Around 20 Downtown businesses to take part in ‘Sassy & Classy Wine & Art Walk’ as participants stroll to different locations to view art along with other festivities. Details on Page B4
❯ Migrating west
Former St. Louis Cardinals manager accepts Royals’ job
❯ Tip-off time
Hall of Fame Classic welcomes in Division II top teams
❯ Golden hoops
A look ahead of Western men’s basketball season
WASHINGTON — Democrats swept a rules package for their impeachment probe of President Donald Trump through a divided House on Thursday, as the chamber’s first vote on the investigation highlighted the partisan breach the issue has only deepened.
By 232-196, lawmakers approved the procedures they’ll follow as weeks of closed-door interviews with witnesses evolve into public committee hearings and — almost certainly — votes on whether the House should recommend Trump’s removal.
All voting Republicans opposed the package. Every voting Democrat but two supported it.
Underscoring the pressure Trump has heaped on his party’s lawmakers, he tweeted, “Now is the time for Republicans to stand together and defend the leader of their party against these smears.”
Yet the roll call also accentuated how Democrats have rallied behind the impeachment inquiry after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent months urging caution until evidence and public support had grown.
She and other Democratic leaders had feared a premature vote would wound the re-election prospects of dozens of their members, including freshmen and lawmakers from Trump-won districts or seats held previously by Republicans. But recent polls have shown voters’ growing receptivity to the investigation and, to a lesser degree, ousting Trump.
That and evidence that House investigators have amassed have helped unify Democrats, including those from GOP areas. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she was supporting a pathway to giving “the American people the facts they deserve,” while Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., said voters warrant “the uninhibited truth.”
Yet Republicans also were buoyed by polling, which has shown that GOP voters stand unflinchingly behind Trump.
“The impeachment-obsessed Democrats just flushed their majority down the toilet,” said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm.
Elsewhere at the Capitol on Thursday, three House panels led by the Intelligence Committee questioned their latest witness into the allegations that led to the impeachment inquiry: that Trump pressured Ukraine to produce dirt on his Democratic political rivals by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting craved by the country’s new president.
Tim Morrison, who stepped down from the National Security Council the day before his appearance, testified — still behind closed doors — that he saw nothing illegal in Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president that is at the center of the Democrat-led investigation.
Yet, Morrison also largely confirmed much of what William Taylor, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Ukraine, said in earlier, highly critical testimony about the call, which Taylor said he and Morrison discussed several times.
The Democrats still are waiting to hear if Morrison’s one-time boss, John Bolton, will testify. They have subpoenaed former national security adviser Bolton, who quit the administration after disagreements with Trump over his handling of Ukraine.
In the House inquiry vote, the only Democratic “no” votes were by Reps. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey freshman, and veteran Collin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats. Both are battling for re-election in Republican-leaning districts.
Also supporting the rules was independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the GOP this year after announcing he was open to considering Trump’s impeachment.
Thursday’s House debate was laced with high-minded appeals to defend the Constitution and Congress’ independence, as well as partisan taunts.
“What are we fighting for? Defending our democracy,” said Pelosi. She addressed lawmakers with a poster of the American flag beside her and opened her comments by reading from the preamble to the Constitution.
She also said the rules would let lawmakers decide whether to impeach Trump “based on the truth. I don’t know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth.”
But her counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California cast the process as a skewed attempt to railroad a president whom Democrats have detested since before he took office.
“Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they are scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box,” he said.
No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise, R-La., accused Democrats of imposing “Soviet-style rules.” His backdrop was a bright red poster depicting the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem and the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.
The House is at least weeks away from deciding whether to vote on actually impeaching Trump. If it does, the Senate would hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. That GOP-run chamber seems highly likely to keep him in the White House.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., likened Democrats to a “cult,” accusing them of bouncing from “one outlandish conspiracy theory to another.” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., pointedly said she looked forward to Republicans “prioritizing country over party, just as we took an oath to do.”
Democrats said the procedures are similar to rules used during the impeachment proceedings of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Pelosi decided to have the vote following a GOP drumbeat that the inquiry was tainted because lawmakers hadn’t voted to formally commence the work. The rules direct House committees “to continue their ongoing investigations” of Trump.
Democrats hope Thursday’s vote will undercut GOP assertions that the process has been invalid. They’ve noted that there is no constitutional provision or House rule requiring such a vote.
The rules require the House Intelligence Committee — now leading the investigation — to issue a report and release transcripts of its closed-door interviews, which members of both parties have attended.
The Judiciary Committee would then decide whether to recommend that the House impeach Trump.
Republicans could only issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear if the committees holding the hearings approve them — in effect giving Democrats veto power.
Attorneys for Trump could participate in the Judiciary Committee proceedings. Democrats would retain leverage by empowering panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to deny requests by Trump representatives to call witnesses if the White House continues to “unlawfully refuse” to provide testimony or documents Congress demands.
A Southwest Missouri city, suffering an outbreak of October drug overdoses, including four deaths, held a summit this week to evaluate how to combat the escalating crisis.
“Some folks in our community say when (overdose) happens, they deserve that,” Clay Goddard of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department told the Springfield News-Leader. “I want to push back on that. ... I’m not going to turn my back on people who are struggling with addiction.”
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley wants officials around the state to have more resources to keep pushing back.
Hawley sent a letter on Wednesday to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration seeking federal help for Missouri in the fight.
“I want them to really zero in and focus on our state, because it’s becoming an epidemic,” the senator told News-Press NOW in an interview this week.
Specifically, Hawley has asked the DEA to assign people with experience in heroin-fentanyl enforcement to look into the series of overdoses. Such aid, he said, could trace drugs to their point of origin.
“They can surge resources into local communities, to help communities figure out where the drugs are coming from, to help figure out if there is cartel involvement, drug trafficking involvement and then what law enforcement options are available to turn off the flow,” the Republican lawmaker said.
From the White House drug control office, funding could come from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. However, Hawley pointed out in his letter that the Midwest designation of this program covers a broad area, 72 counties in seven states, from North Dakota to Missouri.
“The structure and size of the Midwest HIDTA hinders the effective coordination and distribution of resources to fight drug trafficking in Missouri and throughout the region,” he wrote.
While the immediate concern arose from the Springfield incidents, which included 40 overdoses in a short stretch, the senator said all parts of his state suffer from the drug influx.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 16 counties in Northwest Missouri had 98 opioid overdose deaths from 2013 through 2017. Buchanan had the most during that period, with 30.
“The truth is, it happens in all our communities across the state,” Hawley said.
Hawley’s fellow Missouri senator, Roy Blunt, chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health spending by the federal government. Earlier in the fall, the panel’s funding bill included $3.9 billion for fighting the opioid crisis, an increase of $70 from the previous appropriation.
“This bill continues the fight against the opioid epidemic and provides states more flexibility to tackle other types of addiction that are claiming lives every day,” Blunt, also a Republican, said at the time.
The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department deputies completed their annual rounds of sex offender compliance checks throughout Halloween night.
Approximately 300 sex offenders live within Buchanan County. Deputies go to each home to make sure they have a sign that says no candy, they’re home, lights are off and no Halloween decorations are up.
Any type of Halloween activity violates the restrictions and could cause them to be arrested. Anyone in the offenders home also can’t be dressed up in costume.
Sheriff Bill Puett says most of the time they just check to make sure they’re home and move on because most of them comply.
“We’re not looking for arrests, we are just looking for people to comply and follow the law,” Puett said.
The only reason for an offender not being home is due to work, but they must have it approved through the sex offender unit at the department.
There were 45 to 50 different Sheriff’s Department deputies, transporters and administrators working on the checks.
Multiple offenders within the county had warrants that deputies had to make arrests on whether or not they were complying.
“If they don’t comply, it’s a violation of Missouri law and we will take the appropriate enforcement action,” Puett said.
Puett said most of the time people out know to stay away from those houses because of the signs and dark home.
Deputies making these checks throughout the night is another way to provide a secure and safe environment for trick-or-treaters.
“It makes the people feel good that we’re making sure people are compliant and following the law,” Puett said.
Puett said deputies stop more than once at some houses to check that they didn’t turn their lights on, take their signs out and start handing out candy because officers already stopped there once.
During Monday’s Board of Education meeting, problems with the Apple Bus Co., which operates the vast majority of the St. Joseph School District’s transportation efforts, were addressed by members of the board.
Having taken on early learning and special-education transportation this school year, Apple has run into various issues: Not getting students to school on time, picking up students too late or running into problems transporting athletes.
The problems prompted SJSD Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl and Gabe Edgar, the assistant superintendent of business and operations, to meet with Apple Bus’ owner and CEO last week.
“I think a lot of it has to do with driver shortage,” Edgar said. “They are short some employees, and whenever you’re short employees, sometimes you can’t offer the service that you promised. It’s an issue across the country. … But you know what? At the end of the day, we can’t make excuses, and it’s our job to transport students to school. It’s our job to hold them to an expectation. And right now, they aren’t living up to that expectation.”
A letter was sent to the district by Apple Bus president and owner Mike Oyster, outlining an action plan going forward. The company would move forward with efforts to hire more drivers and monitors in St. Joseph, a branch that is seven full-time drivers and seven full-time monitors short of being fully staffed. They also are currently hiring for a general manager at the St. Joseph location.
Furthermore, various executives plan to dedicate themselves to the St. Joseph team in order to help them regain firm footing. Staff from outside of St. Joseph will fill current vacancies until the location is fully staffed.
Edgar said he appreciates the overall mentality and direction of Apple Bus. He also stated that the district has had a good relationship with the company in the past.
“I’m confident that they’re going to work extremely hard to get all this fixed, but at the end of the day, like I mentioned, it’s our job to transport those kids. And if Apple can’t meet the expectations, then we’ll probably have to go out to bid eventually, and there are other companies out there that do that,” Edgar said.
News-Press reached out to Apple Bus inquiring what ideas the company plans to utilize to keep the St. Joseph location fully staffed, and received the following email:
“A shortage of qualified school bus drivers has become an increasing and epidemic problem among our nation's school districts, one that has affected many local districts in the recent years. As we all address the driver shortages, Apple Bus has branched out its efforts to include working with local veterans employment services, employment agencies, online targeted marketing campaigns, social media, recruiting teams, job fairs, participating in community events, and sponsoring hiring events as well as working with local colleges.”
The email went on to highlight the next open hiring event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Apple Bus Co., 4713 St. Joseph Ave. where they will accept applications and perform on-the-spot interviews for potential drivers with and without CDL licenses. Bonuses may be offered to qualified candidates, and incentives will be offered for drivers who have served in the school-bus industry before or currently.