Budget director: Trump would sign a funding bill without wall money

With a potential government shutdown set for Friday at midnight, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney confirmed on Tuesday that President Donald Trump would, in fact, sign a funding bill that did not provide money to build his border wall.

“The offer that we received from the Democrats the last couple days included a good bit of money for border security,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

When Tapper asked if Trump would sign the bill even without funding for a border wall, a clear administration priority in early talks, Mulvaney said “yeah.”

He added that the border security money in the bill would allow Trump “to follow through on his promise to make that border more secure.” However, he said the administration was not backing down from its demand for border wall funding.

“We just thought that it would be a good first step to get these things that everybody agrees on and take that idea of a government shutdown off the table,” Mulvaney said.

The discussion for what to do in fiscal year 2018, which starts October 1, starts “as soon as this bill is signed,” he added.

But despite the White House tabling the border wall money request on this bill, Mulvaney said avoiding a government shutdown was not yet a sure thing. He said they had yet to get a response after they told Democrats they would accept a bill without wall funding.

“We’ve not heard anything from them today,” Mulvaney said. “We thought we had a deal as of yesterday.”

Trump pledged throughout his campaign to construct a wall between the United States and Mexico. He insisted that Mexico would pay for the wall. In his campaign’s “Contract with the American Voter,” Trump promised he would get Congress to pass a bill fully funding his wall, with the caveat that Mexico would reimburse the United States for it, in the first 100 days of his presidency.

In March, the administration requested money from Congress as a “down payment” on the wall, which Trump said would be recouped later from Mexico.

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Government shutdown: Border wall money out, Obamacare fight on

Congressional Republicans have privately proposed a funding bill that does not include money for the border wall, a Congressional source told CNN on Tuesday, a sign congressional Republicans are willing to buck the President to avoid a government shutdown.

But there are still obstacles to passing a spending bill by Friday, sources tell CNN.

Congressional negotiators are now trying to work through another major issue: what to do about cost-sharing reduction payments, money the government pays to health insurers to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of low-income people. The payments are a major way Democrats ensured low-income people would be covered under the Affordable Care Act, but with a new Republican administration, their future is uncertain.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that Trump would be willing to sign a bill without money for the border wall and stave off the threat of a government shutdown.

“We just thought that it would be a good first step to get these things that everybody agrees on and take that idea of a government shutdown off the table,” Mulvaney said.

He said he hoped that would be enough to keep the government running, but had yet to hear back from Congressional Democrats. Mulvaney also said Democrats had made their request on Obamacare subsidies too late in the negotiating process.

“They dropped this Obamacare bailout, these insurance company payments, about two weeks ago,” Mulvaney said. “These are things they’ve brought to the table very late.”

Without the payments, health insurers would likely pull out of the Obamacare marketplace and could leave many Americans without a choice of insurers, but the payments are politically fraught. They are the subject of a lawsuit between House Republicans and the Obama administration that President Donald Trump inherited. Trump has waffled over whether Republicans should make them at all, even as Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have signaled they are necessary to stabilize the insurance market.

Democrats want assurances in the spending bill that Republicans will continue making the payments. A senior Democratic aide told CNN that “the position of House and Senate Democratic negotiators is that the omnibus must include the CSR language.”

Insurers are also desperate to get some clarity on the issue and make sure the administration continues making the payments.

But, Republicans argue that the payments are part of mandatory spending and therefore shouldn’t be part of the negotiations.

The CSR payments are just the latest snag to roil the spending negotiations. There is a growing possibility on Capitol Hill that lawmakers may need to fall back on a week-long funding bill to avoid a shut down and keep the negotiations moving forward.

On Tuesday afternoon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remained coy about what he would do.

“I don’t want to start talking about a short-term CR on a Tuesday. We’re hoping to reach an agreement in the next few days on how to process the entire bill through Sept. 30, and I don’t want to speculate about whether that can actually clear this week,” Sen. Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Over the recess, Republicans and Democrats worked carefully to craft a must-pass spending bill that all parties could agree on and could be signed by the President, but the delicate negotiations have hit a few roadblocks in recent days.

With just days to go before the government runs out of money, Trump’s mixed messages on a border wall, sources tell CNN, may not ultimately doom the bill, but they certainly caused consternation on Capitol Hill.

“The President and his advisers are every day, I think learning new lessons about how delicate and complicated this process is. And, it’s a whole lot more art and balance than it is science,” one Republican senator said noting that it will be imperative to watch the administration over the next few days.

“Let’s see how the White House deals with the next day or so,” the member said. “Either we come to an agreement or don’t, but they seem to be working now to get an agreement.”

The President continued to stand by his promise to build the wall Tuesday afternoon, though he did not specify when it would happen after being grilled by reporters.

“The wall’s going to get built, folks,” Trump said at the White House, when asked if he’d sign a continuing resolution without funding for his border wall. “In case anybody has any questions, the wall is going to get built.”

When asked when the wall would be built, Trump said, “Soon. We’re already preparing. We’re doing plans, we’re doing specifications, we’re doing a lot of work on the wall, and the wall is going to get built.”

It’s not unusual for the White House to have a stake in the legislative agenda or try to influence it, but with a spending bill deadline only three days away, the confusion over the border wall was a complicating factor.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said Trump’s interest in legislating is a good thing, but he did offer a warning.

“He’s put a focus on border security unlike any other president. That’s a good thing. Just don’t overplay your hand,” Graham said.

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Fresno hate crime suspect describes anger toward white men

A black man accused of fatally shooting three white men in what police are calling a hate crime said that he “snapped” after thinking “about all the injustice and the atrocities that my people go through.”

Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, allegedly shot at the men at random in downtown Fresno, California on April 18. At the time, Muhammad was already wanted by police in the fatal shooting of Carl Williams, a 25-year-old unarmed security guard, on April 13, police said.

Muhammad admitted to the shootings in a recent jailhouse interview with CNN affiliate KGPE that appears to give more insight into his state of mind and motives.

“Someone has to fight for all the people who died at the hands of racist white men,” he told the news station on Saturday.

“I was actually going to go turn myself in, and then I started thinking about the missing black women and children,” he said. “I started thinking about Flint, Michigan. I started thinking about the crack cocaine epidemic. I started thinking about all the injustice and the atrocities that my people go through. And that’s why I snapped.”

“I wasn’t thinking like … I’m going to kill, kill, kill. All I knew was white supremacy has to die and the people who benefit from white supremacy … are white men,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad will now face four counts of murder — one in Williams’ death and three in the shooting rampage – and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, officials said. Muhammad’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

His arraignment in Williams’ death, which was scheduled for Monday, was suspended pending a mental competency evaluation. His next court date is May 12, 2017, according to Steve Wright, assistant district attorney for Fresno County.

The FBI is assisting Fresno police in the investigation.

Suspect: Someone has to fight for deaths by ‘racist white men’

Last week, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Muhammad had previously posted on social media about his dislike for white people and government officials. He also yelled “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) when he was arrested shortly after the shooting, officials said.

“We do not believe … that this is a terrorist-related crime,” Dyer told reporters then. “This is solely based on race.”

Police said Muhammad shot the three white men, firing 16 rounds in 60 to 90 seconds within a block and a half in the downtown area.

Zackary Randalls, a 34-year-old worker for the Pacific Gas & Electric utility, was killed, along with Mark Gassett, 37, and David Martin Jackson, 58.

Gassett and Jackson were standing near Catholic Charities, a social services agency where they are clients, police said.

Muhammad is also accused of firing at a 59-year-old white man coming out of a house, but he missed, the police chief said.

Authorities said Muhammad also pointed the gun at three Hispanic females — a woman, her adult daughter and her 4-year-old granddaughter — who heard the gunshots and got into their car, which they had trouble starting.

Dyer said Muhammad approached the passenger side and pointed the gun at them but didn’t fire.

“That’s the only regret I have, because in the car was a woman and children. I am glad none of them got hit,” Muhammad said in the jailhouse interview. “I probably couldn’t live with myself if I hit the woman and child. I had no intentions of hurting women and children.”

Suspect: I shot security guard over disrespect

At the time of the shooting, police were looking for Muhammad in connection with Williams’ death outside a Fresno motel.

In the interview with KGPE, Muhammad said the security guard was arguing with a friend of his and “being very disrespectful, so I shot him.”

“You shot the security guard?” Reporter Matt Mendes asked,

“Yes, sir,” Muhammad said.

He also said he hid from police on the roof of a 7-11.

“I scaled the wall, got on top of the roof, stayed there until I felt it was safe enough to get down,” Muhammad said, according to the station.

Days later, Muhammad said he discovered he was wanted by police, who had circulated his photo and asked for the public’s help in apprehending him.

His previous run-ins with the law include a 2005 indictment on charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute, and possession of two rifles and a semi-automatic handgun, court records show.

Muhammad’s public defender had raised questions about whether he was mentally fit to stand trial, noting that on several occasions he had “appeared eccentric with some bizarre beliefs” and appeared to have hallucinations. The lawyer also said his client had “at least two prior mental health hospitalizations.”

A psychiatric evaluation later found Muhammad suffered from psychosis and a substantial degree of paranoia. He was declared not competent to stand trial in July 2005.

He was later found competent for trial in 2006 after a previous order had committed him to a facility.

Muhammad pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 110 months in prison, which was reduced to 92 months.

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Kidnapped teen withdrawn, jittery, family says

Elizabeth Thomas, the Tennessee teenager kidnapped by her teacher, was withdrawn and thinner after she was rescued, family members said Monday.

“She didn’t look like herself at all. She looked like she was very worn out, very thin. And very jittery,” her father Anthony Thomas said on “Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield” on HLN. “She’s somebody who’s actually more sure of herself, usually all smiles and she’s been sort of the life of the party.”

Thomas and Elizabeth’s older sister, Kat Bozeman, spoke with Banfield about the teenager’s recovery. The 15-year-old high school freshman is apprehensive about being around people, said family members, who have kept conversations light and not peppered her with questions about her 39-day ordeal as she tries to heal.

Last week, authorities found the teenager in Northern California and arrested her forensics teacher, Tad Cummins, 50. A federal judge in California on Monday approved a request to transfer Cummins back to Tennessee, where he will face charges of kidnapping the teenage girl.

‘Poor excuse for a human being’

Cummins is charged with transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse. The charge carries a minimum of prison term of 10 years and a maximum of life.

Cummins admitted he had gotten a small watercraft and conducted a test run from San Diego to Mexico, where he planned to take the teenager, according to a federal complaint.

Anthony Thomas called Cummins “a very poor excuse for a teacher and authority figure, a father …. he’s a poor excuse for a human being,” reacting to an interview with Cummins’ sister defending her brother’s actions. In the interview with NBC’s “Today” show, she said her brother said Elizabeth wanted to run away and he didn’t want her to go alone and went with her to make sure she was safe.

In an earlier interview Monday with CNN, Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, Danielle Thomas, said Elizabeth may have thought she and Cummins were going on a one-day excursion and didn’t anticipate leaving for more than a month and traveling more than 2,000 miles away.

“Number one, she didn’t pack that many clothes,” Danielle Thomas said. “Number two, she left her dog behind. And number three … she is very active in her youngest sister Rebecca’s life. So much so, that Rebecca would call her mommy. So, in my heart I don’t think she would have left Rebecca for a very long time.”

Danielle Thomas said the family’s first inclination when Elizabeth went missing was that she had run away. But the family immediately realized what had taken place when Cummins’ wife called and told them he was also missing.

“Immediately you get ticked off because some perverted old man has absconded with a member of your family. And then, there were times when we were upset at both, and then just at him. And then we were emotional,” she said.

Family members said Elizabeth, one of 10 children, was recuperating at an undisclosed location, where she will undergo counseling and ease back to normalcy.

“Right now, she’s somewhere where she can relax and be looked after by family and close friends and just take a break from everybody,” Anthony Thomas said. “We can’t just …. throw her right back in there and tell her to go clean her room.”

‘She’s very withdrawn’

Bozeman said: “We’re trying to keep everything light so she can heal.”

Anthony Thomas and Bozeman, who were speaking from Columbia, Tennessee, said the teenager’s weight loss is noticeable.

“This child loves food and she loves coffee,” Bozeman said, adding that her sister is happy to “eat real food.”

But the difference was also noticeable in the expression in his daughter’s face, Anthony Thomas said.

“She is the only extrovert in an introvert family and she’s very withdrawn,” Bozeman said.

Danielle Thomas insisted that Elizabeth was still the jovial and playful teenager, who had peanut butter fights with her siblings in the middle of the kitchen. But when asked if the teenager was OK, Danielle Thomas said no, and shook her head.

“There are times where you think she’s OK and there are times where she’s curled up in the middle of the floor crying and shaking and having panic attacks,” Danielle Thomas said.

Anthony Thomas said he hasn’t thought about the weight of a possible trial and that his daughter may have to face her alleged abductor in court.

“It’s a day by day thing,” he said.

“We’ve gone through probably the worst experience of my life so far was having her gone, not knowing where she was or how she was,” her father said. “There’s a lot still to go through.”

He added: “But at least, we’ve got her back and that’s the important thing and we can start moving ahead.”

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Arkansas executes 2 men in one night

Arkansas put to death two men Monday night in the first back-to-back executions in the United States since 2000.

Jack Harold Jones and Marcel Wayne Williams were among eight inmates set for execution in April before the state’s supply of a lethal injection drug expires at the end of the month.

The compressed timeline set off a series of last-minute challenges from inmates challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol. The Arkansas Supreme Court and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied requests for stays from Jones and Williams earlier Monday, as did the US Supreme Court.

Jones was administered the lethal injection at 7:06 p.m. Monday (8:06 p.m. ET) and pronounced dead 14 minutes later. Williams was administered the injection at 10:16 p.m. (11:16 p.m. ET) and was pronounced dead 17 minutes later.

Before Williams’ execution began, a federal district court judge issued a temporary stay based on claims from Williams’ lawyers that Jones’ death was “torturous and inhumane.” Infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to place a line in Jones’ neck, before placing one elsewhere on his body, the emergency motion read.

The state called the claims “utterly baseless” and a federal judge lifted the temporary stay, clearing the way for Williams’ execution to proceed.

These lethal injections were the first back-to-back executions in the United States since Texas carried out the death sentences of Brian Roberson and Oliver Cruz on August 9, 2000, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Arkansas’ last double execution — of Allen Willett and Mark Gardner — was on September 8, 1999, according to the Department of Corrections.

‘We hope this will help bring closure’

Jones was convicted in 1996 of raping and murdering Mary Phillips in the accounting office where she worked as a bookkeeper.

She was strangled to death with a coffee pot cord while her daughter Lacey was tied to a chair. Jones beat and strangled Lacey, leaving her for dead. She regained consciousness as police photographers took pictures of the crime scene.

Searcy Daily Citizen reporter Tracy Whitaker said Jones appeared coherent as he delivered a two-minute statement focusing on Phillips’ daughter, Lacey.

“It’s a good thing that it’s done, for her,” Whitaker told CNN affiliate KARK.

Lacey Phillips Seal thanked the governor and the attorney general’s office in brief comments at a news conference.

“I’m glad that chapter is closed,” she said Monday night.

The appeals court declined Jones’ request for a stay based on his claim that the state’s new lethal injection protocol will inflict cruel and unusual punishment.

“This evening the rule of law was upheld when the sentence of the jury for Jack Jones was carried out after 20 years of review. The victim’s family has waited patiently for justice during that time. The jury sentenced Jack Jones to death, and his sentence was upheld by judges and reviewed thoroughly in courts of appeal at each level,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

“A governor never asks for this responsibility, but I accept it as part of the solemn pledge I made to uphold the law. Jack Jones expressed his willingness to proceed today, and we hope this will help bring closure to the Phillips family.”

No visible signs of pain

Williams was convicted in the 1994 rape and murder of Stacy Errickson. He forced her into her car at gunpoint and made her withdraw money at several ATMs in transactions caught on camera. Her body was found two weeks later.

Williams argued that he would likely experience severe pain during the execution because of his medical conditions, and that the lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied him a stay based on that claim and another one arguing ineffective counsel in his trial.

A media witness said Williams’ chest heaved as he laid on the gurney after receiving the sedative. There was no visible signs of struggle, such “grimacing” or “clenching of the fingers,” KARK reporter Jessi Turnure said.

But she acknowledged there may have been pain she couldn’t see.

“As far as we could tell, the inmate wasn’t having any sort of trouble throughout it,” she said.

How we got to this point

After Hutchinson signed their death warrants the eight inmates joined in a last-minute lawsuit challenging the clemency process. They argued the state’s compressed schedule did not allow time for the state board to consider their cases. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied them relief, and only one received a clemency recommendation.

The inmates also sued over the sedative used in the two-drug protocol. The lawsuit went to the US Supreme Court, which ultimately denied their motion for a stay.

The first execution was carried out on April 20. Ledell Lee became the first person put to death in Arkansas since 2005. He was convicted in 1995 of murdering a woman in her home two years earlier. He maintained up until his death that he was innocent.

Four are on hold pending appeal.

Lee’s execution followed a flurry of court rulings Thursday, capped by the US Supreme Court’s denial of multiple requests for stays of execution.

Amnesty International said it was a “shameful day,” and that the state was treating people “as though they have a sell-by date.”

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