Jefferson's lawyers argued the government had dramatically expanded the definition -- taking it beyond what most consider official acts, such as casting votes, introducing bills and committee work -- to include influencing foreign officials in Western Africa on behalf of private business executives.

"The (judge's) instructions did not in any way supplant the statutory definition of what constitutes an official act; it simply explained to the jury that an official act need not be prescribed by statute, but rather may include acts that a congressman customarily performs," according to the three judges.

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President-elect Donald Trump met with Martin Luther King III on Monday, as the country observed the holiday honoring King's father.

The two were seen shaking hands in the Trump Tower lobby following the early afternoon meeting, which addressed voter participation and poverty, King said.

Trump said "over and over" during the session that "he's going to represent Americans ... I think that we will continue to evaluate that," said King, who followed his father's footsteps in his work on human rights.

Trump had earlier been rumored to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day visiting the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. — but the trip was called off due to unspecified "scheduling issues."

King answered questions from a handful of reporters after the meeting and briefly discussed the simmering feud between the President-elect and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who said that he didn't consider Trump a "legitimate president."

"In the heat of emotion, a lot of things get said on both sides," King said. "The goal is to bring America together, and Americans," he added. "We are a great nation, but we must become a greater nation."

"The goal is to bring America together, and Americans," he added. "We are a great nation, but we must become a greater nation."

William Wachtel – a lawyer who relaunched the Drum Major Institute, a think-tank and community action group, with King – also attended the meeting and later displayed a mock-up Social Security card featuring an image of Trump. The non-profit wants Trump to improve the government’s photo ID system to give more people the opportunity to vote.

The Rev. James A. Forbes and Scott Rechler were also present, the Washington Post reports.
Trump posted a message on Twitter honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights icon who was assassinated in 1968.

“Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for,” he wrote. “Honor him for being the great man that he was!”

Lewis and dozens of other lawmakers have said they plan to boycott Trump's inauguration after Trump wrote on Twitter that Lewis was "all talk" and that his district was in "horrible shape and falling apart."

Lewis worked alongside King and other civil rights activists during the 1960s, and was severely beaten during the "Bloody Sunday" marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

"Congressman Lewis started this," Spicer told NBC's "Today" on Monday. "To see somebody of John Lewis' stature and iconic nature who has worked so hard to enfranchise people and talk about people getting involved with our voting systems, and talking about the integrity of our voting systems, to then go out when the candidate of his choice didn't win and try to talk about the delegitimization of the election, is frankly, disappointing."
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mary papenfuss Jan-15-2017 33 0
Donald Trump not only slammed Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis after the black congressman challenged the legitimacy of Trump’s coming presidency, but he also ripped Lewis’ Atlanta district as “crime infested” and in “horrible shape and falling apart.” Now Atlanta residents are furious.

“He needs to do a little more research before he opens his mouth,” local mom Monique Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If “Trump believes Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District is ‘falling apart,’ then he believes Atlanta is falling apart,” the newspaper noted, and that’s hardly the case. The economically and racially diverse district includes 750,000 people and encompasses most of the city along with some suburbs.

It’s unclear what Trump meant by “falling apart.” As for “crime infested,” Atlanta was ranked 14th in violent crime rates by the FBI in 2015. Kansas City, Missouri, ranked 8th, and Washington, D.C., ranked 12th. The 5th District includes impressive sections of wealthy areas like Buckhead, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Trump’s knee-jerk perception of Lewis’ district is similar to views he expressed during his campaign when he characterized some black communities as crime-ridden hellholes worse than Afghanistan.

Trump appears to be less concerned about accuracy in his portrayal of the 5th District and more focused on devaluing a critic’s assessment of him by evoking a negative image of a blighted black community failed by its leadership.

Lewis’ furious constituents and others flooded Twitter after Trump’s comments with responses defending their congressman and their community under hashtags such as #defendthefifth and #notsad.

Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh of Atlanta tweeted: “As someone who lives in the 5th district, I don’t think #DJT has any idea what he’s talking about. And then doubling down by insulting the civil rights hero on #MLK wknd … wow #classy.”

Some people posted photos of high-rises, beautiful homes and children playing in a park. One Twitter user quipped that Atlanta should be relieved about Trump’s attitude — because it means he probably won’t be visiting.

Trump attacked Lewis and his district after the congressman said he wouldn’t be attending the inauguration. He said he believes Trump won the White House with the help of Russian hackers.


“I think it was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected,” he said in an interview Friday on NBC for Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process.”

Lewis added: “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

Lewis, an iconic civil rights leader who was once beaten so badly by a law enforcement officer in a protest that his skull was fractured, has represented the 5th District since 1987. The NAACP has called on Trump to apologize to him. Organization President Cornell William Brooks said in a Saturday tweet that Trump’s remarks “demeaned Americans” and the rights Lewis has fought for throughout his life.


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Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) on Saturday said he will not attend Donald Trump's inauguration next week after the president-elect ripped Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

"'All talk, no action.' I stand with @repjohnlewis and I will not be attending the inauguration," Takano wrote on Twitter.

Trump took to Twitter early Saturday to slam Lewis for saying he does not see Trump as "a legitimate president."

"Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!" Trump wrote in several tweets.

The attack sparked heavy backlash from several Democratic lawmakers as well as Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who noted Lewis' prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Lewis said Friday that while he believes in forgiveness, working with Trump would be "hard."

"I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis told NBC News on Friday.
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House Republicans have shown no inclination to challenge President-elect Donald Trump on ethics matters. Instead, they are going after the federal ethics official who questioned Trump's potential conflicts of interest.

Democrats slammed the move, saying GOP lawmakers are trying to intimidate an independent watchdog for having the temerity to challenge Trump's business arrangements.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has summoned Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, to answer questions about his public comments on Trump.

This week, Shaub issued a scathing review of Trump's plan to turn over control of his business to his sons. Shaub said in a speech Wednesday that the only way Trump could avoid a conflict of interest as president would be to divest from his business and have his assets placed in a blind trust. "Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective," Shaub said of Trump.

Chaffetz sent Shaub a sternly worded letter late Thursday requesting that he sit for a transcribed interview. He said the interview would "help the committee understand how you perceive OGE's role, among other things."

"Your agency's mission is to provide clear ethics guidance, not engage in public relations," Chaffetz wrote.

In an interview, Chaffetz said Shaub is offering opinions on conflicts of interest without fully researching the circumstances. "What he's doing is highly unethical," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz said his own letter was drafted before Shaub's speech. Chaffetz said he has been trying to meet with Shaub since the fall but that Shaub has declined his invitations. "All I wanted to do is try to get him to come in and talk to us," Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz' letter cited a series of tweets by Shaub in November. In the tweets, Shaub congratulated Trump for agreeing to divest from his business — an agreement that Trump never made.

The congressman's letter did not mention Shaub's speech.

In the speech, Shaub noted that members of Trump's Cabinet — some of them very wealthy, like Trump — are required to place their assets in a blind trust. Shaub said the president should be held to the same standard. "The plan the president-elect has announced doesn't meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the past four decades has met," Shaub said.

Shaub's criticism of Trump has been echoed by several government watchdog groups and both Republican and Democratic government ethics experts. They include Norman Eisen, a former chief ethics counselor for President Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, who served in the same role for President George W. Bush.

Congressional Democrats sharply criticized Chaffetz for summoning Shaub.

"The Oversight Committee has not held one hearing, conducted one interview, or obtained one document about President-elect Donald Trump's massive global entanglements, yet it is now apparently rushing to launch an investigation of the key government official for warning against the risks caused by President-elect Donald Trump's current plans," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, then top Democrat on the committee.

Some Democrats see a coordinated effort by Republicans to undermine the office responsible for ethics reviews of Cabinet nominees and ensuring they will avoid conflicts of interests.

"Instead of honoring his committee's responsibility to hold the administration accountable, Chairman Chaffetz has appointed himself President-elect Trump's chief strongman and enforcer," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

A week ago, Shaub complained that Senate Republicans were moving ahead with confirmation hearings before Trump's choices had reached ethics agreements.

This week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., circulated an online petition that says, "It's time for the bureaucrats at the Office of Government Ethics to pick up the pace on vetting President-elect Trump's nominees for the cabinet."
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President Obama said on Friday that criticism from the left wing of his own Democratic Party helped feed into the unpopularity of Obamacare, his signature health care reform law.

Obama has been spending part of his last two weeks in office urging supporters to speak out against plans by Republicans - who will soon control both the White House and Congress - to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

At a town hall event with Vox Media, Obama acknowledged the politics have been stacked against his reforms, mainly blaming Republicans who he said refused to help make legislative fixes to Obamacare, which provides subsidies for private insurance to lower-income Americans who do not have healthcare plans at work.

But Obama also said liberals like former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders had contributed to the program's unpopularity.

During Sanders' campaign for the presidential nomination, he proposed replacing Obamacare with a government-run single-payer health insurance system based on Medicare, the government plan for elderly and disabled Americans.

"In the 'dissatisfied' column are a whole bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters who wanted a single-payer plan," Obama said in the interview.

"The problem is not that they think Obamacare is a failure. The problem is that they don't think it went far enough and that it left too many people still uncovered," Obama said.

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, agreed that many people would rather the government "take on the private insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies" and play a bigger role in providing healthcare.

"There are many millions of Americans, including many of Bernie's supporters, who don’t understand why we are the only major country on earth that does not provide healthcare as a right and they don’t understand why we pay more but get less for what we spend on healthcare," Briggs said.

Polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month showed 46% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare, while 43% have a favorable view. Americans are also split on whether the law should be repealed.

Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed to quickly repeal the law, but Obama and Democrats have argued they should reveal a replacement plan before dismantling the program.

More than 20 million previously uninsured Americans gained health coverage through Obamacare, according to the White House. Coverage was extended by expanding the Medicaid program for the poor and through online exchanges where consumers can receive income-based subsidies.
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Members of the NAACP started occupying the Mobile office of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions Tuesday, calling for him to turn down his controversial nomination to become the next U.S. Attorney General.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks led several protesters into the office after noon, and said he'd be fine with leaving in handcuffs.

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Sessions, 70, to be his Attorney General — a move that drew immediate rebukes for Sessions' history of opposing civil rights causes.

Sessions lost a nomination from President Ronald Reagan to become a federal judge after accusations that he had made racist remarks. Former colleagues said he called civil rights groups, including the NAACP, “un-American” and “communist inspired,” but said he was “okay” with the Ku Klux Klan until he learned that some members smoked marijuana.

Since then, he has earned a reputation as one of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate, and he has opposed Obamacare, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and all three of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

In a press conference before the protest, Birmingham NAACP leader Hezekiah Jackson said the black civil rights group "has chosen not to remain silent on this critical matter."

"We have found no evidence of (Sessions') ability, past or present, to be impartial and unbiased as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, especially in the areas of civil rights, voting rights and equal protection under the law," Johnson said.

There were not any arrests in the first hour of the protest, Mobile Police Public Affairs Officer Charlette Solis told the Daily News. She was not sure how many protesters were in Sessions' office.
A representative in Sessions' Mobile refused to answer questions and referred to News to the senator's Washington, D.C. office. 
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ap Dec-12-2016 89 0
Former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was sentenced Monday to a 10-year prison term by a judge who said he was "astonished" that a veteran legislator would steal government and charity funds to pay his son's debts and buy a vacation home.

Fattah, a Democrat who was born into a family of black activists in west Philadelphia, spent two decades in Congress working on housing, education, gun control and other issues of concern to his mostly poor district. Fattah and his TV anchor wife meanwhile took in more than $500,000 a year.

Yet Fattah's finances grew increasingly dire after a failed 2007 run for mayor, when he faced new campaign spending limits that led him to take an illegal $1 million loan from a friend. The trouble escalated when the friend called in the debt.

As he awaited his sentence, Fattah told the judge he had mixed emotions: saddened to find himself in court but grateful for the work he was able to do over 37 years as a state and federal lawmaker.
"I've helped tens of millions of people," said Fattah, 60. "(That) has nothing to do with the fact that I've been found on the wrong side of these questions by a jury."

Fattah lost the spring primary days before trial and resigned his seat following his June conviction. The jury found he took the $1 million loan from the chairman of Sallie Mae, the student loan corporation. He returned $400,000 of it and repaid some of the rest with federal grant money he had steered to an education nonprofit run by former aides.

The nonprofit efforts — including a NASA-funded mobile science classroom emblazoned with Fattah's name that roamed Philadelphia during the mayoral campaign — helped promote Fattah's political career, prosecutors said. Fattah was also ordered Monday to repay $600,000 to Sallie Mae and NASA.

"For someone so interested in advancing education for the disadvantaged, you had the temerity to steal from the Educational Advancement Alliance, a nonprofit supported by government funds," U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle said. "While you have done much good, you also engaged in grave and widespread criminal activity."

Four co-defendants who helped Fattah move government grants and other money between his campaign, the nonprofits and his consultants will be sentenced throughout the week.

Fattah used the money on campaign and personal expenses, the jury found. He put $23,000 in nonprofit funds toward his son's college loans and took an $18,000 bribe to try to help a friend become an ambassador. Fattah and his wife used that money for a down payment on a Poconos vacation home. They told authorities it covered the friend's purchase of a Porsche owned by Fattah's wife, but the Porsche never left their garage.

Fattah had insisted the Justice Department had been out to get him and his family for years. He plans to appeal the conviction.

"There are so many people in this courtroom and outside that owe their success — and also are able to serve the community so much better — as a result of the congressman's influence, support and inspiration," said Joseph Quinones, a one-time high school dropout who said that Fattah's encouragement led him to earn a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

The congressman's son is serving a five-year prison term in an overlapping fraud case that went to trial last year. Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr. was convicted of using fraudulently obtained business loans to fund his jet-set lifestyle.

The elder Fattah, who earned $174,000 as a congressman, is married to longtime Philadelphia news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah. They have two school-age children. Chenault-Fattah spent 25 years with WCAU-TV before she resigned after the indictment named her a participant in the bribery scheme. She was never charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Fattah's co-defendants include former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman, of Palm Springs, Florida, who had sought the ambassadorship. Two political consultants pleaded guilty and testified at trial.

Prosecutors had asked for a 17- to 21-year sentence. The judge gave Fattah until Jan. 25 to report to prison.

Fattah entered Congress in 1995. Former state Rep. Dwight Evans, a fellow Democrat, now holds his seat.
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Brooke Seipel Dec-12-2016 141 0
A West Virginia government employee who was removed from her position for a Facebook post referring to first lady Michelle Obama as an "ape in heels" will get her job back, according to recent reports.

Pamela Taylor, director of the Clay County Development Corp., was fired in early November after she said "It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I'm tired of seeing a Ape in heels."

The Clay County Development Corp. announced on Saturday that Taylor would be reinstated on Dec. 23.

The post also cost the local mayor her job. Former Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling resigned after commenting that Taylor's post "just made my day."

The post was a source of public outrage, with nearly 1,500 people demanding the resignations of both via a petition. The two have since made public apologies.
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AP Nov-15-2016 131 0
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will introduce legislation on Tuesday to get rid of the Electoral College, after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election despite leading in the popular vote.

"In my lifetime, I have seen two elections where the winner of the general election did not win the popular vote," Boxer said in a statement. "In 2012, Donald Trump tweeted, 'The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy. I couldn't agree more. One person, one vote!"

"She added that Clinton, whom she supported, is "on track to have received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history except Barack Obama."

The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately," she said.

Clinton is currently leading Trump by nearly a million votes, according to a Cook Political Report tracker of the national popular vote,  but Trump won the Electoral College, leading the former secretary of State 290-232.

According to Pew, Clinton would be the fifth person to win the popular vote, but lose the election.
Boxer's legislation would amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College. Even if it is approved by Congress it would need to be approved by three-fourths of the states within seven years before it would take effect.

Trump called the Electoral College "genius" on Tuesday morning, despite past criticism.

The tweet comes after Trump said during a "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday that he still has issues with the Electoral College.

"I'm not going to change my mind just because I won," the president-elect said. "But I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win."
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