Ford Motor Co said on Thursday it had hired outside experts to investigate its vehicle fuel economy and testing procedures after employees raised concerns, and did not know whether it would have to correct data given to regulators or consumers.
“Publicity cannot subside if it’s the defendant that’s fanning the flames,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Thursday, making it clear that a violation of the strict gag order would mean jail for the former Trump adviser.
“Today, I gave you a second chance. This is not baseball, you don’t get a third chance,” she told Stone.
Stone can still raise funds for his legal defense and maintain his innocence publicly, but he cannot comment on the case or its participants, the judge said.
Before issuing her ruling, Jackson said Stone “couldn’t keep his story straight on the stand” when she allowed him the opportunity to explain his decision to post an image of her on Instagram with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun near her head. His apology, she said, rang “hollow.”
The board voted unanimously to call a new House race after hearing testimony that the November election between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready was tainted by a scheme to collect and mark voters’ absentee ballots.
…The board’s vote came an hour after Harris called for a new election and then declined to finish his own testimony, citing health reasons.
…Harris reversed weeks of GOP resistance to a new North Carolina race, hours after state officials said that Harris’ campaign attorney withheld documents relevant to the investigation.
…In a dramatic twist on Wednesday, Harris’ son took the stand unexpectedly and provided documents showing that he had warned his father about Dowless, the operative at the center of the election fraud scandal.
…Earlier Thursday, state board lawyer John Lawson said Harris’ campaign attorney turned over new documents late Wednesday night, a day before Harris was set to take the stand. The records in question should have been turned over earlier under a subpoena sent to the campaign committee, the board said.
…”I’m here to own that,” Branch said, adding that he did not think to ask Harris’ campaign manager or other campaign employees paid by the consulting firm Red Dome Group to turn over records.
The revelation drew the ire of the election board chairman, Bob Cordle, who called Branch’s actions “unacceptable.”
The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously for a new race in the state’s 9th District after four days of hearings on whether to certify the result.
…Harris, who previously pushed for the elections board to certify the result, unexpectedly called for a new election during testimony Thursday.
…”I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”
The House did not seat Harris amid the fraud allegations.
…In a tweeted statement Thursday, North Carolina Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse said “we support” Harris’s decision and “will do everything we can to help the process and system improve in the future.”
Chao has met at least 10 times with politicians and business leaders from the state in response to requests from McConnell’s office, according to documents provided to Politico by the watchdog group American Oversight. In some cases, those people later received what they were hoping for from Chao’s department, including infrastructure grants, the designation of an interstate highway and assistance in getting state funds for a highway project — although the documents don’t indicate that the meetings led to those outcomes.
…A dozen of the emails show McConnell’s staff acting as a conduit between Chao and Kentucky political figures or business leaders, some of whom previously have had relationships with the couple.
…American Oversight obtained the emails under the Freedom of Information Act. The group’s founder and executive director , Austin Evers, said they show an unusually close relationship between a Senate leader and a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet — and that “Secretary Chao built a political operation in her office to favor Kentucky.”
“We launched this investigation because we were intrigued by the president’s selection of Elaine Chao as Transportation secretary,” Evers said. “The media and political class identified it as a savvy move to hire the spouse of the majority leader of the Senate. We wanted to see what that relationship looked like.”
…Evers from American Oversight contended that in these emails, Chao’s staff appear to go out of their way to make McConnell’s Kentucky contacts “feel special.” In one March 2017 email to Inman, requesting a meeting between Chao and the group Kentuckians for Better Transportation, Carmack suggested that if Chao couldn’t make it, perhaps “an assistant secretary or 2” could. “That way it is not taking up the Secretary’s time but they feel special,” Carmack continued.
…Evers highlighted two instances when DOT’s Inman instructed McConnell staffers to flag requests from Kentuckians for him in addition to sending them to Chao’s schedulers, “to make sure we take an extra look at” them.
…“The Secretary has indicated if you have a [Kentucky-]specific issue that we should flag for her attention to please continue to go through your normal channels but feel free to contact me directly as well so we can monitor or follow up as necessary,” Inman wrote to McConnell’s then-chief of staff, Brian McGuire, in an email from Feb. 28, 2017.
…In one email thread from March 2017, McConnell’s staff describes Hart County, Ky., Judge/Executive Terry Martin — the county’s top elected official — as a “loyal supporter” and “friend.”
…Oversight groups aren’t just worried about the meetings Chao is granting, however. A previously unreleased report from the watchdog group Restore Public Trust questions the 2018 choice of a town of about 25,000 residents situated near the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, as the site of a new DOT maritime gateway office intended to help coordinate between port operators and government bodies to help improve freight movement on inland waterways.
Paducah is the smallest city to host one of DOT’s 10 maritime gateway offices. The nine other such offices are in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Miami.
John Harris also said that his father told him that he was going to hire Dowless as a contractor through the Red Dome consulting group in order to add a layer of separation from the campaign.
Harris’ attorneys have attempted to separate Harris from Dowless throughout the hearing, but Wednesday’s testimony damaged that argument.
Choking back tears, John Harris said he thought more about his children than his parents when considering his decision to testify.
“I love my dad, I love my mom, O.K.? I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle, O.K.? I think they made mistakes in this process and they certainly did things differently than I would have done,” Harris said while his father looked on wiping back tears.
“We have got to come up with a way to transcend our partisan politics, and the exploitation of processes like this for political gain. That goes for both parties, Democrats and Republicans. And Libertarians,” he said.
“I’m just left thinking that we can all do a lot better than this.