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Daily News Digest- August 22, 2018

Good morning! Buckle up because there’s lots of news to get through. Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, August 22, 2018.

1. For Trump, a Bad Day in Black Rock.  

What Happened

  • Two of President Trump’s top associates – former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and personal lawyer Michael Cohen – are now guilty of federal crimes.
  • Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud (jury did not reach a verdict on 10 other counts) and Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations.
  • Cohen said he acted “at the direction of a federal candidate for office” to pay adult models Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal for their silence about alleged affairs with Trump during the 2016 campaign.
  • The Daniels payment came from Cohen’s company and was reimbursed by Trump, while the McDougal payment came from the National Enquirer. It’s illegal for corporations or outside organizations to facilitate campaign contributions for political campaigns or make payments on their behalf.
  • By the way, President Trump does not recommend hiring Cohen for legal help, which, agreed.

Why it Matters

  • The Manafort conviction doesn’t much involve President Trump, and even if it did, it could be easily handled with a pardon. Its biggest upshot is embarrassment for Trump by proximity to a seedy guy.
  • The Cohen thing is problematic. He appears to be cooperating with federal prosecutors, so it’s hard to see how a pardon fixes everything for Trump. IT COULD, it’s just hard to see at the moment.
  • But aren’t these just campaign finance violations? Don’t they happen all the time and campaigns just pay a fine and get a slap on the wrist?
  • Yeah, that’s true. I’d say the difference is intent. Mistakenly accepting an unauthorized contribution happens all the time.  Paying hush money to a porn star doesn’t.
  • Make no mistake, the Cohen plea is a big deal and a big problem for the president going forward.

What’s Next

  • Forget campaign finance violations. Remember that this begins and ends with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
  • It was a tip from Mueller’s team that originally led to New York prosecutors raiding Cohen’s apartment. Now, Cohen’s attorney says his client has knowledge “of interest” to Mueller and is “more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.”
  • If that means Don Jr. and Trump Tower, you got trouble. Right here in River City.
  • If Democrats win the House, they were always going to drum up some kind of impeachment charges. If they were outlandish it could even help the president by being seen as overreaching.
  • The trouble comes if those charges are seen as legitimate because of the Mueller report and a cascade of convictions.
  • Pay close attention to Rudy Giuliani today and in the days to come to see how President Trump intends to fight back against this narrative.

2. Coal rule upshot. 

  • The EPA’s announcement to scrap the Obama-proposed Clean Power Plan for a new Affordable Clean Energy rule was big news in Washington and beyond for a minute this week.
  • Many Alabama leaders are praising the move as good for the state. Alabama Daily News reporter Caroline Beck caught up with some of them yesterday, and her story on their reaction is HERE.
  • YellowHammer’s Sean Ross had reaction from the coal industry,  declaring it “a major victory for Alabama jobs.” His story HERE.
  • I was interested to know if this new proposed rule would really change the game as far as power generation goes.
  • The Trump era has already been good to electricity providers and consumers alike. The utility tax cuts from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were passed along to Alabama Power customers in the form of rate cuts back in May.
  • But will this new rule mean a marked change in the way states like Alabama produce and consume electricity?
  • Turns out that, like many global energy companies, Southern Company and Alabama Power are already deep into the transition from coal to lower-emitting sources.
  • Since 2015, the number of coal-fired units in Alabama Power’s generating fleet has gone from 23 to 10, due to both retiring facilities to converting coal units to natural gas.
  • In the late 1990s, coal power made up nearly 80 percent of Alabama Power’s electricity generation. That total is only about half today, and 30 percent of its electricity output is from emission free sources like nuclear and hydro.
  • My full story, including on the record reaction from Southern Company, is HERE.


A Message from the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure

  • President Ronald Reagan was a great leader for many reasons, and one was knowing how to apply common sense to big national problems.
  • He’s right. If we wait too late, we will be forced to rebuild our infrastructure at far too high a cost.
  • We can do better – and now is the time.
  • Join the movement to improve Alabama’s infrastructure. Click HERE to learn more and receive regular updates about the growing #FixALRoads effort.


3. Montgomery schools and the military. 

  • There’s been a somewhat hushed factor with the decline of Montgomery Public Schools: how it affects the future of Maxwell Air Force Base.
  • Almost like if we don’t talk about it too loud, the next BRAC won’t know about it.
  • Well the Maxwell official addressed the problem out loud this week, and everyone concerned about Montgomery and Maxwell’s future as a major military asset for Alabama ought to heed his words.
  • At Leadership Montgomery’s Education Summit, Air University Commander Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton said:

“I’m running into a problem. I can’t find faculty,” he said. “I’m having a hard time getting folks to apply to be faculty members here as I’m trying to lure them away from schools in the Northeast, schools in Washington, D.C., schools in the Midwest, schools from San Jose — Silicon Valley — and once again the feedback I get is pretty simple: It’s about the school system.”

  • Go right now and read Krista Johnson’s story in The Montgomery Advertiser.
  • It’s not just Montgomery. Other nearby school districts should take heed, too.
  • There are a handful of good school systems, but no really great ones.
  • If I’m Prattville or Pike Road, I see how upping my game in education can help solve a big problem and create a regional destination.

4. School Choice on the rise. 

  • After a few rough years in the public eye, the idea of School Choice is making a bit of a comeback.
  • A new poll shows 57 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats voiced support for charter schools, compared to 47 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Democrats in 2017.
  • Parker Snider of the Alabama Policy Institute writes that, despite the negative onslaught from opponents of choice, modern advances like charter schools are winning over parents and educators by keeping their promises.

Although charter schools are few and far between in Alabama (only five have been approved since charter school legislation made them possible in 2015), the strides that University Charter School has made for its community should encourage more districts to pursue innovative ideas for their school systems.

Innovative ideas include charter schools, of course, but NBA superstar LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio – a public non-charter school that is a partnership between the I Promise Network, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and Akron Public Schools – proves that solutions to education woes can come in many forms.

Read the full story about the comeback of School Choice in public perception HERE .

Read Parker Snider’s full column HERE.


5. Mobile: Good news, Bad News.   

Bad news: Mobile Council takes a pass on stadium funding

  • The city of Mobile is refusing to put $10 million into an on-campus stadium for the University of South Alabama.
  • The City Council voted against the proposal by a 4-3 margin on Tuesday.
  • University officials had sought the money over a 20-year span to help pay for a 25,000-seat football stadium proposed for the campus.
  • Mayor Sandy Stimpson supported the plan, saying it would save the city money over the long run as opposed to maintaining the municipal-owned Ladd Stadium.
  • Full story HERE.

Good news: Coast gets money for Labor Day traffic surge 

  • Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has awarded grants of more than $780k that will help traffic enforcement on the Alabama coast, including Mobile and Baldwin Counties.
  • The money will be used to pay overtime and provide for more state troopers and deputies on the roads during peak traffic times, including the upcoming Labor Day Weekend.
  • The grant is from funds provided to the state through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Read and watch the full story from WKRG Mobile.


News Briefs

Duncan Hunter indicted

  • California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, have been indicted for many counts of misuse of campaign funds and falsifying campaign finance records.
  • There had been rumors about just how bad this was, but I didn’t expect it to be this extensive.
  • The couple basically used their campaign funds like a personal credit card. Standing out are family trips to Italy and Las Vegas for tens of thousands of dollars.
  • The indictment is intense and should be closely read by every Congressional chief of staff and fundraiser. You can do that HERE.

Missing Iowa girl killed by illegal alien

  • For a month authorities have searched for missing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts.
  • On Tuesday, an illegal immigrant from Mexico confessed to kidnapping her, killing her and dumping her body in a cornfield.
  • Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of the 20-year-old Tibbetts, whose July 18 disappearance set off a massive search involving state and federal authorities.
  • Full story HERE.

Union strike ends

  • Coca-Cola union members in South Alabama are back at work after suspending their strike.
  • About 275 Teamsters Employees at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United in Mobile, Robertsdale and Leroy, as well as in Vancleave, Mississippi, had been on strike for more than a week. The union says Coca-Cola United has been demanding new hires be paid $6 to $8 less per hour than currently required.
  • The company says talks through a mediator continue and it hopes to reach an agreement soon.
  • Full story HERE.


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The Latest: Trump avoids mention of Manafort, Cohen at rally.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Cohen pleads guilty, implicates Trump in hush-money scheme.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Congressman Duncan Hunter, wife indicted on corruption charges.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Authorities: Iowa student killed by Mexican in US illegally.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama Lawmakers React to Trump’s ACE Rule.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – How will Trump coal power rule affect Alabama Power?

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mobile refuses money for South Alabama football stadium.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Perry Hooper: President’s workforce development plan deserves support.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Parker Snider: Charter schools are keeping promises.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Investigators probe cause of fire at northern Alabama church.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Union suspends strike against soft drink bottler.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Police chief fired, arrested on marijuana possession charges.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Military families live apart because of under-performing schools, Maxwell general says.

DOTHAN EAGLE – Disagreement, but civil conversation at Dothan Schools restructuring meeting

OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Trump is right: ‘Now we can build more jet fighters’.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama’s coal industry claims ‘victory’ after Trump admin proposes replacement to industry-killing Obama plan.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama Democrats need to find a collective backbone and call for Chairwoman Nancy Worley to resign.

DECATUR DAILY – The new face for AED: Barber’s story part of statewide campaign for more defibrillators in schools.

DECATUR DAILY – Sheriff’s secrecy an affront to public.

ANNISTON STAR – Don’t believe Alabama’s chief skeptic of man-made climate change.

ANNISTON STAR – Editor Phillip Tutor: Rep. Rogers’ top priority in this Congress.

AL.COM – Alabama utilities, coal industry prep for new EPA rule.

AL.COM – Columnist Cameron Smith:  Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the worst Joseph McCarthy ever.

AL.COM – ABC Coke seeks air pollution permit renewal for Tarrant plant.

AL.COM – Alabama ranked among top of list of most sexist states.

AL.COM – Birmingham Land Bank begins selling tax-delinquent properties, Woodlawn picks up 20.

AL.COM – Terri Sewell on Manafort, Cohen: Trump is not above the law.

AL.COM – Mo Brooks: Mollie Tibbetts ‘would be alive’ if not for ‘illegal aliens, Democrats for open borders’.

AL.COM – Movie based on Bryan Stevenson’s book ‘Just Mercy’ to begin filming in Montgomery.

AL.COM – Survey finds Alabama among Top 10 states with worst drivers.

AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire:  How a lunatic mayor taught me to love the Deep State.

AL.COM – ‘Nervous,’ ‘Enthusiastic,’ ‘Weird’: Alabama braces itself for Drag Queen Story Hour.

AL.COM – George Wallace 1968 presidential run: ‘Most influential loser’ in political history.

WASHINGTON POST – Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump to influence 2016 election.

WASHINGTON POST – Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others.

WASHINGTON POST – Columnist Karen Tumulty:  Nope, not a witch hunt.

WASHINGTON POST – Inmates across the U.S. are staging a prison strike over ‘modern-day slavery’.

NEW YORK TIMES – How the Trump Administration Is Remaking the Courts.

NEW YORK TIMES – A One-Two Punch Puts Trump Back on His Heels

NEW YORK TIMES – Cost of New E.P.A. Coal Rules: Up to 1,400 More Deaths a Year.

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