House Democrats Probe Use of Taxpayer Money at Trump Hotels

House Democrats are demanding information on the use of taxpayer money at President Donald Trump’s hotels and properties, including during Vice President Pence’s trip this week to Doonbeg, Ireland. The push is part of an expanded effort this fall to investigate the president’s financial entanglements and business practices.

The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees announced Friday that they sent a series of letters regarding “multiple efforts” by the president, vice president, and other Trump administration officials to spend taxpayer money at properties owned by Trump. They say the spending could violate the Constitution and bolster the case for Trump’s impeachment.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the spending is “of grave concern” to his committee, which is investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said that his panel “does not believe that U.S. taxpayer funds should be used to personally enrich President Trump, his family, and his companies.”

FILE – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, prepares for a television interview at the Capitol in Washington, July 26, 2019.

The letters come after Pence stayed at Trump’s resort in Doonbeg , Ireland, this week. Doonbeg is on the other side of Ireland from Dublin, where he had meetings. The Democrats also sent letters to the White House and Secret Service about Trump’s suggestion earlier this month that his Miami-area golf course host next year’s Group of Seven summit with foreign leaders. The Democrats say those instances, among others, could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans the president from taking gifts from foreign governments.

The push comes as Democrats are trying to keep public attention on their investigations of Trump. They have spent much of the year probing episodes detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which did not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice. But lawmakers say they think the American public may have even more interest in Trump profiting off of his presidency as they weigh whether to move forward on impeachment.

“We have been focused on the Mueller report and that is a very small part of the overall picture,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the Judiciary panel. “We must get America focused on the ongoing violations against basic Constitutional principles.”

In addition to looking at Trump’s use of his properties, two House committees are continuing to investigate his relationship with banks with which he did business. And the Judiciary panel is also expected to investigate hush money payments that Trump paid to kill potentially embarrassing stories.

Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, another Democrat on the Judiciary panel, says he believes that the misuse of public funds or financial corruption make Americans especially angry. And while people have heard a lot about the Mueller report, he says they may know less about the emoluments clause.

“I think you’ll see a lot more of that in the coming months,” Cicilline said.

 

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Kansas’ Pompeo Could Swing Senate Race, but Will He Run?

Many attending U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s college lecture Friday in his home state of Kansas listened for clues about whether he might run for the Senate next year, though it could be many months before anyone finds out. 
 
Three Democrats and four Republicans are already actively running for the seat held by Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who isn’t seeking a fifth term, and several others are expected to join them. Weeks after Pompeo said a run is “off the table,” though, he is still creating a buzz and looming over the race, as only he has enough name recognition and support among Kansas conservatives to afford to wait until next June’s filing deadline to decide. 
 
If he does run, Pompeo would enter the race as the favorite. 
 
“It’s the Pompeo decision, and then everything else trickles down,” said Joe Kildea, a vice president for the conservative interest group Club for Growth. 
 
Other candidates don’t have the luxury of waiting and the field is likely to grow, with GOP Representative Roger Marshall of western Kansas expected to announce his candidacy Saturday at the state fair. 

FILE – Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, right , Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, speaks Nov. 5, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Pompeo wasn’t expected to directly address the speculation about his interest in running during his speech Friday at Kansas State University, but that hasn’t stopped others from suggesting he’s the person for the job. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell identified Pompeo as his preferred candidate shortly after Roberts announced in January that he wasn’t seeking re-election. 
  
The GOP hasn’t lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, but many Republicans worry about a repeat of the governor’s race last year. Kris Kobach, a nationally known advocate of tough immigration policies, narrowly won a crowded primary, alienated moderates and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly. He launched his Senate campaign in July. 
 
For Kobach’s GOP detractors, Pompeo would solve their perceived problems. His entry would likely clear most of the Republican field, and GOP leaders believe Pompeo would have no trouble winning in November 2020, making it easier for Republicans to retain their Senate majority. 
 
And WDAF-TV reported that Kansas’ other senator, Republican Jerry Moran, told reporters Wednesday at a Kansas City-area event that he didn’t know Pompeo’s current thinking “but I wouldn’t be surprised if he entered that race.” 
  
Fellow Republicans concede that Pompeo, a former congressman and CIA director, has reasons not to run, including the prestige that comes with being the nation’s top diplomat. He’s currently dealing with weighty issues such as new sanctions on Iran from the Trump administration, a tariff war with China and questions about whether hopes for nuclear talks with North Korea are fading. 
 
“I think he can’t say that he’s wanting to run for Senate now,” said Tim Shallenburger, a former two-term state treasurer and Kansas Republican Party chairman. “He’s got to wait, and I think he can afford to wait.”  

FILE – Then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is pictured in Lenexa, Kan., June 8, 2017.

Kobach, who served as Kansas’ secretary of state but first built his national profile on immigration issues, has argued that as a Senate nominee, he’d benefit from the higher turnout that normally comes with a presidential election year and a greater focus on issues such as immigration. Some local Republican leaders agree and feel less anxious about Kobach’s possible nomination victory. 
 
Other GOP candidates include Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle; Dave Lindstrom, a Kansas City-area businessman and former Kansas City Chiefs player; and Bryan Pruitt, a conservative gay commentator. Also, Marshall has been flirting with running for months, and other potential Republican candidates include Alan Cobb, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and Matt Schlapp, the American Conservative Union’s president. 
 
The Democratic candidates with active campaigns are former federal prosecutor Barry Grissom, former Representative Nancy Boyda, and Usha Reddi, a city commissioner in the northeast Kansas city of Manhattan. 
 
Don Alexander, a manufacturing firm owner who is the GOP chairman in Neosho County in southeastern Kansas, said it’s early to be trying to size up the race, almost 11 months before the August 2020 primary. He said he and other Republicans trust Pompeo to “know where he’s needed most.” 

President’s support seen
 
“I’m sure the president doesn’t want him to leave,” said Helen Van Etten, a Republican National Committee member from Topeka. 
 
But Van Etten said comments from Pompeo that he’ll stay on as secretary of state as long as Trump will have him leave an “open door” for a Senate bid. 
  
Some Republicans, such as Alexander, take Pompeo at his word that he won’t run. Others, including Shallenburger, read Pompeo’s statements as meaning he isn’t interested right now but that he may reconsider if he doesn’t like how the race develops. 
 
“He can announce on the filing deadline and cause most of the people in there to get out,” Shallenburger said. 

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Ex Pro-Hockey Player, Policeman Learns Ropes as Congressional Freshman

DULUTH, MN / WASHINGTON –  “They don’t make these type of skates anymore,” quips U.S. Representative Pete Stauber, as he pulls out a vintage pair of Daoust 501’s from his dusty hockey bag.  “When I retired from the Detroit Red Wings, they gave me a new pair.”

The first-year congressman from Minnesota is sitting in his House of Representatives office, just a few hours before he skates onto the ice for a charity hockey game.

It’s a little slice of home in his pressure-packed day of Capitol Hill meetings, committee and floor votes, and personal appearances.
 
Reagan-motivated public service

Pete Stauber started playing hockey at age 4. He went on to play professionally for the Detroit Red Wings for three years.  His 1988 national champion college hockey team was invited to the White House.  He says his meeting with then-President Ronald Reagan inspired him to eventually enter public service.

For more than two decades Pete Stauber worked as a Duluth, Minnesota,  police officer, then as a city and county commissioner. But he wanted more.  He and his wife had a heart-to-heart talk about a possible run for U.S. Congress.  Jodi Stauber is a retired Air Force pilot who served in Iraq.  She later became the highest-ranking enlisted person in Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing and the first woman to hold that job. 

The Staubers say they’ve never led a typical 9 to 5 family life, so they adjusted by “juggling those different times,” says Jodi, “and carving out those special moments when we can, making them even better and more precious to us.”

Jodi stays home in Minnesota to care for the couple’s four children – as most female spouses of Congressmen do – including their 16-year-old son Isaac who has Down syndrome.  

Balancing controversial issues with local needs

Stauber’s congressional district is mainly rural, located in northern Minnesota.  He is a staunch Republican who got a boost when U.S. President Donald Trump campaigned for him and promised to “restore mineral exploration.” 


From Hockey Player to Minnesota Legislator in Divided America video player.
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The first bill  that Stauber introduced was actually written by his predecessor, a Democrat.  But it never got to the U.S. House floor for a vote in the last congressional session.  The bill if enacted would clear the way for the first copper-nickel sulfide mine in an area of Minnesota called “the Iron Range” – a storied mining district known for its rich iron resources.  

The $1 billion project would potentially create 360 mining jobs, with spin-off opportunities that could bring the total to 1,000 jobs.  In addition, the mine would bring millions of dollars in investments and fulfill Stauber’s campaign pledge to “unleash the economic engine” in Minnesota’s 8th district.

The challenge, however, has been to balance that growth with environmental worries.  

The proposed mine is upstream from the Indian reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.  The band uses the nearby St. Louis River and Lake Superior for hunting and fishing and claims the mine will have “devastating impacts” to those waters.

Chairman Kevin DuPuis says his Fond du Lac Band isn’t against mining, but that “if mining is going to happen, have it be responsible mining.”  

Otherwise, “if we lose the ability to fish … it’s everybody that loses the ability to fish,” he added.  

In early February, the bill was sent to a House Natural Resources subcommittee where it still sits.  The committee leadership will decide whether or when to act on the measure. But with the Democrats in control, there is no telling when a bill sponsored by a Republican will get a hearing or vote.  Ironically, Stauber’s predecessor, Democrat Rick Nolan tried to get a copper mine bill through a Republican controlled congress.  It passed the House but was never put to a vote in the Senate.

Migrants vs borders

ep. Steve Stauber talks to a constituent during a tour of Enchanted Dairy, a 1,800-head, family-owned dairy farm in Little Falls, Minnesota. (Photo: C. Presutti)

Stauber seemed at ease as the flatbed tractor rounded the corner of the dairy barn.  Wearing a camouflage knit hat and blue denim coat, Stauber was getting a tour of Enchanted Dairy, a 1,800-head, family-owned dairy farm in Little Falls, Minnesota, which boasts a 40-cow rotary parlor for milking.

In a discussion over Land O’ Lakes cheese bites and milk, local farmers discussed the importance of Hispanic migrant workers and getting an immigration policy that works.  “The president’s system obviously is broke,” stated Enchanted Dairy owner Ron Miller.

A month later, Stauber flew to Arizona to see what officials need to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.  In a tweet, Stauber stood at the edge of the Colorado River and showed how “between 100-150 illegal immigrants come up this bank every single day.”  

When VOA asked how he planned to reconcile his conservative immigration stance with the farmers’ needs for more workers, Stauber dipped back to his experience as a 23-year police officer: “We are a nation of laws…and we enforce the laws. I don’t get to pick and choose which laws.”

Stauber suggested that more teenagers take two-year vocational degrees to bring more Americans into those farm openings.

Hockey politics

Stauber committed the only penalty in the charity hockey game. (Photo: C. Presutti)

Near the end of the charity hockey game, Stauber committed the only game penalty.  He told VOA he deserved it, “It was a good penalty…..I tripped a guy, hooked a guy, and the ref [referee] caught me.”

Hockey is a very rough sport, and learning to cope with its rules and other challenges helps him in the new arena on Capitol Hill.  “Your off-the-ice conduct was just as important as your on-ice conduct…. And you have to learn to win and you have to learn to lose.”  

 

 

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Фейгін: восьмеро українців у «Лефортові» перебувають у «заморозці», адвокатів до них не пускають

Адвокат Романа Сущенка Марк Фейгін розповів в ефірі Радіо Свобода, що 3 вересня він намагався потрапити до свого підзахисного у СІЗО «Лефортово», але тільки «здав документи і прочекав весь день».

«Оці восьмеро (утримуваних Росією українців – ред.), які точно перебувають у «Лефортові», крім 24 моряків, вони перебувають у «заморозці», адвокати до них потрапити не можуть. І це абсолютно свідомо робить адміністрація Федеральної служби виконання покарань, можливо, для того, щоб не відбувалося витоку інформації. Ми допускаємо, що найближчим часом, про що сам Путін вчора сказав, обмін може відбутися. Але коли це станеться, завтра чи у якийсь інший день, я сказати не можу, у мене такої інформації немає», – зауважив правник.

Наприкінці серпня у слідчому ізоляторі «Лефортово» в столиці Росії Москві підтвердили, що в них перебуває п’ятеро засуджених українців. Мова йде про Володимира Балуха, Миколу Карпюка, Олександра Кольченка, Романа Сущенка і Станіслава Клиха.

Також російська журналістка і громадська активістка Вікторія Івлєва заявляла, що у неї приймали передачу в цей СІЗО, окрім згаданих людей, ще Павлові Грибу.

За даними Міністерства закордонних справ, Росія незаконно утримує понад 70 українців. До цього числа не входять 24 українські моряки, захоплені Росією біля Керченської протоки наприкінці листопада 2018 року.

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САП оголосила про підозру ексдепутату-ляшківцю Скуратовському

Спеціалізована антикорупційна прокуратура оголосила про підозру колишньому депутату від фракції «Радикальної партії Ляшка» Сергієві Скуратівському.

«Колишній народний обранець підозрюється у внесенні недостовірних відомостей у декларацію особи, уповноваженої на виконання функцій держави або місцевого самоврядування, а саме у приховуванні наявності у його родини корпоративних прав на три юридичні особи загальною вартістю понад 24 мільйони гривень, користування транспортним засобом Mercedes-Benz S450 та нежитловим приміщенням, вартістю 1,5 мільйони гривень», – мовиться у повідомленні на фейсбук-сторінці САП 6 вересня.

За даними прокуратури, місцезнаходження підозрюваного наразі слідству не відоме.

«Нагадаємо, що у березні 2019 року за вказаними фактами Спеціалізована антикорупційна прокуратура вже направляла Генеральному прокурору України для підтримання та внесення до Верховної Ради України подання про надання згоди на притягнення до кримінальної народного депутата України Скуратовського С.І.», – додають у відомстві.

12 березня САП робила заяву, що готова притягнути до відповідальності за зловживання тодішніх народних депутатів Сергія Скуратовського та Дениса Дзензерського.

5 вересня, як повідомляли ЗМІ, прокуратура Київщини повідомила Скуратовському про підозру за заявою сільського голови села Плахтянка, ніби той його вдарив і погрожував рушницею. 

Олег Ляшко назвав переслідування свого соратника політичним замовленням. 

На позачергових парламентських виборах Сергій Скуратовський входив до першої десятки списку «Радикальної партії Ляшка». Зазначається, що він очолює київський обласний осередок політсили.

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Рябошапка звільнив прокурорів у восьми областях

Генеральний прокурор Руслан Рябошапка звільнив з посад прокурорів Волинської, Івано-Франківської, Кіровоградської, Луганської, Львівської, Рівненської, Сумської та Тернопільської областей, повідомляється на сайті відомства.

4 вересня було звільнено прокурорів Вінницької, Житомирської, Одеської та Черкаської областей.

2 вересня Рябошапка звільнив із посади заступника генпрокурора – головного військового прокурора Анатолія Матіоса.

Заступник голови Офісу президента Руслан Рябошапка очолив ГПУ 29 серпня. Відповідне рішення підтримали 312 народних депутатів.

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У серпні ІМІ зафіксував 29 випадків порушень свободи слова: побиття, кібератаки, погрози

Проект «Барометр свободи слова» Інституту масової інформації зафіксував 29 випадків порушень прав журналістів у серпні

Із них 17 стосуються побиття співробітників медіа. Зокрема, такі випадки зафіксували на Донеччині, Харківщині, у Чернігові та Вінниці.

«Серйозної кібератаки на ефірний сервер зазнала Чорноморська ТРК. Співробітники СБУ встановили, що кібератака була спрямована на блокування і виведення з ладу всіх ключових елементів управління ефіром, резервного копіювання та запасних інструментів. Зловмисники через шкідливе програмне забезпечення отримали контроль над серверним обладнанням телерадіокомпанії і вивели систему з ладу.Також кібератаки зазнали два видання – «Новое время» і Depo.ua. Хакери зламали їхні сайти та розмістили недостовірну інформацію щодо Збройних сил України», – мовиться у повідомленні на сайті організації.

Як констатують експерти проекту, кількість побиттів і кібератак зросла удвічі, порівняно з попереднім місяцем.

Також ІМІ зафіксував цього місяця по три випадки погроз та обмеження доступу до публічної інформації, два випадки непрямого тиску, по одному випадку обшуку та цензури.

Як повідомляється, від початку року, за даними моніторингу, в Україні сталися один випадок убивства співробітника медіа, 73 випадки перешкоджання, 25 випадків погроз, 16 випадків побиття, 12 випадків кібератак та шість випадків цензури.

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Paralysis Setting in at US Election Watchdog Just When It Is Needed Most

Amid growing concern about the U.S. election system’s vulnerability to manipulation, the nation’s premiere election watchdog just suffered a major setback.

Last week, Matthew Petersen, the Republican vice chairman of the six-member Federal Election Commission, resigned from his post, leaving the body without the four members needed to carry out its key functions.

Often mistaken for running elections in the United States, the FEC plays another, albeit no less important, role in the country’s political system: keeping tabs on billions of dollars candidates raise and spend each election cycle.

To be sure, candidates and parties will continue to file campaign finance reports with the FEC, according to FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, while commission lawyers vet their veracity before posting them online.

Commission hamstrung

But when it comes to making key decisions — from investigating violations of campaign finance laws to taking enforcement actions against scofflaws — the commission has become hamstrung.

FILE – U.S. Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 22, 2019.

“We have an important function of ensuring disclosure of the money behind the candidates and political groups that are out there and that will go on,” Weintraub, a Democrat, said in an interview. “However, enforcement and policymaking, that’s going to be a lot more affected by this because in order to issue any rules or any adviser opinions or conclude any enforcement actions, including any penalties for anyone who has violated the laws, we can’t do any of that without at least four commissioners on board.”

Created in 1975 to enforce federal election laws, the FEC is a bipartisan body of three Republicans and three Democrats, an ideological split designed to prevent the party in power from using the body as a weapon against the other party.

To investigate a violation or get anything of consequence done, the commission needs a quorum of at least four members. But with Petersen’s departure, the commissioners can’t even hold meetings.

So what happens if the commission receives a complaint about a major campaign finance violation or sees Russian-sponsored ads cropping up on Facebook as they did during the 2016 presidential election?

“Well, that’s going to be a problem because we are really going to be limited in our options as to what we can do about that,” Weintraub said.

In response to a complaint, she said, FEC lawyers can prepare an analysis and make a recommendation to the commission as to whether the case should be dismissed, settled or investigated.

“But they require a decision from the commission and we won’t be able to make those decisions,” Weintraub said.

Grave consequences

The paralysis at the FEC has grave consequences. With the 2020 election season heating up and intelligence agencies warning about foreign interference, the inability of the nation’s main election watchdog to evaluate foreign and domestic actors seeking to influence the vote threatens the integrity of the system, current and foreign FEC officials warn.

“It troubles me greatly and actually I think it’s to crisis proportions what might happen in the election,” said Ann Ravel, who served as a Democratic member of the FEC from 2013 to 2017 and as its chair in 2015.”The fact that there is so much money that is going to be spent in this election is an additional reason why the FEC should be functional.”

FILE – President Donald Trump addresses the audience at the 75th annual AMVETS National Convention in Louisville, Ky., Aug.21, 2019.

In June, advertising media agency GroupM said it expected political ad spending in the U.S. to reach about $10 billion in 2020.

To ensure a fully functional FEC, Ravel said, President Donald Trump should nominate members to the three vacant slots on the commission.

By tradition, FEC nominees are sent to the Senate in pairs, one Democrat and one Republican. In 2017, Trump tapped Texas lawyer Trey Trainor for a vacant Republican seat on the commission.

FILE – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 28, 2017.

But because Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did not recommend a nominee for a Democratic seat, the Senate has yet to take up the nomination, according to Hans von Spakovsky, a former Republican member of the FEC.

“The onus here is on the Democrats to put forward a Democratic nominee so they can get two people confirmed,” von Spakovsky said.

Angelo Roefaro, a spokesman for Schumer, did not respond to a request for comment.

Partisan gridlock at the FEC is a fairly recent phenomenon. Until the late 2000s, the body was relatively well-functioning. But growing ideological polarization over campaign finance over the past decade, exacerbated by a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling freeing labor unions and corporations to spend money to influence elections, has led to perpetual bickering among the commissioners.

“We’ve seen that in Washington in general, and it’s not surprising that it would show up on an evenly divided body,” Weintraub said. “And that has made it a lot harder for us to come to consensus.”

The result has been growing inaction.

According to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the commission deadlocked on 37.5 percent of regular enforcement cases in 2016, compared with 4.2 percent in 2006.

“On most matters of significance, the Commission cannot reach four votes,” the report said.

Partisanship issues

Partisanship has prevented the commission from taking any action in response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. A proposed new rule for disclaimers on the kind of political ads used by Russian operatives has floundered. And in August, Republican members of the commission blocked an investigation into allegations that Russians donated millions of dollars to the National Rifle Association to benefit Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“It’s important to note that that every single time there has been a split on an enforcement decision, it has been because the Democrats on the commission wanted to pursue an enforcement action and the Republicans on the commission wanted to block it,” Weintraub said.

Caroline Hunter, the sole Republican member of the commission, did not respond to a request to comment on Weintraub’s criticism. But von Spakovsky said Weintraub’s claim “is simply not the case.”

With the commission deadlocked, civil penalties imposed on violators have plummeted over the past decade. In 2016, the FEC levied less than $600,000 in penalties, compared with roughly $5.5 million in 2006, according to the Brennan Center.

The FEC’s dysfunction has spurred calls in recent years for structural reforms.

One proposal calls for the creation of a specially selected panel to recommend non-ideological nominees. Another seeks to change the FEC from a six-member structure to a five-commissioner structure. But Republicans oppose the idea.

“The problem with that is that it would give one political party the ability to control the commission,” von Spakovsky said. “And you don’t want that in a commission that regulates campaign finance, because it would give one political party the ability to use a federal agency for partisan political purposes.”

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8chan Owner Pledges Changes in House Testimony About Links to Mass Shootings 

8chan, the online message board linked to several recent mass shootings, plans to restrict parts of the website during a “state of emergency,” site owner Jim Watkins told a U.S. House panel in a written statement. 

Watkins completed his closed-door deposition Thursday, said Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, and Ranking Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama. The panel last month subpoenaed the American living in the Philippines to answer its questions about whether the website “amplifies extremist views, leading to the radicalization of its users.” 

Watkins “provided vast and helpful information to the committee about the structure, operation and policies of 8Chan and his other companies. We look forward to his continued cooperation with the committee as he indicated his desire to do so during today’s deposition,” they said in a joint statement. 

“If 8chan comes back online, it will be done when 8chan develops additional tools to counter illegal content under United States law,” Watkins said in the statement released by his lawyer. 

“If 8chan returns, staff would implement a way to restrict certain parts of the website during a state of emergency, in which case any board in question would be put in a read-only mode until it would be deemed safe enough to enable posting again,” it said. 

8chan owner Jim Watkins (YouTube).

Critics last month pressed tech companies to shun 8chan, which in its Twitter profile describes its location as “The Darkest Reaches of the Internet” and has become a hotbed for white extremist content. 

Thompson and Rogers said last month that the shooting deaths of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart store was “at least the third act of supremacist violence linked to your website this year.” 

The El Paso gunman allegedly posted a four-page statement on 8chan before his attack, while the site was also apparently used this year by the shooters who attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a synagogue in Poway, California, lawmakers told Watkins in a letter last month. 

Benjamin Barr, a lawyer for Watkins, said in a statement to the committee, that “8chan has never tolerated illegal speech and has a consistent track record of working with law enforcement agencies when appropriate.” 

Watkins said 8chan “has worked responsibly with law enforcement agencies when unprotected speech is discovered on its platform. No single platform can sensibly prevent all hateful, illegal or threatening speech — it can only act in due time to remove it.” 

The company did remove some posts soon after mass shootings in Texas, California and New Zealand, he said. 

But Watkins added, “my company has no intention of deleting constitutionally protected hate speech. I feel the remedy for this type of speech is counter speech, and I’m certain that this is the view of the American justice system.” 

The message board has been voluntarily down since late August. 

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Official: Trump to Challenge California Mileage Standard 

The Trump administration is moving forward with a proposal to revoke part of California’s authority to set its own automobile gas mileage standards, a government official said Thursday, in another confrontation with a state that has repeatedly challenged environmental rollbacks. 
 
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing paperwork for the White House that would set a single national standard for fuel economy, according to the official, who is familiar with the regulatory process and spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public. 
 
President Donald Trump has pushed for months to weaken Obama-era mileage standards nationwide and has targeted California’s decades-old power to set its own mileage standards as part of that effort. 

Court fight
 
Administration moves to rescind authority that Congress granted probably would end up in court. When President George W. Bush challenged California’s mileage-setting ability, California fought it. The Obama administration subsequently dropped the Bush effort. 
 
The Trump plan would have to be posted in the Federal Register and would be subject to public comment. 
 
His administration has tried to ease or remove scores of environmental regulations that it regards as unnecessary and burdensome. The tougher mileage standards were a key part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce climate-changing fossil fuel emissions.  

FILE – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra talks to reporters after a news conference at the University of California-Los Angeles, Aug. 2, 2018.

California has sued the Trump administration 27 times on environmental matters alone, often as part of a group of states. Counting preliminary injunctions, California has won in court 19 times, said Sarah Lovenheim, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 
 
EPA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. 
 
The mileage move would target California’s half-century-old authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own, tough tailpipe emission standards. California’s long struggles with smog mean the state has been setting its own mileage standards since before the 1970 law was written. Congress allowed California to seek waivers from the national mileage standards for that reason. 
 
About a dozen states have opted to follow California’s mileage standards 
 
The waiver has allowed California, the state with the most people and by far the biggest economy, to steer the rest of nation toward cutting down on car and truck emissions that pollute the air and alter the climate. 

Auto industry opposed
 
The auto industry as a whole doesn’t like the far tougher Obama-era mileage standards and fears it won’t be able to meet them, as U.S. consumers keep shifting away from sedans to less-efficient trucks and SUVs. Most automakers favor increasing mileage requirements at a lower rate than set under Obama. They also want one U.S. standard to avoid having to engineer separate vehicles for California and the states that follow its rules. 
 
In July four automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — broke from the rest of the industry and struck a deal with California agreeing to 3.7 percent increases in mileage per year. That’s less than the 5 percent annual increase under the Obama-era standards. 
 
The side deal has irked Trump, who has chastised Ford in tweets. 

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