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Obama signs historic hate crimes bill, massive defense budget

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President Barack Obama signed into law a historic and contentious defense spending bill Wednesday that includes a broad expansion of hate-crimes legislation to include crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation.

After passing out of the Senate 68-29 last week, the defense appropriations bill included hate-crimes language deemed too important for Obama to follow up on his threatened veto over concerns about military spending.

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“I promised Judy Shepard when she saw me in the Oval Office that this day would come,” Obama told the crowd at the signing of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. Shepard’s son, Matthew was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998, because he was gay. According to the FBI, more than 77,000 hate-crime incidents were reported between 1998 and 2007.

Many conservatives worry the law will be used to criminalize speech. During recent floor debate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) asked, “Can priests, pastors and rabbis be sure their preaching will not be prosecuted if it says certain things are right and wrong?”

Firebrand libertarian broadcaster Alex Jones urged opponents of the president to write letters this week promising to vote out Democrats if he signs “the freedom-destroying hate crimes bill.”

However, Attorney General Eric Holder has said the law will only be used to prosecute acts of violence. The new ‘hate crimes bill’ expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It is the first law in the history of the federal government to extend legal protections to transgender persons, requiring the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against them for the first time.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act also removes the current prerequisite that a victim be engaged in voting, going to school or other federally-protected activity. Federal authorities will be able to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue, with extra funding for prosecution available to all.

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At the signing, Obama also touched on the problem of billions of dollars in cost overruns for military projects, pointing out that funding for F-22 fighters was removed from 2010 defense spending. He had threatened to veto the spending bill during summer negotiations with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Critics have warned the defense bill nevertheless contains $100B in unnecessary spending on other equipment, including F-35 jet engines. Obama today called for further “fundamental” reforms in how the government and Pentagon do business, according to CNN.

Thirty-year Government Accountability Office veteran Winslow T. Wheeler warned earlier this year not to trust talk of defense spending reform. “For decades, the media have taken their descriptions of the size of the defense budget straight from the Pentagon’s annual press release,” he wrote. “Its business as usual, pure and simple.”

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Trump declares impeachment ‘dead’ — and demands apology — in late night Twitter outburst

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President Donald Trump lashed out on his favorite social media platform late Thursday evening.

Eight minutes before midnight eastern time, Trump unloaded.

Trump wrote, "Democrats must apologize to USA: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said that 'United States Ambassador Gordon Sondland did NOT link financial military assistance to a request for Ukraine to open up an investigation into former V.P. Joe Biden & his son, Hunter Biden. Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigation.'”

Trump did not say why he was taking the word of a foreign official over multiple sworn testimonies from members of his own administration.

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Pelosi is ‘marrying up the facts and the law’: Ex-prosecutor says ‘bribery’ is a critical indictment of Trump

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi was masterful in using the word "bribery" to describe President Donald Trump's actions with Ukraine that are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, according to a former federal prosecutor.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed former Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger on Thursday evening's "The Last Word."

Please expand for us on why it is significant and why is it important to label this bribery," Williams said.

"So I think Nancy Pelosi was very specific in calling this bribery for two reasons," Berger replied.

"The first is that -- unlike quid pro quo -- ribery is something that most people understand, especially people who have children," she said, with a chuckle. "We all sort of have a general understanding of that."

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Giuliani henchmen showered Republican with cash — and Trump almost made him ambassador to Ukraine: report

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Yet another bombshell report has shed new light on President Donald Trump's suspicious Ukraine policies.

"At the same time that Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted pals were pushing for President Donald Trump to remove Amb. Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine, Trump administration officials were eyeing potential contenders to take over her job. One of the people in the mix, according to three sources familiar with the discussions, was Rep. Pete Sessions, a former Congressman who called for Yovanovitch’s firing," The Daily Beast reported Thursday night. "He is also a longtime ally of the former New York Mayor, and is believed to have taken millions of dollars from Giuliani’s indicted cronies."

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