Review Category : Poltics

Testimony at Bob McDonnell Trial Reveals Details About Lavish Gifts

Alex Wong/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are charged with selling political favors in exchange for lavish gifts, trips, and shopping expeditions. This week jurors have heard scintillating testimony and jaw-dropping allegations from the prosecution’s star witness, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.

Everything from a $20,000 New York City shopping spree Williams took Maureen McDonnell on making stops at Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, and Bergdorf Goodman, to a $6,000 Rolex Williams bought for the governor at the request of his wife. So many of the tales are eyebrow raising, but much of it is detailed in the evidence entered in to court, including photographs of the then-first couple of Virginia enjoying Williams’ Ferrari and personalized engraving on the back of the pricey watch.

Williams testified, according to the Washington Post, that Maureen McDonnell upon seeing his luxury cars told him “it’d just be nice” if one was available to drive when the family vacationed at Williams’ vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake. Williams had the car delivered to the home and they ended up driving in the sports car during that trip.

The McDonnells drove Williams’ Ferrari back to Richmond after their trip to Williams’ lake house, but McDonnell has said this was a favor to the businessman so he could have it back in the Virginia capital.

Among the lavish gifts from Williams to the McDonnells was a Rolex watch costing more than $6,000, engraved with “Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia.”

Williams testified the then-first lady said upon seeing Williams’ own Rolex said, “I’d really like to get one of those for the governor. He just wears these old watches.” Williams then said he told Maureen McDonnell, “Do you want me to get one of these watches for the governor?” Williams testified that she answered, “Yes, that would be nice.”

In his testimony, Williams has now said, “It was a bad decision on my part to buy that watch when she asked for it…I shouldn’t have had to buy things like that to get the help I needed.”

Maureen McDonnell has said she gave the watch to her husband as a Christmas gift.

Testimony also revealed a text message from the then-Virginia governor to Williams in May, 2012. In it, it seems as though the governor is asking for money. “Johnnie. Per voicemail would like to see if you could extend another 20k loan for this year,” McDonnell texts, misspelling Williams’ first name.

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Testimony at Bob McDonnell Trial Reveals Details About Lavish Gifts

Alex Wong/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) — Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are charged with selling political favors in exchange for lavish gifts, trips, and shopping expeditions. This week jurors have heard scintillating testimony and jaw-dropping allegations from the prosecution’s star witness, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.

Everything from a $20,000 New York City shopping spree Williams took Maureen McDonnell on making stops at Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, and Bergdorf Goodman, to a $6,000 Rolex Williams bought for the governor at the request of his wife. So many of the tales are eyebrow raising, but much of it is detailed in the evidence entered in to court, including photographs of the then-first couple of Virginia enjoying Williams’ Ferrari and personalized engraving on the back of the pricey watch.

Williams testified, according to the Washington Post, that Maureen McDonnell upon seeing his luxury cars told him “it’d just be nice” if one was available to drive when the family vacationed at Williams’ vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake. Williams had the car delivered to the home and they ended up driving in the sports car during that trip.

The McDonnells drove Williams’ Ferrari back to Richmond after their trip to Williams’ lake house, but McDonnell has said this was a favor to the businessman so he could have it back in the Virginia capital.

Among the lavish gifts from Williams to the McDonnells was a Rolex watch costing more than $6,000, engraved with “Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia.”

Williams testified the then-first lady said upon seeing Williams’ own Rolex said, “I’d really like to get one of those for the governor. He just wears these old watches.” Williams then said he told Maureen McDonnell, “Do you want me to get one of these watches for the governor?” Williams testified that she answered, “Yes, that would be nice.”

In his testimony, Williams has now said, “It was a bad decision on my part to buy that watch when she asked for it…I shouldn’t have had to buy things like that to get the help I needed.”

Maureen McDonnell has said she gave the watch to her husband as a Christmas gift.

Testimony also revealed a text message from the then-Virginia governor to Williams in May, 2012. In it, it seems as though the governor is asking for money. “Johnnie. Per voicemail would like to see if you could extend another 20k loan for this year,” McDonnell texts, misspelling Williams’ first name.

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Five Ways Democrats May Boost Turnout at 2016 Iowa Caucuses

iStock/Thinkstock(DES MOINES, Iowa) — The Iowa caucuses can make or break presidential candidates just like they did for Barack Obama in 2008.

But caucuses, unlike a regular primary, take a lot more effort for the average voter. Like clockwork every four years, Hawkeye State voters gather in meetings to discuss — and ultimately decide which presidential candidate they want to see on the ballot in November — while also selecting convention delegates. These meetings can sometime take hours, and they may not be close to home.

The head of the Iowa Democratic Party, hoping for a strong showing in the 2016, proposed some ideas on Friday to boost turnout. Here are five suggestions that Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan proposed at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee:

  • 1. Introduce legislation at the state level that would require employers to grant non-essential workers time off to participate in the caucuses.
  • 2. Through the party, hire a caucus accessibility director to facilitate any approved changes and to review ways to increase the accessibility of the caucuses for more registered voters.
  • 3. Look into expanding supervised activities for children at caucus sites. This would allow parents with small children, who would otherwise be forced to stay at home, to participate.
  • 4. Explore setting up satellite caucus sites in areas where it would otherwise be difficult for voters to travel long distances for the meetings. Brennan each of these sites would have to first be approved by the State Democratic Party.
  • 5. Allow members of the military to participate through a statewide caucus over the phone. The format of this “telecaucus” would mirror that of the standard caucuses. One caveat, Brennan admitted, is that it would have to be approved by the Department of Defense in order to take place.

All of these suggestions are, at the moment, only proposals and none of them are guaranteed to be implemented in Iowa’s 2016 caucuses.

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Calif.’s GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Lives as Homeless Person for a Week

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Neel Kashkari, the GOP candidate for governor of California, reportedly lived a week as a homeless person to gain some traction for his campaign.

Kashkari says he took a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno with $40 in his pocket. He says he slept on park benches and ate at a homeless shelter.

The Republican candidate is 19 points back in the polls to Democratic incumbent Jerry Brown. Kashkari says he did it all to disprove Brown’s claim that California is making a comeback.

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Ex-Mayor of Bell, Calif. Sentenced for Inflating City Leaders’ Salaries

Irfan Khan-Pool/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) — The former mayor of a scandal-ridden Los Angeles town is heading to jail.

Oscar Hernandez is the latest in a series of former city officials in Bell, California– a small, blue-collar L.A. suburb– to be sentenced to jail.

Hernandez has been sentenced to a year in jail for illegally inflating city leaders’ salaries.

The judge said Hernandez should never have run for office — he couldn’t read English and wound up rubber-stamping documents for a corrupt city manager.

Hernandez will also have to pay over $240,000 in restitution.

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‘We Tortured Some Folks,’ Obama Says

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Friday admitted the CIA tortured al Qaeda detainees after the 9/11 attacks, saying “we did some things that were contrary to our values.”

“We tortured some folks,” the president told reporters at the White House, ahead of the release of a Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques.

In a rare reflection on the practices that he banned after taking office, Obama said, “I understand why it happened” and underscored the tremendous pressure that national security officials were under in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“It is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” he said. “But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong.”

“When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line,” the president said. “That needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to as a country take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.”

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Seven Jabs from Obama to GOP on Eve of Congressional Recess

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of the August Congressional recess, President Obama took a big swat at Republican lawmakers.

On Friday Obama summarily dismissed efforts by the GOP to refashion a bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, blasted them for blocking several of his ambassadorial nominees and needled them for their inability to reach consensus within even their own ranks.

Obama didn’t hold himself totally blameless though — “there’s no doubt that I can always do better on everything,” he acknowledged in his remarks in the White House briefing room.

ABC News | More ABC News VideosHere are seven times the president took a jab at Republicans Friday:

1. ‘They’re Not Even Trying’

“We all agree that there is a problem that needs to be solved in a portion of our southern border. And we even agree on most of the solutions. But instead of working together, instead of focusing on the 80 percent where there is agreement between Democrats and Republicans, between the administration and Congress, House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can’t pass the Senate and that if it were to pass the Senate, I would veto. They know it. They’re not even trying to actually solve the problem.”

2. So Sue Me?

“Keep in mind that just a few days earlier, they voted to sue me for acting on my own, and then when they couldn’t pass a bill yesterday, they put out a statement suggesting I should act on my own because they couldn’t pass a bill.”

3. Diplomatic Delay

“Even basic things like approving career diplomats for critical ambassadorial posts aren’t getting done. … They’re still blocking our ambassador to Sierra Leone, where there’s currently an Ebola outbreak. They’re blocking our ambassador to Guatemala even as they demand that we do more to stop the flow of unaccompanied children from Guatemala. There are lot of things that we could be arguing about on policy. That’s what we should be doing as a democracy, but we shouldn’t be having an argument about placing career diplomats with bipartisan support in countries around the world where we have to have a presence.”

4. ‘A Little More Extreme’

“They couldn’t quite pull off yesterday, so they made it a little more extreme so maybe they can pass it today, just so they can check a box before they’re leaving town for a month. And this is on an issue that they all insisted had to be a top priority.”

5. They Can’t Even Agree With Themselves

“So now we have a short-term crisis with respect to the Rio Grande Valley. They say we need more resources, we need tougher border security in this area, where these unaccompanied children are showing up. We agree, so we put forward a supplemental to give us the additional resources and funding to do exactly what they say we should be doing. And they can’t pass the bill. They can’t even pass their own version of the bill. So that’s not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans. That’s a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans.”

6. ‘Congress Is Failing’

“A student loan bill that would help folks who have student loan debt consolidate and refinance at lower rates — that didn’t pass. The transportation bill that they did pass just gets us through the spring when we should actually be planning years in advance. States and businesses are raising the minimum wage for their workers because this Congress is failing to do so.”

7. Problem Solving? Not So Much

“When Congress returns next month, my hope is, is that instead of simply trying to pass partisan message bills on party lines that don’t actually solve problems, they’re going to be willing to come together to at least focus on some key areas where there’s broad agreement. After all that we’ve had to overcome, our Congress should stop standing in the way of our country’s success.”

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Obama Dismisses House GOP Border Crisis Bill

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Friday dismissed efforts by House Republicans to refashion a bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, calling it a doomed “message bill” that wouldn’t solve the problem, but would allow them to “check a box” before leaving on vacation.

The president spoke as House Speaker John Boehner huddled behind closed doors with the Republican conference to work several changes into legislation that had been pulled back Thursday because they lacked the votes to pass the measure.

A vote on the revamped $694 million was expected later Friday.

Obama praised Congress for passing bills this week to bolster the Veterans Affairs Administration and finance the transportation fund, but said “big ticket items … are just not getting done.” He cited the immigration bill.

Republican leaders snatched two bills from the floor on Thursday, including an immigration bill, due to insufficient support and delayed the start of a five-week summer recess.

But the president scoffed at Boehner’s efforts to make changes to the immigration bill in order to win the votes of conservative Republicans.

“House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable [immigration] bill,” Obama said and indicated the measure was doomed.

“It won’t pass the Senate and if it did, I would veto it. They know that,” the president said.

Obama called it a “partisan message bill on party lines that won’t solve problems… It’s just so they can check a box before leaving town.”

The new total of the spending measure is $694 million after leaders agreed to increase money for the National Guard by $35 million, doubling the previous total to $70 million, according to a senior Republican aide.

The original package included $334 million for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase enforcement, $40 million in repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and $197 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide temporary housing and humanitarian assistance to unaccompanied alien children and families.

Republicans are also expected to vote on Friday to change the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals program, known as DACA, which defers deportations and provides two-year work visas to some undocumented minors who entered the U.S. prior to 2007.

“If it is what they say it is I think we’re going to have a good conservative bill,” Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, told reporters outside the meeting. “Then the question is do we have the votes to support this bill, and I think we’ll be finding out today.”

After the meeting, two key lawmakers who had initially opposed the legislation, Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, signaled support for the rewritten measures.

“We’re in good shape. I’m a yes,” King, R-Iowa, said. “The president cannot make up immigration law out of his own. He can’t create work permits out of thin air. He’s got to abide by the Constitution.”

“It sends a message to the president to stop violating the constitution, stop ordering ICE to violate the law, and it says to the president, don’t take the risk of trying to expand 5 million illegal people here and give them a legal status,” he added.

Bachmann says she changed her mind after the leadership agreed to incorporate changes that would bar renewals of expiring work permits or the issuance of any new ones.

“We put our concerns on the table,” Bachmann said. “This is a brand new bill. It is a clean, comprehensive DACA bill, which means we are going to be sending a message to the Central American countries…you will be sent back to your country.”

“Today could have been an opportunity for coming together,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Friday. “The Republicans have moved more to the right. Not to the correct, but to the right.”

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House GOP Wrangles over Border Crisis Bill

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans wrangled behind closed doors Friday to win approval of conservatives to pass an emergency spending bill that would address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

A vote on the revamped $694 million was expected later Friday.

A day after Republican leaders snatched two bills from the floor due to insufficient support and delayed the start of a five-week summer recess, House Speaker John Boehner huddled behind closed doors with the Republican conference to work several changes into the legislation.

The new total of the spending measure is $694 million after leaders agreed to increase money for the National Guard by $35 million, doubling the previous total to $70 million, according to a senior Republican aide.

The original package included $334 million for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase enforcement, $40 million in repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and $197 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide temporary housing and humanitarian assistance to unaccompanied alien children and families.

Despite the changes, the bill may be doomed because the Senate has already determined it will not consider the bill.

Republicans are also expected to vote Friday to change the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals program, known as DACA, which defers deportations and provides two-year work visas to some undocumented minors who entered the U.S. prior to 2007.

“If it is what they say it is I think we’re going to have a good conservative bill,” Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, told reporters outside the meeting. “Then the question is do we have the votes to support this bill, and I think we’ll be finding out today.”

After the meeting, two key lawmakers who had initially opposed the legislation, Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, signaled support for the rewritten measures.

“We’re in good shape. I’m a yes,” King, R-Iowa, said. “The president cannot make up immigration law out of his own. He can’t create work permits out of thin air. He’s got to abide by the Constitution.”

“It sends a message to the president to stop violating the constitution, stop ordering ICE to violate the law, and it says to the president, don’t take the risk of trying to expand 5 million illegal people here and give them a legal status,” he added.

Bachmann says she changed her mind after the leadership agreed to incorporate changes that would bar renewals of expiring work permits or the issuance of any new ones.

“We put our concerns on the table,” Bachmann said. “This is a grand new bill. It is a clean, comprehensive DACA bill, which means we are going to be sending a message to the Central American countries…you will be sent back to your country.”

Republican aides said that the legislation is still being finalized, but should be posted online soon.

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Senate Passes Iron Dome Funding for Israel

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Friday passed $225 million in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome program.

The House is in session Friday but may not act on Iron Dome funding until September.

The upper chamber had considered, and failed to pass, that money late Thursday night. Included in Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s supplemental-funding bill to deliver $2.7 billion in emergency border funding, the Iron Dome money had been entangled in the politics of President Obama’s $3.7 billion border funding request.

The border money, with Iron Dome funding included, failed to clear a procedural hurdle Thursday night on a 50-44 vote. Republicans blocked final consideration.

Friday morning, with the Senate in session and no votes scheduled, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put forth a provision that mirrored what was in Mikulski’s bill. As part of an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Senate approved it on unanimous consent, without a roll call vote as no senators objected.

On the floor, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., praised the deal as “much needed. Not only the funding but the signal that the Congress will send and the president will send” of U.S. support for Israel in its current conflict.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requested the money earlier this month as emergency funding to beef up Israel’s stockpiles of missile-defense munitions.

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