Nadler, 23 other Democrats want Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio invalidated

WASHINGTON — A group of two dozen Democratic members of Congress foreshadowed in a court case how they might fight back if President Donald Trump pardons someone for a criminal contempt of Congress charge — just as the two political branches ramp up the battle over congressional oversight.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House leadership, were among the lawmakers who filed a brief last week to urge a federal appeals court in California to invalidate one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial pardons.

Trump’s presidential pardon for Joseph Arpaio in 2017 allowed the former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona to escape punishment for a conviction of criminal contempt of court for disobeying a federal judge. And now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is reviewing a lower court’s decision not to vacate the conviction.

Nadler, Swalwell and the other Democratic members of Congress, in the brief, told the 9th Circuit that Trump’s pardon of a contempt of court charge infringed on the power of the judicial branch to impose sanctions for disobedience — just like a pardon of a contempt of Congress charge would infringe on the power of the legislative branch.

“A presidential pardon of contempt of court or of contempt of Congress is thus an encroachment on the independence of those co-equal branches of government,” the brief states.

— CQ-Roll Call

New database: Water sources in 43 states contain potentially unsafe chemical levels

WASHINGTON — More than 610 drinking water sources in 43 states contain potentially unsafe levels of chemical compounds that have been linked to birth defects, cancers, infertility and reduced immune responses in children, according to a new database compiled by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University.

Using Pentagon data released last year and recently obtained public water utility reports, the researchers now estimate that more than 19 million people are exposed to water contaminated with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.

The new research shows the broad extent of the problem, that the harmful chemical compounds found concentrated in military water sources across the United States have also been reported hundreds more public drinking water systems than was previously known.

“This is a national crisis and it requires a national response,” said Bill Walker, vice president of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization focused on health and the environment.

While PFAS are found in everyday items such as Teflon and fast-food wrappers, the chemicals are concentrated in the fire-fighting foam that military bases, ships and commercial airports have used for decades.

Military bases and the communities surrounding them report some of the highest levels of contamination — much higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 recommendation of a maximum exposure level of 70 parts per trillion.

— McClatchy Washington Bureau

Man gets 16 years in prison for terror plot to blow up Chicago bar

CHICAGO — A Cook County man was sentenced to 16 years in prison Monday afternoon more than 6 { years after pressing the detonator on what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb outside a crowded Chicago bar.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman imposed the sentence on Adel Daoud, 25, after a marathon three-day sentencing hearing last week at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.

Daoud, who has been in custody since his arrest in the FBI sting in September 2012, faced a wide range of potential penalties. Prosecutors sought a sentence of 40 years in prison and a lifetime of court supervision once he’s released. Daoud’s attorneys, meanwhile, had asked Coleman to place him in a mental health treatment program that could result in his release in time to enroll in college in fall 2021.

The sentencing hearing last week played out more like a mini-trial since Daoud, of Hillside, was allowed to enter his guilty plea in November without actually admitting he did anything wrong — an unusual arrangement known in federal court as an Alford plea.

In addition to terrorism charges stemming from the plot to bomb the Cactus Bar & Grill, Daoud pleaded guilty to separate indictments accusing him of soliciting the murder of the undercover FBI agent at the center of the sting operation and attacking a fellow inmate with a jailhouse shank while awaiting trial in 2015.

— Chicago Tribune

Cops to Florida woman: ‘Do you have anything else?’ She pulled a gator from her pants

MIAMI — When a Florida deputy asked a woman if she had anything else on her during a routine traffic stop, he wasn’t expecting what she did next.

She “proceeded to pull an alligator out of her yoga pants (about one foot in length) and placed it into the bed of the truck,” the Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputy said in an incident report.

The bizarre encounter took place at about 3:30 a.m. Monday in Punta Gorda.

Deputies were stationed on Tamiami Trail conducting traffic enforcement when they spotted a blue pickup truck that didn’t stop at a stop sign, according to the incident report.

The deputy asked for the driver’s license, registration and insurance card. The driver, Michael Clemons, 22, told deputies he and his passenger, Ariel Machan-Le Quire, 25, were trying to collect frogs and snakes from under the overpass.

The deputy then asked permission to search the bags in the truck to make sure “they did not collect any wildlife they were not supposed to have,” the deputy wrote in the report.

Clemons consented and all of his bags had clothes and other personal items, the deputy said. Machan-Le Quire then gave permission to search her backpack, which was on the floorboard near her, according to the report.

“Ariel opened the backpack that was on the passenger’s floorboard that revealed 41 small turtles,” the deputy wrote in the report. Then she pulled the alligator from her pants.

— Miami Herald

Syrian government troops launch offensive against rebels in the country’s northwest

AMMAN, Jordan — Syrian troops stormed rebel-held areas of the country’s northwest Monday, state media, monitors and activists said, marking the government’s latest bid to reassert control over the opposition’s last major territory.

The ground incursion came in the wake of a fierce weeklong air campaign, with Syrian and Russian warplanes executing dozens of daily strikes on rebel-controlled territories in the northwestern provinces of Hama and Idlib.

The escalation dashed a Russian-Turkish truce brokered in September that had stayed a massive government offensive on Idlib, which is home to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s most implacable rebel adversaries.

Syrian army units, including the elite Tiger forces, charged Monday morning into the northern countryside of Hama province. Hours later, they cut rebel lines to snatch the village of Banah as well as the strategic Othman Hill, before surrounding Kafr Nabouda, according to state-aligned news channels, including the Central Combat Media and Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen.

The operation, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said, was a response to the “terrorists’ continuous attacks” on government areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitor, confirmed the army’s advance and said Monday’s violence had killed 31 people, including five civilians.

— Los Angeles Times