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Timeline for release of GOP stimulus plan delayed as negotiators race for deal amid holdups

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin emerged from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Thursday morning to announce a “fundamental agreement” between the White House and Senate Republicans on a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package. But Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows declined to commit to the public release of the plan Thursday. The proposal will now likely be released on Monday, a GOP aide told CNN.

That came as a surprise to rank-and-file GOP senators, who told reporters walking into their closed-door lunch on Thursday that the understanding had been that Republicans would release their multi-piece plan later in the day.

Instead, the top White House negotiators were left with touting “productive” discussions and said they were moving as “expeditiously” as possible.

The primary hold up, two sources said, was differences over the extension of the federal unemployment enhancement, specifically how Republicans would implement their changes to the $600-a-week program that expires July 31. Both sides are also still poring over the legislative text of agreed-upon pieces, which Meadows acknowledged is a time-consuming process.

McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor late in the day Thursday that the Trump administration asked for more time to review the plan and that it should be out “early next week.”

“The administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down this proposal early next week,” he said.

McConnell said that key GOP senators who have helped craft the package will introduce component pieces of the bill on Monday.

The delay in the release of the GOP proposal serves as an ominous signal given the scale of the challenge lawmakers and the White House are facing as they move to strike a bipartisan deal on a new stimulus package to get anything to the President’s desk before the end to federal unemployment enhancement used by millions of Americans.

The GOP stimulus plan will only serve as an opening bid ahead of what are sure to be hard-fought negotiations with Democrats.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who are unified behind a $3 trillion House-passed proposal of their own, have already panned the emerging GOP plan.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Thursday that “what we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said that Democrats are “waiting for the Republicans to put together a partisan bill that will never become law just so they can muster up the courage to negotiate.”

Finding a proposal that can unify Republicans has so far proven a challenge for the Senate GOP conference and the White House with days of public splits within the party on display over the proposal.

It is likely to be far harder to find common ground when bipartisan negotiations get underway, with the two sides trillions of dollars apart on the topline and diametrically opposed on several central components of their respective proposals.

Several GOP issues had been resolved by Thursday, however, including the White House dropping a push for a payroll tax cut and its insistence that new money for schools be tied solely to reopening, as well as a compromise over Senate Republicans’ push for new funds for state-based coronavirus testing.

The overall contours of the Republican have come into view and include $105 billion for education funding, $16 billion in new funds for testing, a second round of forgiveable small business loans, a second round of direct payments and series of tax incentives designed to help employers bring people back to work, and do so safely.

The real deadline negotiators are focused on, Mnuchin reiterated, is the expiration of the federal enhancement of unemployment insurance.

Mnuchin called discussions between White House negotiators and McConnell “very productive,” on Thursday but acknowledged that both sides still need to review and finalize text.

Meadows acknowledged the time crunch negotiators currently face, given the upcoming weekend and the expected funeral of the late Rep. John Lewis next week.

“We’re working expeditiously and it’s why we’ll probably be back up here this afternoon,” Meadows said.

Leaving a closed-door lunch earlier in the day on Thursday, McConnell was mum about the timing of the release of the GOP bill. “We’ll let you know,” he said.

Other Republican senators sounded uncertain over the timeline for the bill’s release on Thursday afternoon.

Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun said that someone asked the Republican leader during a closed-door lunch about the stimulus bill and McConnell’s message was that it was a “work in progress.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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Could Marty Walsh match Joe Biden’s stumbles, mumbles?

Marty Walsh is looking for a lifeboat.

He’d never admit it publicly, but I believe Hizzoner would much prefer not to have to run for a third term next year. The city is in ruins, and you don’t want to go down in the record books as the first mayor to be defeated for re-election since James Michael Curley in 1949.

But lifeboats are hard to come by, and Marty’s basically only got one option — Dementia Joe Biden. He was with Joe back in the dark days after the New Hampshire primary last winter, so he’s kind of owed something.

Secretary of Labor maybe? Given his past career in “da trades,” Marty wouldn’t even have to buy himself a new pinky ring for his swearing in.

So is Marty trying to suck up to his potential future boss? I started wondering about this the other day during a cringe-worthy press conference in which the mayor was as tongue-tied, befuddled and inarticulate as, well, as Joe Biden.

Over the past 72 hours, for instance, Joe Biden has invented two new job classifications — “voter registration physicians” and “pay-care givers.” He’s revealed the existence of a new virus — “COVID-9.” He has announced his proposal for both “elderly childhood education” and a “child clare pan.” And he denounced “Islamic-phobia.”

Hard to match, let alone top that kind of incoherence, but Marty tried his best the other day. He seemed nervous, perhaps because he feared being asked about his new BFF, Monica Cannon-Grant. That Globe poster gal was about to be busted on her racist rants against Rayla Campbell, the GOP candidate for Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s Congressional seat.

Whatever the reason for his discomfort, Marty was channeling Dementia Joe bigtime.

Remember Biden exhorting his followers to text him at “Joe 3-0-3-3-0?”

Marty informed his minions how to stay in touch – “that’s boston dot gov slash b-c-y-f slash dot uh slash summer.”

Which was even more incoherent than the late mayor Mumbles Menino’s plea for stay in touch at “boston-dot-gov-dot.”

Speaking of Mumbles, he used to resent appearing at events with other politicians who might be more, shall we say, articulate. He’d silently seethe and fume at anyone who could speak in complete sentences. At least a few Boston pols taught themselves to dumb down while on stage with Mumbles.

Is Marty trying to … ape Joe Biden, by appearing as lost as his would-be patron? Here’s Marty doing his best Biden:

“We continue to move forward um curiously uh in step one of phase three of the state’s reopening plan — excuse me, cautiously, not curiously. It’s kind of curious too. We’re not sure when this is gonna end so I guess it’s a little bit of both.”

Which is a better fumble recovery than Joe has ever managed during this fight. Although that raises another point — how much does it mean to suck up to Joe six months out from Jan. 20? I mean, Joe has major problems recalling what happened a half-hour ago.

What are the odds Joe remembers anything, period?

Like the vice president, Marty now loses himself in numbers — “uh, 113, 789, uh 113-thousand-789.”

And then there’s Walsh’s tendency to misread prepared statements, mostly because he obviously doesn’t review the notes before he begins reading them for the cameras:

“And if your rent-relief fund, we have a rent-relief fund that continues. … This is the work that we are doing using creative strategies to make public safe — public safer spaces safer during this pandemic … it’s being done with no regards for the rights-a — safety of protesters and it ‘pears to be needlessly escalating situation.”

I’m not familiar with the verb “’pears.” I believe he was trying to say “appears.” This, after Biden last week referred to the police “protecting” the public, only he said “’tecting.”

Let’s return to Joe Biden for a moment, to get a handle on the direction Walsh is moving in. Uncle Joe is talking now about law enforcement.

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Cuomo says Trump told him feds would not deploy to NYC; announces crackdown on social distance violators

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he’d spoken with President Trump about the idea of sending federal law enforcement officers to New York City during a time of nationwide protests and was assured that such a move is not currently planned.

“Policing is left up to the states,” Cuomo said during his daily news briefing Thursday. “The president and I had a good conversation. He said he would not be sending troops into New York City.”

Cuomo added that Trump left open the option for Cuomo to change his mind — which would result in a lawsuit, the governor said. But he added that he would prefer not to have to resort to that.

TRUMP TO ‘SURGE’ FEDERAL AGENTS TO CHICAGO, OTHER CITIES, AMID SPIKE IN VIOLENT CRIME

“If they sent in federal agents I think it would be inflammatory, it would be pouring gasoline on a fire,” Cuomo said. “And that’s the last thing we need in New York City. So the president said he heard me. He said he wouldn’t do it. He said that we would talk if anything changed.”

Cuomo’s comments came a day after Attorney General William Barr announced that Operation Legend — the White House initiative to crack down on spikes in homicides and gun violence — would expand from Kansas City, Mo., into Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M.

Federal agents have also deployed to Portland, Ore., to protect government buildings there.

TRUMP TO EXPAND DOJ’S OPERATION LEGEND TO CHICAGO, ALBUQUERQUE AMID UNREST

Cuomo on Thursday also announced a crackdown on social distancing violations in bars and restaurants in the Empire State, days after ordering new restrictions barring the sale of alcohol to patrons who do not also order food.

He said that although recent coronavirus numbers throughout the state were all “good,” large gatherings are still cause for concern of potential outbreaks.

“We had just about 30 positives from one July 4 party,” he said. “You understand why we say one bad event, one bad group, can be a real problem.”

He pointed to a prior outbreak in New Rochelle as the “first hotspot in the United States” and noted that “one person can make a difference” when it comes to super-spreader events.

NY GOV. CUOMO ISSUES NEW BAR, RESTAURANT RESTRICTIONS IN CORONAVIRUS FIGHT: ‘3 STRIKES YOU’RE CLOSED’

“It’s been six months — we know what COVID is about,” he said. “Let’s at least learn the lesson of the past six months.”

Cuomo argued that when the state began its reopening on May 15, new coronavirus cases continued to decline because it was “a smart reopening,” but he singled out bars and restaurants as places where people might continue to flout social distancing and increase the risk of a new surge.

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The crackdown on venues that violate social distancing guidelines will include enforcement from the state Liquor Authority and state troopers, but the governor also called on local police to help out.

He said that people aged between 21 and 30 are the only group that has seen a spike in new infections in the state and announced a new ad campaign directed at that age group.

“If it doesn’t kill you, you can bring it home and give it to someone inadvertently,” he said. “And it can kill them.”

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Republican infighting leads to embarrassing setback on aid

Republicans acknowledged the bickering, even as they tried to downplay the episode.

“We have to resolve some of the conflicts with the administration. They moved in our direction.” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who faces a tough race in November. “It’s a normal part of the sausage factory.”

“Nothing surprises me in the United States Senate,” added Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

But privately, GOP lawmakers were flabbergasted that they’ll likely have to wait until next week to unveil even an initial proposal.

“You just got to get something out there,” complained one Republican senator. “It will be insufficient to the task, but at least it starts the discussions.”

What’s worse for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — the key players in this drama — was they were supposed to be ready for this moment.

The Senate was coming off a two-week recess, during which time GOP leaders, committee chairs and White House officials privately floated proposals to each other outlining what they wanted for certain elements of their proposal. Republicans and the White House were eager to produce a joint plan that would give them a strong negotiating position heading into a showdown with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

But the White House rejected Senate GOP demands for tens of billions of new spending to beef-up coronavirus testing at the state level, and then “zeroed out” requests for more Pentagon and global health money. The White House also pushed for pet projects including $250 million for renovating the FBI building.

President Donald Trump continued to push for a payroll tax cut, which most Republicans have long opposed, further complicating the situation. Eventually Trump gave in on that one. Again.

Then there was unemployment assistance. With $600-per-week federal payments to millions of newly unemployed Americans expiring by the end of the month, there was urgency to find a compromise.

Yet some Senate Republicans wanted no additional federal support for the out-of-work, saying business owners are complaining that they can’t hire people because the unemployed make more staying home. Other GOP senators wanted scaled-back payments. Still another group wanted to extend the current payments. Republican leaders created a plan that would let individual states tailor their payments, yet the White House rejected that as inadequate.

Despite some last-minute shuttle diplomacy by Meadows and Mnuchin this week, a potential deal fell apart. The delay in releasing the package gave Democrats an easy opportunity to slam Trump and Republican leaders for inaction, and they took it.

“Senate Republicans … have been so divided, so disorganized, so unprepared that they have struggled to even draft a partisan proposal within their own conference,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Some GOP senators and aides expressed deep frustration privately — and largely blamed the White House — though their public comments were more conciliatory, saying the setback is all part of the typical legislative process.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, and this is not outside the norm. Everything always takes longer than you think it’s going to take unless it happens immediately,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “I’m not surprised by this. I’d liked to have gotten done today or even stayed and gotten our base bill filed tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s anything extraordinary about it at all.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez denounces ‘sexist slur by congressman’

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Ms Ocasio-Cortez outside the Capitol in March, where the exchange took place

US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given a speech rejecting a colleague’s apology after he allegedly using a sexist slur in an argument.

The New York City Democrat took to the House floor to accuse Republican Ted Yoho of accosting her on the steps of the US Capitol on Monday.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, who is often a target of conservatives, said the words showed a “pattern” of bad behaviour by men.

Mr Yoho denies saying the slur and has called for civility.

“This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural,” she told lawmakers, calling it a culture “of accepting a violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that.”

She added that she was prepared to let the incident go until Mr Yoho “made excuses” by citing his wife and daughters in a speech on Wednesday.

What happened in the incident?

Ms Ocasio-Cortez said she was entering Congress to vote when Mr Yoho, a Florida congressman, and Texas Congressman Roger Williams approached her as they departed the chamber.

She said he called her “disgusting” and said “you are out of your freaking mind” in what a reporter who also witnessed the incident called a “brief but heated exchange” about recent comments Ms Ocasio-Cortez made about crime being linked to poverty.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez – a member of the so-called “squad” of young female Democrats – said she told him he was being “rude”.

Then, as Mr Yoho walked away, he was overheard by reporters using profanity and a sexist slur used to denigrate women.

Mr Yoho’s office denies he used the sexist word, and said he had exclaimed “bullshit” to himself instead as he was leaving.

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Media captionWomen in Washington DC discuss using the term “bitch”

What did Ocasio-Cortez say?

In a passionate speech on Thursday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez rejected Mr Yoho’s comments on the House floor one day earlier, in which he apologised for the “abrupt manner of the conversation” with her and said he was “very cognizant”of his language because he was married and had daughters.

“I will commit to each of you that I will conduct myself from a place of passion and understanding that policy and political disagreement be vigorously debated with the knowledge that we approach the problems facing our nation with the betterment of the country in mind and the people we serve,” Mr Yoho told his colleagues. “I cannot apologise for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country,” he added.

“Mr Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 30, said on Thursday. “I am two years younger than Mr Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr Yoho treated his daughter.”

“I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men,” she continued.

“When you do that to any woman, what Mr Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters,” she added. “In using that language, in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable.”

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest Democrat in the chamber, spoke about her upbringing in New York City’s Bronx borough and other times in her life when she had heard abusive language from men.

“I want to be clear that representative Yoho’s comments were not deeply hurtful or piercing to me,” she added. “Because I have worked a working-class job.

“I have waited tables and I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets in New York City. And this kind of language is not new.

“I have encountered words uttered by Mr Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. I have tossed men out of bars that have used language like Mr Yoho’s.”

“This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural,” she said, calling it a culture “of accepting a violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that”.

What did other lawmakers say?

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy defended Mr Yoho, who is 65-years-old and retiring in January, saying “when someone apologises they should be forgiven”.

“I just think in a new world, in a new age, we now determine whether we accept when someone says ‘I’m sorry’ if it’s a good enough apology,” he continued.

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi – the top Democrat in the chamber – called the alleged slur “a manifestation of attitude in our society really”.

“I can tell you that firsthand, they’ve called me names for at least 20 years of leadership, 18 years of leadership,” she said, referring to Republicans.

“I personally have experienced a lifetime of insults, racism and sexism,” California Congresswoman Barbara Lee said on the House floor. “And believe me, this did not stop after being elected to public office.”

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Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice : NPR

Mayor Quinton Lucas talks to demonstrators during a rally on the steps of city hall in Kansas City, Mo. on June 5.

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Mayor Quinton Lucas talks to demonstrators during a rally on the steps of city hall in Kansas City, Mo. on June 5.

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Quinton Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., says he found out about President Trump’s plan to send federal law enforcement officers to his city over social media.

“I learned about Operation Legend from actually someone on Twitter who had notified me that it was occurring,” the Democratic mayor said in an interview Thursday. “Then I looked at a White House press briefing that had announced that it was, I guess, already in the works.”

During a White House briefing on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said 200 federal agents were sent to Kansas City as part of the program — named after LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy killed last month in Kansas City. Taliferro was the 95th homicide this year in the city.

“These are ‘street’ agents and investigators who will be working to solve murders and take down violent gangs,” Barr said.

“I did not directly request the support,” Lucas told NPR. “… I would have liked to know more about what the operation looks like.”

Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M. will also see federal deployments in the coming days as part of President Trump’s plan to fight violent crime in U.S. cities.

While Lucas said he welcomed federal cooperation in solving “some of the awful gun crimes” in the city, he said he did not want the operation to become a replay of the ongoing unrest in Portland, Ore., where federal agents have been clashing with protesters demonstrating over racial injustice and police brutality.

“We don’t want some broader mission creep to other broad-based policing activities,” Lucas said.

Lucas spoke with NPR’s Morning Edition about the confusion surrounding the new operation and how it is — and is not — helping the city fight crime.

Interview Highlights

On what federal investigators have accomplished

I believe on Monday our local United States attorney’s office, so the branch of the DOJ that’s here, announced the first arrest of a suspect who was charged, I think, with a gun crime relating to drug possession. So that is, that’s the one thing that thus far I know about. I look forward to knowing more about this over time.

On the need for federal assistance

The irony of it is that it was actually done by a suburban police department in a suburb. So I would imagine that a local law enforcement agency could, and I’m not saying that that person should perhaps still be on the streets, but it does seem like some of the concern in mission creep that we might be having.

What I have been told about this program was that this is the sort of thing that we’re using to really solve violent crimes, murders, non-fatal shootings. And that’s what we would be interested in. Other broad-based policing activities, we’re not as much.

And to give you a little more background, I had my first personal conversation, I believe the U.S. attorney reached out to my staff before their announcement, but I had my first conversation after the White House press briefing a little while back where that was what was told to me would occur.

I hope that it sticks to that and to the extent it doesn’t it would be regrettable, but I also fear the fact that this is a campaign season, election-type tactic, and I’m not sure that’s for the better.

HJ Mai edited the audio version of this story.

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White House scraps fair housing rule as Trump bids for suburban voters

Administration officials briefed select congressional staff on Wednesday on the new proposal, which will replace a rule requiring local governments to proactively track patterns of poverty and segregation with a checklist of 92 questions in order to gain access to federal housing funds. Critics decried the plan as costly and overly complicated.

The new rule has a much lower bar, essentially allowing local governments to self-certify that they are meeting their obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” under the 1968 Fair Housing Act. HUD will rely on a “general commitment that grantees will use the funds to take active steps to promote fair housing,” according to the text of the rule. Fair housing is defined as “affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination, and accessible.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday said the comments on the revisions HUD proposed in January led the agency to change course.

“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the [AFFH] regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” he said in an email.

The public will not have a chance to weigh in on the new rule, which is considered final. HUD and the Office of Management and Budget decided to use a waiver under a provision of the Administrative Procedure Act that exempts rules related to grants from notice-and-comment requirements.

“This is terrible,” said Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “The administration just gutted the rule that enforces fairness in housing, which was and still is the whole point of the Fair Housing Act. All of us have an interest in living in fair and desegregated communities.”

He added: “It’s hard to even call it a policy. It doesn’t enforce anything. Instead, it hands off any action to local governments. They can do nothing but talk, take no action and claim they are furthering fair housing. This approach won’t affirmatively further anything other than discrimination.”

The White House declined to comment, though Trump tweeted about the rule late last month.

“At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas,” he tweeted June 30. “Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”

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‘Below Deck’ star Captain Lee Rosbach honors son after fatal drug overdose: ‘It’s never out of your mind’

Captain Lee Rosbach is still trying to make sense of his son’s tragic death.

Joshua Lee Rosbach passed away on July 22, 2019, from an accidental drug overdose. He was 42 when he died after battling addiction for 20 years, People magazine reported on Thursday.

“I don’t really know how I’m feeling,” the “Below Deck” star admitted to the outlet. “It’s difficult to put into words because it’s such — we’re not wired to do this at all. It’s not something that’s supposed to happen to you. We’re wired in the opposite way. We’re supposed to die before our children do.”

“There’s a hole there that will never be filled,” the 70-year-old continued. “The person that said time heals all wounds is full of s—-. It really doesn’t. You might get better coping with it, but it never goes away. It’s never out of your mind. It’s always there. There are some 200 kids a day that die from this, and we just don’t do a damn thing about it.”

AMY WINEHOUSE’S MOM SHARES TOUCHING TRIBUTE ON THE NINTH ANNIVERSARY OF SINGER’S DEATH

Captain Lee Rosbach
(Photo by: Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

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According to the outlet, Rosbach and his family are determined to keep Joshua’s memory alive. At the Awaken Recovery Center in Greenacres, Fla., a scholarship was created in Joshua’s name providing free in-house treatment to someone of Rosbach and his wife’s choosing. Their goal is to help a family prevent from suffering from a similar loss.

The outlet noted that the individual chosen by the couple can remain at the center as long as needed in order to complete their recovery.

“Somebody [at the rehab center] got in touch with me because they wanted to donate a scholarship in Josh’s name for a person that was deserving and in need of that,” Rosbach explained. “I was a full scholarship; everything was paid for and there was no timeline,”

Rosbach and his wife Mary Anne also personally dropped off the individual at the center and got them settled in.

BENJAMIN KEOUGH’S GIRLFRIEND BREAKS HER SILENCE AFTER HIS DEATH: ‘YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THE LOVE OF MY LIFE’

ART GARFUNKEL’S PAL SAYS SINGER HELPED HIM OVERCOME DESPAIR AFTER HE BECAME BLIND: ‘IT LIFTED ME OUT OF THE GRAVE’

“It was a nice way to honor Josh’s memory,” he said. “Something good that happened for someone in Josh’s position. It felt good and still does.”

Rosbach took to Instagram on Wednesday and revealed he has helped redesign his wife’s wedding ring to highlight a heart bearing Josh’s name with some of his ashes inside.

“This way Mary Anne can keep a part of him with her always,” he wrote.

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Joshua is survived by his parents, sister, brother, nieces, nephews, as well as numerous aunts and uncles.

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Judge orders Michael Cohen released from prison

By Larry Neumeister | Associated Press

NEW YORK — A judge ordered the release from prison of President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer on Thursday, saying he believes the government retaliated against him for planning to release a book about Trump before November’s election.

Michael Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was ordered back to prison on July 9 after probation authorities said he refused to sign a form banning him from publishing the book or communicating publicly in other manners, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said during a telephone conference.

Hellerstein ordered Michael Cohen released from prison by 2 p.m. on Friday.

“How can I take any other inference than that it’s retaliatory?” Hellerstein asked prosecutors, who insisted in court papers and again Thursday that Probation Department officers did not know about the book when they wrote a provision of home confinement that severely restricted Cohen’s public communications.

“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” the judge said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?”

In ruling, Hellerstein said he made the “finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory.” He added: “And it’s retaliatory for his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish the book.”

Cohen, 53, sued federal prison officials and Attorney General William Barr on Monday, saying he was ordered back to prison because he was writing a book to be released before the November presidential election.

He has been in isolation at an Otisville, New York, prison camp, quarantined while prison authorities ensure he does not have the coronavirus.

His attorney, Danya Perry, said in a statement that the order was “a victory for the First Amendment” and showed that the government cannot block a book critical of the president as a condition of release to home confinement. “This principle transcends politics and we are gratified that the rule of law prevails,” she said.

The book will address “Trump’s personality and proclivities, his private and professional affairs, and his personal and business ethics,” according to the lawsuit. It further stated that the government’s demand that Cohen agree not to speak to or through any media, including by publishing a book, violated his constitutional rights.

Cohen had been furloughed in May along with other prisoners as authorities tried to slow the spread of the COVID-19 in federal prisons.

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Authorities asking for help in finding killer of Delaware teacher on 1-year anniversary of her murder

It’s been one year since 50-year-old high school teacher Susan Morrissey Ledyard was murdered, and her family tells Dateline they feel they are no closer to finding out what happened.

“We’re utterly bewildered that we’ve reached the one-year mark without any answers,” Susan’s sister, Meg Morrissey Heinicke said. “It’s crushing.”

Meg added that their family hasn’t given up hope and continue to push for Susan’s case to be solved.

Susan Ledyard (Courtesy of Morrissey Family)

A week before the one-year anniversary of Susan’s murder, the Delaware State Police issued a press release seeking assistance from the public and urging anyone with information about the 2019 case to come forward.

“So much time has passed without any solid leads or evidence,” Meg said. “The one thing that could possibly change everything is someone coming forward with information. Even if it’s something minor. It could help.”

Susan’s body was found at 7:39 a.m. on July 23, 2019, in the Brandywine River near Northeast Boulevard in Wilmington, Delaware, according to the Delaware State Police.

Her car, a black 2016 Honda Civic, was found parked on Walkers Mill Road, approximately three miles upstream from where her body was discovered. Susan’s purse and phone were inside. Detectives do not believe Susan entered the river where her car was parked.

An autopsy conducted by the Division of Forensic Science ruled Susan’s cause of death to be blunt force trauma and drowning. On November 14, nearly four months after Susan’s body was found, authorities ruled her death a homicide.

Susan Ledyard and her sister, Meg Morrissey Heinicke, just three weeks before Susan's death. (Courtesy of Morrissey Family)
Susan Ledyard and her sister, Meg Morrissey Heinicke, just three weeks before Susan’s death. (Courtesy of Morrissey Family)

Susan’s family previously told Dateline they were shocked, as many believed her death may have been a tragic accident.

“I did not think it was suicide, but it was inconceivable to think that there was any foul play,” Meg told Dateline in November. “At first it just seemed like a horrible accident. The thought that someone killed my sister just never even crossed my mind.”

Investigators with the Delaware State Police told Dateline they were able to collect video surveillance footage from several locations in the area where Susan’s car was found, and, using that video and her cell phone records, they were able to create a partial timeline of her activities.

They were able to determine that Susan was active on her cell phone throughout the night, texting and calling friends up until 2:45 a.m. They added that there was nothing alarming about the texts sent from, or received by, her phone.

“It wasn’t unusual for Susan to be up late,” Susan’s sister, Missy Morrissey told Dateline. “Especially during the summer. She was a teacher. So, summer meant she could stay up.”

Susan and her husband, Ben Ledyard. (Courtesy of Ben Ledyard.)
Susan and her husband, Ben Ledyard. (Courtesy of Ben Ledyard.)

Susan’s husband, Ben Ledyard, told Dateline he had gone to see a movie with a friend around 8 p.m. on Monday, July 22, 2019. When he got home, he said Susan was on the back porch texting on her phone.

“We had tickets to the Rolling Stones the next night,” Ben said. “So I told her we should take it easy, not stay up late that night, and then I went to bed. It was probably around 11 p.m. She told me she’d be in soon. I never saw her again after that.”

Susan’s sister Missy previously told Dateline the two stayed up texting late that night. On July 23, Missy’s last text to Susan was around 12:29 a.m.

“That was it,” Missy said. “That was my last communication with my sister.”

Over the next several days and weeks, investigators put together a timeline to help figure out what Susan was doing in the moments leading up to her death.

Investigators confirmed that at 3:02 a.m., Susan’s car pulled out of her driveway on Riverview Avenue and turned left onto northbound Pennsylvania Avenue. Approximately two minutes later, her car parked on Walkers Mill Road and the headlights turned off. Based on the elapsed time, investigators say they believe the car was driven directly from thehouse to the location where the car was found, about a mile away.

That’s when the timeline ends. Investigators previously told Dateline they had not been able to account for the 4-hour time span between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., but said they nowbelieve she was active during that time.

Susan’s sister Meg told Dateline that Susan wore a Fitbit which recorded her pulse during that span of time — until about 7 a.m.

Just half an hour later, a construction worker who was on a job site at the Brandywine River spotted Susan’s body in the water, according to Delaware State Police Detective Daniel Grassi.

Detectives said the whereabouts of Susan between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. on July 23 are still unknown and have requested the public’s assistance for information on her actions during that time frame, as well as any information that will lead to the identification of her killer.

Susan Ledyard and her best friend, Megan Doherty (Courtesy of Morrissey Family)
Susan Ledyard and her best friend, Megan Doherty (Courtesy of Morrissey Family)

For a full year now, the community has rallied behind Susan’s family to find out what happened to the beloved teacher on July 23.

Fliers that ask “Did you see Susan” and “What happened to Susan” are plastered all over Wilmington and surrounding towns.

Meg, who lives in San Francisco, said the friends she speaks to in Wilmington, are baffled that Susan’s case remains unsolved.

“They’re terrified that a killer is in their midst and no arrests have been made,” Meg said.

What happened to Susan in the early hours of July 23, 2019 remains a mystery, but her family says they won’t give up until they have answers.

“It’s a tough case and we realize that,” Meg told Dateline. “But we hoped there would be some sort of progress by now.”

Meg said the case is now being handled by both the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit and the Delaware Attorney General’s office. The family continues to get monthly updates with the teams, but adds there is little to no information.

“Our family would like closure,” Meg said. “We especially want this for our parents. My mother turned 84 years old on Saturday. And this is a nightmare for her. It’s heartbreaking.”

Meg, her siblings, her parents and all their grandchildren, recently gathered at their beach house in Stone Harbor, N.J., where they often spend time as a family. They celebrated their mother’s 84th birthday and cherished being together after a months-long quarantine.

“Susan should be here. This was her favorite place,” Meg said. “She didn’t deserve this. I would never say we’ve lost hope, but it’s getting harder every day. The best thing we can do is keep telling her story.”

Anyone with information about Susan Ledyard’s case is urged to contact Detective Daniel Grassi at (302) 365-8441 or Detective Amy Lloyd at (302) 365-8411. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, at www.tipsubmit.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”