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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer acknowledged Tuesday that her husband dropped her name while requesting to get their boat in the water ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, though claimed her husband’s comments were a “failed attempt at humor.”

Whitmer’s comments came after her office initially pushed back against the story, saying they’re “not going to make it a practice of addressing every rumor that is spread online.” A Michigan GOP state senator also said her office had originally “adamantly denied” the claim that Whitmer’s husband tried to use her position to convince a dock company to quickly get the family’s boat on the water amid the coronavirus lockdowns.

However, during a press conference, Whitmer essentially confirmed the reported conversation happened, even though she claimed the comments were made in jest.

“My husband made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with a small business that helps with our boat and dock up north,” Whitmer said at a press conference Tuesday. “Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference, he jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up in the queue. Obviously with the motorized boating prohibition in our early days of COVID-19, he thought it might get a laugh. It didn’t.”

Whitmer further sought to distance herself from her husband’s remarks: “To be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me. Because I knew how it would be perceived. He regrets it. I wish it wouldn’t have happened. And that’s really all we have to say about it,” she continued.

Whitmer, who recently confirmed she’s been in talks with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden campaign about being chosen as his running mate, famously imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the country, sparking frequent protests. What’s more, she’s told people not living in Northern Michigan, the only region in the state where the lockdown has been lifted, to stay away from vacation spots there during the holiday weekend.

But in Facebook posts by NorthShore Dock LLC, its owner, Tad Dowker, described a request from Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory.

“This morning, I was out working when the office called me, there was a gentleman on hold who wanted his boat in the water before the weekend,” Dowker posted, The Detroit News reported. “Being Memorial weekend and the fact that we started working three weeks late means there is no chance this is going to happen.”

He continued, “Our office personnel had explained this to the man and he replied, ‘I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?'” The docking company later noted that Mallory respectfully accepted that the accommodation would not be possible.

Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown refused to comment on the matter on Monday, saying the administration wouldn’t address “every rumor that is spread online.”

She said in a statement: “Our practice is not to discuss the governor’s or her family’s personal calendar/schedules. And we’re not going to make it a practice of addressing every rumor that is spread online. There’s been a lot of wild misinformation spreading online attacking the governor and her family, and the threats of violence against her personally are downright dangerous.”

Last Monday, Whitmer announced restrictions would be lifted in some regions of Northern Michigan, but urged those who didn’t live in the region to stay away. “If you don’t live in these regions… think long and hard before you take a trip into them,” she said. “A small spike could put the hospital system in dire straits pretty quickly. That’s precisely why we’re asking everyone to continue doing their part. Don’t descend on [waterfront] Traverse City from all regions of the state.”

The vacation property Whitmer and her husband have owned is about 25 minutes from Traverse City, according to The Detroit News, but the family permanently resides in Lansing, over 150 miles away.

After calling out Whitmer over the weekend, Michigan GOP state Sen. Tom Barrett claimed Tuesday Whitmer and her staff “duped” him “into a cover-up” after the governor’s office “adamantly denied” the story.

Barrett said that he composed a Facebook post blowing the whistle on the situation on Friday after checking into the veracity of the story shared by Dowker.

But late Friday night, Barrett says, a representative from the governor’s office called the Michigan Senate Majority Leader’s office to pressure him into taking down the post — saying that the story was incorrect.

“I had posted this thing and had about 500 shares already on Facebook in a few hours,” Barrett said. Then the governor’s office contacted Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, to reach out to Barrett to remove the post about Whitmer’s husband.

“They were specifically requesting … that my posts be taken down because they were insisting that wasn’t true,” Barrett told Fox News. “They insisted that it was a fabricated story.”

Republican Michigan state Rep. Matt Hall, the chairman of the state’s House Oversight Committee, told Fox News Monday that the Whitmer boat issue is not a top priority for his committee. Hall said that he is more focused on Whitmer’s “bungled” disaster declaration with the Trump administration, and other apparent missteps in her response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would say it’s not a top priority for me because it’s still kind of in the beginning phases,” Hall said. “And what I’m really focused on is, number one, the unemployment issue in Michigan.”

State Rep. Triston Cole, the GOP lawmaker whose district includes the boat storage facility and Whitmer’s cottage, said there’s a lot of frustration in northern Michigan because stay-home orders have meant marina facilities have a huge backlog of getting boats out of storage. Some families are worried they may not get their boats in the water at all this summer and for the governor’s husband to allegedly try to pull rank has added to the frustration, Cole said.

“The line is absolutely exponentially long because of…his wife,” Cole told Fox News, citing the stay-home orders that didn’t allow for marina facilities to prepare for the summer rush. “I wish that the governor or the governor’s husband would just issue an apology and clear this up. And we can continue to move forward reopening our state … Oftentimes the cover-up is by far worse than what actually happened.”

Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.

Author: Morgan Phillips

Source: Fox News: Michigan Gov. Whitmer claims husband’s reported boat request was ‘a failed attempt at humor’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday released guidelines for reopening houses of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic, after President Trump deemed them “essential” last week.

Under the governor’s guidelines, churches and other houses of worship can reopen if they are given approval from county health officials, but must limit attendance to 25 percent of capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.

In order to reopen, churches in California must set physical-distancing guidelines, establish new cleaning and disinfection protocols, encourage all to wear face masks and set parameters for singing and group recitations.

The guidelines recommended visible markings to encourage social distancing or possibly seating congregants in alternating rows. Family members within the same household could sit together while others would spread out.

The guidelines urged houses of worship to modify shared communion or similar practices, possibly by avoiding any use of the common cup, receiving communion in the hand instead of the tongue or providing pre-packaged communion items in pews.

In three weeks, the Department of Health will assess the impact of reopening houses of worship on the spread of coronavirus, officials said. The three-week interval would allow religious institutions one week to prepare and reopen and 14 days for the Covid-19 incubation period.

The new guidance still encouraged organizations to continue online services and activities and to implement measures to protect older adults and people with pre-existing conditions.

In deeming houses of worship essential on Friday, Trump threatened to override governors who did not allow them to reopen.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

The president added, “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”

At the same time, Newsom, a Democrat, allowed retailers to reopen for in-store shopping statewide if county health officials allowed it, under the state’s mitigation guidelines.

Under these rules, retail did not include personal services such as salons and barbershops.

Fox News’ Michael Lundin and Melissa Summers contributed to this report.

Author: Morgan Phillips

Source: Fox News: California announces churches, houses of worship can reopen under certain guidelines amid coronavirus outbreak

South Carolina election ballots reportedly ended up in Maryland this week, after mail-in voting for the Palmetto State’s June 9 primary has already begun, according to local news reports.

South Carolina election officials may cut ties with the company they used, Minnesota printer SeaChange, over the mix-up after about 20 Charleston County absentee ballots were found outside the state, the reports say.

Election officials say this isn’t the first absentee ballot issue they’ve had with the company, which prints and mails ballots for 13 South Carolina counties.

Some voters in Greenville County received the wrong absentee ballots when the Democratic presidential primary and the special election for sheriff were held just 10 days apart, Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told the Post and Courier. Voters in Charleston received ballots that were folded in a way that made them tough to read by scanning machines.

In a year that will see record numbers of absentee voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, the election integrity of absentee voting has become a major issue, particularly among Republicans who warn of possible voter fraud.

With less than three weeks before the June 9 primary for state and local seats, South Carolina has already issued 20 percent more absentee ballots than the total for the 2018 primary, according to Whitmire.

This comes after November 2018 Richland County failed to count 1,040 votes, submitting results two days after the S.C. Democratic primary because election officials realized they could not account for dozens of ballots. In March 2020, Richland County again realized it was short dozens of absentee ballots, forcing a recount by hand.

President Trump has repeatedly lashed out at state leaders’ push to expand voting by-mail this election. On Wednesday, he threatened to hold up funding to Michigan for sending out absentee applications to all voters.

“Michigan sends absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump tweeted. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” In an earlier since-deleted tweet, Trump had claimed that Michigan had sent out absentee ballots to all Michigan voters.

Michigan’s secretary of state – Democrat Jocelyn Benson – quickly fired back. “Hi! I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson,” she tweeted.

Benson explained, “We sent applications, not ballots. Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.”

“Every Michigan registered voter has a right to vote by mail. I have the authority & responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise this right – just like my GOP colleagues are doing in GA, IA, NE and WV. Also, again, my name is Jocelyn Benson,” she added in a subsequent tweet.

Author: Morgan Phillips

Source: Fox News: South Carolina election ballots reportedly found in Maryland this week

President Trump announced an executive order Tuesday that aims to make hundreds of deregulations in the age of coronavirus permanent, something that would amount to a massive overhaul of regulatory policy.

“We’ve done far more regulation cutting than any president in history,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting ahead of signing the order.

Fox News is told the executive order tells regulatory agencies to look at more than 600 regulatory actions — mostly deregulations, but also regulations and guidance — taken during the coronavirus pandemic and tell the White House which ones should be made permanent.

“We had cases where it would take 20 years to build a highway, you had to go through various agencies to get the same permit,” the president said.

“If a bureaucratic rule needs to be suspended during a time of crisis to help the American people, we should ask ourselves if it makes sense to keep at all,” Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russ Vought told Fox Business.

The order will use emergency authority to figure out the best way to identify which other regulations still in place can be suspended to help jumpstart the economy. It will ask agencies which authorities they have to take action that would lead to putting people back to work, and that list should be sent to the OMB.

“Typically when our country has faced a crisis, Washington responds by grabbing more power. President Trump understands that to get the economy moving, the power needs to be given back to the people and entrepreneur,” Vought said.

The order also relaxes compliance measures overall. Agencies will be told not to over-enforce regulations on small businesses and nonprofits that are doing the best they can.

The Trump administration has used the pandemic to spur a deregulation campaign, notably removing regulations to telemedicine and removing barriers to accelerate coronavirus vaccine or cure development.

At the same time, Trump has also ruled back clean air and water restrictions and vehicle emissions standards enacted by the Obama administration.

Author: Morgan Phillips, Blake Burman

Source: Fox News: Trump announces executive order aiming to make hundreds of deregulations amid coronavirus permanent

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., missed a crucial Senate vote Sunday to hold a livestream from his home in Burlington with “Squad” members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

The Senate vote was to consider a $1.4 trillion “Phase Three” stimulus package meant to help businesses devastated by the downturn over the coronavirus outbreak.

During his livestream, Sanders blasted the package proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“It is hard for me to believe that in the midst of this terrible crisis that we have a Senate Republican bill that would give the Trump administration a blank check to hand out corporate welfare to virtually any corporation in America, without conditions as to how they can protect workers in this country,” Sanders said.

The Senate failed to move forward with the package amid strong opposition from Democrats.

Meanwhile, many Democrats complained the draft aid package did not go far enough to provide health care and unemployment aid for Americans, and failed to put a restraint on a proposed $500 billion “slush fund” for corporations. The Democrats said the ban on corporate buybacks was weak and limits on executive pay would last only two years.

“What we’re seeing today with the Senate GOP bill is just a complete mockery of public service,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the livestream. “We’re supposed to be here to help people. What Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate just presented was just a package of corporate sweeteners to hand a blank check to Trump and [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin.” For his part, McConnell said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “poured cold water on the whole process” by leading the House Democrats’ opposition to the bill.

Sanders decried bailouts for the airline industry, the hotel industry and even the candy industry, saying those industries “are not talking about how they’re going to protect the workers.”

Sanders again reiterated that the federal government must act “no matter what the cost” to stem the economic damage from the pandemic.

“I know some of my Republican colleagues are talking about, gee, a one time, $1,000 payment, really, really gonna last for two or three weeks, and what happens after that?” Sanders said.

“We must act in an unprecedented way, don’t matter what it costs,” the senator added. “That means the guarantee [to] every man, woman and child in this country that we will make them hope and we’re not going to leave them out.”

Sanders repeatedly has called for “emergency cash payments” to be sent to every American each month for the duration of the pandemic.

The White House and congressional Republicans have supported similar payments, albeit on a smaller scale.

Author: Morgan Phillips

Source: Fox News: Bernie Sanders skips Senate procedural vote, talks with ‘Squad’ members on livestream instead

President Trump taunted Democrats at a major rally in Iowa Thursday night on the eve of key Senate impeachment action and just days before the nation’s first presidential caucuses there. “We’re winning a lot, we’re beating them all,” he said.

Trump took the stage at Drake University in Des Moines for his fourth rally of the year, which may draw attention away from the Democrats seeking to unseat the president on Election Day, some of whom have been crisscrossing the state for weeks.

In addition, Senate Republicans are expected to have the deciding vote Friday on whether to bring an end to the impeachment trial or to extend it further by allowing witnesses.

Trump cited a “failing New York Times poll” which pitted him against “every one of the socialists,” and had him leading against them all.

Ahead of the rally, Trump tweeted results from the New York Times-Siena College poll showing him leading all of his major contenders: former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, all leads were within the poll’s margin of error.

“Let’s vote for Pocahontas, let’s vote for Bernie, let’s vote for sleepy Joe… he always gets the name wrong. He says, ‘It’s great to be in the great state of Ohio.’ Joe, we’re in Iowa!” the president taunted.

Biden, for his part, launched a full-frontal attack to usher in the president’s arrival to the state. Biden spoke to a room full of 275 people in Waukee, west of Des Moines, in an event touted as a rebuttal to Trump’s rally.

“He’s more a bully than a president,” Biden said.

“Welcome to Donald Trump’s world. Up is down. Lies are the truth. Allies are enemies. Everything is through the looking glass,” Biden continued.

Trump touted the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement [USMCA] trade deal he signed on Wednesday to replace NAFTA, as well as the U.S.-China trade deal, specifically how it would help farmers in Iowa. “You farmers in Iowa are going to have to get bigger tractors and a hell of a lot more land,” Trump said.

“We have never had a better relationship with China than we do right now,” Trump continued. “They respect us, the whole world respects us.”

The president said when “CNN fake news” interviewed farmers, they “couldn’t find anyone to say anything bad about Trump.”

“They said, ‘What do you think about Trump, isn’t it horrible what he’s doing on trade?’ They said, ‘No, he’s doing what should’ve been done 20 years ago.”

Trump said that while Republicans have been “creating jobs and killing terrorists,” Democrats have been “obsessed with the deranged witch hunt hoax.”

He added, “They want to nullify your ballots and overthrow the entire system of government.”

Trump cheered positive economic signs before pivoting to immigration. “Right now we have a love affair with Mexico,” the president said. “Democrats wouldn’t give us what we needed, so I got Mexico to put up 27,000 soldiers on our border,” which vastly drove down border apprehensions, according to Trump. He also pointed out how illegal border crossings have gone down for seven straight months in a row.

“Democrats want hundreds of thousands of people to flow into our borders,” Trump said.

“I should’ve said we will never ever build a wall, and they would’ve given me so much money to build a wall,” the president chided. He said the wall he has been building has been the “expensive” version, the “best” version.

The president also said human trafficking was the “worst it’s ever been all over the world, in the history of the world” and the wall will stop that.

Trump then listed accomplishments such as school choice for every child who needs it, bipartisan criminal justice reform, confirming 191 judges and eliminating the estate tax. “If you love your children, that’s a great thing, if you don’t love your children, don’t leave it to them,” he added.

Hours before Trump took the stage, Vice President Mike Pence met with Iowa supporters at a fast food joint. Just after a speech to evangelical voters in Sioux City, Pence stopped at a Culver’s, a midwestern staple known for its “ButterBurgers.” He then continued on to Council Bluffs, Iowa to speak to Trump supporters at a “Veterans for Trump” event.

Author: Morgan Phillips

Source: Fox News: Trump, at Iowa rally, taunts Dems before caucuses: ‘We’re beating them all’

The State Department reportedly has ramped up its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server, potentially reviving an issue that dominated the 2016 presidential election campaign.

The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, reported late Saturday that as many as 130 current and former officials whose emails found their way into Clinton’s inbox have been contacted by investigators. According to The Post, those officials have received letters notifying them that their emails from years ago have been retroactively classified and their transmission could constitute security violations.

State Department investigators began contacting the officials around a year and a half ago, then the investigation seemed to fall by the wayside before picking up steam again last month, officials said.

Senior State Department officials denied they were acting at the specific direction of President Trump, who is facing an impeachment inquiry led by House Democrats.

“The process is set up in a manner to completely avoid any appearance of political bias,” a senior State Department official told The Post.

“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a second senior State Department official.“This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails …”

Several of those questioned, however, told the Post that investigators seemed to be pursuing the matter “reluctantly, and under external pressure.”

Jeffrey Feltman, a former assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, told the paper he found the recent retroactive classification of more than 50 of his emails to be out of the ordinary. “I’d like to think that this is just routine, but something strange is going on.”

Those being investigated will not face criminal prosecution since the FBI investigation of the Clinton email case closed before the 2016 election.

The FBI began investigating Clinton’s use of a private email server in July 2015 based on a referral from the intelligence community inspector general. In July 2016, then-FBI director James Comey announced he was recommending the case be closed with no charges, saying Clinton and her aides’ handling of classified information was “extremely careless” but not criminal.

Author: Morgan Phillips

Source: Fox News: State Department stepped up Hillary Clinton email probe beginning in August: report

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