Daily News Digest – April 5, 2018

Daily News Digest – April 5, 2018

Good morning! Happy Masters week (and Happy Birthday, Dad). This is your Daily News for Thursday, April 5.

1. The Bentley investigation is over

  • Like that troubled relationship you knew just wasn’t right, the Bentley investigation is finally over.
  • Supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks – who was called out of retirement to take over the investigation – announced that the Special Grand Jury empaneled to investigate the former governor and others has been dissolved after its members determined no other charges were warranted beyond those to which Bentley already pleaded guilty.
  • Read Kim Chandler’s full AP story HERE.
  • Read my non-distilled thoughts HERE.

What’s important

I had three basic takeaways from this new conference:

  1. Investigators couldn’t prove that Bentley himself ever profited personally from all his questionable conduct;
  2. Others might have profited, but “they” (read: Rebekah Mason) were not covered by the ethics law at the time because “they” (a.) weren’t married to Bentley, and (b.) were no longer a state employee;
  3. There is some pretty questionable activity that the grand jury and prosecutors say is not prohibited by Alabama’s ethics laws (the Governor directing law enforcement to harass people, lobbyists or employees on loan to the Governor’s office).

The Politics 

  • The Bentley saga is still a potent political weapon in state politics. It’s probably most relevant in the Attorney General race, where challengers have tried to make Bentley’s appointment of incumbent AG Steve Marshall an issue.
  • Former AG Troy King said yesterday that “justice had been lost at the hands of Steve Marshall.”
  • Fellow candidate Alice Martin has repeatedly called the investigation a “sweetheart deal” from the “Bentley appointee” (that attack lost a bit of its sting when it was revealed Martin herself pursued Bentley’s appointment while leading the investigation).
  • I asked Brooks, whom Marshall appointed to direct the investigation after he recused, about the criticism yesterday.
  • “I’m used to getting criticism from people who say I’m too tough and from people who say I’m not tough enough,” she said.  “I cannot go outside the law and I cannot make up evidence.”
  • Pick’em odds on whether this intensifies the weaponizing of Bentley or puts it to bed.

What’s Next

  • I would expect the grand jury’s recommendations to make their way into the ethics code update that lawmakers are expected to tackle next term. (I’m not convinced some of it isn’t in there already, btw.).
  • As Kim Chandler noted in the press conference, one example of a grand jury recommendation later becoming law is the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban.

Also read: Melissa Brown for The Montgomery Advertiser and Mike Cason for AL.com.

Also watch: Jenn Horton for WSFA.

2. Troops to the border!

  • President Trump is serious about sending U.S. troops to the southern border to help boost security.
  • He signed a proclamation ordering it yesterday. Read that story HERE.
  • Before anyone freaks out – and a lot of people are already freaking out – can you think of a more basic historical function of a military than to protect a nation’s borders?
  • Congressman Mo Brooks sure seems to like the idea.

3. Tariffs, man.  

  • Our trade wa-, um, conflict with China is escalating.
  • China has retaliated further, threatening to place tariffs on $50 billion worth of American imports they can get elsewhere, including soy beans and aircraft.
  • From Paul Weisman:

“The world’s two biggest economies stand at the edge of the most perilous trade conflict since World War II. Yet there’s still time to pull back from the brink.”

  • Incoming White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is trying to walk back the rhetoric a little saying the announced tariffs are “potentially” just a negotiating ploy.
  • Read the updated story HERE.
  • If you’re wondering who the winners and losers would be economically if these tariffs go through, check out this story.
  • Also, in the department of irony, Axios reports that the tariffs might actually help Democratic candidates in the November elections.

4. More about that YouTube shooter.

  • Yesterday it was reported that the YouTube headquarters shooting was being investigated as resulting from a domestic dispute.
  • Turns out, that’s not really whats going on (Thank you to keen-eyed Daily News readers for pointing this out!).
  • 38-year-old Nasim Aghdam was an animal rights activist and would-be YouTube personality. She posted a bunch of pretty weird videos and got angry when YouTube changed its policies to make it more difficult for users to monetize their content.
  • She was obviously mentally unstable, as well.
  • The shooter’s father called the police to warn them that Aghdam was in the area and could be targeting the video company.
  • Read more via NBC News, National Review, and the New York Daily News.

5. News briefs.

  • Tuesday’s storms did significant damage in North Alabama. More than 80 homes were damaged in Decatur, reports the Decatur Daily. Only one injury reported. More storms are expected to roll through Friday night and Saturday morning.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill next week. How Congress is going to handle the Facebook fiasco is a good question. Will it become all about Russia and fake news? Will there be a serious proposal about consumer protection? Facebook isn’t coming empty handed. It has been beefing up its lobbying arm recently, including veterans from the Obama Administration, the Bush Administration, and Sandy Luff, who Alabamians will remember from her time as Jeff Sessions’ Legislative Director. Read more HERE.
  • The Trump Administration is taking a tougher line on Russia. New sanctions announced Wednesday will target oligarchs with ties to Vladamir Putin. Outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says we haven’t been tough enough on Russia, but President Trump says nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has. Read more in The Washington Post.

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – It’s over: Bentley investigation ends.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mural of Trump with gun painted over in Florence. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey out raises opponents. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Congress’ challenge: how to tame giant Facebook.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The Latest: YouTube shooter opened fire in headquarters patio.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump signs proclamation ordering troops to secure southern border. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump scales back US role in Syria.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – MPS accepting outsourcing bid proposals. 

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – School Security: the high price of protecting students. 

DOTHAN EAGLE – Farmers prepare for planting season. 

DOTHAN EAGLE – Gov. Ivey should debate.

AL.COM – Contributor Wayne Flynt:  MLK’s dream lives on, even in darkest times.

AL.COM – Emboldened by #MeToo, sexual harassment cases against employers expected to surge, experts say.

AL.COM – Apple CEO Tim Cook honored with Human Rights award at Keeper of the Dream banquet.

AL.COM – Gov. Kay Ivey tops $3 million mark in campaign funds.

AL.COM – Columnist John Archibald:  Alabama: Land of free sex and greed for politicians.

AL.COM – In Alabama, decisions loom on state’s role in Amtrak’s return to Gulf Coast.

AL.COM – Aviation company expanding to Birmingham, hiring up to 500.

AL.COM – Robert Bentley investigation ends with no new charges; grand jury raises ethics law concerns.

AL.COM – Ethics Commission finds probable cause against Barbour County sheriff.

DECATUR DAILY  – Before I Die: Art project in Decatur asks people to share wishes and dreams.

FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Fuel tax bill must be signed by Sunday.

ANNISTON STAR – More than $270,000 in tornado relief raised so far for JSU students, faculty.

ANNISTON STAR – Bentley’s Alabama legacy.

OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Chancellor to review 40 applications for Southern Union president job.

WASHINGTON POST – Trump’s easy campaign promises run into the difficulties of reality.

NEW YORK TIMES – U.S.-China Trade War Could Hit German Automakers, Plus Tesla, Ford

NEW YORK TIMES – Alabama Mural of Trump With Gun, Bloody School Children Painted Over

Front pages (Images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit and patronize)