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Longest shutdown over: Trump signs bill to reopen government

WASHINGTON — Submitting to mounting pressure amid growing disruption, President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies get back to work.

Standing alone in the Rose Garden, Trump said he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until Feb. 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

First the Senate, then the House swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late Friday, Trump signed it into law. The administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a “prompt and orderly manner” and said furloughed employees can return to work.

Trump’s retreat came in the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.

“This was in no way a concession,” Trump said in a tweet late Friday, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The shutdown ended as Democratic leaders had insisted it must — reopen the government first, then talk border security.

“The president thought he could crack Democrats, and he didn’t, and I hope it’s a lesson for him,” said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of her members: “Our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated.”

Trump still made the case for a border wall and maintained he might again shut down the government over it. Yet, as negotiations restart, Trump enters them from a weakened position. A strong majority of Americans blamed him for the standoff and rejected his arguments for a border wall, recent polls show.

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump said.

The president has said he could declare a national emergency to fund the border wall unilaterally if Congress doesn’t provide the money. Such a move would almost certainly face legal hurdles.

As part of the deal with congressional leaders, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers was being formed to consider border spending as part of the legislative process in the weeks ahead.

“They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first,” Trump said. He asserted that a “barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution.”

The deal includes back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks. The Trump administration promises to pay them as soon as possible.

Also expected is a new date for the president to deliver his State of the Union address, postponed during the shutdown. But it will not be Jan. 29 as once planned, according to a person familiar with the planning but unauthorized to discuss it.

As border talks resume, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes there will be “good-faith negotiations over the next three weeks to try to resolve our differences.”

Schumer said that while Democrats oppose the wall money, they agree on other ways to secure the border “and that bodes well for coming to an eventual agreement.”

In striking the accord, Trump risks backlash from conservatives who pushed him to keep fighting for the wall. Some lashed out Friday for his having yielded, for now, on his signature campaign promise.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested on Twitter that she views Trump as “the biggest wimp” to serve as president.

Money for the wall is not at all guaranteed, as Democrats have held united against building a structure as Trump once envisioned, preferring other types of border technology. Asked about Trump’s wall, Pelosi, who has said repeatedly she won’t approve money for it, said: “Have I not been clear? No, I have been very clear.”

The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey both experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday because of the shutdown. And the world’s busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.

The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the “hour of national turmoil” to help senators do “what is right.”


Hazen Smith works the pads for Daniel Eary during practice Wednesday at the CSI Eldon Evans Expo Center in Twin Falls. This will be Eary's first year fighting in the event.

Fighting with heart: Boxing Smoker brings out passions, helps fund rodeo team

TWIN FALLS — This isn’t Shaun Mentaberry’s first rodeo. Nor his first fight.

This will be Mentaberry’s third time stepping into the ring.

At a practice Wednesday, he leads the first-timers in their focus mitt drills. He repeats “1-2, 1-2, 1-2,” so throwing those straight, snappy punches becomes second nature. He throws a slow hook so the amateurs get used to dodging punches.

It’s Pete Bradshaw’s first time getting ready for a fight. He’s nervous, but he’s been training since December.

“I’ve improved tremendously since we started,” Bradshaw said. “It’s been a lot of running, lifting and sparring. I think I’m ready.”

Mentaberry throws both of his mitts up; Bradshaw throws a rapid series of punches for his burn out.


Anthony Dement, front, and Pete Bradshaw hit the bag during practice Wednesday at the CSI Eldon Evans Expo Center in Twin Falls.

This isn’t their usual sport of choice, but the members of the College of Southern Idaho Rodeo Team are giving it their all to learn how to box before their big matches.

The 42nd Annual Cowboy and Cowgirl Boxing Smoker is 8 p.m. Saturday at the CSI Eldon Evans Expo Center. There are 15 expected fights.

“We give them enough information to get in trouble,” CSI rodeo coach Steven Birnie said. “Getting in the ring will test you. I think that’s why these guys like to do it.”

All proceeds go towards the CSI Rodeo Team. The money is used for scholarships, buying hay for the horses and travel expenses. On average, the Smoker has 3,000 spectators and brings in more than $40,000 — more than the team receives from its annual budget, Birnie said.

“If we operated on just our budget we couldn’t do it,” he said. “I would guess that this event is the biggest one-night event in southern Idaho.”


Jordee Nielsen sweeps out the bleachers Wednesday as members of the CSI Rodeo Team set up the arena for the upcoming Boxing Smoker at the CSI Eldon Evans Expo Center in Twin Falls.

The fights aren’t just for the CSI Rodeo Team — anyone can sign up to box. Fighters are matched based on height, weight and ability level. All fighters weight in at 3 p.m. Saturday at the expo center.

Anthony Dement isn’t part of the Rodeo Club, but he still wants to fight. He sees this as a chance to challenge himself.

“I’m nervous, but I just want to give the audience a good show,” Dement said.

Last year, Hazen Smith lost his fight. Now, the second year rodeo team member knows what to expect from the one-minute rounds that seem to last for an eternity.

“If I learned one thing from my fight last year, it was to keep my hands up,” Smith said. “You don’t think about breathing when you are in a fight.”

Assistant rodeo coach Kelly Wardell helped train fighters back in October. He’s had experience in Mixed Martial Arts fighting, but he knows that all he can really teach amateurs is to keep their hands up and their chin down.

These aren’t seasoned fighters; Wardell knows that as soon as they get in the ring they will forget everything they learned.

What’s the appeal of watching newcomers to boxing? Maybe it’s the all-out war that the fights can shape into, but Wardell thinks it’s something else: the sheer determination that they show.

“Not much technique — it’s all about heart,” Wardell said. “I think that’s why the crowd gets so excited.”

PHOTOS: Fighters prepare for Boxing Smoker
PHOTOS: CSI Boxing Smoker a huge hit

Trump confidant Stone charged with lying about hacked emails

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s confidant Roger Stone was charged with lying about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election bid, with prosecutors alleging that senior Trump campaign officials sought to leverage the publication of the stolen material into a White House victory.

The self-proclaimed dirty trickster, arrested by the FBI in a raid before dawn Friday at his Florida home, blasted the prosecution as politically motivated. In a circus-like atmosphere outside the courthouse, as supporters cheered him on and spectators shouted “Lock Him Up,” Stone proclaimed his innocence and predicted his vindication.

“As I have said previously, there is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself,” Stone said.

The seven-count indictment, the first criminal case in months in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, provides the most detail to date about how Trump campaign associates in the summer of 2016 actively sought the disclosure of emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. It alleges that unidentified senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone to ask when stolen emails relating to Clinton might be disclosed.

Stone is the sixth Trump aide or adviser charged by Mueller and the 34th person overall. The nearly two-year-old probe has exposed multiple contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign and transition period and revealed efforts by several to conceal those communications.

The 24-page indictment brings the investigation even further into the president’s circle of advisers and suggests that Trump campaign officials were eager to exploit the stolen messages for political gain. But prosecutors did not accuse Trump of wrongdoing or charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks or with the Russian intelligence officers Mueller says hacked the emails.

They also did not reveal whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia or had advance knowledge of the hacking.

Instead the prosecution mirrors other Mueller cases in alleging cover-ups and deception, accusing Stone of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a House intelligence committee probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the election.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the indictment “does not allege Russian collusion by Roger Stone or anyone else.” Trump himself on Friday called the investigation the “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country!”

CNN aired video of the raid at Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, showing agents in body armor using large weapons and night-vision equipment, running up to the home and banging on the door.

“FBI open the door!” one shouts. “FBI, warrant!” Stone could then be seen in the doorway in his sleepwear before he was led away.

Though not uncommon for the FBI to make early-morning arrests of targets under indictment, it’s the first time Mueller has used that tactic. In court papers, prosecutors wrote they had concerns that if Stone was tipped off to the indictment, it would increase his risk of flight and of destroying evidence.

Hours after his arrest, Stone appeared in court in a blue polo shirt and jeans. In releasing him on $250,000 bond, a magistrate judge restricted Stone’s travel to South Florida, Washington and New York City and ordered him to avoid contact with witnesses. He’s due Tuesday in a court in Washington, where the case was filed.

“This morning, at the crack of dawn, 29 FBI agents arrived at my home with 17 vehicles, with their lights flashing, when they could simply have contacted my attorneys and I would have been more than willing to surrender voluntarily,” Stone said outside court.

Known for his political antics and hard-ball tactics, Stone has reveled in being a Washington wheeler-dealer dating back to the Nixon administration. On Friday, he mimicked Nixon’s famous “V’’ gesture as he left the courthouse. He was an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s candidacy.

Stone briefly served on Trump’s campaign, but was pushed out amid infighting with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Stone continued to communicate with Trump occasionally and stayed plugged into his circle of advisers, both formal and informal.

The indictment says Stone repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks with campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone’s conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the weeks before Trump beat Clinton.

The document says that by June and July 2016, Stone had told senior Trump campaign officials that he had information indicating that WikiLeaks had obtained documents that could be damaging to Clinton’s campaign.

Meanwhile, a federal judge said Friday she will hold a hearing behind closed doors to determine whether former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort intentionally lied to investigators, including about sharing polling data with a business associate the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence.

Attorneys with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office say Manafort breached his plea deal by repeatedly making false statements after he began cooperating with them in September.

URA to spend $17,500 preparing for proposed milk processor

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency wants to create a new revenue allocation area encompassing the site of a future milk processing plant. But officials still won’t say what the anticipated tax revenue from that plant will be.

The URA board on Friday had a special meeting to consider entering into an agreement and paying $17,500 for an eligibility report and feasibility study for 80 acres of land on Washington Street South.

“We are looking to create an allocation area, which would potentially generate revenue to allow us funds to build some infrastructure,” URA Executive Director Nathan Murray told the Times-News.

Urban renewal agencies are allowed to establish such areas and collect revenue from them based on the increase in property values over a set time. That money can then be used for public infrastructure projects.

Gem State Dairy Products has applied for a zoning change on a 76-acre parcel on Washington Street South, south of Glanbia Nutritionals. The company would build a food processing plant, but has declined to provide additional details.

The URA, meanwhile, has been asked to assist in public infrastructure investments on site, but cannot do so unless it creates a revenue allocation area.

“We believe it’s worth our time to study this area to determine if it’s worth establishing an allocation area, because of the amount of the investment that could be made,” Murray said. “It’s pretty significant.”

Murray said he cannot disclose the amount of that investment.

At the meeting, the board voted unanimously to enter into a contract with Phil Kushlan of Kushan Associates. Board members Cindy Bond and Doug Vollmer were not present.

As planned, Kushlan will prepare an eligibility report that will look at 14 criteria the state has in place for creating a new revenue allocation area. That report costs the URA $7,500.

“There’s very few people that do this type of work,” Murray said. “Especially in our area. I think we’re getting a good deal from Phil because he knows us and has worked with us.”

Kushlan is a former interim director of the Twin Falls URA, and has done this type of work in 15 communities around the state. He could stop the report at any time if he began to get findings that were questionable, Murray said.

To be eligible, the area needs to be defined as a deteriorated or deteriorating. But just one of the 14 criteria has to apply, Kushlan said. Additionally, the URA will need to make sure the base value of this area and base values of existing revenue allocation areas don’t exceed 10 percent of the total valuation of city.

The eligibility report could come back before the board in March, and then be followed by a feasibility study at a cost of $10,000. If the URA chose to create the area, it would need to get City Council approval before being directed to create a 20-year urban renewal plan for the area.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.

Burley man gets 28 years to life in prison for killing transmission shop owner

BURLEY — A Cassia County judge sentenced a 23-year-old Burley man to 28 years to life in prison on Jan. 25 for killing a transmission shop owner in December 2017.

Luis Gabriel Ponce pleaded guilty to first-degree murder after a mediation hearing was held in the case.

Christopher Fassett, 58, died after being shot in the stomach and head in his shop.

“I wish I had something profound to say. This was a senseless crime and it affected the entire community,” Judge Michael Tribe said Jan. 25.

The Cassia County Prosecutor’s Office will dismiss charges of robbery and burglary as part of the agreement.

Cassia County Chief Deputy Prosecutor McCord Larsen said Fassett was “a very colorful man” and he had a “colorful past,” but people who knew him said he was on his way up in life.

Investigators testified in earlier hearings that Ponce demanded money from Fassett, who was inside the shop working underneath a vehicle.

Fassett asked Ponce if he wanted to work for him, Larsen said, and Ponce replied that he needed the money now and couldn’t wait.

Ponce’s description of what happened was “really cold,” Larsen said.

Ponce told police he searched the shop for money, but he had given Fassett $20 for some work Fassett had done for him and that money was found in Fassett’s wallet at the autopsy, Larsen said.

After he shot him, Larsen said, Ponce told Fassett he was sorry. Ponce told police that Fassett then said “help, please.”

Larsen said Ponce came into the sheriff’s office and turned himself in the day after the murder.

“It was a senseless tragedy,” Ponce’s attorney, Timothy Schneider, said. “He made a tragic decision on that day; now he’s going to pay for it maybe for the rest of his life.”

Ponce knows what he did and is willing to take responsibility for it, Schneider said.

Tribe ordered Ponce to pay $10,000 in fines, including $5,000 to the victim’s family, $1,808 to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund and $500 in public defender costs.