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Evangelical Christian Arkansas Republican pleads guilty in $600K Bible college bribery scheme

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An Arkansas Republican lawmaker has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges that he personally profited from an elaborate bribery and kickback scheme involving a northwest Arkansas evangelical Christian college.

Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist pointed to the rapidly mushrooming scandal which the Arkansas Times said could land state Rep. Michah Neal behind bars for up to 20 years and cost him a fine of up to $250,000.

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According to a Justice Department news release, “As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with an Arkansas state senator to use their official positions to appropriate government money known as General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes.”

The release continued, “Of the $600,000, Neal personally authorized and directed a total of $175,000 to the entities. In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from officials at those non-profit entities.”

Ecclesia officials deny all knowledge of any financial improprieties. School president Dr. Oren Paris III published an open letter on Facebook professing his and the college’s innocence of any wrongdoing.

“I can unequivocally state that neither I nor Ecclesia College have been party to illegal activity. We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator,” wrote Paris.

“The Plea Agreement, however, suggests that the President of one of the two non-profit groups — all signs point to Paris (a.k.a. “Person B”) — was actively involved in the scandal,” said Mehta. “If that’s confirmed, it’d be a major blow to the school and its leader. This Facebook post could also easily come back to haunt him.”

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Neal abruptly dropped out of his re-election race last summer citing “family and business” concerns. The Arkansas Times said that Neal is not the only official implicated in his plea deal. The state senator he conspired with, a lobbyist, a consultant and a number of Christian nonprofit leaders are also named in the document.

Since Neal is a first-time offender, it’s unlikely that he will receive that maximum fine and sentence for his crimes. In his most recent Twitter message, the disgraced Republican said, “Praise God even when you don’t understand what He’s doing.”

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Republican Kevin McCarthy gets taken down by former top GOP colleague

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was attacked by a former Republican colleague who alleged McCarthy and his fellow members of Congress have allowed the House GOP to become the official shill for the White House.

In a profile for the New York Times, former Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) shamed the GOP House for the way that a once-respectable institution has fallen.

“Congress no longer operates as an independent branch of government, but as an appendage of the executive branch,” said Davis. “He is made for that role.”

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Former senator reveals to Maddow how one brave Democrat can reveal key document in impeachment trial

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Near the end of Wednesday's impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts announced that an agreement had been made to allow senators to read supplemental testimony from Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams.

The document will remain classified, despite claims that there is no classified material in the document, only evidence that is damning to the president.

"In terms of this document potentially being improperly classified, which is something that has been raised in writing by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and raised on the floor of the Senate tonight by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)," MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow noted. "Obviously, it was the vice president's office that said it was classified, they are getting publicly criticized for that. If it has been improperly classified and it should be something that the public can see, who adjudicates that?"

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Florida Republican Matt Gaetz admits Trump’s legal defense was ‘like an 8th grade book report’ — only worse

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) admitted that President Donald Trump's team of lawyers weren't quite the legal eagles that he thinks they might be, said Politico reporter Andrew Desiderio.

Questioned about his take on the way the case is unfolding in the Senate, Gaetz said that the House presented it like it was going to be on "cable news." For many that may be an insult, but it appears to Gaetz that was a compliment.

Desiderio said that Gaetz then lamented that the White House presented their case more like “an 8th-grade book report.”

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