Selective shutdown? Trump tries to blunt impact, takes heat
WASHINGTON — The government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: Hundreds of thousands of federal employees don’t know when they’ll see their next paycheck, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stalemate in Washington carry on another month.
But if you’re a sportsman looking to hunt game, a gas company planning to drill offshore or a taxpayer awaiting your refund, you’re in luck: This shutdown won’t affect your plans.
All administrations get some leeway to choose which services to freeze and which to maintain when a budget standoff in Washington forces some agencies to shutter. But in the selective reopening of offices, experts say they see a willingness to cut corners, scrap prior plans and wade into legally dubious territory to mitigate the pain. Some noted the choices seem targeted at shielding the Republican-leaning voters whom Trump and his party need to stick with them.
The cumulative effect is a government shutdown — now officially the longest in U.S. history — that some Americans may find financially destabilizing and others may hardly notice.
Russell T. Vought, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the overarching message from Trump has been “to make this shutdown as painless as possible, consistent with the law.”
Granddad: Wisconsin girl has no link to suspected kidnapper
MADISON, Wis. — The grandfather of a northwestern Wisconsin girl who authorities say was abducted during a home invasion that left her parents dead said Saturday that the family has no connection to the suspect and doesn’t understand why he targeted her, deepening a mystery that has captivated the state for months.
Someone blasted open the door of James and Denise Closs’ home near Barron with a shotgun in October , gunned the couple down and made off with their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme Closs.
Jayme had been missing for nearly three months Thursday when she approached a stranger near the small, isolated north woods town of Gordon and pleaded for help. Officers arrested 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson minutes later based on Jayme’s description of his vehicle. He was jailed on suspicion of kidnapping and homicide.
Investigators have said Patterson’s goal was to kidnap Jayme, but he appears to have no connection to the family. Jayme’s grandfather Robert Naiberg said in a telephone interview Saturday that the only thing the family knows for sure is that no one knew Patterson. He said Jayme told FBI agents she didn’t know him at all.
“He didn’t know Jayme, he didn’t know Denise or Jim,” Naiberg said. “(Jayme) don’t know him from Adam. (But) he knew what he was doing. We don’t know if he was stalking her or what. Did he see her somewhere?”
McCarrick accuser cooperates with NYC prosecutors
VATICAN CITY — The key accuser in the sex abuse case against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has met with New York City prosecutors, evidence that the scandal that has convulsed the papacy is now part of the broader U.S. law enforcement investigation into sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.
James Grein gave testimony last month to Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Sara Sullivan, who is investigating a broad range of issues related to clergy abuse and the systematic cover-up by church superiors, Grein’s attorney, Patrick Noaker, told The Associated Press.
From wire sources
The development is significant, given that the Vatican investigation against McCarrick has already created a credibility crisis for the Catholic hierarchy including Pope Francis, since it was apparently an open secret that McCarrick slept with adult seminarians. Grein’s testimony, however, includes allegations that McCarrick, a former family friend, also groomed and abused him starting when he was 11.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office launched a hotline last year and invited victims to report even decades-old sex abuse, saying it would pursue “any and all investigative leads” to ensure justice.
Grein met with Sullivan before Christmas after filing a compensation claim with the New York City archdiocese alleging that McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, first exposed himself when Grein was 11 and continued abusing him for some two decades, including during confession, Noaker said. The church’s compensation procedures require that victims notify the district attorney of their allegations, which Grein did on Nov. 1.
Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro joins 2020 campaign
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Assailing President Donald Trump for “a crisis of leadership,” former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro joined the 2020 presidential race Saturday as the rush of Democrats making early moves to challenge the incumbent accelerates.
Castro, who could end up being the only Latino in what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field, made immigration a centerpiece of his announcement in his hometown of San Antonio, less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two days after the president visited the border to promote his promised wall, Castro mocked Trump for claiming that the U.S. faces an “invasion” from its ally to the south. “He called it a national security crisis,” Castro said. “Well, there is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation.”
Castro, the 44-year-old grandson of a Mexican immigrant, said he was running for president “because it’s time for new leadership, because it’s time for new energy and it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities that I’ve had are available to every American.”
He made the announcement as a government shutdown drags into the longest in U.S. history, and as the field of 2020 contenders widens and anticipation grows around bigger names still considering runs.
In states, Democrats start delivering on health care pledges
SEATTLE (AP) — Riding the momentum from November’s elections, Democratic leaders in the states are wasting no time delivering on their biggest campaign promise — to expand access to health care and make it more affordable.
The first full week of state legislative sessions and swearings-in for governors saw a flurry of proposals.
In his initial actions, newly elected California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to expand Medicaid to those in the country illegally up to age 26, implement a mandate that everyone buy insurance or face a fine, and consolidate the state’s prescription drug purchases in the hope that it will dramatically lower costs.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a public health insurance option for people who are not covered by Medicaid or private employers and have trouble affording policies on the private market.
Democrats in several states where they now control the legislature and governor’s office, including New Mexico, are considering ways that people who are uninsured but make too much to qualify for Medicaid or other subsidized coverage can buy Medicaid policies.