Bill designating Butterfield Trail a National Historic Trail headed to President Biden's desk to be signed into law

WASHINGTON (KNWA/KFTA) — A bill designating the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail has passed both houses of Congress and is headed to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The route was used to transport mail and passengers between Memphis, St. Louis and San Francisco from 1858-1861 and spanned over 3,500 miles. An interactive map showing the trail’s route through Arkansas is available here.

Sen. John Boozman supported the legislative efforts and amended the original bill to “specifically preclude any potential effect on energy development, production or transmission as a result of the trail designation,” according to a media release.

This is a long-overdue recognition for the Butterfield Trail. Designating it as a National Historic Trail will preserve the story of westward expansion and Arkansas’s significant role in the growth and development of our country. This is the result of the vision of Arkansans passionate and determined to achieve this designation. I’m proud to champion this initiative and get it across the finish line,

Sen. John Boozman

The National Park Service conducted a study in 2018, determining that the trail met the requirements for recognition. Four segments of the Butterfield Trail in Arkansas have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bill passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on December 20, 2022 and passed by voice vote in the House on December 22, 2022. It was presented to President Biden on December 28, 2022.

Sen. Boozman was sworn in and began his third term representing Arkansas in the Senate on January 3.

Biden signs bill to avert rail shutdown

President Biden on Friday signed a bill that will avert a rail strike, just days before the deadline for an agreement to have been reached and amid fears that such a halt in railroad operations would cripple the U.S. economy.

The bill implements the labor agreement between freight rail carriers and unionized workers that Biden backed in September. His administration at the time was largely praised for helping broker a deal.

Senators voted 80-15 on Thursday on the House-passed bill, with several Democrats voting against the measure because it didn’t include a sick leave provision. Biden, who touts himself as the most pro-labor president in U.S. history, has said that he supports increasing paid leave accommodations for rail workers, but that it should be addressed separately from the bill.

“I know this was a tough vote for members of both parties. It was tough for me, but it was the right thing to do at the moment. To save jobs, to protect millions of working families from harm and disruption, and to keep supply chains stable around the holidays,” Biden said on Friday. 

He called the pay increase in the bill “historic,” but vowed to keep working for increased sick leave.  

“That fight isn’t over. I didn’t commit we would stop just because we couldn’t get it in this bill,” he said. 

Biden also said after the bill passed on Thursday that he shares in the reluctance by unions and some Democrats to override the union ratification process, but reiterated that the impacts of a rail strike on the U.S. economy would be too severe.

“Congress’s decisive action ensures that we will avoid the impending, devastating economic consequences for workers, families, and communities across the country,” he said in a statement, adding that lawmakers “spared this country a Christmas catastrophe in our grocery stores, in our workplaces, and in our communities.”

Biden on Monday called on Congress to immediately adopt the tentative agreement, without any modifications, with the Dec. 9 deadline to reach an agreement looming.

The deal provides rail workers with 24 percent raises over five years and makes it easier for workers to miss time for medical appointments, but a sticking point was that the deal did not include more than one day of paid leave.

The Senate rejected a proposal to provide rail workers sick leave on Thursday, after the House narrowly passed the proposal on Wednesday.

Since the deal was struck in September, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had been in regular touch with labor leaders and management but saw no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table. The secretaries recommended that the administration seek congressional action to solve the issue.

Walsh and Buttigieg went to Capitol Hill on Thursday to brief Democrats before the bill was passed.

Government files opposition to Gravette man's January 6 motions

WASHINGTON (KNWA/KFTA) — A Gravette man charged for his actions during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol filed multiple pretrial motions on September 22.

On October 6, the prosecution responded by filing multiple, lengthy briefs opposing those. Richard Barnett, 61, is facing a host of charges and his trial is set to begin on December 12.

Barnett’s defense team made one motion asking for a count to be dismissed due to “failure to state an offense,” alleging that the government took a relevant statute “completely out of context.” The prosecution’s response explains that count one against Barnett charges him with “obstruction of an official proceeding” related to the certification of electoral votes that day.

The filing details Barnett’s activities on January 6, including how he “pushed his way into the U.S. Capitol through the east side Rotunda doors with a crowd of rioters while carrying a U.S. flag and a ZAP Hike N Strike 950,000 Volt Stun Gun.” He then made his way to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, where he put his feet up on her desk and left “menacing handwritten notes.”

“This is my house, y’all maced me in my own house,” Barnett reportedly yelled at police officers later. “This is gonna get real bad.” The motion states that Barnett also mentioned “this civil war” and that he used a bullhorn to speak to a crowd, informing them that “we took back our house, and I took Nancy Pelosi’s office!”

The government also explains that while driving back to Arkansas, Barnett turned off location services on his phone, used only cash, and kept his face covered. He also said that agents investigating his house wouldn’t find much because he is a “smart man.”

A search of his house yielded the clothes he wore that day and packaging for the stun gun.

The government filing continues by explaining the legal standard required for the charge against Barnett, noting that an indictment is sufficient if it “contains the elements of the offense charged and fairly informs a defendant of the charge against which he must defend.”

The validity of an indictment is not a question of whether it could have been more definite and certain. And an indictment need not inform a defendant ‘as to every means by which the prosecution hopes to prove that the crime was committed.’

Government opposition brief, USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6

The brief also refers to other multiple cases arising from January 6. “Every district judge to have reached the issue, including this court, has concluded that Congress’ certification of the Electoral College is an ‘official proceeding.'” It also addresses three specific arguments made in Barnett’s filing, citing relevant case law to refute those points.

The government also presents multiple statutes supporting its stance that the certification of the Electoral College vote is an ‘official proceeding,’ including background about relevant federal laws and previous cases. It also refutes the defense’s assertion that one statute, Section 1512(c)(2), is “unconstitutionally vague.”

“A statute is not unconstitutionally vague simply because its applicability is unclear at the margins,” the prosecution states, “or because a reasonable jurist might disagree on where to draw the line between lawful and unlawful conduct in particular circumstances.”

“Even trained lawyers may find it necessary to consult legal dictionaries, treatises, and judicial opinions before they may say with any certainty what some statutes may compel or forbid,” it adds. The prosecution also stated that the defense was unable to cite a single case in support of its “arbitrary application” argument.

The second government response addresses Barnett’s motion to dismiss all charges or to change the venue of the trial.

“The defendant fails to establish that he ‘cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial’ in this district,” the response states. “The Constitution provides that ‘the trial of all Crimes shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed,'” it adds.

It explains that “the primary safeguard of the right to an impartial jury” is “an adequate voir dire to identify unqualified jurors,” and continues by stating that the best course of action is to proceed to jury selection to determine if potential jurors have been influenced by “pretrial publicity,” as Barnett’s prior motion alleges.

The defense had specifically referred to a statement by President Biden on September 1, arguing that his remarks are “akin to an order for D.C. juries to find defendants guilty of any and every charge because they are insurrectionists and terrorists.” That defense filing also said that comments from the Select Committee “mirrored those remarks.”

The defendant cites no authority for the proposition that pretrial publicity can disqualify all prospective jurors in every single one of the United States’ judicial districts and, therefore, prevent a defendant from being tried anywhere for his crimes.

Government opposition brief, USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6

The response notes that a D.C. Circuit Court found that a change of venue was not even required in the Watergate scandal although some of the publicity was “hostile in tone and accusatory in content,” and “national in reach.”

“Scandal at the highest levels of the federal government is not simply a local crime,” it says. The government continues by citing a host of high-profile cases that did not require a change of venue, including the Boston Marathon bombing, the World Trade Center bombing and one of the 9/11 conspirator’s trials.

“The defendant fails to explain how the President’s remarks make his case more difficult to obtain an impartial jury than other high-profile cases involving acts of violence,” the brief states. “There is no reason to believe that the remarks will create such a degree of bias against the defendant throughout the nation that an impartial jury cannot be selected in any district, as the defendant asserts.”

It adds that Barnett “has generated substantial pretrial publicity of his own,” citing an interview with NewsMax that “was broadcast on multiple news channels and remains available on YouTube.” Barnett also spoke with NBC News and KNWA, and his attorney appeared on CNN, discussing the defendant.

“It would be a perverse result to dismiss or transfer the defendant’s case as a result of publicity, when he has actively fanned that flame himself.”

—Prosecution in USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6

Again, the government lists an assortment of prior cases, including some heard by the Supreme Court, that support rejecting the defense motion for a change of venue. The response also notes the size of the potential juror pool, and observes that D.C. has a larger population than two U.S. states.

The document also refutes polls on the subject of potential juror prejudice conducted by the defense. Those arguments go on for several pages and address specific issues with the polls through supporting statistics and citations of relevant cases.

It adds that “the January 6-related jury trials that have already occurred have demonstrated the availability of a significant number of fair, impartial jurors in the D.C. venire.” The government includes the specific numbers of potential jurors found in the District of Columbia in similar cases.

The final response from October 6 addresses a defense request to limit the government from using a litany of different words and terms it deemed potentially inflammatory and prejudicial, including “mob,” “rioter,” “traitor,” and many others.

“The government should not be allowed to achieve a conviction through the deliberate provocation of bias in the jury,” that motion said.

“By their very nature, criminal charges involve an accusation that someone has wronged another person or has wronged society,” the prosecution counters. “Accordingly, such charges arouse emotion—and there is nothing improper about that.”

Here, the government should not be required to dilute its language and step gingerly around the defendant’s crimes. Contrary to the defendant’s insinuations, what took place on January 6, 2021, was in fact a riot involving rioters, and an attack on the United States Capitol, the government of the United States, and American democracy.

Government opposition brief, USA vs. Richard Barnett, October 6

The prosecution requested that the court dismiss all of the defense’s September 22 motions. It also filed a notice of appearance adding Matthew M. Graves, U.S. Attorney, to the prosecution team.

Barnett is charged with: Obstruction of an Official Proceeding; Aiding and Abetting; Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon; Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon; Entering and Remaining in Certain Rooms in the Capitol Building; Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building; Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building; Theft of Government Property.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

'Trump is wrong': Pence says he had 'no right' to overturn 2020 election

WASHINGTON (AP) – Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday directly rebutted Donald Trump’s false claims that Pence somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying that the former president was simply “wrong.”

In a speech to the conservative Federalist Society in Florida, Pence addressed Trump’s intensifying efforts this week to advance the false narrative that he could have done something to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.

“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

While Pence in the past has defended his actions on Jan. 6 and said that he and Trump will likely never see “eye to eye” on what happened that day, the remarks Friday marked his most forceful rebuttal of Trump to date. And they come as Pence has been laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024, which could put him in direct competition with his former boss, who has also been teasing a comeback run.

In a statement Tuesday, Trump said the committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol should instead probe “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval.” And on Sunday, he blasted Pence, falsely declaring that “he could have overturned the Election!”

Vice presidents play only a ceremonial role in the the counting of Electoral College votes, and any attempt to interfere in the count would have represented a profound break from precedent and democratic norms.

Pence, in his remarks Friday, described Jan. 6, 2021, as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”

Pence was inside the building, presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election, when a mob of Trump’s supporters violently smashed inside, assaulting police officers and hunting down lawmakers. Pence, who had released a statement earlier that day to make clear he had no authority to overturn the will of the voters, was rushed to safety as some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”

Pence framed his actions that day as in line with his duty as a constitutional conservative.

“The American people must know that we will always keep our oath to the Constitution, even when it would be politically expedient to do otherwise,” he told the group Friday. He noted that, under Article II Section One of the Constitution, “elections are conducted at the state level, not by Congress” and that “the only role of Congress with respect to the Electoral College is to open and count votes submitted and certified by the states. No more, no less.”

“Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he added. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”

Pence also acknowledged the lingering anger among many in Trump’s base. But, he said: “The truth is, there’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes. Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country.”

Stimulus checks: IRS letter explains if you qualify for recovery rebate credit

(WJW) — Those who received a third stimulus check in 2021 should soon be getting a letter in the mail from the Internal Revenue Service for tax-filing purposes.

“People receiving these letters should keep them,” the IRS said in a statement. “Do not throw them away.”

The letters are meant to help with your 2021 tax returns by more thoroughly explaining how to claim your economic impact (stimulus) payments, which aren’t taxed but still must be claimed.

But what if you are missing a stimulus payment?

Are you entitled to a recovery rebate credit, and should you apply for one? The explanatory letter will walk you through the process, telling you how much stimulus money you received, including any “plus-up payments,” and any extra dollars still owed to you.

Worth up to $1,400 for recipients and any dependents, third stimulus checks started being sent out last March.

The letters are supposed to start being sent out by the end of January. A separate letter is also being sent to those families who received child tax credit payments last year.

The passage of the CARES Act sent out a first round of direct payments to American taxpayers in April 2020. Those checks were followed by another round of payments in December 2020 and then a third round under the American Rescue Plan in 2021. The IRS also started issuing monthly payments to families with children in July 2021 as an advance for the increased child tax credit.

Find out more about filing your tax returns, which are due on April 18, by visiting the IRS website.

Biden to pledge 500M free COVID-19 tests to counter omicron, set to address Americans

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — With the omicron variant on the rise, President Joe Biden will announce 500 million free rapid tests for Americans, increased support for hospitals under strain from the variant and an emphasis on vaccination and boosting efforts.

In a speech scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Biden is announcing major changes to his COVID-19 winter plan, his hand forced by the arrival and rapid spread of the omicron variant, whose properties are yet not fully understood by scientists. NewsNation will live stream Biden’s remarks in the player above.

A cornerstone of the plan is Biden’s decision for the government to purchase 500 million coronavirus rapid tests and ship them free to Americans starting in January. People will use a new website to order their tests, which will then be sent to them by U.S. mail. That marks a major shift for Biden, whose earlier plan had called for many Americans to purchase the hard-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from their health insurance. Public health experts had criticized Biden’s initial approach as unwieldy and warned that the U.S. would face another round of problems with testing at a critical time.

To assist hospitals buckling under the new COVID-19 wave, Biden is prepared to deploy an additional 1,000 troops with medical skills as well as direct federal medical personnel to Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont. There are also plans to send out additional ventilators and equipment from the national stockpile, expanding hospital capacity to handle infected patients.

The government will also stand up multiple vaccination sites and provide hundreds of personnel to administer shots. New rules will make it easier for pharmacists to work across state lines to aid the public health efforts.

The prospect of a winter chilled by a wave of coronavirus infections is a severe reversal from the optimism projected by Biden some 10 months ago, when he suggested at a CNN town hall that the country would essentially be back to normal by this Christmas. 

This comes just two days after the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the omicron variant was “just raging around the world.” 

Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta. It has already become the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for nearly three-quarters of new infections last week.

Early studies suggest that the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an omicron infection but that even without the extra dose, vaccination should still largely protect people from serious sickness or death.

In a preview of Biden’s speech, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Monday’s press briefing that Biden doesn’t plan to impose any lockdowns and will instead be encouraging people to get inoculated — and, if they’re eligible, to get their booster shot.

About one in six Americans have received their booster shot, according to data to compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 60% of the population has received two coronavirus vaccine doses, according to CDC data.

Fallen Wentzville marine, Missouri military members killed in Afghanistan honored on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Sen. Josh Hawley honored fallen Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz and 55 other military members from Missouri killed in Afghanistan.

Sen. Hawley introduced a resolution on the Senate Floor to honor the military members by reading their names, making it part of the congressional record.

Schmitz was one of 13 military members killed during an attack at the Kabul airport last month.

Before reading the names, Sen. Hawley talked more about Schmitz. He said he was only six months old when terrorists attacked this country on September 11th. He said Schmitz wasn’t even old enough to remember the beginnings o this long war which he would go on to valiantly serve.

Sen. Hawley also told the Senate that Schmitz wanted to serve this nation because he was a man who served others.

Sen. Hawley said he talked with Schmitz’s family after learning about Jared’s death. Hawley said he promised Jared’s father he would share what he told him with the entire nation.

“Jared Schmitz lived a life of honor, he lived a life worth living, and his sacrifice was not in vain,” said Sen. Hawley today, recalling what he told Schmitz’s father.

Here are the names of the 56 military members from Missouri who Hawley said made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan:

(1) Christopher Michael Allgaier;
(2) Michael Chad Bailey;
(3) Michael Joe Beckerman;
(4) Brian Jay Bradbury;
(5) Paul Douglas Carron;
(6) Jacob Russell Carver;
(7) Joseph Brian Cemper;
(8) Robert Keith Charlton;
(9) Richard Michael Crane;
(10) Robert Wayne Crow, Jr.;
(11) Justin Eric Culbreth;
(12) Robert Gene Davis;
(13) Edward Fred Dixon III;
(14) Jason David Fingar;
(15) James Matthew Finley;
(16) Zachary Michael Fisher;
(17) Jacob Rudeloff Fleischer;
(18) Blake Wade Hall;
(19) Nicholas Joel Hand;
(20) James Warren Harrison, Jr.;
(21) Jonathon Michael Dean Hostetter;
(22) James Roger Ide V;
(23) Issac Brandon Jackson;
(24) Christopher M. Katzenberger;
(25) Jeremy Andrew Katzenberger;
(26) William Jo Kerwood;
(27) Daniel Leon Kisling, Jr.;
(28) Denis Deleon Kisseloff;
(29) Donald Matthew Marler;
(30) Matthew David Mason;
(31) Richard Lewis McNulty III;
(32) Bradley Louis Melton;
(33) James Douglas Mowris;
(34) Michael Robert Patton;
(35) Joseph Michael Peters;
(36) Robert Wayne Pharris;
(37) Ricky Linn Richardson, Jr.;
(38) Charles Montague Sadell;
(39) Charles Ray Sanders, Jr.;
(40) Ronald Wayne Sawyer;
(41) Patrick Wayne Schimmel;
(42) Jared Marcus Schmitz;
(43) Roslyn Littman Schulte;
(44) Billy Joe Siercks;
(45) Adam Olin Smith;
(46) Tyler James Smith;
(47) Christopher Glenn Stark;
(48) Sean Patrick Sullivan;
(49) Philip James Svitak;
(50) Phillip David Vinnedge;
(51) Matthew Herbert Walker;
(52) Jeffrey Lee White, Jr.;
(53) Matthew Willard Wilson;
(54) Vincent Cortez Winston, Jr.;
(55) Sterling William Wyatt; and
(56) Gunnar William Zwilling:

Miami Man Arrested for Attacking News Media Members on Jan. 6 Capitol Breach

WASHINGTON — A Miami, Oklahoma man was arrested on August 19th for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

41-year-old Benjamen Scott Burlew, of Miami, is facing charges that include assault in special territorial jurisdiction and acts of physical violence on restricted grounds. Burlew made his initial court appearance in the Northern District of Oklahoma on August 20th.

Benjamen Scott Burlew

According to court documents, Burlew was seen on video engaging in a physical assault against a credentialed media member working for the Associated Press.

The video depicts the AP photographer getting pulled down a set of stairs near the lower west terrace of the Capitol Building by two unknown assailants. While trying to relocate himself, the photographer moved to a different part of the stairs where he was confronter by Burlew.

Here, Burlew and another assailant grabbed the AP photographer, pushed him, and dragged him parallel to the stairs. This other protestor, Alan William Byerly, would later be indicted on August 20th for assaulting a District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Officer in a separate incident.

After shoving the photographer, Burlew walked away while others in the crown continued to push and drag the victim.

Later on in the video Burlew can be seen lunging toward the photographer and grabbing his upper chest and leg to force the man over a low stone wall he was backed up against. The photographer proceeded to fall several feet on his back onto the west lawn of the Capitol Building. Burlew could be seen in the video watching the man fall.

Burlew is one of eight individuals in this investigation who have been arrested for allegedly destroying media equipment, assaulting journalists or inciting violence against members of news media.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which identified Burlew as #195 and Byerly as #193, in its seeking information photos, as well as the Metropolitan Police Department, with significant assistance provided by the U.S. Capitol Police and FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office.

In the seven months since Jan. 6, more than 570 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including over 170 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing.

Richard Barnett's attorney asks for second walkthrough of Capitol, next court appearance in November

WASHINGTON (KNWA/KFTA) — The Gravette man pictured in Nancy Pelosi’s office during the January 6 riot at the Capitol appeared in court for a status hearing on August 24, 2021.

Richard Barnett appeared via Zoom for the hearing. Barnett’s attorney, Joseph McBride, is looking to ask for a second walkthrough of the Capitol, due to some places being inaccessible on the first walkthrough.

The judge did not rule on that motion since the prosecution didn’t have a formal response.

The prosecution stated that they had over 540 files of media discovery and will get more in the next 60-90 days.

A database is being created to access all of the evidence files that both the prosecution and defense attorneys can use in the Capitol riot cases.

Both parties agreed to a 90 day adjournment.

Barnett will next appear in court on November 23 at 12 p.m.

Senator Hawley & Lee demand repeal of "extreme and partisan" EEOC document on employment discrimination

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, July 14th, 2021, U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) demanded Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Charlotte Burrows immediately rescind an extreme, partisan guidance document on employment discrimination.

The Senators write the EEOC’s “Protections Against Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” document promotes a radical interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bostock decision and was issued unilaterally by the Biden-appointed chair, in violation of established procedures.
“The guidance issued is legally wrong, procedurally invalid, and inconsistent with the rule of law. It should be rescinded immediately, or at a minimum, put to a vote of the Commission as a whole,” the Senators write. “It is part of a pattern of disregard for the religious liberty of millions of Americans. We worry that it is only the beginning of more to come in the Biden Administration’s march toward social justice, critical race theory, and the far-Left agenda.”
After Bostock v. Clayton County was decided, Senator Hawley took to the Senate floor to warn the decision would result in far-reaching consequences from employment law to sports to churches.