Utah nurse arrested by police reaches $500K settlement

The Utah nurse who was arrested over the summer for not allowing an officer to draw a blood sample from a patient has reached a $500,000 settlement, according to The Associated Press.

An attorney for Alex Wubbels said that the nurse plans to put a portion of the settlement toward a new initiative to help others pay for video clips from police body cameras, a Fox affiliate in Salt Lake City reported.

Detective Jeff Payne forcefully arrested Wubbels when she followed hospital policy by refusing to allow him to draw blood from an unconscious patient.

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Police opened an internal investigation into the incident after footage of Payne dragging the nurse from the hospital caused an uproar on social media in August.

The patient was later identified as a reserve police officer from Idaho, who was severely injured in a trucking accident. 

Wubbels was not charged in the incident, while Payne was later fired from the police force in October, a decision that he is now challenging in court.

The hospital in Salt Lake City has since barred law enforcement officials from directly interacting with the nursing staff. 

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Trump to sign legislation overturning arbitration rule

President Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s decision comes despite a personal appeal from CFPB Director Richard Cordray and veterans’ groups. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The rule bans forced arbitration clauses in contracts.

President Donald Trump will sign legislation overturning the CFPB’s mandatory arbitration rule Wednesday afternoon, according to a White House official.

The president’s decision comes despite a personal appeal from CFPB Director Richard Cordray and veterans’ groups, who opposed a congressional vote to overturn the consumer watchdog’s rule using the Congressional Review Act.

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The rule bans forced-arbitration clauses in contracts, making it easier for bank and credit card customers to sue to settle disputes.

A banking industry representative applauded the news.

“The CFPB’s rule was never about protecting consumers; rather, it was about protecting trial lawyers and their wallets,” said Richard Hunt, chief executive officer of the Consumer Bankers Association. “The bureau’s own study backs that up and proves trial lawyers would have been the real winners.”

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Podesta’s downfall sends shockwaves through K Street

Washington lobbyists who represent foreign powers have taken comfort for decades in the fact that the Justice Department rarely goes after them for potentially breaking the law. That all changed on Monday.

The news of Tony Podesta’s resignation from his namesake firm and indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates sent K Street scrambling, as lobbyists rushed to make sure they’re in compliance with the rules. The developments also renewed calls for Congress to pass legislation beefing up the Justice Department’s enforcement of the law, which lawmakers in both parties have derided for lacking teeth.

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“Firms are going to be even more careful than they have been in the past in the foreign lobbying arena,” said Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader who’s now a lobbyist at Squire Patton Boggs, where his foreign clients have included Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Lobbyists may start to be more selective in which foreign clients they’ll work for avoid ones like the nonprofit that hired the Podesta Group and Mercury. That outfit was ostensibly independent, but prosecutors allege it was really under the control of the Ukrainian president.

Squire Patton Boggs, for instance, recently turned down work for a potential client tied to Syria, Lott said.

“You need to know who you’re representing, and sometimes it’s kind of shrouded,” Lott said.

Prosecutions of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — which requires lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and other groups seeking to influence American foreign policy to register with the Justice Department — are rare. And it’s not clear whether the Justice Department will follow special counsel Robert Mueller’s lead and start cracking down on foreign lobbying violations.

But lobbyists aren’t taking chances in the wake of Podesta’s announced departure from the Podesta Group, long one of Washington’s biggest lobbying shops.

“I feel like in the past, people got away with a lot because there was a lot less scrutiny,” said one veteran foreign lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “People were more willing to find creative ways not to file.”

Now, “I think at least in the short term people are going to be very cautious,” the lobbyist said.

An indictment unsealed on Monday charged Manafort and Gates with crimes including money laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy against the United States, in addition to violating foreign lobbying law by orchestrating a “multi-million dollar lobbying campaign” without registering.

The indictment also described two Washington firms, Company A and Company B, that lobbied for a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which the indictment alleges was really under the control of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, his political party and the Ukrainian government. Companies A and B refer to Mercury and the Podesta Group.

Washington’s lobbying firms are now taking steps to ensure that what happened to the Podesta Group doesn’t happen to them. Marc Lampkin, a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who does foreign work, said the firm sent out a reminder to employees on Monday about “what the rules and the law are, what the reporting requirements are,” in addition to the firm’s regular FARA training.

“It’s at the top of everyone’s mind,” Lampkin said. “It’s on the TV. Why not take the opportunity to remind everyone what the rules are?”

The DOJ unit dedicated to enforcing FARA is small, and has focused in the past on prodding lobbyists to comply with the law voluntarily, rather than going after them on criminal charges. Mueller’s willingness to indict Manafort and Gates instead of just hounding them to file has struck fear into lobbyists that they could be next.

“It used to be [that the Justice Department would work with you to become compliant,” said another foreign lobbyist, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “Now there’s a fear that they’ll just prosecute you.”

But the bar for criminal prosecution is high. Under the law, prosecutors can go after lobbyists only for willful violation of the law — a tough standard to prove.

Whether the Justice Department follows Mueller’s lead may depend on Congress’ response to the Manafort affair.

Before this week’s news, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had raised alarms that foreign lobbyists are getting away with not registering.

“I fear that FARA violations are happening around this town all the time,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in July.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced a bill along with Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Tuesday designed to strengthen enforcement of foreign lobbying laws. Grassley said the measure had been in the works long before the Manafort indictment was unsealed.

The bill would give the Justice Department the power to demand the production of documents and compel testimony. It would eliminate an exemption that allows lobbyists to register under the less onerous domestic lobbying rules for some foreign clients and charge the Justice Department with developing a comprehensive enforcement strategy. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced similar bills earlier this year.

“Policy makers are here to serve the interests of the American people, so we need to know when someone is pushing the priorities of a foreign interest,” Grassley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and again how lobbyists of foreign principals skirt existing disclosure laws to conceal their clients’ identities and agendas.”

But Lott said he wouldn’t hold his breath waiting for Congress to pass the legislation, especially with President Donald Trump still pushing to move a tax reform bill before the end of the year.

“There’s not much of anything happening right now in Congress, to be perfectly frank,” Lott said.

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Why Trump Celebrated a Hindu Religious Holiday

On a Saturday evening in October 2016, with the presidential elections less than a month away, Donald Trump addressed a rapt crowd in Edison, New Jersey. New Jersey is not a swing state—it has voted for the Democratic candidate in the last seven presidential elections—so it was an unusual campaign stop. But then, this was not the usual Trump rally. The familiar “Make America Great Again” signs had been replaced by ones more relatable to this particular audience: Trump for Faster Green Cards. Trump Against Terror. Trump for Hindu-Americans.

The fundraiser, hosted by the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), was one of a series of overtures from Trump toward Indian-Americans. “We love Hindus,” Trump proclaimed to the audience. “And if elected, you would have a true friend in the White House.”

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True to his word, earlier this month President Trump personally hosted a party in the Oval Office to celebrate Diwali, the most important religious holiday for Hindus. Joining him were his daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump; RHC founder and Trump campaign megadonor Shalabh Kumar; ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; and several other senior Indian-American administration officials. President Trump, notably, did not attend his Jewish staff’s annual Passover Seder, and ended a decades-long White House tradition by declining to host an Iftar dinner to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hindus make up about three quarters of the nearly four million people of Indian origin living in the United States. In November, nearly 80 percent of the Indian-American vote went to Hillary Clinton.

Given this, and a campaign and presidency in which engagement with minorities—especially Hispanics, Mexicans, African-Americans and Muslims—has been conspicuously absent, if not overtly hostile, Trump’s overtures toward Indian-Americans are unusual.

One explanation is that Trump is simply appeasing an important donor: Kumar, who donated more than a million dollars to the Trump Victory Committee, the big-donor fundraising vehicle his campaign shared with the Republican Party. The Chicago-based businessman—who has expressed support for Trump’s calls for monitoring Muslims and cracking down on Pakistan—claims that the RHC’s efforts swung tens of thousands of votes in key battleground states. It’s possible the president is merely paying back a debt.

But if President Trump is throwing bones to his benefactor, he hasn’t limited them to campaign appearances and White House parties. The president has appointed Indian-Americans to positions of real power, and not just Nikki Haley: Ajit Pai, Seema Verma, Raj Shah, Neomi Rao, Neil Chatterjee and Vishal Amin all hold key administration positions. Indian-Americans have not only become the face of diversity in a White House that is decidedly not, their decisions will influence the lives of millions of Americans. (President Obama’s administration is still the high-water mark for Indian Americans in a presidential administration, but no White House has had more high-level Indian-American appointees than Trump’s.)

But it may be in foreign policy where Trump’s pro-India tilt is most keenly felt. The president’s speech this summer announcing his new Afghanistan policy was tough on Pakistan, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who traveled to India for the first time in his official capacity last week, laid out a new strategy for South Asia with India squarely at the center. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Tillerson said, “In this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear, with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace and prosperity, the United States is that partner.” In a rebuff to China, he later said, “We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that we can have with a major democracy.”

In some ways, Trump’s apparent embrace of Indian-Americans—and specifically, Hindu-Americans—makes perfect sense. Trump, who tends to love those who love him, is popular with India’s sizeable Hindu nationalist bloc, many of whom are virulently Islamophobic. Like Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode to power on a wave of anti-Muslim, populist fury about government corruption, terrorism and a lackluster economy. Once in office, he launched his “Make in India” campaign to encourage domestic manufacturing more than two years before “Made in America” became Trump’s rallying cry.

Kumar, who travels regularly to India and has close ties to the Modi administration, has taken pains to equate Trump with the Indian leader. So far, Trump doesn’t seem to mind. After Modi’s visit to the White House this summer, Trump remarked, “I’m proud to announce to the media, to the American people, and to the Indian people, that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media.” (Both men are active on Twitter and have more than 35 million followers.)

Republicans have long believed that Indian-Americans, are a natural fit for the GOP, but the party’s outreach ramped up significantly after President Obama’s re-election in 2012. The following year, former chair of the Republican National Committee Reince Preibus made a push to expand Asian-American outreach, incudling to Indian-Americans, saying, “It’s no secret that Republicans have ground to make up among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. To earn voters’ trust, we must be present in their communities.” Back then, this was a reasonable theory: As a group, Indian-Americans have high rates of business ownership and the highest median household income in the country. That, coupled with India’s history with terrorism, makes Indian-Americans potentially receptive to GOP priorities like tax reform, healthcare overhaul and border security.

Adi Sathi was vice chairman of the Michigan Republican party last November, and believes the party’s aggressive Indian-American engagement helped turn the state red for the first time in nearly three decades. Around 60,000 Indian-Americans live in Michigan, and President Trump won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes. “I think it made a tremendous difference,” said Sathi, now National Chief of Staff for the Young Republican National Federation. “One of the new coalitions we founded during Ronna Romney McDaniel’s chairmanship [in Michigan] was the Indian-American Coalition,” Sathi said. The coalition, led by members of the Michigan business community, convened gatherings between Indian-American voters and local and state Republican leaders throughout the campaign.

Sathi, who also serves as an advisor to Ed Gillespie’s gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, points to that state as another example of the GOP’s recruitment and engagement efforts within the Indian-American community and, in particular, Subba Kolla’s campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates’ 87th district, where Kolla is running against Democratic incumbent John Bell. “He has actively been focusing on engagement in his district, which has a very high proportion of Indian-Americans,” said Sathi. “I think [what happening there] is indicative of the Republican Party and the RNC’s engagement with the Indian-American community and the importance that they’re putting toward that community.”

In Dayton, Ohio, Ramesh Mehan was a diehard Democrat before switching allegiances and supporting Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter. He has voted Republican ever since, including last November. Mehan, who was on the steering committee for Mitt Romney’s manufacturing coalition in Ohio in 2012 and actively campaigns for Republican candidates, thinks many Indian-Americans have a distorted view of the GOP. “I was under the impression that Republicans were terrible, racist people. But when I got inside the Republican Party, I saw that wasn’t true,” he said, adding that he believes President Trump is a “nationalist,” not a racist. Mehan considers himself a moderate—he campaigned hard for Mitt Romney in 2012 and supported Marco Rubio in the Republican primary last November—but he is rooting for the president to succeed.

But Republicans may have a tough time finding more Ramesh Mehans, according to Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political scientist at the University of California, Riverside and director of the National Asian American Survey. “Indian-Americans consistently over time tend to be the most progressive leaning among Asian groups,” he said. A survey of Asian-Americans conducted before the election found that only 18 percent of Indians had a favorable view of the Republican Party, compared with 64 percent who viewed the Democratic party favorably.

And while Trump may be beloved by Hindu nationalists, the diaspora in the U.S. is different in a few crucial ways. For starters, they’re highly educated. Seventy-two percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In the November election, education emerged as one of the biggest predictors of voting behavior, with college graduates backing Clinton by a 9-point margin. That’s a much wider gap than in past elections—Barack Obama had just a 2-point margin over Mitt Romney among college graduates in 2012. Still, Democrats have held a consistent advantage among more educated voters for the past three elections. Indian-Americans also tend to be more tolerant of government spending on social services, a vestige of India’s brand of socialism-infused capitalism.

But the biggest barrier to the GOP gaining ground in the Indian-American community, according to Ramakrishnan, is the exclusionary policy and rhetoric coming from the White House. Trump famously said that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists over the border. He has advocated building a wall to keep undocumented immigrants out and has repeatedly tried to ban or restrict travel into the U.S. from predominantly Muslim countries. After white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, North Carolina, the president stated, “I think there is blame on both sides.”

About three quarters of Indian-Americans are foreign-born, making them highly sensitive to racial dog whistles. Since 9/11, there have been several high-profile attacks against Sikh-American men, who wear turbans as a symbol of their faith. Sikhism, which originates in India, is distinct from Islam but its followers are often confused for Muslims, who are among the groups most targeted by hate crime. Most recently, the shooting death in Kansas of 32-year old Indian immigrant Srinivas Kuchibhotla by a man shouting racial slurs hit home for Indian-Americans who have been at the receiving end of racial discrimination. President Trump’s initial silence—he waited six days before publicly condemning the attack in a joint session of Congress—angered many Indian-Americans, and his family members back in India blamed Trump.

On the issue of immigration, nearly two-thirds of Indian-Americans agree with the statement, “Undocumented or illegal immigrants should have an opportunity to eventually become U.S. citizens.” And Asian-Americans, including Indian-Americans, strongly oppose a Muslim ban. Last week, President Trump tightened restrictions on people working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, a move that has antagonized Indian-Americans, who have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of that system.

Any appeal that the GOP might hold for Indian-Americans is liable to disintegrate against a backdrop of race-baiting and ethnocentrism. Until that perception changes, it’s going to be an uphill climb for Republicans to loosen the Democratic stranglehold on Indian-American voters. “Unless Trump is able to significantly or forcefully deal with the nativist strain within the Republican Party” said Ramakrishnan, “it’s going to be really hard to make inroads with Indian-Americans.”

Rikha Sharma Rani is a journalist who writes about public policy and foreign affairs. She formerly served as a director at the Solutions Journalism Network and as editor of The Journal of International Affairs. Follow her on Twitter at @rikrani.

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Obama, opening his foundation’s first summit, calls for fixing civic culture

Former president Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

“The moment we’re in right now, politics is the tail and not the dog,” former president Barack Obama said. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

Though he has stayed active in politics, Obama said he believes he’s up to something bigger.

CHICAGO — Former President Barack Obama kicked off the inaugural summit of the Obama Foundation here Tuesday, calling it “an experiment in us trying to have a collective conversation.”

Set to be the central focus of his post-presidency, and seeded with Obama’s own ambition to have the rest of his life exceed the impact of his eight years in White House, the foundation launched with programs and goals still taking shape. There have been training sessions for young activists, with plans for more; 20 Obama Foundation fellows will be announced next year out of a 19,000-person applicant pool; and this meeting is meant to be the beginning of creating a hub and network of innovative up-and-coming leaders.

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But, Obama said, “our goal here is not to create a political movement.”

Though he has stayed active in politics — and reappeared on the campaign trail in New Jersey and Virginia just two weeks ago — Obama said he believes he’s up to something bigger, and thereby more curative for what he believes has gone wrong in elections.

“The moment we’re in right now, politics is the tail and not the dog,” he said. “What we need to do is think about our civic culture, because what’s wrong with our politics is a reflection of something that’s wrong with the civic culture, not just in the United States but around the world.”

That thought echoed one he made in more forceful, partisan terms in his event in Virginia for Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor, but it was as close as Obama came to talking politics at the summit, which is expected to be an annual event.

The two-day event will include breakout sessions with a variety of activists and others from the Obama world, as well as speeches ranging from Prince Harry of Britain to “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Obama called on his own roots as a community organizer in this city.

“This is where I got started. This isn’t where I was born. I was born in Kenya … that’s a joke,” he said to mild laughter.

Organizers stressed that the key is to continue sorting out what exactly they will be doing in the decades to come.

“This is the literally the beginning,” said foundation CEO David Simas, who was previously the White House political director. “We are being deliberate over the course of the rest of this year and into next year about testing different approaches and getting it right before we take it to scale.”

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