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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 told NBC News.

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

 D.J. Gribbin speaks at the Bloomberg Link State and Municipal Finance Briefing held at Lighthouse International in New York on March 22, 2011. Jin Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The plan proposed $200 billion in new federal spending that the White House claimed will 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 his infrastructure plan would “probably have to wait until after” the midterm elections.

Meanwhile, 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.

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More than 100 Republican former officials, others to seek reforms, threaten new party



A group of more than 100 influential Republicans and others plans to release a call for reforms within the GOP and a threat to form a new party if change isn’t forthcoming, according to a person familiar with the effort.

The statement, set to be released Thursday, involves a “Call for American Renewal,” a credo that declares to “either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative,” and a set of 13 yet-to-be-revealed principles that the signatories want to see the GOP embrace.

This is not the first group to form as the pro-Trump and traditional conservative factions of the Republican party remain at loggerheads. The new effort comes as a vote looms that is expected to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from the House Republican No. 3 leadership spot for her refusal to stay silent about former President Donald Trump’s repeated election lies and his role in the Jan. 6 riot.

The move was first reported by Reuters, which cites some of the people involved: Christine Todd Whitman, Tom Ridge, former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and former GOP Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma. Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who ran as an independent during the 2016 presidential election, is also involved.

A push to try to channel anti-Trump sentiment with the “Never Trump” movement in the spring of 2016 was largely unsuccessful at the time, and none of the names backing this latest effort are currently serving as elected Republicans. However, it does come as Trump’s pull within his own party appears to have lessened. A recent NBC News poll found that 44 percent of Republicans said they support Trump more than the GOP, versus 50 percent who said they support the GOP more than the former president.

One of the organizers is Miles Taylor, a former Trump official who wrote the then-anonymous op-ed blasting the former Trump administration.

“We’re going give the GOP one last chance to get its act together and moderate, but we’re not going to hold our breath,” Taylor told NBC News. “We’re ready to get out there and fight against the radical elements in the party to try to excise those elements from within the GOP and our national politics, and to try to invest in the deeper pro-democracy bench.”

Taylor suggested this nascent movement will work to back candidates who support their principles, whether they be moderates or independents.

“Enough is enough, and the GOP has had enough time to decide whether it’s going to separate itself from a man who is a chronic loser,” he said, referring to Trump, predicting a “raging civil war” if the rest of the party doesn’t get on board.

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Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill hits roadblock with tie vote in Senate panel



WASHINGTON — Democrats hit roadblocks Tuesday as they sought to advance their massive voting and election overhaul bill to the full Senate after a long and contentious session.

A Senate Rules Committee vote to move the legislation forward concluded with a predictable 9-9 tie along party lines, trapping it in the panel until Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., makes a motion to send the measure to the full chamber.

“This is not the last you will hear. This is the beginning, as Sen. Schumer under his rights will be able to bring this bill to the floor,” Senate Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said after the vote.

But Democrats don’t have the votes to pass it — and it’s not clear they have a strategy to get there.

For now, Democrats have 49 members sponsoring the bill. The holdout is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who opposes the current version and has said he wants a bipartisan plan instead.

But Republicans made clear they have no interest in compromising on core provisions of the bill, which would establish a federal floor for voting rights by requiring states to automatically register eligible voters and offer 15 days of early voting, among other provisions.

Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., GOP senators blasted the legislation during the Tuesday markup as a federal takeover of elections by one party.

Even if Democrats unified their 50-member caucus and secured a majority for the bill, it is subject to a filibuster. And Manchin has insisted, repeatedly, that he won’t vote to abolish the 60-vote rule.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican ranking member of the committee, told reporters Tuesday that the legislation “doesn’t have any hope of passing.”

“The majority leader will have to decide if he wants to bring a bill to the floor that can’t possibly pass unless there’s a change to the Senate rules.”

Democratic leaders described the legislation as crucial to protecting American democracy from GOP-led restrictive voting laws in states like Arizona, Texas and Georgia, which some of them compared to Jim Crow.

“In democracy, when you lose an election, you try to persuade more voters to vote for you. You don’t try to ban the other side from voting,” Schumer said. “That’s what dictators do.”

The committee considered over thirty amendments, and only a handful were adopted.

They included one by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to require the attorney general to submit a report to Congress studying voting by mail for military and overseas voters, and one from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that eliminates the requirement that applicants for independent redistricting commissions disclose their affiliation with religious organizations.

Cruz also introduced amendments that failed, including one that would express a sense of the Senate condemning businesses boycotting Georgia over their new restrictive voting law. Klobuchar condemned the amendment because it stuck language in the underlying bill that said Russia interfered in the 2016 election. And Sen. Jon Ossof, D-Ga., also opposed the amendment, saying that while he is against boycotts of his state, he did not support the way the Cruz language characterized its voting law.

Klobuchar offered an amendment on behalf of Democrats to make a series of revisions to the bill, giving states waivers and flexibility to implement major pieces of it.

The amendment won the support of all Democrats, but the 9-9 tie meant it was not adopted. Aides said they could pursue the amendments on the Senate floor.

But first they’d have to break a filibuster to begin debate.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the lead sponsor of the bill, said Democrats are “having conversations” about the need to protect Americans’ constitutional right to vote. “If we can’t persuade Republicans to join us, then 50 Democrats will get in a room and figure it out,” he said.

Asked if that means getting around the filibuster, Merkley, an outspoken opponent of the 60-vote rule, said only: “Fifty Democrats will have to get in a room and figure out how to go forward.”

Toward the end of the Tuesday session, Blunt made clear his side wasn’t interested in getting the bill to the finish line.

“Your enthusiasm is not shared by us,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the ranking member, told Klobuchar.

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Border apprehensions rose slightly in April, but number of unaccompanied minors dropped



More than 178,000 immigrants were stopped at the southwest border in April, marking a 21-year high in monthly apprehensions, while the number of migrant children crossing the border without their parents fell by 12 percent, according to new numbers published Tuesday by Customs and Border Protection.

The number of monthly encounters was up slightly from March, in which Customs and Border Protection encountered just over 173,000 immigrants crossing into the United States from the border with Mexico.

The 21-year high was driven mainly by single adults attempting to cross the border illegally, according to CBP data, the vast majority of which were expelled. The Biden administration is continuing to turn back single adults and many families under an authority enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intended to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Customs and Border Protection said 62.5 percent of all immigrants encountered at the Southwest border in April were expelled under the CDC authority.

Meanwhile, the number of children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador crossing into the United States without a parent dropped from 15,918 in March – the highest number since data collection on unaccompanied children began in 2010 – to 13,962 in April.

The Biden administration has also decreased the amount of time children spend in border patrol custody. In March, more than 5,000 children were in border patrol custody, most staying over the 72-hour legal limit, spending an average of 115 days in facilities without beds or daily showers.

As of Tuesday, there were 455 children in border patrol custody, each spending an average of 28 days in those facilities.

Alleviating overcrowding in border patrol facilities has meant more children in Health and Human Services care, where they are better cared for and placed with a case manager. As of Tuesday, there were more than 20,000 children in HHS care.

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