<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usFri, 24 Feb 2017 03:17:39 -0500Fri, 24 Feb 2017 03:17:39 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[D.C. Council Chairman Reopens Debate Over Paid Family Leave Act]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 18:25:35 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/122016+dc+council+paid+family+leave.jpg

The D.C. government's Paid Family Leave Act passed in December after almost two years of bitter debate. Though the law, one of the most liberal in the nation, hasn't gone into effect yet, Tom Sherwood reports the mayor and council are going to fight again over its costs.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Make a Date...to Be Heard! "]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:22:26 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/122016+dc+council+paid+family+leave.jpg

The D.C. Council meets year-round except for a two-month summer recess.

There is no busier time than now, with the annual agency performance oversight hearings underway. They are followed quickly by the budget hearings for the coming year.

If you want to add your two cents, review the schedules and how to get on the witness list.

The oversight hearings — which are happening now — can be found at dccouncil.us/calendar. The budget hearings start after Mayor Muriel Bowser submits her 2017-2018 budget proposal on March 24, with various committees holding their reviews between April 6 and April 28. Final adoption of the budget is due May 31.

The oversight and budget hearings are the deepest dive into how an agency functions. But be warned. Every department head responds to questions in elaborate bureaucratese that is daunting even for veterans of legislative business. Problems are opportunities. Failures are unexpected shortcomings. Successes are heralded in tones that might be sung by a Hallelujah choir.

Even if you can’t make the hearings, the D.C. Council website will soon enough have the official written testimony as well as video of the hearings. Be a good citizen. Join in.

■ Citizenship Award goes to ... There’s lots of grumbling that Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz is spending so much time on purely local District of Columbia issues. The chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee failed in his attempt to disapprove the city’s new “Death with Dignity” law. But Hill sources say he and other Republicans simply will try to kill the measure by amending the annual appropriations bill.

The Republicans may also attack the city’s gun control and other laws this way, despite the 1973 home rule legislation designed to get Congress out of the day-to-day affairs of the District.

Now comes Washingtonian magazine editor Michael Schaffer with a new idea.

Rather than just complaining about Chaffetz’s intrusion into local matters, Schaffer suggested in a tweet that the District “reward” Chaffetz with official proclamations for spending so much time on D.C. affairs when he could be serving the Utah citizens who elected him. Of course, the D.C. awards would be prominently publicized in Utah so Chaffetz’s constituents know how he is spending his time in Washington.

“Really it’s all about framing,” Schaffer told us in an email. “Over the years, the jobs overseeing DC have often gone to these back-bench mediocrities from far-right constituencies, and when voters back home hear that their congressman has been beating up on liberal diverse big-city types, it might actually help the congressman win their affection. But if you … let the constituents know that their guy is wasting time playing mayor of Washington when he could have been working for his district, it’s not so appealing, is it?”

For sure, being passive is not a very effective strategy. It’s also a chance for the Notebook to repeat that the District needs its own political action committee, one made up of business, labor, individuals and private groups. It could be an effective way to lobby for not only the District, but the Metro system and other regional needs.

Beverly Perry, the former Pepco president in D.C., is a special assistant to Mayor Bowser. Perry is using her connections to identify friends on the Hill and in the Trump administration. That’s good, but the city seems to need an all-out effort. Otherwise, one-off demonstrations like last week will sound more hollow with each passing day.

■ School daze. WAMU’s Martin Austermuhle has summarized well the crash-and-burn visit of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to Jefferson Academy in Southwest. She seemed to be polite and impressed visiting the school, but trashed the teachers in another forum as being in “receive mode” and “waiting to be told what they have to do.”

Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson weighed in against DeVos’ remarks, saying, “Sorry, lady… .” Henderson wasn’t buying it. And neither was the school, which touted its teachers’ achievements in a series of tweets.

Read the WAMU account at tinyurl.com/wamu-devos.

■ New leader? And Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen is emerging as a new-era leader of the District in its effort to stave off congressional interference. Allen is a modestly polite council member, but deadly serious on issues he takes up. Visit tinyurl.com/wapo-allen for Washington Post reporter Paul Schwartzman’s account.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe Report: Inside the Claims Against Trump's D.C. Hotel]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2017 00:28:40 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_16338465729777.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

We have arrived at a post-accountability moment where facts no longer matter, thanks to President Trump. We might be on our way to a post-credibility moment.

But we are not post liability.

Last week, Freestate Electrical amended the complaint it had filed in January in D.C. Superior Court charging that the Trump International Hotel is liable for more than $2 million in unpaid construction costs. Freestate is one of four local contractors alleging Trump’s company stiffed them for a total of $5 million during construction of Trump’s luxury hotel down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Court documents describe dramatic demands on contractors in a race to complete construction so Trump could moon for the TV cameras last September in the midst of his presidential campaign.

"Acceleration of Freestate's work required Freestate’s crews to work nonstop, seven days per week, 10 to 14 hours per day, for nearly 50 consecutive days, prior to the 'soft opening,' at significant additional cost and expense for which Freestate expected payment," reads one claim in the lawsuit.

Payment that has yet to come.

Trump's hotel deal on America's main street is rife with potential for conflict of interest. Hold that. It is the epitome of conflict.

Trump won the right to turn the Old Post Office Building into a hotel in 2013. The federal government owns the land, so Trump is leasing the hotel from the General Services Administration.

As president, Trump has purview over GSA, which means he's both landlord and tenant. If that’s not a conflict, the contract between Trump and GSA says no elected official "shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom . . ."

Since the president is still part of the company that owns the hotel, he indeed stands to benefit.

If there's any doubt President Trump is personally in the lawsuit, court documents include his signature on Exhibit 1, a copy of the lease agreement.

Trump could have avoided the claims by not repeating his company's pattern of short-changing contractors. Freestate said Trump offered to pay a third of the costs "evidencing a typical business practice meant to force subcontractors to accept 'pennies on the dollar'" instead of full payment, according to its complaint.

Since Freestate's suit, M.C. Dean, one of the region’s most prominent contractors, filed a mechanics’ lien with the D.C. government for $250,313 in unpaid bills, according to documents filed with D.C. government.

Could the Trump hotel deal on Pennsylvania Avenue be one of the threads that pull apart the fabric protecting the president and his enterprises?

It certainly exposes him to congressional attacks.

"Any organization operating under a federal contract should meet its obligations to its small business partners," Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio told me by email. He's the top Democrat on the House committee with jurisdiction over the GSA.

"If Mr. Trump owes these small businesses money, he should pay them immediately," DeFazio said.

DeFazio promised to "do what I can to force GSA to provide answers about the liens and the massive conflicts of interest involved with the Trump Organization’s lease."

DeFazio and other Democrats have asked GSA to provide documentation that Trump is current on lease payments and reports on revenue and expenses submitted from Trump’s organization.

The Trump Organization did not reply to my questions on the liens and GSA. In response to a Washington Post story on the liens, a company spokesman wrote “the filing of nominal liens at the conclusion of construction is not uncommon as part of the close out process.”

If President Trump had divested himself from his eponymous business enterprises, he could have avoided these conflicts, which have the potential to become full blown scandals. Perhaps he figured he was beyond accountability.

But not even the president is beyond liability. Freestate’s case is scheduled for trial April 28.

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: A Bad Lesson?]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2017 05:56:00 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/235*120/2017-02-15_0555.png

When is it a good time for a city official to scurry in a back door to avoid reporters?

We’re asking for a friend.

Not just to avoid them, but declining even to turn a head to acknowledge them standing a foot behind you, calling your name.

New D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson did that Friday morning at the Jefferson Academy, a public middle school in Southwest near Arena Stage. But the drama was on the school parking lot and 7th Street SW.

Wilson has been on the job just two weeks. His governing style and sensitivity to public relations remain unknown to the local media. But his cone-of-silence disappearing act was a surprise. Why he didn’t take a a brief moment to pause was mystifying.

In an interview Tuesday with NBC4, Wilson acknowledged ignoring the reporters, saying he was focused on going into the school. And surprisingly, he said he’s kind of shy.

“I am an introvert and so it doesn’t mean I don’t love interacting with people, I do,” he told us. “But I gain energy from being able to reflect.”

Being an introvert can risk the danger of seeming cold and uncaring. Wilson insists that doesn’t fit him. He misses his family, who won’t join him from Oakland, Calif., until June. In our interview, he revealed he has many heroes and mentors, but his father is not one of them.

“Well, my father wasn’t there. So my mother did a tremendous job of being a mother and a father in so many different ways,” he said. Wilson says his background helps him understand young people distracted by their family lives.

And last Friday, perhaps Wilson was distracted going into Jefferson because he was there to greet Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. education secretary, making her first public appearance after being narrowly confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a vote to break the 50-50 tie that nearly doomed her appointment. It was the first time a vice president has had to cast a vote for any cabinet nominee.

Besides the press, a noisy crowd of parents, retired teachers and union officials along 7th Street was “welcoming” DeVos. She has a history of favoring private and charter schools, making critics wonder what she’ll do for traditional public schools other than undermine them. Democratic senators said during hearings she showed no understanding of public school law or policy. Republicans said she’s perfect for shaking up federal education policies, challenging teachers’ unions and returning education issues to states — as well as possibly dismantling the federal agency.

The demonstrators blocked her from entering one Jefferson door, but she made it through another. After the demonstrators had left for their own jobs and family obligations, both DeVos and Wilson stepped outside and briefly spoke in generalities to the reporters still hanging around.

But the lesson for the day is not the national fight over DeVos, but the path ahead for Wilson. It’s good that he pledged to visit every school. On Friday he might have been yelled at by protesters had he stopped outside, but they weren’t there against him. He could have calmly said it’s important for the District to have contact with top federal officials, agree with the policies or not.

But the lesson of Friday was that Wilson avoided his own constituents to huddle with DeVos. The news of the day, and the TV video, was of a chancellor who ducked his school community and the media.

■ By the way. The DeVos visit — the part about her being blocked by demonstrators — made national news. So how did it even come about? The school system would not publicly comment, neither confirming the visit the night before nor publicly answering questions about it on Friday.

The media did learn that DeVos’ aides had called the chancellor’s office, inquiring about visiting a city school. The same sources say Wilson was already scheduled to visit Jefferson on Friday and DeVos was invited to join him. Again, the school system hasn’t officially commented, so we don’t know officially if that, in fact, is what happened. Fortunately, a spokesperson for the federal Education Department confirmed that agency initiated the contact. Openness is always better.

■ “Our kids are not ‘props.’” That’s what one of many signs read at Friday’s demonstration. Unfortunately, the students are props. Every White House occupant has rounded up D.C. schoolchildren for this or that publicity stunt. Mayor Muriel Bowser has her own problems with DeVos, but she told NBC4 the students do get exposure to the larger world of the White House through those events.

But what exposure would our children get if city officials, from the mayor and chancellor on down, took a stand? Our children, those officials might say, will be glad to stand behind you when you recognize them as real American citizens whose families deserve the right to be heard and represented in Congress. Those same children and families also would say they deserve to have Congress butt out of essentially local affairs in our city.

Now, that would be a real-life lesson.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

<![CDATA[Getting To Know The New Chancellor of DC Schools]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 19:37:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170214+Antwan+Wilson.jpg

Antwan Wilson started as DC Schools Chancellor ealier this year. News4's Tom Sherwood talked to him one on one Tuesday, and learned what he thinks his biggest challenges will be.

<![CDATA[Judge in Va. Lawsuit Rules Travel Ban Violates Constitution]]> Mon, 13 Feb 2017 23:26:02 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/021017+federal+court+virginia.jpg

A United States district judge has ruled President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration violates the Constitution and has granted a preliminary injunction against the order, according to court documents.

In the document, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said there is evidence that the president’s travel ban violates the First and Fifth Amendments and would cause "irreparable injury" to Virginia residents, Virginia institutions and persons connected to those persons and institutions.

In her conclusions after the oral arguments, she wrote, "Maximum power does not mean absolute power. Every presidental action must still comply with the limits set by Congress' delegation of power and the constraints of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights."

Brinkema based her decision on several incidents, including the president calling for a "Muslim ban" during the campaign and his statements of helping persecuted Christians, making them a priority for help. She also pointed to evidence the president did not consult with experts on immigration. 

"To the contrary, there is evidence that the president's senior national security officials were taken by surprise," she wrote, adding the people involved in crafting the order was not privy to any national security information while developing the policy.

She agreed with the state's contention that it would suffer irreparable harm if the executive order were to stand. She wrote the likelihood of an Establishment Clause violation and the restraint on liberty imposed by the ban on students and faculty of the Commonweath's universities were sufficient to establish harm by the executive order.

"Enjoining unconstitutional action by the Executive Branch is always in the public's interest," Brinkema wrote.

The judge did limit the scope of the injunction to just Virginia, pointing out there is a nationwide temporary restraining order being sought in Washington state that would provide the broader protection being sought by the state.

Attorney General Mark Herring praised the ruling, calling the president's order "unlawful, unconstitutional, and un-American." 

"We presented a mountain of evidence showing this was the 'Muslim ban' that President Trump promised as a candidate, while his administration failed to refute one shred of our evidence or provide any of its own to support its claims," Herring said in a statement. "The overwhelming evidence shows that this ban was conceived in religious bigotry and is actually making Americans and our armed forces less safe at home and abroad. This preliminary injunction will protect Virginians while our case is pending, and the opinion explaining it lays out in stunning detail the extent to which the Court finds this order to likely violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

A federal appeals court in California has already upheld a national temporary restraining order stopping the government from implementing the ban, which is directed at seven Muslim-majority countries. But the preliminary injunction issued by Brinkema is a more permanent type of injunction than the temporary restraining order issued in the Washington state case.

Photo Credit: Bill Hennessy]]>
<![CDATA['Hands Off DC' Rally Held Near Capitol]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2017 10:50:00 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/021317+hands+off+dc+graphic.jpg

D.C. legislators and residents demonstrated near the Capitol Building on Monday to tell members of Congress to respect District voters. 

The "Hands Off DC Rally" was held as the House Oversight Committee voted on whether to invalidate a D.C. law. Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, voted to stop the "Death with Dignity" law approved by the D.C. Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Councilman Charles Allen and Councilman David Grosso, among others, urged D.C. residents to attend the rally.

"Tell Representative Chaffetz and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to keep their #HandsOffDC as they vote to override the will of District residents," a Facebook invitation from Allen says.

As of noon, nearly 400 Facebook users said they would attend.

Attendee Josh Bursch, an advocate for D.C. statehood, said Congress should butt out of District affairs. 

"These are laws that our legislators, who we duly elected, wrote for us, and passed in our Council, and our mayor signed into law," he said. "Congress should have no say in it. They don't have a say in local laws in other states -- they shouldn't have a say here." 

The rally was set to be held from 5 to 6 p.m. in The Spirit of Justice Park, at South Capitol and C streets NE. Afterward, an organizing meeting was set to be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, at 1333 H Street NE.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Councilmember Charles Allen]]>
<![CDATA[White House Declines to Comment on D.C.'s Death With Dignity Bill]]> Thu, 09 Feb 2017 20:40:02 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Sean+Spicer+020917+GettyImages-634413530.jpg

The White House declined to state President Donald Trump’s position on the District of Columbia's controversial "death with dignity" bill.

A bill to strike down that law is moving quickly through Congress and could end up on the President's desk by the end of next week.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council approved the assisted suicide legislation, which would allow terminally ill people to end their lives in the District.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee, will take up a bill that would take down D.C.’s death with dignity law Monday night. Just 48 hours ago Chaffetz met face-to-face with Trump, who also would need to sign off on his plan.

At Thursday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the White House won’t have statements on legislation affecting D.C. before they pass Congress.

“As they come our way, and they get passed by both houses and come this way, we will issue statements of administration policy,” he said. “At this time they are not at that position.”

Spicer then immediately wrapped up the briefing.

If Congress doesn't get a bill to strike down death with dignity Feb. 17, they could try to knock it out again in the spring when deliberating how and how much to give D.C. in federal funds, congressional sources told News4.

Meanwhile, other bills could intervene in the District. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) formally proposed rolling back D.C.’s gun law. And Chaffetz drafted a law to allow federal agencies to move their offices out of D.C. to less expensive parts of the country, which could have a huge impact on local federal workers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: A 'So-Called' Situation ]]> Wed, 08 Feb 2017 05:44:48 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/trump9.png

This is a so-called column.

It seems there’s a lot of "so-calling" going around these days. The current president of the United States is the headliner.

He didn’t like a federal court ruling on his immigration ban. In one of his many tweets — a so-called way to communicate — the president rhetorically dismissed the judge:

"The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!," Trump tweeted.

As a candidate this current president was both praised and pummeled over his bullying and personal attacks on anyone or anything he viewed as critical of him. It comes as a so-called surprise to your Notebook that he has only ramped up since sitting in the Oval Office.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” program Sunday morning, so-called moderator John Dickerson repeatedly pressed Vice President Mike Pence to comment on the "so-called judge” remark. Pence parried at every turn, at one point saying, "Every president has the right to be critical of the other branches of government.”

Of course, the dictionary definitions of "so-called” make it clear the phrase is not mere criticism but an effort to delegitimize the target of the remark. Cambridge Dictionary says it is “used to show that you think a word that is used to describe someone or something is not suitable or correct.”

From Merriam-Webster: "falsely or improperly so named," as in "deceived by a so-called friend.”

There is another, more benign definition that "so-called” simply is declaring something is commonly known. But who among us — or the so-called us — believes “so-called” is used this innocent way in our popular discourse?

■ So-called democracy. There is no dispute that the U.S. Constitution reserves “full legislative authority” over the District for Congress. But the so-called 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act delegating certain congressional powers to local government also was explicit in its purpose: “to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the constitutional mandate, relieve Congress of the burden of legislating upon essentially local District matters.”

That act has not been overturned or modified. For Congress to directly undo a city law, both the House and Senate have to pass a disapproval resolution within 30 legislative days and have it signed by the president.

Mayor Muriel Bowser joined D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton last week to denounce congressional intrusion on local city affairs — specifically the effort by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to nullify the city’s “death with dignity” law that passed the D.C. Council 11-2. Bowser had serious misgivings about the law, but still signed it.

It’s unclear whether the Chaffetz effort will succeed, but it is a sign that Chaffetz as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform will take a narrow view of what constitutes “essentially local District matters.”

Chaffetz previously has tried to nullify the District’s same-sex marriage equality act and threatened that Mayor Bowser could be imprisoned over the city’s legalization of recreational use of marijuana.

Bloomberg columnist Al Hunt, a so-called journalist of note, recently wrote Chaffetz has a conservative philosophy that “can be situational” — supporting local and state rights and responsibilities over the federal government unless it can be beneficial to him politically. Hunt specifically mentioned Chaffetz’s opposition to the D.C. assisted-suicide measure.

■ So-called challenger. The bottom line is whether supporters of the District will organize to engage in political battle, here and around the nation, even from their weakened position with a Republican Congress and White House.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported in January that Chaffetz could get a challenger in the 2018 midterms.

Damien Kidd, an attorney and Republican, contends Chaffetz “is not serving us, but is instead tactically navigating a political path for his own advancement.” All those Democrats in the District might consider putting aside their so-called party labels to see if Kidd is worth a donation or two.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer - Pool/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC Council Rejects Bill To Retain Police Officers]]> Tue, 07 Feb 2017 20:06:01 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170207+Vincent+Gray.jpg

Former mayor and current Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray proposed a $63 million plan to pay one-time retention bonuses to current officers while the city recruits and trains more. But as News4's Tom Sherwood reports, some say the bill was politically motivated.

<![CDATA[Fairfax Residents Head to Polls for Special Mayoral Election]]> Tue, 07 Feb 2017 10:00:32 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/voting-generic.jpg

Residents in the City of Fairfax will head to the polls Tuesday to vote for a new mayor, six months after the city's previous mayor was arrested in a meth-for-sex sting operation. 

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Last year, the city's previous mayor, R. Scott Silverthorne, was arrested after police received a tip that he was using a dating website to set up sexual encounters with other men in exchange for drugs. Police say Silverthorne gave an undercover detective two grams of methamphetamine outside a Tysons Corner hotel before his arrest. 

Silverthorne resigned days later

Silverthorne appointed city councilman Jeffrey Greenfield as acting mayor following Silverthorne's arrest and resignation. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe Report: Why Congress' Efforts to Bully DC May Fail]]> Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:20:02 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_566281711.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Two things have become uncomfortably clear a few weeks into the new, Trumpian political era.

1. Anyone who crosses Donald Trump gets the back of his hand, including, but hardly limited to, senators, foreign leaders, federal workers and actors who attempt to replace him on reality TV.

2. Congress has virtually total control over the District of Columbia, thanks to Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power: "To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District," meaning the District of Columbia.

Like it or not, random politicians like Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz or Florida's Marco Rubio can tell us how to spend our tax dollars, who can carry a gun, who can get an abortion or where we can walk our dogs.

Our founding fathers had it right in 1787, but that clause has outlived its time. More on that later.

Chaffetz is the current bully from another time zone who's taking time from serving his constituents to meddle with us in the District.

He's trying to kill D.C.'s Death With Dignity law and suggested that Maryland absorb the residential parts of the District -- but what he's really doing is interfering with local governance.

He follows in the steps of white supremacists like Mississippi Sen. Tom Bilbo who, as head of the Senate committee overseeing D.C. in 1944 said there were so many African Americans in the local government that "it's like a black cloud all around you."

He proposed African Americans be shipped back to Africa.

Let's not forget South Carolina Rep. John "Johnny Mack" McMillan, the segregationist who used the D.C. government as his plantation, hired his constituents to run it and killed any bills granting self-government to the District. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Walter Washington mayor in 1967, and when he sent his first budget to Congress, McMillan sent a truckload of watermelons to his office.

Every Congress turns up one or two representatives who feel the need to boss around the District. In the 1980s, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms tried to outlaw abortions in D.C. Last year, Maryland Rep. Andy Harris tried to kill D.C.'s efforts to legalize marijuana. Rubio has reintroduced his bill from last session to wipe out the District's gun laws so virtually anyone could carry automatic weapons in the nation's capital.

Now Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, wants to throw out the District's medical aid in dying act.

I have a few reasons to believe Chaffetz will fail not just in killing our Death With Dignity law but in his general impulse to govern the District from Congress.

First, there's humiliation.

When Chaffetz this week suggested that Maryland absorb the residential parts of the District, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton retorted: "Has the chairman ever asked anyone from the state of Maryland how they feel about that?"

Chaffetz almost got laughed out of the room. An article this week in the Salt Lake Tribune, his hometown paper, allowed D.C. council member Charles Allen to ridicule him for not picking up his trash.

Norton remains the District's best asset. Though she has no voting power, the longtime representative has fought back noxious legislation for decades.

Another reason for optimism that Chaffetz or any legislator might fail in overriding D.C. laws is that Mayor Muriel Bowser is the first mayor to set up a serious federal government lobbying operation.

Bowser realized that every state and most major cities had offices in the District dedicated to protecting their interests. She tapped Beverly Perry, her senior adviser, to build a team inside the government.

"Be creative," Perry said the mayor advised.

So Perry, a seasoned lobbyist who had worked for Pepco, put together a staff of seven to advocate for the District in Congress and federal agencies. She told me Congress feels "emboldened" now that it controls the House, Senate and White House, but it might not be bad for D.C.

"It might work in our favor," she said.

She's hoping President Trump might help the District cut through bureaucratic obstacles to free federal property like Franklin Square from the U.S. Park Service.

"I don't see Republicans or Democrats," she tells me. "I want to know who has power I need now and how do I get it."

Perry operates like an old school lobbyist, catering to congressmen and their staffs as if they were constituents. She will fix their streetlights, take them to Georgetown basketball games, and help them navigate the D.C. government.

"You don't have to sacrifice you values to accomplish your task," she said.

Perry's goals in this Congress are largely monetary. She's seeking more funds for Metro and continued congressional support for education programs, especially the tuition assistance grants for District students attending state colleges.

There's another reason to believe Jason Chaffetz and other members of Congress meddling in D.C. will fail.

The mechanics of disapproving a D.C. bill or passing legislating that applies strictly to D.C. are complicated. Congress has 30 days to review and overturn a District law. In the case of the Death With Dignity Act, Chaffetz fulminated against it, but he delayed marking up the bill and has not set a date for moving it forward. The clock runs out Feb. 17, according to D.C. council members, at which point it will become law.

There's more: Any changes or additions to D.C. laws must pass the Senate and get a presidential signature. The Senate has had less interest in micromanaging the District.

Which brings me back to the Constitution.

The founding fathers had reason to believe that the newly created federal enclave should be run by Congress, rather than the surrounding states. In 1787, the seat of the federal government was a swampy intersection of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. There was no city and no inhabitants.

But 230 years later, we inhabit a robust urban center with 680,000 residents around the U.S. Capitol, White House and federal agencies. We pay taxes, fight wars, vote for president.

Short of statehood, the Constitution needs to be amended to give the District complete independence from Congress. Then Jason Chaffetz could spend his time focusing on the people who elected him -- in Utah.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[DC's King Library to Close for 3-Year, $208M Renovation]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2017 19:00:07 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000017627383_1200x675_868905539886.jpg The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, D.C.’s central library, will close in March for a complete interior renovation. Construction will start this summer and continue until 2020. News4's Tom Sherwood has a preview of what the new facility will offer.]]> <![CDATA[Mayor Bowser Stands Behind DC's Undocumented Immigrants]]> Mon, 30 Jan 2017 20:23:09 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/Muriel_Bowser.jpg D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reiterated her commitment to undocumented immigrants who live in the District. As News4's Tom Sherwood reports, the support was welcome news to some parents and their students.

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC Charter Schools to Give Preference to Neighborhood]]> Mon, 30 Jan 2017 13:13:36 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Students-in-Hall-032312.jpg

D.C. public charter elementary schools will give preference to students who live in the same neighborhood beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the change to the city’s school lottery system at Bilingual Public Charter School in Northeast Monday morning.

The new policy allows charter schools to give preference elementary school students within a half-mile of the charter school whose public school is more than a half-mile away.

D.C.’s school lottery allows families to apply to schools outside their designated boundary.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 ]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe: Not 'Carnage,' But Too Many DC Neighborhoods Unsafe]]> Fri, 27 Jan 2017 15:01:51 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_1858871813.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Fresh from inflating the crowd size at his inauguration and claiming widespread voter fraud, the new resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue aimed his bombastic rhetoric at the District of Columbia.

"In our nation's capital killings have risen by 50 percent," President Trump said via the White House web site. Problem is that's just plain wrong. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, murders actually fell 17 percent last year. Trump dredged up old numbers to support his contention that our inner cities are hellholes -- that only he can remedy.

Like many things that come out of Trump's mouth, his line on D.C. homicides was hyperbole. But in this case, he actually has a point.

No, we are not experiencing "carnage," as Trump claimed in his inaugural address. Yet too many D.C. neighborhoods are not safe. Gunplay is on the rise. Homicides may be down, but police reported that we did have 135 murders last year.

That's way too many.

So far this year, police report a major increase in gun assaults. They count 53 cases where someone used a gun in a violent crime. That's more than two a day. Homicides (seven this year to date) are up (there were six this time last year), along with theft. The number of stolen cars is down, but there were 130 cars ripped off in the first 26 days of the year. Is that good?

Some of our local politicians are competing to see who can be toughest on crime. Vince Gray was first out of the pack. The former mayor, who now represents Ward 7 on the D.C. Council, introduced emergency legislation to devote upwards of $60 million to retain cops and hire more. He wants to bring the force up to 4,200.

That's the number requested by former police chief Cathy Lanier. On her way out last year, she pointed out that the number of cops had fallen below 3,800 even as the District population reached new highs.

Gray has a decent chance of seeing his injection of cash for cops make it through the council. He starts with five votes, including himself, toward the nine he will need Feb. 9, when it comes up for consideration. Mayor Muriel Bowser has not weighed in on the matter.

It's far from certain that Charles Allen, incoming chair of the council's Judiciary Committee, will support Gray's bill. In an interview Thursday, the Ward 6 councilmember called it an "interesting idea" but he was "skeptical" and wondered: "Is this the best way to use $60 million?"

I'm skeptical, as well. More cops are not necessarily going to stop crime. The District needs more police, but they have to be strong recruits with solid training. The MPD also needs a boost in morale after police had gone six years without a pay raiseuntil 2014. Lanier was more popular with the general public than she was with her rank and file. Acting Chief Peter Newsham, who has inside track to replace her, is well-liked among the troops.

Gray's plan to boost the number of cops is not to Newsham's liking. "It's simplistic," he told me last night at the Ward 3 Democrats meeting. "We have enough officers right now."

Charles Allen's Ward 6 is in need of a strong police presence. It stretches from Nationals Park through the burgeoning neighborhoods along the Anacostia River, to Capitol Hill, into the office buildings behind Union Station and through the southern sections of Shaw. Overall crime was down last year, Allen said, but robberies are on the rise.

"It's nowhere near where it needs to be," he told me.

Allen's ward has had its horror stories. It was the setting for a notorious home invasion and brutal rape. Finally convicted last summer, Antwon Pitt was a repeat offender who fell through huge gaps in the criminal justice system. Allen has taken note of a Washington Post series that exposed gaps in the juvenile justice system that allowed young offenders to commit violent crimes and murders.

Allen had neither background nor great interest in chairing the Judiciary Committee. He's educating himself, starting with four hours in Superior Court, following the action from arraignments to trials. He promises to hold hearings and propose new laws to patch up the system. He tends toward increased mental health services.

Law and order is not his thing. He wants to be a "progressive" chairman.

"I'm not a Draconian person," he said. "But we do owe it to ourselves to have an honest conversation about our criminal justice system."

But an honest conversation and added social services might not be enough. Cathy Lanier famously said the system was "broken." Attorney General Karl Racine told me violent juveniles were creating "havoc." Allen listed "brazen" crimes just this week in his ward, including a guy who walked into a laundromat on Benning Road, plugged a guy in the chest and calmly walked down the street.

Allen is not hitting the ground with guns blazing, so to speak. He's asking why the cops have disbanded vice squads. He wants police to be able to share information about juveniles.

Frankly, the District needs more determined changes to its criminal justice system. Sentencing is too lenient. Violent criminals get arrested at night and are back on the street in the morning. It's time to make life miserable for violent offenders. There's no need to bring out water boards, but the last thing we want is a man named Trump meddling in police business in his new 'hood.

That means we have to get serious and handle it ourselves.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Trump Sanctuary City Order Sparks Fears, Praise in DC Area]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 17:54:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/012517+immigration+protest.jpg

President Donald Trump signed an executive action Wednesday to block federal grants from immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities," and it's receiving strong reactions in the D.C. area.

Immigration rights protesters blocked streets near the White House Wednesday night.

D.C. as well as Takoma Park, Maryland, and Prince George's County, Maryland, operate as sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The order could cost locales that do not cooperate millions of dollars.

"We're going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a news conference. "The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws."

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called a news conference Wednesday evening and said city officials are working to determine the potential impact of the order. 

"There's a lot left to be interpreted in what I can see in the executive order thus far," Bowser said. 

What Area Officials Said About Whether They Run Sanctuary Cities

Arlington County, Virginia: Arlington officials also do not categorize the county as a sanctuary area. A spokeswoman said the county complies with all federal immigration laws. 

Montgomery County, Maryland: A spokeswoman for Montgomery County said the county cooperates with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they are asked about serious offenders. County officials do not categorize the county as a sanctuary area. 

Still, County Executive Isiah Leggett said he would challenge any attempt to cut off federal funds because of Trump's action.  

“Clearly, we’re going to fight that, and if needed, we will take appropriate legal action to resist,” he told The Washington Post.

Montgomery County police do not ask people about their immigration status. "We believe that this is the right balance for this county, " a spokeswoman said.

Prince George's County, Maryland: The county does have sanctuary city status. County Executive Rushern Baker said the county's position on protecting immigrants is not going to change.

"We believe that the county is following the law and we're going to honor that. So, we're not changing," he said. "We're not afraid of what, you know, the president said, that he's going to withold [funds], because we think we're doing the right thing and we're following the law, and as long as we're doing that, our policies will not change."

Baker said he expects the county's federal delegation to ensure they do not lose critical funding.

Takoma Park, Maryland: Takoma Park published a statement on the city's website on Wednesday saying the city is "proud to be a sanctuary city." City officials are reviewing the executive order to determine "the potential implications for Takoma Park."

Executive Order Spurs Strong Reactions in DC Area

Many immigrants attended a rally Wednesday afternoon in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Northwest D.C.

One woman at the rally, who declined to provide her name, spoke against divisions between undocumented immigrants and others.

"I believe that everybody has that right, to call another place their home," she said.

Bowser spoke, at an unrelated news conference earlier Wednesday, about protecting the city's sanctuary status, and about fear among immigrants.

"We have gotten a lot of questions and calls and feelings of anxiety, especially from families who fear it means they could be torn apart," the mayor said.

Bowser said functioning as a sanctuary city protects residents. 

"We want people, D.C. residents, to not fear calling on their government. When people fear calling the police or calling on the government for help, it makes the entire city less safe,' she said.  

In Frederick County, Maryland, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said Trump's executive order must be in place.

"I think it's a right decision for America. I think it's a right decision for counties and communities that have felt the impact of crimes committed by illegal immigrants," he said.

"Everybody in the world wants to be in America, but we simply can't accommodate that," the sheriff continued.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated from a previous version. 

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Noise, Lots of Noise!]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 17:18:43 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/s-notebook-GettyImages-632342302.jpg

The marchers last Saturday made lots of noise.

The new Trump administration tried first to ignore it and then to belittle it.

The noise from the Women's March may well be the rallying cry Democrats need to start clawing their way back to relevancy -- not just nationally but in city, county and state houses around the nation where Republicans are in control in overwhelming numbers. Otherwise, it's just noise.

■ Media noise. We are just at the beginning of what we might call The War Between the Stakes. The Trump administration, just like during the campaign, is staking out a position challenging the media's most basic reporting and assumptions about how a president or his administration should behave.

From last Saturday's stunning misrepresentation of crowd size to Monday's more friendly press briefing, the new Trump White House seems intent on presenting itself through "alternative facts."

For many months during the campaign last year there were endless stories about how Trump needed to "pivot" to being more presidential. You can stop waiting for that. He is who he is. The media is in for a battle over every story with this new administration that, as White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said, would present "alternative facts" to the public. Much of the media pushed back, saying "alternative" facts were falsehoods.

The Trump team should be careful it doesn’t wind up in an untenable alternate universe.

The public in general has no general love of the media, but the public is not easily fooled for long. The Trump administration, starting out with low approval numbers, should be aware of a general erosion of support that occurs as daily life and decisions chip away at the grand promises of any administration.

■ Protesters and prosecutors' noise. Maybe it's just to scare them, but D.C.'s U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips is not fooling around.

Prosecutors filed felony rioting charges against 230 people who were arrested on Inauguration Day for violent incidents in a four-block area near the White House. Felony rioting is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

It's unlikely the maximum sentence will be meted out -- but the charges themselves were a true indication that law enforcement was prepared for the small number of violent protesters. Of course, the news media had a field day with the violence, but the overwhelming numbers of protesters were content to yell and scream at Trump as he rode by. And by the way, there were no arrests during the Women's March.

■ Metro and March for Life noise. Up next is Saturday's anti-abortion March for Life. It will be a large crowd, as it has been nearly every year since the first one in 1974 to protest the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Metro has announced it will extend operating hours as it did for the Women's March. Some conservative groups are wondering, in light of coverage this past Saturday, whether the mainstream media will give the March for Life more than the glancing attention it usually receives.

Kellyanne Conway is slated to speak at the rally. March organizers say she is the highest-ranking White House official ever to speak in person at the march. President Ronald Reagan and later President George W. Bush in 2006 both addressed the rally by telephone. Among the other government speakers announced for Saturday are: Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah; and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

■ A final word. We're disappointed to report that NewsChannel 8 has killed the long-running "NewsTalk" program hosted by our friend Bruce DePuyt. For 14 years DePuyt has questioned, challenged and highlighted political people and issues affecting the entire region.

Those of us in the media and public policy world will gather Thursday evening, Feb. 2, at The Midlands, 3333 Georgia Ave. NW, to salute his career and whatever comes next. Join us if you like.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Voter Fraud in DC, Maryland or Virginia? What Officials Say]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2017 12:11:27 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/110416+person+voting+american+flag.jpg

President Donald Trump has called for a "major investigation" into voter fraud after repeating unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in November.

But D.C. and all 50 states have finalized their presidential election results with no reports of the type of widespread fraud Trump is alleging.

Election officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia repeated on Wednesday that claims of voter fraud are unfounded and multiple systems are in place to detect irregularities.

Trump said in a private meeting with congressional leaders Monday night that he would have won the popular vote if 3 to 5 million people had not voted illegally.

In Maryland, a state election official said that in her 13-year career she had seen a total of two ballots cast illegally. 

In Arlington County, Virginia, an official said that in 22 years she also had seen just two cases. 

In Virginia, officials showed how they verify that people are able to vote. 

The Virginia Department of Elections provided a chart showing the web of lists against which the list of state voters is cross-checked to confirm that each person is indeed eligible. State officials check data from the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles and Virginia state police, among several other sources.

Go here to see a larger version of this chart.

Here's what the officials who oversee the voting systems in our region said:

District of Columbia
The D.C. Board of Elections has not received any reports of voter fraud connected to the 2016 presidential election, voter outreach specialist Tamara Robinson said.

"As far as malicious intent for voter fraud, we have not experienced that," she said.

Like other jurisdictions, D.C. compares data from multiple sources to confirm that voters are eligible.

Any snags that do occur are related to innocent errors, Robinson said. For example, a man was marked as having voted twice after an election official erroneously recorded him and his son, who had the same name, as one person.

An election official in Maryland also said no major fraud or attempted fraud had been detected or reported.

"In Maryland we have had no coordinated effort to impact the outcome of the election," Maryland State Board of Elections deputy administrator Nikki Charlson said.

Officials work to detect irregularities before and after people cast ballots.

Charlson said she knew of two cases of fraud in her 13 years at the board. In one case, a woman cast her mother's absentee ballot after her mother had died. In the other case, a woman cast a ballot in her mother's name after her mother died and the woman knew she would not have time to cast a ballot in her home state.

Both cases were prosecuted, Charlson said.

Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés also said he knew of no evidence in his state of coordinated voter fraud.

"We constantly hear these claims that there's all this stuff going on, but no one's been able to show us anything concrete," he said.

Virginia has one of the best systems in the country for maintaining and cross-checking its list of registered voters, Cortés said. Election officials check data from across the country to make sure voters are not registered in multiple states, and are able to confirm that provided addresses exist and are not, for example, commercial addresses.

Election officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties were adamant that there was no evidence of large-scale voter fraud.

"If there is evidence, I certainly welcome it if the administration wants to bring it to us," Arlington County director of elections Linda Lindberg said.

“I’m not saying voter fraud doesn’t exist -- it does exist," she continued. "But on a very small scale. On a scale that would influence a major election, like a presidential election? Obviously the answer is no.”

Lindberg said that in her 22 years on the job, she saw just two cases of voting fraud, in 1997 and 2012. The cases were forwarded to prosecutors.

In Fairfax County, general registrar Cameron Sasnett said it's hard not to take Trump's comments as a personal insult.

"I do take it very personally, and I think every election administrator probably feels the same way," he said.

He said he has not seen a single case of voter fraud since he took his position in 2015.

Cortés, the state election commissioner, said he was aware of two recent cases, in Alexandria and Harrisonburg, in which people filed voter registration forms with false information.

"We catch those folks and we remove them pretty quick," Cortés said.

The commissioner assured Virginians that the voting system is secure.

"We have dedicated people working every day to make sure the election process is working for voters," he said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Bowser: White House Website Does 'Disservice' to DC Police]]> Tue, 24 Jan 2017 23:18:03 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Police+Car+Generic+Night+2015.jpg

The White House website states the homicide rate in Washington, D.C., has increased by 50 percent, but that figure is no longer accurate.

Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed the issue when then-candidate Donald Trump said it back in July. It doesn't seem to have made a difference.

Like any large city, D.C. is always dealing with concerns about crime. The district has had seven homicides so far in 2017, one more than this time last year, according to crime data from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

However, according to MPD, violent crimes dropped 10 percent in 2016 and the homicide rate fell 17 percent.

The Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community page of WhiteHouse.gov states, "In our nation's capital, killings have risen by 50 percent." That was accurate in 2015, but there is no mention of the timeframe on the website in connection with the statistic.

"These things are easily checked, easily verifiable and that speaks to another deep issue," said Dr. Greg Carr, a professor at Howard University. "You are the federal government. People are supposed to be able to rely on your data."

Carr said the doubling down on inaccurate information from the Trump administration is alarming.

"These assertions of data may then shake the confidence in not just the domestic population of the United States but international population as well," Carr said.

Bowser's office released a statement, which said, in part, "For the White House to list alternative facts about the district’s homicide rate is a disservice to our police officers, and the honorable thing to do would be to remove those lies from their website."

The city said it's unfair to the men and women who work hard every day to ensure the safety of DC residents.

NBC Washington has reached out to the White House press staff for comment.

<![CDATA[Metro to Run Extra Trains Friday for March for Life]]> Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:40:34 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-515762974-%281%29.jpg

Metro plans to add extra midday rail service for Friday's March for Life rally, transit officials announced Monday.

Between morning and evening rush hours, Metro will run trains about every eight minutes on each line, which will translate into service at downtown stations every two to four minutes, officials said.

Metro will also run more eight-car trains and will have extra staff available to help visitors. In addition, the transit system will not conduct any midday track work Friday, Metro officials said.

Metro is encouraging those headed to the march to avoid rush-hour travel if possible. The March for Life opens at 11:45 a.m. Friday with a musical performance before the rally starts at noon, according to the official website.

Metro's also recommending riders buy and load SmarTrip cards in advance to avoid long lines at Metro fare machines. Riders should make sure their cards are loaded with enough value for all their travel throughout the day.

SmarTrip cards are available at all Metro stations and at CVS and Giant stores. 

Although Metro doesn't ship individual SmarTrip cards bought online, group organizers buying 25 or more can place a bulk order at 202-962-5700 and receive overnight shipping if they order before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 D.C. Council Members, Mayor to Watch Parade]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:52:34 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ap+story.jpg

Only three of the District of Columbia's 13 council members plan to view the presidential inauguration from the Wilson Building.

Normally, the district's elected officials jostle with hand-picked constituents for a premier view of the inaugural parade. This year, The Washington Post reports only three council members and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser have said they'll be watching.

Republican President-elect Donald Trump had the support of only 4.1 percent of the city's voters in November.

Some council members describe their absence as a political gesture. Others have personal or public business elsewhere.

Democratic Council member Jack Evans says he can't remember a similarly small turnout in his 26 years in office. He's planning on coming to watch what he says he views as "a historic occasion." 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>