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By: James Joyner of Outside the Beltway

Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress five years ago. The statute of limitations ran out yesterday without him being charged.

Washington Examiner (“James Clapper avoids charges for ‘clearly erroneous’ surveillance testimony“):

Former intelligence chief James Clapper is poised to avoid charges for allegedly lying to Congress following five years of apparent inaction by the Justice Department.

Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, admitted giving “clearly erroneous” testimony about mass surveillance in 2013, and offered differing explanations for why.

The under-oath untruth was exposed by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who sparked national debate on surveillance policy with leaks to the press.

Two criminal statutes that cover lying to Congress have five-year statutes of limitations, establishing a Monday deadline to charge Clapper, who in retirement has emerged as a leading critic of President Trump.

Many members of Congress, mostly Republicans supportive of new limits on electronic surveillance, called for Clapper to be prosecuted as the deadline neared, saying unpunished perjury jeopardizes the ability of Congress to perform oversight.

“He admitted to lying to Congress and was unremorseful and flippant about it,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told the Washington Examiner. “The integrity of our federal government is at stake because his behavior sets the standard for the entire intelligence community.”

“Political consideration should not affect the Department of Justice from pursuing this matter,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said ahead of the deadline. “Complete and truthful testimony is imperative for Congress to conduct effective oversight. It is clear from the evidence and Director Clapper’s own admission that he lied.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman declined to comment on Clapper or how perjury cases typically would be handled, saying in an email, “No comment or information to be provided.” Clapper, speaking through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Clapper’s problematic testimony occurred a few minutes before noon on March 12, 2013, when he told Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., “No, sir,” and, “Not wittingly,” in response to a question about whether the NSA was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Wyden later said he provided the question to Clapper before the hearing and unsuccessfully asked Clapper to correct the record.

Months later, Snowden revealed in June 2013 that the U.S. intelligence community obtained secret court orders forcing phone companies to turn over millions of U.S. call records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”

Clapper offered at least two different explanations for his inaccurate testimony. In a June 2013 apology letter, Clapper wrote that he gave the “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the call record collection. But in an MSNBC interview the same month, he saidhe chose to give the “least untruthful” answer because he was “asked a, ‘When are you going to stop beating your wife?’ kind of question, meaning not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no.”

In a January column for USA Today (“James Clapper’s perjury, and why DC made men don’t get charged for lying to Congress“) Jonathan Turley argued:

The expiration of the statute of limitations for Clapper will have the benefit of conclusively establishing that some people in this city are above the law. In a 2007 study, author P.J. Meitl found that “[a]lmost no one is prosecuted for lying to Congress.” Indeed, he found only six people convicted of perjury or related charges in relation to Congress, going back to the 1940s.

The problem is not that the perjury statute is never enforced. Rather it is enforced against people without allies in government. Thus, Roger Clemens was prosecuted for untrue statements before Congress. He was not given the option of giving the “least untruthful” answer.

Another reason for the lack of prosecutions is that the perjury process is effectively rigged to protect officials accused of perjury or contempt before Congress. When an official like Clapper or Nielsen is accused of lying to Congress, Congress first has to refer a case to federal prosecutors and then the administration makes the decision whether to prosecute its own officials for contempt or perjury. The result has almost uniformly been “declinations” to even submit such cases to a grand jury. Thus, when both Republicans and Democrats accused CIA officials of lying to Congress about the torture program implemented under former president George W. Bush, not a single indictment was issued.

For Clapper, the attempt to justify his immunity from prosecution has tied officials into knots. After Clapper lied before Congress and there was a public outcry, Clapper gave his “least untruthful answer” justification. When many continued to demand a prosecution, National Intelligence general counsel Robert Litt insisted that Clapper misunderstood the question. Still later, Litt offered a third rationalization: that Clapper merely forgot about the massive surveillance system. That’s right. Clapper forgot one of the largest surveillance (and unconstitutional) programs in the history of this country. Litt did not explain why Clapper himself said that he knowingly chose the “least untruthful answer.” Litt added, “It was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the … program … We all make mistakes.” Of course, this “mistake” was an alleged felony offense.

Clapper will establish a standard that will be hard to overcome in the future. He lied about a massive, unconstitutional surveillance program and then admitted that he made an “untruthful” statement. That would seem to satisfy the most particular prosecutor in submitting a case to a grand jury, but this is Washington.

As I argued in an August 2013 essay for The National Interest (“Clapper’s Bodyguard of Lies“) lying was likely his best option.

By its very nature, a culture of misinformation follows a culture of secrecy as night follows day. As Churchill understood, questions will come up and misinformation is necessary to divert people from stumbling on the truth.

Indeed, Wyden himself unwittingly demonstrated this recently. He was justifiably upset that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told him that the NSA was “not wittingly” collecting data on millions of Americans when, in fact, it was and Clapper knew it. That the intelligence community defines “collect” in a different way than the dictionary doesn’t change the fact that Clapper was intentionally trying to hide the existence of the program.

Then again, Wyden should have known better than to ask that question in a public hearing. It would not only have been foolish but illegal for Clapper to acknowledge the existence of a highly sensitive and classified program in that setting. So, Clapper was put in a position where he had to either lie or give an answer that tacitly revealed classified information. (Truthfully denying one program and then giving a “I can neither confirm nor deny” response regarding another makes it rather clear that the second program exists.) Clapper tried to avoid either path by giving an answer that was too cute, seemingly denying the program existed while not quite doing so. That was foolish and he was later forced to apologize.

The bottom line here is that, while some members of Congress are entitled to know what our intelligence community is doing, “Congress” isn’t. Some information is shared only with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Some is shared with the committees in whole but only behind closed doors, in sessions where they’re sworn to secrecy. Very little information is shared in public hearings and, frankly, we probably shouldn’t put too much in what is.

The bottom line, then, is that Clapper had little choice but to lie to Congress given Wyden’s stupidity in asking that question in open session.

By: Jessie Opoien of The Cap Times

President Donald Trump's decision to announce tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States last week drew immediate warnings of a trade war by Republican critics. Trump has argued the move is necessary to protect American industries that have been treated unfairly by foreign trade practices. Republican leaders including Gov. Scott Walker have asked Trump to reconsider, or at least modify the proposal to lessen its effects on states like Wisconsin. 

Here is where Wisconsin's congressional delegation stands:

Sen. Ron Johnson (R): Johnson is wary of the move, and wrote a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week seeking more information and justification for the decision. The senator told WISN-TV's Mike Gousha this weekend that he expects Congress to hold hearings on the policy, which he said is a "risky" one. 

In a CNN interview on Sunday, Johnson said talk of canceling NAFTA and imposing steel tariffs has "interjected uncertainty in the economy where it wasn't necessary.

"I’m really concerned that this is counterproductive," Johnson said.

Johnson said he would support a bill to block the tariffs, but said he didn't believe such an effort could pass the Senate.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D): Baldwin signaled some level of support for the policy, but expressed concerns that without an exemption for European countries, Wisconsin could be negatively affected.

"I believe the best way to support Wisconsin workers is to put in place strong Buy America standards, renegotiate a better deal on NAFTA, and take on China’s cheating," Baldwin said in a statement. "The President’s announcement last week sends a strong message to bad actors like China on steel and aluminum and as the nation’s leading paper producer, Wisconsin needs President Trump to do more to target China’s cheating — which has hurt our paper economy and led to layoffs. I also want an exemption for our European trading partners, so Wisconsin’s manufacturing and farming economy isn’t hurt going forward."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-1st District): Ryan opposes the president's plan.

"I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences. I am pleased that the president has listened to those who share my concerns and included an exemption for some American allies, but it should go further," Ryan said in a statement. "We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law. There are unquestionably bad trade practices by nations like China, but the better approach is targeted enforcement against those practices. Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies and promoting the rule of law."

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-2nd District): "I have always supported targeted tariffs — especially those as they relate to steel dumping from China and other unfair trade practices — as critical to spurring domestic production and creating middle class jobs," Pocan said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the President arrives at his views on trade very differently than I do. With his mixed messages on trade, it remains to be seen what he will do and whether these tariffs will actually support American workers."

Rep. Ron Kind (D-3rd District): Kind opposes the policy, and urged Trump to use a "scalpel, not a hammer" to pressure China.

"From the car in their garage to the beer in their fridge, Wisconsinites use aluminum and steel every day. The recent uncertainty about new tariffs will cost us jobs, increase the cost of Wisconsin products, and slow our economy," Kind said in a statement. "We should be setting high standards for how we trade with the rest of the world, and should never mirror China's bad behavior in negotiations. The consequence of retaliation would be widespread across the state, and could threaten jobs in industries and businesses Wisconsin is proud of, including Wisconsin dairy, cranberries, breweries and Harley Davidson."

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-4th District): Moore, on Twitter, said a decision like imposing tariffs "requires careful & strategic consideration, not an off the cuff roll-out more worthy of reality TV than the presidency."

"Family-supporting jobs at @MillerCoors & @harleydavidson shouldn't be pawns in Trump's twitter trade war," Moore tweeted.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-5th District): "I recognize that we must address the unfair trade practices of foreign countries," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "However, I have concerns that these broad tariffs will have unintended consequences on manufacturers, businesses, and consumers in southeastern Wisconsin. I urge the President to reconsider."

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-6th District): A spokesman for Grothman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Sean Duffy: (R-7th District): Duffy is supportive of the move to put pressure on countries that put the United States at a disadvantage, but showed some concerns about the impact of tariffs on Wisconsin.

"American workers produce the best products in the world and will compete with anyone in the world; and they deserve a level playing field. That’s why it’s encouraging to see President Trump put America first and fight for fairer trade," Duffy said in a statement. "Canada in particular has used free trade with the United States to injure Wisconsin dairy farmers at every turn, and I appreciate the President pushing back against their unfair practices. However, I urge the Trump Administration to consider the long-term ramifications of tariffs so that other sectors of our economy are not harmed."

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-8th District): Gallagher has "serious concerns" with the tariffs, which he said in a statement are "overly broad."

"As history has shown — as recently as 2002 — this type of indelicate protectionism rarely, if ever, works," Gallagher said, adding that reciprocal tariffs from the European Union would hurt Wisconsin businesses and consumers.

"Rather than punishing the Chinese like they were intended to do, I’m afraid these catch-all tariffs will hurt hardworking Wisconsin families and businesses. We need to adjust course instead of potentially decimating local industry in Northeast Wisconsin, like our beer producers and dairy farmers who could effectively be unable to sell their products abroad," Gallagher said.

By: Sam Rolley of Personal Liberty

U.S. spy chief James Clapper is celebrating a happy anniversary this week. It’s been five years since he lied to Congress and the American public about the National Security Agency’s spying activities. Clapper’s off the hook for perjury– and Americans are still largely in the dark about spy agency activities.

On this day five years ago, Clapper lied to the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked him if the NSA was collecting information on Americans.

“No, sir. Not willingly,” Clapper said.

Three months later, whistle-blower Edward Snowden would blow the top off the NSA’s warrantless surveillance programs and reveal Clappers big lie.

Clapper would later claim that it was the “least untruthful answer” he could give at the time.

The former top spook’s big lie is a moment in history that many Americans have likely long forgotten– but in Washington, a handful of lawmakers recalled Clapper’s whopper as the Monday deadline to charge him neared.

As reported by The Washington Examiner:

Many members of Congress, mostly Republicans supportive of new limits on electronic surveillance, called for Clapper to be prosecuted as the deadline neared, saying unpunished perjury jeopardizes the ability of Congress to perform oversight.

“He admitted to lying to Congress and was unremorseful and flippant about it,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told the Washington Examiner. “The integrity of our federal government is at stake because his behavior sets the standard for the entire intelligence community.”

“Political consideration should not affect the Department of Justice from pursuing this matter,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said ahead of the deadline. “Complete and truthful testimony is imperative for Congress to conduct effective oversight. It is clear from the evidence and Director Clapper’s own admission that he lied.”

Clapper will continue to enjoy his retirement unmolested. But Americans should still use this as a reminder that government– and especially its intelligence agencies–  is far more interested in protecting its agendas than the rights of individual Americans

By: Chris Enloe of the Blaze

James Clapper, who served as director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, gave “clearly erroneous” testimony to Congress about the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance techniques in 2013.

As of Monday, Clapper will face no criminal charges for his testimony.

What happened?

During a March 12, 2013, hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clapper denied the NSA was conducting mass surveillance and collecting data on millions of Americans.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” he responded. “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect [intelligence], but not wittingly.”

Of course, we now know Clapper wasn’t accurate after Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked millions of highly classified documents to show the extent of the NSA’s spying on Americans. Snowden’s stolen records proved that NSA was collecting phone data from Americans on a daily basis.

Clapper excused his inaccurate testimony in a June 2013 apology letter to Congress. He said he gave the “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the phone data collection. He later told MSNBC he gave the “least untruthful” answer because Wyden asked a loaded question.

Despite even admitting his testimony was “erroneous,” Clapper will not face any charges for his testimony.

Why no prosecution?

The Washington Examiner noted that lying to Congress is “rarely” prosecuted, which is exactly what will happen in Clapper’s case.

According to the Examiner, there are two criminal statutes related to lying to Congress and both have a five-year statute of limitations. That means unless the Department of Justice acts Monday morning, Clapper can never be prosecuted for his erroneous testimony.

Mark Zaid, a defense attorney who works on national security cases, explained to the Examiner why Clapper’s case isn’t necessarily “black or white.”

He explained that Clapper “was faced with a difficult choice: Reveal classified information or respond in a [manner] that is not accurate.” And although there isn’t a “specific national security defense” for lying to Congress, Clapper could defend himself by arguing “that he didn’t lie to Congress because that committee knew the information already.”

How does Congress feel?

Lawmakers have said they feel Clapper should be prosecuted.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) told the Examiner: “He admitted to lying to Congress and was unremorseful and flippant about it. The integrity of our federal government is at stake because his behavior sets the standard for the entire intelligence community.”

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) added: “Political consideration should not affect the Department of Justice from pursuing this matter. Complete and truthful testimony is imperative for Congress to conduct effective oversight. It is clear from the evidence and Director Clapper’s own admission that he lied.”

By: Cathy Kozlowicz of the Waterloo Courier

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner hosted a town hall meeting Friday, March 2 at the Waterloo Municipal Building where he addressed the issue of having secure elections.

“I don’t want another country controlling our election,” Carita Rademacher Twinem, who attended the town hall meeting, said. The concern was with Russians trying to control the U.S. elections.

There are charges that allege the Russians created false U.S. media reports and constructed fake social media messages to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

“Many people get their news on Facebook and often do not know where it is coming from,” Twinem said.

“What are you doing to do so this does not happen in the spring election? The Russians attacked our election, and we have to address it,” Twinem said.

Meddling is designed to change the vote and no one meddled, Sensenbrenner said.

He explained that the Green Party wanted a recall for that same concern. “We had a statewide recount and there was no evidence of that (meddling) happening,” he said. He explained that even electronic machines have paper trails and that according to the constitution, each state has jurisdiction on how its election is handled.

Sensenbrenner acknowledged that cyber security is important for the integrity of elections and other sensitive material. “No one really has the answer,” he said.

A community member also stated that the role of elected officials is to support the common people. “That is why we are here.”

“We do care,” Sensenbrenner said. He explained that he pushed for a bill for the rapid DNA testing for rape victims. “With the technology, this can happen,” he said. “There are things I accomplished that people do not know about.”

Sensenbrenner also discussed some of the concerns with the free and reduced lunch program.

“There is the problem of people who can afford lunch and using the free and reduced lunch program,” he said. He specifically addressed people who may be on this program at a private school. “If parents are paying for tuition, they can afford to pay for lunch,” Sensenbrenner said. “That is wasting taxpayers money.”

He emphasized the purpose of the town meetings. “It should be a discussion of issues,” Sensenbrenner said. “It should not be a shouting match.”

“This was very good. It was a good discussion. I am glad I came,” Twinem said.

Sensenbrenner will hold another town hall meeting in Reeseville Village Hall, 206, S. Main St. Monday, March 12 at 9:45 a.m.

By: Brendan Cullerton of WKJT - Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will impose tariffs of 10 percent on foreign aluminum and 25 percent on foreign steel.

He said it will take at least 15 days for those tariffs to go into effect. Meanwhile, he will negotiate with other countries on how they can avoid the tariff. Lawmakers said that could cause a "trade war," where other countries will place similar tariffs on U.S. goods. Wisconsin cranberries, and Harley-Davidson have been pointed to as potential targets.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI, said the tax on foreign metal will also make it difficult to overhaul infrastructure in Southeast Wisconsin.

"Many of these projects use specialty steel, which is not produced in enough quantity in the United States. So any type of infrastructure reform is going to be really delayed," Sensenbrenner said.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-WI, said it's not just about retaliation tariffs. He's concerned Wisconsin manufacturers will have a tough time paying an increased price for specialty steel, which is not available to purchase domestically.

"Industries that use steel will pay a price," Grothman said. "There are different types of steel. And there are some types of steel that you can't find in the United States."

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI, said he's concerned enough, that he is looking into measures to take away the presidents power to impose tariffs without approval from Congress.

"We're taking a look at that carefully about to try to reclaim some of those constitutional powers that really should reside within Congress. Something like an approval process, where if the President tries to enact a tariff like this, it would need to come to Congress for final approval."

Johnson said he hopes to have a way to minimize the effect on American businesses by the time the 15 days are over.

By: Siranush Ghazanchyan of Public Radio of Armenia

Five members of the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary delegation arrived in Washington, DC today for a week-long series of meetings, organized by the Armenian Embassy, with the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Administration officials, think tank and foreign policy experts, and Armenian American leaders, all aimed at strengthening U.S.-Armenia political, economic and military relations, deepening the enduring friendship between the American and Armenian peoples, and encouraging continued constructive engagement by the United States on a range of regional development and conflict resolution priorities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Delegation is headed by Arpine Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia and includes Parliamentarians Armen Ashotyan, Edmon Marukyan, Aghvan Vardanyan and Naira Zohrabyan

“We look forward to this week’s historic Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship Group visit to DC, hosted by the Embassy of Armenia to the United States,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “This week in Washington marks Armenia’s political transition to a Parliamentary democracy and a major milestone in the growth of U.S.-Armenia relations.”

“Policy-driven visits afford visiting multi-party Armenian Parliamentary delegations such as this with an excellent ‘deep-dive’ opportunity to explore areas of cooperation with their U.S. legislative counterparts in the Congressional Armenian Caucus and key figures across the Washington, DC foreign policy landscape, while also engaging directly with Armenian American civic and advocacy leaders regarding ANCA’s forward-leaning pro-Armenian/Artsakh advocacy agenda,” concluded Hamparian.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, and one of two U.S. House Members of Armenian descent, welcomed the delegation today, noting, in a statement to the ANCA, “This historic visit is a tribute to our countries’ shared goals for strengthening the close ties that bind Armenia and America together. I very much appreciated the warm welcome that I received while visiting last year, and I look forward to receiving an update on the issues that we discussed – including Armenia’s constitutional and economic reforms. By celebrating our proud heritage and triumphs, as well as sharing our struggles, I’m confident that we will continue on a path of friendship and prosperity for both of our nations.”

Fellow Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Dave Trott (R-MI), concurred, telling the ANCA, “I would like to welcome the Armenia-US Parliamentary Delegation to our Nation’s Capital. Southeast Michigan is home to a strong and vibrant population of Armenian Americans, and I’m proud to be their voice in Congress.  I look forward to a productive discussion this week regarding Armenia and the United States’ shared interests, and how to enhance our budding relationship. As a co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I plan to spend my final year in Congress continuing to expand the United States-Armenian diplomatic, cultural, and economic relationship.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat and Vice-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, shared with the ANCA, “I am pleased to welcome the Armenian Parliamentary Delegation, headed by Arpine Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, to Washington, D.C.  This is an important moment to reaffirm the close and enduring friendship between Armenia and the United States. Along with the rest of the leadership of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I look forward to discussing our shared interests with the Armenian delegation.”

The Congressional Armenian Caucus will be hosting a reception with the Armenia Parliamentary delegation on Wednesday evening, March 7th, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm in the U.S. Capitol at the Visitor Center Atrium.

The Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Delegation visit follows a Congressional Armenian Caucus visit to Armenia last year by Rep. Speier along with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and David Valadao (R-CA) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).  Representatives Pallone, Valadao and Gabbard also visited the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), where they reviewed the U.S. funded demining work of The HALO Trust and offered remarks at the Artsakh Parliament in addition to visits with government leaders and various schools and historic sites.

Washington, D.C.—Today, on a bipartisan vote of 388 to 25, the House of Representatives passed  the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA),  which Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) co-sponsored. FOSTA creates a new federal statute with increased penalties for sex traffickers online. It also amends the Communications Decency Act to permit local and state prosecutions of offending websites.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This bill puts victims of online sex trafficking first.  It will shut down websites that profit from this abhorrent crime and send the criminals who run them to jail.  It is important we let survivors of sex trafficking know they are not alone and justice will be served.”

Specifically, FOSTA:

  • Ensures that victims of sex trafficking are able to sue malicious websites that violate federal law regarding online sex trafficking
  • Clarifies that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not grant immunity to websites that advertise, solicit, or facilitate online sex trafficking
  • Creates a new federal statute that allows law enforcement to prosecute websites that have the intent to promote or facilitate illegal prostitution
  • Increases penalties that prosecutors can seek against websites that promote the illegal prostitution of 5 or more persons
  • Gives state and local authorities the ability to enforce the new sex trafficking statutes

By: Jerry Davis of Portage Daily Register

Approaching spring generally focuses on browns turning green. Any hint of a green tint can become a monumental step toward spring.

Noting and celebrating events aid too. Daylight Saving Time (March 11); turkeys gobbling; red-winged blackbirds’ liquidly, gurgling song from cattail marshes; and water noisily seeking lower terrain all help diminish brown until green dominates.

A quick woodland, field and waterway trek can verify there are several evergreen ferns now uncovered by recent sun and rain. Like most early greens, these show little growth with the exception of marsh cabbage (the skunk arum), which is in the midst of flowering.

Some invasives, including garlic mustard’s second-year shoot show green. Oodles of mosses and moss-like plants exhibit a hint of chlorophyll’s color, too, and are larger than the week prior. So, too, are watercress shoots.

Bald eagles are sitting low in their nest bowls, incubating an egg or two. Thirty-six days from beginning that egg-warming, the first yellow, fuzzy eaglet will take its first taste of carrion. One nest near Readstown, a few steps off US Highway 14, continues to have prime viewing because it’s in an evergreen white pine, not a broadleaf-producing cottonwood or oak.

As with other nesters, DNR’s Dave Matheys reported only the incubator’s “bald” head is showing unless it stands to leave or turn the eggs.

The Class ACT Charter School at Chequamegon High School has been working with their adviser, Paula Zwicke, Ed Kane of the Park Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, and two Wisconsin legislators, Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland and Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield to add the ruffed grouse to Wisconsin’s list of state symbols.

Passing the grouse bill will make this animal the state’s small game bird.

Almost no one knew that Wisconsin had a state herb. Ginseng shows up as the last symbol to be crowned. With all the press about the cheese bill, somehow the ginseng bill slipped by unnoticed, even to DNR folks whose positions entail working with this plant’s management.

Eighty-four-year-old Jay Ford Thurston has authored and published another trout-fishing book, “Trout Central: 50 best Wisconsin driftless streams.” It is available from online book providers and through Thurston’s web page,

Rep. Ron Kind D-WI, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI, are still waiting for action on their bill, H.R. 4454, Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act, which would support state and tribal efforts to develop and implement strategies to address CWD in Wisconsin and other states.

One Dane County trout angler ventured out to test the waters on Iowa County’s Trout Creek last weekend after floodwaters receded. He was able to find and use an antique fishing stile to cross a barbed-wire fence to access state land to cast his spinners.

The spearing season for much larger fish, lake sturgeon, ended Sunday with about 950 fish taken from the uplakes and Lake Winnebago. Final reports and analyses of fish sizes, ages and stomach contents are forthcoming.

Turkeys and deer continue to use harvested corn and soybean fields to obtain grain to supplement browse. While deer are becoming more docile, gobblers continue to elevate the notice of hunters with their fanning, strutting and gobbling.

Most of the recent interesting weather, including high water, had minimal impacts on wildlife, vegetation and fishes. Still, all life would be more docile if March is more lamb-like than mountain lionish.

By: Ed Zagorski of the Watertown Daily Times

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner hosted a town hall meeting Sunday bringing nearly 80 residents and interested individuals to the confines of Watertown Municipal Building. Along with Sensenbrenner, who represents the 5th Congressional District, was with state Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, for the hour-and-a-half meeting.

Before the first Watertown resident spoke, Sensenbrenner told the crowd in 2017 he held 115 public meetings with some being contentious. He adjourned a recent meeting in Wauwatosa after he gave seven warnings because of disorderly behavior. On Sunday, the crowd were two shy of being adjourned.

When questioned on what he and his colleagues can do to stem gun violence in the United States, Sensenbrenner said there has been a law on the books for more than 20 years that makes it illegal to carry a firearm within any school in the country.

"That law was not enforced," he said. "Congress does not enforce laws. The executive branch enforces laws."

Sensenbrenner said a lot of information was known about the individual in Parkland, Florida before the school tragedy happened Feb. 14.

"The FBI ignored a tip that came in that the shooter had a mental problem and was talking about shooting up schools. The security officer didn't go into the school when the shooting started. There were three sheriff's deputies outside of the school that didn't go into the school to save lives," Sensenbrenner said. "There has to be a lot of introspection on that as well."

He said in 1993-94 he was the principle Republican author of the Brady Bill now the Brady Handgun Prevention Act.

Sensenbrenner said the effort led to the 1998 launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under the control of the FBI, now commonly known as NICS.

Under the system, firearm dealers cross-reference the information of prospective buyers with NICS data to ensure that the purchaser is not on the list of convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens or those convicted of domestic violence.

"But as I have stated many times, NICS is only as strong as the information entered into it," Sensenbrenner said. "If federal agencies or other law enforcement bodies fail to provide NICS with the necessary information, dangerous individuals will slip through the cracks and purchase firearms."

He said because of the "Brady Bill" 700,000 guns were stopped from being sold to dangerous individuals.

"There are a lot of things that we can legislate until we are blue in the face but are really not effective in stopping mass murders as we have seen in Parkland,Florida and beforehand," Sensenbrenner said. 

He said he supports getting rid of bump stocks which make semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons or machine guns. 

"We need to start thinking of how people misuse guns and keeping the guns from them," he said. "One of the keys to doing this is to have a better screening on mental health issues because practically everyone that has been involved in a mass shooting has demonstrated some type of mental health issue before the mass shooting takes place. We have to be proactive and vigorously enforcing the laws already on the books."

Sensenbrenner said if the FBI and local law enforcement had done their jobs in Florida those kids would be alive today.

Another person asked why the two sides in government can't get along?

Sensenbrenner and Jagler both agreed that doesn't grab the headlines as two factions arguing.

"We do get along on an awful lot of things, but you never hear about it because the media increases their ratings, they sell more newspapers by talking about conflict and controversy and real or perceived conduct," Sensenbrenner said. "It's very frustrating for us that do perform a lot of work across the aisle."

He said he sends out a lot of press releases but it doesn't get the print or airtime because it doesn't have the conflict or controversy to it.

Jagler said the same. 

"Ninety three percent of the bills signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker this session had bipartisan votes," Jagler said. "It is very frustrating to us who work on the other side of the aisle. I had a bill pertaining to mental health issues when a doctor or an emergency physician has a problem with a person in crisis," Jagler said. "They believe this person may harm themselves or may go out and shoot somebody or do a mass shooting. There was a reluctance for doctors to contact law enforcement because of privacy concerns. I worked very hard with Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, and got this bill passed that doctors are applauding and nobody knows about it because it's not sexy. It's frustrating to hear there is not a lot of bipartisanship in Madison when there is."

Retired educator Jan Detrie said she has a 14-year-old grandson in school and asked why the shooter in Parkland, Florida, was able to purchase the AR-15 he used during the school shooting. Detrie also reminded Sensenbrenner he accepted donations from the National Rifle Association.

"Are you going to continue to take donations from the NRA?" Detrie said.

Sensenbrenner said the NRA is free to contribute or not to elected officials.

"We have to be much more sensitive to those who exhibit mental health problems before they end up causing a tragedy," he said. "This kid did that on a number of occasions and the FBI did nothing."

Sensenbrenner said there was a ban on semiautomatic weapons during President Bill Cinton's time in office.

"After the ban expired there was no increase in the number of crimes that were committed with semiautomatic weapons. It was something that was cosmetic. It did not get to the root cause of the problem." he said. 

Sensenbrenner said he takes an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution at the beginning of every term, which includes the Second Amendment.

"Each of us in the United States has a right to keep or bear arms if we wish to keep or bear arms," he said.