Democrats signal aggressive investigations of Trump while resisting impeachment calls

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Nov. 7.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Nov. 7.

WASHINGTON - Fresh off a resounding midterm elections victory, House Democrats on Sunday began detailing plans to wield their newfound oversight power in the next Congress, setting their sights on acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker while rebuffing calls from some liberals to pursue impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is poised to take control of the House Judiciary Committee, said he will call Whitaker as a first witness to testify about his "expressed hostility" to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Nadler said he is prepared to subpoena Whitaker if necessary.

Another incoming chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of the House Intelligence Committee, raised the possibility of investigating whether Trump used "instruments of state power" in an effort to punish companies associated with news outlets that have reported critically on him, including CNN and The Washington Post.

And Democrats on the House Oversight Committee plan to expand their efforts to investigate Trump's involvement in payments to women who alleged affairs with him before the 2016 election, a committee aide said Sunday night, potentially opening up the president's finances to further scrutiny.

The moves signal that House Democrats, while wary of the risks of alienating voters who backed the president, are fully embracing their midterm victory last week as a mandate to dig deep into the actions of the executive branch.

"The key lesson that we've learned from this last election is that the American people are sick and tired of the Trump administration, and they are looking for a Congress that is going to put a check on the executive branch," said Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas, a former senior aide to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

"Some talk about a backlash against the Democrats, but it was a backlash that brought them into power," he added. "So, I don't think they will easily be able to be seen as overreaching by the American people."

Democrats have a long list of legislative items on their agenda for the next Congress. They include long-sought legislation on gun control, as well as a potential overhaul of the federal Higher Education Act and a vote on protecting health coverage for people with preexisting conditions - an issue that many Democrats successfully wielded against their Republican opponents in last week's midterms.

But investigations are likely to capture the greatest attention on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

At a news conference last Wednesday, Trump laid down a marker for congressional Democrats, warning them that any investigations into his administration would lead to a "warlike posture" that would threaten the prospects of any bipartisan cooperation.

Democrats have previously said they plan to launch investigations into matters ranging from Trump's tax returns to his administration's policies on health care, education and immigration.

On Sunday, Schiff added a new possibility to the mix. The incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman pointed to Trump's effort to block AT&T from purchasing Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, and his desire to get the U.S. Post Office to increase shipping costs on Amazon.com as potential retaliation against two news outlets the president often complains treats him unfairly. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Post.

"The president is not only castigating the press, but might be secretly using instruments of state power to punish them. That's a great threat to press freedom," Schiff said in an interview with The Post. He first brought up the potential investigation during an interview with Axios.

Such a probe would not go through Schiff's committee, but probably the Oversight or Judiciary panels. Schiff said Democrats are convening when they return to Washington this week and he intends to raise it as a priority with his colleagues.

In an interview on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy , R-Calif., dismissed Democratic plans to investigate the administration.

"Well, I don't think the Democrats are going to be able to stop this agenda, because look at how much we have been able to grow," McCarthy said. "I know what the Democrats want to do, just investigations and impeachment. But as I have said before, America's too great for a vision so small."

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is set to become chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter last month to the White House and the Trump Organization requesting documents related to the hush payments. The documents were not provided at the time, but "this should change now that we are in the majority," a Democratic committee aide said Sunday night. News of the panel's plans was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The pressure among the Democratic base to move against Trump remains strong: A Washington Post-Schar School poll released last week showed that among voters who supported Democratic House candidates in battleground districts, 64 percent believe Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the president.

But party leaders have urged calm, emphasizing that before any serious talk of impeachment, a host of investigations - including Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign - must first be allowed to bear fruit. They also note that a vote to convict requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, which will remain in Republican hands.

"We are not doing any investigation for a political purpose, but to seek the truth," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" that aired Sunday.

Pelosi, who is seeking to reclaim the speaker's gavel in the new Congress, described House Democrats as "very strategic" and "not scattershot" and said that her party will be pursuing "a more open Congress with accountability to the public." Lawmakers will be "seeking bipartisanship where we can find it" and will "stand our ground where we can't," she added.

Democrats appear to be focusing their energy on protecting Mueller's investigation, which some hope may eventually reveal enough about the president to help sway public opinion in their favor and give them enough fodder to launch proceedings against him.

Trump has repeatedly sought to discredit the Mueller probe, denouncing it as a "witch hunt" and arguing that it should have concluded long ago. His ouster of Jeff Sessions as attorney general last week and appointment of Whitaker over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to supervise the investigation triggered an outcry among Democrats and other critics, who viewed it as a first step toward the possible scuttling of the investigation.

Those fears were exacerbated in recent days amid revelations that Whitaker has been openly critical of the Mueller investigation, including in an appearance on CNN in which he floated the notion of a successor to Sessions who "just reduces [Mueller's] budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt."

"The Republicans in Congress have refused to have any checks to perform our constitutional duty, being a check and balance on the president," Nadler said in an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union." "We will do that. And this is the first step in doing that. The president may think that he is above the law. He may think that he will not be held accountable, but he will be."

Nadler echoed other top Democrats who say they should hold their fire on the question of impeachment until they know what Mueller has uncovered. His test, he said, is whether there's enough evidence to convince even Trump supporters that such a step is necessary.

"Is the evidence so strong . . . [that] when all this is laid out publicly, a very large fraction of the people who voted for the president will grudgingly acknowledge to themselves and to others that you had no choice but to impeach the president?" Nadler said.

Democrats in the Senate will also be pushing for legislation to prevent Whitaker from interfering with the Mueller investigation and will seek to attach it to a must-pass spending bill, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday.

"There's no reason we shouldn't add this and avoid a constitutional crisis," Schumer said on CNN. But he demurred when asked if Democrats would shut down the government over it, and said House Democrats should await the Mueller report before considering impeachment.

Trump will probably nominate a permanent attorney general "early next year," one of his top congressional allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

That means that the battle over Whitaker's role in the Mueller investigation could be largely finished by the time Democrats actually assume control of the House in January, said Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of Southern California. The greatest tool at Democrats' disposal will then be their fact-finding ability, he said.

"The key question is, what can we learn about what the executive branch has been doing?" Kerr said. "That matters more than impeachment, given that we won't get removal from the Senate Republicans."

Stephen Spaulding, director of strategy at the nonprofit watchdog group Common Cause, said that there is a "real pent-up need for oversight" and that Democrats now have an obligation to do the work that outside organizations have largely been doing over the past two years through actions such as Freedom of Information Act requests.

"It's about following the evidence, asking tough questions," Spaulding said. "It truly is about accountability. We've had two years with one party controlling both houses of Congress and, in some cases, actively undermining investigations. There's a backlog of answers; at the same time, there has to be a smart and strategic approach."

Trump forces out Jeff Sessions in midterm election fallout

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by his wife Mary, after he was sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. On Nov. 7, 2018, Sessions submitted his resignation in letter to Trump. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accompanied by his wife Mary, after he was sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. On Nov. 7, 2018, Sessions submitted his resignation in letter to Trump. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out Wednesday as the country's chief law enforcement officer after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation.

Sessions told the president in a one-page letter that he was submitting his resignation "at your request."

Trump announced in a tweet that he was naming Sessions' chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former United States attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has criticized special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between the president's Republican campaign and Russia.

The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into the attorney general's tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the Mueller investigation.

Trump blamed the decision for opening the door to the appointment of Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Trump's hectoring of Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice and stymie the probe.

Asked whether Whitaker would assume control over Mueller's investigation, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores said Whitaker would be "in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice." The Justice Department did not announce a departure for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller more than a year and a half ago and has closely overseen his work since then.

Whitaker once opined about a situation in which Trump could fire Sessions and then appoint an acting attorney general who could stifle the funding of Mueller's probe.

"So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt," Whitaker said during an interview with CNN in July 2017.

Asked if that would be to dwindle the special counsel's resources, Whitaker responded, "Right."

In an op-ed for CNN, Whitaker wrote: "Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing."

The relentless attacks on Sessions came even though the Alabama Republican was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and despite the fact that his crime-fighting agenda and priorities — particularly his hawkish immigration enforcement policies — largely mirrored the president's.

But the relationship was irreparably damaged in March 2017 when Sessions, acknowledging previously undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador and citing his work as a campaign aide, recused himself from the Russia investigation.

The decision infuriated Trump, who repeatedly lamented that he would have never selected Sessions if he had known the attorney general would recuse. The recusal left the investigation in the hands of Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel two months later after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey.

The rift lingered for the duration of Sessions' tenure, and the attorney general, despite praising the president's agenda and hewing to his priorities, never managed to return to Trump's good graces.

The deteriorating relationship became a soap opera stalemate for the administration. Trump belittled Sessions but, perhaps following the advice of aides, held off on firing him. The attorney general, for his part, proved determined to remain in the position until dismissed. A logjam broke when Republican senators who had publicly backed Sessions began signaling a willingness to consider a new attorney general.

In attacks delivered on Twitter, in person and in interviews, Trump called Sessions weak and beleaguered, complained that he wasn't more aggressively pursuing allegations of corruption against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and called it "disgraceful" that Sessions wasn't more serious in scrutinizing the origins of the Russia investigation for possible law enforcement bias — even though the attorney general did ask the Justice Department's inspector general to look into those claims.

The broadsides escalated in recent months, with Trump telling a television interviewer that Sessions "had never had control" of the Justice Department and snidely accusing him on Twitter of not protecting Republican interests by allowing two GOP congressmen to be indicted before the election.

Sessions endured most of the name-calling in silence, though he did issue two public statements defending the department, including one in which he said he would serve "with integrity and honor" for as long as he was in the job.

The recusal from the Russia investigation allowed him to pursue the conservative issues he had long championed as a senator, often in isolation among fellow Republicans.

He found satisfaction in being able to reverse Obama-era policies that he and other conservatives say flouted the will of Congress, including by encouraging prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges they could and by promoting more aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana law. He also announced media leak crackdowns, tougher policies against opioids and his Justice Department defended a since-abandoned administration policy that resulted in parents being separated from their children at the border.

His agenda unsettled liberals who said that Sessions' focus on tough prosecutions marked a return to failed drug war tactics that unduly hurt minorities and the poor, and that his rollbacks of protections for gay and transgender people amount to discrimination.

Some Democrats also considered Sessions too eager to do Trump's bidding and overly receptive to his grievances.

Sessions, for instance, directed senior prosecutors to examine potential corruption in a uranium field transaction that some Republicans have said may have implicated Clinton in wrongdoing and benefited donors of the Clinton Foundation. He also fired one of the president's primary antagonists, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, just before he was to have retired — a move Trump hailed as a "great day for democracy."

Despite it all, Sessions never found himself back in favor with the president.

Their relationship wasn't always fractured. Sessions was a close campaign aide, attending national security meetings and introducing him at rallies in a red "Make America Great Again" hat.

But the problems started after he told senators during his confirmation hearing that he had never met with Russians during the campaign. The Justice Department, responding to a Washington Post report, soon acknowledged that Sessions had actually had two encounters during the campaign with the then-Russian ambassador. He recused himself the next day, saying it would be inappropriate to oversee an investigation into a campaign he was part of.

The announcement set off a frenzy inside the White House, with Trump directing his White House counsel to call Sessions beforehand and urge him not to step aside. Sessions rejected the entreaty. Mueller's team, which has interviewed Sessions, has been investigating the president's attacks on him and his demands to have a loyalist in charge of the Russia investigation.

Sessions had been protected for much of his tenure by the support of Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who had said he would not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general if Trump fired him.

But that support began to fade, with Grassley suggesting over the summer that he might have time for a hearing after all.

And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Judiciary Committee member who once said there'd be "holy hell to pay" if Trump fired Sessions, called the relationship "dysfunctional" and said he thought the president had the right after the midterm to select a new attorney general.

U.S. restores Iran sanctions lifted in Obama nuclear deal

This image taken from the Twitter account of President Donald J. Trump shows a movie-poster-style image that takes creative inspiration from the TV series "Game of Thrones" to announce the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. sanctions on Iran had been lifted under a 2015 nuclear pact, but they are taking effect again on Monday.

This image taken from the Twitter account of President Donald J. Trump shows a movie-poster-style image that takes creative inspiration from the TV series "Game of Thrones" to announce the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. sanctions on Iran had been lifted under a 2015 nuclear pact, but they are taking effect again on Monday.

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Friday restored U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal, but carved out exemptions for eight countries that can still import oil from the Islamic Republic without penalty.

The sanctions take effect Monday and cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors. They are the second batch the administration has reimposed since President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May.

The 2015 deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s biggest diplomatic achievements, gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which many believed it was using to develop atomic weapons. Trump denounced the agreement as the “worst ever” negotiated by the U.S. and said it gave Iran too much in return for too little.

But proponents, as well as the other parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union – have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement without the U.S., fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.

Friday’s announcement comes just days before congressional midterm elections in the U.S., allowing Trump to highlight his decision to withdraw from the deal – a move that was popular among Republicans.

In a statement issued Friday night, Trump said, “Our objective is to force the regime into a clear choice: either abandon its destructive behavior or continue down the path toward economic disaster.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet to get the sanctions lifted that include an end to its support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a halt to nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Pompeo said eight nations will receive waivers allowing them to continue to import Iranian petroleum products as they move to end such imports.

He said those countries, which other officials said would include U.S. allies such as Turkey, Italy, India, Japan and South Korea, had made efforts to eliminate their imports but could not complete the task by Monday.

The waivers will be valid for six months, during which time the importing country can buy Iranian oil but must deposit Iran’s revenue in an escrow account. Iran can spend the money only on a narrow range of humanitarian items.

Pompeo defended the oil waivers and noted that since May, when the U.S. began to press countries to stop buying Iranian oil, Iran’s exports had dropped by more than 1 million barrels per day. He said the Iranian economy is already reeling from the earlier sanctions, with the currency losing half its value since April and the prices of fruit, poultry, eggs and milk skyrocketing.

With limited exceptions, the reimposed U.S. sanctions will hit Iran as well as countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign firms that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including its central bank, a number of private financial institutions, and state-run port and shipping firms, as well as hundreds of individual Iranian officials.

“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country,” Pompeo told reporters in a conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin said 700 more Iranian companies and people would be added to the sanction rolls. Those, he said, would include more than 300 that had not been included under previous sanctions.

Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and opposed the deal from the beginning, welcomed Friday’s announcement.

“Thank you, Mr. President, for restoring sanctions against an Iranian regime that vows and works to destroy the Jewish state,” said Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the U.S., in a tweet.

Mnuchin defended the decision to allow some Iranian banks to remain connected to SWIFT, saying that the Belgium-based firm had been warned that it will face penalties if sanctioned institutions are permitted to use it. And, he said that U.S. regulators would be watching closely Iranian transactions that use SWIFT to ensure any that run afoul of U.S. sanctions would be punished.

U.S. restores Iran sanctions lifted under Obama nuclear deal

This image taken from the Twitter account of President Donald J. Trump shows a movie-poster-style image that takes creative inspiration from the TV series "Game of Thrones" to announce the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. sanctions on Iran had been lifted under a 2015 nuclear pact, but they are taking effect again on Monday.

This image taken from the Twitter account of President Donald J. Trump shows a movie-poster-style image that takes creative inspiration from the TV series "Game of Thrones" to announce the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. sanctions on Iran had been lifted under a 2015 nuclear pact, but they are taking effect again on Monday.

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Friday restored U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, but carved out exemptions for eight countries that can still import oil from the Islamic Republic without penalty.

The sanctions take effect Monday and cover Iran's shipping, financial and energy sectors. They are the second batch the administration has re-imposed since Trump withdrew from the landmark accord in May.

The 2015 deal, one of former President Barack Obama's biggest diplomatic achievements, gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which many believed it was using to develop atomic weapons. Trump repeatedly denounced the agreement as the "worst ever" negotiated by the United States and said it gave Iran too much in return for too little.

But proponents, as well as the other parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union – have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement without the U.S., fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.

Friday's announcement comes just days before congressional midterm elections in the U.S., allowing Trump to highlight his decision to withdraw from the deal – a move that was popular among Republicans.

Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted what looks like a movie poster image of himself that takes creative inspiration from the TV series "Game of Thrones" with the tagline "Sanctions are Coming, November 5."

In a statement issued Friday night, Trump said, "Our objective is to force the regime into a clear choice: either abandon its destructive behavior or continue down the path toward economic disaster."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are "aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran." He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet to get the sanctions lifted that include an end to its support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a halt to nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Pompeo said eight nations will receive temporary waivers allowing them to continue to import Iranian petroleum products as they move to end such imports entirely. He said those countries, which other officials said would include U.S. allies such as Turkey, Italy, India, Japan and South Korea, had made efforts to eliminate their imports but could not complete the task by Monday.

The waivers will be valid for six months, during which time the importing country can buy Iranian oil but must deposit Iran's revenue in an escrow account. Iran can spend the money only on a narrow range of humanitarian items.

Pompeo defended the oil waivers and noted that since May, when the U.S. began to press countries to stop buying Iranian oil, Iran's exports had dropped by more than 1 million barrels per day.

He said the Iranian economy is already reeling from the earlier sanctions, with the currency losing half its value since April and the prices of fruit, poultry, eggs and milk skyrocketing.

Some Iran hawks in Congress and elsewhere said Friday's move should have gone even further. They were hoping for Iran to be disconnected from the main international financial messaging network known as SWIFT.

With limited exceptions, the re-imposed U.S. sanctions will hit Iran as well as countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign firms that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including its central bank, a number of private financial institutions, and state-run port and shipping firms, as well as hundreds of individual Iranian officials.

"Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country," Pompeo told reporters in a conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin said 700 more Iranian companies and people would be added to the sanction rolls. Those, he said, would include more than 300 that had not been included under previous sanctions.

Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and opposed the deal from the beginning, welcomed Friday's announcement.

"Thank you, Mr. President, for restoring sanctions against an Iranian regime that vows and works to destroy the Jewish state," said Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the U.S., in a tweet.

Mnuchin defended the decision to allow some Iranian banks to remain connected to SWIFT, saying that the Belgium-based firm had been warned that it will face penalties if sanctioned institutions are permitted to use it. And, he said that U.S. regulators would be watching closely Iranian transactions that use SWIFT to ensure any that run afoul of U.S. sanctions would be punished.

Sycamore parks board moves forward on joining enterprise zone

Dan Gibble, executive director for Sycamore Park District, speaks during the district's board meeting Tuesday night at the Sports Complex Maintenance Building on Airport Road in Sycamore.

Dan Gibble, executive director for Sycamore Park District, speaks during the district's board meeting Tuesday night at the Sports Complex Maintenance Building on Airport Road in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore Park District Board unanimously approved moving forward on joining the enterprise zone in DeKalb County.

The district’s commissioners voted, 4-0, to join the zone during their meeting Tuesday night at the Sycamore Park District Maintenance Building. Commissioner Ann Tucker was absent.

The vote was held after commissioners heard presentations about the zone from the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. and Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory. Dan Gibble, executive director for the district, said during the meeting that the vote would authorize him to finalize documentation with DCEDC to officially become part of the zone. The board still needs to vote on the final contract at a later date.

“This just states that we are expressing interest in joining,” Gibble said.

An enterprise zone is meant to encourage economic development in a geographic area by offering property tax incentives to new businesses and industrial developments.

The county’s enterprise zone was certified by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity in 2016 after the County Board approved the zone in 2014. It has brought 26 new projects into the county since it was certified.

Gibble said the move for the district to join the enterprise zone would act more as a formality, since the park district already offers abatements to help attract new businesses to Sycamore.

“It just extends maybe to a few more different parcels,” Gibble said.

DeKalb County, the cities of DeKalb, Sycamore, Genoa and Sandwich, the town of Cortland and the village of Waterman are part of the enterprise zone. Other participating taxing bodies include DeKalb School District 428, DeKalb Township, the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District, DeKalb Public Library, Sycamore Public Library, Kishwaukee College, Genoa-Kingston School District 424, Indian Creek School District 425, Genoa Township, the Genoa Public Library and Sycamore School District 427, which voted to join the enterprise zone in June.

Board President Bill Kroeger said the board originally was presented the opportunity to join the zone a couple of years ago when the zone was created, but commissioners were not comfortable with an immediate vote of approval on the matter at the time. Now that the board has had time to evaluate its options, it sees some clear business incentives for the city, he said.

“I think we see it as a positive for the community, for Sycamore,” Kroeger said.

Gibble said the hope is to have the board vote on a new contract between the park district and the DCEDC at the board’s Nov. 27 meeting.

Still no U.S. ambassadors in Saudi Arabia, Turkey amid crisis

WASHINGTON – The disappearance of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi after visiting a Saudi consulate in Turkey has thrown the large number of diplomatic vacancies under President Donald Trump into the spotlight – notably in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It's a gap the administration says it has been trying to fix but with limited success.

Khashoggi's case and the fact that there are no American ambassadors in either Ankara or Riyadh have prompted concerns about dozens of unfilled senior State Department positions almost two years into Trump's presidency. And, those concerns have sparked an increasingly bitter battle with Congress over who is to blame.

It's not just Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Trump has yet to nominate candidates for ambassadorial posts in 20 nations, including Australia, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Singapore and Sweden. At the same time, 46 ambassadorial nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation, prompting angry complaints from the administration and pushback from Democratic lawmakers.

A number of ambassador positions to international organizations also remain unfilled, as do 13 senior positions at the State Department headquarters, for which five have no nominee.

It's unclear if high-profile issues like Khashoggi's disappearance suffer from neglect in the absence of an ambassador. Indeed, Turkey freed American pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday after repeated complaints and sanctions from Washington. But the management of day-to-day diplomatic relations can languish without a personal representative of the president present.

The difference between having an ambassador in country or having only a charge d'affaires running an embassy is a matter of degree but can be substantial, according to Ronald Neumann, the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Non-ambassadors can have trouble getting access to senior officials and may not be viewed as the legitimate voice of the president or his administration.

"It's a lot harder when you're not the presidential appointee and you don't have Senate confirmation," he said. "An ambassador is the personal representative of the president. A charge is the representative of the State Department."

In addition to problems with access, some countries may resent not having an ambassador posted to their capital, Neumann said.

"Countries may get grouchy without an ambassador, and that may affect relations," he said. "Without an ambassador, there is a greater chance of misunderstanding and greater chance you aren't able to persuade them to do something we want."

"There are real, direct impacts of not having these people confirmed," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month, making the case for the Senate to act quickly. Those remarks set off a war of words with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was singled out by Pompeo for blame.

"I want every single American to know that what Sen. Menendez and members of the Senate are doing to hold back American diplomacy rests squarely on their shoulders," Pompeo said. He later maintained that Senate Democrats are blocking more than a dozen nominees "because of politics" and are "putting our nation at risk."

Menendez responded by accusing Pompeo of politicizing the process and blaming confirmation delays on the unsuitability of candidates for certain posts and the Republican leadership for not calling votes on the others. He also said the administration has failed to nominate candidates for critical posts.

"We cannot confirm nominees who have not been nominated," he noted, adding that some nominees had been or are currently being blocked by Republicans.

Two cases in point: The nominee for the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, a career foreign service officer, was forced to withdraw earlier this year after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he would do everything in his power to stop the nomination. The career diplomat nominated to be ambassador to Colombia is being blocked by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Pompeo responded by again blaming Menendez for holding up more than 60 nominees and using them as a "political football." ''We need our team on the field to conduct America's foreign policy," he said.

Perhaps as a result of the sparring, the Senate did vote late Thursday to confirm several ambassadorial nominees, including those to Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Suriname and Somalia.

Trump agrees to FBI probe of allegations against Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON – Reversing course, President Donald Trump agreed to Democrats’ demands Friday for a deeper FBI investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona balked at voting for confirmation without it.

The sudden turn left Senate approval of Kavanaugh uncertain after a hearing in which he faced allegations of sexual assault.

Kavanaugh’s nomination had appeared to be back on track earlier Friday when he cleared a key hurdle at the Senate Judiciary Committee. But that advance came with an asterisk. Flake indicated he would take the next steps – leading to full Senate approval – only after another FBI background probe, and there were suggestions that other moderate Republicans might join his revolt.

Thursday’s emotional Senate hearing featured Kavanaugh angrily defending himself and accuser Christine Blasey Ford determinedly insisting he assaulted her when they were teens.

Emotions were still running high Friday, and protesters confronted senators, including Flake, in the halls. “The country is being ripped apart here,” Flake said.

After Flake took his stance, Republican leaders had little choice but to slow their rush to confirm Kavanaugh, whom they had hoped to have in place shortly after the new court term begins Monday.

Trump quietly followed suit, though he had resisted asking the FBI to probe the allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, now being raised by three women. One day earlier, he had called the Senate process as “a total sham,” accused Democrats of a conspiracy of obstruction and declared on Twitter, “The Senate must vote!”

The new timeline pushes the politically risky vote for senators closer to the November congressional elections. It also means that any cases the Supreme Court hears before a ninth justice is in place will be decided by eight justices, raising the possibility of tie votes.

Trump ordered that the new probe be “limited in scope.” But there was no specific direction as to what that might include. Two other women besides Ford have also lodged public sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.

Democrats have been particularly focused on getting more information from Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said was also in the room during her alleged assault. Judge has said he does not recall any such incident. In a new letter to the Senate panel, he said he would cooperate with any law enforcement agency assigned to investigate “confidentially.”

Kavanaugh issued his own statement through the White House saying he’s been interviewed by the FBI before, done “background” calls with the Senate and answered questions under oath “about every topic” senators have asked.

“I’ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate,” said the 53-year-old judge.

Flake, a key moderate Republican, was at the center of Friday’s uncertainty. In the morning, he announced he would support Kavanaugh’s nomination. Shortly after, he was confronted in an elevator by two women who, through tears, said they were sexual assault victims and implored him to change his mind.

“Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me,” said 23-year-old Maria Gallagher, a volunteer with a liberal advocacy group.

The confrontation was captured by television cameras.

Soon he was working on a new deal with his Republican colleagues and Democrats in a Judiciary Committee anteroom.

Flake announced he would vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate only if the FBI were to investigate. Democrats have been calling for such a probe, though Republicans and the White House have said it was unnecessary. The committee vote was 11-10 along party lines.

Attention quickly turned to a handful of undeclared senators.

Two other key Republicans, Collins and Murkowski, said they backed the plan after they and other GOP senators met for an hour in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Capitol.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said he supported Flake’s call for a further probe “so that our country can have confidence in the outcome of this vote.”

With a 51-49 majority, Senate Republicans have little margin for error on a final vote, especially given the fact that several Democrats facing tough re-election prospects this fall announced their opposition to Kavanaugh on Friday. Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana all said they would vote no.

Flake’s vote on final approval is not assured either.

Some Republicans still resisted the delay but went along with the plan that may be the only way salvage Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“I think it’s overkill,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “But they have a right to request it.”

The FBI conducts background checks for federal nominees, but the agency does not make judgments on the credibility or significance of allegations. It compiles information about the nominee’s past and provides its findings to the White House, which passes them along to the committee. Republicans say reopening the FBI investigation is unnecessary because committee members have had the opportunity to question both Kavanaugh and Ford and other potential witnesses have submitted sworn statements.

Agents could interview accusers and witnesses and gather additional evidence or details that could help corroborate or disprove the allegations.

___

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Matthew Daly, Juliet Linderman, Eric Tucker, Julie Pace and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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For more coverage of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, visit https://apnews.com/tag/Kavanaughnomination

Source: Trump signs spending plan, avoiding shutdown

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed an $854 billion spending bill on Friday to keep the federal government open through Dec. 7, averting a government shutdown in the weeks leading up to the November midterm elections.

Trump signed the legislation to fund the military and several civilian agencies without journalists present, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the action. The House and Senate approved the spending plan earlier this week.

Trump's signature avoids a shutdown before the Nov. 6 elections that will determine control of Congress. But he has expressed deep frustration that the bill does not pay for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. GOP leaders had warned Trump a shutdown could be deeply damaging to Republicans, but Trump had made the case a shutdown could, in fact, be beneficial.

The spending plan includes $675 billion for the Defense Department and increases military pay by 2.6 percent, the largest pay raise in nine years.

DeKalb County Clerk's office announces early voting for General Election

David Simpson, a Democrat from Shabbona, files his petition in December to run for committeeman with Lynne Kunde, DeKalb County's election judge coordinator, at the Legislative Center.

David Simpson, a Democrat from Shabbona, files his petition in December to run for committeeman with Lynne Kunde, DeKalb County's election judge coordinator, at the Legislative Center.

SYCAMORE – Early voting will begin next week in DeKalb County, according to local election officials.

The DeKalb County Clerk’s office announced early voting for the Nov. 6 general election will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Thursday at the DeKalb County Legislative Center Gathertorium, 200 N. Main St.

Grace period registration begins Oct. 10. Early voting will be 8:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 17 before the county board meeting later that day.

For information, visit dekalb.il.clerkserve.com/?cat=23, call 815-895-7147 or email elections@dekalbcounty.org.

Below are other listed dates and times for early voting ahead of the general election:

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 1 to

Oct. 5

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 8 to

Oct. 12

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15, 16, 18 and 19

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 22, 24 and 26

• 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 23 and 25

• 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 27

• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 28

• 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29 to Nov. 2

• 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4

• 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5

County Clerk's office announces early voting for General Election

David Simpson, a Democrat from Shabbona, files his petition in December to run for committeeman with Lynne Kunde, DeKalb County's election judge coordinator, at the Legislative Center.

David Simpson, a Democrat from Shabbona, files his petition in December to run for committeeman with Lynne Kunde, DeKalb County's election judge coordinator, at the Legislative Center.

SYCAMORE – Early voting will begin next week in DeKalb County, according to local election officials.

The DeKalb County Clerk's office announced early voting for the Nov. 6 General Election will begin 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at the DeKalb County Legislative Center Gathertorium, 200 N. Main St.

Grace period registration begins Oct. 10. Early voting will be 8:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 17 before the county board meeting later that day.

For more information, visit dekalb.il.clerkserve.com/?cat=23, call 815-895-7147 or email elections@dekalbcounty.org.

Below are other listed dates and times for early voting ahead of the general election:

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 1 through 5

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 8 through 12

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15, 16, 18 and 19

• 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 22, 24 and 26

• 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 23 and 25

• 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 27

• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 28

• 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29 through Nov. 2

• 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4

• 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5

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