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Hometown: San Diego, CA
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Journal Archives

Supreme Court sides with Virginia Democrats

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed Republican legislators in Virginia a defeat, leaving in place a ruling that invalidated state electoral districts they drew because they weakened the clout of black voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The justices, in a 5-4 decision, sidestepped a ruling on the merits of the case. They instead found that the Republican-led state House of Delegates lacked the necessary legal standing to appeal a lower court ruling that invalidated 11 state House districts for racial discrimination.
The court was not split on ideological lines, with Justice Ginsburg joined in the majority by fellow liberal justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor as well as two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat and the state’s top law enforcement official, opposed the appeal and argued that the Republican legislators were not entitled to act on behalf of the state in the case.
The Supreme Court’s action let stand a 2018 ruling by a federal three-judge panel that the 11 districts all violated the rights of black voters to equal protection under the law under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Trump tv interview finishes 3rd in its time slot

And has a little more than half of the audience of “Celebrity Family Feud” the week before.

“Trump’s Interview With ABC Gets Lower Ratings Than Celebrity Family Feud”

Are Americans growing tired of the Trump show? President Donald Trump’s interview with ABC News made serious headlines last week before its airing in full Sunday night, but according to the ratings viewers were not all that interested in the hourlong special.

The interview had fewer viewers than Celebrity Family Feud, which aired in the same time slot last week, according to ratings site TV by the Numbers.

The interview, with ABC’s chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, came in third for its time slot Sunday night, with 3.91 million viewers. Celebrity Family Feud had amassed 6.1 million viewers, per TV-by-the-numbers. The special could not compete with the finale of the U.S. Open on Fox, which drew 7.29 million viewers or CBS’ 60 Minutes, which came in at 4.67 million viewers.

ABC News anchor David Muir nabbed the first primetime interview with Trump after his inauguration in 2017, which notched 7.5 million viewers.

Stephanopoulos was up this time, managing t0 secure a rare network television interview with a president more favorable to granting such exclusive access to Fox News. The president even advertised the interview on his Twitter page, promising to do more network interviews in the future.

About 1% of the 329 million people living in the United States watched the Trump Show.

Fox News Russia Collusion poll jumps back up to 50%.

“50 percent of voters believe Trump campaign coordinated with Russia: poll”

Half of American voters believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, a six point jump over three months, according to a poll released Sunday.

The Fox News poll found that 50 percent of respondents believe there was coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, compared to 44 percent who do not believe there was coordination. In March, the last time the survey was taken, just 44 percent of respondents believed there was coordination.

Half of American voters believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, a six point jump over three months, according to a poll released Sunday.

The Fox News poll found that 50 percent of respondents believe there was coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, compared to 44 percent who do not believe there was coordination. In March, the last time the survey was taken, just 44 percent of respondents believed there was coordination.

Everybody wants to live in TrumpAmerica

Here come the Africans
“Record number of African migrants coming to Mexican border”

Undaunted by a dangerous journey over thousands of miles, people fleeing economic hardship and human rights abuses in African countries are coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in unprecedented numbers, surprising Border Patrol agents more accustomed to Spanish-speaking migrants.

Officials in Texas and even Maine are scrambling to absorb the sharp increase in African migrants. They are coming to America after flying across the Atlantic Ocean to South America and then embarking on an often harrowing overland journey.

In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants found walking in separate groups along the arid land after splashing across the Rio Grande, children in tow.

Alexandria and Ted sittin in a tree

K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love; then comes marriage; then comes Alexandria with a baby carriage.

“AOC: Excited to work with Ted Cruz”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she is "extraordinarily excited" to work with an ideological opposite, Sen. Ted Cruz, confirming that friendly Twitter talk between the two was more than just for show.

Speaking on ABC News' "This Week," the New York Democrat said her team has been in communication with the Texas Republican's, though the two lawmakers have not yet met in person. The two high-profile lawmakers surprised many of their colleagues when they came together on Twitter to address some issues, from birth control to banning lawmakers from later becoming lobbyists.

We have an ongoing working relationship and I'm extraordinarily excited in seeing what we can accomplish," Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday.

"I never thought I'd say it," she added, laughing.

The unlikely pact formed late last month when Cruz tweeted to say he agreed with Ocasio-Cortez on banning members of Congress from using their connections after leaving office to lobby.

"Let’s make a deal," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted at the time. "If we can agree on a bill with no partisan snuck-in clauses, no poison pills, etc — just a straight, clean ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists — then I’ll co-lead the bill with you."

Cruz retweeted the congresswoman, saying "You’re on."

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) added himself to the train: "IN."

POLITICO previously reported Cruz confirmed the two teams were talking to get bipartisan action done.

“Our staff is working together collaboratively to try to reach agreement,” Cruz said Thursday. “I substantively agree with the positions that she had tweeted and where we agree on policy we should work together across party lines.”

Killing the messenger: Trump fires his pollsters

They keep giving him bad news so he is hiring different internal pollsters.

“Trump campaign cutting ties with pollsters after internal numbers leaked”

The president's re-election campaign says series of polls showing Joe Biden ahead in key states are "ancient" news.

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is cutting ties with some of its own pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in critical 2020 battleground states, according to a person close to the campaign.

The move comes after NBC News obtained new details from a March internal poll that found Trump trailing Biden in 11 key states.

Portions of the campaign’s expansive March polling trickled out in recent days in other news reports.

But a person familiar with the inner workings of the Trump campaign shared more details of the data with NBC News, showing the president trailing across swing states seen as essential to his path to re-election and in Democratic-leaning states where Republicans have looked to gain traction. The polls also show Trump underperforming in reliably red states that haven’t been competitive for decades in presidential elections.

A separate person close to the Trump re-election team told NBC News Saturday that the campaign will be cutting ties with some of its pollsters in response to the information leaks, although the person did not elaborate as to which pollsters would be let go.

The internal polling paints a picture of an incumbent president with serious ground to gain across the country as his re-election campaign kicks into higher gear.

While the campaign tested other Democratic presidential candidates against Trump, Biden polled the best of the group, according the source.

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan — three states where Trump edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by narrow margins that proved decisive in his victory — Trump trails Biden by double-digits. In three of those states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida — Biden’s leads sit outside the poll’s margin of error.

Trump is also behind the former vice president in Iowa by 7 points, in North Carolina by 8 points, in Virginia by 17 points, in Ohio by 1 point, in Georgia by 6 points, in Minnesota by 14 points, and in Maine by 15 points.

In Texas, where a Democratic presidential nominee hasn’t won since President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Trump leads by just 2 points.

Portions of the internal Trump polling data were first reported by ABC News and The New York Times. The Times reported earlier this month that the internal polling found Trump trailing across a number of key states, while ABC News obtained data showing Trump trailing Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida and holding a small lead in Texas.

The president denied the existence of any negative polling during comments last week in the Oval Office, saying his campaign has “great internal polling” and saying the numbers reported were from “fake polls.”

“We are winning in every single state that we've polled. We're winning in Texas very big. We're winning in Ohio very big. We're winning in Florida very big,” he said.

The Ten Best States to be poor in (#5 through #1)

# 5) Illinois comes is number five for several reasons. Although the minimum wage in Illinois of $8.25 per hour is only $1.00 higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, this goes further here than in states with higher median monthly rents. Even the statewide average for Illinois, which includes Chicago and its affluent suburbs is below the national average ($904 per month for one-bedroom apartments, versus $940, and $1,084 per month, versus $1,166). The situation of low-income Illinoisans is made more secure than in other states by a relatively strong Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which, though it doesn’t apply to original creditors, does shield 85 percent of wages and up to $2,000 of one’s bank account.

#4) Michigan takes fourth place by virtue of its relatively low cost of living, coupled with an above average minimum wage of $9.25 per hour that will become indexed to inflation as of 2019. At minimum wage, it takes 17.99 hours per week to cover the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment, or 23.01 hours per week for a two-bedroom. Like both Vermont and Rhode Island, Michigan is a state that expanded access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and like Vermont, Michigan’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to original creditors.

#3) New York with its high cost of living, and especially its high housing prices, might surprise some that It comes in as the third most hospitable state for low-income residents. There are several good reasons why this is the case. In the first place, New York has a very progressive tax code, with a top tax rate that applies only to literal millionaires, a low four percent state income tax that applies to low-income residents, plus an Earned Income credit in the amount of 30 percent of the Federal EITC. The state minimum wage of $10.40 per hour is well above the national average, which makes it easier to afford rents that are also above the national average (but which are presumably lower than the statewide median outside of the New York City metropolitan area). In addition, an above average 96.4 percent of apartment rents can be paid using cash. Family medical leave is legally mandated, and the state’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act not only applies to original creditors, but shields all but 90 percent of a debtor’s wages from creditors.

#2) Rhode Island comes in slightly behind number one, largely on account of its slightly lower minimum wage of $10.10 and its lack of a strong state Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. On the other hand, the overall cost of living index is lower in Rhode Island than in Vermont, and its income tax is somewhat more progressive, offering a larger standard deduction of $8,300 for individuals and $16,600 for married couples. Additionally, while rents are comparable to the national average, a whopping 96.6 percent of landlords accept cash rent. Otherwise, Rhode Island and Vermont are broadly comparable, both offering an Earned Income Tax Credit that boosts low-income taxpayers’ incomes, and setting their Medicaid eligibility income level at 138 percent of the federal poverty line for both individuals and families.

#1) Vermont is the best place for poor individuals and families because like many states in the top ten Vermont has a strong Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that applies not only to collection agencies, but also to original creditors. It also has state laws that protect employees who must care for a sick family member or need to leave work to attend any manner of school related activities or attend to emergencies involving a dependent child. The state minimum wage of $10.50 is well above the federal minimum and is indexed to inflation. While median monthly rents in Vermont are slightly above the national average, at $966 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,260 for a two-bedroom, this amounts to approximately one-third of the statewide median income for those who rent, making housing relatively affordable.

The Ten Best States to be poor in (#10 through # 6)

In order to determine which states make life on a limited income the least difficult, data sets were analyzed including a total of 22 key indicators in seven categories. These data include measures of 1) income and cost of living, 2) SNAP benefits and other federal and state assistance programs, 3) Insurance and medicaid eligibility, 4) State income taxes and Earned Income Tax Credits, 5) Unemployment and minimum wages, 6) Housing/rent prices, and 7) Debt collection and family leave laws.

#10: Kentucky, surprisingly the very conservative state of Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. “Kentucky is known for having a large proportion of low-income residents, but it might come as something of a surprise that it is a comparably good state in which to be socioeconomically disadvantaged. The statewide average cost of living index of 63.3 is the lowest in the nation, which makes the average of $247.98 per month in SNAP benefits per household go further. Median monthly rental prices are well below average, with median rent for a one-bedroom apartment only $604 per month, lower than all but five other states. Kentucky is a Medicaid expansion state, so low-income individuals and families are eligible for Medicaid if their incomes are below 138% of the federal poverty line.”

#9: Montana has a combination of a low cost of living, inexpensive rents, and a minimum wage that is above the federal minimum, at $8.30 per hour, which is set to automatically increase to keep pace with inflation. Like many other states in the top ten, Montana provides a small earned income tax credit in its state income tax code, providing a small boost to low-income taxpayers’ incomes. Low-income individuals and families have an easier time finding affordable housing in Montana, with low median rents for both one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, which are $616 per month and $783 per month, respectively.

#8 Nevada has a cost of living index value that falls in the bottom quintile across the country (18.75th percentile). By contrast, Nevada places in the top quintile for the total dollar value of benefits available to assist low-income residents, such as LIHEAP benefits averaging $462 for heating during the winter and $379 for cooling during the summer, and a state supplementary benefit of $258. Additionally, Nevada’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund provides rental assistance for residents making less than 60 percent of the area median income, and this assistance is available for up to four years per household. Finally, Nevada takes first place for the number of rental properties for which cash payments are accepted; only 3.1 percent do not.

#7 Minnesota is seventh for a number of reasons, including a low rate of unemployment (4.5 percent) and a relatively low cost of living index (74.785), in combination with a high minimum wage ($9.65 per hour), a progressive tax code with an Earned Income Tax Credit, and strong legal protections for employees with family medical or school obligations. Despite being a Medicaid expansion state, it appears that even employers that pay comparably low wages, or have a large part-time workforce offer health benefits at a higher rate than elsewhere, with 55 percent of state residents obtaining insurance through their employers, versus 14 percent with Medicaid and 15 percent with Medicare.

#6 Massachusetts is number six on the strength of its extensive and generous social programs and unemployment insurance. Workers in Massachusetts receive unemployment benefits for a longer period than anywhere else, with benefits extending 27 weeks on average, with an average weekly payment of $487.86. Low-income Massachusetts residents receive the third largest Low-Income Heating and Energy Program (LIHEAP) benefit amounts ($717) to help keep their homes warm in the winter months and cool during the summer. Finally, housing-insecure Massachusetts residents may be eligible for one of three state-funded rent assistance programs, HomeBASE, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, or Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).

Trump announces his new Border Czar but the czar says nope

During a Fox and Friends” interview on Friday President Trump announced that former Acting I.C.E. Administrator Tom Homan would serve as the border czar and be “very much involved in the border.”

However, the President forgot to inform Tom Homan himself, who was taken aback by the announcement. Homan then turned down the job saying: he “didn’t think the job was structured right” and “didn’t have the proper authority.”

“I think any sort of border czar needs to be a person who can coordinate an all-government response to the border,” Homan said. “So when I first had the discussions, that wasn’t the way it was set up and I certainly don’t want to come back and fail this President.”

“I don’t think they should create another policy position that’s not going to have an effectiveness on this border, so as of right now, I have not accepted the job, but the discussions will continue,” he added.

Conservative congressman lets his wife take the fall

The Trump Administration's Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr just issued this press release:
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Margaret E. Hunter Admits Conspiring with her Husband, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, to Steal more than $200,000 in Campaign Funds
Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726

SAN DIEGO – Margaret E. Hunter admitted in federal court today that she and her husband, U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, knowingly and willfully used campaign funds as their personal bank account for years, spending lavishly on things they could not otherwise afford, such as expensive trips to Italy, Las Vegas, Laguna Beach, Disneyland and elsewhere, plus golf outings, a bachelor party, private school for their children, dinners in Del Mar and Coronado, and even plane tickets for their family pet, Eggburt the rabbit.

Margaret Hunter’s plea agreement indicates that she has agreed to provide “substantial assistance to the United States in the investigation and prosecution of others” and to “tell everything (she) knows about every person involved” in the crime.

U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan set Ms. Hunter’s sentencing for September 16, 2019 at 9 a.m. The Hunters both remain free on bond. A motions hearing relating to defendant Duncan Hunter is scheduled for July 1, 2019, and his trial is scheduled to begin on September 10, 2019.

As detailed in her plea agreement, beginning no later than 2010 and continuing up to and including at least 2016, Margaret and Duncan Hunter agreed to knowingly use campaign funds for their own personal benefit and enjoyment, and for that of friends and family. Throughout this period, the Hunters both recognized that many of their personal outings with family or friends (including trips to Del Mar, dinners or drinks with friends, family and “couples” vacations, golf outings, and a bachelor’s party) should not have been paid for with campaign funds. Nevertheless, Ms. Hunter admitted that the Hunters continued to improperly use campaign funds on these and many other occasions.

Among the improper expenses, Margaret Hunter acknowledged that the Hunters improperly spent $2,448.27 in campaign funds in August 2011 on a personal “couples” Las Vegas vacation in Las Vegas, Nevada, and concealed the personal expenditures by falsely reporting to the campaign treasurer that the expenses were all “campaign related.” Similarly, later that same month, knowing that their family bank account had a negative balance, the Hunters improperly used $113.73 in campaign funds to pay their half of the bill during another couples’ “date night” out with good friends at Jake’s Del Mar; improperly used $156.22 in campaign funds during a “couples” day at the Del Mar Racetrack; and improperly used $511.03 in campaign funds at the Hotel del Coronado to celebrate their child’s birthday. They once again falsely told the campaign treasurer that all the charges were “campaign related.”

Ms. Hunter acknowledged in her plea agreement that these types of improper expenses went on for years and included: (1) the Hunters’ improper use of $371.51 in campaign funds on September 2, 2012 at the Loew’s Resort in Coronado for a family lunch in connection with their child’s Irish Dance competition; (2) the Hunters’ improper use of $100.69 in campaign funds on November 16, 2013 at Casa De Pico in La Mesa to take their family and close friends out to dinner before attending a sporting event featuring one of the Hunters’ children; (3) the Hunters’ improper use of $1,489 in campaign funds on June 28, 2014 to treat their good friends to dinner at the Studio restaurant in the Montage Laguna Beach resort, and for room service, drinks, and meals the next day for the Hunters by themselves; (4) the Hunters’ improper use of campaign funds on September 26, 2015 for a family trip to Disneyland, in which Ms. Hunter used Duncan D. Hunter’s campaign card to spend $229.44 in campaign funds at Disneyland’s Star Trader shop for gifts for the Hunters’ children, including two Minnie Mouse ear headbands, a Star Wars droid knit beanie, and a raglan-sleeve black-and-gray Star Wars girls T-shirt; and (5) the Hunters’ improper use of $669.07 in campaign funds on March 27, 2016 at the Hotel del Coronado for a family Easter Sunday brunch in the Crown Room that the Hunters recognized was well outside their budget.

In her plea, Ms. Hunter also admitted improperly using campaign funds on a number of family vacations, including: (1) a July 2014 vacation to Washington, D.C. and a resort in Pennsylvania (which included personal items and activities such as purchasing cigarettes, $399 for ziplining for Hunter and two of his children, and $250 in airline travel charges for the family’s pet rabbit, Eggburt); (2) a February 2015 family trip to Minnesota, during which they improperly paid for personal family expenses including $250 in airline travel charges for Eggburt, and $132 in Uber rides to take the Hunter family to the Mall of America; (3) a June/July 2015 family vacation involving Hunter’s cousin’s wedding in Boise, Idaho, and a stopover in Las Vegas on the way there in which the Hunters, among other things, spent $205.62 in campaign funds for personal items at the North Face store, which included a new pair of sunglasses for Duncan Hunter and a T-shirt; and (4) a November 2015 family vacation to Italy, in which the Hunters improperly used more than $10,000 in campaign funds, and attempted to justify the impermissible use of these funds by setting up a one-day tour of a U.S. Navy facility in Italy.

Margaret Hunter also admitted communicating with Hunter and with the campaign treasurer about the fact that it was only appropriate to pay expenses with campaign funds when an outing or event was for a bona fide campaign or political purpose. Nevertheless, Ms. Hunter admitted that she and her husband both knowingly violated these restrictions and other rules the treasurer implemented to track legitimate expenses (such as instructing the Hunters not to purchase gas using campaign funds, instructing the Hunters that withdrawing cash from ATMs and using “petty cash” required records of how money was spent, and requiring receipts which listed the names of donors and volunteers with whom the Hunters claimed to be spending campaign funds).

Ms. Hunter also acknowledged that she and Duncan Hunter both were aware that the other spent, and could spend, campaign funds on personal activities and purchases without having to inform one another about the nature of specific “campaign” expenses. According to Ms. Hunter, this understanding allowed the Hunters to spend campaign funds on certain personal matters they wished to conceal from the other. For example, she hid from Duncan Hunter certain purchases she made with campaign funds for items like children’s school lunches.

On the other hand, when they improperly spent funds when they were together, they both recognized that campaign funds were being spent on personal activities. For example, after returning home from their personal Boise and Las Vegas vacation, Duncan Hunter and Ms. Hunter discussed how the campaign card had been declined as the family had “racked up a $600 minibar…and more charges at Caesars…” as well as a $200 family breakfast, the “kids room service” and pool drinks, and gift shop vacation expenses.

Even after Duncan Hunter’s chief of staff questioned several expenses the Hunters had made using campaign funds, Ms. Hunter admitted that the Hunters falsely insisted to campaign staff and on public reports that the personal expenses were in fact appropriate campaign-related charges. Moreover, Ms. Hunter acknowledged that she and Duncan Hunter continued using campaign funds to secretly make thousands of dollars in improper personal purchases (including family vacations, household goods and groceries, restaurants and bar tabs, a bachelor party, gas, fast food, retail shopping, cash withdrawals, a garage door, and personal Uber rides, among others) which they continued to disguise as campaign-related expenses.

DEFENDANTS Case Number 18cr3677-W
Margaret E. Hunter Age: 44 Alpine, CA
Conspiracy to Defraud the United States – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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