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The bill that would require students starting 9th grade this fall to have at least a 2.75 GPA in order to receive the TOPS scholarship advanced on the House floor. The current requirement is 2.5. Baton Rouge Representative Franklin Foil says there is a reason his bill wouldn't take effect for 4 years.

“It’s to allow the students that are in high school now to operate under the rules that are presently in place. So this would only apply to students who start the 9th grade this fall," Foil said.

TOPS is currently not fully funded and Foil says he's trying to help the financial sustainability of the program, and also encourage students to strive to do better in order to get the award. But New Orleans Representative Joe Bouie says this bill would have unintended consequences.

“When this particular program is implemented, do you know that you will be eliminating for almost 2,000 students an opportunity to participate in the TOPS program," Bouie said.

A concern about this bill by opponents was that it would cut out poor kids who need help paying for college the most. That's why New Orleans Representative Gary Carter offered an amendment that would take any savings generated by the measure and put that money towards the Go Grant Program, but the change was not added.

Natchitoches Representative Kenny Cox says many people who support this bill don't understand communities that struggle.

“When they struggle and then we do this, it’s kind of like slapping someone in the face," Cox said.

The bill heads to the Senate on a 53-32 vote.

 
 
 
 
 

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Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Louisiana tomorrow to discuss health care, jobs and the economy.  The White House says the Vice President will participate in a listening session with local business leaders in the Baton Rouge area and he’ll make remarks afterwards at Cajun Industries in Port Allen. LSU Political Science Professor Robert Hogan on the visit.


“Enable him to appear before a friendly audience, the Trump-Pence ticket did very well in Louisiana in the November elections and there is a great deal of support for him.”

The White House says during the Vice President’s visit, he’ll hear first-hand stories about health care, job creation and the economy. Hogan says the Trump administration wants to show they listen to the public.

“It’s a way of saying hey we go out into the states and we listen to people’s concerns and we go back to Washington and use what they’ve learned in order to craft policies.” 

The governor’s office says John Bel Edwards plans on meeting with the Vice President at the Baton Rouge airport. Edwards released a statement claiming the President’s proposed budget ignores Louisiana needs by reducing Medicare funding and dollars for Louisiana’s coast. Hogan expects the governor to ask Pence about this.

“This would give an opportunity to say hey, your administration is thinking of doing something that may have negative repercussions for the state of Louisiana.”

 
 

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Michelle Southern reporting.
Authorities in Lafourche Parish are looking for a man who is facing several charges amid allegations including living in the attic of his ex-girlfriend for a period of time while stalking her. Sheriff's Office spokesman, Lt. Brennan Matherne, says cops responded to the home in reference to a disturbance involving 21-year-old Taylor Broussard.


"Among other things, he had brandished knife, slashed a bed sheet and mattress, assaulting and battering her when she was trying to protect a juvenile," said Matherne.

Matherne said following the May 3rd attack, Broussard allegedly stole the victim's purse and phone, then took off in her SUV and fled the scene.

He says cops had been called to a previous break-in incident a few days prior on April 29th, and during the second investigation located evidence that showed Broussard had been staying in the victim's attic.

"We found bedding, water, food and even about 10 plastic bottles that had been filled with urine," said Matherne.

Broussard is at large and has nine active warrants for several felony crimes including stalking, auto theft, battery, and aggravated assault. Matherne says the suspect has ties to the Erath and Lafayette area.

"We have been unable to locate him," said Matherne. "He was last seen in a Mitsubishi Outlander bearing the license plate XLG-572."
 
 
 

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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget released today would end oil lease royalty payments to Louisiana before they even begin. The proposal repeals the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which splits 35 percent of offshore revenue among several Gulf States. Managing Director with the America’s Wetland Foundation, Val Marmillion says Louisiana stands to lose a lot of money if GOMESA is repealed.

“We’re talking about a $500 million cap a year starting right now in 2017, and Louisiana could probably lose about $150 million, $143 million a year of that,” Marmillion said.

Gulf States would lose a total of $3.6 billion over the next decade. Marmillion says GOMESA has been in the works for decades to get coastal states a fair share of the revenue from oil leases. Louisiana was set to receive the first $140 million payment in October 2018. He says this money was dedicated mostly to coastal restoration and coastal infrastructure projects.

“Exactly what President Trump said he wanted to do was infrastructure. He’s been talking about clearing the swamp in Washington, and now he’s going to kill the swamp in Louisiana,” Marmillion said.

Marmillion hopes Louisiana’s congressional delegation will fight to get this money back in the budget, which they were successful in doing when the Obama Administration tried to do the same thing in 2015. He says losing this coastal restoration funding will have huge impacts for the country, not just Louisiana.

“You lose this wetland area, and we have a very, very serious problem with our pipeline infrastructure, our navigation infrastructure that serves the Mississippi Valley and most of the United States,” Marmillion said.

US Senator Bill Cassidy released a statement saying, taking funding away from Louisiana’s coastline is a nonstarter.

 
 
 
 
 

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Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser has launched a new Horse Tourism Initiative to bring visitors to Louisiana racetracks, campgrounds, therapeutic riding centers and state parks. Nungesser says Texas and Mississippi have great horse shows, but Louisiana is also home to some of the finest equestrian services in the country.

“So we can bring people from all over and enjoy these communities that have rich culture and tourism, with these great horse arenas that we have and really make the horse industry a priority.”

Nungesser says the Louisiana is one of the top three horse producing states in the country. He plans to put a statewide circuit together to bring national and international horse competitions to the state’s world class facilities.

“We’ve got the great Lamar Dixon in Gonzales, we’ve got one in Monroe, we’ve got one completely renovated in St. Tammany. They’re all over the state.”

Nungesser says visitors embrace the communities where horse shows are held and he says the horse industry remains a top ten Louisiana agriculture business, which generates more than $2-billion a year.

“We have many breeders and people who raise horses in Louisiana, it’s time for us to take advantage of all of the great activities that go along with that.”

 
 

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A bill to stabilize the state’s film tax credit program heads to the House floor, with support from the tourism industry and small businesses. Jo Banner with River Parishes Tourist Commission says local businesses see a 30% hike in their bottom line when productions film in the area.

“They spend a lot of money at our locations, at our businesses, police and fire departments, schools, and even our churches,” Banner said.

Banner says the more tourists they have coming to the area, the more jobs that are being created. She says media coverage of movie productions in the River Parishes equates to advertising the Tourist Commission can't afford.

“These are just three of them that I have in my collection. This is over $300,000 in generated earned media value. That’s over our entire advertising budget that we have for the Tourist Commission,” Banner said.

Gabriel Markel with Markel Lumber in New Orleans says his family’s business has been around for more than 90 years. He says the film industry has been a huge benefit to his business, as he supplies materials for sets. He adds that he also gets his supplies from other Louisiana companies.

“When the movies are rolling at full speed, we’re purchasing about a million dollars’ worth of material from Louisiana sources. So it’s important to us, and it’s important to these guys,” Markel said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Louisiana State Police has serious concerns over the budget that has been approved by the House. The governor recommended a $5 million cut to State Police, but the House’s spending plan calls for an overall reduction of $23 million from the current fiscal year. Maj. Doug Cain says this could lead to fewer troopers.

“We would have to cut a 50-person cadet class, which we hope to do in the next fiscal year. Certainly we need that more than ever, as 280 of our troopers can retire as of July next year,” Cain said.

Cain says LSP would also have to look at reducing the increased force in New Orleans’ French Quarter to ensure there are enough troopers in every parish. He adds that 60 percent of LSP’s vehicle fleet is due for replacement, because they have more than 100,000 miles on their odometer.

“That vehicle is that trooper’s office. That’s what he works out of 12 hours a day. At some point maintenance cost is more than purchasing a new vehicle,” Cain said.

Cain says since they can’t reduce the number of troopers on Louisiana’s highways, they would turn to equipment to make the cuts. That includes a plan to provide body cameras to all troopers in the state.

“We were able to deploy those to the New Orleans detail troopers, but our statewide deployment is on hold pending funding issues,” Cain said.

Cain says its State Police’s hope the Senate will fund their agency to the level that the governor recommended.

 
 
 
 
 

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Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle has been named the director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. UL-Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross says this is the perfect job for Angelle, coming off a recent loss for Congress. He says Angelle is suited for the position under the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration is looking to roll back regulations so Angelle will be a good point man for the Trump administration in this position.”

BSEE is a part of the Department of the Interior and strives for the safe and responsible production of energy and watches over the oil and gas industry. Cross says after losing in the Governor and Congressional elections, there wasn’t anywhere else for Angelle to go politically in Louisiana. He says this job gives him more national name recognition.

“This kind of restarts him a little bit, gives him a national profile, it’s a position in which he can be very proactive and take the lead in a number of ways and I think it’s well suited to him.”

Angelle’s first day as the BSEE director is Tuesday and he will be forced to resign as a public service commissioner. Cross says he anticipates a lot of candidates to run for this open PSC position.

“And that’s why those seats, even though they don’t pay much, they’re pretty low profile. They still are very coveted by those who are looking to move up in the state hierarchy.”

 
 

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A Mississippi lawmaker called for Louisiana leaders to be lynched after four confederate monuments were taken down in New Orleans. State representative Karl Oliver made the statement in a Facebook post that has since been deleted, saying the monuments were removed in a “Nazi-ish fashion.” Courtney Carter with News Mississippi says the Mississippi GOP has said these kinds of comments have no place in public discourse.

“Also we’ve had the speaker of the House, Phillip Gunn, has stepped out and spoken against this, as well as our governor, all condemning his remarks,” Carter said.

Oliver also said in the post that he will do everything in his power to prevent this from happening in his state, but it’s unclear if he’s taken steps to protect any of Mississippi’s monuments. Carter says the four monuments from New Orleans could be moved to the Beauvoir estate in Mississippi, which is home to many confederate-era memorials.

“We have had a lot of discussion with the leaders there that they’re trying to acquire the monuments that are being taken from New Orleans to put there,” Carter said.

Oliver has since apologized for the post, saying his choice of words was horribly wrong, and the word “lynched” is in no way ever an appropriate term. Carter says Oliver has made inflammatory statements like this in the past, including last year when he responded to an email from a citizen about a proposed tax cut.

“He said, ‘I could care less. I would however recommend that there are a rather large number of likeminded citizens in Illinois that would love to see you return. With warmest and personal regards, Karl Oliver,’” Carter said.

 
Carter says Oliver has been removed as the Vice Chair of the Forestry Committee. 
 
 
 
 
 

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Two Lafourche Parish teens were killed in a single vehicle crash in Kraemer over the weekend, according to State Police. Trooper Jesse LaGrange says 19-year-old Jaydon Labat was driving down LA 307 at a high rate of speed when he ran off the road and hit a utility pole. He says 18-year-old Candace Reulet was also in the vehicle.

“Labat and Roulet were ejected. Although Labat was wearing his seat belt, due to the severity of the damage he was still ejected from the vehicle and both suffered fatal injuries as a result.”

LaGrange says impairment and speed are considered factors in the wreck. He says this crash was 100% preventable.

“Whether we make plans before we go out and partake in activities or that person that sees this going and we can step up and say we need to make sure this person doesn’t get behind the wheel.”

Two teens are dead and another critically injured after a crash in Kentwood on Sunday morning. Kentwood Police Chief Michael Kazerooni says 18-year-old Ashley Moreau was driving down Line Creek Road when she over-corrected and her car slid and crashed into a tree.

“Both front seat passengers were pronounced dead at the scene and the third person who was ejected from the vehicle was the one who sustained critical but not life threatening injuries.

18-year-old John Moore was the front seat passenger and also killed in the crash. Kazerooni says speed was the main factor in the wreck.

“I just want to remind motorists all over the state. Please be aware of your driving habits and maintain a safe speed.”

 
 

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The future of the four confederate monuments that were taken down in New Orleans is unclear. Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser met with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu today to try and come to an agreement. He says this is a fight for Louisiana’s history and culture.

“We’ve got so many historical sites, forts, and places around Louisiana that would love to have these displayed to teach people about the history of that era,” Nungesser said.

Landrieu released a statement on the meeting, saying he welcomed the Lt. Governor to be a part of the process of rehoming to monuments. Nungesser says it’s a sad day for Louisiana because we didn’t need this right now.

“We should be worried about fixing our streets, fixing the crime problem, educating our children. We’ve got other issues in Louisiana. This didn’t need to happen,” Nungesser said.

It’s unclear where the statues will go, but Landrieu says the statues should be placed in proper historical context. Nungesser is disappointed monuments to Louisiana’s history have been taken down, and he suspects the memorials to the confederate leaders won’t be the last to be removed.

“They will not rest until every name is changed that had anything to do with slavery. So I guess they’ll be going after the Washington Monument and tearing down the White House because it was built with slaves,” Nungesser said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Following a weekend of heavy rainfall, the southern half of Louisiana is in for more wet weather today and tomorrow. State Climatologist Barry Keim says a cold front is slowly creeping across the state, bringing with it more rain.

“Over the next two days there’s still a potential for another one to five inches of rain, with some of these heavier amounts- the three, four, five inches of rain- likely to happen across southeast Louisiana in particular,” Keim said.

Jackson, Lake Charles, and Covington all saw more than 4 inches of rainfall over the weekend. Keim says with the area already heavily saturated, flash flooding could be a serious problem. He says the rain potential is higher across the southeastern part of the state.

“To the tune of maybe even up to five inches over the next couple of days. So obviously we need to be watching that because the grounds are already pretty saturated across the region, and this could create some problems,” Keim said.

The National Weather Service is calling for another one to five inches of rainfall across the state. Keim says we could also see rising rivers resulting in more localized flooding in some areas.

“The rivers were relatively low going into this event, but given what’s happened over the last two days, I suspect that some problems could creep up on some of the river systems,” Keim said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The Click It or Ticket campaign kicks off today in Louisiana. State Police Sgt. Jared Sandifer says during this wave of enforcement, drivers can expect to see more officers on the road making sure that everyone is buckled up.

“People might start seeing seatbelt checkpoints pop up, and it’s all in the name of trying to keep people safe when they’re behind the wheel of that vehicle. We want to make sure that everybody stays buckled up every time,” Sandifer said.

Sandifer says not only is wearing your seatbelt the law, it could also save your life. He says your chances of being killed or sustaining bodily injury are greatly reduced if you buckle up.

“There’s no guarantee that a seatbelt is going to save your life in a crash, but it is the number one way that you can protect yourself while you’re driving that car,” Sandifer said.

Sandifer says it’s important for parents to make sure their kids are properly restrained as well. He says even though this campaign only runs through Memorial Day weekend, drivers and passengers must buckle up every time they get in a vehicle.

“We want people to make sure they put that seatbelt on no matter what seat you’re in in that car, be it the driver seat, passenger seat, the back seat. We want people to wear that seatbelt at all times,” Sandifer said.

 
 
 
 
 

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The peach harvest is extremely slim this year thanks to a warm winter. Owner of Mitcham Farms in Ruston, Joe Mitcham, says the crop needs a lot of cold hours, temperatures under 45 degrees for a majority of the winter in order for the fruit to properly develop.

“Normally, most of the varieties I have need anywhere from 850 to 1,000 chill hours and we only received a little less than 300.”

Mitcham says without enough chill hours, the leaves don’t fill out on the trees in turn, shedding fruit and the fruit actually produced is often misshaped and poor quality. He says a fungus in the soil is also killing many of his peach trees.


“It comes from oak trees, oak tree root fungus is the common name for it, and it’s present in the soil. It can last for 75 to 100 years, wherever oak trees used to grow.”

Mitcham says this fungus is slowly taking his orchard out and he is down to only 10-percent of the crop he originally had when he started his farm.

“It’s an ongoing problem. The trees are constantly dying and a lot of them, you don’t know until they come out in the spring and they’ve actually died over the winter months.”

 
 

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By Jeff Palermo 
LSU hitters were relentless on Saturday night as they banged out 14 hits in a 11-7 win over Mississippi State to complete the sweep of the Bulldogs.
 
For the second straight game, LSU drew double digit walks. They had 10 of them on Saturday.


Every Tiger in LSU's line-up had a hit, except Zach Watson. Cole Freeman led the way with three hits, including an RBI double in the 8th inning. After going 3-for-3, Freeman leads LSU in hitting with a .329 batting average.  
 
Beau Jordan hit his 3rd home run of the year and drove in two runs.
 
Jordan, Josh Smith, Kramer Robertson and Greg Deichmann each had two hits. Deichmann was walked 10 times during the three-game series.
 
Freshman Eric Walker started and allowed four runs in four innings. Nick Bush had a rough outing out of the bullpen as he allowed three runs in 1.1 innings.
 
Caleb Gilbert (3-1) was really good as he struck out four in 1.2 innings to get the victory.
 
Hunter Newman pitched two scoreless innings to finish out the game in a non-save situation. 
 
LSU ends the regular season with a 39-17 record, 21-9 in the SEC. The Tigers finish in a tie with Florida for first place and they'll share the regular season championship with the Gators.
 
It's the 17th league title in program history.  
 
They also finish out the year winning 11 of their last 12 SEC games. 
 
The Tigers will begin play in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday as a number two seed. They'll face either Missouri or Texas A&M at about 1 PM. Those two teams will meet in an elimination game on Tuesday. 

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By Jeff Palermo 
There are seven teams from Louisiana competing in conference tournaments this week. Highlighting the group is the LSU Tigers, who will be the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament and they'll play on Wednesday at around 1 PM.

LSU's opponent will be either Missouri or Texas A&M. Those two teams will play Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama. The Tigers have not played Mizzou this season and the Aggies took two of three from LSU earlier this season.  

There are three Louisiana schools that will compete in the Southland Tournament in Sugar Land, Texas. 2nd seeded Southeastern Louisiana will face 7th seeded UNO at noon on Wednesday. Top-seeded McNeese State will play Lamar. The Cowboys and Lions have a high enough RPI that they could make the NCAA Tournament, without winning the Southland tournament championship and receiving an automatic bid.
 
Louisiana Tech and UL Lafayette probably need to win a couple more games to make sure they get an invite. The Bulldogs will play Charlotte on Wednesday night in Biloxi. Charlottte won two of three from Tech earlier this season and the Diamond Dogs are coming off a disappointing series loss to Middle Tennessee. 
 
The Cajuns are the four-seed in the Sun Belt Tourney. UL-Lafayette will play Georgia Southern on Wednesday night. The Eagles defeated the Cajuns in a series in Lafayette two weeks ago.
 
Tulane is the 5th seed in the American Athletic Conference. They'll play South Florida in the championship opener on Tuesday afternoon in Clearwater, Florida.  
 
 

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Higher training standards for police officers have been approved by the full House. A proposal by Baton Rouge Representative Ted James would require officers to receive at least 400 hours of basic POST training before entering the field.

“Right now POST they’re about at 365, that’s their minimum. They’ve been meeting to increase those standards, and some police departments go over and above the 400 hours,” James said.

James says he’s worked with law enforcement around the state to come up with the best practices to prepare officers for work in the field. The measure also mandates 20 hours of additional training annually. He says his bill also requires more training in some key areas.

“It also adds to the curriculum certain practices as training for de-escalation, sudden in-custody death, crisis intervention training for peace officers,” James said.

James authored the measure after Alton Sterling, a black man, was killed in a confrontation with two white police officers outside a convenience store last July. He says that’s why his bill also includes training on bias policing recognition.

“There are certain instances where they feel that bias may come into play for officers or those that they encounter. So this will have our officers better equipped to handle those situations,” James said.

The measure passed on an 82-5 vote and heads to the Senate.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Senate President John Alario says the upper chamber is committed to fully funding the TOPS scholarship program. Alario says the House budget plan takes money away from the Department of Health to fully fund TOPS and they are taking a close look at that proposal.

“Two vital areas in the state that need adequate funding but I believe the Senate is going to do all it can to maintain the TOPS funding.”

Alario says tapping into $200 million that has yet to be allocated could reduce some cuts in multiple departments, as the House wants to only use 97.5% of what the Revenue Estimating Conference says is available. He is concerned the Department of Children and Family Services is not properly funded.

“What’s not funded now is adequate funds to go rescue children who are being abused in homes, foster children. To make sure that they are properly supervised.”

A measure filed by Baton Rouge Representative Franklin Foil would raise the GPA requirement from 2.5 to 2.75 and would save the state $17 million a year. Alario expects any changes to TOPS will be unsuccessful in the Senate. He says too many students rely on the program.

“Not every child is going to be an A student so we need to provide the opportunities for children to try to excel and move on, so I’m not sure raising the standards makes that much of a plus for us.”

 
 

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Three people were found dead in an Ascension Parish bayou by their own family member. State Trooper Bryan Lee says the family had not heard from 23-year-old Thomas Jones, 22-year-old Austin Kiernan, and 19-year-old Sydney Persac of St. Amant after they went out Wednesday night.

“Troopers were advised by family members that were out looking for the three that did not return home, and they located that vehicle submerged in a canal,” Lee said.

It’s believed the crash occurred in the early morning hours on Thursday, and the crash site was not discovered until just before midnight Thursday. Lee says when troopers arrived they discovered a grisly scene of the vehicle split in half by a tree.

“They were travelling northbound on US 61 when for unknown reasons they ran off the roadway, and the vehicle became airborne and struck a tree, which caused it to split in half,” Lee said.

Lee says this was a gruesome discovery for a family member to make, as the bodies of all three victims were found outside the vehicle. He says the investigation is ongoing, and troopers still have a lot of unanswered questions in this case.

“We have not yet determined who was actually driving this vehicle. We also don’t know at this time if they were restrained or if impairment was possibly a factor,” Lee said.

 
 
 
 
 

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Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves calls the investigation into the connection between President Donald Trump and Russia during the election a total distraction. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been hired to look into claims that Mr. Trump and Russia somehow teamed up to help sway the vote in November. Graves says this is the 4th probe underway.

“We haven’t seen anything that’s a smoking gun. I think you bring in a special prosecutor when you have smoke, when you’ve found things that appear to be problematic,” Graves said.

There are reports that President Trump asked now-fired FBI Director James Comey to stop looking into the matter, which Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond says qualifies as obstruction of justice. The President has called this a witch hunt, which Graves feels isn’t too far off the mark because past administrations weren’t treated this way.

“Bottom line is, go ahead and get an independent investigator, go ahead and look through all this stuff, get this distraction out of the way, and let us do our jobs,” Graves said.

Graves says he’s not going to prejudge whether Mueller is going to find anything of substance.

“Certainly they’re not going to leave any stone unturned, but it’s getting frustrating being distracted by the news media’s stories every day about new allegations, many of which have never been substantiated,” Graves said.

 
 
 
 
 

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