5 things to watch for Tuesday

5 things to watch for Tuesday

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Trump White House returns to crisis mode

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump White House has returned to crisis mode as it reacts to yet another bombshell.

The feeding frenzy Monday was brought on by a Washington Post report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials in a meeting last week.

That led to closed-door emergency meetings, hallways packed with reporters, statements rushed out, but few questions answered. White House officials denied the story but refused to answer specific questions.

It's become a familiar scenario in the crisis-prone Trump White House, where big news breaks fast and the aides paid to respond seem perpetually caught off-guard.

The bizarre scenes Monday night included a surprise encounter between reporters and Trump's top national security adviser and an attempt to drown out possible conversations with a blaring television.
 

GOP candidate for FBI says no special counsel for inquiry

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, one of several candidates President Donald Trump is considering to replace fired FBI Director James Comey, sees no need for a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Last year, though, Cornyn said an independent prosecutor was necessary to investigate Democrat Hillary Clinton and her email practices.

His position echoes that of most of the Senate GOP caucus. Cornyn is the Senate majority whip and the No. 2 Republican, a job that often puts him in the position of speaking for the party and defending Trump. That role is outsized for Cornyn because of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's reluctance to publicly weigh in on most issues.

Cornyn is a member of both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, putting him in the center of Senate investigations into Russian interference.

His comments provide insights on how he might respond if tapped for the FBI post.

Like most Republicans, Cornyn has supported an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. elections conducted by the existing GOP-run committees, not a special bicameral panel. At a hearing last week, Cornyn said Russian interference isn't anything new, but "perhaps the level and intensity and the sophistication of both Russian overt and covert operations is really unprecedented."

On CBS's "Face the Nation" last month, Cornyn said investigating ties to the Trump campaign is a "legitimate area of inquiry" and "there is no question that Putin is trying to undermine our democracy and undermine public confidence in our institutions."

After Trump fired Comey last week amid the FBI's investigation, Cornyn said it was "within his authority" to do so. Asked if it was an appropriate move, Cornyn would only say the investigation will continue - and perhaps intensify because of the increased attention.

Like most of his GOP colleagues, Cornyn has said a special prosecutor isn't needed and has expressed confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is heading the investigation.

Asked about a special prosecutor last week, Cornyn mentioned Rosenstein and said "certainly that's a possibility, but as long as there's no question about his ability to oversee the investigation, there's no need for it in my view."

He took the opposite position during the 2016 election, joining fellow Republicans in asking for a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton's use of a private email server for government business.

Texas testing Trump administration over abortion providers

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas is asking the federal government to reverse course and provide funding for a state-run women's health program that excludes abortion providers, an apparent test of the Trump administration that could provide a model for other conservative states.

Since 2011, Texas has chosen to forgo millions in federal Medicare dollars rather than let abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood participate in a statewide program that provides birth control, pregnancy testing and health screenings for low-income women.

Although the move showed the resolve of Republican lawmakers determined to get Texas out of business with abortion providers, a state report found that 30,000 fewer women were served in the program following the changes. More than 80 family planning centers also closed in Texas, a third of which were Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Texas health officials say the program has since improved and now want the Trump administration to provide dollars blocked under President Barack Obama.

The stakes potentially extend far beyond Texas. Abortion-rights groups worry that if Texas succeeds, other conservative states will also cut off Planned Parenthood and put clinics in jeopardy.

"There is a new administration, and we're looking at what opportunities may exist for us," said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

At a public hearing Monday, Planned Parenthood supporters criticized Texas health officials for seeking the waiver while continuing to exclude the nation's largest abortion provider from the state program, which is now known as Healthy Texas Women. Texas expects to finalize its request this summer to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Only Missouri and most recently Iowa have joined Texas in spurning federal dollars rather than let abortion providers into its women's health programs, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, a national organization that supports abortion rights. But Texas is the first state to seek a waiver with the Trump administration, and Nash said other states could follow.

"If Texas is successful there's no reason to think these others states wouldn't try to do the exact same thing," Nash said.

SCOTUS: North Carolina voter I.D. ruling left to lower courts

Voter I.D. laws in North Carolina and Texas took a hit after the the Supreme Court passed on hearing an appeal to a lower court decision made in 2016. 

With the SCOTUS rejecting the appeal, Texas Tech Political Science Professor Seth McKee said it could spell trouble for voter I.D. laws around the country.

"The lower courts, as far as I know, have not been kind to what North Carolina did in a law in 2013 in terms of cutting back on a lot of things such as early voting and more restrictive voter I.D. law," McKee said. 

That decision led to Texas stripping key provisions from its voter I.D. law.

Now the legislature is debating SB 5 by Houston Senator Joan Huffman. It is similar to the fixes put in place for the 2016 elections.

Curtis Parrish, FOX34 Legal Analyst, said, "Senate Bill 5, which is currently being debated in the House and the Senate, is designed to fix those problems that the court has. This new provision, should it become law, it would say, you can go ahead and vote. You would sign an affidavit saying this is the reason why I don't have a valid i.d. and then you'll still be able to vote."

The seven forms of accepted I.D. include a state drivers license, a U.S. passport, birth certificate and a current utility bill or any other document that shows the voters name and physical address.

Parrish said if passed, SB 5 should put Texas in line with what other states have implemented.

"Other laws like this have been enacted all over the country," Parrish said. "I think there are all but five or six states that don't use some sort of a voter I.D. law in order to vote. Hopefully, Senate Bill 5 will correct some of the problems the District Court judges has and certainly with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals have."

The legislation is currently in the House Calendars Committee where it awaits a date on the floor.

Patrick Mahomes, 3 others allegedly robbed at gunpoint

Former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II was reportedly one of four individuals robbed at gunpoint in Smith County Friday.

Smith County deputies were dispatched to a residence just after 9 p.m. in the 8800 block of Mansion Creek Circle in reference to an aggravated robbery.

When deputies arrived, they met with four individuals, including Mahomes, who said they were robbed by a white male suspect who they believed to be armed with a handgun. 

As the victims were exiting their vehicle, they told deputies the suspect pulled into the driveway and exited his vehicle.

The suspect approached the victims, he was reportedly seen gesturing as if he had a handgun in his waistband. The victims told deputies the suspect demanded property from the victims then drove away.

Police were able to locate the suspect vehicle which was occupied by two males, who were taken into custody.

Property allegedly taken during the robbery was recovered from the suspect’s vehicle.

Michael Blake Pinkerton, 34, and Billy Ray Johnson, 58, were arrested and taken to the Smith County Jail.

The investigation is active and ongoing, according to the Smith County Sheriff's Office. 

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