Hundreds Of Protesters Hound McConnell In Anderson County Tuesday, Feb 21 2017 

With hundreds of protesters assembled outside, Sen. Mitch McConnell held a contentious town hall-type event in Lawrenceburg on Tuesday.

The Senate Majority Leader refused to answer two questions from opponents in the audience, asking instead for inquiries from those “who maybe actually were interested in what I had to say.”

During a speech, McConnell said that opponents needed to get over the results of the election.

“They had their shot in the election, they certainly had their shot in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “I always remind people winners make policy and losers go home, that’s the way it works.

The event was the first of three town hall events McConnell is holding in Kentucky this week during Congress’ February recess.

Protesters amassed outside of the gates of the American Legion in Lawrenceburg, booing and chanting as his car entered the event.

During his speech, McConnell criticized Senate Democrats for slowing down the appointment process of President Trump’s cabinet nominees.

“I hope the fever’s going to break here at some point,” McConnell said at the event, sponsored by the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce. “There’s a lot of resistance, not just outside but in the country, largely based on an unprecedented decision to literally not accept the outcome of the election.”

McConnell said “it never occurred” to him to block or slow-down presidential cabinet appointments when he served as minority leader at the beginning of President Obama’s administration.

He defended his decision to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to be a Supreme Court justice, about 10 months before the end of his term.

“I made the call, myself, that we would not fill that vacancy in the middle of the presidential election year, in the 11th hour of the outgoing president,” McConnell said.

After the meeting, McConnell talked to reporters about the hundreds of protesters who showed up outside of the American Legion in Lawrenceburg.

“I can only speak for myself,” he said. “Protests in America are not unusual. We’ve had them for 240 years. I don’t think anybody should be alarmed about citizens expressing their point of view, it doesn’t bother me one bit.”

But during the event, McConnell passed on answering a question about coal jobs and another about whether a botched raid in Yemen constitutes grounds for impeaching President Trump.

“Thank you for your speech,” McConnell said in his answer to the Yemen question. “Is there anybody else with a question? Anybody up front who may be actually interested in what I had to say?”

McConnell’s response to the second question was shorter.

“Anybody interested in anything I had to say up here in front,” he asked.

Katricia Rogers drove from Whitesburg to attend the event. She said she wasn’t able to ask a question about education and the economy in Eastern Kentucky.

“I want to know what does he plan to do to bring education and other jobs into our area,” Rogers said. “Because that’s what we really need is more education for our public schools and more jobs that’s not coal related. We are educated enough to know that the coal jobs are not going to come back for other reasons rather than what he’s stating.”

In a press huddle after the meeting, McConnell said he likes “what the president’s doing,” but criticized his ongoing use of Twitter.

“I think the president would serve himself better by not having as many controversies surrounding his statements because it tends to take us off message,” McConnell said. “I would not be tweeting so often or I would be tweeting different things.”

McConnell also differed from the president’s characterization of journalists as “enemies of the state.”

“I think the press services an important function in our country,” McConnell said. “We need to have people looking at us and raising tough questions, that’s what all of you do and that’s what you do and I have no problem with it.”

Commentary: Don’t Put Louisville Under Frankfort’s Thumb Again Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

For most of the 20th century, bipartisan, civic-minded Louisvillians sought with little success to increase local control for the citizens of the state’s largest city. And to find out why, you have to study the history of a railroad.

That’s right.

In the last half of the 19th century, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, based in Louisville, had so much power that it called the shots not only for the state but for the city, then one of the 15 largest in America, and second only to New Orleans in the South.

Corruption was so embedded that the state Constitutional Convention of 1891 decided to wrest power from the railroad. But at the same time, it also placed too much responsibility for Louisville’s government in the hands of Frankfort.

Finally, in the late 20th century, after decades of effort by local leaders — with the local economy booming and the L&N’s influence greatly diminished — forward-thinking voices began to prevail.

With the voters’ support, the balance of power began to shift. Mayors were allowed to serve more than one term. The local courts were reformed and judgeships were made nonpartisan, creating a better and more independent justice system.

All sorts of powers were granted to the growing suburban county government — a change that Sen. Mitch McConnell, then Jefferson County Judge/Executive, strongly approved. Indeed, through much of that time Republicans were progressive leaders, and the questions of home rule transcended partisanship.

And, finally, in 2000, again with strong bipartisan support including leadership from former Louisville mayors Jerry Abramson and Dave Armstrong (Democrats), McConnell and Jefferson County Judge/Executive Rebecca Jackson (Republicans), voters approved a city-county merger initiative that drew national acclaim. By virtually all accounts, it has been a great success.

Now, after so many decades of support by both parties, a group of House Republicans in Frankfort — and who represent Louisville — are pushing a bill to turn back the clock on home rule. Their efforts include, among other things, limiting the mayor of Louisville to two successive terms instead of the current three and stripping the council of its power to fill vacancies that occur on the council or in the mayor’s office. Instead, the governor would be handed the power to make those appointments.

In my years at The Courier-Journal, I always counted the days until the General Assembly adjourned. Every session seemed to be the worst one yet. Part of the reason for that is the diversity of Kentucky and its people. There is no reason that lawmakers from Mousie, Fulton, Nicholasville and Rabbit Hatch should be making decisions that apply to the needs of Louisville, Lexington and a few other major cities in the state.

They don’t understand us well enough, and goodness knows we don’t understand them. This goes beyond partisanship. Metro Council President David Yates told WFPL’s Jake Ryan, “It’s dangerous for Frankfort to play politics with our local government.”

He’s right.

Louisville sends to Frankfort $1 for every 50 cents it gets back. Our town may not be able to decide how to spend that revenue, but we should at least be able to elect our own leaders. This is an American principle, going back to the New England town meetings and the stump where Lincoln campaigned in Illinois.

I’ve heard that some Republicans think this is a dandy way to turn Louisville from blue to red. But remember this: Democrats held the mayor’s office for all but eight of the years from 1933 to 2000. After 1970, the old City Board of Aldermen was solidly Democratic. Not one Republican sat in that chamber.

Today there is a strong bipartisan mix, and the second Metro Council president, Kelly Downard, was a Republican elected with bipartisan support. Subsequent council presidents have included an African-American woman and the current president, who comes from southwest Louisville.

No longer is the East End running the show, as it long did. The fact is that Louisville, like many big cities, tends to vote Democratic. But as recently as 2010, Republican Hal Heiner came within 2 percentage points of defeating Greg Fischer.

McConnell has recently said: “I would say we have term limits now. They’re called elections.”

I agree with him.

Nearly two decades have passed since the effort to bring local control back to Louisville succeeded. Most of those who pushed for it are either dead or have grown old, as in my own case.

At The Courier-Journal, where I was an opinion editor, we gave the merger effort our strongest push in the newspaper’s history. Former publisher Ed Manassah saw nothing more important for the city’s economic and governmental future, and he was right. The business community was united. The parties were united. It was a great time.

Let’s not squander that success in a misguided effort to strip local control from Kentucky’s economic engine.

Keith Runyon retired in 2012 as editorial page editor of The Courier-Journal, where he worked for 43 years.

Voting Fraud vs. Election Fraud And Claims Of Chicanery In Kentucky Thursday, Feb 16 2017 

In a national television appearance on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell knocked down claims of wide-scale voting fraud in the presidential election.

While tossing cold water on President Trump’s repeated (and unsubstantiated) claims of fraud impacting the election, McConnell did say that vote fraud is real, it happens, and Kentucky has a history of it.

“… the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true,” McConnell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.”

Our reporting pals at WAVE-3 in Louisville asked McConnell’s office for details. His office responded with a link to our newsroom’s August 2016 article on Kentucky’s history of vote buying.

So, is McConnell right? Is fraud rampant in Kentucky?

No, not really. The answer is complicated, though, and it boils down to semantics.

Some Republicans, most notably Trump, have pushed the notion of massive voter impersonation, including fake ballots, fake identities, buses of voters crossing state lines and more.

Those actions most definitely fit the definition of voter fraud.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reported zero complaints of voter fraud in the most recent election. In a letter sent last week to Congress, Grimes, who oversees elections in the state, said there is no information that anyone prohibited from casting a vote did so.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said via Twitter that his office “has no evidence of voter fraud” related to the presidential election. He noted that vote buying convictions in recent years did not involve a federal election.

Nonetheless, Kentucky does have a history of vote buying, selling and coercion. Those actions are illegal. Last fall, three people were convicted in federal court of conspiring to buy votes on behalf of candidates running for local office in Magoffin County.

And we’ve documented several of these cases over the years. But that doesn’t mean fictitious people are casting fake ballots.

Thus, election fraud isn’t the same as voter fraud.

“In the commonwealth, conflating the concept of vote buying with voter impersonation or illegal individuals voting is inaccurate, inconsistent, and the facts simply do not back it up,“ Grimes said in a statement released Wednesday to KyCIR. She called McConnell’s comments disingenuous.

Donald Trump

Another aspect of the fraud debate centers on voters registered in several states. Some Republicans have cited this as an avenue for fraud, calling it a major problem.

Several of Trump’s top deputies and his spokesman were found to be registered in multiple states. So too was our own Kate Howard, who chronicled her voting registration story last fall. She did not commit fraud. (Read “How I Became An Election Scofflaw”)

The unsubstantiated claims of vote fraud aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Last week, Trump reignited his allegation, saying, without any evidence, that fraud cost him the popular vote in New Hampshire. He has promised a “major investigation.”

Here is McConnell’s full MSNBC commentary on vote fraud:

There’s no evidence that enough votes were stolen to change the outcome of the election. I do want to point out Joe, though, the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true. We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.

So the notion that something – for example, like photo ID at the polls is an effort to suppress the vote – is patently absurd. But there is no evidence that there was significant enough voter fraud to affect the outcome of the presidential election.

Here is Grimes’ full statement:

Sen. McConnell’s comments with regard to voter fraud are disingenuous. They are an attempt to lay the groundwork for massive voter suppression efforts, not only in the commonwealth but across the nation.

As he rightly admitted, there was no massive voter fraud sufficient to impact the 2016 presidential election, as the president has repeatedly claimed. In the commonwealth, conflating the concept of vote buying with voter impersonation or illegal individuals voting is inaccurate, inconsistent, and the facts simply do not back it up.

KyCIR Managing Editor Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@kycir.org or (502) 814.6541.

In Other News … ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted,’ Bowling Green massacre aftermath, Valentine’s Day in Louisville, Lawrence’s ‘mother!’ gets date Friday, Feb 10 2017 

Nevertheless, She Persisted: On Tuesday night, while debating the confirmation of attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Sen. Mitch McConnell invoked a rarely used rule to silence fellow senator Elizabeth Warren, says U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times, Sen. Warren read from a letter from Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin […]

Republicans Vote To Silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren In Confirmation Debate Wednesday, Feb 8 2017 

The words were those of Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But they resulted in a rarely invoked Senate rule being used to formally silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Warren read from a letter Scott King wrote in 1986, when she objected to President Reagan’s ultimately unsuccessful nomination of then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions to a federal district court seat.

Now-Sen. Sessions, R-Ala., is President Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general. Warren was speaking in the debate leading up to Sessions’ likely confirmation by the Senate Wednesday.

King wrote that Sessions used “the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens” — and that was the line Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited in his objection.

“I call the senator to order under the provisions of Rule 19,” McConnell said after interrupting Warren’s speech, in which he said she had “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.”

That objection came nearly 30 minutes after Warren was initially warned by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who was presiding over the Senate at the time.

Rapping on the presiding officer’s desk, Daines cut Warren off some 20 minutes into her speech.

“The senator is reminded that it is a violation of Rule 19 of the standing rules of the Senate to impute to another senator or senators any conduct or motive unworthy or becoming [sic] a senator,” Daines said, apparently reading from a note on his desk.

“Mr. President, I don’t think I quite understand,” Warren replied. “I’m reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Judiciary Committee from 1986 that was admitted into the record. I’m simply reading what she wrote about what the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be a federal court judge meant, and what it would mean in history for her.”

Daines said his interruption was a “reminder” that didn’t necessarily apply to what Warren had just said. He continued, “However, you stated that a sitting senator is a disgrace to the Department of Justice.”

Warren replied that that comment seemed to have been made not by King but by Sen. Edward Kennedy — another person she quoted in her speech — “Although I would be glad to repeat it in my own words,” she added.

Without mentioning that the flagged statement had been made before Sessions was a member of the Senate, Daines — repeating the words of a female staff member who seemed to be reading aloud — sought to clarify the rule’s scope.

“The rule applies,” he said, relaying the staffer’s words, “to imputing conduct or motive through any form or voice.” He added, “Form of voice includes quotes, articles, or other materials.”

Warren replied, “So, quoting Sen. Kennedy calling then-nominee Sessions a disgrace is a violation of Senate rules? It was certainly not in 1986.”

“In the opinion of the chair, it is,” Daines said. As Warren began to speak, he added, “And the senator is warned.”

That formal warning set up the later interruption — and the forced termination of Warren’s address.

Warren sought another clarification, as to whether she is allowed to “accurately describe public views” and statements about Sessions.

Again taking cues from the female staff member whose words he repeated, Daines replied, “The chair has not made a ruling as respect to the senator’s comments. The senator is following process and tradition by reminding the senator of Massachusetts of the rule and the things of which it applies.”

“So, can I continue with Coretta Scott King’s letter?” Warren asked.

“The senator may continue,” Daines replied — granting a permission that would turn out to be short-lived.

Some 23 minutes later, as Warren spoke about Sessions’ vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, McConnell addressed the chair to object to Warren’s remarks — specifically, her earlier quoting of Coretta Scott King’s words.

As The Associated Press reported:

“Quoting King technically put Warren in violation of Senate rules for ‘impugning the motives’ of Sessions, though senators have said far worse stuff. And Warren was reading from a letter that was written 10 years before Sessions was even elected to the Senate.

“Still, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell invoked the rules. After a few parliamentary moves, the GOP-controlled Senate voted to back him up.

“Now, Warren is forbidden from speaking again on Sessions’ nomination. A vote on Sessions is expected Wednesday evening.”

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Outside McConnell’s Louisville Office, Protesters Rally For Refugees Tuesday, Jan 31 2017 

Hundreds of people gathered downtown Louisville Tuesday outside the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to voice their opposition to the executive orders signed by President Donald Trump regarding refugees and immigrants.

Some also complain that McConnell is not listening to their concerns. McConnell told ABC last weekend that he doesn’t want to make a blanket criticism of the policy, but the government should be careful going forward.

I went to the “No Ban! No Wall!” rally site outside the federal courthouse to talk to participants and some passers-by. Listen to what they had to say in the audio player above.

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Chenoweth Allen

“I did get through on one call last Friday. I didn’t get to speak to him (McConnell), obviously. I spoke to one of his aides. I asked him to not confirm Jeff Session because I think his history shows that he’s not going to be a fair attorney general.”

 

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Julie Kaelin

“Having been born and raised here I feel like he’s always been a part of my life. And I have voted for Mitch McConnell when I was younger. There was a day when Louisvillians felt Mitch McConnell did a lot for our community and brought a lot of federal funding back to Kentucky and did a lot for the city and state. But those days are gone.”

The voices featured in the audio above are from: Pat Martin, Robin Scarborough, Dawn Cooley, Chenoweth Allen and Justin Gilbert.

Another Day, Another Local Rally Against Trump’s Immigration Order Tuesday, Jan 31 2017 

The group Indivisible KY held a rally on Tuesday in front of the Gene Snyder Federal Building in downtown Louisville. The focus of the rally was Kentucky’s senior Senator Mitch McConnell.

Indvisible KY, a new statewide activist organization, complained that McConnell refused to listen to those urging Congress to “stop the ban on Muslim refugees entering the U.S. and to stop the planning of the construction of a wall on the Mexico border.”

An estimated 250 participants attended the event, many holding telephones and signs asking McConnell to call them, a reference to the senator’s lack of communication with constituents about his stance on the executive orders signed by President Donald Trump over the past week.

It was the city’s third straight day of pro-immigration rallies.

Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer Photo by Bill Brymer

The post Another Day, Another Local Rally Against Trump’s Immigration Order appeared first on Louisville KY.

The Mighty In Other News…2016 Year in Review Friday, Dec 30 2016 

Well, well, well, 2016. We can call you a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them. Nyquist was the favorite for your 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, and for good reason, it turns out. He won. Lexington’s Chris Stapleton took home a couple of Grammy awards for “Best Country Album of the […]

Fischer’s Concerns About New VA Hospital Location: Why Now? Friday, Dec 16 2016 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has publicly weighed in on the proposed location of the new Veterans Affairs hospital.

In his letter, submitted to the VA as part of the agency’s public comment process, Fischer raises concerns about the project’s land use, impact on traffic and accessibility via public transportation. Fischer mentions other potential “worthy” locations for the project but stops short of saying what those locations might be.

“This has transpired over years, so there’s not going to be any kind of snap decision,” he said at a news conference Friday. “What our role as the city is, is to give them all the information we have, we were invited to do that — just like the public was — as a response to this [Environmental Impact Statement] they put out, and we wanted to put forth what we knew so this project could move forward as quickly as possible. If they want to look at new locations, we are happy to assist them with that.”

The public comment period on the VA’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project has been extended until Jan. 11. But the entire project has been in the planning stages for years.

This is the first time Fischer has shared an opinion on the new VA Hospital in writing. So why now? And where else might the hospital go?

Former Mayor Involved

Louisville Metro government weighed in on the site of the future VA hospital back in 2010.

Then-Mayor Jerry Abramson and former University of Louisville President James Ramsey wanted the new hospital downtown, next to University Hospital. They cited its proximity to transportation, hotels and restaurants, as well as three nearby helipads for emergencies.

But by 2012, the federal government switched course and began eyeing the site off of Brownsboro Road. The VA purchased the site in 2012 for nearly $13 million (though the Office of Inspector General concluded the agency may have overpaid by more than $3 million for the property). And, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it issued a draft environmental assessment of the site in 2014.

More than a year later, the VA decided to conduct a more thorough environmental review.

The Brownsboro Road site is favored by Louisville’s congressional representatives; Sen. Mitch McConnell has been a proponent, and Congressman John Yarmuth has said that changing the location could delay the project another decade.

But attorney Randy Strobo — who is representing the small cities of Crossgate and Northfield — said there were multiple problems with the way the federal government went about evaluating the site, starting with buying the site as early as it did in the first place.

“In our opinion the NEPA process has to be completed first, before they purchase the property,” Strobo said.

Under federal law, the VA also had to conduct an EIS for several different scenarios: the “preferred alternative” (on Brownsboro Road), the St. Joseph site east of I-265, and the “no action alternative,” which provides a baseline.

“The St. Joseph site’s already been purchased. It’s being developed right now, so that site is already kind of off the table,” Strobo said. “So in reality, they really didn’t evaluate any alternatives. They evaluated the no alternative, which means if they do nothing, what’s it going to look like, and the preferred alternative. Nothing else.”

Other Sites?

While Fischer declined to name other sites in the city that might be optimal for the VA Hospital, other groups have named locations in the West End — in particular, the sites where two high-profile projects were canceled recently: the now-defunct Foodport at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, or the canceled Walmart at 18th Street and Broadway.

The VA only considered “greenfield” — or previously undeveloped — sites in its analysis. And Strobo said that means some otherwise viable sites weren’t even considered.

“Because most of those sites are brownfields sites, or sites where there’s going to be a little bit more work to clean up and develop the property,” he said. “So you’re already eliminating everything basically west of Ninth Street.”

The VA is accepting comments until Jan. 11. At that point, the agency will finalize the EIS and decide whether to move forward with the project as planned, or study additional sites.

McConnell, Differing With Trump, Says He Has ‘Highest Confidence’ In Intel Agencies Monday, Dec 12 2016 

Donald Trump may have run into the first example of how the equal branches of government work — and he’s not even president yet.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the man who controls the agenda in the upper chamber, differed with Trump in a Monday morning press conference, saying he believes Russian involvement in the U.S. election needs to be investigated.

He added, “I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency.”

President-elect Trump has dismissed a CIA report that Russians not only were responsible for hacking during the election but also were trying to sway the electorate with those releases to install Trump as president.

In a remarkable two-sentence statement Friday, the Trump transition team undercut U.S. intelligence, harking back to Iraq — without addressing the merits of the evidence:

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ “

The Democratic National Committee was hacked during the election, as was Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Those emails were then posted to WikiLeaks. Trump was told by intelligence briefers before the election that Russian actors were responsible.

Trump repeatedly refused to accept that. And he now says he does not and will not accept the traditionally daily intelligence briefings, calling them “repetitive.” He said Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take the briefing instead.

McConnell seemed to condemn the leak of the CIA assessment, however. He noted that the director of National intelligence released a statement before the election saying that the Russian government directed recent email compromises in the U.S. political system.

He noted that statement was the unclassified assessment that was appropriate for public disclosure.

“Anything else is irresponsible, likely illegal, and potentially for partisan gain,” McConnell said, adding, “This simply cannot be a partisan issue.”

He continued, noting that the Senate Intelligence Committee “is more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter.”

McConnell expressed the expectation that when the Obama administration completes its review, the director of National Intelligence will provide “additional information released to the public in a responsible manner.”

He also endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s desire to investigate vulnerabilities to cyberattacks in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McConnell also was asked about Trump’s Cabinet appointments and whether he thinks they will pass muster with the senators. The Senate majority leader said he thinks they are mostly very well-qualified and will pass, but he would not comment specifically on the possible nomination of Exxon-Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. McConnell noted only that he had given his view on Russia.

“Let me speak for myself: The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell said.

Tillerson was awarded the Russian “Order of Friendship” in 2013 by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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