President Donald Trump said Wednesday that it “seems unlikely” that he would give an interview in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Trump said “we’ll see what happens” when asked if he would provide an interview to Mueller’s team.
“When they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview,” Trump said during a joint news conference with the prime minister of Norway.
The special counsel’s team of investigators has expressed interest in speaking with Trump, but no details have been worked out. Trump’s lawyers have previously stated their determination to cooperate with requests in the probe, which has already resulted in charges against four of Trump’s campaign advisers.
Trump called the investigation a “phony cloud” over his administration.
“It has hurt our government,” he said. “It was a Democrat hoax.”
Trump’s words differed from what he said at a news conference in June, shortly after fired FBI Director James Comey had told Congress that Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty. Trump denied that and said he’d be “100 percent” willing tell his version of events under oath. He said he’d be “glad to” speak to Mueller about it.
The comments come after Trump had already lashed out at the investigations Wednesday morning on Twitter, urging Republicans to take control of the inquiries and repeating his claim that they are on a “witch hunt.”
“There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes,” he tweeted. “Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!”
In a separate tweet Wednesday morning, Trump accused Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of being “underhanded and a disgrace” for disclosing details of a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia during the presidential campaign.
A day earlier, Feinstein, who faces a primary challenge in her re-election this year, released the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s closed-door August interview with an official from the political opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the dossier. She released the transcript of Glenn Simpson’s interview over the objections of the committee’s Republican chairman, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. She is the top Democrat on the panel.
“The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace,” Trump tweeted. “Must have tough Primary!”
The material wasn’t classified, and Feinstein said Wednesday that she didn’t do anything illegal. And as the top Democrat on the committee, she didn’t need authorization from Grassley to release it. Her staff helped conduct the interview with Simpson, who had also asked for the interview to be released.
Still, the release was a blow the two lawmakers’ earlier attempts at bipartisanship on the committee’s Russia investigation. Feinstein told reporters that she didn’t tell Grassley beforehand, and “I owe him an apology and I will give him an apology as soon as I see him” for not informing him of the release.
Grassley said in an angry news release Tuesday that he was “confounded” by the release and argued that it could undermine attempts to get additional witnesses. By Wednesday he appeared to have softened, saying he was continuing to negotiate witnesses with Feinstein in the Russia probe.
“Listen, I screw up regularly, and she doesn’t owe me an apology,” Grassley said.
Trump has derided the dossier as a politically motivated hit job. Following his lead, several GOP-led committees are now investigating whether the dossier formed the basis for the FBI’s initial investigations. That has angered Democrats, who say those probes are distractions from the Russia investigations.
Feinstein said she was trying to set the record straight after speculation about Simpson’s interview.
“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,” she said. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
Feinstein also sits on the Senate intelligence committee, which is conducting its own investigation into the Russian interference and whether Trump’s campaign was in any way involved.
Trump has often invoked Feinstein on the collusion issue. She said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Oct. 8 that there’s “no proof” yet that there was any collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, adding: “I think that proof will likely come with Mr. Mueller’s investigation.”
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, also criticized Trump’s tweet, saying it “smacks of interference in investigations, and I think that’s inappropriate.”
Also Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, were on Capitol Hill to speak to Warner and the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr. Neither senator would comment on the meeting’s purpose.
Jason Wedell had seen someone overdose on heroin before.
He was there in January 2016 when a friend overdosed, but his life was saved by Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose.
Just months later, Wedell found the same friend dead in Janesville from a heroin/Fentanyl overdose, said Elkhorn police Detective Thomas Bushey.
Then in January 2017, Wedell delivered the fatal dose of heroin to another friend, Mathew C. Brown, 42, of Elkhorn—someone who Wedell said at his sentencing hearing Wednesday was “like a brother to me.”
Walworth County Judge Kristine Drettwan sentenced Wedell, 35, most recently of Janesville, to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree reckless homicide and delivering heroin.
After Brown’s death, Bushey said Wedell delivered heroin to Brown’s girlfriend.
“That blows my mind,” Drettwan said. “What does it take? What does it take to get through to you?
“If you want to use it yourself, be my guest,” she said. “Sit in a room by yourself so you don’t hurt anybody but yourself.”
Drettwan also sentenced Wedell to 12 years of extended supervision after his release from prison.
Bushey, who investigated Wedell’s case and spoke at his sentencing hearing, urged Drettwan to consider a longer sentence than the 15 to 20 years the state had recommended.
“He doesn’t stop,” Bushey said. “Mr. Wedell has been in jail for the last year. In the last year, no one has died because of what Mr. Wedell has been delivering because he has been locked up. You have a chance today to keep it continuous.”
Bushey said more heroin and opiate-related overdoses and deaths have occurred in the last eight years of his career than in the first 32.
Elkhorn police responded to Sweetener Supply on Jan. 6, 2017, and found two employees, including Brown’s brother, standing near Brown’s body, according to the criminal complaint. Surveillance video showed Wedell getting into Brown’s car, returning to his own and leaving the parking lot.
Police later reported finding 10 packets of heroin in Brown’s work locker.
Wedell’s lawyer, Julia May, asked for three to four years of prison time because “our criminal justice system has failed,” and locking up people does not work.
May argued that her client has a difficult family history and addiction problems that require “comprehensive treatment,” which would be more available in the community than in prison. She asked Drettwan for a longer period of extended supervision than the pre-sentence investigation recommended.
Wedell read a statement to Drettwan. He suffers from dyslexia and has been taught not to express his emotions, May explained before the statement.
“He has written down his statement,” she said. “I can tell you that each paragraph that you’re going to hear took him about four hours to write.”
Wedell apologized to Brown’s family as well as his own.
He called Brown “Big Country” because of his Southern roots.
He said Brown would do anything for him, and Wedell said he would do the same for Brown.
Wedell apologized to Brown, too.
“I wish I could trade places with him,” he said.
Wedell’s girlfriend, Heather Hartlein, said in a statement that Wedell always thought about others and became “truly involved” with her children’s lives when they started dating.
Wedell is not a monster, she said, and did not intend for Brown to die.
Assistant District Attorney Haley Johnson questioned the sincerity of Wedell’s remorse. She played tapes of jail phone calls in which Wedell told family members he wanted to say he had addiction problems because it looked better for him in court.
Drettwan said she understood how Wedell could talk about how he appeared in court and how May could say he didn’t want to admit the depth of his problem to his loved ones.
Wedell’s issues and whether or not he intended to kill his friend can’t excuse the crime, Johnson said.
“Delivering heroin to an addict is like giving a loaded gun to someone who has talked about suicide,” she said.
When Wedell walked into the courtroom, he kissed a young girl on the cheek.
It was his daughter—and that was the only physical contact he has ever had with her, May said.
Wedell told Drettwan he wasn’t there to see his daughter’s birth or her first steps. He won’t be able to take her to her first day of school, teach her how to ride a bike or protect her from the boogeyman under her bed.
“I’m sorry I will miss these precious days,” Wedell said.
But Wedell acknowledged Brown’s children won’t have any more precious moments with their father, either.
Brown’s obituary shows he had three young children.
“I can’t imagine how much it feels to his children to not have their father … anymore and to his brothers and sisters and his children’s mother, who continues to raise their children alone,” Wedell said.
TOWN OF BELOIT
If some recent development deals play out as expected, the town of Beloit could see a boost in housing starts that could bring nearly 400 new homes and an influx of 1,200 residents over the next decade.
Town Administrator Ian Haas said the town forged a slew of residential developer’s agreements in 2017 and is rolling forward on new ones for up to 381 new condos, duplexes and single-family homes—$76 million worth of development over 10 years.
Those housing starts are planned in three town-owned residential subdivisions, including Blackhawk Run off Inman Parkway. Haas said the development agreement there eventually might add 179 condo units and 36 single-family homes.
The other subdivisions are Courtney Condos, a planned condominium development just east of Beloit Turner High School, and Heron Bay, a 24-lot subdivision along the Rock River south of Alliant Energy’s complex.
A jump in new residential starts would help address what officials say is an emerging housing shortage in Rock County.
For the town, it also could be one of a few catalysts for future commercial and industrial development, Haas said.
Under new housing development deals, the town’s population could grow as much as 20 percent in the next 10 years, jumping from about 7,000 residents to about 8,200, Haas said.
“We didn’t get to pick what people will pick us for, but it looks like residential is the name of the game for the time being,” Haas said.
“Development is cyclical. You could also have a major uptick in commercial where you have an uptick in development, which we’re poised for also. And when you’ve got an emerging increase in workforce, it makes sense we’d have interest in industrial” developments.
The town began marketing lots at Heron Bay in mid-2017 for just $1, and since then, the subdivision has landed 11 homes under contract, including three starts last year. Those homes, Haas said, will cost $250,000 and up.
The town acquired Blackhawk Run in late 2016 for about $200,000, buying the subdivision out of foreclosure, Haas said. It’s an example of a new subdivision that got hit hard by the Great Recession.
Haas said the subdivision was a relative bargain for the town. He estimated its value at about $1.3 million.
Much of the growth projected at Blackhawk Run and the Courtney Condos will be within the Beloit Turner School District boundaries. The new housing will be within walking distance of many of Turner’s schools—including a proposed new elementary school that’s the subject of a referendum this spring.
Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the prospect of housing growth is “exciting.”
“Any time any school district sees the potential for growth, I don’t know any school district that would see that as anything but a positive,” he said.
Turner schools currently pull in about 25 percent more students through open enrollment than they lose through students leaving, McCarthy said.
He said a significant increase in housing would expand the tax base and likely boost the student headcount. That would increase state aid, meaning the district could hold the line on its tax levy more easily. McCarthy said the district then could begin to slow the rate at which it accepts open-enrollment students.
The town of Beloit this week filed a legal petition in Rock County Court to incorporate part of the town as the village of Riverside.
City of Beloit officials have said they believe the incorporation effort is partly a money grab. Incorporation would protect the town from annexation attempts by other municipalities, and tax payments the town now gets from Alliant Energy’s power plant would double if it became a village.
Alliant will begin ramping up operation of a $750 million expansion to the power plant in 2019. That expansion is now under construction.
Haas said “everybody talks about Alliant” in conversations about the town’s incorporation effort.
Yet Haas said the potential of more residential development—along with the possibility for a related uptick in commercial and industrial developments—are “part of the impetus” for incorporation.
Over the next few years, the town expects to see several million dollars’ worth of new commercial development and redevelopment along Inman Parkway—a major road with increased traffic, thanks to improved access to Interstate 90/39.
In addition, Haas said, the town is in talks over a potential “$50 million” agricultural business development along the South Walters-South Duggan roads corridor south of the Alliant plant. He wouldn’t give details, but he said the development could start to gel as Alliant’s expansion nears completion.
Currently, the town has “limited” use of tools such as tax-increment financing, Haas said. TIF is one example of an economic development incentive villages and cities can use for industrial, commercial or even residential development.
Haas said incorporation would give the town—the third most-populous community in Rock County—more access to such tools as tax-increment financing.
“When you get down to the bones, having access to economic development tools (is important),” he said.
State • 2A
GOP bill targets labor rules
Business and labor clashed Wednesday over a Republican bill that would prevent local governments in Wisconsin from enacting a variety of ordinances pertaining to employment matters. Proponents argued the measure is needed to create statewide employment standards to provide consistency and stability both for employers and employees. Opponents said the changes are anti-worker and would undermine local government control.
Nation/World • 5B
Trump upset with DACA ruling
President Donald Trump denounced the federal courts Wednesday as “broken and unfair” after a district judge in San Francisco issued a temporary ruling keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place, despite Trump’s decision to end it this year. The administration vowed to request a stay and appeal.