Willamette Falls Paper, PGE settle dispute over electricity service
Washington Republicans are in the woods
GOP wanders in a dismal political wilderness.
Fatal crash stalls traffic on Highway 14 near Camas
Officials are responding to a fatal crash on westbound state Highway 14 near Camas.
Washington State Patrol trooper Will Finn said on Twitter that a fatal crash has all westbound lanes blocked. He asked drivers to use alternate routes, if possible.
Traffic is backing up in the area, according to a Department of Transportation tweet.
Law enforcement and firefighters have been dispatched to the crash scene.
This story will be updated.
Mother who kidnapped her child, fled to Mexico receives 20-month sentence
A mother who abducted her then-4-year-old daughter during a supervised visit at Vancouver Mall more than two years ago and took her to Mexico was sentenced Friday to 20 months in prison.
Esmeralda Lopez-Lopez, through a Spanish interpreter, entered guilty pleas to second-degree kidnapping and robbery and first-degree custodial interference.
Lopez-Lopez, 23, said she was not proud of her actions.
“I feel bad about it. I’m sorry,” she said.
Clark County Superior Court Judge Daniel Stahnke said he was not convinced by her apology. He said he believes Lopez-Lopez knew what she was doing when she took her daughter to another country, and he would have imposed a harsher sentence if he wasn’t restrained by the law.
“You should not have taken her to a place where you no longer know where she’s at,” Stahnke said.
The attorneys said during the hearing that Lopez-Lopez was offered a stipulated agreement because she’s helping law enforcement search for her daughter, whose whereabouts in Mexico are unknown. Defense attorney Darquise Cloutier said her client believes the child is safe with family.
The punishment was “substantially reduced based on her cooperation, which may be ongoing,” Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith said.
Lopez-Lopez originally faced charges of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, second-degree theft, motor vehicle theft, second-degree identity theft and first-degree custodial interference. She will receive upwards of 14 months’ credit for time served and will be on supervised release for 18 months once she is released.
Her daughter, Aranza Ochoa-Lopez, had been in the state’s custody when she was abducted. She was placed in foster care in 2017 following founded complaints of physical abuse by Lopez-Lopez. The girl was reportedly covered in large bruises, and Lopez-Lopez was deemed a danger based on the history of abuse, her lack of participation in a mental health assessment and her erratic behavior. She was granted twice-weekly supervised visitation, according to search warrant affidavits.
Lopez-Lopez kidnapped her daughter Oct. 25, 2018, after asking permission to take the child to the restroom at the mall during a Child Protective Services supervised visit, the search warrant affidavits say. She fled with the girl to a stolen vehicle, where an accomplice waited.
Lopez-Lopez was on the run in Mexico for about a year, before being arrested and extradited, according to the prosecution.
Her co-defendants, Erick Garcia-Valdovinos, 21; Francisco Javier Hernandez-Reyes, 20; Sherri Franchesca Trigueros, 18; and Alejandro Xulu-Sop, then-16, were arrested in connection with the child abduction and kidnapping of a Centralia man, whose car was stolen and used in the plot, according to court records.
The court ordered Lopez-Lopez pay about $1,500 in restitution to the vehicle theft victim.
Garcia-Valdovinos and Hernandez-Reyes were previously sentenced to 17 months in prison. Trigueros was sentenced to 129 weeks in a juvenile facility. Xulu-Sop is wanted on a warrant, Smith said. Having reached the age of 18, his case has been re-filed in Superior Court.
Head of Washington employment agency to join Biden administration
OLYMPIA — Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine, who came under fire for delays in unemployment benefit payments and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to fraud during the pandemic, is leaving her position to join the administration of President Joe Biden.
According to a news release issued Friday, LeVine’s departure is effective Feb. 1, at which point details of her new position will be released.
Deputy Commissioner Cami Feek will serve as acting commissioner until Gov. Jay Inslee appoints a permanent replacement.
In a written statement, Inslee said that LeVine led the agency “through an extremely challenging time and I never doubted that she had the best interests of working Washingtonians at the heart of all her endeavors.”
LeVine, who was appointed by Inslee in 2018, previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President Barack Obama. Before that she worked in the private sector for Microsoft and Expedia.
“I have loved every minute of my job here at ESD, even the ones that have been the most difficult,” LeVine said in a prepared statement.
Texas sues Biden administration over halt to deportations
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas on Friday moved to stop President Joe Biden from allowing a 100-day moratorium on deportations, bringing one of the first lawsuits against his new administration.
In rushing to court not even a week after Biden was sworn in, America’s biggest red state signaled that it was ready to resume the role of chief antagonist to a Democratic president’s immigration agenda, after four years of cheering on Donald Trump’s hardline policies along the southern border.
The federal lawsuit seeks a halt to the deportation moratorium “for certain noncitizens” that was to begin Friday. Biden has already signed a raft of executive orders, including one revoking Trump’s mandate that made anyone in the U.S. illegally a priority for deportation.
Texas claims the moratorium violates an agreement, signed in the waning weeks of Trump’s presidency, that required the federal government to run changes to immigration enforcement past the state first. BuzzFeed News first reported the Trump administration signing similar agreements with Republican leaders in several states. Legal scholars have expressed doubt that the agreements will be enforceable in court.
“Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.
The Department of Homeland Security referred questions to the White House, which did not immediately respond.
The lawsuit, which repeatedly cites Texas’ agreement with the Trump administration, was filed before U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, in the Southern District of Texas.
Since taking office Wednesday, Biden has made quick work of showing far-reaching intentions on immigration that would unwind many of Trump’s crackdowns. His first steps included stopping construction of a border wall with Mexico and lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries.
Biden also says he will push to give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan. 1, an estimated 11 million people.
Texas shares more than 1,200 miles of border with Mexico, which the state’s Republican leaders say makes them particularly invested in the nation’s immigration policies. It also received thousands of refugees annually before Trump virtually ended admissions.
The state is currently leading a fight to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Obama instituted in 2012 that confers limited protections on immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Friday’s lawsuit echoes many of the same arguments Texas is making against DACA, that immigrants without authorization drain educational and health-care resources. Supporters of immigrant protections say those arguments are flawed and that immigrants help the state’s economy and health-care sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But battles over enforcement during the Obama administration have also provided ambitious Texas politicians a ready-made national platform, including former Gov. Rick Perry, who ran twice for president, and Gov. Greg Abbott, a potential 2024 contender who bragged as state attorney general that his job was to sue the federal government and go home.
In bringing one of the first lawsuits against the Biden administration, Paxton is eager to be seen as a champion for Republicans not just as Democrats reclaim power in Washington, but as his own career is under dark clouds.
The FBI is investigating Paxton, who was a loyal Trump ally, over accusations by top former aides that he abused his office at the service of a donor. Separately, Paxton has pleaded not guilty in state court to felony charges of defrauding investor in a case that has dragged on for five years.
Guard in D.C. forced to sleep in garages, sparking outcry
WASHINGTON (AP) — Images of National Guard soldiers camped in a cold parking garage after being sent to protect Washington sparked new calls Friday for investigations of the U.S. Capitol Police, now facing allegations that the agency evicted troops sent to help after its failure to stop rioting mobs two weeks ago.
Members of both parties were irate about reports that Guardsmen were forced to take rest breaks outside the Capitol building. About 25,000 Guard members from across the country deployed to help secure President Joe Biden’s inauguration, which went off with only a handful of minor arrests.
Biden spoke Friday morning to Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She said the president thanked Hokanson and the Guard for their help the last few weeks and offered his assistance if Hokanson needed anything. She did not say if they discussed what happened at the Capitol on Thursday.
First lady Jill Biden visited Guard troops outside the Capitol on Friday, bringing them cookies and thanking them for protecting her family. She noted that the Bidens’ late son, Beau, served in the Delaware Army National Guard.
A jittery Washington requested the aid following the riot where police were badly outnumbered, locking down the nation’s capital with soldiers, police and barricades and lawmakers and Biden took pains to thank security forces for their effort. All 25,000 Guard members were vetted by the FBI over concerns of an insider attack, and a dozen were removed from their posts including two who made extremist statements about the inauguration.
The National Guard said it originally moved troops out of the Capitol Rotunda and other spaces to garages at the behest of the Capitol Police. The Guardsmen were allowed back inside late Thursday after reports were widely shared of the conditions in the garages, with few bathrooms and little covering from the cold.
Capitol Police Interim Chief Yogananda Pittman issued a statement Friday saying her agency “did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.”
But two Capitol Police officers who spoke on condition of anonymity contradicted her statement, saying they were told department higher-ups had ordered the Guardsmen out. It was unclear why. The two officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the department to speak.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said that “multiple members of military leadership” had told him a uniformed Capitol Police officer told them to leave the Capitol Visitor Center.
“The troops didn’t move on their own,” said Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He added: “This isn’t a blame game, but I want to know what happened so we can make sure it can’t happen again.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who leads a subcommittee that oversees the Capitol Police budget, said Pittman and other commanders would eventually need to testify about their decision-making.
“If the Capitol Police in any way, shape, or form pushed the Guard out into a cold garage, then there’s going to be hell to pay,” Ryan said . “We’re already trying to re-establish trust with the Capitol Police and we’ve got to figure out exactly what happened.”
The National Guard Bureau said Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to D.C. for the inaugural, just 10,600 remain on duty. The bureau said the Guard is helping states with coordination and the logistics so that troops can get home.
Thousands of Guard troops from all across the country poured into D.C. by the planeload and busload late last week, in response to escalating security threats and fears of more rioting. Military aircraft crowded the runways at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, carrying Guard members into the region in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Guard forces were scattered around the city, helping to secure the Capitol, monuments, Metro entrances and the perimeter of central D.C., which was largely locked down for several days leading up to Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony.
Some local law enforcement agencies have asked for continued assistance from the Guard, so roughly 7,000 troops are expected to stay in the region through the end of the month.
The insurrection highlighted multiple failures by the Capitol Police to prepare for what became a violent mob overrunning parts of the building. Officers who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said there was little planning before the riot or guidance from department leaders once the riot began.
The riot left five people dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was hit in the head by a fire extinguisher. Another officer died in an apparent suicide after the attack.
Biden orders review of domestic extremism threat in U.S.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has directed his intelligence community to study the threat of domestic extremism in the United States, an undertaking being launched weeks after a violent mob loyal to Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.
The disclosure Friday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki is a stark acknowledgment of the national security threat that officials see as posed by American extremists motivated to violence by extremist ideology. The involvement of the director of national intelligence, an office created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to prevent international terrorism, suggests that American authorities are examining how to pivot to a more concerted focus on violence from radical extremists at home.
FBI Director Chris Wray has said that, over the last year, the most lethal violence has come from anti-government activists, such as anarchists and militia-types.
“The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat,” Psaki said.
NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen last week
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
Troops facing away from Biden motorcade were watching for security threats
CLAIM: Troops in Washington turned their backs on President Joe Biden’s motorcade as it passed on its way to his inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.
THE FACTS: In accordance with safety protocols, some National Guard members were positioned with their backs to Biden’s motorcade as it made its way through Washington to the U.S. Capitol. But social media users are falsely suggesting a video shot by an ABC reporter shows Guard members turning their backs on Biden in a show of disrespect. “Many in the military turned their backs to Biden’s motorcade,” claimed one tweet with more than 3,000 likes that shared the footage. Another video making the false claim had more than 100,000 views on YouTube. Taking it a step further, some social media users captured a still from the video and showed it in posts alongside photos of Guard members enthusiastically greeting former President Donald Trump at an unspecified event. The video with the false claim was amplified by accounts that have supported Trump and promoted misinformation in the past. ABC reporter Ines de La Cuetara uploaded the video to Twitter on Wednesday at about 10:30 a.m. “The view from Biden’s motorcade as it made its way up to the Capitol,” she said in her caption. In the video, some Guard members can be seen facing the cars passing on the street while others have their backs turned near Robert A. Taft Memorial on Constitution Avenue. More than 26,000 Guard members from around the country were brought in to beef up security for the inauguration in the wake of the violent riots at the Capitol. The AP confirmed with the National Guard Bureau that Guard members had their backs turned to monitor all possible threats, in keeping with safety protocol. During Trump’s inauguration, authorities could be seen both with their backs facing and turned away from his motorcade. “These National Guardsmen were on duty with a mission to protect the president against potential threats. Some are facing out to ensure the safety of all,” said Darla Torres, a spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau.
— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.
Kamala Harris rested hand on Bibles, not a purse, during oath
CLAIM: When Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn into office on Wednesday, she placed a black clutch purse on top of the Bible so she wouldn’t have to touch the holy book.
THE FACTS: Harris rested her hand on a Bible stacked on another Bible as she was sworn into office. But on Thursday, social media users were sharing a photo from Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony along with false claims that Harris avoided touching the Bible during her oath of office. The photo showed Harris with her right hand up and her left hand resting on an unidentified black item, reciting her oath of office. The black item rested on top of a thick Bible, both held by Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff. “She couldn’t even bring herself to touch that Bible,” read one Facebook post viewed more than 35,000 times. “Do you all need it spelled out for you?” read another widely shared post. “A believer in Christ couldn’t wait to hold that Bible..A Satanist Cannot Touch It! Notice he has gloves… She has her clutch bag on top of it!” But the black item on top of the larger Bible was another Bible, as photos from a different angle confirmed. The Associated Press reported that Harris used two Bibles during her oath. One belonged to Regina Shelton, a family friend whose Bible Harris swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. The other belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in Semora, North Carolina, contributed this report.
Band did not play ‘Hit the Road Jack’ outside the White House
CLAIM: A video shows a military band played the song “Hit the Road Jack” outside the White House before Donald Trump said farewell to Washington.
THE FACTS: The audio in the video of the Army band’s pre-inauguration rehearsal was altered. CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta posted the original video on Twitter on Monday, which showed the band actually playing “National Emblem,” an American march composed in 1902 and published in 1906. “Preps for Biden inaugural… you can hear the band playing on WH grounds,” Acosta tweeted, sharing a clip of the band’s rehearsal. The video was manipulated to insert the song “Hit the Road Jack” and it was shared widely on social media. An audio search using the music app Shazam linked to the Ohio State University Marching Band performing the song. “Just Happened. Military Band practices ‘Hit The Road Jack’ right outside the WH!'” wrote a Twitter user, who shared the altered video on Monday. The clip had 3 million views. Another Twitter user shared the manipulated video on Tuesday with the comment: “Perfect. Trump’s last day. The Military Band right outside the White House — ‘Hit The Road Jack.'” The post had more than 25,000 retweets. The edited video also circulated on Facebook. Shaunteh D. Kelly, a military spokesperson, confirmed to The Associated Press in an email that the “Army Band was rehearsing the ‘National Emblem’ as a part of the military’s precision, teamwork, and dedication to ceremonial excellence.”
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.
Trump did not pardon Joe Exotic
CLAIM: Donald Trump pardoned “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic before leaving office as president of the United States.
THE FACTS: Social media posts circulating widely on Wednesday falsely claimed the eccentric Oklahoma zookeeper featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” received a pardon from Donald Trump in his last hours as president. “Joe Exotic’s team thanks Donald Trump for his pardoned signature & will be released from jail in Ft Worth, TX,” read a tweet shared hundreds of times on Wednesday. But Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was not on Trump’s final pardon list, according to reporting by the AP. Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence in a Texas federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for trying to arrange the killing of his chief rival, Florida animal sanctuary founder Carole Baskin. Baskin wasn’t harmed. Maldonado-Passage has maintained his innocence and requested a pardon in September. His team was so confident in a pardon this week that they had prepared a celebratory limousine for the occasion. When news broke that he wouldn’t be released on Wednesday, Maldonado-Passage’s backers — who call themselves “Team Tiger” — released a statement expressing their disappointment. “140 million Joe Exotic fans had a hard time getting out of bed this morning,” the statement said.
— Ali Swenson
Posts falsely cite Pelosi as responsible for security during Capitol insurrection
CLAIM: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is in charge of overseeing the Capitol Police, is responsible for security failures that allowed the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to happen.
THE FACTS: Pelosi does not oversee day-to-day operations of the Capitol Police. But after the deadly riot at the Capitol, social media users began sharing posts that blamed Pelosi for security shortfalls that allowed the building to be breached. “It was Capitol Police that let the intruders in and it was Capitol police who killed an innocent woman that was on the opposite side of a door from that officer whom we still don’t know the name of,” said one tweet with more than 2,000 likes. “Nancy Pelosi is in charge of Capitol Police NOT Trump.” Capitol Police are responsible for security on the grounds of the Capitol and protecting Congress, along with the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms. “No one person oversees USCP — the oversight apparatus includes representation from the Architect of the Capitol, the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms, as well as committees from both Houses of Congress,” Bee Barnett, director of communications and programs for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, said in an email. While the Capitol Police budget is approved by both chambers of Congress, Pelosi does not control day-to-day operations or officer assignments. The storming of the Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to tally the Electoral College votes confirming Joe Biden won the election, left five people dead, including Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. The building was placed under lockdown and members of Congress were forced to hide. Three top security officials resigned following pressure from congressional leaders, including Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, and longtime House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving. Pelosi called the events a “failure of leadership at the top” and called for Sund’s resignation. Irving had already resigned when she sought Sund’s resignation. Sund was hired in 2019 by a three-member board that consists of the two sergeants at arms from the House and Senate, as well as the Architect of the Capitol.
— Beatrice Dupuy, with additional reporting from Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington.
Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman did not create Telegram channel
CLAIM: Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, created a channel on the popular messaging app Telegram and posted several dozen times there, sharing videos, images and phrases such as “nothing can stop what is coming” and “THE TRUTH WILL SHOCK THE WORLD.”
THE FACTS: Hyten’s spokeswoman, Maj. Trisha Guillebeau, confirmed to the AP that the general does not have a Telegram account and that the creator of the channel is impersonating him. The Telegram channel titled “General Hyten” was created on Monday. By the next day, it had dozens of posts and well over 200,000 subscribers. Posts appearing to come from Hyten in the channel urged users not to give up hope and to “have faith.” Some posts included videos or images of former President Donald Trump. The posts hinted at impending breaking news and the potential use of an emergency broadcasting system, mirroring a false theory that President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration would be interrupted by emergency broadcasts or Trump invoking the Insurrection Act. Multiple posts in the channel also included terms like “great awakening,” “storm” and “nothing can stop what is coming,” which are frequently used by supporters of QAnon, a false conspiracy theory rooted in the baseless belief that Trump is fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring. The individual sharing the posts used an image of Hyten and claimed to be him, even writing, “The account is maintained by me. -genhyten.” However, Guillebeau confirmed to the AP that an impersonator was behind the account. “This Telegram account is fake,” Guillebeau said in a phone interview. “General Hyten doesn’t have any professional or personal social media accounts across the board.” By Tuesday, the channel had been mentioned in hundreds of other Telegram channels populated by QAnon supporters, according to Marc-Andre Argentino, a doctoral candidate at Concordia University who studies the QAnon movement. Telegram did not respond to a request for comment from the AP, but it did appear to affix a warning label to the channel on Tuesday.
— Ali Swenson
White House orders intelligence agencies to look at violent extremism in the U.S.