Morning News: Top former Trump campaign officials indicted; UC releases video in response to Spencer

The indictment covers acts Paul Manafort and Rick Gates allegedly committed between 2006 and 2017. Both have turned themselves in to federal agents.

click to enlarge President Donald Trump at a March 2016 campaign stop in West Chester. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
President Donald Trump at a March 2016 campaign stop in West Chester.

Hello all. Here’s some quick news you should know today.

Area law enforcement agencies sometimes offer light or no discipline for officers caught using inappropriate force, drunk driving or using state databases to stalk people, this WCPO investigation reveals. Officers from Middletown and Colerain Township and sheriff’s deputies in Hamilton County and other departments have faced little or no reprimand for actions that would be grounds for dismissal at other jobs. Among the most serious incidents: An inmate at the Hamilton County jail suffered a broken hip and lacerations on his head at the hands of corrections officer Jason Mize. Maj. Charmaine McGuffey called for Mize’s dismissal and arrest. Despite the fact the incident was reported to the county’s criminal investigation section, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office declined to bring the case to a grand jury. Mize later resigned.

• The University of Cincinnati has released a new two-minute video responding to a pending, but yet-unscheduled, visit by white nationalist Richard Spencer. UC approved Spencer’s request to rent a venue at the university earlier this month after he threatened the school with a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds.

“The choice of how we respond to Richard Spencer’s visit is ours to make,” UC President Neville Pinto says at the beginning of the video before a number of Cincinnatians, including mayoral candidates Mayor John Cranley and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, list off the values they want to defend and highlight threatened by Spencer’s ideology.

Activists have already begun planning for Spencer’s arrival on campus, which could take place sometime in January.

• Former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory continues to wade into this year’s election. He has endorsed Councilwoman Yvette Simpson in her mayoral bid and also threw his support behind first-time council candidate Derek Bauman. And oh yeah — he’s also been trolling Mayor John Cranley on Facebook.

“Cranley says he brought/retained 7,500 jobs in the last four years,” he wrote in a post last week. “Kudos! My administration attracted/retained 24,000 in 8 years during the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Good luck catching up!”

Another post pointing out that Ohio law requires municipalities to balance their budgets every year — a response to Cranley’s claim that he has structurally balanced the budget when Mallory didn’t — got a polite response from the mayor himself. Outgoing Councilman Kevin Flynn also waded in, saying that Mallory’s budgets weren’t structurally balanced because they paid for some things with one-time funding sources.

We put together some budgets with shoe strings, bubble gum and popsicle sticks because we had to,” Mallory replied. The Democrat was mayor during the Great Recession, and his supporters say that the national economic crisis accounts for Cincinnati’s lean times under his tenure. “And even though there was pressure to layoff Police and Fire Fighters, I never let that happen!”

Things haven't always been so rough between the two. Though Cranley has spent some time criticizing Mallory during his tenure, they went out to lunch as recently as August, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Maybe one didn't offer to pick up the tab for the other or stole too many french fries or something.

• A major thoroughfare in Over-the-Rhine might soon have fewer lanes. OTR’s Community Council will vote on a plan later this month to remove one or two lanes of traffic from Liberty Street as well as a median that runs through parts of the road. That would make Liberty five lanes wide for much of its path through OTR. The plan also involves making one lane a turn-only lane. It would use space from the removed lanes to widen sidewalks and add trees in an attempt to make the area feel more walkable and unified. The big, high-traffic stretch acts as a barrier between the north half of OTR and its south half, many neighborhood advocates say. If the community council approves the plan, the changes should be made by spring next year.

• Work will begin today on Avondale Town Center, a $43 million redevelopment along Reading Road by The Community Builders and other developers. The development is the latest in a spate of efforts in part funded by a nearly $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The project will include housing and a long-awaited grocery store to Avondale. Mayor John Cranley, prominent faith leaders in Avondale and others will kick off the groundbreaking today at 1:30 p.m.

• The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week narrowly approved President Donald Trump’s contentious appointment of former University of Cincinnati professor Michael Dourson to a key chemical safety post with the Environmental Protection Agency. Dourson’s nonprofit, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, has received most of its funding from industry groups which produce highly regulated chemicals and has often called for lowering safety regulations on those products. That’s caused Democrats and environmental advocates to strongly oppose his appointment.

"He’s essentially sold his science to the highest bidder and recommended standards for toxic chemicals that were tens, hundreds, and even thousands of times less protective than EPA's own standards," U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said during committee debates. Carper is the top-ranking Democrat on the committee. "Can this be the best person the administration could find to entrust the responsibilities of this critical leadership post? God I hope not." 

But supporters point out that Dourson is highly respected in his field and has won major scientific awards related to toxicology. The committee voted along party lines — 11 Republicans voted to approve his appointment, while 10 Democrats voted against it. Final approval now goes to the Senate.

• Ohio’s four Democrat hopefuls in next year’s race for the governor’s seat held a debate last night. But there was little contention between Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former State Rep. Connie Pillich, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, who spent much of debate agreeing with one another. In fact, most of the controversy around the event centered on who wasn’t there — Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill, who announced his candidacy yesterday. Schiavoni hit O’Neill for not coming to the debate, instead holding a press conference announcing his bid at the same time. O’Neill says he reached out to organizers earlier this week and must be vetted by the state Democratic Party before he can join other candidates on the debate stage.

• The Internal Revenue Service has settled two lawsuits with conservative tea party groups who filed against the agency over its handling of tax-exempt applications beginning in 2010. The lawsuits say the groups were given improper scrutiny because of their ideological beliefs; the IRS has maintained that they were given scrutiny because they were political in nature and that liberal groups received the same oversight. However, the IRS did admit to “mismanagement” in the two settlements reached last week. It apologized in one settlement in which monetary damages had been eliminated as a possibility. The other settlement could result in millions in payouts to the tea party groups, however, should a federal judge approve the final agreement. Much of the vetting work done on the tea party groups’ applications happened in the IRS’ Cincinnati offices.

• The former manager for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and one of his top deputies have been indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts ranging from conspiracy against the United States to money laundering. The indictment covers acts Paul Manafort and Rick Gates committed between 2006 and 2017. Both have turned themselves in to federal agents. Trump fired back on Twitter, saying the legal action covers actions Manafort made before he was on Trump’s team. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, says a third figure associated with Trump’s campaign, George Papadopolous, has pled guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI about meetings and relationships he had with some foreign individuals who have ties to Russian government officials.

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