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POLITICS 06/18/2019 09:18 pm ET Updated 23 hours ago

By Nick Visser and Christopher Mathias
Donald Trump Officially Launches 2020 Reelection Campaign In Orlando
The president has planned to run for a second term since his inauguration.

ORLANDO, Fla. ― President Donald Trump formally launched his reelection campaign at a packed-to-the-rafters rally in Orlando on Tuesday, officially moving to continue one of the most divisive administrations in modern history for four more years.
“We’re going to keep on fighting for every man, women and child across this land. We’re going to keep [America] better than ever before,” Trump said to a chorus of cheers. “That is why, tonight, I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States.”
During his announcement, the president brushed off any residual damage from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election and praised his supporters for defending him throughout what he referred to as a “great hoax” and an “illegal witch hunt” meant to erase their votes.
He hit many familiar talking points during the event, championing his efforts to install conservative judges around the nation, lambasting former Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and drumming up support for his wall along the southern U.S. border. At times, the crowd of 20,000 joined in with chants and jeers, waving Trump 2020 signs while sporting red MAGA hats.
“Our future has never, ever looked brighter or sharper,” the president said. “The fact is the American dream is back, it’s bigger and better and stronger than ever before. 2016 was not merely another four-year election, this was a defining moment in American history.” Throughout his speech, Trump brushed off any potential challenges from the crowded field of Democrats hoping to unseat him, declaring the party “more radical, more dangerous and more unhinged than at any point in the modern history of our country.” “No matter what label they use, a vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream,” Trump said. “So don’t ever forget this election is about you, it’s about your family, your future and the fate of your country.”
“I have news for the Democrats,” he said earlier. “We are not going back, we are going on to victory.”
Thousands of Trump supporters waited for hours in the heat and rain Tuesday to get inside the Amway Arena in downtown Orlando. Some, like 37-year-old Daniel McQuarrie and his daughter, even slept outside the arena overnight so they could get front row seats for the president’s official campaign kickoff.
“I just wanna be a patriot and support our president,” said McQuarrie, a Disney employee from Port St. John, Florida. “It’s something historic that we’ll never forget.”
McQuarrie, who wore a T-shirt from the conspiracy website InfoWars, added that he thought Trump is “doing his best to drain the swamp” and fight “the globalists.”
There was certainty among many of the president’s supporters that Trump is sure to win in 2020, the most recent polls be damned. Almost none had Trump winning in 2016. Why trust them now? Before the president took to the stage Tuesday, his adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., took turns riling up the crowd.
Trump Jr. lashed out at the media, lamenting how his dad gets “95 percent negative coverage.” The crowd jeered and broke into chants of “CNN sucks!”
“If you’re a Democrat, you get a pass on everything,” Trump Jr. said, adding that “it’s not even close to a fair fight.”
Tuesday’s announcement has been a long time coming.
While the Orlando visit has been touted as a “kickoff,” Trump’s reelection campaign actually began on Jan. 20, 2017 ― the day of his inauguration —when he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. No other presidential victor has kept his campaign alive in this fashion. Barack Obama did not start his reelection campaign until April 2011 and George W. Bush waited until May of 2003.
Trump also broke with precedent in other ways, holding his first campaign-style rally as president three weeks after he took the oath of office, on Feb. 18, 2017, at a Melbourne, Florida, airport hangar, just 68 miles away from downtown Orlando. He’s held more than 60 rallies around the country since, many before the 2018 midterm elections.
Trump’s paperwork renewing his campaign committee allowed him to collect donations and spend money for an election three years and 10 months away. It also permitted him to continue diverting some of those donations into his own private businesses, which he still controls and from which he still profits.
In that same time period, the Republican National Committee, which Trump effectively took over at his nominating convention in 2016, spent $690,181 at Trump’s golf resort in Doral, Florida; $403,259 at his hotel in Washington, D.C.; and $289,335 at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
In all, the Trump campaign and the RNC together have funneled $4,341,083 to Trump businesses since Trump took office, with some of that going directly into the president’s own pocket.
S.V. Date contributed reporting.
Nick Visser
Senior Reporter, HuffPost
Christopher Mathias
Senior Reporter, HuffPost

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Ok by now we should all realize that “BOTCH” McConnell is against reparations for Black Americans or perhaps we should say all nonwhite Americans (the native Americans were equally deprived). Think about this: what if it was White Americans who were deprived those 150 years ago? Uncle Botch would be all over it. The statement that none of us are responsible for it is a fallacy since I am sure “botch’s “ background is why he made the past President’s job so hard and was unwilling to assist in creating a proper Healthcare bill and is tacitly supporting this miscreant President. Mr. Graham’s input about the issue being too divisive rings hollow as the division has been supported by him in his support of TOTUS. Another Miscreant who is not doing his job MA
By Jordain Carney – 06/18/19 02:42 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that he does not support reparations for descendants of slaves, a topic that has become a point of debate in the 2020 election cycle.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” McConnell said. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African American president.”

McConnell was asked about reparations during a weekly press conference, which comes a day before the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first hearing on the issue in a decade.
“I think we’re always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it — first of all it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. … No, I don’t think reparations are a good idea,” McConnell continued.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is holding the hearing Wednesday “to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reintroduced legislation that was initially spearheaded by former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) that calls for a study on reparations.
The issue has become a topic of debate in the Democratic presidential primary.
Several 2020 candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said while speaking at the National Action Network event earlier this year that they would sign a bill forming a reparation study commission into law if they become president.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation in the Senate that mirrors Jackson Lee’s legislation. Though it would form a commission and does not call for African Americans to receive payments.
Booker’s office announced last week that his bill has received 12 co-sponsors, including several 2020 candidates.
But the legislation is unlikely to move in the GOP-controlled Senate or in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I think it’s too remote in time. I think it’s too divisive,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters earlier this year.

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Mike Pompeo apparently has his Head up his butt along with TOTUS. MA.

Hayley Miller, HuffPost 23 hours ago
Trump Would Accept Foreign Information on 2020 Opponent
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday was none too pleased when Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked him about President Donald Trump’s remarks last week stating he’d accept information about a political rival from a foreign government.
The president drew backlash from Democrats and some Republicans when he stated during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he would likely “take” such opposition research. (Accepting election help from foreign governments is illegal.)
But Pompeo, a former CIA director, shrugged off Trump’s eyebrow-raising statement after Wallace asked him if accepting such information from a foreign government is right or wrong.
“Chris, you know, you asked me not to call any of your questions today ridiculous,” Pompeo said. “You came really close right there. President Trump has been very clear. He clarified his remarks later.”
Wallace said he agreed that Trump “kind of walked it back” when he told “Fox & Friends” on Friday that he would listen to the information first and then bring it to the FBI or the attorney general.
Trump told Stephanopoulos, in a clip of an interview that aired Wednesday, that he didn’t consider opposition research from a foreign government to be foreign interference in an election.
“They have information,” the president said. “I think I’d take it.”

After playing a clip of Trump’s remarks to ABC News, Wallace again pressed Pompeo, noting that the U.S. has a long history of describing foreign interference in our election as unacceptable.
“Chris, President Trump believes that too,” Pompeo said. “I have nothing further to add. I came on to talk about foreign policy and I think that’s the third time you’ve asked me about a Washington piece of silliness.”
But Democrats and several Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), scolded Trump over his remarks to ABC News on foreign intelligence.
The interview prompted Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub to issue a statement warning politicians that it’s illegal to accept information from a foreign national linked to an election in the U.S.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” she wrote. “This is not a novel concept.”
Wallace on Sunday also asked Pompeo about reports of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother being assassinated for being an informant for the CIA, but the secretary of state declined to comment “on intelligence matters in any way.”
“The American people should rest assured,” Pompeo said. “The United States is taking all the actions that it needs to take to make sure we understand the risks and the threats that are posed by North Korea.”
Wallace noted that Trump said last week that he opposes the use of CIA informants to spy on Kim’s regime.
“I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices,” he told reporters outside the White House.
Asked why Trump wouldn’t allow U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on North Korea, Pompeo danced around the question.
“We’re taking all the efforts necessary to make sure we know what’s going on all around the world,” he said. “That includes every country, Chris.”

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“Botch” McConnell apparently is following his same line of defense on all things that benefits the American People, after the fact statements of what he is doing now as what he did (supposedly) before. Mr. slow walk anything that is good for the people and fast walk everything that is good for him and his $ backers.  He is careful to not speak a lot as he could equal TOTUS in the numbers on the lying scale. Shouldn’t the entire Congress  be bent out of shape on this too? MA
Hayley Miller,HuffPost 58 minutes ago
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday fired back at Jon Stewart after the comedian accused him of dragging his feet on legislation that would benefit first responders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, tore into Republican lawmakers during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” for their reluctance to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which is facing a significant funding lapse.
“I want to make it clear that this has never been dealt with compassionately by Sen. McConnell,” Stewart told Fox News, referring to past VCF legislation. “He has always held out to the very last minute, and only then, under intense lobbying and public shaming, has he even deigned to move on it.”

The hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Monday asked McConnell about Stewart’s criticism and why congressional votes on the fund often occur at the “last minute.”
“Well, many things that Congress have at the last minute,” McConnell said. “We’ve never failed to address this issue. And we will address it again. I don’t know why he’s all bent out of shape.”
Host Steve Doocy noted that Stewart was outraged that so few members attended a House subcommittee hearing about the bill last week, where he gave an emotional testimony about the needs of 9/11 responders and their families. Out of the subcommittee’s 14 members, just half showed up, CBS News reported.
“Well, that frequently happens because members have a lot of things going on at the same time,” McConnell said. “It sounds to me like he’s looking for some way to take offense. There’s no way we won’t address this problem appropriately.”
Asked if the VCF will be fully funded, McConnell said yes.

The Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019 would ensure the fund can deliver benefits to 9/11 responders for the next 70 years. Stewart has visited Capitol Hill several times in recent months to advocate on behalf of the fund’s beneficiaries.
Roughly 45,000 people are suffering from at least one 9/11-related chronic health condition and more than 10,000 have been certified with a 9/11-related cancer, Stewart wrote in an op-ed for the New York Daily News in February.
The Justice Department announced earlier that month that a lack of funding for the VCF would lead to compensation cuts as large 50 to 70 percent. A total of 835 awards have been reduced as of May 31, The Associated Press reported.
“Your indifference is costing these men and women their most valuable commodity: time,” Stewart told lawmakers on Tuesday. “It’s the one thing they’re running out of.”
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday. Before heading to the Senate, the proposed legislation will need to pass a full House vote, which has been scheduled for July.

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Unfortunately, the Republican Party we see today is not the same party that those men once led. Hell, it’s not really even the “party of Ronald Reagan” anymore. Unless you believe that a president who raised taxes during six of his eight years in office; signed an amnesty bill giving illegal immigrants citizenship; passed a ban on automatic weapons; and supported the assault weapons ban signed by Bill Clinton would get elected by today’s Republican standards.Whether many will admit it or not, today’s GOP is the party of Donald Trump.This is a man who was called a fraud, a con man, a pathological liar and a cancer to conservatism by many of the people who support him today. While infighting is common during a primary, the insults Trump’s fellow Republicans used to describe him went far behind the typical political attacks. These were deeply personal jabs people like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Perry took at Donald Trump.

Well, while doing some research, I found a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that perfectly demonstrates how far the GOP has fallen from the days when it was a party actually led by great people:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

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Marissa Laliberte 3/6/2019

We’ve all had it happen: You look at your phone and notice a missed call from a familiar-looking number that isn’t in your contacts. Your first instinct might be to call back and see who it was, but that’s the last thing you should do. You might assume calling back is safe because a number happens to be from your area code. Is it your doctor? Your kid’s principal? A neighbor? Unfortunately, the answer is probably none of those, says Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout and author of Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves. Scammers ‘are adept at spoofing phone numbers for caller ID purposes,’ he says. So just because a number shares your area code doesn’t mean the caller is from your town. Crooks purposely use familiar area codes to gain your trust. Don’t miss these other sneaky ways con artists win your trust.
You’d probably ignore an 800 number, but a number that comes from your hometown seems more likely to be someone you know. ‘People are curious and they’re counting on that,’ says Levin. ‘It’s the concept that people think may have missed an important call.’ At the very least, answering the phone or calling back makes you vulnerable to future scams, says Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of Identity Theft Resource Center. ‘When you call back not only are you verifying the number is attached to a real person but that you’re willing to make the effort in calling back an unknown number,’ she says. ‘This puts you at risk for scammers to call you at a different time and try to scam you with another ploy.’ Want to get rid of some of the stress of calls from unknown numbers? Learn how to stop robocalls for good. And at worst? For one thing, scammers could convince you to give out personal information, like your credit card or Social Security number. Even if you don’t give out personal information to the other line, though, that call could cost you major money. The numbers are sometimes hooked up with 900 numbers such as sex lines that charge by the minute—and it adds up fast, says Levin. ‘You’re paying $17 and change for the first minute, and $9 and change for every minute after that,’ he says. Plus, even just answering this four-word phrase phone scammers use with a one-word reply could let them steal your money without asking for more information. In general, you’re better off ignoring an unknown number and forgetting about it, says Velasquez. ‘Any important news will be left in your voicemail,’ she says. Be careful even if the person does leave a message, though. Just like scammers can pose as a credit card company when you answer, they can leave an important-sounding voicemail, too. So if your bank leaves a voicemail, don’t just call back the number from the missed call. Find the official number online and dial that, suggests Levin. ‘Never trust—always verify,’ he says. Watch out for these other phone call scams that could steal your money.
The post This Is Why You Should Never Call Back an Unknown Number appeared first on Reader’s Digest.

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TOTUS has now become the modern day “Cassandra” in spite of his ongoing failures including the chaos created crises and subsequent failures to correct them. As always when in doubt-lie! MA

Ros Krasny 8 hrs ago

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump, gearing up for the official start of his 2020 campaign, warned that the U.S. would face an epic stock market crash if he’s not re-elected.

“If anyone but me takes over,” Trump told his 61 million Twitter followers on Saturday, “there will be a Market Crash the likes of which has not been seen before!”
Trump officially starts his 2020 campaign on Tuesday with a rally in Orlando, Florida, and appears to be road-testing some of the themes he’ll be touching on in the next 18 months, including stoking fear of a market meltdown. “Tuesday will be a Big Crowd and Big Day,” he said in another tweet.

The president has claimed several times this year and as recently as Friday in a “Fox & Friends” interview that the U.S. stock market would be 5,000 to 10,000 points higher if the Federal Reserve hadn’t raised interest rates four times in 2018.
He also tweeted in February that “had the opposition party” won in 2016, “the Stock Market would be down at least 10,000 points by now” — an unprovable assertion. And in January Trump suggested that if “you want to see a Stock Market Crash, Impeach Trump.”
“We have never had a president so aware of where the stock market is and how much it is up or down on the year,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank NA, said in an email. “Better buckle up, equity investors.”
Research by Macrotrends shows the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s performance so far in Trump’s term has been middling compared with his predecessors, and trails the gains made under Democrats Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. It’s a touch above the gains logged under Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush; George W. Bush had presided over a losing market at this point in his first term.
The benchmark S&P 500 index made a record high in early May before slipping in the face of Trump’s stepped-up trade war with China. The more narrow DJIA, whose performance Trump likes to reference, last peaked more than eight months ago, on Oct. 3.
The Dow posted 71 record high closes in 2017, starting within a week of Trump’s inauguration, and another 15 in 2018, helped by the passage of a Republican tax bill. The index made 122 record high closes during Obama’s second term, after recovering from losses suffered during the recession of 2007-2009.
As Trump kicks off his re-election campaign, the chances of a recession starting in the U.S. within the next year have risen to 30% from 25% a month ago, according to a June 7-12 survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg News. Recent figures have shown slowing job gains, and Trump’s tariff threats are weighing on business sentiment. The rising U.S. budget deficit and national debt have also raised alarm bells.
(Updates with analyst comment, economist survey from sixth paragraph.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Ros Krasny in Washington at rkrasny1@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Ian Fisher, Steve Geimann
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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The Tariff King is not winning the war and the American economy is taking the hit! MA 
By Rishi Iyengar, CNN Business
2 hrs ago

India just increased tariffs on US exports, dealing another blow to fragile global trade.
The tariffs on several US products will go into effect on June 16, India’s Finance Ministry said in a statement Saturday. The goods targeted include American apples — which will be hit with a 70% tariff — as well as almonds, lentils and several chemical products.
India first announced plans to impose new tariffs a year ago in retaliation for increased US import duties on Indian steel and aluminum. But it repeatedly delayed imposing them while the two sides held a series of trade talks.
The Indian government did not specify the value of the goods targeted in its statement, but previously told the World Trade Organization that they were worth around $241 million.
The two countries exchange goods and services worth about $142 billion a year, but the relationship has soured in recent weeks after the Trump administration ended India’s participation in a preferential trade program earlier this month. The program exempted Indian goods worth more than $6 billion from US import duties in 2018.
One of President Donald Trump’s biggest priorities has been reducing the United States’ trade deficits with countries around the world. Last month, his administration increased tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it’s threatening to target another $300 billion of exports from the world’s second-largest economy. Business is warning of damage to the US economy.
Tensions have been rising since the United States ended India’s participation in a preferential trade program this month.
India runs a small surplus in goods trade with the United States, exporting around $54 billion to the United States in 2018 and buying about $33 billion worth of American goods, according to US government data.
Trump has repeatedly slammed India’s tariffs on products like motorcycles and whiskey, and his decision to revoke trade privileges for India followed complaints from American dairy farmers and medical device manufacturers that tariffs imposed by New Delhi were hurting their exports.

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It seems that “unfair” to TOTUS means “we got caught” lying again. This the pattern of this administration, keep lying until someone believes us, even when the truth is known. Can’t violate ethics when you have none.MA

POLITICS 06/14/2019 11:30 am ET
By Julian Shen-Berro

The president defended his adviser after a federal watchdog recommended her ouster for repeated Hatch Act violations.
President Donald Trump defended senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Friday after an independent federal watchdog said she should be fired for repeatedly violating a law prohibiting government employees from political campaigning.
Trump tried to frame what a U.S. Office of Special Counsel report called Conway’s “disregard for the law” as a First Amendment issue and said he won’t remove her from his staff.

“It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech and that’s just not fair,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “It really sounds to me like a free speech thing. It doesn’t sound fair.”
The Office of Special Counsel, which is different from the Justice Department office once operated by Robert Mueller, sent a report to Trump on Thursday outlining numerous occasions in which Conway violated the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity on TV and in social media.
Trump’s defense of his aide followed a White House statement attacking the Office of Special Counsel and accusing the agency of attempting to “weaponize” the Hatch Act and violate Conway’s “constitutional rights.”
The Supreme Court has long upheld the constitutionality of the Hatch Act, enacted in 1939.
When asked directly if he would follow the recommendation that Conway be removed from federal service, Trump said he would not.
“No, I’m not going to fire her,” he said. “I think she’s a terrific person. She’s a tremendous spokesperson.”
Trump added that he wouldn’t admonish Conway to stop criticizing other presidential candidates, telling host Brian Kilmeade, “It doesn’t work that way.”
“Biden was one of the people that she was accused of criticizing, but he criticized me, and we then criticized him, or she criticized him,” Trump said, referring to 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

The president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, but not White House staffers like Conway.
The Office of Special Counsel report says that Conway, in her official capacity as a federal employee, “engaged in a pattern of partisan attacks on several Democratic Party candidates shortly after they announced their candidacy for President.”
The office also concluded in a report in March that Conway had unlawfully advocated for and against Senate candidates during the 2017 Alabama election. The latest report cites Conway’s remarks in an interview last month mocking the law.
“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” Conway said in the interview. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”
The Hatch Act has no criminal penalties. But if Conway’s violations go unpunished, the report says, it “would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions”
Trump said he’s going to get “a very strong briefing” on the report. “I’ll see, but it seems to me to be very unfair.”

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“Botch” continues to move the country in the direction that benefits him and him alone. MA

MSN news

By Tanya Snyder and Tucker Doherty 16 hrs ago
The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.
Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications.
Beginning in April 2017, Inman and Chao met annually with a delegation from Owensboro, Ky., a river port with long connections to McConnell, including a plaza named in his honor. At the meetings, according to participants, the secretary and the local officials discussed two projects of special importance to the river city of 59,809 people — a plan to upgrade road connections to a commercial riverport and a proposal to expedite reclassifying a local parkway as an Interstate spur, a move that could persuade private businesses to locate in Owensboro.
Inman, himself a longtime Owensboro resident and onetime mayoral candidate who is now Chao’s chief of staff, followed up the 2017 meeting by emailing the riverport authority on how to improve its application. He also discussed the project by phone with Al Mattingly, the chief executive of Daviess County, which includes Owensboro, who suggested Inman was instrumental in the process.
“Todd probably smoothed the way, I mean, you know, used his influence,” Mattingly said in a POLITICO interview. “Everybody says that projects stand on their own merit, right? So if I’ve got 10 projects, and they’re all equal, where do you go to break the tie?”
“Well, let’s put it this way: I only have her ear an hour when I go to visit her once a year,” he added of Chao and Inman, a longtime Bluegrass State operative who had worked as McConnell’s advance man. “With a local guy, he has her ear 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You tell me.”
The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.
Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other.
“Where a Cabinet secretary is doing things that are going to help her husband get reelected, that starts to rise to the level of feeling more like corruption to the average American. … I do think there are people who will see that as sort of ‘swamp behavior,’” said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied political influence in federal grant-making.
In fact, days after launching his 2020 reelection campaign McConnell asked Owensboro’s mayor to set up a luncheon with business and political leaders at which the senator claimed credit for delivering the grant.
“How about that $11 million BUILD grant?” McConnell asked the crowd rhetorically, according to the Owensboro Times. He then recalled his role in securing earlier grants to the city, adding, “It’s done a lot to transform Owensboro, and I was really happy to have played a role in that.”
McConnell’s role — along with Chao’s and Inman’s — was also celebrated by local officials when the $11.5 million grant was approved — to much local fanfare in December 2018.
“Firstly, we are thankful that we had such good associations built with Sen. McConnell and the U.S. Department of Transportation because without them it wouldn’t have happened,” declared Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson, standing alongside three other local officials at a news conference celebrating the grant award.
“We’re just really grateful and thankful to Sen. McConnell and Secretary Chao and our own Todd Inman,” added Mattingly.
Owensboro wasn’t the only beneficiary of Inman’s assistance. He also communicated with McConnell’s office about multiple requests from county executives to meet with Chao to speak about potential projects in Kentucky, according to emails which, like the others, were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog group American Oversight.
One of those executives, Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, met with Chao in December 2017. Moore’s request, a $67 million discretionary grant to upgrade roads in rural Boone County, another McConnell stronghold northeast of Louisville, was ultimately approved in June 2018.
Chao declined to comment for this story, and neither she nor Inman addressed questions about his role as intermediary between the department and Kentucky.
Inman said in a statement, “I’m proud to work for the Secretary and it’s an honor to work at the Department of Transportation, especially as this Administration is prioritizing infrastructure investments and meeting with people from all 50 states to discuss their needs. Our team of dedicated career staff does an outstanding job evaluating hundreds of applications for these highly competitive grant programs, a thorough process developed well before this Administration.”
The Transportation Department, through a spokesperson, said that “No state receives special treatment from DOT,” noting that Kentucky is 26th in population and 25th in DOT money in the Trump years. Of 169 grants awarded during Chao’s tenure, the spokesperson said, Kentucky received five.
“The evaluation process, which is well known, originates with dedicated career staff thoroughly reviewing applications before senior review teams are involved,” the spokesperson said. “This evaluation takes thousands of hours across our discretionary grant programs. Similarly, a team of career staff handles cost-benefit and project readiness review. Discretionary grant programs are competitive and based on merit and how well the projects align with selection criteria.”
Nonetheless, one former career official who was involved in the grant review process under multiple administrations, said that once the findings of the professional staff are presented to the secretary’s office, politics often plays a role in who gets the money.
Putting a thumb on the scale for a favored project, the official said, “is really, very common, I would say across parties.”
“It’s always going to be political,” the former official, who spoke without attribution for fear of reprisals, added. “We have a merit-based process that we essentially ignore, [and] it’s really detrimental to meeting national transportation needs and having people feel like the process is worth engaging in.”
Virginia Canter, a former White House associate counsel under Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and current ethics counsel for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said showing political favoritism in awarding grants violates ethical standards. And when a potential beneficiary is a spouse, there’s an extra level of concern.
“There’s a standard for government employees; they’re expected to be impartial,” said Canter. “When you have a spouse who’s the head of an agency and the other spouse is a leading member of Congress — and their office is referring matters to the department, and they’re flagging things from donors, from people with particular political affiliations, who are quote-unquote ‘friends’ — it raises the question of whether the office, instead of being used purely for official purposes, is being used for political purposes.
“The fact that they’re both in these very important positions gives them the opportunity to be watching out for each other’s political and professional interests,” Canter said. “Anytime a member of Congress can bring home funding to his or her community it could make a difference. It shows the member is being responsive.”
McConnell, for his part, did not address questions about potential conflicts of interest in dealing with his wife’s department, instead touting his own clout.
“Every single day, Kentuckians from across the Commonwealth contact me with their concerns,” he told POLITICO in an emailed statement. “As Senate Majority Leader and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I am able to ensure that these issues — both large and small — are part of the national discussion. Kentucky continues to punch above its weight in Washington, and I am proud to be a strong voice for my constituents in the Senate.”
In his political career, McConnell has often touted specific grants as proof of his understanding of community needs.
McConnell has long had a special relationship with Owensboro, whose location on a bend of the Ohio River had once made it an ideal hub for manufacturing and agriculture. At the beginning of McConnell’s Senate career in the late 1980s, the decline of the tobacco industry and the rise of shopping malls far from the city center left Owensboro’s downtown dotted with boarded-up storefronts and empty streets that had once bustled decades earlier.
As McConnell rose to power in the national Republican Party in the 1990s and 2000s, he secured funds for Owensboro, earning him goodwill that helped him survive a close election in the 2008 Democratic wave. But after congressional Republicans banned earmarks in 2011, McConnell was forced to find other ways to bring federal resources back home.
Today, Owensboro’s growing downtown stands as a symbol of his success. City landmarks, street signs and plaques tout the senator’s role in helping revitalize downtown, especially along the city’s impressive new riverfront esplanade.
McConnell’s involvement with Owensboro began in earnest after 2003, when then-Owensboro Mayor Waymond Morris and future mayor, Ron Payne, visited McConnell at his Washington office and showed him a photograph of the eroding riverbank. The next year, the city rededicated a portion of the riverfront as “McConnell Plaza” and used more than $1 million in city funds to build a riverside park with ample green space, winding brick paths and outdoor seating for events like the town’s annual barbecue festival.
The city’s courting paid off in July 2005, when McConnell phoned new mayor, Tom Watson, and explained that he had secured $40 million in federal funds to overhaul the riverbank.
“Finally, at the end I said, ‘Can I ask you one question? Did you say $40 million?’” Watson told POLITICO. “And he laughed and hung up. I was stunned.”
Owensboro used the federal windfall as seed money for an ambitious overhaul of the entire riverfront, borrowing tens of millions of additional dollars to bring it to fruition over the next several years.
A Riverwalk with pavilions and cascading fountains was installed, anchored on one end by a massive and elaborately designed playground named the best in the world by Landscape Architects Network — complete with oversized artificial tree sculptures, climbing walls, a concession stand, free Wi-Fi and rubber turf. A nearby plaque marking the playground’s rededication gives “special thanks to Senator Mitch McConnell.”
At the other end, a sparkling 184,000-square-foot convention center was erected at a cost of more than $50 million dollars — roughly twice the town’s initial budget for the project — in a bid to bring large conventions and other business to the downtown area. In stark contrast, a rusting one-story auto repair shop sits across the street, a reminder of the earlier decay.
McConnell’s support for Owensboro did not end at the riverfront. Mayor Watson recalled taking McConnell on a tour of the town’s aging H.L. Neblett Community Center, when suddenly water leaked through the roof, hitting McConnell’s ear and trickling down his shirt. Watson turned to the senator and suggested that the center needed a new roof. McConnell replied that it needed a new building — and then secured $3 million for renovations when he returned to Washington.
City officials also credit McConnell for serving Owensboro’s interests on national issues, including federal subsidies that kept airlines flying to Owensboro’s regional airport, as well as more recent efforts to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity — a potential replacement for the city’s dying tobacco trade.
After stepping down for several years to focus on his prosthetics business, Watson was reelected as mayor in 2016. By then, the city’s riverfront investments were beginning to pay off. The downtown revitalization project mitigated the effects of the Great Recession in Owensboro and helped the city outpace Kentucky and United States overall in employment growth.
The city was still eyeing more projects to build on the earlier investments, but Owensboro’s remaining debt and scarce state resources limited the available funding options. Once again, the town turned to the federal government for support.
“The only money that’s still being circulated comes from Washington,” Watson explained.
In particular, the city wanted to widen and improve a section of Kentucky Highway 331 that connected the port’s river and rail shipping facilities to the federal highway system. Local homeowners and drivers complained that the highway’s two narrow lanes and limited sightlines throttled capacity and put local residents at risk.
In the post-earmark era, officials saw the federal Department of Transportation’s grant programs as their best bet to secure more funds, and believed their project had the merit to win in a competitive evaluation process. But success eluded them.
The city submitted its first grant application during the final months of the Obama administration, under a freight and highway improvement program called FASTLANE. But after a technical review by career DOT staff, the city’s application was passed over in favor of other projects.
According to Mattingly, local officials were undeterred and saw Chao’s appointment as Transportation secretary — and Owensboro local Todd Inman’s new role as director of operations in her office — as a valuable connection moving forward.
Back in Washington, Inman encouraged that perception. In a February 2017 email to McConnell’s chief of staff, he wrote, “The Secretary has indicated if you have a Ky-specific issue that we should flag for her attention to please continue to go through your normal channels but feel free to contact me directly as well so we can monitor or follow up as necessary.”
Owensboro submitted a second grant application in the first year of the Trump administration under the department’s INFRA grant program — the new administration’s successor to FASTLANE — which was likewise unsuccessful. Weeks before that application was due, McConnell’s office emailed members of Chao’s staff with the Owensboro Riverport Authority CEO’s contact information, requesting technical assistance for the riverport’s grant application. Derek Kan, Chao’s undersecretary for policy, forwarded the request to his deputy, who confirmed that they were following up.
Finally, in 2018, the riverport resubmitted a third time under the department’s BUILD program, a competitive infrastructure grant program that began under the Obama administration’s economic stimulus law. This time, the application was successful. City officials held a December news conference in front of a Christmas tree in City Hall announcing the $11.5 million federal award.
Four months later, as McConnell prepared to launch his reelection campaign, he called Mayor Watson and asked him to pull together a group of political and business leaders at the riverport to tout his role in getting Owensboro the grant award, Watson said. On April 22, within days of officially launching his 2020 campaign, the Senate majority leader stood inside a riverport building and celebrated his achievements.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to see what the riverfront has spawned,” McConnell told the assembled crowd. “Not only the project itself, but all around it.”
* * *
Inman, who is 48, grew up in Marshall County, Ky., about a two-hour drive from Owensboro. Soon after graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1993, he moved to Owensboro, where he ran a small insurance business from 1994 to 2017, according to his LinkedIn page.
He also became involved in Republican politics, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Owensboro in 2004 and doing advance work and event planning for statewide GOP candidates. He worked on McConnell’s campaigns in 2008 and 2014 and then became the deputy state director for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in Kentucky.
Two days after Trump’s inauguration, Inman excitedly announced his new job in the administration in a Facebook post picked up by local media.
“It’s with great honor but also sadness that on Friday I accepted a Presidential appointment to work for the Honorable Elaine L. Chao as a Director in the cabinet of the United States Department of Transportation,” Inman wrote, according to the local radio station WBKR. “While this means I must leave my family friends and business in Owensboro it is humbling to know I can be of service to our country … I look forward to the coming years of helping to support the secretary in her leadership of the Department of Transportation … ”
His first posting was as director of operations, from which he helped steer requests for grant assistance from McConnell’s office — at Chao’s direction, according to the emails.
“Cabinet members are known to be preferential to their own home state,” said Hudak, the Brookings scholar who has studied political influence in federal grant-making, adding that they tend to prioritize the home states of congressional leaders as well, “so you can have a sort of doubling effect.”
“There’s nothing illegal about her steering those funds to her husband’s home state, and her home state, as long as things are aboveboard,” Hudak said. “The question though is, how do you deal with conflicts of interests? And this is a clear conflict. … Even if it’s not legally so, these are political offices, so the optics of this are important. In a business setting, you would put firewalls up to prevent those types of bad optics.”
McConnell, however, is making no effort to hide his influence as he ramps up his reelection effort. Though the Bluegrass State is heavily Republican, he, like senators of both parties who take on national leadership positions, knows he is both a prime target for out-of-state donors and vulnerable to charges that he has lost touch with his constituents.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has personally urged Marine veteran and former fighter pilot Amy McGrath to run against McConnell, saying the GOP leader “is more vulnerable now than ever before.”
At the grassroots level, Kentucky radio host Matt Jones has indicated he might be prepared to run as a populist Democrat against McConnell, a target of frequent barbs on his hugely popular sports show.
“What has Mitch McConnell done to help Kentucky?” Jones asked in a POLITICO interview. “Mitch McConnell has been a master — a master at helping wealthy business interests get wealthier. If there is a rich guy Hall of Fame, he should be in it.”
McConnell’s answer to these criticisms is clear: He’s used his influence to deliver on Kentucky’s priorities.
“All 100 senators may have one vote,” McConnell told the Lexington Herald-Leader last year, “but they’re not all equal. Kentucky benefits from having one of its own setting the agenda for the country.”
Kathryn A. Wolfe contributed to this report.

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