You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Governor urges Planned Parenthood to comply with state ahead of hearing
 
 05.29.19

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis facility had been “actively and knowingly violating state law,” and he advised against Missouri courts granting the facility a temporary restraining order against the state.

The governor held a news conference Wednesday afternoon, following an announcement Tuesday that Planned Parenthood would sue the state after the Department of Health & Senior Services said it would refuse to renew the St. Louis facility’s license, which expires Friday.

The facility is the last abortion clinic in Missouri. If its license is not renewed, the state will become the first with no active abortion clinics since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

In prepared remarks, the governor ran through a timeline of the investigation, which was opened April 3 after a patient complaint. Prior to the start of the investigation, DHSS had issued a statement March 27 that was “revolving around Planned Parenthood’s violating the law and providing safe care for women,” at the facility, according to Parson. This came after the department’s annual inspections there earlier in March.

On April 11, DHSS requested interviews with seven physicians working at the facility. The facility only agreed to allow two of them, who are both staff doctors who work for Planned Parenthood, to be interviewed. The other five are not on staff and cannot be compelled to agree to the interviews, according to the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood.

When asked about the content of those interviews, Parson said they related to the patient complaint from April and the deficiencies identified in the following investigation.

Parson said that according to significant medical evidence and records from Planned Parenthood, the facility had three failed surgical abortions, including one case in which a patient needed to be taken to a hospital for emergency surgery.

“Planned Parenthood’s apparent disregard for the law, their failure to complete complication records and the accuracy of medical records are all serious concerns that need to be addressed prior to any license renewal,” Parson said. “They still have two more days to comply.”

Parson said that in the upcoming court hearing, it would be “reckless” for a judge to grant Planned Parenthood the restraining order against the state.

This lawsuit comes only a week after Parson signed HB 126, which banned abortions in the state of Missouri at the eight-week mark with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. It’s one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country and takes effect Aug. 28.

DHSS officials did not present remarks or take questions during the news conference.

The hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at St. Louis Circuit Court, was postponed.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


City manager: Better communication with
 
 05.29.19

Columbia is embracing an era of authenticity, openness and honest communication and facing issues head-on, Interim City Manager John Glascock said Wednesday morning at his first State of the City address.

“My background is in solving problems one-on-one and being prepared for the next role,” Glascock told the nearly full Council Chambers in the Daniel Boone Building. “I can tell you getting up and doing the State of the City is foreign to me.”

The Columbia City Council appointed Glascock interim city manager in November after Mike Matthes resigned amid criticism from the City Council about employee wage concerns and his views about community policing.

Although the majority of residents say they are satisfied living in Columbia, their two main concerns were public safety services and street conditions, Glascock said, referring to a Columbia citizens survey conducted in late 2018.

He said that first and foremost, employees are the core of the city. Columbia workers’ wages are below compensation rates based on market data, Glascock said. Turnover has increased, and employees are often overworked and underpaid and sometimes work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“When we lose skills and knowledge of our employees, it’s not just an internal issue — it’s felt in the community as well,” Glascock said.

Electric utility and solid waste collection workers complained their wages were not competitive and they were being unfairly compensated, according to previous Missourian reporting. In April, the council unanimously voted to increase electric lineworker pay, and, earlier, refuse collectors received a $2 pay increase.

While the city will work toward improvements for competitive wage jobs, Columbia’s employment rate is below 3 percent, Glascock said.

Businesses such as Aurora Organic Dairy and American Outdoor Brands have added jobs with competitive pay to Columbia that help grow the community, he said.

For the past five years, public safety has been a top priority of citizens, and this year was not any different.

Glascock said he shares a vision for transparency and community policing with Interim Police Chief Geoff Jones, who was selected for the position in January after Ken Burton resigned as police chief. Jones has focused on strengthening the community’s relationship and communication with the Columbia Police Department.

“I chose Interim Police Chief Geoff Jones to fill the leadership position because I know he understands the importance of open, honest and transparent communication, both with his officers and the community,” Glascock said.

He said transparency also means working with community stakeholders to make improvements. He cited data from the 2018 vehicle stop report that showed a slight decrease in the racial disparity rate — pulling over black drivers more often than white drivers — but still an overall high racial disparity rate.

Recently, Jones created a committee to address the data with community members, focusing on what is behind the data rather than just the numbers.

Mayor Brian Treece said after Glascock’s address that Jones has achieved key objectives in his four months in his new position, including increasing officer morale and strengthening communication with the community.

Glascock also highlighted the Columbia Fire Department, which will have two new stations, one in southwestern Columbia and one in the eastern part of the city. The department has achieved international accreditation, which is an “elite status,” he said.

Street conditions were the No. 2 concern on the Columbia citizens survey, and Glascock estimated the replacement cost of Columbia’s 1,300 land miles of streets at $575 million. Although current funding is better than the past, the city is still $2 million below delivering quality street service, he said.

Glascock emphasized the importance not only of maintaining city streets but also the roads outside Columbia that keep the city connected.

“Together we can support I-70 Missouri River Bridge project,” he said. “I-70 is our lifeline to Columbia. It’s how we receive goods and services.”

Columbia is the fourth largest city in Missouri and the fastest growing, which Glascock called encouraging, but the needs of the city are outpacing the revenue it receives. Glascock encouraged residents to attend the City Council budget work session June 10, when many of the city’s budgeting concerns will be addressed.

The city is working on the next strategic plan, he said, which will focus heavily on community input.

“Our strategic plan should be a dynamic philosophy that is baked into the city staff’s DNA, not just a document we point to,” Glascock said. “Together we can create a vision that will guide our staff and community members to a prosperous and inclusive future.”

Treece called Glascock’s address humble and authentic and said his prioritization of city worker wages, teamwork and transparency is what taxpayers expect.

“The city of Columbia is strong and getting stronger,” Treece said. “Interim Chief Geoff Jones as well as the interim city manager provide a steady hand and, if anything, the last two years of election show that people want steady leadership.”

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


A passion for paragliding
 
 05.29.19

Conner Ruhl loads his glider and wing after landing April 1 at the big bur oak tree in McBaine. Ruhl is one of a handful of paragliders in Columbia; he recently put out a call on Reddit to connect to other paragliders in the area. Currently, safety training for paragliders is recommended rather than required, and powered gliders — gliders that run on a motor — like Ruhl’s are considered ultralights under the Federal Aviation Regulations and do not require a piloting license. “I’m excited to see more people come in, but I’m worried about the long-term effect,” Ruhl said. “As more people come in who don’t respect the boundaries, we could see more regulation.”

Complete coverage on Pages 4A & 5A


tristenrouse / 

Tristen Rouse

 

Conner Ruhl loads his glider and wing after landing April 1 at the big bur oak tree in McBaine. Ruhl is one of a handful of paragliders in Columbia; he recently put out a call on Reddit to connect to other paragliders in the area. Currently, safety training for paragliders is recommended rather than required, and powered gliders — meaning gliders that run on a motor — like Ruhl’s are considered ultralights under the Federal Aviation Regulations and do not require a piloting license. “I’m excited to see more people come in, but I’m worried about the long-term effect,” Ruhl said. “As more people come in who don’t respect the boundaries, we could see more regulation.”


Mueller declares his Russia report did not exonerate Trump
 
 05.29.19

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday that charging President Donald Trump with a crime was “not an option” because of federal rules, but he used his first public remarks on the Russia investigation to emphasize that he did not exonerate the president.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller declared.

The special counsel’s remarks stood as a pointed rebuttal to Trump’s repeated claims that he was cleared and that the two-year inquiry was merely a “witch hunt.” They also marked a counter to criticism, including by Attorney General William Barr, that Mueller should have reached a determination on whether the president illegally tried to obstruct the probe by taking actions such as firing his FBI director.

Mueller made clear that his team never considered indicting Trump because the Justice Department prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president.

“Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider,” Mueller said. He said he believed such an action would be unconstitutional.

Mueller did not use the word “impeachment,” but said it was the job of Congress — not the criminal justice system — to hold the president accountable for any wrongdoing.

The special counsel’s statement largely echoed the central points of his 448-page report, which was released last month with some redactions. But his remarks, just under 10 minutes long and delivered from a Justice Department podium, were extraordinary given that he had never before discussed or characterized his findings and had stayed mute during two years of feverish public speculation.

Mueller, a former FBI director, said Wednesday that his work was complete and he was resigning to return to private life.

His remarks underscored the unsettled resolution, and revelations of behind-the-scenes discontent, that accompanied the end of his investigation. His refusal to reach a conclusion on criminal obstruction opened the door for Barr to clear the president, who in turn has cited the attorney general’s finding as proof of his innocence.

Trump, given notice Tuesday evening that Mueller would speak the next morning, watched on television. For weeks, he had been nervous about the possibility about the special counsel testifying before Congress, worried about the visual power of such a public appearance.

Shortly after Mueller concluded, the president who has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the report cleared him of obstruction of justice, tweeted a subdued yet still somewhat inaccurate reaction: “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you”

While claiming victory, the tone of the president’s tweet was a far cry from the refrain of “total exoneration” that has dominated his declarations.

Mueller has privately vented to Barr about the attorney general’s handling of the report, while Barr has publicly said he was taken aback by the special counsel’s decision to neither exonerate nor incriminate the president.

Under pressure to testify before Congress, Mueller did not rule it out. But he seemed to warn lawmakers that they would not be pulling more detail out of him. His report is his testimony, he said.

“So beyond what I have said here today and what is contained in our written work,” Mueller said, “I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress.”

Mueller’s comments, one month after the public release of his report on Russian efforts to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton, appeared intended to both justify the legitimacy of his investigation against complaints by the president and to explain his decision to not reach a conclusion on whether Trump had obstructed justice in the probe.

He described wide-ranging and criminal Russian efforts to interfere in the election, including by hacking and spreading disinformation — interference that Trump has said Putin rejected to his face in an “extremely strong and powerful” denial.

And Mueller called the question of later obstruction by Trump and his campaign a matter of “paramount importance.”

Mueller said the absence of a conclusion on obstruction should not be mistaken for exoneration.

A Justice Department legal opinion “says the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” Mueller said. That would shift the next move, if any, to Congress, and the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would investigate further or begin any impeachment effort, commented quickly.

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler said it falls to Congress to respond to the “crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump — and we will do so.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far discouraged members of her caucus from demanding impeachment, believing it would only help Trump win re-election and arguing that Democrats need to follow a methodical, step by step approach to investigating the president. But she hasn’t ruled it out.

On the Republican side, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Mueller “has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead.”

Trump has blocked House committees’ subpoenas and other efforts to dig into the Trump-Russia issue, insisting Mueller’s report has settled everything.

The report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to tip the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. But it also did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had obstructed justice.

Barr has said he was surprised Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction, though Mueller in his report and again in his statement Wednesday said he had no choice. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided on their own that the evidence was not sufficient to support a criminal charge.

Barr, who is currently in Alaska for work and was briefed ahead of time on Mueller’s statement, has said he asked Mueller during a March conversation if he would have recommended charging Trump “but for” the Office of Legal Counsel opinion, and that Mueller said “no.”

“Under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” Mueller said. “That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view that, too, is prohibited.”

Mueller, for his part, earlier complained privately to Barr that he believed a four-page letter from the attorney general summarizing the report’s main conclusions did not adequately represent his findings. Barr has said he considered Mueller’s criticism to be a bit “snitty.”

————

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.