Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2014

July 25, 2014

Former House Staffer Pleads Guilty to Theft

A former House staffer, Brian Prokes, pleaded guilty Friday to theft of government property while serving as an office manager, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell announced in a press release.

According to Legistorm, Prokes, 28, worked for Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., at the time of the theft and previously worked as a scheduler for then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Full story

House Natural Resources Republicans Slam Ike Memorial Commission

Memorial 37 032510 440x292 House Natural Resources Republicans Slam Ike Memorial Commission

Gehry, David and Anne Eisenhower, and Rocco Siciliano talk after a press conference about the memorial back in March 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The federal government has poured more than $65 million into creating a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to a new congressional report that alleges mismanagement by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and slams architect Frank Gehry’s plan.

Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee, which previously backed a bill to sunset the EMC, on Friday released a report declaring the proposed memorial a “Five-Star Folly,” and detailing the many delays and unanticipated costs in the 15 years since President Bill Clinton signed off on its creation.

The 58-page document, based on an investigation launched by the committee in 2012, states that more than $16.4 million has been spent on the memorial design, and another $13.3 million on design contract management, including expenses such as parking and broadband internet for the executive architect, Daniel Feil. Additionally, citing data from the General Services Administration, the report claims almost every contract the EMC has entered into for work on the memorial has been modified multiple times, reflecting millions of dollars in additional costs. Full story

Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

photo 4 247x330 Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Over the course of four workdays, Capitol Police spotted two 9 mm handguns during the security searches that are standard protocol for visitors and staffers entering congressional office buildings. Meanwhile, the Capitol community paid tribute to two Capitol Police officers killed in a gun battle in the Capitol 16 years earlier.

Nothing indicates the two men arrested for entering the Cannon House Office Building were intent on doing harm, but the timing of the grim anniversary of the deaths of Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob J. Chestnut on July 24, 1998, framed some of the concerns of members and staffers with a massive security loophole in the House garages.

On July 18 and 23, the security protocol at the Cannon doors worked. But, if someone with access to the House parking garages carried a gun, as staffer Ryan Shucard allegedly did, members believe he or she could enter office buildings without a bag check or metal detector screening. Full story

July 24, 2014

Pork Executive Was Carrying ‘Fully Functional’ Pistol, Police Say

photo 4 247x330 Pork Executive Was Carrying Fully Functional Pistol, Police Say

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

The South Carolina man arrested Wednesday after carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office building had a loaded Ruger LC9 semi-automatic pistol and a magazine with six rounds of ammunition, court documents state.

At the time of the arrest, the weapon appeared to be “fully functional” and “capable of being fired by a single hand,” according to hand-written comments on the charges.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Karen Howze ordered Ronald William Prestage, of Camden, S.C., the president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, released from custody pending a preliminary hearing on Aug. 13. The 59-year-old pork executive is charged with a single count of possessing a gun outside a home or office, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.

Prestage was arrested at about 9:40 a.m. Wednesday, after Capitol Police found the concealed weapon as he went through security screening. The court documents, providing a detailed account of the arrest, say Prestage put a briefcase on the X-ray belt at the Rotunda door of the building. An officer spotted the handgun, inspected the bag and found a black Uncle Mike’s ankle holster containing the weapon, according to the documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.

Police said Prestage stated he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. He does not have a permit to carry in D.C.

Inside the handgun was a magazine, containing six rounds of 9 mm ammunition. Further inspection by the crime scene lab uncovered one round in the chamber. Additional handwritten notes on the court document state that the gun had a barrel length of less than 12 inches.

Prestage has hired attorney Robert J. Spagnoletti, a former attorney general for the District of Columbia, who did not immediately respond to questions from CQ Roll Call.

D.C. Activists Enlist Andy Harris for Help With Porta-Potty

dcvote 258 072414 440x297 D.C. Activists Enlist Andy Harris for Help With Porta Potty

DC Vote’s James Jones, holds a “DC Constituent Service Day” sign as he stands with other D.C. residents outside Harris’s office on Capitol Hill to protest Harris’ actions against D.C.’s marijuana laws on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Activists from the District of Columbia crowded the hallway outside Rep. Andy Harris’ office on Thursday to lobby the Maryland Republican for help with local issues.

They say Harris should welcome their thoughts and concerns, given his keen interest in D.C.’s drug policy. The “DC Constituent Service Day” staged by DC Vote was organized a week after the House passed a spending bill that included a measure Harris proposed to target the District’s marijuana decriminalization law.

“This is a porta-potty outside my house,” said Ramin Catirai, a 31-year-old who lives near the intersection of 11th and T streets in Northwest D.C. “It’s been there for about two weeks,” he said, offering a black-and-white photo of the sidewalk outside his front door. “You can smell it.” Full story

July 23, 2014

For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obama’s Actions Leave ‘a Lot to Be Desired’

dcvote 08 033011 1 440x294 For D.C. Statehood Activists, Obamas Actions Leave a Lot to Be Desired

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When voters elected Barack Obama in 2008, District of Columbia residents were thrilled to see a senator who backed a bill to give them voting rights in Congress head to the White House.

Midway through his second term, however, many ardent supporters of the D.C.’s longtime quest for greater autonomy are less optimistic about the prospects of Obama aiding their cause. The District still doesn’t have budget autonomy or legislative autonomy, meaning local laws are still vulnerable to interference from members of Congress.

“His actions over the last six years leave a lot to be desired,” Josh Burch, a Brookland resident who heads the group Neighbors United for DC Statehood, said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. Burch and other activists were pleased to hear the president declare his full-fledged support for D.C. statehood during a town hall meeting in Northwest Washington, but there is still a gap between the sentiment and concrete steps toward statehood. Full story

Capitol Police Stop Another Gun From Entering Cannon Building (Updated)

photo 4 247x330 Capitol Police Stop Another Gun From Entering Cannon Building (Updated)

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:25 p.m. | Capitol Police confiscated a 9mm Ruger handgun from the bag of Camden, S.C., resident Ronald William Prestage shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning at the Cannon House Office Building. Prestage, 59, was arrested and charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a District of Columbia offense that carries up to five years in prison.

Records indicate he has a concealed carry permit in South Carolina. Prestage is a veterinarian and farm operator, and is president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council. He may have been on the Hill to lobby on agriculture issues.

Two officers escorted Prestage from the building in handcuffs around 9:35 a.m., and loaded him into a waiting police van. He did not respond to questions from CQ Roll Call.

Prestage was taken to Capitol Police headquarters for processing, according to department spokesman Shennell Antrobus.

The northeast Cannon door reopened around 9:50 a.m.

Related:

Shucard Pleads Not Guilty to Carrying Pistol to Capitol Hill

Handgun Incident Casts Campus Security in New Light

Marino Staffer Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

Webb Aide Could Get 5 Years

Gun-Related Arrest Is Nothing New for Capitol Police

Scarce Prospects for Senate Shooting Down D.C. Gun Control

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

July 22, 2014

Tennessee Man Arrested for Threatening to Kill Obama, Romney, Paul Ryan

Police have arrested a Tennessee man who allegedly threatened to kill President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and shoot other national and local officials.

In three profanity-laced voice mails left July 11 at the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security, Jimmie Randall Johnson Jr. named a long list of leaders and said he would “blow them all up” and “come with an AK and kill all you [expletive],” according to an arrest warrant charging Johnson with harassment. Tennessee Homeland Security Director David Purkey and Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Tommy Farmer were also specifically threatened.

Johnson, 45, left his name in the second call.

In an additional message on July 12, Johnson allegedly threatened to “light Nashville up,” and again threatened Romney and Ryan.

Records from the service provider traced the calls back to Johnson’s address in Ardmore, Tenn., near the Alabama border. Secret Service agents traveled to Huntsville, Ala., to interview him on July 18. Authorities say Johnson also admitted to leaving the messages during the interview.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

D.C. Residents Keep Facing Questions About Identification

norton 05 040110 440x292 D.C. Residents Keep Facing Questions About Identification

One form of D.C. ID should be enough, according to Norton. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A District of Columbia driver’s license should be enough identification to allow citizens to board a plane or enter a federal building, according to federal and local officials. So how come there’s so much confusion on the topic?

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., plans to meet with top Transportation Security Administration officials soon to clear up continuing problems D.C. residents face when trying to use their District-issued licenses for identification.

The issue is coming to a head at the nation’s airports and as states attempt to comply with the REAL ID act, which aims to set minimum security standards for forms of identification that are used to enter federal buildings and travel in a federally regulated manner.  Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:01 p.m.
DC Statehood

Capitol Police Complete Investigation of Suspicious Substance in Capitol Visitor Center (Updated)

cvc072214 440x284 Capitol Police Complete Investigation of Suspicious Substance in Capitol Visitor Center (Updated)

Capitol Police investigating a suspicious substance Tuesday carry their equipment back to the hazmat truck after declaring the area clear. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 10:38 a.m. | Capitol Police sealed entrances to the Capitol Visitor Center shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, in response to a suspicious substance.

Trapped groups of tourists and tour guides milled about in the main level, waiting for an all-clear so that they could enter the Capitol as police investigated in Emancipation Hall.

Escalators to and from the Capitol and outside entrances were ordered closed, as police implemented a shelter in place.

Capitol Police spokesman Shennell Antrobus confirmed the investigation to CQ Roll Call.

At about 9:50 a.m. Capitol Police radios began buzzing with the news that the suspicious substance tested negative and normal operations would soon resume, once the HAZMAT team cleared the scene.

A group of about 30 tourists who had been led out of the CVC theatre during the 45-minute investigation geared up for their tour of the Capitol. An officer joked with them that the well-rested CVC tour guides, also waiting for an all-clear signal, would show them a great time once operations resumed.

Shortly before 10 a.m., word spread that the doors and escalators were re-opening. A handful of Capitol employees who had been waiting in the Crypt boarded the escalator down to the CVC. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 9:39 a.m.
Capitol Police, CVC

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