WASHINGTON — If he had his way, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., would have been the one taking the oath of office to become vice president on Friday.

However, after attending the inauguration to watch his opponent Mike Pence become vice president, Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate, presided over the wedding of Dea Jones and Sharon McLeod — his first of a same-sex couple.

McLeod and Jones, who are 64 and 61, respectively, met in 2000 and had a commitment ceremony in 2002, long before same-sex marriage became legal in most areas of the United States.

But after it was clear Donald Trump would become president, the Kentucky couple decided to act fast.

“We hadn’t been in a hurry to make it legal,” McLeod said. “We really were hoping to do it as soon as we could before the Trump administration.”

Jones’ brother is friends with Kaine and the senator and his staff were the ones who picked Inauguration Day as a possible date.

“How wonderful it would be on Jan 20th it would be to offer love and light by Sharon and I committing ourselves to each other,” Jones said.

The timing also worked out well since many people were in Virginia and the Washington area for the Women’s March on Washington the day after.

—CQ-Roll Call


Despite ‘white Republican’ gripes, Kirk invited on Air Force One, official says

CHICAGO — Former U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk griped at a Washington, D.C., inauguration party Thursday that he was never invited on Air Force One by President Barack Obama because he is a “white Republican.”

Turns out, he was invited, according to his own spokesman.

Kirk’s spokesman, Kevin Artl, said last year that Kirk was “asked to accompany Obama on Air Force One, but he declined because of Senate votes,” according to a Feb, 10. 2016, report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Asked following Kirk’s latest unfortunate racial outburst whether he stood by that 2016 account, Artl, who has not represented Kirk since Kirk, a Republican from Highland Park, was replaced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, wrote in an email: “That was all in a past life,” declining to comment further.

Kirk’s last years in office were marked by a series of strange comments, including remarks he made at a debate with Duckworth about her ancestry, which he later apologized for. His comments that U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham was a “bro with no ho” also raised eyebrows.

The Obama Foundation did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

—Chicago Tribune


Texas governor calls sheriff ‘reckless,’ says he’ll cut funds over immigration policy

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he will deny Travis County $1.8 million in law enforcement funds if Sheriff Sally Hernandez doesn’t reverse course on her promise to stop honoring federal requests to detain suspected unauthorized immigrants.

In a letter sent Monday to Hernandez, Abbott called the newly elected sheriff’s policy “reckless,” “misguided” and “dangerous” and said it would result in criminals being “turned loose into Travis County.” The governor has repeatedly railed against what he calls “sanctuary cities” and made banning them a top priority of the legislative session.

“Unless you reverse your policy prior to its effective date, your unilateral decision will cost the people of Travis County money that was meant to be used to protect them,” Abbott wrote.

Hernandez, a Democrat elected in November, said Friday her department would stop honoring all federal requests to detain suspects who might be in the U.S. illegally, the Austin-American Statesman first reported. Only those who commit a crime such as capital murder, aggravated sexual assault or people smuggling will be turned over to U.S. customs and immigration officials, Hernandez said.

A spokeswoman for Hernandez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

That decision sparked Twitter fury from Abbott, who threatened stiffer penalties against the county.

—The Dallas Morning News


In final insult, Gambia’s ex-leader looted millions of dollars, his successor says

JOHANNESBURG — The last act of a dictator who ruled his country for 22 years was massive embezzlement, according to the new government of Gambia, where Yahya Jammeh was forced to give up power under West African military and diplomatic pressure.

Jammeh tried to cling to power after losing elections last month, but neighboring West African leaders wouldn’t allow it. Their intervention represented a significant boost for democracy on a continent where many presidents try to rule for life.

But Mai Ahmed Fatty, adviser to the new president, Adama Barrow, said at a news conference Sunday that experts in the ministry of finance had determined that Jammeh withdrew more than $11.4 million from banks in the past two weeks before fleeing to exile in neighboring Equatorial Guinea.

“As we take over the new government, the Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty,” he said. Fatty said Jammeh also managed to squeeze numerous luxury cars onto his plane.

With Jammeh out of the country, the chances of Gambia recovering the money seem remote.

In theory, the U.S. could use the 2015 Magnitsky Act, which enables U.S. authorities to seize the property of any foreign government official responsible for stealing public money or human rights abuses, to confiscate Jammeh’s multimillion-dollar mansion in Potomac, Md.

In addition to being implicated in the theft of state funds, Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, has also been accused by human rights groups of serious human rights abuses, including jailing and “disappearing” political opponents and critics without trial.

In recent years, African governments have pressed Western governments and banks — with some success — to help recover billions in public funds looted by dictators. In March last year for example, Switzerland reached agreement with the Nigerian government to return $321 million of the billions looted by former military dictator Sani Abacha. It had previously repatriated more than $720 million of money stolen by corrupt officials to Nigeria.

In comparison, Jammeh’s purported last-minute withdrawals may seem modest — but they amount to more than 1.2 percent of his country’s annual gross domestic product.

—Los Angeles Times

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