Orrin Hatch Prepares for His Senate Exit

By Niels Lesniewski

A Capitol Hill internship program is getting a new name in honor of its founder, retiring Republican Rep. Gregg Harper, and his son.

The program will now be called the Gregg and Livingston Harper Congressional Internship Program for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Rep. Rodney Davis announced Tuesday. 

“My son, Livingston Harper, has served as the inspiration for me during my time in Congress to focus on improving the lives of those with Intellectual Disabilities,” Harper said. Livingston has Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition.

The program works with George Mason University’s LIFE Program — a postsecondary education program for young adults with intellectual disabilities — to place students in House and Senate offices. Nearly 200 offices have participated since the program began in 2010.

“I and many others on Capitol Hill have been positively impacted by the influence and hard work of these interns,” Harper said.

The interns are paid stipends through a grant provided by the HSC Foundation, which works to support youth with disabilities as they move into adulthood.

Davis is committed to continuing the program after Harper leaves Congress later this year. He will take over Harper’s spot as the top Republican on the House Administration Committee.

“My office has participated in this program for several years, and I know the value and joy it brings not only to the participants, but also to the members and staff of the offices they work in,” said Davis in a statement. "Chairman Gregg Harper has been a champion for disabilities, and I will ensure that his legacy, the Harper Program, continues on our committee in the 116th Congress and beyond.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

Former Capitol Hill staffer, Thomas Dodd, was sentenced Wednesday for participating in an extensive scheme that involved defrauding charitable donors by laundering funds to pay personal and campaign expenses.

Dodd, 40, was an aide to former Rep. Steve Stockman. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and ordered to forfeit $153,044.28 in illicit gains.

Stockman, a former Texas Republican Congressman, was sentenced in November to 120 months in prison after a federal jury convicted him of 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. A federal jury in April found Stockman, 60, guilty of soliciting $1.25 million in donations based on false pretenses, specifically using some of the funds meant for charities to pay for his personal expenses and to further his political ambitions.

Dodd pleaded guilty in March 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to make conduit contributions and false statements. As part of his plea, he also admitted that he was involved in Stockman’s plot.

Evidence presented in the trial against Stockman showed that between May 2010 and February 2014, Stockman, Dodd, and others solicited more than a $1 million in donations from charitable organizations and their leaders based on false information. Stockman and Dodd then laundered the money through fake nonprofits and dozens of bank accounts before using the funds to pay for personal and campaign expenses. The money was used for secret surveillance of a political opponent, robocalls and mailing for Stockman’s 2014 Senate campaign and in-patient alcoholism treatment for a female associate, according to the Justice Department.

Dodd isn’t the only former Stockman staffer caught up in the fray. Jason T. Posey, 48, of Tupelo, Mississippi, pleaded guilty in 2017 to charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering. As the federal investigation began, Stockman urged Posey to skip town. The former lawmaker directed Posey to flea to Cairo, Egypt for two and a half years for Posey to avoid law enforcement questioning. Stockman was a founding member of the House’s Caucus on Egypt when it was created in 2014.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000

ANALYSIS | Vice President Mike Pence looked taken aback, barely moving and saying nothing as President Donald Trump and the top congressional leaders bickered and moved the country — with each insult and barb — closer to a partial holiday season government shutdown.

The former GOP congressman’s statuesque performance was a contrast to the kinetic scene unfolding around him, another made-for-television moment that allowed the bombastic GOP president to pick a fight with the two Democrats perhaps most reviled by his conservative base on live cable TV.

Trump’s Oval Office meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., was initially scheduled to be private. However, the president — a former reality television star and executive producer — had other ideas. He summoned the small group of journalists in the day’s press pool to watch the negotiation — such as it was — live.

[Politically Wounded Trump Complicates Border Talks With Pelosi, Schumer]

The GOP president started with his usual border wall sales pitch, including several false and partially false statements. He jabbed at the Democratic leaders. And they were willing — even eager at times — to take the bait as Pelosi, according to an aide in the room, told members of her caucus once back at the Capitol: “It was so wild. It goes to show you: You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.” Here are three takeaways from the incredible Oval Office border brawl.

Presidents and congressional leaders of different political parties typically try to pass blame for government shutdowns onto each other. Not Trump during a meeting several sources used the same word to describe: “incredible.” The president preemptively took ownership over the possible closure of the Homeland Security Department and a handful of other federal entities unless a deal is reached by 11:59 p.m., EDT, on Dec. 21.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle,” Trump said. “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”

Pelosi later told the group of House Democrats that getting that vow from Trump was “an accomplishment.” She also could not help but jab Trump where it might hurt. “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” she said, according to the aide. 

One former GOP congressional aide responded by saying, “Schumer got what he needed: On any partial shutdown, POTUS is willing to take the heat.”

Those who have watched Trump closely know he often pivots toward his conservative base when he senses political trouble. He did so again on Tuesday, first with a series of tweets ahead of the meeting making the case for the border barrier then repeatedly in the Oval Office as the sparks flew.

“When you look at what happened with the caravans, with the people, with a lot of — we shut it down; we had no choice. We shut it down. But it could be a lot easier if we had real border security,” Trump said at one point, returning to his midterm campaign-trail rhetoric. He also landed a few body shots on Schumer, another native of New York City’s tough-talking outer boroughs, like this one: “The last time you shut it down you got killed.”

“Every time this president senses trouble — and I mean with the special counsel investigation and everything with [former personal attorney] Michael Cohen and all that — he does things like this that rev up his base,” said Elaine Kamarck, a former Clinton White House official now with the Brookings Institution. “This was him going back to his comfort zone.”

But the Democratic leaders also landed plenty of shots on the president.

[Seven VP Candidates if Trump Dumps Pence for 2020 Re-Election Fight]

Here’s one from Schumer: “The Washington Post today gave you a whole lot of Pinocchios because they say you constantly misstate ... how much of the wall is built, and how much is there.”

And Pelosi: “Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory,” which prompted Schumer to come in like a professional wrestling tag team partner rushing through the ropes to further soften an opponent: “Elections have consequences, Mr. President.”

No, not Mitch Williams, the hard-throwing 1990s MLB relief pitcher best known for his time with the Philadelphia Phillies. But one Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who has helped broker several shutdown-averting or -ending deals over the last decade.

Tuesday’s West Wing dramatics likely won’t change how the border wall talks go over the next 10 days, Kamarck said. That’s because “it was always going to be McConnell who cuts this deal.”

“I expect it will be McConnell and Schumer who eventually get together and figure this out,” she said. “The adults will figure this out, then it’ll be up to McConnell to go convince the president to go along with it. … He’ll be the one who’ll have to explain to the president that a shutdown would be worse for us (Republicans) than it would be for the Democrats.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

12,000
Heard on the Hill

Farewell to George H.W. Bush

By Bill Clark