Tuesday, October 6, 2015

With Presidential Decision Looming, Joe Biden Makes Surprise Appearance At Latino Group's Fundraiser

Biden showed up to support California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who he has done events for before. But Latino donors are also a group he would need if he decides to run for president.

Courtesy Latino Victory Project

There were rumors Vice President Joe Biden might show up at a Latino Victory Project fundraiser for a California politician on Tuesday, and as the event got underway, organizers still weren't sure he would make it.

But as anticipation continues to grow that Biden will jump into the Democratic primary, he showed up, to support California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and to attack Republicans.

"People are down because of the beating Hispanics are taking from the Republican presidential race," Biden said, according to a video from the event. He said there is not a single thing more important than registering to vote, something that used to be bipartisan, but no longer is.

In recent months, Biden has said that the death of his son Beau weighs on him and he isn't sure if he will have the emotional fuel to run for president — but he is expected to make a decision soon. He would need an argument for his candidacy that separates him from fellow establishment Democrat Hillary Clinton and would need to raise lots of money and set up organizations in states where Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been campaigning for months.

Lately Biden has sounded more like a candidate, bashing Republicans, for stances on same-sex marriage in front of the Human Rights Campaign, and immigrants and Latinos, Tuesday.

"This nativism never succeeds," he said. "And it will not succeed now."

Cristobal Alex, the president of Latino Victory Project, a group that has raised money for Democrats, said Biden has been a champion of Latino candidates and the Hispanic community.

"We are thankful that the Vice President stopped by today to support California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and our mission of growing political power and representation for the Latino community," he said.

Biden talked about the importance of Latinos in the election, much like he did at an event for Padilla last October that also featured Amanda Renteria, who at the time was seeking vice president's endorsement in her congressional race. She is now Clinton's national political director.

"Ladies and gentlemen the history of this country is built on the back of people who do hard work," Biden said at the time. "What will the Latinos do for America? They're about to rebuild America."

On Tuesday, Biden also let off a couple trademark lines. Anti-immigrant forces used to be aimed at the Irish, he said to laughs, and he played up his role under Obama.

"I'm the guy literally in charge of the hemisphere for the administration, not a joke," he said. "I'm the guy that has the relationship with every head of state, the president asked me to honcho the hemisphere."

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New York Democrat Proposes Abolishing The Benghazi Select Committee

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Seizing on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's comments that suggested the GOP-led investigation into the Benghazi attacks was politically motivated, Democrats are now making an effort to abolish the committee conducting the probe.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, the ranking member on the House Rules Committee, is expected to put forward an amendment Tuesday evening that would abolish the Select Committee on Benghazi. The New York Democrat will amend a measure creating a similar committee to look into Planned Parenthood by taking out the language related to the group and inserting language to terminate the Benghazi committee.

The amendment, which is expected to fail, comes days before former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is set to testify before the committee. Clinton is scheduled to testify Oct. 22.

The move also follows comments made by McCarthy, a leading candidate for House speaker, who said in an interview on Fox News last week: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought.”

Slaughter brought up McCarthy's remarks in an interview with BuzzFeed News before announcing her efforts to abolish the committee.

"I want to know how much money they've spent on Benghazi investigations because we know eight committees did it," Slaughter said.

"We have reports from the Armed Services Committee that there is nothing there. And they know that. We've known all along that it's political. But now, that they've come right out and admitted that it's political, we want it stopped."

Clinton's campaign also released a new ad this week that uses McCarthy's comments. In response to the 30-second spot, McCarthy released a new statement Tuesday — again clarifying what he said: "The mission of the Select Committee on Benghazi is to find the truth — Period. The integrity of Chairman Gowdy, the Committee and the work they've accomplished is beyond reproach. The serious questions Secretary Clinton faces are due entirely to her own decision to put classified information at risk and endanger our national security."

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Montana Judge Prohibits State From Using Execution Drug

Alabama's lethal injection chamber.

Dave Martin / AP

A state judge ruled Tuesday that Montana cannot use the lethal injection dug pentobarbital, which several states have used in recent executions — at least not as state law is currently written.

Montana law requires lethal injections be carried out with an "ultra-fast acting barbiturate." It was written with sodium thiopental in mind, but the sole Food and Drug Administration-approved manufacturer stopped making the drug to keep it from being used in executions.

Montana attempted to substitute pentobarbital, a barbiturate that several other states including Texas, Missouri and Georgia have used in recent executions. Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled the drug can't be used since it doesn't mean the statute's definition.

"This case is only about whether the drug selected by the Department of Corrections... meets the legislatively required classification of being an 'ultra-fast acting barbiturate,' Sherlock wrote, adding that if Montana wishes to use pentobarbital, it will need to change state law.

Sherlock heard expert testimony from two doctors on pentobarbital to determine whether pentobarbital is "ultra-fast acting." The judge said the testimony of the state's expert, Dr. Lee Evans, "did not comport" with his prior testimony, which was "crucial" in deciding how to rule.

"Until the trial of this action, Dr. Evans had not testified that pentobarbital was an ultra-fast-acting barbiturate," the judge wrote. "He did so testify at trial. However, the Court struck that conclusion because it did not comport with his prior discovery responses or declarations filed with the Court."

Evans indicated in this trial that the onset of pentobarbital was less than a minute in this trial. But in a trial in 2012, Evans said it was "three to four minutes."

Evans is one of the few medical experts willing to testify on behalf of death penalty states, including in Oklahoma's recent case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, he was criticized for, among other things, using the website Drugs.com for research. The website includes the disclaimer that it is “not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.”

The judge added that his findings are "not in any way insinuate that Dr. Evans is not a credible witness," but that his change in testimony is "a factor when weighing the evidence."

Sherlock indicated that Montana could use the drug if the legislature changed the statute to not require an "ultra-fast acting" drug.

Read the full ruling:

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