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Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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Labor Secretary Asked to Pressure Businesses to Make Thanksgiving Easier on Workers

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A New York Democrat argued to Labor Secretary Tom Perez in a letter today that the federal government should do more to make sure workers are treated fairly on Thanksgiving.

Rep. Steve Israel told Perez that as working families watch “their pay checks shrink,” more employees “find themselves working in retail on Thanksgiving — away from their families and with no additional compensation.”

“Thanksgiving Day was once understood to be a time for families to sit down at the dinner table, give thanks for the good in their lives, and be a respite from the chaos of daily life. While we know that some have always had to work on Thanksgiving there has been a gradual creep of retail stores opening on the holiday itself,” Israel wrote.

Stores opening on Thanksgiving to get early Black Friday shoppers include Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Staples and Toys ‘R’ Us.

“We understand that people choose to shop on Thanksgiving and that stores would not open if it was not profitable to them,” Israel wrote. “That is why we believe the workers, who do not have a choice, should receive overtime pay. Some states require this and in ones that don’t, many companies already provide such overtime, but all should out of respect for those workers who have to leave their families on what is supposed to be a day to gather with loved ones and give thanks.”

“We believe the Department of Labor can play a role in encouraging companies to do the right thing. Specifically, we ask DOL to encourage companies to: 1) first ask for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving Day; and 2) provide overtime or holiday pay for those who work. At your earliest convenience, please advise how you will work on these efforts.”

Eleven of Israel’s colleagues joined him in signing the letter to Perez.

“The Department of Labor has done important work on behalf of workers around the country and we hope you will continue this leadership to ensure workers have an opportunity to spend time with their families and loved ones on holidays.”

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Malia and Sasha Make Epic Faces While Obama Pardons Turkey with Amnesty Jokes

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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President Obama made quips about amnesty and executive actions at today’s turkey-pardoning ceremony that left Malia and Sasha less than thrilled.

Usually held outdoors, the pardoning of turkeys “Mac” and “Cheese” took place in the White House Cross Hall due to snow coming down outside.

“I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month,” Obama said. “Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority — the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me — to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.”

The pardoned turkeys were raised by the son of the chairman of the National Turkey Federation. Cheese won an online pardoning contest, with Mac as alternate.

“Let’s face it — if you’re a turkey, and you’re named after a side dish your chances of escaping Thanksgiving dinner are pretty low. So these guys are well ahead of the curve.  They really beat the odds,” Obama said.

“It is important to know that turkeys have always had powerful allies.  Many of you know that Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.’ I think these two turkeys would agree with Mr. Franklin. And they’ll get to live out the rest of their days, respectably, at a Virginia estate.”

Obama quipped that “some will call this amnesty,” but “don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around.”

The Obamas planned to take a couple of turkeys “that didn’t make the cut” to a local food pantry.

“Finally, The Washington Post recently questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition,” the president continued. “‘Typically on the day before Thanksgiving,’ the story went, ‘the man who makes decisions about wars, virus outbreaks, terrorism cells and other dire matters of state, chooses to pardon a single turkey … plus an alternate.’”

“Tell me about it.  It is a little puzzling that I do this every year. But I will say that I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say:  Happy Thanksgiving. And this is a great excuse to do it.”

Obama had to urge his daughters to come over and pose near the turkey. When he asked if they wanted to pet it, Malia responded, “No.”

 

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Brewer Leaving Office Without Obama Accepting Border Invitation

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Outgoing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said she’s asked President Obama to come visit the border for the past six years, to no avail.

“I believe that what he has done is just absolutely wrong and unjust. And certainly unconstitutional,” Brewer told Fox of his immigration executive actions.

She added that she’s been communicating with incoming Texas governor Greg Abbott to “see just exactly … how we can join with him to see if something can be accomplished.”

Texas is planning on taking the immigration action to court.

“Financially, it’s a killer. You know, we’re still in economic concerns that we’ve been facing for the last few years. And to be a — forced upon us to take care of these people, educate them, provide healthcare for them, social security for them. The bottom line is that we simply just cannot afford it,” Brewer said.

“United States is the largest country in the world that allows immigrants to come in. But we are a nation of laws.”

Today, she would tell Obama: “Mr. President, I’ve invited you to my border for six years. You have never come. We have a issue. We have a problem. And nothing will be resolved, Mr. President, until you see with your own eyes the issues that we’re all facing. And it’s up to you to lead this country and do it constitutionally.”

In January 2012, Brewer had a testy exchange with Obama on the tarmac after he landed in Phoenix.

“Bottom line is that he generally wants to talk about amnesty and I want to talk about securing our border,” she told reporters afterward. ”…I must say, I was not hostile. I was trying to be very, very gracious. I respect the office of the president, and I would never be disrespectful in that manner.”

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First Post-Ferguson Federal Legislation Aimed at Requiring Police Body Cameras

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus stressed that “all you have to do is be stupid” to react with arson and violence to the grand jury’s verdict on Michael Brown’s death.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former mayor of Kansas City and a Methodist pastor, called the situation in Ferguson “a monumental blunder.”

“Things were done in a the way that does not make sense. I mean, we — we had a buildup to the first night,” Cleaver told MSNBC this morning. “You know, we’re gonna release a statement at 8:00, and so forth. Look, I don’t — I’m not an attorney, but I would imagine that the grand jury completed its work earlier in the day or the day before, and so the press conference to announce what the grand jury’s decision was could have been done at eight — 8:00 a.m. in the morning or at 10 a.m. So it was almost like, we’re gonna build this crescendo and then watch the explosion.”

The congressman visited Ferguson last week. “You could see that while in the middle of all of this chaos, there were business people who were there holding as tightly as possible to hope that things would not be as they were in August,” he said.

“And the one thing that I think, and I hope people would understand and that to — to blow up a building, to fire bomb a building, to detonate a community, there’s no intelligence required, no charisma. All you have to do is be stupid.”

Cleaver said of the people who committed the looting and arson, “Probably 50 people out of that crowd were out doing stupid things.”

“And — and then people are saying, let’s boycott. Look, what we ought to do is get every decent person in the state of Missouri going into Ferguson to buy,” he said. “Because that town had as its principle municipal income revenue from traffic tickets. So we’ve got to, you know, think this thing through. I know a lot of the people saying, ‘Well, let’s just boycott,’ mean well….. but they will further damage small-business people who are the backbone of Ferguson, Missouri.”

He added that we have to draw lessons from the protests.

“If we get nothing out of it as we have done in the past with the situation with Trayvon Martin and others, I think that we ought to be nationally ashamed of ourselves to go through something as chaotic as this without getting something out of it,” Cleaver said.

“First of all, unfortunately, Congress can’t offer too much in the way of help because what are we going to say to the demonstrators? Look at us, and why don’t you conduct yourself like members of Congress when you’re in a tough situation?”

He did predict that “some national legislation” will come out of this, introduced next week with Ferguson Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.).

“And I would think on this pre-Thanksgiving day that it’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Cleaver continued. “We ought to pass national legislation that will create, I think, a positive atmosphere after this thing is over. And that is that police officers, law enforcement officers, must wear cameras and that as we did years ago with the COPS program, we would make federal grants available to small communities that couldn’t afford to have these cameras. And I think it will probably prevent some hoodlums from acting crazy and probably some police officers who might not be psychologically equipped to be police officers.”

“It’s a protective for all,” he added.

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Holder: Federal Ferguson Probes Moving Ahead ‘Rigorously and in Timely Manner’

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal investigations into the shooting of Michael Brown and the Ferguson police will be conducted “rigorously and in a timely manner so we can move forward as expeditiously as we can to restore trust, to rebuild understanding and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members.”

Holder said Tuesday that he’s been continuously briefed on “events in and around Ferguson.”

“I was disappointed that some members of the community resorted to violence rather than respecting what I thought were the really heartfelt words of Michael Brown Sr. and the wishes he expressed about how he wanted his son’s memory to be honored with nonviolence,” he said. “It is clear that acts of violence threaten to drown out those that have legitimate voices, legitimate demonstrators and those acts of violence cannot and will not be condoned.”

Michael Brown Sr.’s church was burned Monday night. The pastor, Carlton Lee, suspects white supremacists targeted the church: it was three miles away from the main protests, no surrounding buildings were harmed, and he’d received dozens of death threats after speaking out for the Brown family.

Holder said he was “very encouraged that some of the more peaceful demonstrations … have been in keeping with Mr. Brown’s request.”

“I would remind demonstrators of our history that those, the way in which we have made progress in this country is when we have seen peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations that has led to the change that has been the most long lasting and the most pervasive,” he said, adding that he’d ordered Department of Justice officials ”to continue to make contact with leaders of the peaceful protesters and to seek their assistance in isolating those individuals who are inclined towards violence.”

“We’ve had a good ongoing dialogue with peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson.… Those people who took it upon themselves to try to stop those kinds of things (looting and rioting) are in fact heroes in my mind.”

Holder said Brown’s death “revealed a deep distrust between some in the Ferguson community and its police force.”

“It also developed a need to develop and widely disseminate law enforcement best practices for responding to public demonstrations. The Department of Justice has begun this work and will continue to work with communities around the country in this regard. The reality is that what we see in Ferguson is not restricted to Ferguson. There are other communities around this country that have these same issues that have to be dealt with and we at the Justice Department are determined to do all that we can to bridge those divides,” he said.

He briefed President Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday and said they “talked about programmatic issues that we want to announce relatively soon and also about the need to bring our people together.”

“This is a difficult time for people in Ferguson. It’s a difficult time for people in our country. It’s an opportunity for us to find those things that bind us as a nation, to be honest with one another about those things that continue to divide us and come up with ways in which we make this union even more perfect,” Holder said. “So that’s what I talked about with the president.”

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ISIS Promises to Send Ferguson ‘Soldiers That Don’t Sleep’ If They Pledge Allegiance to Caliph

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Islamic State is offering to send fighters to “help” Ferguson protesters if they convert to Islam and accept the caliph — and musing that Daesh supporters might show up anyway:

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentagon: It’s Not That Hagel Didn’t Want to Stay, Just a ‘Mutual Decision’ That He Go

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Pentagon refused today to say that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was fired, with press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby insisting it was a mutual decision even though Hagel didn’t want to leave his job.

“This was a mutual decision arrived at between the president and the secretary of defense after a series of discussions that they had about the next two years. And, that’s — and that is exactly what happened, that’s exactly how it — how it transpired,” Kirby told reporters.

“It would be inaccurate to characterize this as anything other than that, quite frankly.”

He further insisted “there’s no connection between the secretary’s resignation announced yesterday and the strategy that we’re pursuing against ISIL on Iraq and Syria, no connection whatsoever.”

Lawmakers were among those linking Hagel’s resignation to differences with Obama on policy, including whether boots might be needed on the ground against the Islamic State.

“And so, I wouldn’t draw from one any kind of conclusions or changes to the other. The strategy, as the secretary has said, as Chairman Dempsey has said, as I have said, against ISIL is working. It’s making — we’re making progress. Iraqi security forces on the ground are pushing out, out beyond Baghdad, into Anbar. Peshmerga continue to gain ground in the north,” Kirby continued.

“It’s not over, it’s not gonna be easy. Nobody is saying that. But our support from the air and now our support to them in an advise-and-assist capacity and soon a training capacity will continue. So I see no major muscle movements or changes to that.”

Hagel will stay until his successor is confirmed. Kirby said he’ll be focused on “implementing the recommendations and changes that he has accepted from the reforms that we put in place — Navy Yard shooting, nuclear enterprise review, medical health system review.”

Since Hagel’s ouster was announced Monday, senior administration officials have told media outlets that he was indeed fired and took potshots at the secretary. “The president felt he had to fire someone. He fired the only Republican in his cabinet,” one told Fox. “Who is that going to piss off that he cares about?”

Kirby brushed off a question about how Hagel’s going to work in this “poisonous” environment until a successor is confirmed.

“Let me challenge the implication in the question that there’s clearly bad blood between the building and the — and the White House or between Secretary Hagel and the — and the team,” the press secretary replied. “…And his focus is not on the atmospherics and on the sniping by some anonymous officials in these various news accounts. His focus is on the men and women who wear the uniform and their families and on this very critical time period that we find ourselves in.”

Hagel met with other leaders at the Pentagon yesterday after returning from the White House. “It was a very short meeting. One, he thanked them for their support for the last almost two years in office and for the — for the support he knew that he was gonna be able to continue to gather from them going forward,” Kirby said. “But, number two, it’s time to get — you know, I got to keep working, you know.”

He wouldn’t detail the discussions between Hagel and Obama that led to the Defense secretary handing in his resignation.

“It was a general understanding between the two of them that now was about the right time for new leadership at the Pentagon to implement and to carry to conclusion some of those changes and to — and to lead the Pentagon in the last two years of the Obama administration… policy disagreements or debates and discussions were not driving factors in the decision that the secretary made to submit his resignation.”

Kirby also dismissed an assertion that National Security Adviser Susan Rice has been micromanaging the Pentagon. “They meet and discuss — they meet more than once a week — I know that — and, of course, in — in other large setting meetings more than two or three times a week,” he said. “…There’s not an issue of micromanagement from any other place outside the building, you know. It’s not about micromanaging.”

“It’s not uncommon for — at least under this commander-in-chief, for defense secretaries to — to stay about two years in length,” Kirby said.

“It’s not that he didn’t want to stay on the job, and it’s not that the secretary doesn’t believe he isn’t, you know — that he’s not capable of — of — of still contributing or serving for the next two years…. It’s that they both decided that he had accomplished a lot, he had done what he had set out to do in this job and that now, with two years left to go, it was an appropriate time for new leadership.”

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Schumer: Dems Must ‘Embrace Government, Not Run Away from It’ to Win in 2016

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued at the National Press Club this morning that Democrats can win back the majority in 2016 by courting the middle class.

“If you’d ask the average American what the American Dream means to him, he wouldn’t put it in fancy, textbook language or academic terms. He or she would put it very simply. They’d say: ‘It means if I work hard, I’ll be doing better 10 years from now than I’m doing today and my kids will be doing still better than me,’” Schumer said.

“However, if that torch flickers, if the torch is no longer lit, if people no longer believe in the American Dream, we become a different country. And that is exactly what is happening. The light is flickering, has been flickering for over the last decade. And that fact has dominated our politics more than any other.”

Schumer, who led the Democrats to 14 new Senate seats in 2006 and 2008 as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, ceded the post to Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in 2009. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led the DSCC effort during this midterm, in which Democrats lost the Senate majority.

Schumer said the “most salient factor in our political economy is that for the first time in American history, middle class incomes have been in decline for over a decade and the grand optimism of America and the American Dream is itself in jeopardy.”

“The 2014 election results can be explained this way,” he said. “During 2013, neither party convinced the middle class that they had an effective way to get them out of this morass; that they had an effective plan to create good jobs and raise incomes. As 2014 began, the parties were in stalemate. But when government failed to deliver on a string of non-economic issues — the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges, the mishandling of the surge in border crossers, ineptitude at the VA, the initial handling of the Ebola threat — people lost faith in government’s ability to work and then blamed the incumbent governing party, Democrats, creating a Republican wave.”

The senator argued that the American public “knows in its gut that a strong and active government is the only way to reverse the middle class decline.”

“Democrats lost in 2014 because the government made mistakes that eroded the electorate’s confidence in its ability to improve the lives of the middle class,” he said.

Schumer said the stage is set for a 2016 Democratic victory “if and only if we can convince people that government can work and help restore the middle class to prosperity.”

Democrats, he stated, need to “embrace government, not run away from it” in order to win.

“The Republican mantra that less government works is counterintuitive to the middle class because they know that government is needed to stand up to the big economic forces like technology and globalization that push them around,” he said. “If Democrats can create a convincing plan that is both achievable and believable, embracing government is a way to help the middle class advance, we will roll to victory in 2016.”

Democrats need to make the case that “government can be on their side” and convince voters that their party “will make government the people’s champion, not captive to the powerful.”

“Now, this message has an element of populism. Democratic populism does not mean the rabble-rousing populism or divisiveness of Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan. Democratic populism recognizes that the powerful have much more access and influence over government, and specific and strong actions must be taken to curb that influence so government can really represent the average person,” Schumer said.

“…We must convince the middle class that the only way out of their morass is by embracing a strong and effective government, not demeaning or running from it.”

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Taliban Spokesman Sounds Off About Ferguson with Racist Slur

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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The spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan then had to be told by another mujahideen that he was being racist:

Later, Abdulqahar Balkhi used the trending hashtags #FergusonDecision, #FergusonRiotTips and #Ferguson to attempt to steer Twitter users toward a new release from the Taliban’s multimedia division.

The new video, “The Land of Epic Battles,” contains “footage from Ghazni province of armed attacks against enemy bases and patrols, IED attacks of the vehicles of invaders and their stooges as well as a martyrdom attack on a base organized into three parts totalling approximately one hour and twenty three minutes,” according to the Taliban’s Cultural Commission.

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Negotiating Partner Iran Declares Victory in Nuke Talks, Reaffirms Support for Terrorists

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

After Iran bought seven more months of nuclear negotiations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared victory against the U.S. and Tehran’s support for terrorism.

 

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Holder Says DOJ Has ‘Resisted Forming Premature Conclusions’ in Ferguson Investigation

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department’s investigation into the Michael Brown shooting is still “ongoing” despite the conclusion of the St. Louis County grand jury proceeding.

“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now,” Holder said in a statement late Monday. “Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”

Holder, who visited Ferguson in August, called Brown’s death a “tragedy.”

“This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve,” he said. “While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust.”

“The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.”

Holder said in early September that during his visit to Ferguson he heard people “consistently” express “compelling” concern about law enforcement incidents and a “lack of diversity on the police force.” He added that the review of “constitutional policing” practices would be undertaken by the Civil Rights Division.

“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence,” Holder continued in his Monday statement. “Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting.” CNN reported this morning that more than a dozen stores were burned in the aftermath of the verdict.

“In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.”

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Brown Family Statement Vows Campaign for Police Body Cameras

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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On Nov. 20, in the video above, Michael Brown Sr. called for any protests of the grand jury verdict to be peaceful. Tonight, after the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown’s family issued this statement:

We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.

We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.

Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.

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Scott: Allow ‘Thorough Search for Justice and Truth for the Brown Family’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) reminded those displeased with the lack of an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson that there are still investigations pending in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“Today’s announcement by the grand jury is one among a number of federal and state investigations related to this case. As federal and state officials continue to examine all the facts surrounding this tragedy and the subsequent events, I encourage the public to allow a thoughtful and thorough search for justice and truth for the Brown family and the community of Ferguson,” Scott said in a statement issued as unrest unfolded in the streets of Ferguson. “Each investigation and inquiry must be allowed to run its full course and do so without leaks or an attempt by one side or another to skew the public’s opinion.”

Scott said he encouraged “all people concerned about the death of Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson to channel their frustration, hurt and anger into productive, meaningful ways to build our communities, no matter where we live.”

Protests were also unfolding in Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Seattle and outside of the White House in Washington.

“Earlier this evening, Michael Brown’s parents – Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden – respectfully requested that those who seek to have their voices heard, do so peacefully and without violence. I stand with them in that request, because it is time to rebuild and restore the Ferguson community, and others, which have been so hurt by these events. I stand ready to add my voice and actions alongside those that seek to do that,” the senator said.

“I am hopeful for more peaceful and constructive expression – whether people agree or disagree with today’s outcome – because the community of Ferguson has been through enough. Those that seek to use the death of Michael Brown or today’s grand jury decision to riot, loot or create lawlessness in any community only distract and divert attention away from important questions that remain to be answered,” Scott continued.

“As this long and complicated process continues, let us not forget that at its core, a family and community has lost a young man – Michael Brown. My thoughts and prayers are with his parents and those who loved him as they grieve their loss. And while I know their loss is heightened by many unanswered questions surrounding his death last August, I hope that good can come out of this tragic situation.”

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Obama on Ferguson: ‘Communities of Color Aren’t Just Making These Problems Up’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama emerged in the White House briefing room soon after the announcement of a grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Obama noted that “either way” the verdict “was going to be subject to intense disagreement,” so he wanted to concentrate on dialogue that “won’t be done by smashing car windows.”

“First and foremost we are a nation built on the rule of law, so this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said.

He reminded all that the parents of the deceased 18-year-old had called upon Ferguson to protest peacefully regardless of the verdict. “Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone,” Obama said. “We should be honoring their wishes.”

The president noted “our police officers put their lives on the line for us every day,” adding, “As they do their jobs in the coming days they need to work with the community — not against the community — to distinguish those who want their voices hear on legitimate issues” from rioters or vandals.

“In too many parts of this country deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” Obama said, adding this is “tragic” because poor communities need good policing the most. Law enforcement should be trained to ensure officers conduct themselves “in a way that is fair to everybody,” he said.

“…Communities of color aren’t just making these problems up… we do have work to do here, we shouldn’t just try to paper it over.”

The president was asked if he intends to visit Ferguson once things settle down.

“Let’s take a look and see how things are going,” he said, noting that Attorney General Eric Holder already made the trip. “We have to make sure that we need to focus at least as much attention on all those positive activities that are taking place” as on those committing violent acts, he added.

Missouri’s two senators also responded quickly to the grand jury’s decision.

“There will be many people who are disappointed in today’s decision, even though it is a result of a deliberate legal process that’s being independently checked by Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Justice Department,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said.

“While we await the conclusion of that independent investigation — and continue working together for solutions to systemic issues highlighted by this tragedy — I’m praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another.”

As McCaskill released the statement protesters began clashing with police in the streets of Ferguson.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he’s been “in close touch with clergy members and other local leaders” since Brown’s August death, “and I believe we all agree our first priority is peacefully healing and rebuilding the community after months of unrest.”

The Senate Republican Conference vice-chair stressed “we must balance the rights of Americans to exercise their free speech alongside the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities.”

“My thoughts are with Michael Brown’s family today, as well as those in law enforcement who continue to protect the rights of all they serve, the National Guard members we ask to step forward during difficult times in our state, and all of their family members,” Blunt continued.

“Michael’s death was tragic, and the months since this tragedy have marked a challenging time in Ferguson and across Missouri. Together, I know we can move forward and heal as we work to find better job opportunities in and more investment for challenged communities.”

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‘We Want to Terminate the Sanctions’: Kerry Says Iran Playing Fair, Critics Disagree

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Vienna that, on the seven-month extension of nuclear talks, if Iran and the P5+1 haven’t reached an agreement on ”the major elements” by the four-month mark “and there is no clear path, we can revisit how we then want to choose to proceed.”

But lawmakers know exactly how they want to proceed — with sanctions legislation decried by the administration as a deal-killer.

“Now I want to underscore that even as the negotiations continue towards a comprehensive deal, the world is safer than it was just one year ago. It is safer than we were before we agreed on the Joint Plan of Action, which was the interim agreement,” Kerry said, proclaiming that Iran “is indeed living up to its JPOA commitments.”

“…A year ago, we had no idea whether or not real progress could be made through these talks. We only knew that we had a responsibility to try. Today, we are closer to a deal that would make the entire world, especially our allies and partners in Israel and in the Gulf, safer and more secure.”

Kerry claimed they are “not going to sit at the negotiating table forever, absent measurable progress.”

The next meeting will be in December, he said, “to drive this process as hard as we can.”

“A viable agreement would have to include a new level of transparency and verification beyond the expanded access that we’ve had under the JPOA. And as these conditions are met, a viable agreement would also include for Iran relief from the international nuclear-related sanctions that help to bring them to the table to negotiate in the first place,” he said.

“…We want to terminate the sanctions. Yes, we want to terminate the sanctions which were put in place to get us to these negotiations and ultimately to be able to bring about a deal. But the world – and I underscore this – not just the United States, not just the P5+1 – the world still has serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.”

Kerry also threw some words at “my friends in Congress,” who on both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly critical of the administration’s strategy and reluctance to consult lawmakers.

“I believe in the institution and the critical role that the Senate has to play, and the House. We have stayed in close consultation throughout this process, and we will continue to do so. And we look for your support for this extension and for continued talks,” he said.

“And I would say to those who are skeptical, those who wonder whether we should rush ahead down a different course, I believe the United States and our partners have earned the benefit of the doubt at this point,” Kerry continued. “Many were quick to say that the Joint Plan of Action would be violated; it wouldn’t hold up, it would be shredded. Many said that Iran would not hold up its end of the bargain. Many said that the sanctions regime would collapse. But guess what? The interim agreement wasn’t violated. Iran has held up its end of the bargain, and the sanctions regime has remained intact.”

Even though the State Department is trying to keep all details around the talks and agreement close to the vest, there’s buzz around Washington on whether Iran has violated the deal.

Around the same time IAEA revelations leaked about Iran feeding uranium gas into a centrifuge, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted about “how can Israel be eliminated” and tweeted about why he supports the nuclear talks, including “repelling the evil of the Great Satan.”

AIPAC said in a statement that, contrary to Kerry’s claims, “there is evidence that Iran has not fully complied with the Joint Plan of Action with respect both to its research and development of advanced centrifuges.”

Kerry confirmed Iran will be receiving “pro-rated” sanctions relief during the extension from an “already agreed upon fund that is dispersed, and since we’re living under it, we’ll live up to that agreement. But we’re not doing anything additional beyond that that I know of.”

He added that he hopes Congress will “come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium for a few months to be able to proceed without sending messages that might be misinterpreted and cause miscalculation.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who took over the committee from Kerry, called it “disappointing and worrying that after a year of serious talks with Iran that we do not have a deal, while Iran simultaneously stonewalls international weapons inspectors seeking access to suspicious sites in Iran.”

“The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded.  I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough,” Menendez said. “I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state.”

The powerful lobbying group AIPAC called it “particularly troubling that this new extension will yield Tehran even more economic relief without increased pressure on the Islamic Republic.”

“Iran has now received direct sanctions relief valued at approximately ten billion dollars since the negotiations began, and there is no sign those benefits have produced favorable results,” they added in a statement.

“Congress delayed enacting additional sanctions over the past year to give negotiations a chance,” AIPAC said. “It is now essential that Congress take up new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program. We urge Congress to play its traditional and critical role to ensure that a final agreement truly eliminates any path for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author with Menendez of the sanctions legislation feared by the White House, agreed that it’s time to charge forward.

“Today’s announcement means that the Administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program and sparks an arms race in the Middle East,” Kirk said. “Now more than ever, it’s critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency full and unfettered access to assure the international community’s security.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset today that crisis was averted — for now — without a bad deal coming by today’s deadline.

“It is very important that this agreement has been prevented as of now but a struggle is yet before us and we intend to continue this struggle in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state that would endanger us and others,” Netanyhau said. “Israel will always act on this matter and reserves its right to defend itself by itself.”

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Chairman: On Fourth Defense Secretary, Obama Needs to Ask, ‘Is It Me?’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said President Obama needs to look in the mirror as yet another secretary of Defense leaves his administration.

“The Obama administration is now in the market for their 4th secretary of Defense,” Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said. “When the president goes through three secretaries, he should ask, ‘Is it them, or is it me?’”

McKeon said “with the cards stacked against him,” Hagel “led the department with efficiency and aplomb.”

“He was given a thankless task of an underfunded Defense Department, growing threats, and intrusive White House micromanagement,” the chairman added.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who will lead the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 114th Congress, said despite policy differences with Hagel over the years he views the secretary as “a friend, a patriot, and a dedicated public servant who has always put our country first and the needs of our men and women in uniform above his own.”

“His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micro-management they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their jobs successfully. Chuck’s situation was no different,” McCain said.

“I hope the president will nominate a secretary of defense with the strength of character, judgment, and independence that Bob Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel all exhibited at their best. But ultimately, the president needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them. That is the real change we need right now.”

The outgoing Senate Armed Services chairman, retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), simply thanked Hagel’s “dedication to the security of our nation and the welfare of our troops and their families has always been steadfast.”

“I have always enjoyed a great personal relationship with him, and I commend him on a lifetime of service to his nation in war and in peace,” Levin added.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Obama needs to “move quickly” to nominate a new Defense secretary. “The threats we currently face, be it ISIS, Iran or others, involve some of the most dangerous actors in the world,” he said.

“The new secretary must be willing and able to develop a cohesive long-term strategy to combat these threats and keep our nation safe. This has not proven to be a strong point for this administration in the past, and that must change. America cannot continue to lead from behind on issues of national security at home and abroad.”

“Whether a resignation or a firing of Secretary Hagel, this decision reflects the uncertainty of this administration as it relates to foreign policy in general, and in particular the destruction of ISIS,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). “Given the crisis with ISIS, along with situations of unrest in the Ukraine, Iran, and west Africa, this president and his administration need to send a clear message of strength and commitment.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a recent memo from Hagel about the administration’s failing policy against ISIS “was welcome news to those of us who have harbored these thoughts for some time.”

“Whether it was leaving a residual force behind in Iraq or assisting the Free Syrian Army at a time when it would have been most beneficial, our failing strategies in Iraq and Syria are President Obama’s fault. On numerous occasions he has chosen to ignore sound military advice,” Graham said.

“I hope President Obama will now do the same soul-searching regarding our failing strategies in Syria and Iraq.  He too must be willing to make the necessary changes.”

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Obama Says It’s ‘Appropriate Time’ for Hagel to Go; Lawmakers Say Defense Secretary Disagreed with White House

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Saying he was “lucky” to have Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in his administration, President Obama said it’s now the “appropriate time for him to complete his service.”

Obama was flanked by Hagel and Vice President Joe Biden during the Monday morning announcement in the State Dining Room.

He credited Hagel with helping build a coalition to fight ISIS and combat Ebola in West Africa, and said the troops see themselves in the Vietnam veteran.

Obama said Hagel came on board when the Pentagon was “entering a significant period of transition” including the drawdown in Afghanistan and budgetary constraints.

The president called Hagel “an exemplary Defense secretary” and added he’s admired him since he was a “green-behind-the-ears freshman senator.”

“If there’s one thing I know about Chuck, he does not take this or any decision lightly,” Obama said.

Hagel will stay on until a successor is confirmed.

“You’ve always given it to me straight and for that I’ll always be grateful,” said Obama.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) noted to CNN that he saw growing policy rifts between Hagel and Obama, including over boots on the ground to battle ISIS.

“Secretary Hagel did not believe that the foreign policy is working or is going to work,” King said.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Fox that Hagel’s firing “makes very clear that this administration continues to be far more concerned about controlling the message than they are about controlling the threat that the United States faces.”

“What we understand that the real catalyst for this move was not so much what the secretary’s done or not but really that he’s given the White House advice that they don’t want to hear, and that’s what concerns me,” Forbes said.

“Because whether I agree with the secretary of Defense or not, we want him to be able to give his honest advice to the president of the United States. And we’ve had testimony where our leaders have been saying this president’s White House has been ignoring the military advice and advice coming out of the Department of Defense. That concerns us a great deal.”

Obama added that today the U.S. can “claim the strongest military the world has ever known.”

In his remarks, Hagel thanked the troops and lawmakers, and promised to work hard until his successor is confirmed. He called building a team effort “part of the fun of it.”

“It’s been the greatest privilege of my life,” he said.

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Paul Unveils ‘Declaration of War’ Against Islamic State

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today released a “declaration of war against the Islamic State” with the intention of introducing when Congress comes back into session after Thanksgiving.

The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.

“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

It clarifies that it can’t be “construed as declaring war or authorizing force against any organization” except ISIS or direct affiliates.

It limit the use of ground forces except “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger posed by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); for limited operations against high value targets; or as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”

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‘Under Pressure,’ Hagel Out as Secretary of Defense

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama is expected to announce at 11:10 a.m. EST that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down.

According to the New York Times, Hagel is doing so “under pressure” after two weeks of meetings with Obama.

More from the NYT:

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.

But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Earlier this month Hagel said there was critical need for overhaul of the country’s nuclear force — plans that the House Armed Services Committee chairman feared would clash with Obama’s “global zero” anti-nuke plans.

Hagel told reporters that both internal and external reviews found “a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses.”

Hagel’s recommendations included “changes in organization, policies, and culture,” while “others require an increase in resources, allocated to the nuclear mission.”

“I hope the president will listen to his senior civilian and military national security leaders, take this as seriously as they do, and cast aside his Global Zero vision that is in reality unilateral disarmament,” Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said at the time. “We can work together to follow the blueprint established by Secretary Hagel and his review and show the leadership our men and women in uniform deserve.”

Obama passed over Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter for the job after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta resigned. Carter, a highly knowledgeable and powerful force inside the Pentagon, stepped down in October 2013. A week later, Press Secretary George Little resigned.

Panetta has since unleashed on the administration in a memoir, saying last month that the president drawing an unenforced red line on Syria was “damaging” to U.S. credibility.

Panetta’s book notes that Obama too often ”relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader” and sometimes he “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”

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Graham: House Intelligence Committee Report Clearing Admin of Misleading on Benghazi is ‘Full of Crap’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted the House Intelligence Committee’s final report on Benghazi as “full of crap.”

The committee found no big intelligence failure in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility that took four American lives, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

It also cleared the administration of wrongdoing in the time it took to launch a rescue operation for consulate staff. And it found that current National Security Adviser Susan Rice wasn’t being deliberately misleading when she made the rounds on the networks to deliver inaccurate talking points that, in part, pointed the finger of blame at anger over an anti-Muhammad video on YouTube.

“As the Committee’s bipartisan report makes clear, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks focused on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11-12, 2012,” Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said in a statement Saturday. “The bipartisan panel concluded that there was no stand down order issued by or to intelligence community personnel, and there was no denial of air support to intelligence community officers on the ground. The officers present testified to that effect.”

“The Committee did receive evidence about the activities of the Defense Department, State Department, and White House personnel, which are explained in both the report and the additional views,” he added. “But the Committee does not make final conclusions about other agencies to the extent they were not the focus of the Committee’s investigation.”

Rogers said all members of the committee “were given an opportunity to provide written comments on the Committee’s work and the report.” The retiring chairman “wrote additional views to provide further comments on the motivations and actions of some senior officials.”

“Similarly, the Minority Members provided additional comments. The Committee urges those commenting on the report to read both the report and the additional views.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) Select Committee on Benghazi said it “received the Intelligence Committee’s report on the Benghazi terrorist attack months ago, and has reviewed it along with other Committee reports and materials as the investigation proceeds.”

“It will aid the Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation to determine the full facts of what happened in Benghazi, Libya before, during and after the attack and contribute toward our final, definitive accounting of the attack on behalf of Congress.”

Said Graham on CNN Sunday: “I think the report is full of crap.”

“To say that Mike Morell — well, the deputy director of the CIA, when I ask him, do you know who changed the talking points, and — with Senator Ayotte and McCain and Susan Rice sitting by his side, said the FBI changed the talking points when it came to references to al-Qaeda,” Graham said. “Only later did we find out through a lawsuit that Mike Morell was deeply involved in changing the talking points, the deputy director of the FBI. When he was sitting in front of a congressional panel and he was asked, does anybody here know who changed the talking points, he sat silent. So, no, the intel community through him lied.”

The House Intelligence Committee, the senator charged, “is doing a lousy job policing their own.”

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points. And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite,” he said.

“Three days after the attack, they did not give a damn about the intelligence. They wanted to create a political narrative to protect the president. And I’m not going to stop until someone is held accountable for allowing it to be a death trap, somebody be fired for not coming to the aid of these people for nine-and-a-half-hours. And somebody ought to be fired for lying to the American people. They were worried about the reelection, not telling the truth. And when Susan Rice said, ‘I have no regrets, I gave the American people the best evidence available,’ that’s a bald-faced lie.”

Graham added that when the House Intelligence Committee “says there is no manipulating of the American people, that is absolute garbage.”

“When they say there is no evidence that CIA personnel misled the Congress regarding changing the talking points, that is a lie, because I was on the receiving end of the lie.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told CNN that Graham’s reaction to the report was “right on target.”

“You know, when you look at this administration it seems like they very much wanted to say that there was no successful al-Qaeda out there,” Kirk said.

House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the network that “calling it crap doesn’t change the fact that it was an exhaustive and objective review.”

“It reminds me of a lawyer’s maxim that, if the law is not on your side, emphasize the facts. If the facts aren’t on your side, bang on the table. I think we heard Lindsey banging on the table quite a bit this morning,” Schiff said.

“This was a two-year exhaustive investigation. It was released by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee and had the support of all the Republicans and Democrats on the committee. It’s designed to be the definitive word on what happened from the intelligence community’s point of view… There were 21 intelligence assessments at the time that it began as a protest. Those turned out to be wrong, but there was no malice in getting it wrong.”

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Obama Honors ‘At Times Tumultuous’ Life of Marion Barry

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama said he was “saddened” at the loss of D.C. political “fixture” Marion Barry, the colorful four-term former mayor who died Sunday at age 78.

Barry had diabetes and kidney disease, and the D.C. medical examiner said the cause of death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

He was still on the City Council representing Ward 8.

Barry kicked off the 1990s with a six-month stint in federal prison on a cocaine possession charge. An infamous hotel sting video of the bust had Barry muttering “bitch set me up” as he was hauled away in cuffs.

In 1992 he was back, running for and winning his council seat on the campaign slogan, ”He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for D.C.”

“Marion was born a sharecropper’s son, came of age during the Civil Rights movement, and became a fixture in D.C. politics for decades. As a leader with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Marion helped advance the cause of civil rights for all,” Obama said in a statement.

“During his decades in elected office in D.C., he put in place historic programs to lift working people out of poverty, expand opportunity, and begin to make real the promise of home rule,” the president continued. “Through a storied, at times tumultuous life and career, he earned the love and respect of countless Washingtonians, and Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to Marion’s family, friends and constituents today.”

Obama was golfing at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., when the news broke. Among his partners for the game was onetime Tiger Woods golf coach Butch Harmon.

D.C.’s delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said, “From my earliest encounter with Marion Barry, when he was the first chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee until I came back home and found him mayor of my home town, I have seen Marion take hold and write his signature boldly on his own life and times and on the life of the nation’s capital.”

“Many took his struggle to personify in some way their own, endearing him and making him a larger-than-life figure as he became a creator of post-home-rule D.C.,” Norton said.

The District said the public memorial for Barry could be postponed until after Thanksgiving. Verizon Center and the Convention Center are being considered as venues.

Marion Barry’s last tweet:

 

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Lamar Smith: Obama ‘Declaring War on the American People’

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said President Obama’s immigration executive order announced tonight is a “declaration of war” against America.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the current chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, is an attorney by trade.

“The president knows that his executive amnesty is not what the American people want, and it is not what Congress wants. That is why he delayed making this announcement until after this November’s election,” Smith said in a statement.

“President Obama has put the interests of an extreme wing of his party above the interests of American workers,” the chairman continued. “Some have said that the actions he is taking this week equal a declaration of war on Republicans.”

“I believe he is actually declaring war on the American people and our democracy.”

Smith added that “as elected representatives of the American people, my colleagues and I intend to listen to our constituents in the coming weeks.”

“We must restore the rule of law and the people’s faith in their democratic republic once more,” he said.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former prosecutor who now leads the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, said Obama “may seek a fight with Republicans in Congress, but in reality he is fighting with founders of this republic and the carefully crafted separation of powers.”

“The thread that holds the tapestry of our country together is respect for and adherence to the rule of law. The law is our greatest unifier and our greatest equalizer. Attempts to undermine the law via executive fiat, regardless of motivation, are dangerous,” Gowdy said.

“Whether previous administrations acted outside of constitutional boundaries is not license to do the same. The president himself recognized his inability to do what he just did— 22 separate times,” he continued. “This action is not only detrimental to any chance in the new Congress for a sustainable, long-term solution on immigration, but also to the bedrock of our system of government— respect for the rule of law.”

Gowdy added that “when the executive branch acts outside of constitutional boundaries, the legislative branch must use all powers afforded it to respond and restore the constitutional equilibrium.”

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue,” he said. “Rather, it should hasten the resolve of all Americans to make certain her elected officials honor the foundational document they swore to protect and defend.”

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Dems Donnelly, Manchin, Heitkamp Disagree with Obama Immigration Move

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

In advance of tonight’s immigration speech, a pair of Democratic senators who are staying for the 114th Congress came out against the executive action being used by President Obama.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said in a statement that “it is clear the immigration system in this country is broken, and only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it.”

“The Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform last summer with my support, though we are still waiting on the House to debate this issue,” Donnelly said. “I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the president shouldn’t make such significant policy changes on his own.”

A few hours later, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued his own statement: “I disagree with the president’s decision to use executive action to make changes to our immigration system, and I disagree with the House’s decision to not even take a vote on the bipartisan Senate legislation that overwhelmingly passed in June 2013.”

“The American people made it clear on election night that they want government to work better for them and to solve real problems that impact their lives. We have the chance to show them that we heard their message and are willing to act,” Manchin said. “We will only achieve sustainable, comprehensive immigration reform if all sides work together.”

“For that to happen, Congress must work with the president to debate the issues and vote to secure our borders, create a tough legalization process, and ensure employers don’t hire illegal immigrants. We successfully passed a bipartisan bill on the Senate side, and all we’re asking is that the House takes a vote as well.”

As quoted by Politico, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) stressed “it’s Congress’ job to pass legislation and deal with issues of this magnitude.”

“I’m disappointed the president decided to use executive action at this time on this issue, as it could poison any hope of compromise or bipartisanship in the new Senate before it has even started,” Heitkamp said.

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Mobile Billboard Campaign Urging Iran Sanctions Targets Congress

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A mobile billboard will began circling the seats of power in D.C. today to urge lawmakers to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.

The StandWithUs campaign is scheduled to run on two trucks though Nov. 24, the Obama administration’s deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran.

The roving messages to lawmakers, which are also designed to raise public awareness, will begin rolling each morning and take loops around the White House and Congress.

“This campaign raises awareness of the dangers of a nuclear Iran, gives the public action to take to help prevent it, and lets Congress know that the American public supports them legislating stricter sanctions,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. “Given the Middle East’s current instability, the rise of jihadist groups like ISIS, it is even more imperative that the American public and Congress do all they can to stop Iran from going nuclear.”

The billboards bear mushrooms clouds and phone numbers, with one saying, “Stop Iran from Going Nuclear: You can help. Call the White House, State Department, Foreign Relations Committee.” The one directed at Congress says, “Stop Iran from Going Nuclear: Impose Stronger Sanctions.”

The group said it fears the administration “may either make a weak agreement or extend the negotiations.”

“Since Iran insists that any agreement or extension include an easing or lifting of sanctions, the administration may use an executive order to accommodate its demands. Sanctions should not be eased, especially given the fact that the Iranian regime is deliberately obstructing international inspectors from learning about its installations and capabilities. If Iran secures an extension or the West negotiates a weak deal, Iran buys more time to pursue its nuclear ambitions,” the group said in a statement.

StandWithUs supports the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) kept from a vote at the insistence of the White House.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whose legislation also includes strict guidance for the compliance necessary to ease sanctions, said in a joint statement last week that “a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state.”

“This will require stringent limits on nuclear-related research, development and procurement, coming clean on all possible military dimensions (PMD) issues and a robust inspection and verification regime for decades to prevent Iran from breaking-out or covertly sneaking-out,” Menendez and Kirk said.

“Gradual sanctions relaxation would only occur if Iran strictly complied with all parts of the agreement. If a potential deal does not achieve these goals, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past.”

They have the veto-proof votes, in this Congress or the next.

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McConnell: ‘Congress Will Act’ if Obama Goes Through with Immigration Order

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed on the floor of the upper chamber this morning that “if President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act.”

“We’re considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act,” he said in reference to the GOP majority in the 114th Congress.

“Look, as the president has said, democracy is hard. Imposing his will unilaterally may seem tempting. It may serve him politically in the short term. But he knows that it will make an already-broken system even more broken. And he knows that this is not how democracy is supposed to work. Because he told us so himself.”

McConnell resurrected another past quote of Obama’s: “I know some… wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works.”

“Indeed, it isn’t,” McConnell said. “All of which makes the president’s planned executive action on immigration even more jarring.”

“If the president truly follows through on this attempt to impose his will unilaterally, he will have issued a rebuke to his own stated view of democracy. And he will have contradicted his past statements on this very issue.”

The senator argued that “we’ve already seen the consequences of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, his most recent action in this area. It was a factor in encouraging young people to risk their lives on a perilous journey some would never complete.”

“The effects of this action could be just as tragic… It isn’t about compassion. It seems to be about what a political party thinks would make for good politics. It seems to be about what a President thinks would be good for his legacy.”

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GOP Supporter of Immigration Reform Says Obama ‘Kind of Spoiling the Party’

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A Republican supporter of immigration reform in the House said he thinks President Obama will be “kind of spoiling the party” with his executive order scheduled to be announced tonight.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told CNN on Wednesday that he’s “critical of the process” Obama will be using.

“I mean, look, I’m a supporter of immigration reform. And, frankly, a lot in my party are supporters of immigration reform. And it’s something that, you know, is going to take a lot of time to talk about. We all know that there are people with different views, even within my own party on it. And so, these to have a process where we have debates. We bring forward bills. See what the new Congress does,” Kinzinger said.

“I think the president, frankly, is going to be kind of spoiling the party with this. He’s going to tick a lot of people off, you know, basically saying, look, I gave Congress time but they didn’t do what I wanted, therefore, I’m going to do it on my own. And I think that’s one of the big concerns. It’s not so even so much the issue of what he’s doing, although we think he’s overstepping his power.”

The congressman said lawmakers “have a lot more issues on immigration we have to deal with from border security to high-skilled visas to the other 10 million people that aren’t going to be affected by this.”

“And I think this is going to stall that discussion. And one of the things I’m concerned about is, as your previous guest said, the politics of it,” he said. “The president may be looking at the politics of this versus actually solving it long term because I think we have a real opportunity to solve it. But this isn’t going to help.”

Kinzinger said the new GOP majority in the 114th Congress should allow the party ”to get something that we can put on the president’s desk” on immigration. “Do a little back and forth and ultimately come to something that both sides can maybe hold their nose on certain parts of but agree to in a broader package,” he said.

“But when the president’s concerned, he doesn’t get to pick Congress. He doesn’t get to just make laws if Congress doesn’t go along with it. We exist for a reason out here. And, you know, you may not like everything that goes on in the sausage making of Washington, D.C. and behind the doors and, you know, watching what’s going on on the floor, but that doesn’t mean you can just say, I don’t like that, therefore, I’m going to just do it anyway.”

He said Obama should come out in his primetime address and give the GOP until March to pass a bill before taking unilateral action.

“But I’m just afraid, as a supporter of reform, that what’s going to happen over the next few days, this whole situation is going to collapse,” Kinzinger said. “And I’m going to tell you, when the president’s out in two years, I mean, his executive orders don’t necessarily follow with him.”

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House Passes Resolution Condemning Iran’s Human Rights Violations; Some Balk at Timing

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The House delivered a bipartisan jab at Iran on Wednesday just days away from the Nov. 24 nuclear negotiations deadline imposed by the administration.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced just last Friday a bill condemning the Islamic Republic on its human-rights record. It was fast-tracked onto the floor, where it passed by voice vote.

That means no roll call votes were recorded, but Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) spoke out against the timing of the resolution.

“The expansion of human rights for all Iranians is more likely to happen if current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are successful. Diplomacy with Iran empowers human rights leaders in Tehran because it weakens the claim that Iran is under constant threat which justifies the police state,” Ellison said. “Diplomacy empowers advocates to push for rights like freedom of speech and religion. If Congress wants to help improve human rights in Iran, we must engage and support the P5+1 nuclear talks.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said she hoped the resolution “is not used to undermine diplomatic efforts to reduce and provide for inspections of Iran’s nuclear program.”

The bill condemned myriad abuses, “in particular, the recent cruel execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault.”

It “deplores the Government of Iran’s mistreatment of its religious minorities, including through the deprivation of life, liberty, and property” and notes “that the Administration has designated only one Iranian person for the commission of serious human rights abuses under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, as amended, since May 30, 2013.”

It also “condemns the undemocratic elections process that denies Iranians the ability to freely choose their own government.”

Engel said on the floor that any hopes that President Hassan Rouhani would be a moderate have evaporated. “In fact, on so many fronts, things have gotten worse.”

“The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, is the one who really makes all those decisions. So while we can hope for certain things, I think we have to deal with things, unfortunately, as they are, and not as we wish they were,” Engel said. “So for example, Iranian authorities have dramatically escalated the number of executions of Iranian citizens. This is from the so-called moderate Rouhani regime. According to the U.N., there were 852 executions between July 2013 and June 2014.”

“The United States has helped to shine a light to Iran’s human rights violations. We pushed the U.N. Human Rights Council to continue the work of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Now, I have been one of the strongest critics of the Human Rights Council and its outrageous bias against Israel. But this Rapporteur has done important work to reveal the scale of human rights abuses in Iran.”

Even as negotiations continue, Engel stressed, “We cannot, must not turn a blind eye to the horrific abuses taking place in Iran every single day.”

“Under the reign of Cyrus the Great, the world’s first human rights document was issued with its tolerance for all cultures and religions,” Royce said.

“While Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions with relentless determination, it continues to repress millions of Iranians yearning for basic freedoms. Today’s resolution stands for the principle that U.S. foreign policy can and must pursue strategic objectives, like the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, while promoting democracy and human rights.”

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Vaclav Havel Honored by ZZ Top in U.S. Capitol

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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The House honored late Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday with the unveiling of a bust in Statuary Hall — and ZZ Top.

The ceremony was timed to also mark the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Havel, a playwright, poet and foe of communism, was the first president of the newly liberated Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“It is a poetic but also paradoxical honor for a man who, in his own words, lived ‘a paradoxical life.’ Here was a writer who exposed the communists using one weapon they could not match: the truth. For this, he received three stays in prison, countless interrogations, and constant surveillance,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at the ceremony.

“But he kept on writing, hiding pages of his manuscripts throughout his home. Offered a chance to flee to the West, he’d refuse, saying, ‘I’m simply a Czech bumpkin through and through.’ Treated like a hero wherever he went, he’d beg off, saying, ‘I’m simply a playwright and it’s irrelevant whether I’m a dissident.’ When one of his friends joked that one day he’d lead a revolution and become president, he responded, ‘That would be the worst thing that could happen to me.’”

Boehner mused that one can “imagine what Havel would have said if told his bust would not only stand in the United States Capitol, but go right alongside the likes of Lincoln, Churchill, and Washington.”

He was also a fan of the blues, hence the performance from ZZ Top bandleader Billy Gibbons.

“Today we celebrate the struggle on the part of Havel and so many others in his time. In Poland, an electrician who climbed up on a crate in a shipyard, said to his fellow workers ‘you know me,’ and the Solidarity movement was born. And in East Germany, there was a priest who opened the doors of his 800-year old church every Monday for meetings that started out with no more than a dozen people and turned into the epicenter of a national protest,” Boehner said.

“It takes guts to do these things. Especially when you don’t know how long it will take or how it will end. These men and women proved that the thirst for liberty never dies and that, with drive and sacrifice, it can transform the fortunes of a whole continent.”

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Black Caucus Chair: ‘Find Another Scapegoat’ for Dems’ Midterm Losses

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The leader of the Congressional Black Caucus last week weighed in on the midterm defeats for Democrats: “Don’t blame us!”

“Democrats did not lose control of the Senate because African Americans did not vote. Actually, as supported by preliminary exit poll data, the complete opposite is the case,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said in a statement. “African Americans increased as a proportion of the electorate in 2014 over 2010. African Americans voted heavily for Senate Democrats, and by doing so remained loyal to both the President and the Democratic Party and its values. So, don’t blame us!”

Fudge noted that in Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) easily defeated a Democratic challenger, African-American turnout was “notably better with a more than 10 percent jump in voter participation.”

She also noted that Georgia, where Michelle Nunn lost to David Perdue, African-Americans made up 29 percent of all votes cast, “with 92 percent of those voters casting their ballots for the Democrat in the Senate race.”

“Simply put, find another scapegoat,” she said. “Don’t blame us!”

Fudge added that activists “stood ready to combat any instance of voter intimidation or fraud.”

“Black elected officials crisscrossed the country to discuss the urgency and importance of this election. We phone banked, knocked on doors and held ‘Get Out the Vote’ rallies. Our losses were not a referendum on African American political engagement. We did our part, so don’t blame us!” she said.

“Democrats lost Senate control because we failed to mobilize young voters across racial and regional spectrums. We failed to persuade Southern voters to hold true to core Democratic values. We lost because the Hispanic community was insufficiently motivated. We lost because of ideological differences within the Democratic Party and with our Administration. We lost because our party has, to some extent, lost white Southerners due in part to the race of our President. We lost because the Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon allowed a select few to subvert the political process with secret, unlimited money. We lost because of gerrymandering in our state redistricting processes. We lost because of our continuing problem with a clear and compelling message that would encourage voters to stay with us.”

There will be 47 African-Americans in the 114th Congress, a new record. Will Hurd of Texas and Mia Love of Utah will be the newest members.

Fudge has said Hurd and Love are both welcome to join the CBC  as it “welcomes all new African-American members to join the caucus, which has always been the case.”

Hurd, a former CIA operative, told the Dallas Morning News he’ll consider it.

“They’re great members, and I’m looking forward to working with them,” said the first black Republican elected to Congress since Reconstruction. “Whether or not I join the committee, we haven’t made that decision.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) politely declined to join the caucus upon his election to the House in 2010.

In 2012, Scott told PJM that he had a “cordial” relationship with the CBC.

“It was pretty chilly for a long time,” he said. “I won’t say that the chill’s out of the air. We have at least a cordial interaction.”

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Deaths by Terrorism Jumped 61 Percent in 2013

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A study released by Sydney think tank Institute for Economics and Peace found deaths from terrorism jumped 61 percent from 2012 to 2013.

The number of attacks around the globe in 2013 was nearly 10,000, a 44 percent jump from the previous year.

The 2013 death toll was nearly 18,000. Eighty-two percent of those deaths occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Iraq ranked as the least peaceful country suffering the greatest impact from terrorism, followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

India came in next. In September, al-Qaeda announced official expansion into South Asia with a new chapter.

After India on the list were Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Russia, Kenya, Egypt, Lebanon and Libya.

The report found terrorism dominated by the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Qaeda. These groups accounted for two-thirds of terrorism deaths.

It also noted that since 2000 only 5 percent of terrorist attacks have been suicide attacks.

The report defines terrorism as  “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”

“Religion as a driving ideology for terrorism has dramatically increased since 2000. Prior to 2000 nationalist separatist agendas were the biggest drivers of terrorist organizations,” the report states.

Countries singled out as being at increased risk of terrorism through this year and beyond include Israel, Mexico, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

For 2013, the report ranked the United States as being slightly more impacted by terrorism than Israel on its index.

Countries ranked as “not impacted by terrorism” include Mongolia, New Zealand, Poland, Costa Rica, Togo and Qatar, which has recently come under fire for financing terrorists and harboring al-Qaeda money men.

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Gutierrez Thinks Obama Will Mandate 5-10 Year Residency on Immigration Order

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who leads the Immigration Task Force in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, offered some clues as to what could be in President Obama’s executive order.

“I think the president is going to choose between five and 10 years, that is that you have to be in the United States for five to 10 years and you have to be working here and you are going to pay for a background check,” Gutierrez said on Fox last night. “You’re going to submit your fingerprints and they come back clear. He is going to give you a work authorization for two years and a Social Security card. He’s going to put you on the books paying taxes. And I think he is going to include that before you submit for an application you have roots in America. And I think that’s what he is going to do.”

“But that’s only going to be part. That’s going to be the largest part what he does in the number of people that’s about three million people. But I think what he’s going to do — even he’s going to do stuff for agricultural, farmers in this country, they need a million.”

Gutierrez said “there is no citizenship” in the plan.

“The president has no authority. Only through an act of Congress can they ever be granted citizenship,” he said. “Think of it this way. Here is how I look at it, like is he going to set them aside and say ‘I’m not going to prosecute these people, I’m not going after them so I get to — so I can go after the really bad guys and use the power of the government, the deportations will continue, but go after another.’”

Gutierrez said they won’t be able to sign up for welfare, food stamps and other federal benefits.

“And they can’t get a Pell grant to go to college. They cannot. Obviously we are raising money in our own community to help them, but from private sector,” the congressman said. “No, there won’t be any government benefits. And I just want to make clear to the American public — even the background check, they have to pay. The processing of their documentation, in order to get that work permit, probably will be around $500. There cannot be a cent of tax dollar money used even in granting them the work authorization. They must pay for it out of their pocket.”

He estimated four to five months from the period of Obama’s announcement to when illegal immigrants can start applying for legal status under the order.

Gutierrez suggested locking Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a room together until they arrive at a compromise immigration bill. “Let them come back in 45 days,” he said.

“They control the House. They control the Senate,” he said of Republicans in the next Congress. “Tell them to stop whining. Get the legislation done and put it on the president’s desk. That will stop everything.”

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Israeli Ambassador Battles Those Tying Murders of Israelis to Peace Process

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. slammed the assertion that violence against the Israelis is somehow tied to whether or not there’s an ongoing peace process at the time.

Ron Dermer accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of “spreading this libel” that Israel is trying to invade the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Dermer then corrected the reporter who spoke on CNN before his Tuesday evening appearance.

“Is part of problem the breakdown of the peace process? … In the mid-1990s, we had buses blowing up. And people said at the time that was because the peace process was actually moving forward,” the ambassador said. “Now they’re saying that the reason why Jews are being massacred is because there is not a peace process. It has nothing to do with the peace process. It has to do with the fact that you have in Palestinian society people who want to murder Jews.”

“And they’re now in an environment where people are encouraging it. Hamas is celebrating in the streets of Gaza. Abbas is not condemning these types of acts. He is fueling the fire.”

Dermer said Abbas could start by ending his pact with Hamas. “President Abbas is sitting in the same government with the terrorists who are celebrating the savage murder of Jews in a synagogue,” he said. “The second thing that he might want to do is stop using the media that he controls, the schools that he controls, the mosques that he controls to incite against Jews, to incite to violence and terrorism, and spread a lie, as if we’re trying on destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is false. And he has to stop and the world has to hold him accountable.”

He said European governments are sending Abbas a clear message by recognizing a Palestinian state: “Do what you’re doing. Stay in bed with these terrorists. Continue to incite against Israel and we will give you everything you want. A different message has to be heard from the international community.”

Dermer confirmed that the FBI will be involved in the investigation of the synagogue attack since three American rabbis were killed. The other two casualties were a British rabbi and a Druze police officer.

“I don’t know if people know this, but Palestinian terrorists have killed more Americans over the last few months than ISIS has killed Americans,” he said.

“…The same people who are celebrating the murder of Jews in a synagogue were celebrating the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. These are the same people. It’s the same type of fanaticism. And that’s why we have to stand together to fight it.”

Dermer called it a “joke” that Palestinian leaders justify the handing out of candy and celebration for the murders as a normal reaction to Israeli oppression.

“The Nazis had a lot of grievances. They were very upset about Versailles. They were very upset about World War I. They were very upset about their economy. No one cared, because people said nothing justifies Nazism. That’s the approach we have to have here as well,” the ambassador continued.

“Nothing justifies terrorism. It doesn’t really matter what their grievances are. You can’t have people go into a synagogue and kill people standing in prayer shawls, murder Jews in a savage way and have people dancing in the streets. This is a huge problem and the world has to stand together to confront it.”

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House Committee Chairmen Picked for the New Congress

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

House committee chairmen are in place for the 114th Congress, with some old faces staying in place and some shuffling around to new appointments.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed four of the chairmen: Pete Sessions (R-Texas) at the Rules Committee and Candice Miller (R-Mich.) at the Administration Committee will keep their posts. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) will take the helm of the Ethics Committee from Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) will take the gavel from retiring chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) at the Intelligence Committee.

“At a time when the United States faces major international challenges including significant terror threats, I am honored and humbled to have been entrusted with this position,” Nunes said. “I’d like to thank Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger for their exceptional bipartisan leadership of the Intelligence Committee. The committee’s work is vital because strong congressional oversight of the intelligence community is critical for our national defense posture.”

The Republican Steering Committee made recommendations for the rest of the committee chairs, which goes to the full conference for ratification.

Staying in their posts will be Ed Royce (R-Calif.) at Foreign Affairs, Mike McCaul (R-Texas) at Homeland Security, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) at Judiciary, John Kline (R-Minn.) at Education and Workforce, Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) at Financial Services, Fred Upton (R-Mich.) at Energy & Commerce, Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) at Veterans Affairs, Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) at Transportation and Infrastructure, and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) at Space, Science and Technology.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) will take over for retiring chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) at Armed Services, and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) will take the gavel from retiring chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) at Natural Resources.

Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) will take over for Sam Graves (R-Mo.) at Small Business. Conaway will move over to Agriculture, currently led by Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).

Paul Ryan moves out of the Budget Committee seat over to Ways and Means, where he takes over from retiring chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

Taking Ryan’s gavel at Budget will be Tom Price (R-Ga.).

“We will put forward a budget that restores balance to the nation’s books. It will provide a blueprint for how to save and strengthen vital health and retirement programs while ensuring needed resources for those who protect and defend our great nation,” Price said. “Key to accomplishing real results will be to use budgetary processes at our disposal to move meaningful legislation through the House and Senate and to the president’s desk for his consideration. This can and must be done in a transparent manner with consultation and input from members across different committees of jurisdiction and Congress at large.”

And at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, famously led by Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) since the 2010 GOP rout that took control of the lower chamber, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is the new chairman.

Chaffetz said he has “great respect” for Issa and “can’t thank him enough for his many years of dedicated service leading the Oversight Committee.”

“I thank him for the professional opportunities he has allowed me on the committee, and for his personal friendship,” Chaffetz added. “His commitment to the public good is without question.”

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who’s gotten into some serious head-butting with Issa over the years, said he’s looking forward “to working together to conduct bipartisan oversight, develop constructive reforms, and move our nation forward.”

“I am hopeful that Rep. Chaffetz will work closely with Democrats to develop our Committee’s agenda for the next Congress, consult closely on our rules and protocols, and address the core issues that go to the center of people’s daily lives,” Cummings said. “I am encouraged that Rep. Chaffetz has shown a sincere interest in working together and focusing on reform, and I hope this bipartisanship continues.”

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Reid: Obama Should ‘Go Big, as Big as He Can’ on Immigration Order

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is encouraging President Obama to “go big, as big as he can” on an immigration executive order.

“Immigration should not prevent Senator McConnell and Boehner from working with me to fund the government, on this issue. This is — this is really hard to comprehend,” Reid told reporters at a closed policy luncheon.

“Every president since President Eisenhower have done executive orders as it relates to immigration. Every president, 39 different times,” he said. “Now, Reagan, Bush and Bush, they’ve done it, and we didn’t hear a single word come from the Republicans that they didn’t like that. So why now is this suddenly an issue with the Republicans?”

Reid said one of the priorities is to “understand the fairness of it all.”

“This will be a relief to many, many families whose families are being torn apart by this broken system,” he said.

“And remember, for my Republican friends whose conscience — as always, they’re always concerned about money — if Republicans in the House would allow a vote on the bill we passed here those many months ago, it would pass overwhelmingly and …produce $1 trillion in relief for the American people, $1 trillion.”

Executive action, Reid said in an echo of Obama, is “not the substitute for congressional action.”

“I understand that. But he’s doing what he can within his authority, and it’ll be up to Congress to finish this job,” he said. “…The first thing we have to do is fix our borders. If the bill that passed the Senate passed the House, we would have a border that would be so secure. Billions of dollars is in that legislation.”

“So I believe that when the president decides to do his executive order, he should go big, as big as he can, and there’s precedent for him going back to the Eisenhower administration to do something just like this,” Reid continued. “So the fact that he wants to do something on immigration, is being forced to do something on immigration should not stop us from doing our job, and this funding government.”

Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) noted after a GOP caucus meeting today that Obama had previously said he didn’t have the authority to order the immigration reform, “the very same one now that he apparently is determined to issue.”

“Right now, the people that benefit the most from our broken immigration system are the cartels, the transnational criminal organizations, for whom this is a wonderful business model. They traffick in children. They traffick in drugs. They traffick in weapons and the like. And the president’s executive order does zero, zip, nada, to shut that down,” Cornyn said.

“So, there is an opportunity for the president to reconsider, as he has done once before, and I hope he will reconsider and decide to work with us in a bipartisan, bicameral way to fix our broken immigration system. If he proceeds forward with his executive order, it will squander the best opportunity we’ve had in a long time to make progress.”

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Texas Rep. Flores Picked to Lead Conservative Caucus Over Mulvaney, Gohmert

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) defeated two Tea Party favorites to win the chairmanship of the conservative caucus in the House.

Flores moves into the post at the helm of the Republican Study Committee, once led by now-Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“I congratulate Bill Flores today on being elected by our colleagues to serve as the next Chairman of the Republican Study Committee,” Scalise said. “As the conservative conscience of the House, I am confident that under Bill’s leadership, RSC will continue to unite our Conference around our shared conservative principles of greater opportunity for all Americans through lower taxes, controlled Washington spending, and more individual freedom.”

“I congratulate Bill, as well as Representatives Mick Mulvaney and Louie Gohmert for offering their names up to serve in this important position for the conservative movement.”

Mulvaney got 55 votes on the first ballot and Gohmert got 16, leaving Flores one vote short of an outright win at 71, according to National Journal. On the runoff ballot, Flores got 84 caucus votes and Mulvaney got 57.

Mulvaney and Gohmert both wanted to move the RSC further to the right and into a more combative stance with leadership.

Flores said in a statement that he plans to run the caucus ”as a member driven organization which puts forth positions developed through member participation and dialogue consistent with the RSC’s mission and the U.S. Constitution.”

“It is important that we take full advantage of the RSC’s size, character and the passion of its members to advance our conservative agenda in order to restore America to the ‘shining city on a hill’ that Ronald Reagan envisioned,” Flores said.

“For the 114th Congress, the RSC will be the largest, most influential caucus in Congress. I look forward to leading the RSC as we continue to promote constitutionally limited government, an environment for more jobs and better paychecks, a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, American energy security and American family values.”

Some conservatives have been defecting to Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-Mich.) House Liberty Caucus, which the congressman founded because he saw the RSC as becoming too moderate. Members of that caucus include Reps. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Steve Stockman (R-Texas), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).

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