State Roundup, August 28, 2018

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CONGRESS MAY HAVE BEEN MISLED ON FBI HQ-WHITE HOUSE INVOLVEMENT: Jonathan O’Connell of the Post reports that a government watchdog report says that officials from the General Services Administration may have misled Congress about the White House’s role in canceling a decade-long search for a new FBI headquarters campus in the Washington suburbs last year. GSA officials also misrepresented the costs of their replacement plan — to build a new downtown headquarters — making it seem as though it would cost less than the original plan when it would actually cost more, the report from the agency’s inspector general found.

  • The study’s conclusions alarmed Maryland officials, who once hoped the Federal Bureau of Investigation might relocate to Greenbelt or Landover, reports Jeff Barker of the Sun. “Not only does the report find that GSA inaccurately accounted for the costs associated with keeping the FBI headquarters at the Pennsylvania Avenue site, but it states that GSA Administrator [Emily] Murphy misled Congress on the White House’s involvement in the project,” said Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland. “These findings, along with previous reports of President Trump’s personal involvement in the construction of a new FBI headquarters, raise serious concerns.”
  • Daniel Sernovitz of the Washington Busines Journal writes that President Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were among those in on an Oval Office meeting Jan. 24 when GSA Administrator Emily Murphy and FBI Director Christopher Wray briefed the president on plans for a new FBI headquarters. The report notes several other meetings with Trump officials going as far back as Dec. 20, when Murphy and GSA Public Buildings Commissioner Dan Mathews met with Kelly and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in response to a Kelly request for an update on the headquarters project.

TRONE ADMITS CANCER TREATMENT: Following Ryan Miner’s piece on Democrats speculating about congressional hopeful David Trone’s health and Trone’s campaign manager dismissal of illness, Trone himself has admitted in a press release to undergoing treatment for cancer. Paul Schwartzman of the Post writes that Trone, according to the press release, is scheduled for surgery in mid-September to remove a kidney. He said he plans to return to the campaign trail quickly and is confident he will make a full recovery.

CONGRATS TO A MINER DETAIL: Congrats to Ryan Miner for uncovering the story about the suspect health of David Trone, the Democratic nominee in the 6th Congressional District. This was a piece of sound journalism documented with photos that clearly showed Trone’s hair loss and gaunt appearance. His campaign manager called it “gossip,” but the story, which we linked to Monday, forced Trone to admit he had cancer two months after he was diagnosed — on the day before he won the primary. What a contrast to the forthright disclosure of Gov. Larry Hogan and his battle with cancer in 2015 a few days after he was diagnosed. Len Lazarick, MarylandReporter.com

ETHICS COMMISSION REJECTS COMPTROLLER COMPLAINT: The State Ethics Commission has rejected the complaint of Anjali Reed Phukan, the GOP  candidate for comptroller, against current Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot  for passing out embossed medallions that bear the authority line of his campaign committee. As MarylandReporter.com said in a July 10 story, “Franchot has been passing out the coins to thousands of people for at least five years, reviving a tradition started by the late Comptroller Louie Goldstein.” In a three-sentence letter to Phukan, commission executive director Michael Lord told her the commission met Aug. 23 and “after careful consideration, determined not to issue the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.” Phukan said in an email, “clearly something very fishy.”

HOGAN HAS $9.3M ON HAND: Gov. Larry Hogan’s reelection campaign raised $2.3 million this summer and has $9.3 million on hand to spend between now and Election Day, according to a campaign memo released Monday morning ahead of a campaign finance deadline, Erin Cox of the Post writes. The size of his war chest is large by Maryland standards and complements $1.25 million raised by the Maryland Republican Party and significant spending on Hogan’s behalf by the Republican Governors Association.

PRISON REDUCTION SAVINGS NUMBERS QUESTIONED: Reducing mass incarceration and the number of inmates in Maryland prisons has been a key element of Ben Jealous’s Democratic campaign for governor from the start. By reducing the prison population by 30% over 10 years, he says “we can save $660 million a year”and use that money for education and other programs. Official estimates for savings by reducing Maryland prison population do not come close to the numbers Jealous uses, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.

JEALOUS, HOGAN ON ARMING TEACHERS: A controversial proposal to allow states to use federal grants to buy guns is turning up in published reports. It’s also starting to turn heads on the campaign trail, Tim Tooten of WBAL-TV reports. Gov. Larry Hogan said, “I haven’t seen the proposal. … But we passed landmark legislation for school safety and we’re trying to put more money into safety with resource officers and mental health counselors and making our schools more secure.” Gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, who has been highly critical of the Trump administration, said, “Our schools are supposed to be the safest places in the world, where our children are able to learn and grow without fearing for their lives. A classroom is the last place we want a gun.”

GREEN CANDIDATE BLASTS MO CO REPORT: Montgomery County Council Green Party candidate Tim Willard, in an op-ed for Maryland Matters, calls a recent report by the Sage Policy Group blasting Montgomery County’s economy “seriously flawed, using sloppy statistical analysis and apples to oranges comparisons.” The business group Empower Montgomery released the report that says that Montgomery County “is already in the midst of a downward fiscal spiral,” experiencing poor job growth, little new business formation, and an out migration of its taxpayer base.

ARUNDEL NURSES GET GUN WOUND TRAINING: Should the worst happen at Annapolis Middle School, Jennifer Corkill now knows what she can do to help her students. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that Corkill was among more than 300 school nurses and health assistants who were trained Monday in the grim but necessary skills to handle a school shooting: how to react to a shooter, how to triage wounded children and how to apply a tourniquet.

DRILLING PLAN WILL HARM CRABS: In an op-ed for the Sun, Bay environmentalists Jacqueline Savitz and William Baker write about the delicate life cycle of Maryland’s beloved blue crab and conclude that “the Trump administration must reverse course on its ill-informed plan to lease the East Coast for offshore drilling. To risk losing our cherished Chesapeake Bay blue crab to this industrialization is to risk our very way of life.”