Alaska Dispatch News
Losers of two straight games and four of their previous six, the Seawolves got just what they needed Tuesday night: a romp over their in-state rival.
The UAA men’s basketball team got career-bests from four players en route to a 105-86 victory over UAF at the Alaska Airlines Center.
Oggie Pantovic racked up his biggest double-double of the season with 24 points and 14 rebounds, Jack Macdonald buried 7 of 10 3-pointers en route to a career-high 25 points and Tobin Karlberg and Amari Hale both handed out career-high seven assists for the Seawolves.
The Seawolves improved to 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the GNAC. UAF slipped to 6-11, 5-4.
“Our offensive execution was terrific tonight, and we did a nice job of preventing their second and third offensive options from getting rolling,” UAA coach Rusty Osborne said in a release from the school. “Jack and our entire rotation made great decisions with our ball movement, and our shot-makers did a great job at burying the open looks.''
The Great Northwest Athletic Conference victory came in the midst of a tough stretch for the Seawolves —four games in eight days, four states and three time zones.
The stretch began with road losses to Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene of Idaho on Thursday and Saturday of last week. UAA returned to Anchorage for Tuesday’s game before returning to the road for a Thursday game against Montana State-Billings.
UAF’s Shadeed Shabazz had a huge game with 34 points, eight assists and five steals and the Nanooks shot 53 percent from the field, but UAA countered with five players in double figures and red-hot outside shooting.
The Seawolves shot 51.7 percent from the field and were even better outside the arc, hitting 19 of 35 3-point attempts (54 percent). They tallied assists on 24 of their 31 baskets.
Pantovic, a 6-foot-7 junior transfer from Serbia, hit 5 of 8 field goals and 13 of 14 free throws for his 24 points. He was 6 of 6 from the foul line in the final 99 seconds, when UAA outscored the Nanooks 11-4 to seal the victory.
Macdonald, a senior point guard, enjoyed his biggest scoring night in four seasons with UAA by hitting 9 of 13 field goal attempts, including 7 of 10 behind the arc. He added six assists.
Karlberg scored 19 points on 5-of-10 field goal shooting (4 of 6 from 3-point range) and 5-of-5 free throw shooting while adding six rebounds and the seven assists. Niko Bevens chipped in 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting and Tyrus Hosley scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Hale had nine points to go with his seven assists.
UAA outrebounded the Nanooks 37-28 while outscoring them 57-27 from 3-point range and 19-9 at the foul line.
Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks with Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, as the Alaska Senate convenes its annual session on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Juneau. (James Brooks / ADN)
JUNEAU — A deep and continuing divide over the size of the Permanent Fund dividend ruptured the leadership of the Alaska Senate on Tuesday as three Republican senators were stripped of influential committee chairmanships that control the pace of legislation in the Capitol.
“This is an absolute restructuring of power in the Senate,” said Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River.
The three — Reinbold, Sen. Shelley Hughes of Palmer and Sen. Mike Shower of Wasilla — were members of the 14-member, predominantly Republican Senate majority, and Reinbold said the result will be a “shift to the left” in the state Senate.
In addition to the shakeup at the top, two traditional-dividend supporters lost seats on the Senate Finance Committee, which shrank from nine members to seven.
The Senate’s changes were approved in a 13-7 vote opposed by all of the Senate Republicans who voted against dividend cuts last year. (Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, was appointed after last year’s votes and also voted against.)
Asked whether she and others would be leaving the majority entirely, Reinbold said, “That’s a discussion for another day.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, whose six Democrats were key to approving the shakeup, said no one has approached him about forming a coalition majority, as exists in the House.
Tuesday’s actions, which came as the Alaska Legislature convened in Juneau for the second year of its 31st session since statehood, were a response to events last year.
In July, Hughes and Shower were absent from a vote that set the 2019 Permanent Fund dividend. Reinbold cast the lone Senate vote against the proposal.
All three support a dividend paid using the traditional formula in state law, but last year’s vote set a smaller amount. Under the self-imposed rules that bind the members of the Senate majority, all three were required to vote in favor of the smaller proposal or face consequences.
Other senators support the traditional dividend but were unwilling to break the ground rules of the majority.
“That’s what I think a lot of this comes down to. We’ve stood our ground,” Shower said late Tuesday.
Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, speaks against a proposal that would strip him of most committee assignments on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 in the Alaska State Capitol. (James Brooks / ADN)
In a letter sent to her Senate colleagues, Reinbold said she interpreted the rule as requiring members to vote together only on budget bills, “not all additional appropriation bills,” such as the one containing the dividend.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Reinbold said she voted for the state’s capital budget and operating budget, as required.
“I never agreed to vote for all appropriation bills,” she said, and Shower later said he agreed with that interpretation.
Half of Reinbold’s majority colleagues, including the leadership of the group, interpreted their agreement differently.
“On July 29, three members exercised their free will, their freedom, to vote no on that budget, and that’s perfectly all right. … But it did violate that agreement,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, equating the absence of Hughes and Shower to a “no” vote.
During a Jan. 4 legislative town hall meeting in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, residents urged their local legislators to remain firm on the dividend and budget. At the time, rumors of possible consequences were already swirling.
“We need you guys to fight. Everybody here wants you guys to fight for us,” Russell Green of Palmer said, earning applause. “Whatever it takes. If you have to shut our state down to keep from compromising and making it go even worse than it is, then do it.”
After Tuesday’s moves were officially announced, a Republican district chairwoman in Shower’s region urged her fellow Republicans to write letters against the move, saying in a newsletter that she was “so very disappointed.”
House convenes uneventfully
In the House, the session began with ceremony and little of the drama that occurred last year, when members deadlocked and were unable to select a speaker of the House until February.
Members of the Republican minority objected to changes in the membership of the House’s special committee on military and veterans affairs, saying that with Revak’s departure for the Senate, his slot should be taken by one of the House’s veterans rather than Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks. The request was not accepted.
Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, and Rep. Mel Gillis, R-Anchorage, were excused absent from the first day of session. Gillis was appointed during the interim to replace Revak, but his wife suffered a medical emergency and he had to leave the Capitol, the House minority press secretary said. Tarr was ill, her staff said.
Kendall Kramer skies past spectators en route to a third-place finish in the 5K classic race Tuesday at the Winter Youth Olympics In Lausanne, Switzerland. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP) (Salvatore Di Nolfi/)
Fairbanks skier Kendall Kramer has won numerous medals at state championships and junior national championships, but until this week she had only flirted with a medal on a worldwide stage.
On Tuesday, Kramer registered one of the biggest results of her career by capturing a bronze medal at the Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Cheered by her mom and grandfather, who were wearing “Team Kramer” scarves, Kramer finished third in the girls 5-kilometer classic on a day when the United States won two medals in cross-country skiing. Will Koch of Vermont claimed the other with a third-place finish in the boys 10K classic race.
Kramer’s medal came in her third race at the Winter Youth Olympics, held every four years for athletes 18 and younger. Nearly 2,000 athletes from 79 countries are competing in the multi-sport competition, which started Jan. 9 and ends Wednesday.
Kramer, a 17-year-old senior at West Valley High School, was coming off finishes of 16th place and 25th place in a pair of sprint races on the weekend. The results left her dissatisfied and eager to make amends.
“I felt disappointed after the sprint races,” Kramer said in a news release from the U.S. Olympic Committee. “… So what really motivated me today was thinking about how I want to make people back home proud when they see results.”
Kramer finished 20.6 seconds behind gold medalist Maerta Rosenberg of Sweden, who won in 14 minutes, 15.7 seconds, and eight seconds behind silver medalist Siri Wigger of Switzerland. She was seven seconds ahead of teammate Sydney Palmer-Leger of Utah, who placed fourth.
From left, silver medalist Siri Wigger of Switzerland, gold medalist Maerta Rosenberg of Sweden and bronze medalist Kendall Kramer of Fairbanks. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP) (Salvatore Di Nolfi/)
A two-time Skimeister at Alaska’s state high school championships, Kramer is one of the nation’s best young skiers. At last year’s World Junior Championships, she grabbed fourth place in the 15K classic — she was less than a second out of third place at the 5K mark — and helped the United States to fourth place in the girls relay race.
Kramer made it onto the podium Tuesday to collect her first medal at a big international competition. It was an important step in her career, one she envisioned as soon as she learned she had qualified for the U.S. team competing in Lausanne.
“As soon as I knew that I was in the Youth Olympic Games, I really wanted to get a podium in this race specifically, so I’m really glad I could make the people back home proud and make myself proud,” said Kramer, who qualified for the competition with her results at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Michigan earlier this month.
“The U.S. cross-country team has been historically underrated and it’s not expected for us to be up there with the athletes from countries like Norway and Sweden," Kramer said "... But I really, really enjoy every time that I can show that we are up to par with them and that we have the exact same training quality, and that we’re really catching up year by year.”
For many, many years, U.S. skiers lagged behind Europeans. Will Koch, Tuesday’s other medalist, is the son of Bill Koch, whose silver medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics was America’s first in the sport. The U.S. Ski Team didn’t win another Olympic medal in cross country until the 2018 Games, when Anchorage’s Kikkan Randall and Minnesota’s Jessie Diggins won the gold medal in the team sprint.
Kramer is part of a generation inspired and elevated by the milestones Randall registered in her long career. Along with other young Alaska skiers like Gus Schumacher and Hailey Swirbul, she is keeping the United States competitive on a worldwide stage.
The medals collected by Kramer and Koch are the first earned by American skiers at the Winter Youth Olympics, which were first held in 2012.
FAIRBANKS — A Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to Seoul, South Korea, had to make an emergency landing Tuesday in Fairbanks after the airplane had engine trouble, Fairbanks International Airport said.
Flight 159 made the landing at 3:46 p.m. with 189 passengers and crew on board, the airport said in a statement.
The plane landed safely as airport police and fire crews were on standby. There are no reports of injuries.
The passengers will spend the night in Fairbanks. The airport said it will help them find lodging.
On Wednesday, the passengers are scheduled to take a replacement Delta airplane to Seoul, the airport said.
Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, right, an independent from Dillingham, shares a laugh with House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, left, before the start of the 2020 legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers began a new legislative session Tuesday in which they’ll resume debates that have dominated recent sessions amid middling oil prices, including the size of the check to pay residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund.
Some lawmakers are hopeful agreement can be reached on long-simmering, divisive issues, including possibly setting a new Alaska Permanent Fund dividend formula. After last year's contentious, drawn-out sessions and with elections looming, others are cautious in their expectations.
Most legislative seats are up for election this year, and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is seeking to fend off a recall threat following a tumultuous first year in office.
The recall effort was fueled by anger over budget cuts he proposed last year in response to a lingering deficit, and lawmakers, too, pushed back against the cuts. In his proposal for the upcoming budget, Dunleavy eschewed deep cuts. He also relied heavily on savings, which some lawmakers deem unacceptable.
So what now? Things to watch this session:
PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND
Dunleavy has said a decades-old formula for calculating the dividend should be followed until it's changed and he has supported giving Alaskans a say on changes. The formula hasn't been followed the last four years, as the state has wrestled with the deficit, and the Alaska Supreme Court has held that without a constitutional amendment, the program must compete for funding like other programs do.
From left, Alaska state Reps. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, and Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, speak on the House floor before the start of the 2020 legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
Dividends traditionally have been paid with permanent fund earnings, which lawmakers in 2018 also began using to help pay for government. They also sought to limit earnings withdrawals, heightening tensions involving how much should go to dividends or services.
The draw limit for the upcoming fiscal year is about $3.1 billion. Under Dunleavy's proposal, $2 billion would go to dividend checks, according to the Legislative Finance Division.
The check size has been decided recently by what lawmakers can agree on. Last year's $1,606 check used additional funds from savings.
The Legislative Finance Division, in a new report, said the dividend was short by about $10 a person due to what appeared to be an accounting error in the transfer of savings. Acting state Revenue Commissioner Mike Barnhill said Tuesday officials are awaiting completion of a financial report for clarity on that.
Alaska state Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, left, and Rep. Adam Wool, right, D-Fairbanks, chat on the House floor before the start of the 2020 legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
He said by email that the division that pays checks originally underestimated the number of applications for dividends and that there are more dividends to be paid than originally estimated. Because of this, he said it’s unlikely the amount transferred from savings resulted in any short payments.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, said he's hopeful agreement can be reached on a revised, “sustainable” formula. House Finance Committee Co-chair Jennifer Johnston, an Anchorage Republican, expects discussions on whether it's time to change in law the calculation but sees adhering to the draw limit as important.
She said she doesn't think the state will have the “luxury” this year of paying as large a dividend as last year.
Rep. Cathy Tilton, a minority Republican on the House Finance Committee, said members of her caucus want to follow the dividend law, but if it’s something that isn’t going to be followed, changes should be looked at.
“It doesn't mean that I'm in support of the changes one way or the other, but the conversation needs to be out there,” she said, adding later: “I think that whatever happens with the dividend you need to have the voices of Alaskans engaged in that.”
Alaska Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, left, and Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, right, speak on the House floor before the start of the 2020 legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
BUDGET AND TAXES
Senate President Cathy Giessel said financial experts have indicated the constitutional budget reserve should have at least $2 billion to provide a cushion for unexpected costs.
The account has been drawn down as lawmakers have struggled with how to tackle the deficit and was valued at about $2.2 billion at the end of 2019, according to the Department of Revenue. Dunleavy, in his new budget proposal, calls for using $1.5 billion from the reserve.
Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, recently told the Resource Development Council she believed proposals to raise motor fuel taxes and levy a $30 annual tax on people employed in the state could gain traction.
Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth earlier this month ordered the Division of Elections to provide petitions by Feb. 10 that would allow recall backers to begin gathering the more than 70,000 signatures they would need to advance the effort.
Dunleavy has argued the effort is politically motivated and that the judge’s decision, if it stands, would set a low bar for pursuing recalls. Recall supporters say the effort is bipartisan.
A copy of revised U.S. Senate Resolution 483, which provides procedures concerning the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, released Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has abruptly changed his proposed rules for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after some of his fellow Republican senators objected. (AP Photo/Wayne Partlow) (Wayne Partlow/)
WASHINGTON — After some last-minute tweaks on Tuesday, the proposed rules for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial now largely mirror the ones used for the trial of former President Bill Clinton.
Though there are some minor differences, the basic structure of Trump’s trial will be similar to Clinton’s in 1999. After approving the rules, the Senate will hear arguments from lawyers on both sides before debating whether to seek witness testimony and documents. Ultimately they will reach a final vote on the two charges against Trump.
Still, there could be some major differences with Clinton's trial.
Clinton's Republican prosecutors already had evidence that was compiled by then-Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. House Democrats who are charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings in Ukraine have had to compile their own evidence and are trying to prod witnesses who refused to testify. If there are witnesses in Trump's trial, their testimony will be new, unlike the witnesses deposed in Clinton's trial.
A look at the rules for Trump's trial vs. the rules for Clinton's trial:
FROM BIPARTISAN TO PARTISAN
The Senate adopted the rules for Clinton's trial 100-0 after the two leaders at the time, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., came to an agreement. There was no such agreement in Trump's trial and few negotiations between the two parties, as partisanship has hardened in the intervening years.
Democrats have almost uniformly opposed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's resolution for the trial, saying there should be an agreement at the beginning to call in witnesses. They argue that is necessary because many of the people they want to testify defied House subpoenas.
But as in Clinton's trial, McConnell's rules push off that question, dictating that the Senate won't consider whether to call witnesses until after the House impeachment managers and the president's lawyers make their opening arguments.
DOCUMENTS AND EVIDENCE
The original version of McConnell’s rules released on Monday said that the House couldn’t submit its evidence until the question of witnesses was resolved. But after moderates like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voiced concerns, McConnell changed the resolution on Tuesday to ensure the evidence will be admitted after opening arguments. In Clinton’s proceedings, the evidence was automatically admitted at the beginning of the trial.
NUMBER OF HOURS, NUMBER OF DAYS
The other tweak made by McConnell on Tuesday covers the timing of the trial, which had been one of the Democrats' biggest complaints. The House prosecutors and White House defense now have 24 hours over three days to present their case - up from the original resolution, which allowed 24 hours of arguments over only two days. Democrats complained that that would push the trial into "the dead of night," and McConnell expanded the timeline after the GOP moderates voiced similar concerns.
The rules for Clinton's trial give the two sides 24 hours each for arguments but don't specify how many days. They each took three.
The rules for senators' questions are identical for the two trials: "Upon the conclusion of the president's presentation, senators may question the parties for a period of time not to exceed 16 hours."
Per underlying Senate rules, upon which both resolutions were based, the senators have to submit those questions in writing.
After the senators' question period, Trump's trial will follow Clinton's format with debate over witnesses. In the Trump trial, the House prosecutors and White House defense will have four hours of debate over the question of whether to subpoena witnesses or documents. The Clinton resolution is similar, but it gave the two sides six hours of debate. Both sets of rules also require witnesses to be deposed before they testify publicly.
In Clinton's trial, the Senate eventually decided to depose three witnesses and allow video excerpts to be played on the Senate floor. But the public had already heard from all three of those witnesses, as they had been interviewed by Starr's team.
It's unclear what will happen with witnesses in Trump's trial. Some Republican senators - including Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah - pushed McConnell to include a vote on witnesses and have signaled they will vote to hear at least some testimony.
And at least one high-profile witness, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, has said he would be open to testify in the Senate. Bolton, who was present for many of the episodes detailed by the House as Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Democrats, refused to testify in the House.
MOTION TO DISMISS
The Clinton rules resolution provided that there would be a vote on a motion to dismiss the charges, an apparent concession by Lott to Democrats.
McConnell's resolution does not mention a motion to dismiss, but does not rule it out. Trump has tweeted that he would like such a motion, but Senate Republicans have indicated that they don't have the votes to pass it and that they would prefer for the president to be acquitted, as he is expected to be. Still, any senator could offer a motion to dismiss the two articles.
The two resolutions end with almost identical language: “At the conclusion of the deliberations by the Senate, the Senate shall vote on each article of impeachment.”
Protesters hold up flags during a public hearing on a draft environmental plan on proposed petroleum leasing within Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Congress in December 2017 approved a tax bill that requires oil and gas lease sales in the refuge to raise revenue for a tax cut backed by President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Dan Joling) (Dan Joling/)
The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) needs to be improved, but not the way the Trump administration is suggesting. One of the most problematic areas is the public input process. It often seems like agencies are going through the motions. Comments are responded to briefly (if at all) and are summarized in a way that makes it easy to tally numbers and hard to hear the voices of the people.
In preparing to write this, I looked up the NEPA text that set up the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. NEPA states that, “Congress recognizes that each person should enjoy a healthful environment and that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.” Regulations for the EIS process say, “Federal agencies shall to the fullest extent possible: ... (d) Encourage and facilitate public involvement in decisions which affect the quality of the human environment.”
What we see happening now in the public input process is so different from NEPA’s goals. Responding to pressure from the top to speed things up, the public input process is becoming ever more of a token effort. Federal agencies now tell the public that they only want to receive “substantive” factual corrections, additions, or description of omissions. They don’t want to hear people’s opinions.
When the public input process works correctly, decision makers, including those proposing a project, respond to the concerns of both professionals and the impacted public. This was the case with the recent Willow Project near Nuiqsut. ConocoPhillips dropped its plan to build an artificial island near the Colville River Delta in response to local residents, who explained that the island would likely interfere with their traditional hunting of marine mammals. It has also been the case in the past for other North Slope oil projects, where dedicated agency staff made sure that best practices were used and that mistakes from the early days were not repeated.
However, the general public is being intimidated from contributing. In most cases (with some recent exceptions), the science included in an EIS is accurate and thorough. The documents are often more than 1,000 pages, with lots of tables, figures and references. How is the general public supposed to digest reams of scientific studies and provide “substantive” comments? Yet their voices are the most important, and their inclusion is mandated by NEPA. Input from Alaskans on how they view these development projects, based on their values, their relationship with the environment and their experience as residents of the area are exactly what decision-makers in Washington, D.C., need to know. The science cannot make a decision on any of these projects. It can only provide data. People and their values are what make the decision. And if the public’s values are not included as part of the EIS, then the government does not have the necessary information on which to base a decision.
An especially poor example of the public input process was the meeting held in Fairbanks on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge leasing. At this meeting, no public comments were accepted, except those spoken individually to a sitting court recorder. It was an arrogant approach by the Bureau of Land Management, assuming its role was to educate the public on the science. People came from a long way, from remote villages, spending their money and time to try to get their voices heard in this impersonal process. They wanted to talk to the decision makers, to tell them of their life experiences on the land, and to try to influence the final decision. In the end, they were allowed to speak publicly, but only because they insisted. This meeting was presided over by a somewhat bored-looking Joe Balash. He was head of BLM at the time but quit soon after, joining a foreign oil company linked to a different company that recently leased almost a million acres of BLM land in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
Martha Raynolds is an Arctic plant ecologist who lives in Fairbanks.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
A woman whose snowmachine overturned in Southwest Alaska apparently died of exposure after she walked several miles in the cold last week, Alaska State Troopers said.
Around 4 p.m. Thursday, 22-year-old Elizanna Anvil headed to Bethel from Nunapitchuk — about 25 miles to the west — with a travel partner on a snowmachine, troopers wrote in a report posted online. The pair’s snowmachine overturned and Anvil’s partner returned to Nunapitchuk alone on foot around midnight, troopers said.
Village and tribal police in Nunapitchuk and Kasigluk searched the area for Anvil, and Bethel Search and Rescue crews checked the tundra trail, troopers wrote.
Around 11 a.m. Friday, Anvil’s body was found about 2 miles from the main trail and 4 miles from the snowmachine. She was about 3 miles from Bethel, troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said.
It’s unclear what caused the snowmachine to turn on its side, DeSpain said, and troopers were not notified of any apparent injuries to Anvil or her travel partner as an immediate result of the crash. Investigators believe the pair walked together before they separated, he said.
“How or why they separated is not known at this time,” DeSpain said Tuesday.
It appeared Anvil had walked alone for several miles before she died of exposure, troopers wrote. There was a low temperature of minus 2 on Thursday in the Bethel area, according to the National Weather Service.
Troopers arranged for Anvil’s body to be transported to the medical examiner’s office in Anchorage.
Tourists wave as an empty Alaska Railroad gravel train heads back to Mat-Su for more cargo on Monday afternoon, June 20, 2016, at Ship Creek. (Erik Hill / ADN) (Alaska Dispatch News/)
Tourism had a strong year in 2019, and that meant big benefits for Anchorage. Last year was one for the record books, both in financial terms and in more subtle ways felt far beyond the balance sheet. We recently summed up tourism in 2019 and looked ahead during Visit Anchorage’s annual Report to the Community. Whether you work in tourism, or simply help with a warm welcome to visitors you pass on the street, the accomplishments of the last year are yours.
There is certainly plenty worth celebrating. Tourism is one of the bright spots in Anchorage’s economy, and we intend to keep it that way. Visit Anchorage focuses on maintaining strong demand for Anchorage as a vacation or meeting destination, and maximizing the benefits for Anchorage.
In financial terms, we anticipate hotel stays in Anchorage will generate approximately $31.2 million in municipal bed taxes for 2019. Combined with local vehicle rental taxes, Anchorage should see approximately $38 million in tax collections for the year from tourism. More than $18 million stays in the general fund, paying for projects and services we all enjoy. In addition, the bed tax pays for and maintains the convention and civic centers. A portion of the bed tax is also reinvested in tourism marketing. This marketing powers future growth and has proven to be a sound strategy for Anchorage for 44 years now.
Aside from tax revenue, travelers spend $297 million per year in Anchorage on visits, and that doesn’t include the cost of the transportation that got them here. Leisure and hospitality employment hit record levels in Anchorage in 2019, with modest gains predicted this year.
Numbers tell a good story, but tell only part of our story. Visitation helps increase the number of cities connected to Anchorage by airlines. It helps local businesses grow, flourish and expand. It allows us to share Alaska’s stories, traditions and lifestyles and connect with those of travelers from all over the map.
It’s going to be a tall order to repeat the kind of performance we saw last year, but the early indicators point to solid returns in 2020. We are reinvesting our gains with broader marketing and sales efforts. In the year ahead, we will continue to focus on strengthening demand, aided by new research into our best potential travelers, their perceptions of the destination, and what they hope to get – and give – during a visit.
We will also advocate for projects that help make travel better for our community, from Eklutna and Eagle River to Girdwood and the Portage Valley, and all points in between. We’ll partner with local businesses and entrepreneurs to foster new and novel travel offerings. And, of course, we’ll help travelers understand why they should visit long before they arrive. Our aim is to make life here better. That work benefits visitors and improves things for residents at the same time.
We need your help. We want our whole community to provide the best reception, and everyone has a part to play welcoming travelers. Creating a place people want to visit helps makes this a place we can all enjoy.
Julie Saupe is president and CEO of Visit Anchorage, the destination marketing organization representing Anchorage, Girdwood, Eagle River, and all communities in the municipality. Saupe is a lifelong Alaskan with a career devoted to Alaska travel.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
Daishen Nix, the UCLA-bound point guard who got his start in Anchorage, will headline this week’s Alaska Airlines Classic
Trinity International junior Daishen Nix dunks the ball during a practice at the Bill and Lillie Heinrich YMCA in Las Vegas, Monday, April 1, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal) (Caroline Brehman/)
Daishen Nix’s basketball game was born in Anchorage, but it came alive in Las Vegas.
Four years ago his mom, Mina, moved the family to Nevada, where Nix hooked up with coach Greg Lockridge at Trinity International School.
Even though Nix was a little fish in the big city, Lockridge knew he had a keeper.
“I was sent a video when he was 14 years old and I watched it for maybe two minutes when I said, ‘Call him right away,’ ” Lockridge said.
“Your heart starts beating fast. You see things that you just can’t teach. You see things you haven’t seen in a long, long time. We were hooked.”
Fast forward four years and Nix is a five-star point guard headed to UCLA next season.
The 6-foot-5 senior is widely regarded as the best high school passer in the country with next-level court vision. He can score, too.
Earlier this season he poured in 45 points in a 99-94 win against Phoenix Prep and 36 points in a 61-57 win over nationally ranked Findlay Prep, a team loaded with surefire DI players.
Daishen Nix is a true PG with positional size & terrific command of the
America’s decennial census begins Tuesday in rural Alaska, as it has out of tradition and necessity since the U.S. bought the territory from Russia in 1867.
The Census Bureau starts the tally in Alaska more than two months before the rest of the nation so it can reach residents in remote villages before the spring thaw, when they scatter to fish and hunt.
This year, the first people being counted are in Toksook Bay, a town of about 660 on the Bering Sea.
To mark the occasion, The Associated Press is republishing this article from 20 years ago, when the census began in the rural Alaska town of Unalakleet. It first appeared Jan. 20, 2000.
In this Jan. 19, 2000, file photo, U.S. Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt, seated, gets a dog sled ride into town by Harold Johnson after arriving for the first count in the village of Unalakleet. The 2020 census kicks off Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Toksook Bay. The census always starts in remote parts of the nation's largest state out of tradition and necessity. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File) (Al Grillo/)
Census 2000 begins in Alaska village
By Maureen Clark, Associated Press
UNALAKLEET — The sun was barely up at 11 a.m. Thursday when Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt, bundled up in a fur parka, mittens and heavy boots, knocked on the door of a small wood-frame house in this western Alaska village to begin the nationwide headcount.
Stanton Katchatag, an 82-year-old Inupiaq Eskimo elder, welcomed Prewitt into his home in this isolated, windswept village near the frozen Bering Sea and became the first American to participate in Census 2000.
Fifteen minutes later, the director came back out into temperatures just above zero.
"We are very excited to have taken our first enumeration," Prewitt said before getting on a snowmobile for a ride to another house.
Unalakleet, situated about 400 miles (644 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, is accessible only by plane or snowmobile this time of year. Most of its 800 residents are Inupiaq or Yupik Eskimos.
While such an out-of-the-way place may seem an unlikely spot to begin the head count, census officials said they need to reach Alaska Natives in winter, before they leave their villages for spring fishing and hunting.
In addition, travel is difficult in rural Alaska during the spring. Frozen rivers that serve as highways for snowmobiles during winter are treacherous when the ice melts.
Mayor Henry Ivanoff said he was pleased that Unalakleet - and Katchatag - had the distinction of being first in the nation.
"There are 275 million people standing in line after him, including the president and vice president of the United States - even Michael Jordan!" Ivanoff said.
The community put out a warm welcome for Prewitt and the census workers. Native dancers and cheerleaders performed and community leaders made speeches before residents sat down for dinner in the school gymnasium Wednesday night. Tables were laden with home-cooked foods, including moose, caribou, muktuk and smoked salmon.
While the mood was celebratory, community leaders were serious about the importance of an accurate count.
Census data is used for reapportionment of congressional seats, drawing legislative districts and school district boundaries and determining how much state and federal funding a community will get.
"It will affect the funding we receive from the Indian Health Service," said Larry Ivanoff, president of the local tribal organization.
Twenty census workers, some of them fluent in Yupik or Inupiaq, will go door-to-door throughout Unalakleet to gather data over the next few days.
Prewitt said he hopes Unalakleet will set an example of participation for the rest of the country.
After Alaska, the Census Bureau will turn its attention to other rural areas of the country - from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Adirondacks - where a lack of street names and numbers makes it impossible to deliver census forms by mail.
About 100 million census forms will go in the mail for the rest of the nation in mid-March. The agency expects to have most of the forms back by April 11. After that, census workers will hit the streets and try to track down those who haven’t sent their forms back.
Anchorage police investigate the scene of a homicide at the Holiday station in Mountain View, Monday morning, Dec. 16, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
A man wanted on three charges of murder was arrested Friday after evading Anchorage police for a month.
According to charging documents, 43-year-old Tierre Eady fatally shot 42-year-old Jerry Sales on Dec. 16 outside the Holiday gas station on Mountain View Drive. The men had fought over an alleged affair and drug sales before Eady shot Sales in the chest, the documents said.
Officers arriving just after 10 a.m. found Sales’ body on the ground near the gas station’s back door. His black Dodge Durango was parked 20 feet from his body and still running, the charges said.
Sales died from a single gunshot wound in his chest, the charges said. Officers draped a white cloth over his body and the gas station remained open while police investigated.
Eady was identified as a person of interest in the shooting by that night.
Tierre Eady, 43, is charged in a killing at the Holiday Station on Mountain View Dr. in Anchorage. (Photo via Anchorage Police)
According to charges, he and Sales had arranged to meet at the gas station. Sales was angry with Eady and accused him of selling drugs to Sales’ pregnant wife and having an affair with her, the charges said.
Surveillance video showed a Ford Windstar, believed to be driven by Eady, parking outside the gas station. A woman left Eady’s car and went into the store but quickly returned. Charges said that Sales pulled up next to the van less than three minutes later.
The woman later told police she saw Sales hit Eady as he accused him of having an affair with his wife. Eady then shot Sales, the woman told investigators. Police did not find any weapons in Sales’ vehicle.
Eady and the woman took off in the van about 25 seconds after Sales arrived, the charges said.
Police found the van parked in an alley near the 400 block of North Bragaw Street, charges said. An ammunition magazine was found inside, with two of the-.40 caliber bullets missing.
Police warned that Eady was considered armed and dangerous and a warrant was issued for his arrest Dec. 17.
Last week, officers with the Investigative Support Unit were notified Eady may be in the area of Price Street and Thompson Drive, police said in an online alert. He was arrested during a traffic stop Friday afternoon.
Eady appeared in court Saturday and is being held on a $1 million bond.
An Anchorage man facing state murder and kidnapping charges has been sentenced to four years in prison on a federal gun count.
Iosia Fiso, 25, pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and was sentenced Friday to the four-year prison term followed by three years of supervised release, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Fiso is one of three men charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of an Anchorage man in January 2019. Steven John, 36, was found dead at an apartment on west 34th Avenue. A state medical examiner's autopsy concluded John died of trauma to the body.
Fiso and two co-defendants were arrested in June. Fiso's attorney did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the state charges.
Anchorage police while investigating a Jan. 9, 2019, shooting in Midtown Anchorage found a scope on a rifle that bore Fiso’s fingerprint, prosecutors said. A day later, police contacted Fiso and found three more of his guns in his girlfriend’s vehicle.
Fiso previously had two state felony convictions for weapons misconduct and hindering prosecution, which made it illegal for him to possess firearms.
SEATTLE — A U.S. resident who recently returned from an overseas trip has been diagnosed with the new virus that has sparked an outbreak in China and stringent monitoring around the world, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.
The man returned to the Seattle area in the middle of last week after traveling to Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began. The Snohomish County resident is in his 30s and was in good condition Tuesday at a hospital in Everett, outside Seattle. He's not considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said.
The U.S. is the fifth country to report seeing the illness, following China, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.
In this Jan. 13, 2020, photo, travelers pass by a health checkpoint before entering immigration at the international airport in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (Ng Han Guan/)
Late last week, U.S. health officials began screening passengers from Wuhan at three U.S. airports — New York City’s Kennedy airport and the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. On Tuesday, the CDC announced it will add Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Atlanta’s airport to the mix later this week.
What's more, officials will begin forcing all passengers that originate in Wuhan to go to one of those five airports if they wish to enter the U.S.
Officials around the world have implemented similar airport screenings in hopes of containing the virus during the busy Lunar New Year travel season.
The U.S. resident had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday, but he contacted doctors on Sunday when he started feeling ill, officials said.
Last month, doctors began seeing a new type of viral pneumonia — fever, cough, difficulty breathing — in people who spent time at a food market in Wuhan. More than 275 cases of the newly identified coronavirus have been confirmed in China, most of them in Wuhan, according to the World Health Organization.
The count includes six deaths — all in China, most of them age 60 or older, including at least some who had a previous medical condition.
Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they've concluded it also can spread from person to person.
Health authorities this month identified the germ behind the outbreak as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold; others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.
SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, belongs to the coronavirus family, but Chinese state media say the illness in Wuhan is different from coronaviruses that have been identified in the past. Earlier laboratory tests ruled out SARS and MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome — as well as influenza, bird flu, adenovirus and other common lung-infecting germs.
The new virus so far does not appear to be as deadly as SARS and MERS, but viruses can sometimes mutate to become more dangerous.
University of Washington coronavirus researcher David Veesler said the public "should not be panicking right now."
The response has been "very efficient," Veesler said. "In a couple of weeks, China was able to identify the virus, isolate it, sequence it and share that information."
Veesler added: "We don't have enough data to judge how severe the disease is."
Stobbe reported from New York.
A woman found dead in a Spenard bedroom Friday morning died under suspicious circumstances, Anchorage police said.
Officers were called to a residence on the 3800 block of Minnesota Drive around 10:45 a.m., according to an online alert. Police found 43-year-old Sophie Barnes Ishnook dead in a bedroom.
Homicide detectives and the crime scene team investigated, but police said they have not determined the cause of death.
A spokesman for the department said Tuesday morning no further information was immediately available.
Boxes of signatures collected to recall Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy are shown in the Alaska Division of Elections office Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Recall organizers say they submitted 49,006 signatures, a first step in an attempt to force the recall election of the first-term governor. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen) (Mark Thiessen/)
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth on Tuesday morning ordered a halt to the recall campaign against Gov. Mike Dunleavy until an appeal is heard by the Alaska Supreme Court.
Aarseth’s order was unexpected by both sides in the campaign seeking to remove Dunleavy from office. Aarseth had ruled Jan. 10 that a decision by the Alaska Division of Elections to reject the recall was incorrect and that recall proponents should be permitted to gather signatures needed to force a statewide vote.
Aarseth said at the time that “this court does not intend on granting a stay of that process,” but Stand Tall With Mike — the group defending the governor — said in a Jan. 15 court filing that its cause would be irreparably harmed without a pause.
Stand Tall With Mike and Recall Dunleavy — the group seeking the governor’s removal — agreed to speedy consideration of a pause, and Aarseth approved it until the Supreme Court can consider the case.
“This matter is stayed pending resolution of this case in the Alaska Supreme Court,” the order reads.
Craig Richards, a former Alaska attorney general now representing Stand Tall With Mike, said Tuesday morning that “a stay makes sense. It allows the Supreme Court to weigh in and decide what will be on the ballot before we go through the process of collecting signatures.”
If the Supreme Court were to throw out one or more of the stated reasons for recall (Recall Dunleavy has offered four reasons), Alaskans might otherwise be signing incorrect signature booklets, he said.
“I’m not that surprised because I think it makes the most sense,” he said.
Aarseth had previously ordered the Division of Elections to provide petition booklets to Recall Dunleavy no later than Feb. 10, but with the pause, that deadline is no longer in effect. Instead, petition booklets will be distributed only if the Alaska Supreme Court rules in Recall Dunleavy’s favor.
Senior assistant attorney general Cori Mills, representing the Alaska Division of Elections, said Tuesday morning that no booklets have yet been printed.
There is not yet a timeline for the Alaska Supreme Court to consider any appeal. Aarseth has not yet issued a final judgment, and Richards said that is expected before the Supreme Court takes up the matter.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
KENSINGTON, New Hampshire -- A dad choked a coyote to death Monday after it tried to bite his young son in what police believe was a series of attacks by the animal on people and dogs.
Kensington police first received a report early Monday of a coyote aggressively approaching a car at 8:40 a.m.
About 9 a.m., police received a report from a 62-year-old woman nearby that she and her two dogs were attacked by a coyote. According to police, the woman said the coyote was on her three-season porch and her two dogs had opened the door when they were attacked.
“While the homeowner was fighting to keep the coyote out of the house she was bitten,” police said in an alert. The woman, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital and received an initial round of rabies shots. The woman’s two dogs also were treated, police said.
Kensington Police Chief Scott Cain said about two hours later, at 11 a.m., a man identified as Ian O’Reilly, 37, of Kensington was walking with his family in the woods along a trail when the same coyote ran out of the woods and attacked the family’s 2-year-old son.
Cain said the coyote bit down on the boy’s jacket before the O’Reilly “went into full protection mode.”
“He grabbed the coyote and strangled it to death,” said Cain. “I’m sure I would have done the same thing in that situation. You do what you need to do to protect your family.”
“I was able to get its head into the snow and my hand around its snout so it could no longer bite me,” O’Reilly told WCVB Channel 5 in Boston. “From there I was able to suffocate it by using my body weight, and basically scissor locking it, suffocating it until it expired. It took about 10 minutes unfortunately, which is a lot longer than I anticipated.”
O’Reilly said he was bitten on his arm and chest during the struggle with the coyote. He was also taken to a hospital to be administered rabies shots, Cain said.
The coyote was sent to the Fish and Game Department, where it will be tested for rabies, Cain said.
"It's unfortunate (the man) was hurt, but if this hadn't happened and he didn't take the action he took, we may not have the coyote's body to test for rabies," Cain said.
Cain said Fish and Game expects to have the results of the rabies test by Wednesday.
Cain said Fish and Game officers told him coyotes usually travel in packs, but he said coyote sightings are unusual in the Kensington area.
“They aren’t sure if the animal was sick,” Cain said. “They said it could be a temperament issue.”
Lizzie Chimiugak on Monday at her home in Toksook Bay. Chimiugak, who turned 90 years old on Monday, is to be the first person counted in the 2020 U.S. census on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/)
TOKSOOK BAY — Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in windswept Western Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and she is about to become the most well-known woman in the tiny town, where at 90 she is considered an elder: She will be the first person counted in the U.S. census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
"Elders that were before me, if they didn't die too early, I wouldn't have been the first person counted," Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup'ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. "Right now, they're considering me as an elder, and they're asking me questions I'm trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder."
The decennial U.S. census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the U.S. purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Steven Dillingham, director of the census bureau, will conduct the first interview. Because of federal privacy laws, the bureau won't even confirm Chimiugak will be the first person counted, even though it's the worst kept secret in her hometown.
After the count, a celebration is planned at Nelson Island School, and will include local Alaska Native dancers and traditional food, which could include seal, walrus, musk ox and moose.
This December 2019 photo shows Toksook Bay, Alaska. The 2020 census in the U.S. begins Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in this tiny community in Alaska. It has started in rural Alaska ever since the U.S. purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. This year, the first people will be counted in Toksook Bay, a city of 661 on the Bering Sea. (Matt Hage/AP Images for U.S. Census Bureau) (Matt Hage/)
Robert Pitka, tribal administrator for Nunakauyak Traditional Council, hopes the takeaway message for the rest of the nation is of Yup’ik pride.
"We are Yup'ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong in our culture and our traditions and that our Yup'ik language is very strong."
As for Chimiugak, she has concerns about climate change and what it might do to future generations of subsistence hunters and fishers in the community, and what it will do to the fish and animals. She plans to talk about it with others at the celebration.
“She’s sad about the future,” he eldest son, Paul, said.
Lizzie Chimiugak looks on at her home in Toksook Bay. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/)
Family pictures hang on the wall as Lizzie Chimiugak talks on the phone at her home in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/)
Chimiugak was born just after the start of the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere in Western Alaska, her daughter Katie Schwartz of Springfield, Missouri, said. Lizzie was one of 10 siblings born to her parents, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and traveled with two or three other families that would migrate together, her son said.
Lizzie and her 101-year-old sister from Nightmute survive.
In 1947 Lizzie married George Chimiugak, and they eventually settled in Toksook Bay after the town was founded in 1964 by residents of nearby Nightmute. There are five surviving children.
He worked maintenance at the airport and she did janitorial work at the old medical clinic and babysat.
Like other wives, Lizzie cleaned fish, tanned hides and even rendered seal oil after her husband came home from fishing or hunting. Her husband died about 30 years ago.
She is also a woman of strong Catholic faith, and told her son that she saved his life by praying over him after he contracted polio.
For her own hobbies, she weaved baskets from grass and remains a member of the Alaska Native dance group that will perform Tuesday, she dancing in her wheelchair.
She taught children manners and responsibility and continued the oral tradition of telling them stories with a storyknife.
Chimiugak used a knife in the mud to illustrate her stories to school children. She drew figures for people or homes. At the end of the story, she'd use the knife to wipe away the pictures and start the next story with a clean slate of mud.
“She’s a great teacher, you know, giving reminders us of how we’re supposed to be, taking care of subsistence and taking care of our family and respecting our parents,” her granddaughter Alice Tulik said. “That’s how she would give us advice.”
In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 photo, census workers verify that their maps match up to the right amount of houses in Toksook Bay, Alaska, a mostly Yup'ik village on the edge of the Bering Sea. Census workers traditionally begin the official decennial count in rural Alaska when the ground is still frozen. That allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/)
In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 photo, people take part in an Alaska Native dance in Toksook Bay, Alaska, a mostly Yup'ik village on the edge of the Bering Sea. Census workers traditionally begin the official decennial count in rural Alaska when the ground is still frozen. That allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (Gregory Bull/)
A copy of a Senate draft resolution to be offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., regarding the procedures during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate is photographed in Washington, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. McConnell is proposing a condensed, two-day calendar for opening arguments in Trump's impeachment trial, ground rules that are raising objections from Democrats on the eve of the landmark proceedings. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) (Jon Elswick/)
WASHINGTON - Senators are girding for a spirited debate Tuesday over the rules that will guide the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump - just the third in history of a U.S. president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s organizing resolution, which he circulated late Monday afternoon, offers each side 24 hours to make its opening arguments, starting on Wednesday, but compressed into two session days.
The chamber will take up the resolution when it reconvenes at 1 p.m.
Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have panned the proposal, arguing it is part of an effort to "cover up" Trump's dealings.
Last month the House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment charges center on the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The seven Democrats serving as House impeachment managers issued a statement Tuesday calling on the Senate to reject McConnell's proposed trial rules, saying it could produce "no trial at all."
"The McConnell Resolution goes so far as to suggest it may not even allow the evidence gathered by the House to be admitted," the statement said. "That is not a fair trial. In fact, it is no trial at all."
A simple majority of senators - 51 votes - is needed to approve the resolution and other motions in the Republican-controlled chamber.
The House managers also decried what they characterized as a "White House-driven and rigged process, with a truncated schedule designed to go late into the night and further conceal the President's misconduct."
"There should be a fair trial - fair to the President, yes, but equally important, fair to the American people. Any Senator who wants the same, should reject the McConnell Resolution," the managers said.
The managers are Reps. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Val Demings, D-Fla., Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Sylvia Garcia, D-Tex..
Under McConnell's proposal, senators will be allowed 16 hours to question the opposing sides after House impeachment managers and Trump's lawyers make their cases.
After that, the sides will debate for a maximum of four hours on whether to consider subpoenaing witnesses or documents at all, followed by a vote on whether to do so. If a majority of senators agree, then there will probably be motions from both sides to call various witnesses, with subsequent votes on issuing subpoenas.
On Tuesday afternoon, Schumer is expected to move to amend the rule package to allow for witnesses and documents at the front end of the trial.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted McConnell's proposed resolution on trial rules, saying it calls for an "absurdly compressed schedule" that amounts to "a cover-up for the President."
"No jury would be asked to operate on McConnell's absurdly compressed schedule, and it is obvious that no Senator who votes for it is intending to truly weigh the damning evidence of the President's attacks on our Constitution," Pelosi said in a statement.
Also Tuesday, in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the House impeachment managers suggested he may have a conflict that should keep him from representing Trump in the Senate trial.
The House managers noted several instances in which it appeared that Cipollone was aware of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine for which the president has been impeached.
"In light of your extensive knowledge of these key events, your personal representation of President Trump threatens to undermine the integrity of the pending trial," the managers said. "You may be a material witness to the charges against President Trump even though you are also his advocate."
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, one of the House members aiding Trump's legal team, predicted Tuesday during an appearance on Fox News that there will be no witnesses in the Senate trial.
"I don't think there are going to be any witnesses called," Ratcliffe said. "The Senate isn't going to be able to fix what happened in the House."
Sixty-nine percent of Americans say that the trial should include testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry, according to a poll for CNN conducted by SSRS.
Democrats are pressing for testimony from several witnesses who declined to take part in the House proceedings, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
The CNN poll found that Republicans are divided on that prospect: 48 percent say they want new witnesses, while 44 percent say they do not.
Meanwhile, Trump dismissed his impeachment as "a hoax" as he attended the World Economic Forum on Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland.
The White House announced late Monday that eight of the president's most ardent House Republican defenders would join the impeachment team in an adjunct capacity to "help expeditiously end this brazen political vendetta."
One of them, Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, went on the offense Tuesday morning against Democrats, claiming their characterization of McConnell's proposed trial rules as a "coverup" amounts to the "height of a temper tantrum."
The other GOP lawmakers aiding Trump are Reps. Mike Johnson of Lousiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio), Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, John Ratcliffe of Texas, Elise Stefanik of New York and Lee Zeldin of New York.
"Throughout this process, these Members of Congress have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
The House asked Trump to participate, but he declined to have lawyers represent him in impeachment proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a motion to fast-track a challenge to the Affordable Care Act so that it could be considered this term.
Without comment, the justices turned down a motion by the House and Democratic-led states to expedite review of a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last month. The panel struck down the law's mandate that individuals buy health insurance but sent back to a lower court the question of whether the rest of the statute can stand without it.
A practical effect is that the Affordable Care Act is likely to remain in place through the November election.
The House told the Supreme Court that the 5th Circuit decision "poses a severe, immediate, and ongoing threat to the orderly operation of health-care markets throughout the country, casts considerable doubt over whether millions of individuals will continue to be able to afford vitally important care, and leaves a critical sector of the nation's economy in unacceptable limbo."
But President Donald Trump's solicitor general, Noel Francisco, replied that the decision simply preserved the status quo until a lower court looked more closely at which parts of the law should survive. He said it would be premature for the high court to intervene.
"The Fifth Circuit's decision itself does not warrant immediate review because it did not definitively resolve any question of practical consequence," Francisco wrote.
In 2018, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor agreed with Texas and other red states that because Congress had reduced to zero the tax penalty for not complying with the ACA's individual mandate to have health insurance, the mandate was unconstitutional. He then ruled that the entire act must fall, although he stayed his decision, and the ACA remains in effect.
In December, a divided panel of the 5th Circuit agreed the mandate was unconstitutional but sent the case back to O'Connor for a more rigorous examination of whether parts of the law should remain in place.
Such an examination would probably take months and push a final Supreme Court decision on the issue far into the future, and certainly past the 2020 elections.