Judge Skewers PG&E Over Wildfires: ‘Global Warming Is Not Starting These Fires’

A federal judge skewered Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest utility, for their role in starting deadly wildfires across California in the past two years.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup opened a Wednesday court hearing by comparing PG&E to a drug dealer who violates his probation by allowing its equipment to ignite massive fires. PG&E filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, facing more than $30 billion in wildfire-related liabilities.

“Those fires killed 22 people, burned alive in their cars and homes,” Alsup said in court Wednesday, the Chico Enterprise-Record reported that evening.

“There is one clear pattern here: PG&E is starting these fires. Global warming is not starting these fires,” Alsup said.

California officials blamed PG&E for 17 northern California wildfires in 2017 and investigators are looking into whether or not the utility’s equipment sparked last year’s Camp Fire. That fire killed 86 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

In the wake of the fires, PG&E lobbied California lawmakers to change wildfire liability laws , arguing global warming increased wildfire risks beyond what utilities could handle. State law holds utilities liable for wildfire damages even if there was no negligence.

Alsup ruled PG&E violated its probation regarding the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. The judge found the company didn’t adequately notify its probation monitor of the investigation into its role in the 2017 fires.

However, state officials did clear PG&E of liability in the Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people in Sonoma County. Officials determined private electrical equipment sparked the fire.

“You’ve got to be on your absolute best behavior — no more crimes,” Alsup warned.

Alsup could require PG&E to shut off power to electric lines during high-wind events, and could order the utility to embark on the costly effort of trimming trees and removing debris from around its power lines.

“In two years, 3 percent of California burned up,” Alsup said. “Think about that. Three percent of the whole state burned up. We cannot continue to sustain these kinds of catastrophic injuries to the state, death and destruction.”

“PG&E is not the only source of these fires, but it is a source and to most of us it’s unthinkable that a public utility is causing that type of damage,” Alsup said.

California Sanctuary Law Allowed Twice-Deported Illegal Immigrant To Embark On Murderous ‘Reign Of Terror’

A twice-deported illegal immigrant felon killed a man and injured numerous others Sunday, and authorities are blaming the criminal’s violent actions on California’s sanctuary state law for allowing the violence to occur.

Gustavo Garcia, 36, shot a farm worker in Tulare County in California Sunday before stealing $2,000 from an AA Gas and Grub mini mart in Exeter, The Washington Post reported Thursday. Garcia went on to shoot a woman in the parking lot of a Motel 6 in Tulare, spray bullets into a Shell gas station, shoot and kill a man at a second gas station in Visalia, and finally attack his ex-girlfriend’s house, the Post reported.

The farm worker and motel occupant are expected to survive, according to the Post.

Authorities describe Garcia’s 24-hour violent rampage as a “reign of terror,” according to the Post.

Garcia stole a truck and drove at speeds exceeding 100 mph in an attempt to evade police following his shooting spree, according to Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. Garcia collided with multiple vehicles before flying through the car’s windshield.

Four people were taken to the hospital with injuries, and one remains in critical condition, according to the Post.

Garcia was arrested on Dec. 13 for erratic behavior. He tested positive for drugs and spent 10 hours in custody before he was released.

“[I]f we could have reached out to our law enforcement counterparts, these acts of violence could have been prevented,” Boudreaux said, according to the Post.

“That tool has been removed from our hands,” he added. “And because of that, our county was shot up by a violent criminal.”

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office was forced to release Garcia because it is prohibited from enforcing detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under California’s sanctuary state law. The law, Senate Bill 54, passed in September 2017.

Law enforcement may only act on detainer requests if ICE presents an arrest warrant signed by a federal judge.

Garcia was deported in 2004 and again in 2014, ICE said in a Wednesday statement. Following his second entry into the U.S., Garcia spent 27 months in prison for illegal reentry.

He had also previously been convicted of armed robbery, according to authorities, the Post reported.

Garcia’s violent spree is “an unfortunate and extremely tragic example of how public safety is impacted with laws or policies limiting local law enforcement agencies ability to cooperate with ICE,” ICE officials said a statement, according to the Post.

Authorities are investigating a second homicide that Garcia may be responsible for.

Hasher Jallal Taheb Arrested For Alleged Plan To Blow Up The White House

A man was arrested after federal agents discovered his alleged plan to blow up the White House Wednesday night in Cumming, Georgia.

The suspect, Hasher Jallal Taheb, was charged with intent to destroy by fire or explosives a building owned by the U.S., according to CBS 46. Federal agents had reportedly received an anonymous tip in March 2018 and had been monitoring his movements since. One of the agents also saw a hand-drawn diagram of the ground floor of the West Wing of the White House in a Dec. 7 operation.

According to the local news station, the tipster told authorities that Taheb was “radicalized, changed his name, and made plans to travel abroad.”

(This article will be updated as more information becomes available.)

House Dems Cave To Progressive Faction By Scrapping Rule To Cut Down On Tax Hikes

House Democrats caved to their progressive wing Tuesday and decided to scrap a rule that would have required a three-fifths supermajority vote to pass any new tax hikes.

Democratic New York Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the move.

“When I first won, folks said we were too naive, inexperienced, and uninformed to be effective,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “Yet in our first weeks, we elevated Green New Deal to national urgency, secured 30 cosponsors on a Select Committee, and helped stop a bad tax rule. I’d say we’re off to a good start.”

Progressives wanted to do away with the rule completely to use tax hikes to fund programs like Medicare-for-all or tuition-free public colleges, which were two items on Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, reported The Washington Post. Other Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wanted a compromise: cut back the rule so that it does not apply to corporations and America’s most wealthy 20 percent of citizens, essentially making easier to raise taxes on them.

“It’s barely gotten any attention, but Nancy Pelosi just made it easier for House Dems to raise taxes on everyone,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Not on the wealthy. Everyone. They’ve never been for the middle class – just more government.”

The rule originated with Republicans and will end when their House majority ends and Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern becomes chair of the House Rules Committee, according to WaPo.

Pelosi spokesperson Henry Connelly pointed out to WaPo that House Republicans waived the rule in 2017 when passing tax legislation.

“Unlike the House GOP, at the end of the day, the Democratic majority doesn’t need an arcane rule to keep our promise to protect middle class taxpayers,” Connelly told WaPo in an email.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus celebrated the rule change.

“We are pleased to announce that the Rules Package for the 116th Congress will not include the 3/5 supermajority tax provision promoted by House Republicans in recent years,” said a Caucus Twitter post from Tuesday.

Pelosi is all but guaranteed to be Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress.

Pelosi said she was “pretty comfortable” with her chances of being Speaker if the Democrats took control of the House before the midterm elections in 2018.

“I am a great legislator,” Pelosi said at CNN’s Citizen conference Oct. 22. “And one reason I am is because I recognize the contributions of others, our committee chairs and all the rest. … I am also politically astute. I took them to a victory in 2006, I know how to do this.”

The House Democrats are expected to launch multiple investigations into President Donald Trump, his family businesses and other entities once the new Congress is sworn in.

13-Year-Old Jayme Closs Found Alive 87 Days After Being Abducted From Her Wisconsin Home

A 13-year-old girl who was missing for 87 days was found alive in Gordon, Wisconsin, after escaping from her alleged abductor, authorities announced at a press conference Friday.

Jayme Closs was allegedly kidnapped and held in a home in a “remote” area by 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, according to CNN. Patterson may also be responsible for the murders of Closs’s parents, James and Denise Closs. They were found shot to death in their home on Oct. 15, the night their daughter disappeared, reported NBC News.

“Jayme was taken against her will and escaped from the residence at which she was being held in. We also don’t believe at this time the suspect had any contact with the family. We do believe that Jayme was the only target,” Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said according to CNN.

Patterson has been arrested and charged with murder and kidnapping.

“For 88 days I have said we would work tirelessly to bring Jayme Closs home. We have done just that,” he continued. “Jayme is safe.”

Jayme Closs escaped from the home where she was being held and approached a woman walking her dog for help Thursday night, according to CNN. Jayme Closs turned up in Gordon, which is roughly 70 miles north of the girl’s home.

The woman walking her dog got in touch with the authorities about Jayme Closs and made her comfortable with the help of a neighbor, Kristin Kasinskas.

“[Jayme Closs] said to us that this person killed my parents and took me. She did say that,” Kasinskas told CNN. “She said that this person usually hides her or hides her when others are near or when he has to leave the household. She did not go into detail about how she got out of the house or anything like that.”

There are more unanswered questions. Authorities do not know why Patterson allegedly targeted the Closs family and do not believe he had a prior connection with Jayme Closs or her parents, reported CNN. There’s also the question of the 911 call on the night that James and Denise Closs were murdered in their home in Barron, Wisconsin.

Police do not know or have not revealed who made the early morning 911 call from Denise Closs’s cellphone on Oct. 15. The “unusual” call had no communication from the caller, just yelling and a cry for help in the background, police said according to NBC News.

Police arrived four minutes after the call was placed to find the home’s front door kicked in. No weapons were found at the scene of James and Denise Closs’s murder, reported NBC News.

Jayme Closs’s case has a more fortunate ending than another incident that ended in a young woman’s alleged murder in Iowa on July 18. Mollie Tibbetts, 20, was allegedly killed by Cristhian Bahena Rivera while she was jogging near the small town of Brooklyn, Iowa.

Bahena Rivera is believed to be a Mexican national residing in the U.S. illegally and has pleaded not guilty to Tibbetts’s murder. Tibbetts’s family has asked the media and national figures not to politicize her death.

Michael Cohen May Back Out Of Congressional Hearing Over Trump Comments

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen might back out of a congressional hearing scheduled for February, the former Trump lawyer’s adviser said Thursday.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Lanny Davis said Cohen is reconsidering whether to testify before Congress because of comments from President Donald Trump about Cohen’s father-in-law.

“There is genuine fear and it causes Michael Cohen to consider whether he should go forward or not. And he’s not yet made a final decision,” Davis told MSNBC’s Ari Melber.

Trump took aim at Cohen’s father-in-law during an interview Saturday with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro.

“[Cohen] should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at,” Trump said.

“Because where does that money — that’s the money in the family. And I guess he didn’t want to talk about his father-in-law — he’s trying to get his sentence reduced.”

“So it’s pretty sad,” Trump continued. “It’s weak and it’s very sad to watch a thing like that.”

Trump’s remarks garnered an immediate rebuke from Democrats who accused the Republican of witness intimidation and tampering.

Cohen agreed earlier in January to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7 about his years of work for Trump. Cohen was sentenced Dec. 12 to three years in prison for a slew of crimes, including tax evasion and bank fraud. He also pleaded guilty to illegal campaign contributions for payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen said Trump directed him to pay Daniels $130,000 in October 2016.

Cohen also pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s investigation to lying to Congress about the extent of his negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The former Trump fixer is expected to discuss his dealings with Trump in his congressional testimony, should it go forward.

But Davis, a close friend of the Clintons, said Trump’s remarks had a negative impact on Cohen.

“He is very concerned, as is his family, that a bully in the bully pulpit named Donald Trump calls out a member of his family, and he’s also called out other members of his family, using the White House platform on a national television show.”

Davis also said he agreed with Democrats that Trump’s remarks constituted witness intimidation and tampering.

“There’s no question that his threatening and calling out his father-in-law who, quote, has all of the money, is not only improper and unseemly for a bully using the bully pulpit of the presidency, but the very definition of intimidation and witness tampering,” Davis said.

“Especially a witness about to appear before a congressional committee to tell the truth about what he knows about Donald Trump? By definition that deserves a criminal investigation.”

Davis told Melber on Jan. 11 he hopes Cohen’s congressional appearance will help him get a reduced prison sentence.

Vermont House Passes Bill Legalizing Elective Abortions Until Birth

The Vermont House passed a bill Thursday that gives women the right to have elective abortions up until birth and strips away all rights of unborn babies.

The House approved H-0057  by a 106-36 vote. The bill gives women the right to abort a baby at any time and for any reason up until birth. “Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, give birth to a child, or to have an abortion,” the bill reads.

Interference by the state, law enforcement or a public entity with an attempt to procure or induce an abortion is illegal under the proposal. Women have a “fundamental right the freedom of reproductive choice and to prohibit public entities from interfering with or restricting the right of an individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy,” according to the bill’s text.

An unborn baby also has no rights, according to the bill, which reads, “A fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law.” Planned Parenthood was investigated in 2017 for the alleged illegal sale of baby body parts, a practice which would become legal under the Vermont proposal.

“I trust women. Therefore I cast my vote in favor of codifying protections Vermonters already have in safeguarding this fundamental reproductive right,” Democratic Rep. Becca White said applauding the bill, according to The Washington Times.

“To this day, I can’t think of a single scenario where I thought a late-term abortion would help to improve a woman’s mental health,” Doctor and Kansas Rep. Roger W. Marshall wrote in a February op-ed. “Contrary to the pro-abortion movement, regardless of the mother’s underlying medical health, I never saw the scenario where we had to choose between a mom’s life and a baby,” Marshall wrote.

Marshall is an obstetrician who has delivered more than 5,000 babies in Western Kansas over 25 years. He also served as an OB-GYN at a state mental health hospital and prison.

If the law passes, late-term abortion doctors can be expected to set up clinics in the state to which women would travel to seek elective abortions until birth.

“It is official. The Vermont Democrat Party now holds the dubious distinction of being the party of unlimited, unrestricted and unregulated abortion-on-demand throughout pregnancy,” Vermont Right to Life executive director Mary Hahn Beerworth said in a statement.

The legislation will now move to the Democrat-controlled Senate for a vote.

Rhode Island, Virginia, Maine, New Mexico and Maryland are considering proposals to expand abortion access. New York passed the Reproductive Health Act in January, codifying a woman’s ability to abort under state law and allowing women to have abortions after 24 weeks to preserve the mother’s health.

Seventy-five percent of Americans support significant abortion restrictions and say abortion should not be legal after a woman is three months pregnant, according to a January Marist poll.

Parents File Suit Against School District That Wants To Allow Teachers To Carry Guns

Parents and a grandparent filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district on Thursday over a policy allowing teachers to carry guns in school.

Tamaqua Area School District in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, approved the policy in September 2018, according The Associated Press reported Friday. The policy allows teachers, staff and administration to carry district-issued guns after going through the appropriate training.

The lawsuit claims approving the policy “endangered their community” and broke state law.

“It’s uncharted territory, but there is no law that says we can’t have legally trained armed staff,” school board member Nicholas Boyle said, WHYY reported.

State law allows campuses to have trained school resource officers or school police, The AP reported.

Executive director for gun control group CeaseFirePA, Shira Goodman, said she found the district’s interpretation of the law questionable, WHYY reported.

“I would say it’s not at all clear that they can be doing this,” Goodman said, according to WHYY.

Boyle said that the initiative would make the rural school district less vulnerable against an attacker, according to WHYY.

“The rationale for the policy is to prevent the apocalypse,” Boyle said, The AP reported. “When we have a shooter in the building, how are we going to stop that shooter from killing more and more and more people? We have to have an armed presence there.”

The school district, which is nearly 90 miles away from Philadelphia, is believed to be the first in the state to pass a policy where teachers could be armed in school, The AP reported. Boyle said the district has not received push back from the state.

Teachers in Missouri, Texas and Ohio are allowed to be armed in school, according to The AP. Other states are considering the option.

The debate around guns in school was amplified after President Donald Trump called on arming teachers following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

The Parkland, Florida, shooting left 17 students and staff members dead. A state commission’s report on the deadly shooting recently recommended arming teachers.

Tamaqua Area School District did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Another Major Winter Storm Is Expected Just Days After Gia

Meteorologists expect two more storms to hit the Midwest and Northeast starting Wednesday, just days after Winter Storm Gia dumped more than a foot of snow over much of the same area.

Winter Storm Gia swept through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. Jan. 11-13, causing around 500 vehicle accidents in Missouri alone. The storm was a factor in at least 13 deaths and knocked out power to tens of thousands. Several state and local governments, including South Carolina and Virginia, declared states of emergency, The Weather Channel reports.

The next storm, expected Wednesday night through Friday, will likely carry light to moderate snowfall from the upper-Midwest through the Northeast. An icy mix of snow and sleet is expected to drop along areas under the storm’s southern stretch.

“Fast movement of the storm from Thursday to Friday should limit the accumulations to a few inches in the snowfall area,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

Meteorologists expect a second, larger winter storm to track a similar path from Friday to Sunday night potentially dumping more than a foot of snow along a stretch starting in Illinois, heading through New York and up to Maine.

“Cold air in the wake of the storm on Thursday and Friday, combined with extensive snowcover, may cause the storm that follows to track farther south than our indicators suggest,” AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

“It’s possible the storm this weekend may not cut toward the Great Lakes as suggested by computer models but may instead take more of a west-to-east track, similar to last weekend’s storm, but a bit farther north,” Pastelok added.

Republican Lawmaker Trolled After Introducing A Carbon Tax Bill

Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney received a yellow vest on Tuesday, which is meant to be a mockery of his support for taxing carbon emissions.

The American Energy Alliance, a free-market energy organization, sent Rooney a yellow vest after the Florida lawmaker signed onto carbon tax legislation. The bill, which was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier in January, calls for a $15-per-ton carbon fee on fossil fuel producers, importers and processors, with the fee increasing by $10 every year.

Rooney still stands as the only Republican co-sponsor of the bill.

The yellow vest is a reference to the ongoing chaos that has rocked France since mid-November. After the French government proposed a carbon tax plan, part of President Emmanuel Macron’s climate change agenda, thousands of yellow vest-wearing protesters have taken to the streets of Paris and rioted, with some clashes becoming deadly. The protesters, already burdened with expensive gasoline prices, argue the country’s leaders are out of touch with the average citizen.

Despite scrapping the fuel tax proposal, the riots have continued to engulf the French capital.

“In solidarity with our French brethren who have protested expensive climate policies, we at the American Energy Alliance have enclosed in this package a yellow vest to object to your sponsorship of a destructive carbon tax, the inaptly named ‘Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act,’ that will raise energy costs on American families and put the U.S. in a weaker financial state,” AEA wrote to Rooney.

Rooney touts extensive work on climate change issues in Congress, despite representing a heavily Republican district in south Florida. The lawmaker previously cosponsored the same bill last session and he was recently named co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bi-partisan group of House lawmakers focused on environmental legislation.

“A carbon tax like the one you introduced would not only inflict harm on consumers and the broader U.S. economy, it would foist additional burdens on state and local governments, all while failing to make any meaningful dent in the total emissions profile worldwide,” AEA continued its letter to Rooney.