John Duncan

Duncan: Trump’s wrong in calling media enemy of the people

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who endorsed Donald Trump before almost all other Republicans in Congress and agrees with him on most issues, says the new is dead wrong on one issue, reports Michael Collins.

“I disagree with him completely on saying the press is the enemy of the people,” Duncan said. “I think it’s very important to the future of our country to have a free press and freedom of the press and to have a strong, active media. I think just about everybody in the United States – or most people in the United States – believes in freedom of the press.”

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A sampler of reporting on TN anti-Trump protesting

A ‘Kookfest’ at Duncan’s office

About 100 people who gathered outside U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan’s office Friday for what they called “Kookfest” in response to the congressman’s choice of words in a letter refusing to hold a town hall meeting, reports the News Sentinel. In the letter, he said such a meeting “would very quickly turn into shouting opportunities for extremists, kooks and radicals.”

They came to sign up for one-on-one meetings, as Duncan suggested in the letter, but were told to make their requests online.

“I was calling my congressman and two senators and felt like I was being blown off,” said Sarah Herron, founder of Indivisible East Tennessee and an organizer of Kookfest. “I was getting canned responses or template letters and I felt like, maybe if there was a group of us, it would be a more effective way to communicate.”

Indivisible East Tennessee is based off a national “Indivisible” movement inspired by the publication of the Indivisible Guide, an online guide published by former congressional staffers in the aftermath of Trump’s election with tips on the best ways to get the attention of members of Congress. The movement describes itself as a “practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda” and has spurred events similar to the march on Duncan’s office across the country.

A closed door at Roe’s office

About a dozen members of Indivisible Tennessee showed up at U.S. Rep. Phil Roe’s district office seeking air concerns about the Trump presidency, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

The group didn’t immediately get into the Kingsport Higher Education Center, where Roe’s district office is located. Instead, the group was met in the parking lot by district Director John Abe Teague, who gave each member paperwork to fill out, asking for contact information and a list of their concerns.

That information, Teague promised, will be forwarded to the congressman.

In a separate blog post, reporter Hank Hayes says the office door was locked – noting the contrast with the late former Congressman Jimmy Quillen’s oft-declared policy of “my door is always open” – and Teague emerged only when a reporter showed up and knocked. Teague eventually agreed to let the group come inside to fill out the paperwork when it started to rain.

Protesters call for Puzder to ‘stay home’ in Franklin

Between 50 and 100 people gathered in the center of Franklin’s public square Saturday to send a message to Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s embattled nominee for labor secretary: Stay home, reports The Tennessean.

“Franklin is a beautiful place,” said Laura Gilbert, who is on the steering committee of Nashville Indivisible, which along with Middle Tennessee Jobs with Justice organized the protest. “Andy, welcome. Just stay home. Don’t go to Washington.”

Puzder is a Franklin resident and CEO of CKE Restaurants, which includes Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants. He’s faced criticism as Trump’s nominee but retained GOP support after he recently admitted he employed an undocumented housekeeper for years. His confirmation hearing, already postponed four times, is set for Feb. 16.

“I don’t feel that Puzder honors or respects workers, and I don’t believe he will uphold the labor laws,” said Karla Barde, a retired educator who held an American flag Saturday in protest of the nomination. “I don’t believe he respects women.”

Obama’s clemency to 36 Tennesseans: Excessive says Duncan; not enough says Cohen

Three dozen convicted felons in Tennessee have been given a second chance in recent years through commutations and pardons by President Barack Obama. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen hopes he’ll do more before leaving office on Friday. Republican Congressman John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Knoxville says the number already granted seems “excessive.”

So reports Michael Collins. Excerpts:

“There are still so many more people in prison for non-violent offenses like marijuana convictions and due to the crack-cocaine disparity – injustices that deserve clemency,” the Memphis Democrat (Cohen) said. “I’ve been disappointed for several of my constituents who I’ve been advocating for on behalf of their relatives who haven’t received clemency.”

Obama has been much more generous than his predecessors when it comes to using his executive powers to dole out forgiveness…. Obama has commuted the sentences of more inmates than all previous presidents combined. The commutations are part of an effort by the Justice Department to rectify what it sees as overly punitive sentences from the war on drugs.

So far, 36 Tennesseans have seen their sentences reduced by the president, ranking the Volunteer State 11th in the nation in terms of commutations. The state that received the most is Florida, where Obama has reduced the sentences of 190 felons since 2011. Next is Texas, with 123.

… Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who was a state court judge in Knox County for seven years before he was elected to Congress, agrees that sentencing reform is needed. But he thinks Obama has gone overboard in handing out commutations, most of which have come over the past two years.

…Judges should have some latitude, for example, when sentencing someone who got mixed up in the wrong crowd when they were young and had just limited drug use, Duncan said.

“To put them in the same category with big-time drug dealers is wrong,” he said. But, “I doubt if I had been president I would have done 1,100 commutations in the last two years. That sounds excessive to me.”







Burchett: God will decide next political race, if any

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who is barred from seeking another term in his current office, tells Georgiana Vines that he’s waiting for God to tell him whether to seek another elected position. The former state senator says he may not be rich enough to run for governor, but the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. is a possibility.

Burchett insisted Saturday that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do when his term ends (next) year.

“I’ll pray about it. When God tells me (I’ll know). He’s told me what to do all along. When I get the (answer), I will let people know,” he said.

…Duncan… Jr. has just been re-elected to his 15th term. He and wife, Lynn, downsized their home last speculation he may be retiring soon. Burchett said what Duncan does in two years will not determine what he does.

While Burchett’s name has come up as a potential candidate for governor, he says he doesn’t have the wealth needed to seek that position.

“Who’s going to raise my first $1 million? It takes money. I would be a grassroots type of candidate,” he said…  He said he has speaking engagements in Chattanooga in a few weeks. He also intends to attend Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony of state Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, as lieutenant governor (and)  recognizes his presence is likely to lead to speculation on his running for governor.

“I’ve spent 16 years in Nashville and know the game better than others. I think I could do a good job at it. I see the pitfalls of predecessors and I believe I’m someone who could improve on (Gov.)  Bill Haslam’s record.

Note: Jack McElroy reviews the possibility of a Duncan departure and possible successors in a column HERE. His bottom line:

But the safest bet may be that the congressman from Knoxville on Jan. 1, 2019, will be John J. Duncan, just as it has been since vinyl 45s of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were flying off the shelves of Knoxville record stores.

Duncan: Trump’s children should run the president-elect’s business empire

Excerpt from a Politico story on President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for dealing with his businesses having potential conflicts of interest with public duties and the reaction of congressmen overseeing potential conflicts:

Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump aide, told the AP on Wednesday that Trump’s three adult children will see their business responsibilities increase as Trump steps away from the private sector. Tennessee Rep. John Duncan, a senior GOP Oversight panel member, argued the president-elect won the White House in part because voters appreciated the role his children play in the family’s wider business relationships. And the lawmaker said he wanted it to continue as Trump officially takes office.

“Most people that I heard felt much better about Mr. Trump because they were so favorably impressed by his children,” Duncan said. “I think it would be better for the country if the children remain in a close relationship with their father and give him advice on important issues as they go along. And I think they can easily do that and maintain their business relationships. So I don’t see a problem with it.”

While House Oversight Democrats are demanding a closer look at Trump’s business dealings, their GOP counterparts appear far from focused on it now. Asked whether he had concerns about conflicts arising from the prospect of Trump’s adult children remaining engaged in the family business, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina Republican, replied, “Honestly you’re asking the entire wrong person. I haven’t given that a single lick of thought.”

But Mulvaney, a member of the oversight panel that’s been at the center of probes into Obama administration actions, insisted Republicans would hold Trump’s feet to the fire. “I am absolutely confident the Oversight Committee will give the next administration the same level of scrutiny it gave the last administration.”

Duncan campaigns for Trump in N.C., Knoxville

Fresh from campaigning with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in North Carolina, U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. Monday told hundreds at a rally in Knoxville that if Republicans work hard between now and Election Day, “we’d shock the world” and particularly news organizations.

Further from Georgiana Vines’ report:

“Who do you want to negotiate trade deals?” he asked, leading the crowd, and calling, “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

“Who will enforce the border?” Duncan asked again, with the crowd chanting, “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

A rally to get Republicans to support all candidates on the ticket in the Nov. 8 election was held almost at the last minute at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway. A handful of candidates and office holders came off the bus with Duncan.

…A bus for the Republican presidential/vice presidential ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence started Monday in Knoxville. It goes on to four other states, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida before Nov. 8.