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Trump’s top infrastructure aide is departing White House

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top infrastructure adviser is leaving the administration, a White House official told NBC News Wednesday, signaling another setback to the president’s plan to rebuild the nation’s roads, tunnels and bridges.

The adviser, DJ Gribbin, is leaving to pursue “new opportunities,” the official said.

Gribbin spent much of 2017 helping to formulate Trump’s infrastructure initiative, which was formally released in February after months of delays.

 DJ Gribbin at a Bloomberg finance briefing in New York in 2011. Jin Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The plan proposed $200 billion in new federal spending that the White House said would ultimately spur a $1.5 trillion investment over the next 10 years. It included $100 billion in “incentives” that would require local and state governments to pony up big bucks or partner with private companies to unlock federal dollars.

Democrats ripped the proposal — which has since stalled in Congress — for its outsize reliance on local and private funding.

Trump himself has appeared resigned in recent weeks to the fact that action on infrastructure — which had been a central theme of his State of the Union address in January — would be further delayed, saying at an event in Ohio last week that progress on rebuilding would “probably have to wait until after” the midterm elections.

Gribbin’s exit is just the latest in a wave of departures from the White House.

Within the past few weeks, Trump has replaced his national security adviser, secretary of state and head of the National Economic Council.

Hallie Jackson reported from Washington, and Adam Edelman from New York.

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Hard-right Republicans forming new caucus to protect ‘Anglo-Saxon political traditions’

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WASHINGTON — A group of ultra-conservative House Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, are discussing launching an “America First Caucus” that would protect “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told reporters on Friday that he’s “looking at” joining.

“There is an America First Caucus,” he said, confirming that Greene is involved.

The formation of a caucus could be another sign of an emboldened faction of House Republicans who are known for nativist ideas and have been criticized by Democrats as racist.

A seven-page organizing document that includes the group’s name and a logo, first reported by Punchbowl News, says: “America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

It adds that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.”

The document also backs infrastructure projects — a topic currently being debated in Congress — as long as they befit “the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”

Greene spokesman Nick Dyer confirmed that a platform is being written but complained about “dirty backstabbing swamp creatures” who leaked the document, and did not confirm or deny its authenticity.

“Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it’s announced to the public very soon,” Dyer said.

Gohmert said the group will focus on issues, “that will sustain us for the future,” but added that he hadn’t seen the platform language about Anglo-Saxon traditions.

“It’s not supposed to be about race at all. We’re stronger as diversified. But there are some things that help make us strong. Slavery nearly destroyed us,” he said.

He compared it to putting on one’s mask on an airplane before helping others: “If we let our country go without taking care of America and making sure we’re viable for the future, then we’re not going to be in a position to help the other countries.”

The term “America First” was used as a campaign slogan by former President Donald Trump, but received criticism because it was also used during World War II by those who opposed intervention in Europe to help stop German advances, even amid reports that Nazis were committing genocide against Jewish people.

Greene has advocated for extreme positions and dangerous conspiracy theories, including the QAnon conspiracy movement. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has condemned her for spreading “loony lies” and the Democratic-controlled House removed her from committees in February.

Punchbowl News reported that Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is also involved with the group. His office didn’t return a request for comment.

Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., was reported as a potential recruit.

His office said Moore “will not agree to join any caucus until he’s had an opportunity to research their platform, which he has not had the chance to do so with the America First Caucus and therefore has not joined.”



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Keir Starmer's Labour Party plummets as Boris Johnson doubles lead in new poll

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THE TORIES have doubled their lead over Labour in the latest YouGov poll as Boris Johnson’s party continues to enjoy favourable ratings thanks to the huge success of the Covid vaccine rollout.

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Attorney General Garland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday rescinded a Trump-era memo that curtailed the use of consent decrees that federal prosecutors have used in sweeping investigations of police departments.

Garland issued a new memorandum to all U.S. attorneys and other Justice Department leaders spelling out the new policies on civil agreements and consent decrees with state and local governments.

The memo comes as the Justice Department shifts its priorities to focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

In easing restrictions placed on the use of consent decrees, the Justice Department is making it easier for its prosecutors to use the tool to force changes at police departments and other government agencies with widespread abuse and misconduct.

The memo in particular rescinds a previous memo issued by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly before he resigned in November 2018.

Democrats have long argued the ability of the Justice Department’s civil rights division to conduct sweeping probes of police departments had been curtailed under President Donald Trump. The so-called pattern or practice investigations examine whether systemic deficiencies contribute to misconduct or enable it to persist.

“This memorandum makes clear that the Department will use all appropriate legal authorities to safeguard civil rights and protect the environment, consistent with longstanding Departmental practice and informed by the expertise of the Department’s career workforce,” Garland said.

The Justice Department didn’t totally ban pattern or practice investigations under Trump, but former Attorney General William Barr suggested they may have been previously overused.

As attorney general in the Obama administration, Eric Holder frequently criticized violent police confrontations and opened a series of civil rights investigations into local law enforcement practices. The civil rights investigations often ended with court-approved consent decrees that mandated reforms.

The consent decrees included those with the police in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown and in Baltimore following the police custody death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

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