All posts by Steve Musal

Steve Musal hails from Santa Cruz, California, and has lived all over. He reports on politics, government and whatever else the Urban Issues and Social Justice beat throws at him for Medill.

Caucus locations bursting at seams

By Steve Musal

ANKENY, Iowa — Two reporters walk into a caucus room and are immediately asked to leave. In most cases that might be a sign of a failing democracy, but the reverse was true in Iowa tonight: There simply wasn’t any room for us. The place was packed wall-to-wall with Democratic caucus-goers.

It’s just one moment in one precinct, but we’re hearing similar stories from other caucus locations on both sides. That could be good news for Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, but with only an hour since the caucuses began, it’s still anyone’s game at this point.

More than 30 minutes after the Iowa caucuses were set to begin, many Democratic caucus-goers were still waiting to get into crowded precincts, such as one site in Ankeny, Iowa. (Max Greenwood/Medill)

Team Sanders goes door to door in search of victory

By Steve Musal

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the clock ticked toward Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, campaign workers for Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders spent the weekend making a door-to-door push that could decide his fate.

A Des Moines Register poll showed Sanders in a statistical tie with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, whose three percentage point lead was within the margin of error. Team Sanders will be pushing hard on the ground, no matter what the polls say, said the campaign’s national press secretary. Continue reading

Jeb Bush: I’m “more cerebral” and “better looking” than my brother

By Steve Musal

CARROLL, Iowa — Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents, did not shy away from his famous family on Friday during a town hall event that drew an audience of about 150 people.

“Frankly, I’m proud that my father was president of the United States and I’m proud that my brother was president of the United States,” Bush, a Republican former Florida governor, said to loud applause.

As Bush tries to climb into the top tier before Monday’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, he was also careful to keep a certain distance from the record of his older brother, George W. Bush, the nation’s 43rd president, who was deeply unpopular when he left office.

“I’ve lived a very different life than my brother,” he said. “My life experiences I’m not saying are better or worse, but they’re different and we’re different because of that. He’s probably more disciplined and focused; I’m probably more cerebral.”

And he said this: “I’m much better looking than my brother.”

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City divided: Should Emanuel resign?

By Steve Musal

The two weeks since the city released the Laquan McDonald shooting video have been filled with protests, resignations, promises and apologies.

However, Mayor Rahm Emanuel adamantly maintains he will not resign. The citizens are divided in opinion, with 51 percent of Chicagoans in favor of his resignation, according to an Illinois Observer poll.
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Protest week in review: Mostly peaceful in pursuit of justice

By Steve Musal

Contributors to report:  Mike Bacos, Aryn Braun, Jasmine Cen, Kayla Daugherty, Bian Elkhatib, Misha Euceph, Max Greenwood, Patrick Martin, Emiliana Molina, Meggie Morris, Alexis Myers, Steven Porter, Brooke Rayford, Thomas Vogel and Raquel Zaldivar.

It’s been a little more than a week since the state filed a first-degree murder charge against Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

It’s also been a little more than a week since the city complied with an order from Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama to release a dash-cam video of the shooting, showing Van Dyke, who is white, firing 16 shots into McDonald, who is black, over the course of about 15 seconds.

A lot can happen in a week.

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City releases dash-cam video of 2014 slaying of black teenager

By Meggie Morris, Steve Musal and Steven Porter

Chicago officials released a dash-cam video Tuesday showing a white police officer fatally shooting  17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times a year ago,  as ordered by a Cook County judge last week.

The release coincides with Tuesday’s charges against Jason Van Dyke, 37, a 14-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, who faces a first-degree murder charge in the black teenager’s death on Oct. 20, 2014.

Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama on Thursday ordered the release  of the graphic footage by the middle of this week after the City fought for months to prevent its disclosure to the public.

The silent video shows McDonald walking in the center of a Chicago street as officers confront him with guns drawn. McDonald, apparently struck by bullets,  falls to the ground as puffs  of smoke emerge  from and around his body.

After several seconds one of the officers kicks the knife away from his hand. McDonald lies barely moving until the video ends. (At your discretion, you can view the video at the bottom of this story.)

Shooting collage from video
A series of screen captures from dashcam video showing Laquan McDonald shortly before being shot and in the moments immediately after the first bullets hit. (Captured from Chicago Police video released Nov. 24, 2015)

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GOP Debate: Sparks fly over immigration, ISIS as rivals fight for spotlight

By Steve Musal

MILWAUKEE — In the historic Milwaukee Theatre, where President Theodore Roosevelt famously delivered a 90-minute speech after being shot, the eight Republican candidates on the stage for the Fox Business GOP debate Tuesday night struggled for their moment in history.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former tech CEO Carly Fiorina, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich faced off with billionaire developer Donald Trump, who dominated the discussion on immigration during the first 30 minutes of exchanges.

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GOP Debate: In Milwaukee, undercard candidates attack each other, Clinton

By Steve Musal

MILWAUKEE — “Four low-polling Republicans walk into a Wisconsin theater” might sound like the start of a joke, but the participants in the Fox Business GOP undercard debate Tuesday evening demanded to be taken seriously.

The debate featured New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

All scored at least 1 percent in four recent polls by Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily and Quinnipiac, but scored under the 2.5 percent minimum for the Prime Time debate that followed. Christie was bumped down to the “undercard” debate with the lowest-polling challengers.

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Obama calls for police reform, support — and tougher gun laws

By Steve Musal

President Barack Obama, addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago today, focused on the need to support and reform law enforcement and ended his speech with a call for tougher gun laws.

“I reject any narrative that seeks to divide police and the communities they serve,” Obama said. “I reject a storyline that says when it comes to public safety there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ ”

His remarks closely mirrored a preceding panel of civil rights leaders and police officials, who also talked about the need for  more conversations around police-community relations.
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Police chiefs, civil rights leaders talk violence, building relationships

By Steve Musal

After a year during which public awareness of violence involving police has sparked a nationwide conversation, the nation’s top cops decided to have one.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police moved from a traditional one-speaker format for their annual assembly to a four-person panel discussion on police and community relations, use of force, racial profiling and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report, released today.

The panel was held prior to President Barack Obama’s scheduled speech at McCormick Place to the national gathering, where he was expected to call for tougher gun control laws. Obama’s visit has particular resonance in Chicago, where research has found that guns often flow freely across the state line from Indiana and the number of shooting victims between Jan. 1-Oct. 27 reached 2,524, well on pace to exceed the 2014 total of 2,587 victims. Continue reading