Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asks ex-Rep. Blake Farenthold to pay for the special election Abbott called to replace him
When Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) abruptly resigned earlier this month, the chances he would ever repay taxpayers for the $84,000 sexual harassment settlement he reached with a staffer, as he'd promised, shrank significantly. But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has an idea for how he can fulfill his pledge. On Tuesday, Abbott used emergency powers to order a special June 30 election to fill the House seat Farenthold vacated, citing Hurricane Harvey to skirt state and federal election laws, and on Wednesday, he asked Farenthold to pay for that election.
"While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress," Abbott wrote in a letter to Farenthold's office. "I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th congressional district should not again pay the price for your actions."
Local election officials estimate that the special election will cost the 13 counties in the district more than $200,000, the Houston Chronicle reports. Farenthold, worth $2.4 million according to 2016 financial disclosure statements, is under no obligation to pay anything for the election or even respond to Abbott, and few analysts expect that he will. Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson called Abbott's request "strange" and "unprecedented," adding, "The governor does not expect that Farenthold is going to pay the cost."
Abbott sought and quickly received a waiver from state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to hold the emergency election for Farenthold's seat because his district was hit by Harvey and, Abbott argued, "hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress." Peter Weber
The United States will not recognize the results of Venezuela's presidential election, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan announced Sunday.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to secure another six-year term as his country goes to the polls despite the dire conditions Venezuelans face under his leadership. Venezuela has been in a state of crisis for several years, suffering grave shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities as well as hyperinflation.
Some of Maduro's critics are boycotting the election, which they say will be rigged regardless of participation, in an attempt to delegitimize Maduro's win. The two most popular opposition candidates have been banned from running by the Maduro government.
Sullivan indicated the U.S. is also considering oil sanctions on Venezuela and will broach the topic at Monday's G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. "We need to make sure we adhere to our goal which is to target corrupt regime officials and not the people of Venezuela," he said. "We don't want to damage the country in a way that makes it difficult to repair after democracy is restored." Bonnie Kristian
A North Korean military officer and a civilian defected from their country early Saturday morning. They were found in the Yellow Sea, the ocean area between the Korean Peninsula and mainland China, close to the border between North and South Korea. The two North Koreans reportedly expressed a desire to defect and were taken to South Korea.
In August of 2016, President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met in Trump Tower with an emissary of two Saudi princes offering his father help in winning the presidential election, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Per the Times report, the meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, founder of the private military firm formerly known as Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Also present was an Israeli social media specialist who wanted to work for the campaign.
Trump Jr. said through a representative the meeting happened, but he rejected the offers. The Times story says otherwise, citing unnamed sources to report "Trump Jr. responded approvingly," and the emissary, George Nader, "was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president's first national security adviser." The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, was later paid a "large sum of money" by Nader, though the reason for the payment is disputed.
Saturday Night Live veteran Tina Fey closed out the show's 43rd season hosting a star-studded episode. Her 30 Rock costar, Alec Baldwin, returned once again as President Trump, and Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller reprised their recent appearances as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Trump attorney Michael Cohen, respectively.
But not every cameo happened in character: Jerry Seinfeld, Fred Armisen, Donald Glover, Anne Hathaway, Tracy Jordan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Rock, and more showed up for a meta bit about whether the show is disadvantaging newer cast members by bringing in so many celebrities for choice roles.
Watch the cold open and Fey's monologue below. Bonnie Kristian
After extensive trade negotiations, Washington and Beijing said in a joint statement Saturday China will buy more American exports.
"To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services," the statement said. "This will help support growth and employment in the United States. Both sides agreed on meaningful increases in United States agriculture and energy exports."
The statement did not specify the quantity or timeline of the increase, nor did it say whether China would be exempted from President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Rather, the "United States will send a team to China to work out the details." Bonnie Kristian
President Trump tweeted Saturday evening in apparent response to Friday's news that an American academic working as an FBI informant met with several members of his 2016 campaign as part of the agency's then-beginning probe into Russian election meddling.
If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal. Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2018
Friday's New York Times report about the informant said there is no evidence "the informant acted improperly" or that the inquiry was "politically motivated." Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has already subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents pertaining to the informant, and House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said Friday the FBI's actions, if reports are correct, are "as wrong as it gets." Bonnie Kristian
The 10 people killed in Friday's mass shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, were identified by Galveston County authorities Saturday: Sabika Sheikh, Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Shana Fisher, Kim Vaughan, Chris Stone, Cynthia Tisdale, Christian "Riley" Garcia, Jared Conard Black, and Kyle McLeod.
Perkins and Tisdale were substitute teachers; the other eight victims were Santa Fe students. Houston Texans player J.J. Watt has announced he will cover the cost of all 10 funerals.
Sheikh was an exchange student from Pakistan, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday sent his "deepest condolences" to her loved ones. "I don't blame the murder of my girl on American society but on that terrorism mindset that is there in all societies. We need to fight it all over the world," said her uncle, Ansar Sheikh. "I do ask the American government to make sure weapons will not be easily available in your country to anybody. Please make sure this doesn't happen again. It really hurts."
The suspect, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, has been arrested on multiple murder charges. He has given a statement "admitting to shooting multiple people" and reportedly told police he "did not shoot students he did like so he could have his story told." Bonnie Kristian