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National Briefs for March 20, 2017

FBI director expected to provide answers on Russia, wiretapping allegations

Fox News reports that amid a House investigation looking into potential Russian activities and involvement during the polarizing 2016 presidential election, FBI Director James Comey is set to testify on Monday.

It is expected that Comey will provide at least some answers on Russian ties to the election, as well as the wiretapping allegations made by President Donald Trump.

According to Fox News, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers will also testify, as part of the latest chapter in what has become a controversial hot topic for months now.

“The U.S. intelligence community has already concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential race,” the Fox News report states, referring to leaked emails in regards to the Democratic National Committee and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Monday will mark the first time both Comey and Rogers have testified publicly since Trump took office, according to the Washington Post.

Trump’s proposed budget boosts military spending, cuts back on EPA

According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget “sharply reorders the nation’s priorities” by funneling billions of dollars into border security and military spending, reflecting the rhetoric from his campaign.

Consequently, funds for foreign aid, poverty programs and environmental protection would be cut dramatically, according to the Times.

Further, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts would be completely cut.

An additional nearly $3 billion in funds would go “largely” to cover a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the hiring of hundreds more agents for Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The budget in its current form is sure to face backlash by Congress, even one controlled by Republicans.

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Confirmation hearing of Trump’s SCOTUS pick to begin

The confirmation process of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick is set to begin on Monday, according to USA Today.

Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge, will finally face questions from U.S. Senate members, following a year of an empty seat on the Supreme Court following the death of Antonin Scalia in early 2016.

Then-President Obama nominated a replacement for the seat, but Republicans refused to confirm the pick, saying that the process should wait until the next administration begins.

The USA Today reports that Gorsuch can expect to be grilled by Democrats still holding a grudge over that decision by Republicans last year.

According to Politico, Gorsuch attended Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, has clerked for two Supreme Court justices and previously worked in the Department of Justice.

Officials at the National Constitution Center told Politico that Gorsuch is “likely to be the most effective conservative nominee in terms of winning over (Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice) Anthony Kennedy and forging conservative decisions on the court.”

Rock music pioneer passes at 90

Chuck Berry, the rock n’ roll pioneer and trailblazer best known for hits such as “Johnny B. Goode,” “You Never Can Tell” and “Route 66,” passed away Saturday night at the age of 90 at his St. Louis home, according to the New York Times.

Berry grew up in a segregated St. Louis neighborhood, where he absorbed the sounds of blues, gospel and country that would find their way into his music later on.

Several of rock’s biggest names offered tributes to Berry and condolences to his family, including Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

“Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived. This is a tremendous loss of a giant for the ages,” Springsteen wrote in a series of tweets over the weekend.

Barack Obama also offered his thoughts on the musician, tweeting on Sunday morning that Berry “rolled over everyone who came before him – and turned up everyone who came after.”

Berry has been cited as one of the foremost influences on his genre, and was among the first to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was ranked fifth on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and several of his songs are featured in the publication’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll list.

He also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984.

-Compiled by David Lynch

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