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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joe Biden Talks Family — and a Bit of Politics — in Visit to Burlington

Posted By on Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 7:26 PM

Jodi Picoult and Joe Biden - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Jodi Picoult and Joe Biden
For those expecting Joe Biden to deliver a political stump speech — or a taste of his future plans — during a visit to Burlington on Sunday, he failed to deliver.

The former vice president and senator avoided all but an ambiguous hint when it came to discussing a possible 2020 presidential run, and he steered clear of any direct attacks on President Donald Trump — even as he came to the home turf of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a possible 2020 competitor.

Instead the 76-year-old appeared intent on offering a more personal message. For those who are grieving or bereaved, he told a packed house at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, "There's a reason for hope, believe it or not."

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Bernie Sanders Raises Nearly $1 Million in Under Six Weeks

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 1:56 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) reelection campaign raised more than $925,000 in fewer than six weeks, according to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. Sanders, who easily won a third Senate term in November and is contemplating a second presidential run in 2020, reported spending nearly $730,000 during the same period, from October 18 to November 26.

That leaves him with nearly $8.8 million, which could be transferred to a campaign for president, should he decide to run.

Sanders' expenses are consistent with those of a probable presidential candidate. They include about $113,000 on events; nearly $92,000 on salaries to 31 individuals; more than $64,000 on travel by car and plane; more than $60,000 on research, including $52,000 to the polling company Tulchin Research; and more than $37,000 on lodging.

His travel expenses also included a $6,800 payment to the private charter plane company Apollo Jets, as well as $5,000 in carbon offsets to NativeEnergy to compensate for his air travel. According to a previous FEC filing, Sanders spent nearly $300,000 on chartered planes earlier in the campaign season, as VTDigger.org reported last week.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Oil Baron Seeks Sanders Aide's Testimony in Price-Fixing Suit

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 3:20 PM

Skip Vallee in his home - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Skip Vallee in his home
The Vermont gasoline company at the center of a three-year-old price-fixing lawsuit is seeking to depose a spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and obtain documents from the senator's office.

The company, R.L. Vallee, subpoenaed Sanders aide Daniel McLean last month and demanded a wide range of internal communications — some pertaining to the lawsuit and others to political matters.

In a response last Thursday in U.S. District Court, the senator's office argued that federal employees such as McLean could not be subpoenaed in their official capacities and that the company's request was an overbroad "fishing expedition."

The competing motions reignite a long-simmering feud between Sanders and R.L. Vallee's CEO, Rodolphe "Skip" Vallee, a former U.S. ambassador and Vermont Republican Party official. The senator and his staff have accused Vallee of "ripping off consumers" and being a "junior varsity version of the Koch brothers." Vallee, in turn, has run television advertisements accusing Sanders' wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, of wrongdoing and publicly contemplated running against the senator.

Indeed, among the documents Vallee's company is seeking, according to the subpoena, are those pertaining to "the possible 2012 or 2018 United States Senate candidacy" of Vallee or former Republican governor Jim Douglas — including communications with O'Meara Sanders.

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sanders Institute Brings Star Power to Burlington

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 11:21 PM

Dr. Cornel West and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Dr. Cornel West and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
A star-studded crowd joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the Burlington waterfront Thursday night to kick off a three-day conference hosted by the nonprofit Sanders Institute. Though many of the national progressive leaders taking part in the event were prominent supporters of the senator's 2016 presidential campaign, organizers said it was not related to a potential 2020 run.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, actress Susan Sarandon, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis were among those scheduled to address such topics as climate change, housing and criminal justice reform during the Sanders Institute Gathering.

Before the panel discussions, though, was a Thursday evening reception at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain featuring motivational speaker Simon Sinek and a keynote address from Sanders himself. The senator's wife, Sanders Institute cofounder Jane O'Meara Sanders, also spoke. In attendance were actors John Cusack —wearing a jacket that said “good night white pride” on the back — and Danny Glover.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Walters: Welch Ends Holdout, Backs Pelosi for Speaker

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 9:09 PM

  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Rep. Peter Welch
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) held out until the last possible moment before publicly announcing his support for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) bid for House speaker.

The House Democratic Caucus met Wednesday to choose its leaders for the congressional session that begins in January. Welch had refused to declare his position until just before that meeting. According to Welch, Pelosi got 203 votes, more than enough to secure the caucus' nomination. She will need at least 218 votes in January when the full House elects a speaker.

Welch had sought changes in how the House is governed, claiming that too much authority has migrated to its leadership. In a statement released before the vote, Welch said that Pelosi "has personally committed to me that she will reform the legislative process, make it more transparent, and allow the diverse ideas of all members to be considered."

Welch elaborated in a phone interview following the caucus. During the speakership of retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Welch said, "power was concentrated in the speaker's office. The committees were completely bypassed." He said that major pieces of legislation were written by leadership and rushed through with little or no review or testimony. Restoring committee power, he added, would "produce better legislation."

When asked whether Pelosi might be weakened by having to negotiate for support, Welch demurred. "She ended up with 203 votes," he said. "That's a pretty solid majority." Thirty-two caucus members voted "no" on Pelosi, while three returned blank ballots, and one member — a Pelosi supporter — was absent.

Pelosi will need at least 218 votes in January, when the full House will elect a speaker. Welch doesn't see that as a problem. "She would need 14 votes out of the 35 who didn't vote for her [Wednesday]," Welch said. "That's very doable when the choice is between Pelosi and the Republican nominee. It's one thing for a Democrat to vote no in caucus. It's another to vote yes for a Republican."

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sanders, Leahy and Welch Object to Border Patrol's Checkpoint Plans

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 5:06 PM

A sign near the border - FILE: MARK DAVIS
  • File: Mark Davis
  • A sign near the border
Vermont's congressional delegation is objecting to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's plans to resume controversial checkpoints far from the Canadian border.

The Border Patrol has not publicly announced its intention. But the delegation's staffers were recently briefed about the plan by Border Patrol officials, according to David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The Border Patrol has the authority to stop and search travelers without a warrant or reasonable suspicion within 100 miles of an international boundary or coastal body of water, a zone that includes about 90 percent of Vermont.

"We are concerned to learn of the U.S. Border Patrol’s plans to operate a number of immigration checkpoints in the interior of Vermont," the delegation said in a joint statement. "While these checkpoints will cause needless delays for travelers and hinder commerce between Vermont and Canada, we are not convinced that they will make Vermont or the United States any safer. Rather, they appear to be another escalation of the Trump Administration’s aggressive yet wasteful use of immigration enforcement resources."

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Feds Drop Burlington College Probe, According to Sanders Aide

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 2:18 PM

Jane O'Meara Sanders (right) and her husband - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Jane O'Meara Sanders (right) and her husband
Updated at 3:07 p.m.

A spokesperson for Jane O'Meara Sanders said Tuesday that federal authorities have concluded a long-running probe into her tenure as president of the now-shuttered Burlington College.

"Jane Sanders has been informed that the U.S. Attorney in Vermont has closed its investigation of the Burlington College land deal and has decided not to bring charges of any kind," spokesperson Jeff Weaver said in a written statement. In a phone interview, Weaver said the feds had shared the news with O’Meara Sanders’ attorneys in “the last couple of days.”

Federal authorities had not previously confirmed the investigation's existence. Kraig LaPorte, a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, said Tuesday that he could neither corroborate nor refute Weaver's statement, but he noted that his office does "communicate with represented parties."

The news lifts a cloud that has hovered over O'Meara Sanders and her husband, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for nearly three years. It comes as Sen. Sanders contemplates a second run for president.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hundreds Rally in Burlington to Protect Mueller From Trump

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2018 at 8:19 PM

Marchers in downtown Burlington - SOPHIE MACMILLAN
  • Sophie MacMillan
  • Marchers in downtown Burlington
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Burlington Thursday evening to protest President Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The event was one of 11 "Nobody Is Above the Law" protests across Vermont, organized to pressure Congress into protecting the independence and integrity of the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Protesters chanted, "Two, four, six, eight, we want Mueller to investigate," and "Let Bob do his job," as they marched a winding route through downtown Burlington. Police escorted the protest, which blocked rush hour traffic. Some drivers honked in support of the demonstrators as they passed.
As the hundreds of sign-waving protesters massed outside Burlington City Hall, staffers for Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all read statements from their respective bosses.

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Welch Won't Commit to Backing Pelosi for U.S. House Speaker

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2018 at 6:01 PM

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and his wife, Public Utility Commissioner Margaret Cheney, at an election night party at the Hilton Burlington - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and his wife, Public Utility Commissioner Margaret Cheney, at an election night party at the Hilton Burlington
Vermont's sole delegate to the U.S. House says he hasn't decided who should serve as its next speaker.

In an interview Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would not say whether Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should reclaim the speaker's gavel. Welch said he had not committed, publicly or privately, to back Pelosi or any potential challenger.

"At this point, what I want is to make certain we get some reforms [to the legislative process] that'll apply whoever is speaker," he said.

Pelosi, the only declared candidate, served as speaker during Welch's first two terms in office, from 2007 through 2010. Now that Democrats are poised to control the House for the first time in eight years, she is hoping to return to the post.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Leahy, Welch Say Acting AG Should Recuse Himself From Mueller Probe

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 7:43 PM

  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Rep. Peter Welch
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) shed no tears when President Donald Trump announced Attorney General Jeff Sessions' departure Wednesday afternoon.

"Good riddance!" Welch said. "This guy is the worst attorney general in my lifetime. I mean, he's the enforcer of family separation, condones voter suppression, the Muslim ban. This guy's absolutely awful."

But Welch, who won his seventh term in Congress the day before, does have one fear: "President Trump is pretty good at finding bad people, and he might replace [Sessions] with somebody that's worse."

For now, Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, will serve as acting attorney general, according to the White House. He will oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and allegations of obstruction of justice by the president and his associates.

That has Welch and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) worried, because Whitaker has supported defunding the investigation and limiting its scope. Both men said Wednesday that Whitaker should steer clear of the Mueller probe.

"I am strongly in favor of him recusing himself," Welch said. "It would be a way of him providing more reassurance that they're not going to mess with Mueller."

Vermont's third member of Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), did not respond to an interview request.

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