Train Carrying GOP Members Of Congress Collides With Truck

WASHINGTON ― A train carrying Republican members of Congress to a legislative retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck Wednesday outside Charlottesville, Virginia.

One person from the truck was pronounced dead, according to The Atlantic and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who was on the train and assisted those injured.

A nurse on the scene confirmed that account to Charlottesville NBC affiliate WVIR, describing one fatality and at least one person in critical condition.

The University of Virginia Medical Center said it received a total of five patients from the crash, one of whom is in critical condition:

Some lawmakers’ family members were also on the train. According to an Amtrak spokesperson, two crew members and three passengers aboard the train suffered minor injuries. An aide for Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) said the lawmaker had been taken to the hospital and was being examined for a possible concussion.

Lewis downplayed his injury in a media statement, calling his transport to the hospital standard protocol.

“I’m fine compared to, tragically, the truck drivers, and thankful for the prompt action of our doctors and first responders,” Lewis said. “My thoughts are with the family of the individual who passed away.”

Emergency medical responders are treating the scene as a hazmat situation, on account of the garbage truck’s load.

The Amtrak spokesperson said the train “came into contact with a vehicle that was on the tracks. … Local law enforcement is investigating the incident.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is gathering information on the accident.

Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) told Bloomberg the passengers felt “a very sudden jolt” when the collision happened, but the train remained on the tracks and slowed to a stop. 

“There’s a lighted crossing guard where the train crosses,” Hill said. “The guardrails were down but the train hit the garbage truck.” 

“Today’s incident was a terrible tragedy,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “We are grateful for the first responders who rushed to the scene and we pray for the victims and their families. May they all be in our thoughts right now.”

Republican leadership said the retreat will continue ― albeit with a security briefing first and a prayer for those involved in the incident.

President Donald Trump spoke to Ryan, who was aboard the train, via telephone, and “is continuing to be updated on the situation.”

A number of lawmakers who were on the train shared their stories on social media.

Trump Tried To Turn Toward Optimism. The American Public Doesn’t Seem To Be Following.

A little more than a year after painting a picture of “American carnage” and “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones,” President Donald Trump has turned a rhetorical corner, taking a dramatic turn toward optimism.

“A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land,” Trump said in his first formal State of the Union address Tuesday night ― which, like most of his predecessors’ speeches, attracted a largely friendly audience. “Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success.”

Economically speaking, the mood of the American public is largely keeping stepBut there’s little public perception of a rising tide of goodwill about the nation’s political unity or its standing abroad — and even less enthusiasm for Trump himself, whose approval rating remains historically low.

On the economy, nearly 70 percent of Americans say they’re satisfied, a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey found, the highest level since the dot-com boom. Most expect the economy to stay the same or further improve. As in previous years, however, a majority also say that the stock market performance is “an indication that corporations and the wealthy are doing better, but not necessarily the economy overall,” that survey found.

And despite their positive economic views, “three in four Americans say the country is divided, six in 10 don’t have much confidence in the U.S. political system and six in 10 say racial tensions have increased,” CBS’ polling team wrote earlier this month.

Just 36 percent of Americans, according to one January poll, think the United States is “mostly winning at the things it tries to do.” That poll found half of the public optimistic about the next three years, down from 56 percent when Trump was inaugurated; Quinnipiac, which asks a similar question, has found that voters’ pessimism about Trump’s presidency has outstripped optimism since last May.

Trump also called for compromise. “Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences,” Trump said Tuesday, “to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.”

But most Americans say Trump has done more to divide than to unite the country. The percentage of U.S. adults proud to be Americans is, thanks to a plunge among Democrats, at a low since 2001.

“As we rebuild America’s strength and confidence at home,” Trump said, “we are also restoring our strength and standing abroad.”

Americans aren’t so sure of that. Two-thirds think that leaders of other countries “don’t have much respect” for the president, and for the first time in years, a majority now believe the nation is viewed unfavorably in the eyes of the world. They’re right: Global approval of U.S. leadership stands at just 30 percent, down 18 percentage points in a year to its lowest point in the past decade.

One other polling number suggests rising hopefulness: The share of Americans who expect 2018 to be better than 2017 outstrips the share who thought that 2017 would be better than 2016. Unfortunately for Trump, that shift was driven mostly by Democrats ― many of whom say that what they’re looking forward to is the midterms congressional elections.

The Justice Department Will Not Retry Sen. Bob Menendez

WASHINGTON ― The Justice Department will not retry Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on corruption-related charges, federal prosecutors indicated Wednesday in a court filing.

Menendez’s trial last year resulted in a hung jury, and a federal judge acquitted the New Jersey Democrat and his friend Salomon Melgen on several charges last week.

“Given the impact of the Court’s Jan. 24 Order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement.

In a statement sent to HuffPost, Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell said he was “pleased and grateful that the Justice Department made the right decision to end this case.”

“Despite the five years of this ordeal, Senator Menendez never wavered in his innocence and his commitment to the people of New Jersey,” Lowell said. “We were fortunate to be able to assist this honorable man.”

This article has been updated with comment from Lowell. 

Simone Biles: Larry Nassar ‘Took A Part Of Me That I Can’t Get Back’

Simone Biles on Wednesday talked about being sexually abused by disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar and described the toll it has taken on her life.

The Olympic gymnast said during an appearance on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” that she initially was in denial about the molestation. She said she had repeatedly told her parents that Nassar had never abused her. 

“I would be angry, and I didn’t want to talk about it, because I’m like, ‘No, it couldn’t happen to me ― there’s just no way,’” Biles, 20, said. “And then you come to realize that it has happened, and I think that’s when I broke down about it.” 

“It feels like he took a part of me that I can’t get back,” she added. “The main part that he took away from that I’ll never get back is trust, and so I think it’s very hard for me to trust some other people. I find myself even walking down the street, or being in places, I’m just very scared. … But I think it will all come back in time.”

Biles appeared on NBC’s “Today” earlier on Wednesday, and got choked up talking about Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who last week sentenced Nassar to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting young athletes under the guise of medical treatment.

She also criticized the U.S. Olympic Committee for not reaching out to her after she came forward with allegations against Nassar.

“I think it’s very hard for someone to go through what I’ve gone through recently,” Biles said. “And it’s very hard to talk about, but other than that I think the judge is my hero just because she gave it to him straight and didn’t let him get any power over any of the girls, and letting the girls go and speak was very powerful.”

More than 150 women, including Team USA gymnasts and former Michigan State University athletes, read powerful victim impact statements during Nassar’s seven-day sentencing hearing in which they described their experiences with him. 

Biles did not attend the hearing, but she supported her fellow survivors and said Wednesday that she was “very happy” with Nassar’s prison sentence. 

“I wish [Aquilina] would have just given him a crazy number, like 3,000 years or something,” Biles said. “But other than that, she was a boss and she was absolutely amazing.”

Biles said Kerry Perry, the newly appointed president of USA Gymnastics, visited her recently but did not discuss the Nassar abuse. She said she’s still waiting to hear from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“I was one of their top athletes advocating for not only gymnastics but for the Olympics and all of that,” Biles said. “I think it’s kind of crazy, but hopefully they’ll reach out.”

Aly Raisman, who competed alongside Biles in the 2016 Olympics and was widely praised for her impact statement during Nassar’s hearing, has also criticized USA Gymnastics for failing to reach out to her since her appearance in the courtroom.

This article has been updated with Biles’ comments from “Megyn Kelly Today.”