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Democrats in uproar after Wisconsin GOP rams through power grab



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By Jane C. Timm

Hours after Republicans pushed through bills curbing the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, Wisconsin Democrats charged Wednesday that it was nothing but a naked partisan power grab denying the will of the voters and would lead to gridlock and lawsuits.

“Certainly, physically I’m tired, but I’m sort of demoralized by what took place,” state Rep. Gordon Hintz, the Assembly Democratic leader, told NBC News. “It was a bad day for democracy.”

The legislation weakens the governor’s authority, limits early voting and dilutes the attorney general’s power by requiring a legislative committee to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits. Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul campaigned on withdrawing Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Evers called the bills a “hot mess” on Wednesday, and said he’d personally call on Walker to veto the legislation. He also encouraged Wisconsin voters to pressure Walker not to sign the bills into law.

Republicans say it’s a better balance of power, while Democrats and advocates say the laws are a power grab by a GOP hellbent on limiting the power of their political rivals.

“Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on Nov. 6th,” Evers said in a statement earlier Wednesday.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat who served as the state’s attorney general as well, said the legislature’s move “lacked class.”

Doyle remarked that while former President George H.W. Bush was being praised for gracefully losing an election — famously wishing successor and rival President Bill Clinton well in a letter — the state’s Republicans were engaging partisan ploys.

“In Wisconsin, you’ve seen the Republicans go the opposite way: We’re mad, we lost, and we’re going to try and change the rules,” he told NBC News.

He said the legislation’s restrictions on the governor’s ability to staff the state jobs agency until September will make the governor’s work more challenging.

Hintz said he fears the bills will lead to gridlock because of court challenges and unintended consequences.

“Rushing through legislation on three days notice, in an all night session, always leads to unintended consequences and outcomes that you ultimately have to go back and fix. It’s a very bad way to do business,” Hintz said.

Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said that Republican legislative efforts in Wisconsin as well as in Michigan are “a dangerous assault on our democracy.”

“Changing the rules when you don’t like the outcome is a move befitting a playground bully, not elected leaders in the world’s greatest democracy. Yet unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re seeing lame-duck Republicans attempt in Wisconsin and Michigan,” she said.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who lost his re-election effort last month to Evers, was booed and heckled at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday for his support of the bills; the legislation will go into effect upon his signature.

Democrats won every statewide election including governor and attorney general and 205,000 more votes than Republicans according to Washington Post election data, but Republicans maintained a 27-seat majority in the legislature.

Hintz said the legislation — and GOP control — is thanks to partisan redistricting done by Republicans, insulating them from facing blowback at the ballot box.

“This is the government you get when you get to pick your voters,” he told NBC News.

Doyle, who retired from politics in 2011, said the week’s events in Wisconsin were a good example of the nation’s political dysfunction.

“These districts are so divided, so safe Democrat or safe Republican,” he told NBC News. “That means that you have this phenomenon where the legislatures are playing to their bases and not to the middle. And I think everybody who looks at what’s happening with our current situation in legislatures — and in Congress — would say that’s the cause of the problem.”

Shaquille Brewster contributed.

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Trump talks ‘Crazy Nancy’ Pelosi and treason at wild press conference



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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump repeatedly called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “crazy,” said former FBI Director James Comey and the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were guilty of treason, and declined to commit to raising the nation’s debt ceiling during a sprawling interaction with reporters at the White House Thursday.

Trump clashed with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Wednesday, cutting short a planned meeting on infrastructure spending because he is frustrated with congressional efforts to investigate his administration. Just after that confrontation, he told the media he would not work with Democrats on legislation until they halt their inquiries.

On Thursday, he took issue with Pelosi’s characterization of his abrupt departure from the room, saying he kept his cool.

“I was so calm,” he said. “Cryin’ Chuck, Crazy Nancy — I tell you what, I’ve been watching her. I have been watching her for a long period of time. She is not the same person. She has lost it.”

Pelosi quickly fired back.

“When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues,” she wrote on Twitter.

Asked whether his self-imposed ban on legislative action extends to budget matters, including an increase in the statutory debt limit, Trump hedged.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said, calling himself a “very capable” person. “Let them get this angst out of their belt.”

The House is pursuing multiple open investigations involving the administration, including follow-ups to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Trump has denied subpoena requests for documents and testimony from congressional committees, setting up court battles with House Democrats.

He reiterated Thursday that he believes he is the victim of a long-running effort to stop him from winning in 2016, delegitimize his presidency and remove him from office either through impeachment or by Democrats damaging him enough with investigations that he can’t be re-elected.

He has charged that some of his adversaries are guilty of treason, and he was asked Thursday to provide the names of people who should be held accountable for a crime punishable by death.

Trump answered with a list of names: Comey, McCain, former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former Justice Department official Lisa Page.

Strzok and Page exchanged text messages during the 2016 campaign — when the FBI was investigating his operation — that disparaged him, and attempted to prevent him from winning.

Now, Trump says, Democrats in Congress are continuing their efforts.

“Without the ‘treason’ word — they don’t feel they can win so they’re trying to do the thousand stabs,” he said.

Congressional Democrats say that Trump has systematically abused the power of his office by summarily rejecting valid requests for information related to their legislative duties and a possible impeachment inquiry.

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Marine Le Pen first husband: The ONE connection between husbands and new boyfriend



MARINE LE PEN’s party is tipped to top the upcoming European Parliament elections in France, leading with 24.5 percent of the French vote according to a recent poll, but what is Mrs Le Pen’s personal life like?

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Trump announces $16 billion in aid to farmers as trade war continues



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By Lauren Egan and Phil McCausland

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a $16 billion aid package for American farmers aimed at softening the financial blow created by the ongoing trade war with China.

“Our farmers will be greatly helped,” Trump said during a press event in Roosevelt Room at the White House. “The 16 billion [dollar] funds will help keep our cherished farms thriving.”

Thursday’s announcement comes as tensions continue to escalate between the U.S. and China and negotiations have largely stalled.

Earlier this month, talks between the two countries ended without a deal as Trump imposed another round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. And both Trump and President Xi Jinping of China have signaled that they are prepared for a long fight, if necessary.

Thursday’s aid package is the second bailout the Trump administration has issued in response to decreased agriculture trade with China. Last November, Trump announced $12 billion in aid to “make it up” to farmers, as he described it.

“During that time of negotiation, if everyone remembers, we had a period where China would target our farms,” Trump said Thursday. “Now is the time to insist on fair and reciprocal trade for our workers and our farmers.”

Trump added that he was “hopeful” that trade talks could begin again with China, but if that didn’t happen, “that’s fine.”

“These tariffs are paid for largely by China,” Trump continued, repeating claims that the tariffs were being paid out by China, not American importers. However, a study published Thursday by the International Monetary Fund found that the tariff revenue on Chinese goods “has been borne almost entirely” by U.S. importers.

Communities that supported Trump in the 2016 election have been some of the hardest hit by the ongoing trade war, and some say there is reason for Republicans to be concerned as the window to reach a deal with China before the 2020 election continues to narrow.

“I think President Trump is counting on his tariff bailout payments to buy support for him among farmers, but this is a bigger issue,” Richard Oswald, 69, of Langdon, Missouri, a fifth generation farmer, said in a phone interview with NBC News. “This is going to bite a lot of Republicans when it’s all set and done. I don’t think he understands the stress people are under and it shows a lack of compassion.”

The timing of the administration’s decision to roll out another bailout, as farmers are still deciding what crops to plant this season, has come under criticism from some lawmakers, especially since the aid comes with some strings.

“We want farmers to make decisions on how many acres of corn and soybeans to plant based on the market and not something the government’s doing,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters on Wednesday.

Jonathan Coppess, the former Farm Service Agency administrator and the director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program at the University of Illinois, also expressed concerns about the aid package.

“Frankly the most immediate issues they need to clear up is the requirement that you need to plant a crop to get payment. The risk of impacting planting decisions is already in place. They’re telling them explicitly that they have to plant something,” Coppess said in an interview with NBC News, cautioning the potential for a further depressed market.

In addition to the $16 billion aid funds, Trump also announced plans to roll back some regulations on farming in the coming days, although he did not provide specifics. “We’re saving our farmers and ranchers from ridiculous regulations,” Trump said Thursday.

Trump is expected to meet with Xi at the G20 summit in June.

Lauren Egan reported from Washington, and Phil McCausland reported from New York.

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