The Forward Five – Wednesday, 12/23/20

Five Things to Know Today

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— Publisher’s Note —

Good morning! Once again, 2020 has struck.

Yesterday I noted that the news was slowing down due to the holidays. Today, we’ve got more news items than will fit in this newsletter. 🤣

Two of them are Trump causing chaos, with pardons and possible vetoes. The pardons were not unexpected, but they are still troubling. The veto, though, could have serious consequences.

The relief package is actually two bills in one – funding for a number of relief items, AND the temporary funding to keep the federal government from shutting down (a continuing resolution). If Trump vetoes the whole thing, we could see a government shutdown, in addition to no relief coming.

Trump has until December 28 to sign the bill. He could outright veto it, or “pocket veto” it by simply not signing it.

And remember – Congress has basically gone home. The Senate is not scheduled to meet again until December 29. The House is holding “pro forma” sessions, but was not scheduled to meet to do actual legislation.

However, Nancy Pelosi has called Trump’s bluff, saying that the House will pass a bill on Thursday to increase the relief payments to $2,000. If they do that, it would then be on McConnell and the Senate to either approve the higher payments, or vote against what Trump and the American people want. (Oh, to be a fly in Mitch McConnell’s head right now.)

So, as they say, “watch this space.” This is the last Forward Five for this week, but we’ll be posting stories through the holidays, including about the Trump chaos. And, we’ll be back next week with the Forward Five. Maybe the news will actually slow down. (Nah – it will still be 2020.)

Hope you are able to take some time off for the holiday, and enjoy it. I’ll close with my standard wish:

May the holidays be all that you need and most of what you want.

Take care,

Bruce Maples, publisher
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Today’s Five Things to Know

12/22 update — As virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths tick back up, Beshear says holiday actions may determine who’s around for next year’s

As Kentucky headed into another holiday with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 trending slightly upward, Gov. Beshear’s parting message was upbeat but cautious. (Forward Kentucky)

(Related) Governor, legislative leaders, chief justice, cabinet secretary, health commissioner, first lady get vaccinated in Capitol rotunda – The heads of all three branches of Kentucky state government were vaccinated Tuesday in a bipartisan demonstration of the need for everyone to receive the vaccine when they can. (Forward Kentucky)

Prosecutor: Kentucky legislator’s clemency request for sex offender is ‘epitome of hypocrisy’

A state senator who is a leading advocate for crime victims sought clemency from former Gov. Matt Bevin for a convicted felon who nearly killed an unconscious teenager by sodomizing him with a sex toy.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, the lead sponsor of “Marsy’s Law,” asked Bevin’s lawyers last year to commute Dayton Jones’ sentence, records The Courier Journal obtained under the state open records act show. Bevin did so, and Jones was released after serving only three years of a 15-year term, even though the teen he assaulted required emergency surgery for a perforated bowel.

Records also show Westerfield tried to conceal his involvement after the commutation was granted. (Courier-Journal)

Audit finds problems with state’s Unemployment Insurance fund

State Auditor Mike Harmon’s office has completed its annual audit of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and found some serious issues with the Unemployment Insurance fund. Among the findings: the office cannot accurately say how many claims remain unresolved. (Forward Kentucky)

Trump Chaos #1 – Trump pardons 20, including four convicted of war crimes, two former congressmen convicted of fraud, and two who pled guilty in the Mueller investigation

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced a wave of lame duck pardons, including two for men who pleaded guilty in Robert Mueller’s investigation, as well as ones for Republican allies who once served in Congress and military contractors involved in a deadly shooting of Iraqi civilians.

The pardons of former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, former US congressmen Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, and the four Blackwater guards involved in the Iraq massacre kick off what is expected to be a flurry of pardons and commutations in the coming weeks as Trump concludes his term.

Also included in the batch announced on Tuesday are Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch lawyer who was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to lying to Mueller investigators; two Border Patrol agents convicted in 2006 of shooting and wounding an unarmed undocumented immigrant and then covering it up; and several people convicted of non-violent drug crimes serving lengthy sentences. (CNN)

Trump Chaos #2 – Trump not happy with relief bill, wants larger payments, threatens veto

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he is asking for changes to the coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress, leaving the future of the $900 billion stimulus in doubt.

Trump’s position could threaten to torpedo the carefully drafted bill, which his own administration helped negotiate — a move that could lead to a government shutdown and send the economy into a tailspin if he carried through with a veto.

“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2000 or $4000 per couple,” Trump said in a video released on Twitter. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill.” (CNN)

(Related) Pelosi responds to Trump’s request for $2,000 stimulus checks: ‘Let’s do it!’ – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly let President Trump know that if he really wants a coronavirus relief bill that includes $2,000 direct payments to Americans, she’s ready to help make it happen.

On Tuesday evening, Trump blasted the $900 billion economic relief package passed by Congress on Monday night, calling the measure a “disgrace.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed for $600 stimulus checks, an amount Trump said was “ridiculously low.” The president did not participate in the negotiations, and suggested he won’t sign the bill until it is amended to include checks worth $2,000.

Pelosi tweeted in response that Republicans “repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks. At last, the president has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” (Yahoo News)

Stories posting on site later this morning

  • KY rep who downplayed virus in ICU with COVID
  • Ethics complaint filed against newly-elected lawmaker
  • Guess who voted AGAINST the relief bill?

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Recent Content on Forward Kentucky

[new] indicates item not in a Forward Five before
🔥 indicates high # of reads, social media shares, or both

This holiday, will McConnell say “Bah! Humbug!”? Will WE? – In a year of tremendous suffering, will we approach the poor and needy with “Bah! Humbug!” Or will Mitch McConnell, and we ourselves, learn the lessons of A Christmas Carol? An excellent application of the lessons of Dickens’s classic to today. (Commentary)

🔥 THE CRISIS CONTINUES IN MY COVID CCU, NO END IN SIGHT – “At the end of shift my brain is tired; it’s not a headache, it’s an exhausted brain screaming for a break.” A front-line COVID report. (Feature)

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Happy COVID Christmas – Our first year in Coronaville is coming to an end. The virus has affected all major holidays since March, so why should Christmas be any different? But perhaps, we can all learn something from this year. (Commentary)

🔥 New bill would obliterate open records laws, create extreme level of state secrets – A new bill filed by Rep. John Blanton would “turn open records upside down,” with some experts calling it “an extraordinarily extreme state secrets bill.” (News)

🔥 Rand Paul is angry: “If you solicit votes from typically non-voters, you might affect the outcome” – Rand Paul is angry because Georgia is sending voting information to registered voters, and – horrors! – people might actually VOTE. How un-democratic! (Commentary)

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