Bennie Thompson

Senate Democrats Doubt Validity of Puerto Rico Death Toll
Reports of full morgues may signal incomplete official count, senators say

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren joined 12 of her Democratic colleagues in signing a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke raising questions about the official death count in Puerto Rico. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)

As Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló travels to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats is asking the administration about the accuracy of the island territory’s death toll.

Thirteen senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have written a new letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke expressing concern that reports about morgues at Puerto Rican hospitals being full may signal that the official tally of 48 fatalities may be incomplete.

Thompson Staffer Still Employed After Tax Conviction
Isaac Lanier Avant is facing new charges relating to a security clearance form

Isaac Lanier Avant served as chief of staff to Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson. (Courtesy Congressional Black Caucus Foundation)

A Capitol Hill staffer convicted of failing to file income tax returns, who faces new charges of falsifying a security clearance form, remained employed in Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office after his previous conviction.

A spokesman for the Mississippi Democrat confirmed Thursday that Isaac Lanier Avant, who served as Thompson’s chief of staff, was still employed by the office. Asked if Avant would remain employed following the new charges relating to his security clearance form, the spokesman said he believed Thompson would be making a statement on the subject soon. 

White House Aide Nielsen Picked for Homeland Secretary
Nominee previously served as John F. Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS

Kirstjen Nielsen, deputy White House chief of staff, speaks with John Kelly, White House chief of staff in August 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he has chosen Kirstjen Nielsen, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Nielsen, 45, previously served as Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS when he led the department before taking the White House job in July. Nielsen would be leaving her role at the White House after having served as a top aide to Kelly for just a little over a month.

Staffer Charged With Falsifying Security Clearance Form
Isaac Lanier Avant faces up to five years in prison

Isaac Lanier Avant (Courtesy Congressional Black Caucus Foundation)

A congressional staffer has been charged with falsifying a security clearance form, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced Wednesday evening.

Isaac Lanier Avant faces up to five years in prison for not disclosing on a security clearance form that he had failed to pay income taxes. Avant served as chief of staff for Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and worked as deputy staff director and staff director the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Border Security Takes Center Stage in Debate Over 'Dreamers'

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are working on an immigration deal that will include security measures as well as a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Now that President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress have agreed to pursue a deal that would boost border enforcement in exchange for legal status for young undocumented immigrants, the focus is shifting to what security measures the package could include.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said following a Wednesday night meeting with the president that they had agreed to table the administration’s request for money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a nonstarter for Democrats from the beginning.

Lee, Thompson and Fudge on Former Rep. Brown’s Witness List
Former congresswoman’s trial scheduled to begin April 24

Former Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., is charged with using funds from a non-profit on herself. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Reps. Bennie Thompson, Marcia Fudge and Sheila Jackson Lee are potential witnesses in the corruption case of former Florida Rep. Corrine Brown. 

An attorney for Brown listed Thompson, D-Miss., Fudge, D-Ohio, and Lee, D-Texas, are on the witness list for Brown’s corruption trial, which begins with jury selection on April 24, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Nevada’s Hill Sway Sinks While Other Small States Surge
New Roll Call Clout Index reveals big disconnects between population and Capitol influence

With the retirement of former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada congressional delegation has lost much of its legislative leverage, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harry Reid may have masterminded one of 2016’s biggest statewide Democratic sweeps as he headed toward retirement, but the Nevada congressional delegation he left behind has lost much of its legislative leverage as a result. 

In fact, only two delegations have less collective influence at the Capitol this year than the six lawmakers from the Silver State, the newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals.

Black History Month: Cedric Richmond on the ‘Work to Do’ Ahead
CBC chairman says promises of King, Chisholm haven’t yet been fulfilled

Louisiana Rep. Cedric L. Richmond speaks with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker after the two, along with Georgia Rep. John Lewis, testified last month against the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general on the grounds of his civil rights history. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond, this month is about teaching. First celebrated in 1926 as a weeklong tribute to black history and culture and expanded to a monthlong honor in 1976, Black History Month is a time of reflection and festivity for many African-Americans. Roll Call interviewed Richmond and several other lawmakers and Capitol Hill figures, such as Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black, to find out what the intersection of black history and life in Congress and the Capitol building itself means to them.

Watch interviews and the video, “Black History and America's Capitol,” which combines all these talks, at rollcall.com/black-history-month. Richmond’s full discussion with Roll Call is below.

Word on the Hill: Liberty and Justice for Hurt
Speaker of the House has a birthday

Former Virginia Rep. Robert Hurt, center, is shown with Shawn Akers, left, dean of Liberty University’s Helms School of Government, and B. Keith Faulkner, dean of the Liberty University School of Law. (Courtesy Liberty University)

Former Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Va., will head Liberty University’s new Center for Law & Government, which the school says aims to influence public policy and spread conservative ideals.

“I could not be more thrilled to be a part of this project,” said Hunt, who represented Virginia’s 5th District from 2011 to 2017. “I think this is an excellent opportunity for Liberty University to be a part of the policy-making process in a way that other places cannot.”

The House Version of ‘Law and Order’
A sentencing, some commutations and other House news

Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson speaks with New York Rep. Louise M. Slaughter during a press conference by House Democrats in November 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Bennie Thompson’s chief of staff was sentenced Tuesday to four months in prison for failing to file income tax returns.

Issac Lanier Avant was also ordered to pay $149,962 to the IRS for failing to file tax returns from 2009 to 2013 after he had assumed the role of Democratic director for the House Homeland Security Committee, earning more than $165,000, the Justice Department said in a statement.