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Texas county Republicans reject outing Muslim-American vice chair over his faith

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By Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Republicans in one of the most populous counties in Texas voted Thursday to keep a Muslim doctor as their party vice chairman following infighting over some members’ claims about his beliefs.

The executive committee of the Tarrant County Republican Party voted 139-49 to reject the effort to purge Shahid Shafi, a surgeon and City Council member in suburban Fort Worth.

“This vote reaffirms the commitment by a majority of Tarrant County Republicans to our core values and moral compass, a demonstration of our allegiance to the Texas Republican Party Platform and the Constitutions of the United States and Texas, which strictly prohibit religious and racial discrimination of any kind,” Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Darl Easton said in a written statement.

“While tonight’s vote brings an end to this unfortunate episode, it also demonstrates we are a party that respects the right of those who disagree on an issue to have a seat at the table and their voices heard,” according to the statement. “Religious liberty won tonight and while that makes a great day for the Republican Party of Tarrant County, that victory also serves notice that we have much work to do unifying our party.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported at least one precinct chair, Arlington Republican Dale Attebery, was said have to tossed his ID at the lecturn after the vote. Easton said he accepted that as Attebery’s resignation.

Shafi told reporters that his faith in Tarrant County Republicans had been reaffirmed.

“As we struggled through the last few months, it would have been easy for me to quit. But I stayed on to fight,” he said. “We were fighting for religious freedom … and today we have come out victorious.”

The Thursday vote result took a stand “against bigotry of all kinds,” he said. “Our union is a little more perfect today.”

A party precinct chairwoman, Dorrie O’Brien, had led the call to oust Shafi on claims that he may be more loyal to Islamic law or connected to a terrorist group. Shafi denied both claims and other Republicans have called them bigoted.

“Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Wednesday, “and attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle.”

Other top Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, also had condemned the effort to oust him.

Cruz tweeted at one point that discriminating against Shafi because of his religion was “wrong.” The First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith, Cruz said on Twitter.

Former Tarrant County GOP leader William Busby earlier told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that some large corporate donors “don’t want to be associated with a party that’s going in the direction of excluding people based upon their religious beliefs.”

Shafi is one of two party vice chairmen and has worked for the party for about 10 years, including as a delegate to the state party convention. He’s serving a two-year term as vice chairman and his election in July drew one lone dissenting vote among the approximately 250 precinct chairmen who voted that day. That lone dissenter was O’Brien.

A handful of others have joined her in opposing Shafi. O’Brien did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

Her call to reconsider Shafi’s appointment gained traction with some party members after Tarrant County turned blue in the U.S. Senate race in November.

The State Republican Executive Committee in Austin responded to the move by passing a resolution recently that stressed Republican members across Texas have the “freedom to practice all faiths.”

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Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared Kushner almost sparked WAR in Middle East claims author

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IVANKA TRUMP’s husband is a “danger” to the US and almost sparked a war in the Middle East, the author of Kushner Inc has sensationally claimed

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Some Dems want to end the Electoral College. Trump calls it ‘very strange.’

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By Allan Smith

Some Democrats have expressed openness to drastically changing the U.S. system of government, whether it be abolishing the Electoral College or expanding the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump pushed back at Democrats, calling them “very ‘strange.'”

“They now want to change the voting age to 16, abolish the Electoral College, and Increase significantly the number of Supreme Court Justices,” he tweeted. “Actually, you’ve got to win it at the Ballot Box!”

That tweet came after a two-part defense of the Electoral College, which Trump in 2012 said was “a disaster for a democracy.” Since 2000, the presidency has twice been won by the candidate who lost the popular vote, including by Trump in 2016.

“Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College,” Trump tweeted. “It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win.”

“With the Popular Vote, you go to … just the large States — the Cities would end up running the Country,” he continued. “Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power — & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.”

Trump’s tweet came after some of the 2020 heavyweights expressed openness to or endorsed those ideas. During a CNN town hall on Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said she would back a plan to scrap the Electoral College.

“My view is that every vote matters,” Warren said. “And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College — and every vote counts.”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, addressed the idea on Tuesday while campaigning at Penn State University, saying there is “a lot of wisdom” in calls to abolish the Electoral College.

“I think there’s a lot to that. Because you had an election in 2016 where the loser got 3 million more votes than the victor,” O’Rourke said. “It puts some states out of play altogether, they don’t feel like their votes really count.”

O’Rourke had earlier said he’s open to expanding the Supreme Court.

“What if there were five justices selected by Democrats, five justices selected by Republicans, and those 10 then pick five more justices independent of those who chose the first 10?” O’Rourke said in Iowa on Thursday. “I think that’s an idea we should explore.”

That idea has been echoed by other Democratic candidates, such as Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

“I would like to start exploring a lot of options,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., added Monday. “Term limits for Supreme Court justices might be one thing.”

One idea some Democratic contenders have floated that Trump did not think was “very strange” was abolishing the Senate’s legislative filibuster — the 60 vote threshold. Trump has railed on the need for bills to have 60 votes in order to pass when legislation he desires cannot make it through the Senate.

In June, he said Republicans “must end the ridiculous 60 vote, or Filibuster, rule.”



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Necklaces, candles, baby onesies, pet names

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By Associated Press

Her family wanted a puppy, so Alicia Barnett dreamed they would find one that was smart, steady and a bit mysterious. She hoped their new addition could share a personality — and a name — with the man who has become her rather unlikely idol.

At Christmas, her teenage son brought home a 10-week-old chocolate Lab. “The strong, silent type,” Barnett observed. And then she named him Mueller, an homage to the stoic special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign played any part.

For devoted Democrats like Barnett, Robert Mueller has become a sort of folk hero since his appointment in May 2017. To them, he represents calm in the face of a storm, quiet in a city of bombast, a symbol of hope that a presidency they view as dishonorable might soon face some type of consequences.

“He gives me reassurance that all is not lost,” says Barnett, who lives with her family and Mueller the puppy in Kansas City, Kansas. “I admire his mystique. I admire that I haven’t heard his voice. He is someone who can sift through all this mess and come up with a rationale that makes sense to everyone.”

The special counsel — a 74-year-old registered Republican, Marine and former director the FBI — has even inspired his own genre of arts and crafts. One can buy Mueller paintings, prayer candles, valentines and ornaments. A necklace, earrings, keychains. A stuffed toy of Mueller in a Superman outfit, cross-stitch patterns, baby onesies — even an illustration of his haircut to hang on the wall.

A pair of Robert Mueller earrings created by Carmen Martinez and Karen Walcott in New York on Feb. 18, 2018.Kristen Blush and Carmen Martinez / via AP file

“Stare at Special Counsel Mueller’s crisp coiffure for three minutes and you will notice a sense of calm come over you,” that artist, Oakland, California-based Wayne Shellabarger, wrote in his online listing for a $10 print. “That’s a haircut you can set your watch to.”

Mueller has become a boogeyman for many of President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters, as the leader of the investigation the president derides as a “witch hunt.” But his fans often speak of him in soaring analogies. Barnett imagines him as a duck’s legs: kicking heroically to keep things afloat but under the water, out of view. Karen Adler, a Placerville, California, crafter who sells a coffee mug with Mueller dressed as a saint and wearing a crown of laurels “for victory,” describes him as “Paul Bunyan-esque,” a man of superhuman labor. Shellabarger thinks of him “almost like Bigfoot,” a mystical creature rarely seen in public.

Mueller has remained completely silent as the ceaseless speculation about his investigation turned him into one of the most famous men in America. He hasn’t given a single interview, and his office does not leak.

When Kim Six posted her cross-stitch tribute to Mueller on her Facebook page, some people told her to keep politics out of crafting. The framed stitching featured the letters “M.A.G.A.” down the side, a reference to Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan but with these words substituted: “Mueller Ain’t Going Away.” Her critics assumed she was far-left, but she considers herself a centrist, having voted in the past for moderate Republicans.

Her husband is a “card-carrying Trump fan,” says the resident of California’s Bay Area. They agree to disagree, and she thinks Americans should be able to do the same. To her, Mueller represents a middle ground where facts exist, as opposed to the ideological rants that consume political discourse.

“Let’s get all the facts on the table,” she says, “and let this impartial person come in and tell us what the truth is — not spin, just truth.”

She’s imagined findings so thorough Congress and voters would be forced to act accordingly. But as the investigation has continued on, with 34 people charged and five sentenced to prison, she’s noticed Americans retreating to their corners and rearranging the facts to fit their political position.

She’s losing faith that Mueller’s probe, whenever it does come to an end, will change anything at all.

“How naive I was,” she says. “I have this fear, no matter what happens, either side is going to spin it the way they want to. So I don’t know anymore if he’s the coming savior we had hoped for.”

Carmen Martinez feels doubt, too. She and her business partner in New York City have sold 500 Christmas ornaments and earrings with Mueller’s face. They tend to get a rush of orders after major Mueller news: indictments, sentencings. Martinez saw him as the one person who could lead the country out of chaos with truth, and believed his report would push everyone to turn away from Trumpism.

But Martinez, a Peruvian immigrant, was shocked last year by the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexico border. She started to wonder: If images of children in cages don’t sway many minds, how could Mueller’s report, just words on paper?

Others remain hopeful: “I feel like we’re in the middle of a book, like a saga,” says Janice Harris, a textile artist in Detroit. “And we’re just waiting for the climax.”

She was never a particularly political person before Trump’s election — much of her work featured kittens or dancers. But she was inspired to immortalize Mueller on handmade makeup bags. She had custom fabric printed with Mueller’s face, stitched it into her pouches and sold around 50.

Wayne Shellabarger has sold two prints of his Mueller haircut illustration. One happy customer wrote that using the print as a meditation aide allowed her to stop taking anti-anxiety medication.

“The world has gone completely insane and topsy-turvy,” Shellabarger says. “Mueller’s hair is one little shining piece of sanity in a sea of madness, so precise and sober and straightforward and without deceit, absolutely by the book, the opposite of everything that’s going on in the world.”

He hung one of the haircut prints in his own living room in Oakland, California — close to the television, so when he watches the news and his heart starts to pound, he can glance up at it.

There is such a thing as fact, it reminds him.

“And that gives me hope,” Shellabarger says, “that since he’s in charge, the world can be normal again.”

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