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Morning Roundup: Dec. 1

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Giordano talks on morning TV; Source: Cuccinelli set to announce gubernatorial run; Hinkley seeks more at-home time; First family lights National Christmas Tree; Questionable spending of D.C. Council’s needy fund; D.C. fire chief seeks to change shifts; McDonnell elected as 2012 RGA chairman; Prosecution rests in Maryland ‘robocall’ election case.

Gary Giordano, the Gaithersburg businessman suspected in the presumed death of his traveling companion in Aruba, said this morning he had nothing to do with her disappearance. During an 11-minute interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mr. Giordano refused to detail what happened to Robyn Gardner on Aug. 2, the day of her disappearance, saying he has told that story to investigators “50, 60 times.”

He has said she was swept out to sea while snorkeling. Mr. Giordano also tried to clarify aspects of his behavior investigators have called suspicious. He says the $1.5 million accidental death policy he took out on Gardner was part of a travel insurance package and that he “maxed out on everything,” according to the Associated Press.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II is likely to announce next week that he will run for governor in 2013, a highly placed Republican official said Wednesday night, reports David Sherfinski of The Washington Times.

The man who tried to assassinate President Reagan 30 years ago secretly perused books about Reagan and presidential assassinations this year on unsupervised trips outside the D.C. psychiatric hospital where he now resides. The concerning incident was just one of several in which John Hinckley Jr. engaged, said prosecutors Wednesday during opening statements in a hearing on granting Hinkley additional time outside St. Elizabeths Hospital, The Times reports.

President Obama and his family will officially light the National Christmas Tree in a ceremony today starting at 5 p.m. The event will feature the Black Eyed Peas and Kermit the Frog. The tree is a 26-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce from a New Jersey tree nursery. Streets will be closed around the area from 4:15 p.m. to about 7 p.m., according to the Associated Press.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells on Wednesday called for the elimination of special funds the city’s lawmakers are supposed to use to help the needy — money critics consider “slush funds” rarely tapped to help residents. A review by The Washington Times of 10,000 payments totaling $3.3 million since 2004 shows that just 3 percent, or $84,000, has gone to power and water bills, presumably for needy constituents, and $37,000 for phone bills. Roughly $133,000 has been spent at professional sporting events, The Times reports.

The D.C. fire chief is girding for a public battle with the firefighters union over a plan to switch from the 24-hour shifts firefighters have been working for more than two decades to 12-hour shifts — a plan the chief expects will reduce by about 26 percent the number of firefighters in the District of Columbia. Fire officials say the change is a way to save money and keep an alert force that lives within, or much closer to, Washington. But the union says the new model will devastate the workforce and is an attempt to drive out firefighters who do not live in the city, The Times reports.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Wednesday was elected to chairman of the Republican Governors Association for 2012 at the group’s quarterly meeting in Orlando, after finishing out Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s term as chairman of the group. Mr. McDonnell had served as RGA vice chairman, then took over leadership in August after Perry stepped down to run for president. The Virginia governor will lead the group of 29 Republican governors through the 2012 election cycle and touted their accomplishments in a statement sent out by his political staff, according to the Shad Plank blog site.

The woman who recorded a robocall that prosecutors say was designed to suppress the black vote in last year’s Maryland gubernatorial election testified Wednesday that she was told not to identify the campaign that paid for the call as required by law. Rhonda Russell, who worked for political consultant Julius Henson, testified in the trial of Paul Schurick, who was former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s campaign director. Mr. Schurick is accused in Baltimore Circuit Court of trying to suppress the vote on Election Day and failing to include a line at the end of the call identifying the campaign that paid for it. Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday afternoon on the second day of testimony. Mr. Henson is scheduled to go on trial in February, according to the AP.

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