7 Things: AG Barr says there was spying on the Trump campaign, Alabama congressman wants Democrats to help on immigration, ethics revamp hits a wall in Alabama legislature and more …
7. Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange arrested in Ecuadoran embassy
— A bearded, ranting and irritated-looking Assange was removed from the embassy he has been hiding in since 2012. He went there to avoid extradition to Sweden on a sexual assault charge. Depending on the year, and his actions, Assange has been hailed as a hero or a villain. His leaking of Bradley Manning’s stolen classified documents made him a hero of the American left, while the American right praised him and his organization for their role in exposing Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Wikileaks is widely believed to be a Russian front group used to create dissension across the globe.
— There has been a $40 million increase approved for the budget for the prison system. Governor Kay Ivey requested the increase before the Department of Justice report was released that claimed the Alabama prisons have unconstitutional conditions. $30 million will go to hiring 500 more correctional officers and increase the pay of current officers by 20 percent. Lack of staff and budget were two main issued referenced in the DOJ report. The budget passed with a 103-0 vote. Construction of new prisons, which the Alabama Department of Corrections is seeking, could cost $900 million and cost $78 million a year to operate.
— On Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey visited Athens and announced that Toyota Boshoku will build its $50 million supplier facility in eastern Limestone County. This is the first announcement of indirect jobs coming to north Alabama due to the new Mazda Toyota plant. It’s expected that the Mazda Toyota plant could bring in as many as 4,000 indirect jobs once it’s fully operational. The Toyota Boshoku plant will produce 400 jobs and will be on 42 acres in the Breeding North Industrial Park where they will be producing seat systems. Construction is expected to begin around May 1 of 2019.
4. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has released his “Medicare for All” plan
— On Wednesday, Sen. Sanders introduced his Medicare for All healthcare plan again. The plan would ensure healthcare for all Americans, and Sanders claims that the health care proposal isn’t socialism. Sanders said, “It’s similar to what the Canadians have.” It’s estimated that the plan could cost nearly $32 trillion over the next decade. His plan has the support of many of his fellow Democratic candidates for the presidency. Sanders claims that his plan would eliminate insurance companies that make billions in profit every year, also alluding to the idea that insurance providers would be reduced to providing nose jobs. Will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) force Democrats to go on the record as he did with the Green New Deal?
— Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) tweeted, “Ethics bill possibly dead for the session.” The bill by Senator Greg Albritton (R-Range) was criticized for its sweeping changes that would have removed the limit for gifts that individuals could give to Alabama officials. Ethics Commissioner Tom Albritton, no relation, said this bill could have potentially opened the door to rampant corruption. But Sen. Albritton claimed he was just attempting to clarify a law he felt was a bit murky. If the bill comes back, the attention the bill has received will probably significantly change the bill. Ward told AL.com, “It’s just too controversial too fast. There’s a lot of questions in there. There’s a lot of concerns. You’ve heard from the members. You’ve heard from the public. There are just a lot of concerns.” The Common Core repeal and a plan to privatize liquor sales bills have stalled as well.
2. Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said that Democrats need to give resources to deal with the border crisis
— Rogers was on Fox News Channel’s “Outnumbered Overtime” where he said, “We need the Democrats to finally give us the resources for the things they said we needed all along…They said we needed people and technology resources on the border to secure it. The president is going ahead with the barrier so they need to come around and support the things they said we needed.” Rogers also said that President Trump is getting barriers put up at the border, as well as moving Border Patrol officers around so more are on the ground rather than in administrative roles. Rogers added, “Trump is going forward with getting the fencing built. We went down with him last Friday. We were able to see the fence and demonstrate to the American public how different this is from what we’ve used in the past, how successful it is and to highlight the problem.”
— On Wednesday, AG Barr testified that federal authorities spied on the 2016 Trump campaign. Barr said, “I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated. … Spying on a political campaign is a big deal.” Barr doesn’t think that improper surveillance occurred, but he’s concerned so he’s looking into it. This spying was alleged by Donald Trump and denied by the media and intelligence community for almost two years. Democrats who spent two years pushing a debunked conspiracy theory of Russian collusion are understandably unhappy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) weighed in by saying, “I don’t trust Barr, I trust Mueller.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has accused Barr of peddling conspiracy theories. There is also an inspector general investigation into leaks of classified information involving General Flynn to the Washington Post.