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Lawmaker who apologized to BP may chair House energy panel

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The Texas lawmaker who apologized to BP for the US government’s insistence that the oil giant set up a fund to compensate oil spill victims may soon be the most powerful voice in the House on US energy policy.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is a leading contender for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a position he held once before, during the 2004-2006 congressional session.

Barton brought attention to himself in June, when the Obama administration announced that BP would set up a $20-billion escrow fund to compensate businesses and households affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” Barton said. “I think it’s a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown … in this case, a $20 billion shakedown with the Attorney General of the United States….”

Barton concluded: “I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize.”

The Texas lawmaker quickly apologized, after his comments were condemned even by fellow Republicans. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he “couldn’t disagree with Barton more,” while Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) called for Barton to lose his position as the ranking Republican on the energy committee.

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Now, with the Republicans back in control of House committees in the upcoming session, Barton has announced his desire to chair the committee once more. “I will ask my colleagues for the privilege of serving as chairman of the committee I love, the House Energy and Commerce Committee,” he wrote last week in a column for the Washington Times.

A BIG BOOST FOR BIG OIL?

As the New York Times noted shortly after the “apology” controversy, Barton “has long been one of the top beneficiaries of campaign donations from big energy companies, cornerstones of the Texas economy.”

“BP and other major players in the oil business might hope for more of [Barton’s] kind of solicitude from the House Energy and Commerce panel,” writes Brett Michael Dykes at The Upshot. Dykes argues that putting Barton back in the Energy and Commerce driver’s seat could be bad politics for the GOP.

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The Democrats got plenty of mileage out of Barton’s comments this election season, running ads that stated, among other things, “This is how Republicans would govern.” And in his campaign stops around the country, President Obama often singled out Barton’s potential committee chairmanship as reason enough to vote for Democrats.

“The top Republican on the Energy Committee, you may recall — this is the guy who would be in charge of the Energy Committee in the House of Representatives — apologized after the oil spill to BP,” President Obama recently said at a luncheon in Ohio. “Remember this? He apologized because I had said to BP, ‘you need to set aside $20 billion to make sure that we’re making fishermen and small business owners whole as a consequence of your mistakes.’ This guy, he apologized to BP … Imagine that. That’s what’s at stake in this election.”

Barton faces competition from Republican Fred Upton, a 12-term congressman from Michigan. Upton said last week he would target the health reform law passed by Democrats earlier this year, and try to dismantle it piece by piece.

“I know there’s going to be a vote to repeal the whole thing if we take over, but in all likelihood we’re not going to have the votes to override,” Upton said. “I look at this a little bit like a Jenga game. It’s a good game with my kids. We’re going to look at the pieces.”

Dikes notes that Barton can’t win the chair without violating rules limiting tenure (he was chair from 2004 to 2006 and the ranking Republican in the most recent session). He would need a waiver from the Republican leadership to take up the position.

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Trump wants Americans to watch interview where he broke federal law by soliciting foreign election help: ‘Enjoy the show!’

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Despite widespread criticism, President Donald Trump on Saturday stood by his comments to George Stephanopoulos -- and hyped an upcoming broadcast of the interview.

"I enjoyed my interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News," Trump claimed.

"So funny to watch the Fake News Media try to dissect and distort every word in as negative a way as possible. It will be aired on Sunday night at 8:00 P.M., and is called, “President Trump: 30 Hours” (which is somewhat misleading in that I personally spent only a small fraction of that time doing interviews. I do have a few other things to do, you know!)," he continued.

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President Donald Trump's poor standing in Utah could cause big electoral problems for one of his loudest defenders in the state.

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On Saturday, Stewart was blasted by former CIA officer Evan McMullin.

McMullin was born in Provo, attended Brigham Young University, is Mormon and a also prominent conservative critic of Trump.

In 2016, McMullin ran against Trump as an Independent and received 21.3 percent of the vote in Utah during the general election. Trump also had problems in Utah during the Republican primary, receiving only 14 percent of the vote.

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Trump ‘will not leave his office if he narrowly loses in 2020’: Conservative columnist issues dire warning

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President Donald Trump will fight to remain in power regardless of the outcome if the 2020 election is close, a conservative columnist warned on Saturday.

Andrew Sullivan blasted Trump in New York magazine, honing in on the commander-in-chief's lying.

"For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie," he wrote.

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