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The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee says whistleblowers have detailed a plot by the Trump administration to oust the CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and replace him with someone favored by the White House.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) warned in a letter to the BBG, obtained by TPM, that that candidate, André Mendes, then plans to dismiss the existing Board of Governors, according to the whistleblowers.

In a statement to TPM, Engel called the alleged plot “our worst nightmare coming true.”

“This action would violate current law and represent what these whistleblowers have described as ‘a coup at the BBG,’ presumably with the aim of pushing the BBG’s journalism toward a viewpoint favorable of (sic) the Trump Administration,” Engel wrote to the BBG. “I view these claims as credible and this scenario as outrageous and unacceptable.”

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Rochester’s new train station will be named after U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, the recently deceased western New York Democrat who helped secure federal funding for the project.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrats, announced Wednesday that Amtrak has agreed to change the name of the Rochester Intermodal Station to the Louise M. Slaughter Intermodal Station.

The 88-year-old congresswoman from suburban Rochester died Friday at a Washington hospital after being injured in a fall at her District of Columbia home.

The senators noted she spent years fighting to get the funding needed to replace Rochester’s aging Amtrak station. The facility opened last October.

Calling hours for Slaughter are Wednesday and Thursday at a Rochester funeral home. Her funeral service is Friday at Rochester’s Eastman Theatre.

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Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Wednesday morning that looking back, he does not believe that the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to election meddling by the Obama administration were strong enough.

“The Russian effort has not been contained, it has not been deterred,” Johnson told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing on election security. “With the benefit of hindsight, the sanctions we issued in late December have not worked as an effective deterrent.”

Johnson called on the Trump administration to build on those sanctions.

The former homeland security secretary also emphasized the challenge he faced in preparing states for election meddling ahead of the 2016 election. He noted that many states are resistant to the federal government designating election infrastructure as critical infrastructure, which would facilitate states’ ability to seek security help from the federal government.

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Former advertising executive Marie Newman finally threw in the towel Wednesday morning after refusing to concede a hard-fought race to Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) on election night, even as she strongly suggested a possible 2020 rematch.

“Last night, we wanted to make sure that every vote was counted, that every voice was heard. We believed there was a possibility of victory,” Newman said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “After reviewing the results, we know that we lost by a thin margin.”

Newman went on to say that she plans to continue “to hold him accountable” going forward and will seek to knock him out of office in 2020 — a strong sign she’ll run again. Some Newman allies including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) have suggested to TPM that might happen if she lost a close race on Tuesday.

Her statement came after Newman cancelled a planned Wednesday press conference.

Lipinski, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats and a co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, won a close race Tuesday night by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. But with some votes still outstanding late in the evening Newman refused to concede, telling her supporters she “would like Lipinski to have a very painful evening” so she’d hold off until the next day.

Newman lost in spite of big support from an array of national Democratic groups furious at Lipinski for his anti-abortion stances, vote against Obamacare, and previous opposition to the DREAM Act and gay marriage. That coalition was spearheaded by NARAL Pro-Choice America and backed by Human Rights Campaign, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and EMILY’s List. They spent $1.6 million on her behalf, largely fueling her campaign. But it wasn’t quite enough to beat Lipinski and the still-powerful Chicago Democratic machine.

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Former CIA Director John Brennan on Tuesday said he believed President Donald Trump was “afraid” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and speculated that Putin could “have something” of a personal nature on Trump.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” co-anchor Willie Geist asked Brennan, a frequent critic of Trump, why the President appeared hesitant to confront Russia over certain issues.

“Do you believe he is somehow in debt to the president of Russia?” Geist asked.

“I think he is afraid of the president of Russia,” Brennan responded.

“Why?” Geist asked.

“Well, I think one can speculate as to why,” Brennan said. “That the Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”

The former CIA director added that “clearly” it was important to improve relations with Russia, “but the fact that he has had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear.”

“Do you believe Russia has something on him?” Geist asked.

“I believe that the Russians would not–” Brennan hesitated.

“They would opt for things to do if they believe that it was in their interest and the Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things that they could expose and reveal.”

“Something personal, perhaps?” Geist asked.

“Perhaps,” Brennan agreed.

The exchange comes amid the President’s increasingly energetic attacks not against Putin, but against special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump continued complaining about Mueller’s probe of Russian election meddling and related matters on his Twitter account Wednesday.

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A new study from the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group found that Americans who back President Donald Trump show the highest level of skepticism for democracy.

The study found that 23 percent of Trump supporters do not prefer a democracy and that 32 percent favor a “strong leader.” By comparison, 20 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters said they prefer a “strong leader.”

Despite those findings, the study found that about three quarters of those surveyed showed “at least some support for democracy” and that more than half showed “support for the strongest pro-democratic option.” The study also found that support for a strong leader declined for the first time and fell to levels found in 1995.

The Democracy Fund’s study focused on 5,000 people who were interviewed in July 2017 — those respondents had also been interviewed several times since 2011.

Read the results from the study here.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday quoted comments from a Democratic Harvard professor on Twitter to complain about special counsel Robert Mueller, again.

Citing law professor, and former Hillary Clinton supporter, Alan Dershowitz’s comments during an interview on Fox News, Trump reiterated his frustration with Mueller and his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s veiled pushback against the special counsel, follows tweets from the President over the weekend when he named Mueller for the first time in his attacks against the Russia investigation. The tweet raised fears among lawmakers that Trump was planning to fire the special counsel, a move that at least two Republicans have claimed would be an impeachable offense.

The White House has consistently pushed back on that message, saying this week that firing Mueller is not even under consideration. 

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WASHINGTON (AP) — As hundreds of people stood in line for food and many went hungry during the days and weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Walmart Inc. and local supermarkets threw out tons of spoiled meat, dairy and produce.

Emails and text messages made public Tuesday in a letter sent by the top Democrat on the House oversight committee describe frantic efforts by officials at Walmart and the Puerto Rican government to get fuel for generators to prevent food from going bad.

From the Federal Emergency Management Agency came only silence.

Within a three-hour time span, Walmart officials were able to connect, through email and text messages, with a congressman’s office and local Puerto Rican government officials. They passed on their urgent request for help, just two days after the hurricane made landfall.

Meanwhile, the letter states, FEMA remained unresponsive for days.

The fuel issue is another window into difficulties the agency has faced in responding to Hurricane Maria, along with providing Puerto Ricans with thousands of tarps for the homeless and millions of meals for the hungry.

Walmart ultimately disposed of an unclear amount of perishable foods, and local supermarkets reported that they lost tens of thousands of dollars in perishable foods, according to the letter sent by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Stacey Plaskett, the delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Their letter reiterates a request made to Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., in October for documents from the Department of Homeland Security related to FEMA’s preparation for and response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Gowdy’s office did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Maria, which made landfall in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, shut down ports, destroyed crops, and disrupted the power grid, leaving supermarkets without electricity or the fuel to run their generators. Hundreds of thousands of people were also left without easy access to food.

Two days after the hurricane, a senior Walmart official emailed Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., to ask for help keeping food refrigerated in the few stores they had been able to get up and running.

“The problem is we’re running out of generator fuel and need help getting the Governor’s approval for me,” the Walmart official wrote. “Have you guys been in touch with anyone from FEMA that we can contact to help? We want to keep this food fresh for people.”

Walmart had opened three facilities to support the public and had plans to bring more on line, but the key to doing this was having power to run the operation and re-establish its supply chain, the Walmart official wrote.

Roughly an hour after that first email, Gutierrez’s office forwarded the email to a Puerto Rican government official. And 12 minutes later, the Puerto Rican government official responded: “FYI I’m sitting with FEMA rep right now so we are taking care of this.”

Walmart officials sent over a priority list of a dozen of their top stores — they operated 46 on the island — needing fuel to keep food from spoiling, in addition to their distribution center and home office.

“Fuel at this point is becoming a key concern as we are less than 24 hours left in maintaining power in most facilities,” the Walmart official wrote.

The message was forwarded by the Puerto Rican government official to a FEMA official 26 minutes later. But by Sunday, two days after initially reaching out, there was still no response from FEMA. The Puerto Rican government official texted Walmart that FEMA had not responded to numerous requests.

“Did the hospitals get fuel?” the Walmart official asked.

“I think so. But I can’t be sure. Our communication with FEMA on the specifics of certain things has been less than desired,” the Puerto Rican government official said.

The following morning, the two exchanged messages again. The Puerto Rican government official informed Walmart that he had reached out to the island’s emergency management agency, which they hoped could help.

“Our chief concern right now is with our distribution center,” the official text messaged back. “We might have two days worth of fuel left. It is critical that we keep that going in order to preserve our fresh inventory. If that goes down it could take weeks to replenish which would have a big negative impact on the island.”

A week after the hurricane, still with no reply from FEMA, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello personally reached out to FEMA to request emergency fuel for grocery stores to maintain perishable food supplies, the letter’s timeline states.

A Puerto Rican government official informed FEMA officials in an email that “because of immediate threat to public health and safety, the Governor asked John Rabin (FEMA’s Acting Regional Administrator for Region II) at 8:10 a.m. this morning to have FEMA deliver fuel to all grocery and large retail immediately.”

It’s unclear exactly how much food was lost or whether FEMA ultimately provided the emergency fuel.

Responding to a request for comment, FEMA spokesman Daniel Llargues said in an email Tuesday that the agency is aware of the letter and has consistently worked with the committee and will continue to do so.

“The protection of life and safety is our first priority in any response, including working closely with the government of Puerto Rico to support the fueling mission for critical infrastructure” such as hospitals and communications centers, Llargues said.

Llargues said that FEMA has distributed more than 13 million gallons of fuel to date. He did not provide any timeline nor did he confirm the details in the letter.

“It was tough at the beginning of that all the way through, it was tough, we didn’t have power,” Phillip Keene, a spokesman for Walmart, told The Associated Press. But he added, “We felt comfortable that people were acting in good faith.”

Keene said he did not know how much food was thrown out and could not confirm details of the initial scramble for generator fuel. He said nearly all but a handful of stores were able to get back online within a matter of months, relatively quickly given the extent of the damage.

Manuel Reyes, the executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Marketing, Industry, and Distribution of Food, told The Associated Press that the lack of fuel was a greater problem in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane due to logistics issues.

Reyes, whose organization represents grocers, food distributors and food manufacturers on the island, said large quantities of food spoiled because businesses ran out of fuel for their generators and there was no distribution system for delivering more. He said many businesses paid up to four times the real cost of fuel when buying on the black market, sometimes competing with large hotels, housing complexes or department stores.

“Since the beginning we made the local and federal governments aware of this, but as far as we know FEMA did not provide fuel or made trucks available to the private food distribution network,” Reyes said. “We believe they did provide some fuel to hospitals. We were forced to establish our own distribution system for our members using retrofitted waste-water trucks in order to keep some stores opened and food from going bad.”

Reyes said that after three to four weeks, gas stations began to normalize and businesses could get fuel easier.

“But by that time the emergency generators, which are not designed for continuous operation, began failing and we needed new ones or spare parts but few were available,” Reyes said. “No help with that either.”

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FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to say whether he threatened to resign over pressure to fire Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe in an NBC News interview that aired Tuesday night.

NBC’s Pete Williams asked Wray if reports that he threatened to resign over pressure from President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“You know, I have been very clear from the minute I was nominated to the minute I walked in the door to countless opportunities since then that I am unwaveringly committed to doing this job by the book, independently,” Wray replied. “Following our rules, our processes, free from political or partisan influence.”

Williams pressed Wray, asking him if he was saying that the reports were true.

““I’m not going to talk about specific conversations,” Wray said in response.

Earlier on, Wray said that he does feel political pressure from the White House and that Trump has “never asked me to do anything with the Russia investigation.”

Watch the clip via NBC:

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