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Google has joined Apple in promising to investigate a Saudi app that lets men control women's travel, as pressure from rights groups and international lawmakers builds on the tech giants.

Google will review the app to determine whether it violates its policies, a spokesman told The New York Times on Wednesday. Earlier, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to investigate as well.

"A Google spokesman confirmed that the company is assessing the app to determine if it is in accordance with its policies," The Times reported.

Google and Apple have failed to respond to repeated requests for comment from Business Insider.

Business Insider's sister website INSIDER revealed details about Absher earlier this month and published criticism from human-rights groups, which triggered US politicians to call on the tech giants to rethink the app.

#DropTheAPP

Numerous high-profile US politicians condemned Apple and Google on Wednesday. They called on the tech giants to kill the service from their app stores.

"Absher is a patriarchal weapon: it allows Saudi men to track women, restrict their travel, and enable human rights violations," the Democratic Party Caucus's vice chair, Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, tweeted.

"#Apple and #Google must stop facilitating this dangerous tool of control," she added.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York also tweeted: "An app available on Google/Apple's App store helps Saudi Arabia enforce its guardianship system that doesn't allow women to travel without permission from a male guardian. No company should help w/ oppression of women!"

Maloney also encouraged the hashtag "#DropTheAPP."

On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote to Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai demanding that they "immediately remove" Absher from the App Store and Google Play.

The app "flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend," Wyden wrote. "American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy," he said, calling the Saudi system of control over women "abhorrent."

Before Wyden wrote to the CEOs, the two tech companies faced challenges from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the women's-rights activist Yasmine Mohammed.

"Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women," Rothna Begum, a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch, said.

"There's a definite tragedy in the world's most technologically progressive platforms, Apple and Google, facilitating the most archaic misogyny," Yasmine Mohammed, an activist who campaigns and writes on women's rights, said.

European and Australian lawmakers pile on

Lawmakers outside the US chimed in as well, with Dutch MP Kees Verhoeven tweeting: "Apple and Google offer the Saudi government app Absher, which limits the freedom of women to travel." He added it was right for Amnesty and Human Rights Watch to "call the tech giants to reconsider offering them!"

Sen. Eric Abetz of Australia published a detailed press release condemning Google and Apple for hosting the app. "This app is being used as a tool of oppression and to restrict the free movement of people in Saudi Arabia," the release said.

Read more: Saudi Arabia runs a huge, sinister online database of women that men use to track them and stop them from running away

The UK government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office would not condemn the app directly but said it wanted to see an end to the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, which the app encourages.

"We continue to call for an end to the guardianship system to allow women to fully participate in Saudi society," a representative of the office said.

Addressing the specific travel function on Absher, Renate Künast, the chairwoman of Germany's Alliance '90/The Greens party, tweeted: "Why do @Apple & @Google condone this? @GoogleDE Are you campaigning against it?"

Her ministerial colleague Tabea Rößner tweeted: "Don't be evil! -Experience shows, however, companies that are concerned with maximizing profits have no conscience."

Concerning the app's travel-permissions function, Nate Schenkkan, the director for special research at the human-rights group Freedom House, tweeted that "technology can be used to reinforce oppressive social structures."

The app raises awkward questions for Apple and Google, two of the biggest players in Silicon Valley, where tech firms have well-established links to Saudi Arabia.

Both firms hosted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year. The crown prince got a rare tour inside the $5 billion Apple Park campus, in California, which included face time with Cook and other top executives.

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Original story here.

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, who was elected vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus in November, said she found President Trump's State of the Union to be "confusing."

"The speech was filled with contradictions and misinformation about the state of the security at our southern border," she said.

Clark also noted Trump's nods to women, many of whom were dressed in white on the Democratic side during his address, but questioned his motives. "The state of the sisterhood is strong," she said. "We're there in large numbers."

Clark joined WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes to share her reactions to the address.

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Original story here.

Liberal Democrats are pushing legislation to ban assault weapons, hoping to flex their muscles with the new House majority to revive the controversial prohibition on military-style firearms that expired 15 years ago.

The effort by progressives will pose a challenge for House Democratic leaders and test how far they are willing to go when it comes to gun control. Party leaders have made clear they intend to tackle gun reform early this year but plan on prioritizing a background check bill that enjoys bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill and the overwhelming support of voters nationwide.

Yet a large and growing group of liberal Democrats is eyeing bolder reforms, pressing colleagues this week to sign on to an assault weapons ban that’s less popular with the public and risks highlighting internal divisions.

For many progressives, the background check expansion is just the start of a more comprehensive approach that would include a ban on military-style weapons.

“I think that we can do both, and I think there’s more of a danger in saying, ‘We’re going to do universal background checks, and consider this issue addressed,’ ” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Clark said she met over the weekend with a group of mothers whose children were killed by guns. And it’s advocates like them who are pressing Democrats to take an aggressive approach.

“They are very eager that we pass the universal background check, but that we keep going. And I think we heard clearly in the midterms that people are eager for us to do comprehensive gun safety legislation,” Clark said. “And for me that includes the assault weapons ban.”

Although such a ban would go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats have been emboldened by the midterm election results and view gun reform as one of the issues that fueled their return to the majority.

With that in mind, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chairman of the Democrats’ messaging arm, is circulating a letter seeking co-sponsors for legislation banning assault weapons. It is expected to be released within the next couple weeks, a spokesman said Tuesday.

A similar bill, which Cicilline introduced in the previous Congress, won the support of 178 lawmakers; the current measure has support from 109, but that number is expected to grow as more members, including some of the most prominent liberal freshmen, learn of the campaign.

“It’s absolutely something I support,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-N.Y.). “I’ve talked about that at length with my community.”

The issue could be especially prominent heading into 2020, as the Democrats vying for the White House compete to out-liberal each other in what promises to be a crowded primary field that already includes several progressive candidates.

The Senate version of the assault weapons ban, introduced last month by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is co-sponsored by every Senate Democrat running or considering running for the White House in 2020.

That list includes Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) Cory Booker (N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), a liberal independent who is expected to seek the Democratic nomination next year, is also a co-sponsor of Feinstein’s bill.

The Senate measure would ban the sale, production and importation of more than 200 firearms deemed to be military in nature. It also prohibits magazines with a capacity of 10 rounds or more. In both cases the legislation has a grandfather clause, allowing owners of the affected guns and magazines to keep them.

Cicilline’s bill is nearly identical, but adds a provision requiring that local law enforcers be notified whenever a buyer prohibited from owning firearms attempts to purchase a grandfathered weapon.

Yet the concept is a controversial one in many pockets of the country and could put Democrats hailing from conservative-leaning districts in a tough spot. One of those lawmakers, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), is already signaling her opposition to the ban.

“Cheri’s husband is a sheriff and her son was a collegiate trap shooter — she knows we can both respect the right to bear arms while taking common sense steps to prevent gun violence by keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of violent criminals,” her spokesman, Sean Higgins, said in an email.

“Her first priority on this issue is passing bipartisan legislation to require criminal background checks on the sale of all guns.”

Democrats weren’t always so keen to take up the thorny issue of gun control.

Following the enactment of an assault weapons ban in 1994 — a bill also sponsored by Feinstein — Democrats played a political price, particularly in gun-friendly states like Arkansas, Michigan, Washington and West Virginia. The issue was seen as significant in the 2000 presidential race, which sent George W. Bush to the White House, and it virtually stole the Democrats’ appetite to tackle the issue in subsequent election cycles.

Indeed, when Democrats last controlled the House almost a decade ago, party leaders declined to consider tougher gun laws, even in the face of entreaties from some rank-and-file members.

Since then, however, the country has played witness to a long string of mass shootings, including violence targeting a congresswoman in Tucson, Ariz., elementary school students in Newtown, Conn., country music fans in Las Vegas and high schoolers in Parkland, Fla.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), who has endorsed Cicilline’s bill, said the event that tipped the political scales for him was the 2012 Newtown massacre, where a lone shooter with an assault rifle killed 26 people — 20 first-grade students and six teachers and administrators. The shooter then killed himself.

“The assault weapons ban is a ban against domestic weapons of mass destruction, because that’s exactly what they are,” Higgins said. “If you look at all these mass shootings, it’s typical one shooter kills a lot of people within a matter of minutes. Those weapons should be banned.”

“I think there is pervasive support for both background checks and a ban on assault weapons,” he added.

The House Judiciary committee on Wednesday will officially launch the debate with a hearing on the background check bill.

Republicans are adamantly opposed to Democrats’ gun control plans, and GOP leaders and campaign operatives are sure to pounce, particularly if the weapons ban gains momentum.

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) characterized the prohibition as ineffective, politically motivated and “silly.”

“We need to have a serious discussion about this,” he said. “But trying to ban a scary-looking gun is not going to get us there.”

Still, not all Republicans are opposed to the prohibition on assault weapons. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) noted that he voted for the 1994 ban and would likely do so again.

“I’d have to see the bill, but I probably would,” he said.

Yet even King is predicting Democratic leaders would be wary of advancing the assault weapons bill quickly, out of concern they’d undermine the lower-hanging fruit in the form of the background check bill.

“That’s much more on the fast-track than assault weapons,” King said. “I’m not the majority, but I would think that they feel they can do better on this than they can on the assault weapons.”

He added, “If they do the two of them at the same time, they’ll clutter it up.”

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Original story here.

MALDEN, Mass. - A nomination to West Point would have been enough for one Malden High School student, but Representative Katherine Clark went one step further.

"By the way, spoiler alert she will be nominated for the United States Military Academy at West Point."

Malden High School senior Angela Tejada-Soliz has her heart set on West Point next year and with a nomination from Rep. Katherine Clark, she's one step closer. 

But the second part of this voicemail she received had her floored.

"I'm actually calling for a separate reason and I was hoping you could maybe give me a callback," the voicemail said.

Angela - or Angie as she's known at Malden High - was invited to be Clark's guest at Tuesday's Presidential State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.

"I was in the middle of my physics class and I was like, can you repeat that? I was in such shock," Angie said. 

The first thing she did was run and tell her teacher Mr. Hurley and his co-teacher and record them telling Malden High School Principal Chris Mastrangelo. 

"I was blown away," said teacher Greg Hurley. 

The child of El Salvadorian immigrants, Angie tells Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes her parents instilled two important things: service and education.

"It shows that despite the troubles our country can face, it's not about what we are. It's kind of about what we're striving to become and the fact that Angie's parents came here for a better life and Angie's still striving to make this world better," Hurley said. 

The captain of the soccer team, Angie co-organized Malden High School's National School Walkout after the Parkland school shootings.

"For a lot of us, it's like we can't vote, we can't really do anything, yet, so organizing the walkout was our way of making our voices heard," Angie said. 

Angie tells us Clark's office says her answer about what leadership is made her stand out.

It's a lesson she's going to take to Washington D.C. where she hopes to meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, someone she looks up to.

"Being a leader to me means putting others before yourself. The whole team goal idea," said Angie.

Angie will also be honored at the Malden City Council meeting Monday night.

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Original story here.

WELCOME TO OTR. ALONG WITH JANET WU, I AM BEN SIMMONEAU. ED HARDING, LUCKY GUY, AT THE SUPER BOWL. OUR GUESS IS KATHERINE CLARK. SHE IS THE VICE CHAIR OF THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS, THE SECOND-HIGHEST-RANKING WOMAN ON CAPITOL HILL BEHIND SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI. SHE IS A GRADUATE OF ST. LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY, CORNELL LAW SCHOOL, AND THE KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT AT HARVARD. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME. REP. CLARK: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU, BEN.

JANET: SUPER BOWL SUNDAY, ARE YOU PSYCHED.

REP. CLARK: I AM PSYCHED. PATRIOTS BLUE ON.

JANET: MOST ARE WONDERING WHERE THERE IS ROOM FOR COMPROMISE ON THE PART OF DEMOCRATS. THE PRESIDENT WANTS SOME MONEY FOR THE PORTABLE AND YOU WANT BORDER SECURITY. SHOULD BOTH SIDES GIVE HIM A LITTLE BIT?

REP. CLARK: DEMOCRATS HAVE AN CLEAR. A MESSAGE WAS OPEN GOVERNMENT -- DON’T HOLD FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HOSTAGE. THE PRESIDENT HEARD THAT MESSAGE AFTER OVER A MONTH OF A FEDERAL SHUTDOWN. WE ARE IN THE PHASE WHERE WE ARE COMING TOGETHER IN A BIPARTISAN WAY AND BICAMERAL WAY TO SAY WHAT WORKS BEST, WHAT ARE THE EFFECT OF THINGS WE CAN DO AT THE BORDER. THE DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN CLEAR. WE KNOW HOW DEVASTATING THE OPIOID CRISIS IS HERE IN MASSACHUSETTS, AND CERTAINLY FOR FAMILIES IN MY DISTRICT. BUT WE ALSO KNOW THAT THOSE DRUGS COME RIGHT THROUGH OUR PORTS. LET’S STRENGTHEN THOSE PORTS SO WE CAN REDUCE THE FLOW OF HEROIN AND FENTANYL. LET’S MAKE SURE WE HAVE THE PERSONNEL, THE TECHNOLOGY, THE INFRASTRUCTURE, BECAUSE THAT IS ONE OF THE WEAK POINTS IN OUR BORDER SECURITY THAT NEEDS TO BE SHORT OF.

JANET: BUT THERE IS AN ARGUMENT THAT IF YOU GIVE HIM A FEW DOLLARS TO SAVE FACE, IT WILL END THE DRAMA AND GET YOU CLOSER TO A BUDGET AND NOT HAVING TO DEAL WITH HIS THREAT ON DECLARING AN EMERGENCY.

REP. CLARK: I MEAN, PART OF WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO IS GET THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE ADMINISTRATION TO SAY WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR PLAN, WHAT ARE YOU ASKING FOR. IT IS VERY HARD TO NEGOTIATE OVER AN APPLAUSE LINE THAT THE PRESIDENT USED AT RALLIES. THEY HAD AGREEMENTS, WE HAVE HAD A DIFFERENT OFFERS AT DIFFERENT POINTS OVER HIS PRESIDENCY. BUT RIGHT NOW WE ARE SAYING IF PART OF WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE ON THE SOUTHERN BORDER, IF IT IS FENCING OR BARRIERS OR LEVEES THAT ALREADY EXIST NEED TO BE SHORED U WE ARE OPEN TO THAT. SECRETARY JOHNSON TOLD ME A STORY -- HE WAS HEAD OF DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION -- ABOUT A STEEL-SATTED FENCE SIMILAR TO WHAT THE PRESIDENT HAS PROPOSED BY TWEET AT DIFFERENT TIMES. WITHOUT THE SENSORS AND WAS NOT, THE CARTELS WERE ABLE TO BLOW A HOLE RIGHT THROUGH IT. IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT ERECTING BARRIERS, IT IS ABOUT REALLY USING THE TECHNOLOGY AT HAND, BE DATA-DRIVEN AND EFFECTIVE.

BEN: BUT YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO PUT A DOLLAR FIGURE ON THE TABLE TODAY. REP. CLARK: I WILL BE THE WORK OF THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE.

JANET: HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOU WILL GET A COMPROMISE AND AVOID A SHOWDOWN? REP. CLARK: I AM VERY CONFIDENT THAT WE ARE GOING TO DO OUR WORK, AND THIS IS GOING TO BE SOMETHING THAT CONGRESS DELIVERS ON. JANET: WHAT CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT WILL BE NOTE SHUTDOWN AGAIN?

REP. CLARK: I WOULD NOT WANT TO GUARANTEE ANYTHING THIS PRESIDENT WOULD DO OR NOT DO. I THINK WE WILL GET HIM A SOLID BORDER-SECURITY PROPOSAL.

BEN: THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ON CAPITOL HILL AFTER THIS 35-DAY SHUTDOWN, 800,000-PLUS EMPLOYEES WITHOUT A PAYCHECK. WE SAW WHAT HAPPENED AT AIRPORTS NOTABLY. THERE IS A MOVEMENT, IT WOULD APPEAR TO BE, TO END FUTURE SHUTDOWNS FOR THE SAKE OF NATIONAL SECURITY, OUR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, AND THE EVERYDAY PUBLIC. DO YOU SUPPORT THAT AND CAN YOU GET REPUBLICANS TO SUPPORT THAT?

REP. CLARK: YOU KNOW, WE SHOULD NEVER USE SHUTDOWNS -- WE SAW HERE JUST THE IMPACT ON FAMILIES. THE COAST GUARD IS ONE OF THE MOST GLARING EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ON THE FRONT LINES OF OUR SECURITY WHO ARE GOING TO WORK IN A NOT BEING PAID. IT WAS SO FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAIR, AND IT READS CATHOLIC -- IT WREAKED HAVOC. BORDER PATROL, FBI, HUD EMPLOYEES I TALKED TO ALL LIVING PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK. THIS HAD A REAL IMPACT ON THEM. WE VOTED YESTERDAY IN THE HOUSE TO SAY LET’S NEVER USE SHUTDOWNS AGAIN. BUT HOW WE DO THIS TO REALLY MAKE SURE THAT THESE ARE NOT USED BY THIS PRESIDENT AS A WAY --

JANET: OR ANY OTHER.

REP. CLARK: OR ANY OTHER TO BLUDGEON OUR ECONOMY AND HOLD OUR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HOSTAGE IS VERY MUCH TALKED ABOUT RIGHT NOW.

JANET: COULD YOU ACTUALLY BAN SHUTDOWNS FOR THE FUTURE? DO YOU THINK CONGRESS HAS THE WILL AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT?

REP. CLARK: I THINK THE PROBLEM BECOMES WE HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT THAT WE SET BUDGETS, AND WHAT WE DON’T WANT TO DO IS INADVERTENTLY GIVE THIS PRESIDENT OR ANY FUTURE EXECUTIVE A WAY THAT CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY THAT WE HAVE. IT IS GOING TO BE A BALANCING ACT. HOW DO WE GET OUT OF HOLDING OUR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HOSTAGE OVER A BAD POLICY ISSUE, AND ALSO MAKING SURE THAT WE RETAIN OUR CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION TO SET AN APPROVED BUDGETS?

JANET: LET’S MOVE OVER TO MUELLER. SOME OF YOUR COLLEAGUES ARE PREPPING FOR IMPEACHMENT. ARE THEY WRONG NOT TO WAIT FOR THE MOTHER REPORT? -- MUELLER REPORT? REP. CLARK: WE HAVE TO WAIT TO GET THE FACTS OUT AND THE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS IS UNIFIED AROUND THAT. I THINK THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE -- THEY ARE ALARMED AND THEY SHOULD BE ALARMED. THE EVIDENCE WE ARE SEEING, THE INDICTMENTS THAT ARE COMING OUT, ARE VERY DISTURBING AND CONCERNING. BUT I THINK THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WANT THE FACTS ON THE TABLE, AND THAT INCLUDES THE MUELLER REPORT. JANET: SHOULD THE ENTIRE REPORT BE MADE PUBLIC TO EVERYBODY?

REP. CLARK: I CERTAINLY HOPE SO. JANET: WILL DEMOCRATS PUSH FOR THAT? REP. CLARK: DEMOCRATS ARE ALREADY TALKING ABOUT HOW WE HAVE TO PUSH FOR THAT. WE HEAR SOME CHATTER OUT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE THAT MIGHT BE SO REDACTED THAT NOBODY WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE HEADS OR TAILS OF IT. IT NEEDS TO BE AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND IT NEEDS TO BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.

BEN: WE COULD SEE A NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL THIS WEEK WHO HAS HAD A LOT ABOUT PRESIDENTIAL AUTHORITY. WHAT MORE TO COME, BUT NOW I HAVE THE POP QUIZ. REP. CLARK: OK, I AM ALL READY. BE WE HAVE D.C. TRIVIA AND FIFTH DISTRICT TRIVIA. SEVERAL MASSACHUSETTS CONGRESSMEN HAVE SERVED AS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE -- OF COURSE, TIP O’NEILL THE MOST FAMOUS RECENT EXAMPLE FROM THE 1980’S. THERE ARE THREE OTHER HOUSE SPEAKERS ON THE SCREEN. WHICH OF THESE IS NOT FROM MASSACHUSETTS -- JOHN MCCORMICK, JOSEPH MORTON, OR JOHN TRUMBULL?

REP. CLARK: I’M GOING WITH JOSEPH MARTIN.

BEN: JOHN TRUMBULL. HE IS ACTUALLY FROM OUR NEIGHBORING STATE OF CONNECTICUT. THIS NEXT ONE ABOUT THE CITY OF MELROSE --

REP. CLARK AT LEAST ON A NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS DAY WE STUCK IN NEW ENGLAND.

BEN: THAT’S TRUE. THE CITY OF MELROSE WOULD YOU CALL HOME IS KNOWN FOR ITS PONDS AND STREAMS. WHAT STRUCTURE IS A WELL-KNOWN FUTURE AT BELMONT PARK -- THE GAZEBO, GRISTMILL, OR BOATHOUSE?

REP. CLARK: VISIO.

BEN: OF COURSE SHE KNOWS HER HOMETOWN. KATHERINE CLARK IS OUR GUEST. WE ARE BACK IN A MOMENT.

BEN: BACK WITH CONGRESSWOMAN KATHERINE CLARK AND THE POP QUIZ. WINTHROP IS IN YOUR DISTRICT AND A MEMBER OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S E STREET BAND WAS BORN THERE. THINK LITTLE, NOT BIG. MAX WEINBERG, CLARENCE CLEMONS, OR STEVEN VAN ZANDT?

REP. CLARK: I’M GOING WITH C.

BEN: YOU GOT IT. REP. CLARK: THANK YOU FOR THE HEADS. BEN: SOMEONE YOU KNOW WHO FREQUENTS THE CAPITAL BUILDING --CAPITOL BUILDING. IT WAS PART OF THE GOVERNMENT THAT HAD ITS OWN BUILDING -- TREASURY, SUPREME COURT, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT?

REP. CLARK: SUPREME COURT.

JANET: YOU DID PRETTY WELL! 3 OUT OF FOUR, PRETTY GOOD.

BEN: WELL DONE.

JANET: BACK TO THE REGULAR QUESTIONS. CIA, FBI, AND NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE HEADD AS SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL CONTRADICTED TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY ASSUMPTIONS. IS THIS GOOD FOR DEMOCRATS? BAD FOR VOTERS?

REP. CLARK: I DON’T THINK IT IS GOOD FOR ANYBODY WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS CONTRADICTING OUT INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS. THAT IS A CAUSE FOR GREAT CONCERN. WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO IS ROUTINELY TRYING TO UNDERMINE INTELLIGENCE, AND WHEN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT NEW YORK CLEAR -- NUCLEAR THREATS IN NORTH KOREA, WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAN, WHA IS HAPPENING WITH ISIS IN SYRIA, THESE ARE AREAS WHERE WE NEED AN ENGAGED STATE DEPARTMENT AND ENGAGED WHITE HOUSE WORKING WITH INTELLIGENCE TO PLOT OUT STRATEGIES AND PLOT HOW WE PROCEED IN FOREIGN POLICY. I THINK THERE ARE NO WINNERS WHEN THE PRESIDENT IS TRYING TO UNDERMINE THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY.

JANET: IT SEEMS TO HAVE UNITED REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS TOGETHER ON CAPITOL HILL, NO?

REP. CLARK: YES, I THINK REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS REALIZE WHAT IS AT STAKE WHEN WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO IS OPENLY CRITICIZING AND SAY THAT WHAT THEY ARE SAYING IS IT TRUE. THIS ISN’T TRUE. WE NEED TO RELY ON OUR INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITIES AND PROFESSIONALS FOR THE SECURITY OF OUR PEOPLE AND OF OUR COUNTRY, AND IT IS A VERY DANGEROUS PRACTICE.

BEN: LET’S SWITCH GEARS AND TALK ABOUT THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE. THE IOWA CAUCUSES AND AFTER PRIMARIES ARE 11 MONTHS AWAY, BUT ELIZABETH WARREN IS GETTING A LOT OF COMPETITION FOR THE 2020 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDACY. ARE YOU READY TO ENDORSE YOUR SENATOR AS OF YET?

REP. CLARK: I AM -- LET ME TELL YOU HOW EXCITED I AM ABOUT HOW MANY CANDIDATES ARE COMING OUT, AND ESPECIALLY THE NUMBER OF WOMEN, INCLUDING ELIZABETH WARREN, WHO ARE ALREADY OUT. I AM LOOKING FOR A CANDIDATE IN 2020 -- ALTHOUGH IT IS WAY TOO EARLY TO MAKE ANY ANNOUNCEMENTS -- WHO IS GOING TO PUT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FIRST AGAIN AND IS GOING TO SEE THEIR ISSUES AND PUT THEM ON THE TABLE. I LIKE WHAT I AM HEARING AND SEEING FROM THE DEMOCRATS.

BEN: IS THERE A NUMBER THAT IS TOO MANY? DOES THE FIELD GET UNWIELDY? THE TALKING POINT FOR DEMOCRATS IS THE MORE THE MERRIER. THAT IS WHAT SENATOR WARREN SAID. BUT WHEN YOU GET TO 10, 15, 20 CANDIDATES, IT IS HARD TO HOLD DEBATES AND DO FUNCTIONS.

REP. CLARK: I’M NOT CONCERNED ABOUT THE NUMBER GETTING IT. THERE WILL BE SOME NUMBER AND SOME ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT ALL THE WAY TO DEBATES AND FOR WHATEVER REASON. BUT I THINK WE NEED HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR ALL AMERICANS. THAT IS WHAT WE ARE MISSING IN THIS WHITE HOUSE, AND I THINK IT IS GOOD TO HEAR THESE MESSAGES AND HAVE AN OPEN DEBATE ON THEIR IDEAS. BUT REALLY ABOUT SHOWING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT WE SEE THEM AND WE WANT TO WORK FOR THEM AGAIN.

JANET: ANY WORRIES THAT THE MAJORITY O CANDIDATES WHO HAVE DECLARED SO FAR ARE TOO FAR LEFT FROM T MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD, AND THAT THAT WOULD HURT THE PARTY WHEN IT GETS TO SEPTEMBER?

REP. CLARK: I AM NOT CONCERNED ABOUT THAT. I THINK THAT WHETHER YOU ARE -- EVEN JOE BIDEN, WHO SOME PEOPLE SAY IS THE CENTRIST, STILL CONSIDERING THIS, HE ALWAYS SAYS THERE AR PROGRESSIVE VALUES YOU FIND ACROSS THIS COUNTRY, AND IT IS ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT FAMILIES HAVE A FAIR SHOT. DO THEY HAVE THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES, WHETHER THEY ARE LIVING IN RURAL AMERICA, OUR CITIES IN MASSACHUSETTS, AND OHIO? I THINK THE DEMOCRATS UNDERSTAND THIS. I THINK THAT IS WHY WE WERE SO SUCCESSFUL IN THE MIDTERMS. IT IS ABOUT RETURNING GOVERNMENT AND OUR FOCUS BACK ON TO THE ISSUES THAT MATTER TO THEM -- QUALITY JOBS, REDUCING HEALTH CARE COSTS, MAKING SURE WE ARE CLEANING UP GOVERNMENT. THAT IS THE PLATFORM THAT DEMOCRATS RAN ON INTIMATE TERMS AND IT IS WHY WE DID SO WELL.

JANET: WE CAN’T LET YOU GO WITHOUT ASKING ABOUT THE CHATTER WE KEEP ON HEARING ABOUT YOUR FUTU AS POSSIBLY THE NEXT SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE WANTS NANCY PELOSI RETIRES. ARE YOU INTERESTED IN THE JOB?

REP. CLARK: I AM NOT INTERESTED IN HAVING NANCY PELOSI RETIRE ANYTIME SOON.

JANET: WHAT IS IT A JOB THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU?

REP. CLARK: YOU KNOW, IT I AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY TO BE VICE CHAIR OF THIS CAUCUS, AND I’M FOCUSED ON THAT. WE HAVE THE MOST DIVERSE CAUCUS IN CONGRESS RIGHT NOW. BRINGING THOSE STRENGTHS OUT, UNIFYING US IN PURPOSE, PRINTING THOSE NEW -- BRINGING THO NEW, FRESH VOICES TO THE TABLE --

JANET: YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TOUCH THIS WITH A 10-FOOT POLE. [LAUGHTER]

JANET: NOT GOING TO PURSUE ANYMORE. BEN: YOUR MESSAGE FOR THE PATRIOTS?

REP. CLARK: GO PATS!

BEN: THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.

Original story part 1, part 2.

Rep. Katherine Clark Raises Concerns About ‘Donald Trump’s Reality’
The new Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, joined Jim Braude to discuss ongoing negotiations aiming to avoid another government shutdown, the Democrats’ new priorities, and more.

SJC Chief Knocks Gov. Baker For Calling For Judge To Be Sidelined
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants joined Jim Braude to discuss his call to increase funding for Massachusetts’ civil legal aid, abolishing mandatory minimum sentences, and improving access to mental health care for lawyers, among other issues.

In Fall River, A Five-Way Fracas For Mayor
The mayor of Fall River may be under more pressure than any other politician in Massachusetts. In October, he was indicted for allegedly defrauding investors in an app he created in 2012. Now, he's facing a March recall election. But as Adam Reilly reports, he's not too worried.

IMHO: Healthcare’s Robin Hood
Jim Braude shares his thoughts on how a teacher getting arrested for lying to help her sick student shows exactly what’s wrong with healthcare in America.

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Original story here.

HAYES: Joining me now, a member House Democratic Leadership, which is now 
negotiating to try to avoid another shutdown, Democratic Congresswoman 
Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus.

Do you think Mulvaney and the White House are bluffing on this?

REP. KATHERINE CLARK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I certainly hope so. I wish they 
could have been in the room with me with federal workers as we watched the 
president address the country from the Rose Garden. They were just 
sickened. Happy the government was going to open, but just filled with 
dread that in three weeks we`d be right back in this same situation.

It`s the problem when we`re negotiating with a political applause line. 
Nobody knows what the president wants, and he is clearly completely 
disconnected from the true suffering that he caused with this shutdown.

HAYES: You know, part of the problem it seems to me is the way forward now 
is there`s a conference committee, which is a standard part of the 
legislative process. When the House and Senate differ, they put together a 
conference committee. They try to hammer something out. There`s Democrats 
and Republicans who are going to be in that conference committee from the 
two sides, but there`s no guarantee the president just doesn`t rip up the 
deal. Am I missing something here?

CLARK: There is no guarantee. But I think one thing really speaks to this 
president, and that`s his poll numbers. And he saw those decline. So even 
though he has no feeling or empathy for what he did to our economy, the $11 
billion figure that the CBO cited today, and to what he did to families, 
hopefully his own numbers, and that steep decline that this shutdown 
caused, will speak to him and get him to come to reason.

HAYES: Although I should note there is reporting today he got a briefing 
today from campaign folks that it actually helped his numbers.

CLARK: Well, we`ve seen no sign of that.

HAYES: I don`t think you`re wrong. I`m just telling you what information 
he`s getting.

CLARK: And I think that he only needs to speak to his Republican 
counterparts in the Senate. They understand this is very much now about 
their elections in 2020. And that, I think, is going to 
be the pressure point on this president.

And you know, we in the House, we`re anxious to have this discussion around 
border security, and we`re just as anxious to get to those things that the 
American people told us loudly and clearly in the midterms they want us to 
work on: make sure we`re getting corruption out of politics, investing in 
America with our infrastructure, tackling health care costs, specifically 
prescription medication, these are the issues that Americans want congress 
to come together and work on, not send our front line of national security 
to work without pay and take $3 billion permanently out of this economy 
with the shutdown.

HAYES: Final question, the president has dangled the idea of declaring 
some kind of national emergency for a while now. He`s still dangling it. 
There`s a piece in The Atlantic that says he`s destroying his own case for 
national emergency, because he keeps delaying it, and it sort of vitiates 
the idea it`s an emergency if you can delay it. What is your position on 
the declaration of a national 
emergency?

CLARK: Well, I think the president is desperately looking for an exit 
ramp. You know, he did a 180 on congress back in December, decided to 
listen to “President” Coulter and let her make the 
decisions for him. And so I think the emergency is something that he is 
trying to use as a possible way to get out of the jam he put himself in.

We will let the courts decide, but as you noted for the last two years when 
there has been a 
Republican majority in the House and the Senate and a Republican in the 
White House, this emergency for the wall did not exist. If so, it would 
have been funded.

They waited until the verge of Democrats taking over in the House. And I 
think the president got into this on false information, from what you just 
said, using the wall as a mnemonic to remember to talk about immigration. 
And it really is an emperor has no clothes situation. And we need the 
court jesters to remind him that this is real people, real lives, real 
national security, and to come together and have a serious negotiation 
about how we strengthen our borders.

HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, thank you for your time 
tonight.

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Original story here.

House Democrats are preparing a counteroffer to President Trump’s border security demands without a wall, seeking to restart long-stalled talks to reopen the government after 33 days.

Democratic leaders are drafting their own version of a funding bill to reopen the Department of Homeland Security, which is expected to include at least $5 billion for border protection efforts like new technology and more law enforcement agents, according to multiple aides.

The proposal — which is still being finalized — won’t include new money for Trump’s border wall, which House Democrats have vehemently opposed.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to formally unveil the proposal Thursday evening, after the Senate takes up its own dueling funding measures to reopen the government. Both are partisan bills that are predicted to fall short of the necessary 60 votes.

Pelosi and her deputies are also mulling sending a letter directly to the White House outlining their positions, which some Democrats hope will unfreeze negotiations that have gone nowhere throughout the impasse.

With the shutdown in its fourth week, pressure is reaching a boiling point with federal workers set to miss their second paycheck on Friday.

Congressional leaders in both chambers are planning action this week as more lawmakers go public with their anxiety about the endless stalemate. Still, an end to the shutdown remains far off, with no talks scheduled between Pelosi and Senate GOP leaders, who will need to bless any funding deal.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), vice chair of the House Democratic Conference, confirmed the party’s plans on Wednesday, and described it as an attempt to show “a path forward out of this.”

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pushed back Wednesday on the idea that the letter was intended to directly reopen talks with Trump, despite several Democratic sources privately describing it that way. Democrats have said firmly that they would not negotiate with the government still closed.

“The letter is not a negotiation,” Hoyer told reporters. “The letter is going to articulate what we believe is an effective investment to accomplish border security.”

Hoyer wouldn’t say whether the missive would contain a specific monetary offer for border security but did say Democrats are prepared to spend much more than they’ve offered in current negotiations.

“We are prepared to spend a very substantial sum of money because we share the view that our borders need to be secure,” Hoyer said.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), the lead negotiator on DHS funding, spent the weekend in the Capitol working on a bill that will “reflect the consensus of House Democrats,” one Democratic aide said. The bill stands no chance of becoming law, but it seen as “something to work with” in negotiations with the White House.

House Democratic leaders are trying to show movement as some cracks in their caucus begin to show in the unprecedented 33rd day of shuttered government operations.

A handful of moderate Democrats have begun to speak out against Pelosi’s strategy of refusing to negotiate until the government is reopened. A small group, led by freshman Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, began circulating a letter this week pressing Pelosi to counter Trump’s proposal with her own potential compromise.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), another centrist Democrat, said he, too, has considered confronting leadership as he’s felt mounting pressure in his district.

The Oregon Democrat said he’s willing to negotiate while the government remains shut down as long as Trump is willing to put a broader immigration deal on the table that goes beyond temporary protections for Dreamers, which he said is “kind of BS.”

“Not negotiating is not a good strategy,” the Blue Dog Coalition member said. “We lost the messaging battle over the weekend. We can’t reject stuff out of hand, you have to at least consider it... But I think there’s an opportunity to have a broader conversation as a result of that… there’s a lot of people that are getting interested, we’re getting a lot of push back home to solve this problem,” Schrader said.

The Blue Dog Coalition was preparing to send a letter Wednesday criticizing the “brinksmanship” and calling on Democratic and GOP leadership to begin talks now on a border security package both sides could support, even before the government reopens.

“We therefore urge you to hold a bipartisan, bicameral summit that brings together House and Senate leaders to hold a substantive, transparent discussion on a path forward to reopen the government,” the group said in a draft of the letter obtained by POLITICO. “That discussion should be designed to produce legislation that will quickly pass both chambers of Congress.”

In a closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday, Pelosi tried to ease members’ frustrations by telling them leadership has a plan, even if they’re not revealing all of the details just yet.

“Sticking with a plan — and there is a plan that will unfold, working jointly with the House and Senate — I wish we would do that,” Pelosi said in the meeting, according to a Democratic source.

Pelosi then went on to say members should trust their committee leaders, noting that Roybal-Allard “has the bill ready to go” and “nobody knows more about homeland security” than Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the panel.

“I am so proud of our freshman going out there and saying open up government then talk about this or that,” she added. “But understand, there is a plan. It is working for us. I appreciate the unease because we all do.”

The House does not plan to vote on its funding plan until after the Senate shows that it can’t pass either of its two funding proposals that are under consideration this week.

One proposal is backed by Democrats, and would simply reopen the government through Feb. 8.

The other comes directly from Trump. It includes $5.7 billion for border fencing, as well as a short-term fix for individuals enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It also includes $12.7 billion in disaster aid, in an attempt to sweeten the pot for Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been mostly out of view during the shutdown, agreed to put both funding bills up for a vote despite their uncertain fate. The Thursday votes will mark the Senate’s first votes on government funding bills in a month.

The White House formally backed that proposal in a statement Wednesday, calling it a “compromise approach” to reopen the government.

“It’s hard to think of a good reason to oppose this,” McConnell said on the floor, arguing that Democrats are “happy to keep the government closed unless and until everyone agrees to move forward in their preferred way with no concessions and nothing for border security.”

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Original story here.

NPR's Mary Louise speaks with Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., who is vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, about the partial government shutdown.

Well, let's bring in Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark. She is vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus. And we have reached her at her office on Capitol Hill. Congresswoman Clark, welcome.

KATHERINE CLARK: Oh, it's great to be with you.

KELLY: Let me start with the State of the Union. How does denying the president his traditional speech help find common ground when there are, as you know, tasks of real consequence - funding the government - that are not getting done?

CLARK: Well, we are trying to send a message to the president that it is time to stop governing like we're about to cut to commercial, and to realize the pain that he is inflicting and the real threats to our national security by continuing this shutdown.

It is time to reopen government and make sure that we can then come to the table and talk about effective ways to make sure that our borders are secure.

KELLY: But does this back-and-forth over a State of the Union on the House floor feel petty?

CLARK: I think it is petty. I think that what we've seen is that the president has started a very petty argument that is taking a tremendous toll on real people.

I can tell you the stories from my district alone - about an elderly woman in my - one of my communities called Natick, where she cannot get the verification of her income to continue her subsidized housing. Our Coast Guard base that is local - they have had to open a food pantry because so many of those who are serving us live paycheck to paycheck.

This president has decided to hold the American people and these federal workers hostage to a campaign promise that he made. And that is the ultimate petty governing, but it is having a real effect. And we need to make sure that that government is open before we negotiate.

KELLY: Well, let me - to that point, talk to me about reports today that House Democrats are preparing a counteroffer to the president - House Democrats, that would be you. The measure, I understand, would provide funding for border security, but no funding for a wall.

Start here. Does this mean Democrats are willing to negotiate with the president before the government is reopened?

CLARK: No. We have been clear. We have tried everything we can. We took our 10th vote today to reopen government. We are trying in every way we know. First, it was we'll give the Senate Republicans back the bills they already approved, see if they will side with the American people and stop siding with the president. When that didn't work and our House Republican colleagues asked us to put out the bills that they had agreed to, we have done that now.

And it's time where we're going to see whether House Republicans and those in the Senate - whose side are they on? So far, they are siding with the president.

KELLY: But does this represent - this counteroffer - does this represent a new move from Democrats that would give the president pretty much the amount of money he's calling for, just not money for a wall?

CLARK: I think we're trying to send a signal that we are very serious about border security, and we are willing to have that discussion with the president. But first, he has to open government and stop holding things hostage.

KELLY: He's made it so clear, though, if there's one thing he's not going to do, it's - if there's no money for a wall, there's no deal. What makes you think he doesn't mean it?

CLARK: If we yield to his extreme demands now, shutdowns won't be a last resort. They're going to be a weekly special - a tool that he uses routinely. And that's why we're saying to him that you have to open government.

You have to remember, when this started on December 20, the Republicans were fully in charge, as they had been for the last two years. And it was really far-right political commentators that drove the president into this position. Who he is forgetting is the American people.

And by not paying TSA workers, FBI, the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, what he is creating is a new threat to our national security. This shutdown has to end.

KELLY: But again, how does this counteroffer move things forward if it's the one thing he said he won't budge on?

CLARK: You know, what we - what we're saying to him is, open government. Open it for a short time. Keep the pressure on both parties, and then we'll negotiate. Tomorrow, we're going to try and preview some of the specifics of what we would do. But our general position - we are unified, and it is not just the Democratic caucus. It is the American people. They see what this is. This is a temper tantrum, not a way to govern the United States.

KELLY: In the moments we have left, Congresswoman, as you know, the end of this week will mark the second missed paycheck for federal workers. Should members of Congress forfeit that paycheck, too?

CLARK: I think that members of Congress would - if forfeiting a paycheck would put the paycheck back into the hands of our federal employees, we'd be glad to do it.

KELLY: Are you planning to do that?

CLARK: But only one thing is going to do that, and that is opening government. So anything else is a distraction from the real needs of these people. And this president needs to look at all the people, not play to his base or a few commentators, and make sure that he is siding and deciding that he is going to be a president for all Americans.

KELLY: And we'll have to leave it there. That's Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark. Thanks so much.

CLARK: Thank you.

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Original story here.

Eight years ago, while taking part in a district town hall in her home city of Tucson, Ariz., Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, her staff, and her constituents fell victim to senseless gun violence. On Tuesday, exactly eight years after the attack, she stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to introduce the Background Check Act of 2019.

This will be Congress’s first step to address gun violence in almost a decade.

Previously, the House Republican leadership, beholden to the gun lobby, was stuck in a grisly ritual: mass shooting, moment of silence, inaction. Congress not only failed to respond to Aurora, Orlando, Newtown, San Bernardino, and Las Vegas, but they also ignored the daily reports of gun deaths at the hands of domestic abuse, homicide, and suicide. Every death is an ugly reminder of the toll that guns take on our society and the price of inaction: 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot or injured every day. We have all adapted to the despair that has come to define each tragedy.

The inaction ended six days after the House Democrats were sworn into the majority and introduced our first, long overdue step to end this cycle of violence. This bill would finally close the ‘gun show loophole’ by requiring a criminal background check for everyone purchasing a gun in both private and public sales. The concept is simple: guns should not be in the hands of dangerous people. A 2017 study found that 22 percent of gun owners who had purchased a firearm in the past two years did so without a background check.

This moment was possible because we said enough is enough. Americans voted for change in 2018 and a Congress that acts on the issues that impact our lives. By taking this step, we are standing together with the courageous survivors, advocates, and the majority of Americans who all agree that we need common sense reforms. Congress is done wasting time.

Since I joined the House, gun safety has been one of my top priorities, and now, with the Democrats in the majority and your advocacy, this first step won’t be our last. We need to prevent convicted animal abusers from accessing guns, ban assault weapons, and remove the federal ban on researching the impact of gun violence in our communities.

There is much work to be done, but I am optimistic. When former Congresswoman Giffords stood with us on the House floor, I was in awe of her courage, resilience, and determination. She has proven that when we work together and fight for good policy, we can make our country stronger and safer, even in the face of adversity. She is a bright light for us all to follow as we work together in this new Congress.

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Original story here.