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Politics


Herman: Straus and Patrick and irreconcilable differences

Yeah, we kind of knew this political marriage — arranged by the voters of Texas — was destined for trouble. And Friday night, in escalating from what had been mostly behind-closed-doors unpleasantness, it seemed to heat up from possibly reconcilable differences to probably irreconcilable differences. As in some relationships, the flashpoint was bathrooms, though not the usual problems...
In its 85th session, the Texas Legislature marched farther right

In its 85th session, the Texas Legislature marched farther right

When state Rep. Jason Villalba was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, he was described as the future of the Texas Republican Party. Five years later, representing an affluent North Dallas district that Hillary Clinton carried and whose constituents include former President George W. Bush, Villalba is one of only three Hispanic Republicans in the Legislature. During his years in Austin, he has...
Herman: When Greg Abbott joked about gun violence and reporters

Herman: When Greg Abbott joked about gun violence and reporters

There’s nothing funny about gun violence, threatened or otherwise. Ditto for physical violence. And — and I’m getting close to home here — there’s nothing funny about threatened gun or physical violence against members of my esteemed and respected-by-all craft. Look, I know Gov. Greg Abbott was joking Friday at a South Austin shooting range when, showing off a target...
Commentary: How to vote on health care if you’re a Christian lawmaker

Commentary: How to vote on health care if you’re a Christian lawmaker

Many political leaders who support the U.S. House or Senate version of a new health care bill proudly identify themselves as Christian — “pro-life” and “pro-family.” What puzzles me is how these leaders reconcile their personal values and commitments with embracing a plan that limits or excludes poor people as well as persons with pre-existing conditions. In other words...
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott jokes he’ll carry riddled target ‘in case I see any reporters’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott jokes he’ll carry riddled target ‘in case I see any reporters’

After signing into law Senate Bill 16, which reduces the fee for a handgun license in Texas, at The Range, an indoor shooting range in South Austin, Abbott did some target shooting with a SIG Sauer P320 pistol. Abbott proved a good shot and, proudly displaying the target showing his marksmanship, the governor joked, according to the Texas Tribune reporter and photographer who were within earshot,...
Legislature endangers all Texas children with ‘bathroom bill’ myopia

Legislature endangers all Texas children with ‘bathroom bill’ myopia

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Republicans would have us believe that few issues require the immediate attention of state lawmakers more than regulating which bathrooms transgender Texans can use. Such urgency for a manufactured problem conjured by Republicans has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with mandating the type of bathrooms transgender Texans, including students, can use in...
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era

Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era

For those concerned about press freedom, the first months of the Trump administration have been troubling. Journalists have been yelled at, pepper-sprayed, pinned by security and even arrested on the job. Now, one reporter has accused a Republican candidate of assault.   Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the recent episodes were not enough to...
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities

Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities

  British leaders were infuriated this week when the name of the Manchester concert bomber was disclosed by U.S. officials, and further outraged when The New York Times ran investigators’ photographs of the bomb remnants. After Prime Minister Theresa May complained bitterly to President Donald Trump, he denounced the leaks on Thursday and vowed to find and punish the leakers.  ...
Gov. Abbott predicts agreement on tax and bathroom issues Saturday

Gov. Abbott predicts agreement on tax and bathroom issues Saturday

Gov. Greg Abbott predicted Friday that House and Senate negotiators will reach agreement on property tax reform and transgender bathroom legislation Saturday. “As you may have heard, conference committees have been assigned for those two issues,” Abbott told reporters. “That’s positive. It means the House and the Senate are going to be getting to work on those two issues and...
Trump administration considers moving student loans from Education Dept. to Treasury

Trump administration considers moving student loans from Education Dept. to Treasury

The Trump administration is considering moving responsibility for overseeing more than $1 trillion in student debt from the Education Department to the Treasury Department, a switch that would radically change the system that helps 43 million students finance higher education.   The potential change surfaced in a scathing resignation memo sent late Tuesday night by James Runcie, the head...
Bills aimed at restricting lobbyists die in Texas House

Bills aimed at restricting lobbyists die in Texas House

When meetings of the Texas House stretch late into the night, some legislators take breaks from the action by walking out the back of the House chamber, taking the elevator down to the basement and enjoying some food or a drink in what’s known as Club Geren. In Room GW.15, the office of state Rep. Charlie Geren, lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists mingle behind closed doors as the people&rsquo...
In Brussels, Trump appears to push aside prime minister of Montenegro

In Brussels, Trump appears to push aside prime minister of Montenegro

Pity tiny Montenegro.   The Balkan state is in the process of formally joining NATO, but membership, it seems, does not earn it a spot at the front of the line.   Video footage of world leaders at a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday shows President Donald Trump appearing to push his way past the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, as he made his way to the front of the...
Austin asks judge to toss ‘sanctuary cities’ suit

Austin asks judge to toss ‘sanctuary cities’ suit

The city of Austin has asked a federal judge to toss Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit over the Senate Bill 4 ban on so-called sanctuary cities from the courts. In a motion filed Wednesday, attorneys representing the city said Paxton’s lawsuit violates the Constitution and that it is out of bounds because SB 4 hasn’t yet taken effect. “The city has been consistent...
Do Texas restaurants shortchange on food by the pound? Mostly not.

Do Texas restaurants shortchange on food by the pound? Mostly not.

When Sid Miller squawked about a proposed change in law ending state oversight of scales in restaurants, we wondered if Texas Department of Agriculture inspectors have uncovered a lot of weighty problems when it comes to sales of barbecue and other vittles. That is, do customers stand a good chance of ordering a pound of brisket and getting less than that? Not so, at least according to the results...
Herman: Prayer that Texas lawmakers ‘rot and be blown away’ too much?

Herman: Prayer that Texas lawmakers ‘rot and be blown away’ too much?

While we’re waiting to see what the Legislature does about bathroom and locker room usage by our transgender neighbors, you might want to know that God has been asked to train his considerable wrath upon those who oppose the so-called bathroom bill. But first, our word of the day: imprecatory. It’s new to me. I like learning new words. Looks like this one means “to invoke or call...
Who is Greg Gianforte? Some background on the Montana candidate accused of assault

Who is Greg Gianforte? Some background on the Montana candidate accused of assault

Greg Gianforte, a wealthy former software executive who is running for Congress in Montana, was charged with misdemeanor assault and accused of attacking a news reporter on the eve of the election. Gianforte, a Republican, has been seen as the favorite to fill the vacant House seat, though his Democratic opponent, Rob Quist, has been an unexpectedly tenacious challenger.   Gianforte, 56...
Yates tells Harvard students why she defied Trump

Yates tells Harvard students why she defied Trump

In a fierce, sometimes personal speech, Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general fired by President Donald Trump for refusing to defend his travel ban, told the graduating class at Harvard Law School on Wednesday that her decision was a surprising but crucial moment when “law and conscience intersected.”   Yates has become a hero to many Democrats for standing up to the president...
Despite promise, Trump’s business offers little information about foreign profits 

Despite promise, Trump’s business offers little information about foreign profits 

Despite President Donald Trump's promise to donate all profits from foreign-government sources at his Washington hotel and other businesses, recently released internal documents reveal that Trump's private company has made only a limited effort at identifying foreign funds.   An undated document sent throughout the Trump Organization, called "Donations of Profits from Foreign Government...
Former Trump campaign chairman submits Russia-related documents to intelligence panels 

Former Trump campaign chairman submits Russia-related documents to intelligence panels 

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, turned over 305 pages of documents related to the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election to the House and Senate intelligence committees this week, according to people familiar with the ongoing inquiries.   Manafort's submission came in response to letters the congressional panels sent in recent weeks to a...
Five startling things DeVos just told Congress

Five startling things DeVos just told Congress

Does this sound familiar? Betsy DeVos went to Capitol Hill to testify before U.S. lawmakers. She didn't answer a lot of direct questions and engaged in some contentious debates with some members.   That happened in January when she went before the Senate Education Committee for her confirmation hearing, during which she said schools needed guns to protect against grizzly bears. This time...
Transgender bathroom issue continues to roil Legislature

Transgender bathroom issue continues to roil Legislature

Determining which bathrooms transgender Texans can legally use continues to roil the Legislature as the session enters its crucial final days. Already the subject of two all-night hearings, passionate protests and numerous news conferences, the transgender bathroom issue made a conspicuous appearance at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, emphatically capping a 13-hour day in the Texas Senate. Seeking to ban transgender-friendly...
House, Senate disagreement on ‘vouchers’ kills school funding bill

House, Senate disagreement on ‘vouchers’ kills school funding bill

The prospect of Texas public schools getting any additional money over the next two years is gone. The Texas House on Wednesday took yet another overwhelming vote against so-called school choice, which would redirect state money to help students pay for private school tuition. Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the move killed House Bill 21, which over the last few weeks has...
Therapists, parents urge state officials to restore Medicaid money

Therapists, parents urge state officials to restore Medicaid money

Concerned about planned cuts in Medicaid therapy services for disabled children, throngs of parents and therapists pleaded on Wednesday with state officials to reverse course. In the latest pounding for home health care aides and therapists, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission proposed the cuts after the Legislature in 2015 directed the agency to save money by reducing rates for Medicaid...
Could Trump issue himself a pardon?

Could Trump issue himself a pardon?

Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, an interesting constitutional thought experiment emerged: If Hillary Clinton did deserve to be locked up, in the eloquent articulation of Donald Trump supporters, could she use the power of the presidential pardon on . . . herself?   On Nov. 8, the question became pointless, as we learned that Clinton would not have that authority or any power...
Al Franken is back to joke writing with this sick burn on Ted Cruz

Al Franken is back to joke writing with this sick burn on Ted Cruz

Since coming to the Senate, Al Franken has taken great pains to be seen as a serious lawmaker and not the goofy "Saturday Night Live"-writing comedian he once was.   But old habits die hard. In his new book, "Giant of the Senate," Franken reveals that he hasn't left his comedy-crafting days behind. In one passage, he relays a story about his fellow Minnesota Democrat...
Former Senator Lieberman no longer front-runner for FBI director 

Former Senator Lieberman no longer front-runner for FBI director 

Former U.S. senator Joe Lieberman, who had risen to the top of President Trump's list of candidates to serve as the next FBI director, has fallen from the top tier amid concerns about bipartisan pushback to his nomination.   Lieberman, who met with Trump last week and was said to be a surprise favorite for the job, has no law enforcement experience. But Trump favored him after their meeting...

Al Franken suspends ‘unwritten rules’ to air loathing of Texan Ted Cruz

Unsurprisingly in a partisan way, perhaps, Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken calls his Republican nemesis, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a “dunderhead” in a book coming out soon. Franken does even more in “Giant of the Senate.” The book includes a chapter devoted to Cruz. Today, the Austin American-Statesman’s First Reading blog presents Cruz mentions in Franken’s book...
Herman: Late-night deadlines and legislative shenanigans

Herman: Late-night deadlines and legislative shenanigans

There’s nothing like good, thoughtful legislating, and it’s quite possible what went on Tuesday night and very early Wednesday morning and through 2:30 a.m. Thursday at Your State Capitol was nothing like good, thoughtful lawmaking. The House worked a long Tuesday toward a midnight drop-dead deadline for action on Senate bills. From here on in, it takes a bit of legislative creativity...
Even some Republicans balk at Trump’s plan for steep budget cuts

Even some Republicans balk at Trump’s plan for steep budget cuts

President Donald Trump's proposal to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade — including deep reductions for programs that help the poor — faced harsh criticism in Congress on Tuesday, where even many Republicans said the White House had gone too far.   While some fiscally conservative lawmakers, particularly in the House, found a lot to praise in...
Trump calls Kim Jong Un a ‘madman with nuclear weapons,’ according to transcript of Duterte call

Trump calls Kim Jong Un a ‘madman with nuclear weapons,’ according to transcript of Duterte call

President Donald Trump labeled North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un a "madman with nuclear weapons" during a private phone conversation with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last month, just days before stating publicly that he would be "honored" to meet with Kim.   In the April 29 call, Trump sought Duterte's input on whether Kim is "stable or not stable"...
Trump retains outside lawyer to help with Russia investigations

Trump retains outside lawyer to help with Russia investigations

President Donald Trump has retained the services of a trusted lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, to help him navigate the investigations into his campaign and Russian interference in last year's election, according to people familiar with the decision.   Kasowitz, who has known Trump for decades, has represented Trump in numerous cases, including on his divorce records, real estate transactions and...
Trump leaves Middle East with hope for peace, but no plan for it 

Trump leaves Middle East with hope for peace, but no plan for it 

In case there was any doubt, President Donald Trump made it exceedingly clear: He wants a deal. “I intend to do everything I can,” he said on Tuesday.   Moreover, he left after a 28-hour visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank convinced that he has partners in peace after meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu...
Texas House gives initial OK to voter ID bill

Texas House gives initial OK to voter ID bill

Two months after a federal judge ruled that Texas Republicans enacted a voter ID law in 2011 to intentionally discriminate against minorities, the Texas House launched a spirited debate Tuesday on a bill designed to salvage many elements of the law. After churning through 30 proposed amendments, most offered by Democrats hoping to weaken the bill’s provisions during six hours of debate, the...
Dan Patrick airs inaccurate $20,000 homeowner savings claim

Dan Patrick airs inaccurate $20,000 homeowner savings claim

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made such a dramatic claim about tax rate legislation — $20,000 in savings for the average homeowner every year — that we launched a fact check. Patrick, in May 17 remarks to Capitol reporters, declared that Senate Bill 2, authored by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, must pass, in Patrick’s view, for lawmakers to avoid one or more special sessions after the...
The key spending cuts and increases in Trump's budget

The key spending cuts and increases in Trump's budget

The White House released more details of its federal budget proposal on Monday. It includes substantial cuts to Medicaid and other aid to the poor. Because it comes packaged with tax cuts, it assumes the economy will grow faster as a result and ultimately balance the budget by 2027. It is, however, unlikely to pass Congress as is.      As outlined in March’s “skinny budget...
Herman: GOP, in charge for now, faces perilous future

Herman: GOP, in charge for now, faces perilous future

Not long ago I had the eye-opening opportunity to hear a presentation here in Austin from Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute and author of a 2016 book about something about which we’re all familiar. Yes, it’s hard to offer something eye-opening about something about which we’re all familiar. But Jones, in words and numbers, makes a...
Power struggle intensifies between White House, ethics office

Power struggle intensifies between White House, ethics office

White House officials are seeking to stop the federal government's top ethics officer from getting details about waivers granted to lobbyists and other appointees working in the administration, intensifying a power struggle between President Donald Trump and the ethics agency.   Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent a memo in April to the White House and federal...
Letter says Trump’s former National Security Adviser Flynn misled Pentagon

Letter says Trump’s former National Security Adviser Flynn misled Pentagon

  Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, misled Pentagon investigators about his income from companies in Russia and contacts with officials there when he applied for a renewal of his top-secret security clearance last year, according to a letter released Monday by the top Democrat on the House oversight committee.   Flynn, who resigned...
Trump seeks to sell off half of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Trump seeks to sell off half of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

As part of its 2018 budget, the Trump administration is proposing to reduce by half the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a cushion against global price shocks and supply disruptions. The administration said it expects the drawdown to reduce the federal deficit by $16.6 billion, part of a package of deficit reduction measures over the next 10 years.   The proposal will likely run...
What was that glowing orb Trump touched in Saudi Arabia?

What was that glowing orb Trump touched in Saudi Arabia?

A mysterious glowing orb is exerting uncanny power over the world’s social media.   President Donald Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt entered a darkened room filled with row after row of computers in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Sunday evening.   They placed their hands atop a radiant whitish sphere, which illuminated their...
Lawyers are the big winners in the 2016 election interference investigation

Lawyers are the big winners in the 2016 election interference investigation

The appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation of possible Russian involvement in the 2016 election means that White House staff members and others connected to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will need to do one thing quickly: Lawyer up.  The investigation can be expected to unfold like others involving...
Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts because of their effect on African-American voters, the first impact was felt in Texas. Three federal judges, overseeing a legal challenge to Texas districts adopted in 2013, sent an order Monday to lawyers on both sides seeking information about how the ruling might apply to the Lone Star State. The...
Texas House passes ban on transgender bathrooms in schools

Texas House passes ban on transgender bathrooms in schools

The Texas House gave final approval Monday to a bill banning transgender-friendly bathrooms in the state’s public schools — a compromise effort that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said was too weak but state business leaders feared could still provoke an economic backlash. Democrats, civil rights groups and gay rights groups were outraged, saying the ban singles out transgender students, an already...
Religious-refusal foster care bill heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk

Religious-refusal foster care bill heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk

A bill that would let faith-based adoption and foster care agencies decline to place children with gay, lesbian and transgender households is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott. The Texas Senate voted 21-10 to approve House Bill 3859 early Monday. All Republicans voted for the bill, along with one Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville. “Such an imbalance of rights not only could leave these...
Another core Trump campaign promise falls by the wayside

Another core Trump campaign promise falls by the wayside

There's a social media parlor game that's emerged over the past several months. When President Donald Trump makes an unorthodox statement or announces a policy initiative, the race is on to find a tweet in which he expressed the opposite opinion or plan. They are often easy to come by.   On Sunday night, though, there was a particularly remarkable example. Our time-machine Twitter tool Trumphop...
White House trying to dupe media with phony leaks

White House trying to dupe media with phony leaks

Conservative talk show host Bill Mitchell has hatched an ingenious plot to destroy the credibility of major newspapers.   "You know what we should do? Start flooding the NYTimes and WAPO tip lines with all kinds of crazy "leaks." Then laugh when they print them!" he posted on Twitter.   Simple, right? Mitchell's theory is that the media is so hungry for unflattering...
John Young: ‘Deep Throats’ lined up for a city block

John Young: ‘Deep Throats’ lined up for a city block

Newly elevated, helium-inflated, a president for a bare blink of an eye, Donald Trump chose as one of his first presidential acts a declaration of war on the press. So, how’s that going? Trump called reporters “the enemies of the people.” Henchman Steve Bannon called the media “the opposition party.” Interesting claim from one who made his name with the saliva machine...
Hunter: How Donald Trump’s supporters are just like Hillary Clinton’s

Hunter: How Donald Trump’s supporters are just like Hillary Clinton’s

Last year I wrote, “There is one of two ways we can look at our elected officials, particularly those occupying or vying for the highest office in the land: That they are somehow above the law, as President Richard Nixon famously once said—‘If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,’ or we can expect that all Americans be subject to the same laws no matter...
Trump budget may slash aid to Austin housing, elderly, flood recovery

Trump budget may slash aid to Austin housing, elderly, flood recovery

Child care help so minimum-wage parents can work and earn a paycheck. Social workers to care for elderly people who need help getting through their daily lives. After-school programs for kids who’d be left to their own devices otherwise. Housing vouchers for people who’d be on the streets. Those are the programs targeted in a 2018 budget proposed by President Donald Trump. It would eliminate...
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Speaker Joe Straus said the House will budge no further on transgender bathroom legislation and that the Senate can take the measure the House passed Sunday, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not feel went far enough, or leave it. “The House approved language last Sunday night that required schools to make private accommodations for students who want them,” Straus said Friday at a brief press...
Budget, planning woes on the horizon for deteriorating Austin pools

Budget, planning woes on the horizon for deteriorating Austin pools

Three Austin neighborhood swimming pools will sit out the 2017 swim season for repairs, while others remain in “critical” condition and the city grapples with the future of an aquatics system that is rapidly deteriorating. Givens and Govalle pools in East Austin, and Shipe pool north of downtown, all in various stages of repair, will not open this year, said parks department spokeswoman...
San Marcos mayor: City will ‘vigorously oppose’ Trump’s proposed cuts

San Marcos mayor: City will ‘vigorously oppose’ Trump’s proposed cuts

The loss of a federal development grant program that has been a cornerstone for fast-growing Central Texas cities, especially those recently struck by historic flooding, would be “devastating” for San Marcos, Mayor John Thomaides said Thursday. The Community Development Block Grant Program, which provides funding for urban development projects, including disaster relief, is among a plethora...
Top Russian officials discussed how to influence Trump aides last summer

Top Russian officials discussed how to influence Trump aides last summer

WASHINGTON -- U.S. spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence.   The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn...
Anderson Cooper apologizes for conjuring image of Trump defecating on his desk

Anderson Cooper apologizes for conjuring image of Trump defecating on his desk

  "If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it," Anderson Cooper told conservative pundit and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord.   During an interview on his show Friday night, CNN host Anderson Cooper interrupted a conservative pundit with a not-so-subtle jab that he later regretted.   Cooper told Jeffrey Lord, a supporter of the president, that if Trump "...
Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer

Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, used a Sunday morning appearance on "Fox and Friends" to spread the conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails.   "We have this very strange...
Twitter co-founder: I’m sorry if we made Trump’s presidency possible

Twitter co-founder: I’m sorry if we made Trump’s presidency possible

If anyone knows how important Twitter is to Donald Trump, it's the president.   "Without the tweets, I wouldn't be here," he told the Financial Times last month.   To which Twitter's co-founder says: Sorry about that, world.   Evan Williams, who still sits on the company's board of directors, recently told The New York Times that he wants to repair the damage...
Trump's first trip abroad: Everything that's happened so far and upcoming schedule 

Trump's first trip abroad: Everything that's happened so far and upcoming schedule 

President Donald Trump will be traveling to several countries during his first trip abroad as the commander in chief. Here's a quick look at where he's going and the highlights of the trip:    What happened so far: In his speech to leaders of Muslim-majority nations on Sunday, Trump urged nations to "drive out" terrorists and called the fight against terrorism "a battle between...
Washington's portable toilet industry is flush, thanks to Trump

Washington's portable toilet industry is flush, thanks to Trump

President Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to boost economic growth and be the "greatest jobs producer that God ever created."   His economic legacy in this young presidency is far from sealed, but it's safe to say he has made at least one industry flush: The Washington region's portable toilet industry.   The Trump presidency has brought an increased number of...
5 questions Congress needs to answer about Trump and Russia

5 questions Congress needs to answer about Trump and Russia

The past week and a half has been dizzy with developments:    A senior White House official is under investigation by the FBI related to Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.   President Donald Trump told Russian officials that firing FBI Director James Comey relieved "great pressure" on him.   Notes have surfaced from Comey saying Trump asked...
Austin firefighters seeing signs of containing preventable crashes

Austin firefighters seeing signs of containing preventable crashes

The Austin Fire Department this year has managed to reduce the number of preventable crashes involving its vehicles by nearly 25 percent, compared with the first four months of 2016. According to department records, Fire Department vehicles were involved in 38 collisions from Jan. 1 through April 23, the end date for the most recent data available. Authorities identified 18 of those crashes, or 47...
Austin to sue state over SB 4 ban on ‘sanctuary cities’

Austin to sue state over SB 4 ban on ‘sanctuary cities’

In what several experts characterized as a move to take the reins of legal challenges against the “sanctuary cities” ban under Senate Bill 4, the Austin City Council voted late Thursday to sue the state of Texas. Austin now joins the city and county of El Paso as Texas urban areas set to sue the state over the controversial immigration law. The small border city of El Cenizo and Maverick...

Austin officers sue over promotions delayed by former Chief Acevedo

Austin police officers say they were denied the opportunity for promotions last year because former Police Chief Art Acevedo failed to offer some high-ranking officials a test to assess their merits. A lawsuit filed Thursday in Travis County says Acevedo intentionally delayed offering a commander test so some of his preferred candidates could meet eligibility requirements, which state an officer must...

$3.5 million to cover firefighter overtime, but staff shortage remains

Austin city leaders this week answered the Fire Department’s call for a $3.5 million budget increase to cover overtime expenses, but fire officials still aren’t sure if they will be able to resolve a personnel shortfall marked by too many retirements and too few recruits moving forward. As of the most recent cadet class, the Austin Fire Department was facing a 124-person deficit, leaving...
Amid Russia probe, Trump’s former lawyer says president ‘needs a good lawyer’

Amid Russia probe, Trump’s former lawyer says president ‘needs a good lawyer’

A longtime private attorney for President Donald Trump said he has advised the White House that Trump should hire a "tough Washington lawyer" to help navigate an increasingly complex legal strategy in response to the special counsel investigation of alleged ties between the presidential campaign and Russia.   "He needs a good lawyer, someone who is strong, not that he would...
Trump won’t be silent on Russia probe, even at his peril

Trump won’t be silent on Russia probe, even at his peril

President Donald Trump's silence lasted just over 12 hours. Then, he let it all out.   The appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between his campaign and Russia was the "single greatest witch hunt in American history," he tweeted.   Hours later, during a news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump revisited the topic...
Why obstruction of justice is a hard crime to prove

Why obstruction of justice is a hard crime to prove

The report in The New York Times that President Donald Trump in February asked James B. Comey, the former FBI director, to stop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, by saying “I hope you can let this go” has fueled talk of possible obstruction of justice.   Add this to Trump’s firing of Comey a week ago for his persistence in the...
Spicer in the bushes. Now, Comey in the drapes. What is going on?

Spicer in the bushes. Now, Comey in the drapes. What is going on?

"All the President's Men," it is not. Perhaps "Bulworth" or "Wag the Dog."   It's as if the made-for-TV movie about the Trump administration's scandals is being scripted in real time, in real life.   Surely there will be a scene showing White House press secretary Sean Spicer huddled in - sorry, "among" - the bushes near his office, deflecting...
Vice President Pence has a growing credibility problem

Vice President Pence has a growing credibility problem

There are more than a few people who look at Vice President Mike Pence and see President Pence — possibly sooner than later. For wistful Democrats, it would be the end result of President Donald Trump stepping aside or being impeached; for wistful Republicans, some dream of a more serious, less error-prone Republican president actually succeeding at passing a conservative agenda.  ...
Behind closed doors, Franken, Gillibrand blast Rosenstein for withholding info

Behind closed doors, Franken, Gillibrand blast Rosenstein for withholding info

 Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's meeting with senators on Thursday grew especially heated when he faced questions from two frustrated liberal Democrats, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting.   Rosenstein came to Capitol Hill to discuss the firing of former FBI director James Comey and his decision to hire Robert Mueller as a special counsel to probe Russian...
Trump’s business ties to Middle East precede him

Trump’s business ties to Middle East precede him

As President Donald Trump sets off on his first international trip as president today, his itinerary will include two Middle Eastern countries, Israel and Saudi Arabia, where he explored business deals before taking office.   In Israel, Trump has long sought a tower project in Tel Aviv. But he has shelved that ambition for now, given his self-imposed ban on foreign deals during his presidency...
Tillerson puts onus of drug trafficking crisis on consumption by Americans

Tillerson puts onus of drug trafficking crisis on consumption by Americans

It has long been a Mexican talking point.  But on Thursday, it was the top U.S. diplomat who said the root of the deadly drug trafficking crisis killing thousands of people on both sides of the border was American drug habits.  "Americans must confront the reality that we are the market," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. "We Americans must own this problem." ...
With Austin rules gone, Lyft drivers set to get back behind the wheel

With Austin rules gone, Lyft drivers set to get back behind the wheel

Out of an airy Lyft office in East Austin marked by a bright pink tent, a steady stream of new and returning drivers filed in Thursday to sign up, following new Texas legislation passed Wednesday that knocks out Austin’s ride-hailing regulations. Among those sitting in purple and pink folding chairs in the office was David Highland. ALSO READ: What does overturn of ride-hailing rules mean for...
San Marcos receives $7.7 million in disaster funds for 2015 floods

San Marcos receives $7.7 million in disaster funds for 2015 floods

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it is awarding San Marcos an additional $7.7 million for disaster recovery from the 2015 floods. The department’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program doles out money for communities in the most impacted areas with significant unmet recovery needs. San Marcos was one of several local and state governments to...
What does overturn of ride-hailing rules mean for Austin?

What does overturn of ride-hailing rules mean for Austin?

Uber and Lyft are set to return to Austin in the wake of state legislation passed Wednesday that nukes Austin’s ride-hailing regulations, but will Austinites vote with their wallets the way they did in an election last year to make the companies play by local rules? Austinites who rely on cellphone apps to hail rides have endured a rocky two years of fighting over the city regulations, a failed...
Worried about fallout, Democrats poised to poll-test impeachment

Worried about fallout, Democrats poised to poll-test impeachment

Democratic strategists are racing to figure out whether it's politically wise to call for President Donald Trump's impeachment, as one bombshell revelation after another about his ties to Russia is forcing candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives to consider the question far sooner than anyone had expected.  In a significant development, party operatives say they expect Democrats...
Will Trump be impeached? Here's how it would actually happen

Will Trump be impeached? Here's how it would actually happen

As the backlash over President Donald Trump's various controversial decisions escalates — the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey and divulging classified secrets to Russian officials, just to name two — Trump's critics are starting to use the "i" word more and more.   Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said last month that she will "fight every day until he is impeached...
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