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Republican Governors Kasich, Hogan Say They Will Not Vote For Trump: ‘I Just Can’t Do It’

Two more names join the list of prominent Republican governors who are not supporting their presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, that they’ve hopped on the #NeverTrump train.

When asked by reporters if he would be voting for Trump, Hogan replied “No, I don’t plan to.”

Kasich, who made a pledge to support the 2016 Republican candidate, said his decision to violate the pledge was “painful.”

“I’m sorry this has happened. We’ll see where it ends up. I’m not making a final decision yet but at this point I just can’t do it,” the Ohio governor said, before adding that he was open to change his decision if Trump toned down his anti-minority attacks.

Hogan and Kasich join Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who have also stated they will not be supporting the presumptive Republican nominee.


Video: WJZ-13 Baltimore, MSNBC

Governor Snyder And EPA Head Berated During Committee Hearing

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and EPA head Gina McCarthy were grilled before a House committee hearing today over their handling of lead tainted water in Flint, Michigan. The hearings were the third held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since the crisis made national news late last year.

In a rare display of bipartisan rage, both Republicans and Democrat committee members berated Snyder and the EPA for their handling of the lead poisoning crisis. In his opening statements, committee chair Jason Chaffetz expressed disgust at the disregard for Flint’s water quality, as revealed in internal EPA emails. “I’m not so sure Flint is the community we want to go out on a limb for,” read one internal EPA email written before the crisis became national news. “Are you kidding me?” he responded, after displaying that email to the room. He said there were numerous emails that have expressed the same sentiment.

Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings was equally angered by the inaction of the EPA, although he reserved his harshest criticism for Michigan’s governor. “There’s no doubt in my mind that if a corporate CEO had done what Governor Snyder’s administration had done, he would be hauled up on criminal charges,” he said. Cummings had berated Snyder for running his state like a corporation.

Cummings pinned blame for the crisis squarely on Snyder and his administration, from approving the switch to Flint River’s contaminated water to overriding a city council vote to return Flint to Detroit’s cleaner drinking water system to systematic disregard for complaints raised by residents over the dirty water. “His fingerprints are all over this,” Cummings said.

Snyder’s administration is already subject to investigation regarding Flint’s poisoned water. Todd Flood, special counsel to the state attorney general’s office, said that he was not ruling out the possibility of manslaughter charges being made once the investigation concluded.

Snyder, for his part, denied responsibility, saying the state’s Department of Environmental Quality consistently maintained that the water was safe to drink. “It was only on October 1, 2015 that I learned our state experts were wrong,” he told the committee. “On that day, I took immediate action.”

Other Democrats also joined in on berating Snyder. Pennsylvania Democrat Matt Cartwright, after spending much of his allotted time making the Michigan governor admit guilt to various aspects of the Flint water crisis, said that Snyder should resign due to the overwhelming amount of local reporting on the city’s water quality, which he chose to ignore until it became national news. “Plausible deniability only works when it’s plausible and I’m not buying that you didn’t know about any of this until October 2015,” said Cartwright, cutting off Snyder. “You were not in a medically induced coma for a year.”

According to a timeline by the Detroit Free Press, there had been numerous boiled water advisories in Flint starting in August 2014, barely six months following the city’s switch to the Flint River as its water source. Then in October, General Motors’ Flint plant announced it was switching out of the city’s water supply, because Flint’s water was causing metal parts to corrode. In January 2015, the city warned its residents of elevated levels of a liver and kidney damaging chemical present in the disinfectant used to treat the city’s water.

That same month, the city’s emergency manager, Darnell Earley rejected an offer to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system. The timeline revealed constant efforts by the DEQ and Governor Snyder to downplay concerns by Flint residents and the EPA on the quality of Flint’s drinking water.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was also made to testify in front of the committee. She cast blame on the state-appointed emergency managers — already unpopular with voters who rejected their mandate — as the ones who advised that Flint switch its water supply as a cost cutting measure. “The state of Michigan approved that decision without requiring corrosion control treatment,” she said, shifting blame onto state authorities, rather than her agency. “The state provided our regional office with confusing, incomplete and absolutely incorrect information.” She called the crisis a “missed opportunity” for the EPA to address the problem.

But that wasn’t enough for some lawmakers. Michigan Democrat Robin Kelly accused the EPA of abetting “environmental racism,” given the majority of Flint’s residents are black. Committee chairman Chaffetz told McCarthy that he thought she should resign. “You had the authority and the backing of the federal government, and you did not act,” he said. “If you want to do the courageous thing, then you should resign too.”

It seems unlikely that either Snyder or McCarthy will resign, given they haven’t already. A rough day in front of a House committee is unlikely to change that. And while they may have been comfortable drinking their bottled water through the duration of the hearings, thousands of Flint residents indefinitely remain without clean water to bathe in and cook with.

Photo: The top of the Flint Water Plant tower as seen in Flint, Michigan. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files

Michigan Governor’s Aides Urged Switch Away From Flint River

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – Quality problems prompted two of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s top lawyers to urge that Flint be moved back to the Detroit water system just months after a decision to draw water supply from the Flint River, according to emails released on Friday.

Several critics have called for Snyder to resign over concerns about the state’s poor handling of the crisis, and the governor said Friday he felt regret every day.

Flint switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a bid to cut costs when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager.

While the city switched its water source back to Detroit in October 2015, corrosive water from the river had already leached lead from city pipes, posing a serious threat to public health.

Snyder’s aides discussed Flint’s water quality problems as early as autumn 2014, with one calling the situation “downright scary,” about a year before the switch back to the Detroit system was finally made. The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News earlier reported about the emails, which were released by the governor’s office.

“That’s where I’m kicking myself every day,” Snyder said after signing a $30 million supplemental bill to reimburse Flint residents for their water bills. “I wish I would have asked more questions.”

Snyder, scheduled to testify to Congress on March 17, has repeatedly apologized for the state’s poor handling of the crisis.

Liberal group Progress Michigan again called for Snyder to resign, citing the emails.

“There’s no reasonable person who can believe at this point that every top adviser to Rick Snyder knew that there was an issue, but Snyder knew nothing,” said executive director Lonnie Scott, who also called for Snyder’s resignation.

Valerie Brader, Snyder’s senior policy adviser, addressed problems over the quality of Flint River water in an email to the governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, and others on Oct. 14, 2014.

She argued Flint should be returned to the Detroit water system, citing bacterial contamination and reduced quality that prompted General Motors to switch away from the river due to rusted car parts.

Michael Godola, then the governor’s legal counsel, responded, calling the Flint River as a water source “downright scary.”

On Friday, State Representative Sheldon Neeley of Flint asked Attorney General Bill Schuette for his legal opinion on whether an official withholding information that leads to death or harm can be charged criminally.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Matthew Lewis)

Photo: The top of the Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Michigan Officials Knew Of Legionnaires’ Outbreak Long Before Warning

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – State government officials knew about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and its suspected link to contaminated water in impoverished Flint, Michigan, at least 10 months before a public announcement was made, documents released on Friday showed.

The disclosure of the documents, among thousands of pages of emails and other material released, comes as Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder faces pressure to resign over his administration’s handling of the Flint water crisis.

Michigan’s Genesee County, which includes Flint, had 87 cases of Legionnaires’ from June 2014 to November 2015, 10 of them fatal.

Flint’s water supply was contaminated by lead, a serious public health threat, after its water supply was switched from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a cost-cutting move when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager.

Friday’s documents echoed previous disclosures showing that high-ranking state officials knew about an increase in Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County and a possible link to Flint’s water 10 months before the governor said he got information about the outbreak.

Stephen Busch, a district manager in the drinking water division for Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, wrote in an email on March 17, 2015 that the city should take action to optimize water quality to help limit the potential for occurrence of Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’.

Emails also show Busch tussling with county health officials over the issue and saying it was premature to link the public water system with Legionella. Busch was suspended last month and his job status is currently on review, a state official said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was approached by Genesee County health officials in February 2015 about an increase in reported Legionnaires’ disease cases, but state officials subsequently told the agency they would handle the investigation into the matter themselves, a CDC spokeswoman said.

In January 2016, state officials asked for the CDC’s help in the matter.

Liberal group Progress Michigan said Friday’s release of documents and emails was all for show, and called on Snyder to release those of his and his executive staff’s.

“If the governor is serious about wanting to be transparent, he will release every single document and communication regarding the Flint Water Crisis, including those of his executive staff,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement.

Flint, a predominantly black city of about 100,000 people, switched back to Detroit water in October after tests found high levels of lead in samples of children’s blood. Water from the Flint River was more corrosive and leached more lead from the city pipes than Detroit water did. Lead can damage the nervous system.

Snyder, who has apologized for the state’s poor handling of the water crisis, alerted the public to the Legionnaires’ outbreak on Jan. 13 and said he had only heard about it two days earlier.

“Gov. Snyder first became aware of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in mid-January of this year,” his press secretary Dave Murray said. “He’s made it clear that he wants to be made aware of such issues more quickly, and already made some changes in some state departments.”

On Friday, a U.S. House of Representatives oversight panel said Snyder would testify on the Flint water crisis next month. Darnell Earley, who was Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager when the city switched from Detroit’s water system, will also testify.

Snyder said in a Friday statement in which the state released emails and other documents from several state departments that “all levels of government failed the people of Flint. This crisis never should have happened.” He said by making the documents public, anyone could review them.

The Legionella bacteria is found in certain plumbing systems, including hot tubs, humidifiers, cooling towers and hot water tanks. Legionnaires’ is spread by breathing in mist from water, and cannot be spread from person to person.

(Additional reporting by Dave McKinney, Fiona Ortiz, Karen Pierog, Karl Plume, P.J. Huffstutter and Justin Madden in Chicago, David Shepardson and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tom Brown)

Photo: A Flint resident (L) picks up a replacement water filter at a fire station in Flint, Michigan January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook