Dispatches From the Hill

McCain surrounds himself with professional fighters

Arizona Sen. John McCain speaks with boxer Austin Trout, left, and Phil Davis, former All-American wrestler and Bellator MMA fighter, after a news conference in support of fighter safety research on Tuesday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Arizona Sen. John McCain speaks with boxer Austin Trout, left, and Phil Davis, former All-American wrestler and Bellator MMA fighter, after a news conference in support of fighter safety research on Tuesday. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 27, 2016 at 5:00am

To support fighter safety research, Arizona Republican John McCain brought in, quite literally, the big guys.  

“My intention was not to hurt anybody but in the game of boxing, I guess that’s what you have to do to go to another level,” former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said to the group.  

McCain held the event to promote research into fighters’ brain health and safety, and provide an update on research that has already been done: A five-year study by the Cleveland Clinic on the brain health of professional fighters was presented.  

“Today fighters want the reputation — they look for it — they want to go out there and take your head off,” Holmes added. Former Heisman Trophy winner and mixed martial artist Herschel Walker said the Cleveland Clinic is “giving an athlete an opportunity to be healthy and also to know what’s going on.”  

The speakers all cast a giant shadow over McCain who was sitting down behind the podium. But each thanked him for his efforts in the Senate. “What gives us humility is how we proactively take care of all the participants, both professional and amateur,” said Phil Davis, who competes as a light heavyweight for Bellator MMA.

Staffers shout for pretzels

   

To a line of about 30 staffers waiting to enter a room in the Rayburn office building, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton came outside to yell, “They’re worth waiting for!”  

Word went out that D.C.’s The Pretzel Bakery would be handing out pretzels on Tuesday to celebrate National Pretzel Day and within 35 minutes, 500 pretzels were given away.  

The line moved pretty fast and after the 500 ran out, the remaining 100 or so people received a coupon for a free pretzel. The bakery took RSVPs for the event but ended up allowing anyone to come along.

‘Known unknown’

   

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is financially backing Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson for re-election. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is financially backing Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson for re-election. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — a man known to muse about what people know or don’t know about the world — has kicked in $2,700 to the re-election campaign of Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.  

It’s the maximum donation allowable by the Federal Election Commission, and surely a welcome contribution for an incumbent fighting hard to hold off former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. The first-term incumbent is generally considered one of the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents.  

–Alex Roarty

Kaj Larsen shares his wisdom

   

Illinois Sen. Mark S. Kirk, left, invited Kaj Larsen to Capitol Hill. (Photo courtesy of Kirk's office)
Illinois Sen. Mark S. Kirk, left, invited Kaj Larsen to Capitol Hill. (Photo courtesy of Kirk’s office)

Kaj Larsen, the Navy SEAL-turned-investigative journalist, was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to discuss Boko Haram. Co-chairman of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., invited him and representatives from the Malala Fund and Humans Rights Watch to examine the ramifications of the group’s campaign of terror two years after the abduction of 276 school girls in Nigeria.  

“Boko Haram is forcing young girls as young as eight years old to wear suicide vests and carry out bombings. These terrorists killed more people last year than the Islamic State,” Kirk said.  

Larsen gave his insight into challenges faced by military personnel throughout the region and the use of young girls as suicide bombers.  

After five years as a Navy SEAL, Larsen joined CNN in 2010 as a special correspondent, and then was laid off when the network disbanded its investigative news department. While there, he consulted for writer Aaron Sorkin on HBO’s “The Newsroom.” He now works for Vice News.

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