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House Democrat predicts request for Trump tax returns in two weeks

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House Democrat predicts request for Trump tax returns in two weeks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives tax committee said on Tuesday that he believed his panel would ask for President Donald Trump’s tax returns in as little as two weeks.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at an executive order signing ceremony on veterans suicide prevention in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“My prediction would be the next couple of weeks,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, who has led efforts on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee to seek Trump’s returns over the past two years.

“That’s my gut feeling. I told you four weeks ago that it would be a month. Now it’s two weeks,” he told reporters.

Pascrell made it clear he had not been given a timeline by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, who is the only House lawmaker authorized by law to request Trump’s returns from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The administration is widely expected to refuse such a request.

Neal is under pressure to act from some Democratic lawmakers and outside groups. He has held his fire while pursuing other legislative priorities and crafting a legal argument that Democrats hope can weather an expected court battle with the administration.

“When I’m asked, I give you what my thoughts are,” Pascrell said. He declined to say whether he had seen any draft requests for Trump’s returns, calling the effort “a work in progress.”

Trump defied decades of precedent as a presidential candidate by refusing to release the tax documents and has continued to keep them under wraps as president, saying his returns were under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

But Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen whetted Democrats’ interest in obtaining the documents last week, when he testified before the House Oversight Committee that Trump avoided releasing his returns for fear he would be audited and penalized by tax authorities.

Democrats hope that obtaining the returns will allow them to identify any conflicts of interest posed by Trump’s global business empire.

But Republicans oppose the effort, saying such a move would set a dangerous precedent by turning the confidential tax documents of a U.S. citizen into a political weapon.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney

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Trump asks why Facebook blocked Dan Scavino, his social media director

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Trump asks why Facebook blocked Dan Scavino, his social media director

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he will look into Facebook’s decision to block public comments by White House social media director Dan Scavino.

FILE PHOTO: White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino awaits the start of a joint news conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Scavino posted a screen shot late on Monday of a message from Facebook saying he was temporarily blocked from making public comments because some of his comments had been reported as spam.

Facebook said the issue was an “unintended consequence” of the platform’s policy on spam, adding, it has been in touch with Scavino and has apologized to him.

Explaining the error, Facebook said it caps the amount of identical, repetitive activity coming from one account in a short period of time as to stop automated bots.

“These limits can have the unintended consequence of temporarily preventing real people like Dan Scavino from engaging in such activity, but lift in an hour or two, which is what happened in this case,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“Dear Facebook—AMAZING. WHY ARE YOU STOPPING ME from replying to comments followers have left me – on my own Facebook Page!!?? People have the right to know. Why are you silencing me??? Please LMK!” Scavino said in his post earlier.

Trump pounced on the issue. “I will be looking into this!” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Facebook said the issue is “content-agnostic and is solely about addressing potentially scammy repetitive behavior.”

On Tuesday, Trump also said that social media platforms including Twitter discriminated against members of his party, and accused the companies of collusion.

“We enforce the Twitter Rules dispassionately and equally for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation,” a Twitter spokeswoman said.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Shepardson in Washington and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Steve Orlofsky and Shailesh Kuber

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Beto O’Rourke tried to prank wife with baby poop, report says

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Media Buzz: Media's Betomania boosts O'Rourke, magazine cover boy, for 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke attempted to play a practical joke on his wife by telling her that a turd he plucked from one of their children’s diapers was an avocado, a friend of the couple told The Washington Post.

A gauzy profile of the couple that was published Tuesday and titled “Are Amy and Beto O’Rourke the future of politics?” described the former congressman as an “impulsive and puckish” character who proposed to his future wife on April Fool’s Day.

OPINION: IS BETO O’ROURKE THE SELFIE-POLITICIAN AND METAPHOR FOR OUR TIMES?

Neither Beto nor Amy O’Rourke would confirm the baby poop story, though neither denied it and The Post reported that O’Rourke told the paper it sounded like something he would do. The O’Rourkes have three children: Ulysses, Molly, and Henry. It was not clear which child supplied the raw material for the reported prank.

The Post report also said that O’Rourke deployed a remote-controlled cockroach in the family kitchen and attempted to scare his wife in the shower, a la Anthony Perkins in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic, “Psycho.”

O’Rourke, who nearly unseated U.S. Sen Ted Cruz in last year’s midterm elections, became the latest Democrat to enter the presidential race last week. Almost immediately after O’Rourke threw his hat into the ring, he was criticized for saying that his wife has raised their three children “sometimes with my help” at multiple campaign stops in Iowa.

O’Rourke said the criticism of his “ham-handed” attempt to highlight his wife’s work in their marriage was “right on.”

“Not only will I not say that again, but I will be much more thoughtful in the ways that I talk about my marriage,” he said.

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The controversy did not appear to lessen enthusiasm among his supporters. On Monday, O’Rourke’s campaign announced that it had raised more than $6 million online with a day of his announcement, the most reported by any 2020 candidate.

O’Rourke raised $80 million in grassroots donations in his race against Cruz last year, all while largely avoiding money from PACs.

Click for more from The Washington Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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U.S. Midwest’s catastrophic floods cause widespread damage

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U.S. Midwest's catastrophic floods cause widespread damage

BROWNVILLE, Neb. (Reuters) – Severe flooding caused by rainfall and melting snow devastated farms and towns in Nebraska and Iowa on Tuesday, leaving at least four people dead and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, with waters yet to crest in parts of the region for several days.

Flooded Offutt Air Force Base Is seen in this DigitalGlobe Satellite image over Nebraska, U.S., March 18, 2019. Picture taken on March 18, 2019. ©2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS

The floods inundated stretches of the two farm states along the Missouri River, the longest in waterway in North America. Nearly half of Iowa’s counties have been declared disaster areas.

The floods followed a powerful winter hurricane that slammed into the U.S. Farm Belt last week, killing untold numbers of livestock, destroying grains and soybeans in storage, and cutting off access to farms due to road and rail damage.

“It’s really too early to know for sure how bad this is going to get. But one thing we do know: It’s catastrophic for farmers,” said Matt Perdue, government relations director for the National Farmers Union trade group.

Rescuers could be seen in boats pulling pets from flooded homes. Some roadways crumbled to rubble, while sections of others were submerged. In Hamburg, Iowa, floodwaters covered buildings.

Nebraska officials estimate more than $1 billion in flood damage for the state’s agricultural sector so far, according to Craig Head, vice president of issue management at the Nebraska Farm Bureau. But Head said the number is expected to grow as floodwaters recede.

“We’re hoping it’s only $1 billion, but that’s only a hope,” Perdue said.

Nebraska officials estimate the floods have caused an estimated $553 million in damage to public infrastructure and other assets, as well as $89 million in privately owned assets, according to the state’s Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday.

The water also covered about a third of Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, home to the U.S. Strategic Command, whose responsibilities include defending against and responding to nuclear attacks.

In Niobrara, Nebraska, south of the Missouri River near the border with South Dakota, Mayor Jody Stark said flooding that began on Thursday had devastated his community of 350 people, with businesses being the hardest hit.

“Our road system is shot pretty much in every direction coming into town,” Stark said.

“It’s one day at a time. We will do what we can to get back on our feet,” Stark said. “It’s just so heartbreaking. It’s going to be tough, but hopefully we can all get through it.”

Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, which runs a 120 million-gallon-a-year (450-million-liter a year) ethanol production plant in Council Bluffs on the Iowa-Nebraska border, had to cut production because some corn farmers who supply the plant have determined some of their crops are unusable, said company Chief Executive Mike Jerke.

About 74 Nebraska cities had declared states of emergency by Monday evening, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. More than 600 residents were evacuated and taken to American Red Cross-operated shelters.

Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to survey the damage with Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

“Heading to Nebraska today to survey the devastating flood damage. To the people of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas & all regions impacted: we are with you,!” Pence said in a post on Twitter early Tuesday.

The floodwaters were the result of snowmelt following heavy rains last week and warm weather, said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

The weather service’s website shows some locales along the Missouri River in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri are expected to continue to see waters rise for several more days.

Slideshow (7 Images)

The four reported deaths included one person in Iowa who was rescued from floodwaters but later succumbed to injuries, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Roads leading to the Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper nuclear plant near Brownville were engulfed by floodwaters from the Missouri, but the facility was still operating safely at full power on Tuesday morning.

The plant operator was flying staff members and supplies to the plant with helicopters, said power district spokesman Mark Becker.

Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia, P.J. Huffstutter and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis

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